‘Jason’ from the film Friday the 13th and ‘Leatherface’ from Texas Chainsaw Massacre pose with eager fans (MEE/Shereen Malherbe)
Darth Vader greets you in Arabic, a new generation of Middle East superheroes challenge America’s comic book domination, and Marvel’s legendary artist Stan Lee makes an appearance to show his appreciation for his legions of fans.
Welcome to Comic Con Dubai.
With the emirate city state’s World Trade Centre and Burj Khalifa as a backdrop, excitement and anticipation hung in the air as what has been called “the MENA region’s most anticipated pop culture event” kicked off on 7 April.
Dubai’s Comic Con 2016 was bustling with enthusiasts eager to see their favourite characters (MEE/Shereen Malherbe)
Excited children carrying Comic Con goodie bags and people dressed as comic book heroes formed an unusual sight in Dubai’s business district.
‘Spiderman’ – ‘Wolverine’ and ‘Rorschach’ are in character for their fans (MEE/Shereen Malherbe)
Inside the world of Comic Con
Inside, the exhibition hall was dominated by big names: Marvel, MBC2, IMG Worlds of Adventure and Geek Nation. As people bustled between booths and gaming stations, above our heads were screams from a zip wire as would-be superheroes took to the wire and made like Spiderman.
Young children to adults of all ages were wearing their favourite superhero outfits and stocking up on comic memorabilia from fan art to models and original pieces by artists and designers.
The IMAX Cine Club line was roped off with fans lining up eagerly to see sneak previews of movie trailers and the Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Scheduled for the evening slot at the Cine club was the event everyone was waiting for; a live broadcast session with Marvel comic book legend Stan Lee.
“Professional” Cosplayers – people who dress up as their favourite comic book characters – are always a popular fixture at Comic Con, and were dotted around the event posing for photographs with the enthusiastic crowds. I met Chun Li, a Philippine national representing Kuwait as a Cosplay competitor – with hopes of winning the top prize of 5000 AED ($1360). But it was not just about the money for Chun Li. “It’s kind of my hobby, it flows in my blood and I just love it,” he said.
A view from one of the main exhibition halls (MEE/Shereen Malherbe)
A Star Wars fan group, the 501st Legion, whose members had visited Comic Con around the world, said that “Dubai’s Comic Con is getting bigger and better every year and there is a lot of love here.”
Galactic Empire leader Darth Vader said farewell with a very Arabic, “Salam,” stopping patiently every time someone asked for a photograph.
The Star Wars fan group ‘501st Legion’ poses with Shereen Malherbe (MEE/Shereen Malherbe)
For more memorable and original photographs, “MBC Meets the Stars” provided the opportunity for fans to get autographs and photographs taken with their favourite celebrities. These included Summer Glau, Christopher Lloyd Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Veronica Taylor and Randy Orton.
MEE spotted Jonathan Bolerjack, one of the international artists of Comic Con who had spent the last year working for Stan Lee. He told us that he was the “guinea pig” for the first Middle East Comic Con.
When asked how it compared to others, he said, “This convention is better than some I have been to in the States, but I think the more important thing is not how different it is but how the same it is. The fans are exactly the same. That is what I appreciate the most.”
International artist Jonathan Bolerjack was happy to smile for a picture (MEE/Shereen Malherbe)
MEE asked him about how Stan Lee felt about coming to Dubai. “He is a little too old to make the trek but he wanted to.”
The artists formed part of a close-knit community at the event, conversing with each other whilst selling samples of their artworks and making sketches of potential future comic characters, as well as commissioning pieces to sketch there and then to be designed as their very own unique hero.