Dubai’s skyline is no stranger to structure-scaling daredevils: both Tom Cruise and infamous French climber Alain Robert latched themselves onto the vertiginous Burj Khalifa in 2011. But the city will welcome real-deal comic heroes and pop-culture icons this month, as legends such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Astro Boy descend for the first Middle East Film and Comic Con on Friday April 20 and Saturday 21.
The Comic Con concept, which originally began in San Diego in the ’70s, is a huge deal in the US: last year’s San Diego convention attracted 126,000 visitors, from die-hard superhero fans to comic-crazed A-listers. The Dubai version will feature artists, international exhibitors, workshops, competitions and appearances by celebrities including Jason Momoa from Game of Thrones (the huge Drogo) and One Tree Hill’s Chad Michael Murray (ladies’ favourite Lucas Scott).
Dubai’s diverse cultural make-up means it’s a great city in which to explore this sort of pop culture: according to recent research, the Middle East is one of the fastest growing online gaming communities in the world. Once you’ve caught the bug at Comic Con, why not feed your appetite with our guide to Dubai’s pop culture and gaming scene?
Meet the stars
Want to meet a warrior dwarf? Or catch a glimpse of Drogo from Game of Thrones? The artists’ area will be home to TV and film stars including Chad Michael Murray from One Tree Hill, John Rhys-Davies (aka Gimli from Lord of the Rings), James Momoa from Game of Thrones and Conan, and Laurie Holden from The Walking Dead and Battlestar Galactica. Don’t forget your autograph book (and make sure your pen is working).
Update: Chad Michael Murray has cancelled his Comic Con visit.
Marvel Comics stand
The world’s largest comic publisher, Marvel Entertainment, is responsible for bringing Spider-Man, X-Men and Fantastic Four to the world, and will have an exhibit at the event to coincide with the release of The Avengers movie in May. Timings weren’t confirmed at time of going to press – see www.mefcc.com.
Jashanmal Comics Villages
Stock up on the latest comics at this Jashanmal-sponsored area, featuring some of the world’s biggest comic-book publishers including Top Cow, IDW Publishing and Archaia Entertainment. This section will also host artists responsible for penning some of the comic world’s top characters.
VOX Cinema’s Movie Club
Head here to check out classic sci-fi and anime flicks, as well as some sneak previews. Watch out for the celebrity Q&As and panel discussions with industry experts.
The Artists’ Alley
See emerging talent from the region with an area dedicated to locally-based artists, writers, sculptors and entrepreneurs.
The SP: TV Manga Town
Anime and manga fans should make their way to this area to view Japanese-style content being produced in the region and around the world. Joel Enos, a former editor of Japanese anime series Naruto, will be on hand to discuss the popularity of this niche comic style in the region.
See new releases at Gamezone
This gaming area will screen some of the latest releases for the world’s leading gaming platform. It will also act as the competition zone for the Powerleague Gaming Championships, in which fans will be able to challenge each other and showcase their skills.
Mr Ben’s Comic Con Costume Closet
Not keen on roaming the streets dressed as Batman? (Who wouldn’t be?) Dubai’s favourite dress-up store will be showcasing its sci-fi and film fancy-dress costumes on site, which means you can rock up and hire a costume for the day.
Panel discussions and workshops
Aspiring animators, cartoonists, artists, writers and film producers can learn the tricks of the trade at this tent, which features talks and expert Q&A sessions. Topics include scriptwriting, entertainment finance, how to draw manga, the art of storytelling, character creation and digital sculpture.
Games and competitions on the main stage
Showcase your karaoke prowess with games including ‘Tune Karaoke’, ‘The YouTube Theatre’, ‘What Planet Are You On’, ‘Improv Revolution’ and ‘Otaku Quiz Show’. Filipino cosplay model Alodia Gosiengfiao will also make a special appearance.
Win a trip to New York Comic Con
Want to head to the setting of so many superhero films? Visitors will have the chance to win tickets to New York Comic Con, with flights provided by Virgin Atlantic.
Role play at the SAE Institute Green Screen
Cosplayers will congregate in this special sci-fi and anime-themed area, which will act as a backdrop for skits or a place to snap some shots in character.
When? Friday April 20 to Saturday 21.
Where? Mina Seyahi Hall, Dubai International Marine Club, next to The Westin, Al Sufouh Road.
What time? Fri noon-10pm (early-bird VIP entry 10am-noon). Sat 11am-10pm (early-bird VIP entry 10am-11am).
How much? Dhs55 for a single day, Dhs100 for the weekend; Dhs500 for a VIP pass, which includes priority queuing, autograph coupon and other goodies. Buy online at www.timeouttickets.com.
TImings? www.mefcc.com (04 447 4344).