x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The UAE's colourful showing at the first Middle East Film and Comic Con

With plans already being made for next year's Comic Con in Dubai, we meet the UAE-based talent at this year's edition.

Dedra Stevenson, the author of The Hakima's Tale, at the Middle East Film & Comic Con.
Dedra Stevenson, the author of The Hakima's Tale, at the Middle East Film & Comic Con.

Last weekend's first Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC) in Dubai was such a success, the organisers Extracake PR are already preparing for next year's instalment.

In association with the New York Film and Comic Con, the two-day MEFCC attracted throngs of film and comic fans from around the world.

According to ticket sales, more than 14,000 people attended the recent MEFCC. "Other than the great turnout, it was fantastic to see every nationality, age and gender sharing their love of popular culture. We’ve had some amazing feedback not only for also about the workshops, panels and other activities, said Ben Caddy, director of Extracake PR.

This highlighted the significant level of interest and demand in the industry, as famous characters such as Superman and Darth Vader made their way around the exhibition and mingled with fans, often stopping for photographs. The event also attracted celebrities such as John Rhys Davis (The Lord of the Rings) and Jason Mamoa (Game of Thrones, Conan the Barbarian), among many others.

There was even plenty of UAE-based talent with comic-inspired merchandise, animation, models and fictional stories.

Here, we highlight a few to watch over the coming year.

Abdel Sattar, thekingofhobbies.blogspot.com

By day, he is an English teacher, but at night, he paints superhero action figures.

For the past five years, Sattar has been busy in a rented Ajman studio dedicated to his 200-plus action figure collection, which includes Superman and Batman.

"I buy them from France, the US, Germany and the Philippines, for example. I used to always collect action figures then began learning how to put the models together and to paint them," said the Lebanese national, in between customer queries during MEFCC.

He sells to clients worldwide and also has a team of painters scattered around the globe who he works with.

It usually takes anywhere from three to four days to a number of weeks to perfect one of the models. He pointed to a Spider-Man model he has on display and said it took him around four days. He also showed off a sizeable model of one of the Hell Horsemen from the game Darksiders, which took three weeks to complete.

"You know, I never miss a Comic Con. I travel all over the world to attend them. Here, as the first Comic Con, I feel it will be a success because it's something to start with. There is so much talent," said Sattar.

Dedra Stevenson, www.thehakimastale.com

It was during the height of the Harry Potter popularity that Dedra Stevenson, an Emirati originally from Alabama, said to herself: "If JK Rowling can do it, so can I."

Stevenson immediately began writing The Hakima's Tale, a novel about an Emirati girl who fights the Jinn army trying to take over the world. Having been in the UAE for more than 20 years, Stevenson felt inspired by the culture and "the unseen world". The result? A three-part trilogy that is now in the process of being developed into a feature film. The first part of the series, which she self-published, was released in 2007.

"I am inspired by the culture of the Middle East and the stories of the 1,001 Arabian Nights. The Hakima's Tale is available in both English and Arabic and it is doing extremely well because it is a fun, fictional story," she said. "Comic Con is such an important event, and you can see so many movies based on comic books."

The book is available in local bookstores and online.

Wafa Al Marzouqi, www.wafaalmarzouqi.com

The stall was crowded with people of all nationalities while Wafa Al Marzouqi, from Dubai, politely answered each question about her unique character designs. Her talent is inspired by the Gulf region and there is always a message behind each design.

"The minute you see my work, you will know that it is related to the UAE. A few years ago, no one really took this industry here seriously. With Comic Con, such an important event - it gives people like me exposure and we can reach a wider audience," she said.

Al Marzouqi was so passionate about character design that she recently resigned from her job to pursue her dream full time. The result is an impressive range of merchandise from greeting cards and notebooks to mugs.

"I created a line of merchandise especially for Comic Con just to test the market and I have sold quite a lot already. There are lots of Emirati artists, but we never had such events to pursue what we love," she said.

One day, she hopes to open a store in a mall but in the meantime, she will make her products available online in the coming weeks.

Khaled Bin Hamad, Twitter feed @kbinhamad

It was his passion for manga art that pushed Khaled Bin Hamad, from Abu Dhabi, to take Japanese animation classes while studying for his Masters in Japan. His work, which is a mixture between Emirati culture and Japanese animation, has been displayed at Emirates Palace, Zayed University and now MEFCC.

His latest project, the first-ever Emirati sci-fi animation series, is being considered for television - in Arabic with English subtitles. "I see UAE-based talent going global. I also see major international companies setting up bases here. It will be very interesting to see the industry develop," he said. "Events such as Comic Con are a huge deal because of the exposure and I have already met so many different talented artists."

Bin Hamad, who developed his talent through an early love for painting, is currently looking at various sponsors to develop his animation for TV and expects a deal to be sealed soon.

"The two cultures have a very long history and if you look at my work carefully, you will know what it is all about," said Bin Hamad.

melshoush@thenational.ae

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