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.