Middle East Film and Comic Con 2013

Image courtesy of the MEFCC FB page.

Image courtesy of the MEFCC FB page.

Year-long (at least) readers to the blog will remember that last year in April I attended my first ever major con, the inaugural Middle East Film and Comic Con. It was a fantastic event, and I’ve been waiting for the second installment ever since. I got the chance this past weekend, and it was absolutely amazing. I am told that where the attendance last year had been upwards of 13,000, this year it was predicted to be in the 23,000-26,000 range. That is unbelievable, an almost 100% increase over and above the first year. I will say that the show absolutely deserves it. The organisers put on a terrific show, and it was certainly a few notches above last year.

Once again, I was unable to go to the first day this year, since Fridays are work days for me, and I also had some other important work-related stuff to do that day, so I ended up missing out. But, I was there for pretty much the whole day on Saturday, and I loved every second, minus the whole part involving me staying on my feet all the time, including the time I spent in the metro to/from the event since I never got a seat. My feet hurt pretty bad by the end of the day, a condition not helped by the weird sandstorm that struck that evening.

But yeah, the event started out great. As some of my readers from The Founding Fields will know, I did a few “prep” posts for the event. The first of these was an interview with the creators of the Kill Shakespeare comics. The second was an interview with Tim Seeley, who is the current writer for Top Cow’s Witchblade series. The third was a simple peek at some of the attending guests. So my first priority, when I entered the con grounds (at the wonderful Dubai International Marine Club), was to head straight towards the comics alley, where IDW Publishing, Boom Studios and Top Cow would have their booths, as well some other comics creators like James O’Barr (The Crow) and the folks behind Jinnrise.

This lovely fellow greeted me when I walked into the main building. Damn scary!

Heath Ledger's Joker!

Heath Ledger’s Joker!

The first thing I noticed was that the main con floor was not as “busy” or full of people as it was last year. This was a bit confusing since I expected a huge turnout and this was around early afternoon. Still, I headed straight for comics alley, taking in the sights and sounds as they passed by, and I was soon chatting with the aforementioned comics folk. Here are some pics.

With Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col, the men who created Kill Shakespeare.

With Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col, the men who created Kill Shakespeare.

I talked quite a bit with both Conor and Anthony about Kill Shakespeare, their plans for the new mini-series within the KS universe – Tide of Blood, and their experience with the second year of the con, since they attended the inaugural event as well. I think it was either Conor or Anthony who gave me the statistic about this year’s attendance for the con.

I also got to talk to the director of the Kill Shakespeare play adaptation, Gautam Goenka, who is a downright awesome guy and we ended up chatting up about that topic too. I’m now very, very interested to see the play and am hoping that I can get a chance to go this coming Saturday. Should be a ton of fun. I love the comics, that’s for damn sure.

Of course, what would be a con without being able to pick up a signed comic? Conor and Anthony were kind enough to sign a copy of Tide of Blood #1 (no #2 unfortunately due to some kind of a mix-up). As I write this, the comic is about a meter and half away from me, whispering some madness to me about reading it RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND. Not sure how long I can put it off. It is a persistent comic! Also picked up two sets of Kill Shakespeare-inspired buttons, one for the villains and the other for the heroes. Looking pretty good, although I have yet to take any of them off and put ‘em on. Soon, though, soon.

My next stop after meeting the Canadian Super-Duo of McCreery and Del Col was the Top Cow booth on the opposite end of comics alley. Staffed by Tim Seeley all by himself, the Top Cow booth was a little less busy but no less exciting because the master was hard at work doing a sketch for some kids, Batman profile shot IIRC. Watching him work on that quickie-sketch was amazing, as was watching him do a slight variant of a The Walking Dead cover, or the sketch that he did for me.

Tim Seeley, current writer of Witchblade.

Tim Seeley, current writer of Witchblade.

This is the "variant" cover to TAS #648 by Dan Slott.

This is the “variant” cover to TAS #648 by Dan Slott.

I spent a LOT of time with Tim, chatting about random stuff – his artistic process, superhero movies, Greg Capullo’s Joker, Dubai, conventions, Top Cow, Witchblade, comic branding, etc etc. And like I said, I also got to see him work, and he is nothing short of amazing. Take a look at THIS sketch that he did as a commission for a female fan of old school JSA comics.

Wild Cat and Jay Garrick

Wild Cat and Jay Garrick

That one took him about half an hour. Mind-blowing, just mind-blowing. And this was when he did most of the work from memory! Some serious stuff right there. Tim Seeley was also selling some prints and I picked up his Batman one, my copy being the last one he had left, which makes it all the more memorable.

IMG_0224Signed print! Signed sketch! Comics heaven! Or as close as you can get anyway, I suppose. But yeah, interacting with Tim throughout the day was one of the highlights, and I’m really glad that I got the chance to hang out with him. He is one cool dude. If you get the chance to meet him at any of the upcoming conventions he is going to, I say take the opportunity!

My next stop then was the Boom Studios booth. Managing the booth were two fine gentlemen: Michael Alan Nelson, the new writer on Supergirl from next month, and the man behind comics like 28 Days Later, Fall of Cthulhu and Valen the Outcast; and, Lance Kreiter, Boom’s VP of Merchandising and Licensing.

