Picture the scene: in Dubai Marina, a line of crazy-eyed zombies stagger lifelessly around as, one by one, they are blown away by an attractive gun-toting blonde. This isn’t a page from the latest dark comic book, but one of the most memorable moments from last year’s debut Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC).
The quirky stage event starred actress Laurie Holden, who plays a zombie apocalypse survivor in the US smash-hit TV series The Walking Dead. While it was only meant to last 15 minutes, so many fans showed up at the Dubai venue to be gunned down by their favourite fictional TV character that it continued for more than an hour.
‘There was a queue of 100 people waiting to walk like a zombie and get shot by Laurie Holden. That’s a unique experience for a fan – you can’t do that anywhere else,’ says Ben Caddy, managing director of Extracake, the company behind MEFCC 2013.
As a result of last year’s success, this year’s event – taking place at Dubai International Marine Club next weekend, on Friday April 5 and Saturday 6 – is going to be ‘bigger and better,’ says Caddy. ‘We have a lot more indoor space, so the gaming area is five times the size. The celebrity signing area is about three to four times the size, and the whole hall is completely full of exhibitors, food outlets and workshop tents. We don’t want to change the atmosphere or vibe of last year, as it was incredible, but just make it bigger and better.’ The 2012 event drew 15,000 people; this year Caddy is hoping to attract 25,000.
While Dubai may not seem to be overrun with comic shops, Star Wars fans trading cards or Trekkies arguing which series is best, Caddy says the genre has become mainstream. ‘Sometimes you meet people who say, “I’m not really into comics,” and my response is, “Do you like Harry Potter or Avatar?” The latter is about 10ft-tall blue space monkeys, so they are into it and don’t even know they are. Of the top 50 movies of all time, 41 are superhero, animation, sci-fi or fantasy related, so there is something there. The genre has become mainstream. The event has followed suit.’
While this year’s event will boast more celebrity A-list names, game and film launches and nearly three times as many exhibitors of collectible products, Caddy says the best part of MEFCC is that it brings local people together. ‘Without being overly cheesy, it’s pop culture crossing the boundaries. It’s so inclusive, I’ve never seen an event like that in Dubai, with every age, every nationality and mix of people there, all just enjoying the same experience. One of the best things I saw was a girl in a full abaya carrying a Prada handbag and wearing a Darth Vader helmet. It was potentially one of the greatest moments of my life.’
MEFCC 2013 What to do:
OSN Meet The Stars: The list of A-listers at the event will include Warwick Davis (Willow, Star Wars, Harry Potter), Manu Bennett (Spartacus, The Hobbit), Ioan Gruffudd (King Arthur, Fantastic Four) and Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Austin Powers, Family Guy).
Games: Warner Bros’ forthcoming superhero console game, Injustice – featuring characters from Superman and Batman – will have its own dedicated area at the event.
Jashanmal Comics Village: Offering sci-fi and fantasy books from some of the world’s largest publishers, with artists on hand to sign them for fans.
Renovada Manga Town: Manga is one of the region’s biggest trends, and this is one of its biggest merchandisers.
Vox Cine Club: An array of movies will be screened, with panel discussions from industry professionals.
Pod U Like Green Screen: Fans can capture an image of themselves in a scene from their favourite movie.
Workshops: Learn to draw manga, or discover how a comic is put together.
After-parties: On Friday April 5, the party starts at Cirque du Soir at the Fairmont Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road (056 115 4507), while on Saturday celebrations move to Republique at The Address Dubai Mall (056 718 1188). Times to be confirmed.
Dhs75 for a one-day pass, Dhs135 for the weekend or Dhs500 for a VIP pass, which entitles holders to early entry. Friday April 5, noon-10pm to Saturday 6, 11am-10pm. Dubai International Marine Club, Mina Seyahi), www.mefcc.com, www.timeouttickets.com.
We asked four top artists to draw us a Dubai-themed comic strip…
Hania Ansari (firstname.lastname@example.org) What Dubai superpower would you love? Super speed! The city has been growing and changing at an outrageous pace.
Where’s best to get inspired in Dubai? Even after all these years, I find inspiration in the gold and spice souks, located in Dubai’s Al Dhagaya traditional marketplace. If Dubai was a superhero, it would be… The Human Torch.
Danesh Mohiuddin (www.daneshm.com & www.infocartoons.com) What Dubai superpower would you love? The power to harness the sun’s energy and transfer it to other things, like a solar panel.
Where’s best to get inspired in Dubai? I draw a lot on the metro – lots of characters and energy!
If Dubai was a superhero, it would be… The Pantastic Suber Voman.