Middle East Film and Comic Con

So this past weekend Dubai hosted the first ever Middle East Film and Comic Con, an event the likes of which is usually seen in the States in its various guises as the San Diego Comic Con or Dragon Con or what have you. I found out about the event quite incidentally, at my local gym like two days before the event kicked off. It was like a surprise right out of nowhere, a good one I assure you, and also exciting because if I could make it, then this would be my first major convention ever, Blizzcon 2009, Games Day Los Angeles 2008 and Games Day UK 2011 notwithstanding since they are quite focused.

I had initially planned to attend it on the Friday, but it kind of slipped my mind and since I ended up going for two movies that day – Battleship by myself in the afternoon and Vicky Donor with the family in the evening. And that’s a fact that I quite lament. I would have had far more fun at MEFCC!

Well one big reason for that would be the star cast that the organisers roped in for the event: Jason Momoa of Stargate Atlantis, Conan and Game of Thrones fame; John Rhys-Davies of The Lord of the Rings fame, Mark Sheppard of Battlestar Galactica and Supernatural fame, Luciana Carro of the same, Laurie Holden of The Walking Dead fame and so on. Star power indeed!

This is taken from Google Image Search.

I ended up going to the event on the Saturday (Friday here is like Sunday in the rest of the world and Saturday is like… well Saturday), roughly in late afternoon and my, was I surprised! The event was held at the Dubai International Marine Club at the Le Meridien Mena Seyahi hotel, located in/near the affluent Jumeirah Beach Residence/Dubai Marine area. The venue was quite a big one and absolutely jam-packed with exhibitors and visitors.

Most of all, what surprised me was the huge turnout. There must have been a couple thousand people at the event when I arrived and people kept trickling in for the rest of the afternoon and later in the evening. And everyone looked like they were having fun. That’s a good thing right?

There were some big names, some midlist names, some small names, and some new-names in attendance. Jashanmal Books and Kinoukiya Bookstores had table upon table of comics and novels from various publishers, like Marvel, DC, Tor, Black Library, and a whole ton of others. Various manga comics and graphic novels were also in attendance. IDW Publishing particularly was there in force.

Seriously, this was as close as you can get to a SFF geek event in the Middle East.

People were buying merchandise and comics and novels and manga and art prints and dioramas left and right while some stood in the abominable long queues to get photos with the film and television celebrities or the live show out in the garden/courtyard, or attended panels with those celebrities or various comic-writers or took photos with cosplayers or had their caricatures made or played game demos at the gaming booths or participated in the Street Fighter tournament or whatever else they were doing.

Honestly speaking, this was a fantastic event that really tapped into the geek/nerd side of the residents of UAE and the rest of the Middle East region. And the most obvious and visible element would be the cosplay. There wasn’t a lot of that going on around here, which is sort of understandable I guess, and what little there was didn’t particularly strike me, but it is the thought that counts. The Anime Clubs from Dubai and Abu Dhabi were both in attendance with several of their members and I’m sure it was them more than anyone else who were cosplaying. Anime folks do that you know! *memories of an Anime convention in LA are dredged up*

Myself, I had a ton of fun at the event. The first stop once I entered the two-floor venue was the Avengers stop, where they were entering raffles for tickets to advance screenings of the new Avengers film coming out on May 3rd (yes, it is being delayed here for no discernible reason). I entered my name for the draw but I’m not hopeful about it. I never win stuff like this sadly.

Once that was done, I spent nearly an hour at the Jashanmal Books booth, admiring all the various DC/Marvel comics, the anime, the novels, the World of WarCraft/StarCraft/DC/Marvel merchandise up for sale and what not. I really, really wanted to pick up quite a few things, more as souvenirs and remembrances than anything else but sadly, I had no idea what to expect and I didn’t have that much cash on me anyways.

I settled for a Mobile Suit Gundam novel by Yoshiyuki Tomino: Awakening, Escalation, Confrontation. Really looking forward to reading that since I am a huge Gundam fan, having seen most of the various anime series.

As it happened, I ran into a couple old friends from high school, people I haven’t seen in something like seven years! Was great to catch up briefly while we are all there and definitely a good surprise as well. Weird how things work out like that huh?

Did a full tour of the venue otherwise. The sheer amount of comics, manga, novels etc on display was staggering. And such a huge variety too! There was everything from Orson Scott Card to Amanda Hocking, Alastair Reynolds to Terry Brooks, David Gemmell to Neil Gaiman, Isaac Asimov to Suzanna Collins, Ian M. Banks to Robert Jordan and more, more, and more! I wish I could have it all really.

Then I went to the comics area set aside on the other end of the ground floor. This area was for the publishers themselves. IDW Publishing were there as well. For folks who are really into comics, you’ll recognise them as the current publishers of comics set in the Magic: The Gathering, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, G.I.Joe and many other settings.

All those nicely packed, fresh hardbacks had a really intoxicating smell. Have to say that I was sorely tempted to splurge on something and that resisting was quite difficult. As it is, when I got back home later in the evening, I ended up buying the two Kill Shakespeare volumes for the simple reasons that the premise was really sound, it had been the MOST successful comic for IDW at the event (they sold out like two or three times), and because I’d met one of the creators Conor McCreery and had had a bit of a chat with him at the event.

When I went up to the first floor to check out the activities there, I had my biggest surprise of the day, possibly the year even. The local retailer of Games Workshop’s various tabletop wargaming systems had a stand right next to the stairs, with shelves stocked of all the different armyboxes and even a paint station. A PAINT STATION! *nerdgasm*

I used to play Warhammer 40,000 quite a bit back in college, and have some of my fondest memories of the store in Glendale, CA where I met some really cool people and all of which rekindled my interest in Black Library novels to begin with. I gave away all my armies when I left the States to come back to Dubai and its always been a sore point with me.

Even now, I wish I could start playing again, but there’s no chance of that sadly. That ship sailed a long time ago. But it was seriously great to see a lot of people interested in the products on offer. Three or four guys even bought sets of Dreadfleet!

Not really sure what else I can add here. This was simply amazing. I’ll let the following pics speak the rest of the awesomeness to you. For the full album, you can check them out on Facebook here or on Photobucket here.

And lots more photos were taken!

Posted on April 27, 2012, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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