06042013697

Michael Alan Nelson and Lance Kreiter

I didn’t chat with them as much as I did with the other comics folks, but we definitely had some great conversations about the possibility of setting future stories in the Middle East (in the context of me asking Michael about Supergirl possibly traveling to the region in a future issue, or with Lance about some region-specific stuff from Boom). Points of interest included: the ridiculous scenes in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol where Ethan Hunt goes from the garage of the tallest building in the world (and located in a really affluent and high-profile area of Dubai) to a flea market and then to a deserted highway overpass within minutes while an impossible-in-real-life sandstorm blows across the area; Jim Starlin’s “classic” Batman: A Death In The Family where Starlin got the name of the national Lebanese language wrong; the TV series Homeland which is set in Washington but is filmed in LA (and thus the locations never actually match up); and so on.

The highlight of our chats was definitely talking to Michael about Supergirl: what plans he has for the comic, the direction he wants to take with it, what he is going to bring to the title, how he is going to explore her character and her history, that kind of stuff. I came away with a deep respect for him, mostly because he has gotten me really excited about the series. I read Mike Johnson/Michael Green’s first 12 issues of the new reboot of the character and while they weren’t as terrible as George Perez and Dan Jurgens’ 12 issues on the new Superman (caveat: DC editorial screwed with the title to no end at the time), I was still underwhelmed. Which is why I skipped out on the whole “H’el on Earth” crossover for Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy. I just wasn’t in the mood for more disappointment.

With Michael Alan Nelson’s upcoming run on Supergirl though, my excitement and interest is building up. And despite myself, I just might suffer the crossover issues so I’m “current” on the title. I hate not being current like that.

Other than chatting with all these fine gents, the rest of the day was spent taking in the sights at the Marine Club, seeing what new stuff had been added by the organisers and exploring the possibilities. One of the highlights of said exploration was the following picture.

Hell yeah, Manu Bennett!

Hell yeah, Manu Bennett!

That is indeed Manu Bennett who has taken to the camera as Crixus in the Roman Empire-era television series Spartacus, as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke on Arrow, and as Azog the White Orc in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Paid a hefty amount for the photograph, but it was all worth it. The man has a solid hand-shake and is just great in person. This is my second time with a TV personality of his caliber (the first time was when I met Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica fame at BlizzCon’09), and I was blown away. This guy has a presence! Worth the one hour queue.

There was a dedicated Game Zone as well this year (last year it took up about a third of the first floor of the main building and was rather crowded). My one annoyance with the Game Zone was that it was almost completely dominated by Injustice: Gods Among Us, the upcoming Mortal Kombat-style fighter game based on DC superheroes and supervillains. Given that the tie-in comic is one of the most sexist comics out there right now, as well as yet another attempt by DC to push Lois Lane more and more into obscurity, I wasn’t really happy with this. Ah well.

06042013674 06042013673 06042013671I did a single play of the game, fighting with Wonder Woman against a kid playing The Flash. I lost horribly. I’m a terrible fighter player in general, and my complete lack of knowledge about action moves, combos, 4 year gap since last time I played a fighter, etc, all contributed to that loss. But it was decent.

Some other sights and sounds from the Game Zone.

06042013671 06042013675 06042013676 06042013677 06042013679 06042013681 06042013683I took the opportunity to FINALLY play a trial game of Magic: The Gathering. And I had a ton of fun with it too! I was playing a white deck against a black deck (IIRC), and I ended up trouncing the guy giving me the trial game, since I ended up with a flying creature, an angel of some sort, and all he had at best were ground units. So much damn fun! So much so in fact, that I went and bought a starter deck! The one I picked up is a white/red mixed deck, called Boros Battalion. Really shiny stuff (I was actually urged on by Michael Alan Nelson, who is a big Magic fan and has boxes full of Magic cards).

Getting to watch a game of Warhammer 40,000 after almost 4 years since the last time was absolutely thrilling as well. I still can’t get over the fact that the models have been reduced in size. I harped on about this to my British friends when I hung out with them last year at Black Library Live and the year before at Games Day UK, and I’m still not over it. They just seem smaller than I remember them!

However, watching a 7,500 points per side Apocalypse game was just as exciting as I remember. Lots of explosions and mass death that is only possible in a game of this magnitude.

That’s pretty much what my Saturday was like: hanging out with comics writers and artists, chatting with them about various things, getting a picture taken with one of the biggest stars on television at the moment, playing Magic, watching a game of 40k, and so on.

Middle East Film and Comic Con 2013 was plain amazing, and I hope that next year is even bigger and better! Maybe other comics publishers like Zenescope, Valiant, Dark Horse, Vertigo, DC and Marvel will come as well, and really ramp up the comics part of the whole event. Comics are not all that popular a consumption here, but the interest is on a meteoric rise.

Lance Kreiter told me that he’d visited all the big bookstores in the city before the con and that he was really impressed with the graphic novel/comics section at the Kinokouniya bookstore in Dubai Matt. He remarked that the section was extremely diverse and really well-put together, and was the best he has seen outside of an American comic book store. Really high praise indeed from a man who lives his job on an international level, and is a veteran of Dark Horse and Boom Studios alike.

Here’s some of the pictures I took, and also my haul of goodies from the con.

IMG_0295

That comic book on the left is an event-exclusive Transformers: Spotlight – Bumblebee by John Barber, from IDW.

06042013657 06042013658 06042013661 06042013667 06042013678 06042013687 06042013690 06042013692 06042013693 06042013695

Posted on April 11, 2013, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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