Image 1 of 16: New superheroes (or super Eros?) are born all the time. Erotic artist Milo Manara has created a new Spider Woman, slammed by critics as “more like a colonoscopy than a costume”. A Marvel Comics’ senior VP noted that the character is fully clothed and in a “spider-like pose”, adding, "It's the right of every reader not to like something."
Image 1 of 16: Comic Con fans dress head-to-toe as their heroes. Called “cosplay” - it’s fancy dress meets performance-art. Guys tend towards armored warriors & caped crusaders while women often opt for skimpier costumes. Could be because female comics characters typically sport risqué duds...or maybe the girls just want to flash their “super powers”?
Image 1 of 16: “Cosplay” is a mashup of the English words “costume” and “play”, coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi of Studio Hard during the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles. Widely embraced by Japanese youth, it’s now a global phenom - although Asians were out in force throughout the Dubai convention.
Image 1 of 16: A woman in a skintight catsuit told MSNBC/Vocativ she was scolded for showing “too much”. "[They said] ‘What are you wearing?’ I’m like, I’m free to wear whatever I want to.” Most fans stuck to more reserved clothing. “We can’t really cosplay all characters, you know, some will be revealing” said a woman in a sparkly hijab.
Image 1 of 16: Many cosplayers lean towards asexual characters like Pikachu, Hello Kitty, and lego men. OMG! did you catch the buzz on Hello Kitty? BBC recently reported that she’s not a cat, but a British schoolgirl! (Is nothing sacred?) Wonder if this will deflate the world’s first official Hello Kitty Con planned to take place in Los Angeles this October.
Image 1 of 16: Hey guys - want to meet girls? Female fans were out in force and women artists outnumbered the men! Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso said that "we don't have any market research, [but] the eyes don't lie. If you go to conventions and comic bookstores… female readers are emerging… looking for content they can relate to."
Image 1 of 16: Muslim women (a booming fanbase) earned a bespoke new superheroine in the Marvel Comics line - Kamala Khan, a Pakistani teen living in the U.S. “We have a Muslim editor, she always felt that a lot of the books...didn’t really reflect her world,” said Marvel VP C.B. Cebulski. So they created a new comic to better reflect a Muslim POV.
Image 1 of 16: Fan feedback on Kamala flopped, judging from Dubai’s reaction. “It’s not even accurate,” said an MEFCC attendee: “They draw a Muslim woman with a hijab and then her arms are all bare - like what the heck is that? When someone does [a Muslim character] and it’s not accurate...it’s pretty shitty.” (Watch that haram language, honey!)
Image 1 of 16: Statistics from Comics Beat, an industry news blog, stated in February that self-identified comic fans on Facebook grew to a new high - exceeding 24 million fans in the U.S. - with women accounting for 46.67%. Nearly six million people on Facebook specifically “like” female comics characters, 62% are women. Chick ‘mics, anyone?
Image 1 of 16: There is great opportunity for networking. Attendees are encouraged to promote or sell their own art and artefacts, or submit work for review by some of the genre’s leading artists. Rub elbows with entertainment producers from across the Middle East, or maybe just dress up in something from Mr. Ben’s Comic Con Costume Closet!
Image 1 of 16: Comic Cons are really about the merchandising. Where else can you one-stop-shop for movies about science fiction, fantasy, action and superheroes? Grab copies of your fave TV series, or pick up video games or old-school board games and cards. There are action figures and dolls, costumes and collectibles. But comic books are king!
Image 1 of 16: MEFCC aims high. Their mission is to promote regional entertainment; encourage entrepreneurship; connect fans with pop-culture companies and create an environment that promotes understanding between not only the different cultures and nationalities within the region, but also globally promote the Middle East. What about world peace?!
Image 1 of 16: MEFCC visitors got a peek at the IMG Worlds of Adventure (IMGWOA), a colossal 1.5 MIL-sq-ft project that will bring together global entertainment brands. Fans can live out their fantasies within an amazing selection of multi-sensory attractions, mega-coasters and rides, and a 12-screen cinema. Did we mention fine dining and shopping?
Image 1 of 16: Next year’s dates have been announced! Clear your calendar from April 9th to the 11th! The organizers are promising an even bigger and better presence. Got your interest?
Image 1 of 16: Or maybe you’d like to make a career out of comics? Then apply to be an intern at next year’s event! MEFCC Project Management is seeking applicants to intern on their marketing and events team - check out their Facebook page for details.
Image 1 of 16: Today’s Comic Cons are a world away from the first organized event. Held in New York City in 1968, the “International Convention of Comic Book Art” was founded by Brooklyn teacher Phil Seulingher. Ironically, he’s credited with the growth of the modern comic book store, annoying half-a-century’s-worth of schoolteachers!
Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC) - the first and largest pop culture festival in the region - wrapped up its third year in Dubai last week. Held at the cavernous Dubai World Trade Centre, the three-day event showcased the latest in sci-fi, animation, manga, and comic culture across film, television, and printed books. (Don’t get us started on the merchandise!)
Even American screenwriter, Max Landis, was excited: "This is the best Comic Con in the world. They invited me again, and I was honestly desperate to come back.”
Attracting over 5,000 attendees, this was the “cosplay” convention’s biggest year yet, and more than half of the participants were women! It’s an illogical merging of hijabs and sexy latex, dishdash and light sabers - and gender is a heated subtext throughout the event. In a statement issued about new female characters, Marvel Comics claimed they "are not the big-breasted, scantily-clad women that have become the comic-book cliche. They are women with rich interior lives, interesting careers and complicated families who are defined by many things – least of all their looks." Seriously?
Self-billed as the Middle East’s only consumer event for cult entertainment, this regularly scheduled outlet for regional fans is more than geeky costumes. MEFCC also promotes this lucrative niche in pop culture, encouraging new artists, writers, directors and entrepreneurs to showcase their work.
Comics conventions began in the late 1960s, gradually becoming a worldwide phenom with annual events now held in many major cities. Hundreds of thousands attend, eager to meet the stars (and score an autograph), see exclusive previews of the year’s biggest blockbusters and schmingle with other feverish fans. There are also panel discussions and opportunities to exchange Q & A’s with the artists.
"There is a massive demand for pop culture here in the UAE. Not everyone likes traditional or contemporary forms of art. Especially among youngsters, pop art is more appealing,” observed Abeid Abdullah, a visitor at the Dubai convention.
MEFCC organizer Arafaat Ali Khan said: “Usually we invite [artists from the U.S. and the UK] as guests, but now, they’re saying: ‘Hey, do you have space for us? We’ll bring ourselves down!’, which is such a huge step; we’re so happy to hear that. It means we’re getting onto the international circuit.”
Whether you think it’s a huge geek-fest or a chance to dress up as your favorite superhero, seems like comics in the Middle East are very serious business.