x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Comic Con a huge hit for fantasy fans in the UAE

Thousands pack into Dubai International Marine Club for screenings, workshops, video-game challenges, and to meet the stars.

A woman dressed as a video game character during the first Middle East Film and Comic Con.
A woman dressed as a video game character during the first Middle East Film and Comic Con.

DUBAI // Some came from a galaxy far, far away … while others just drove over from Abu Dhabi.

Thousands of film, fantasy and superhero fans packed into Dubai International Marine Club at Mina Seyahi over the weekend for the first Middle East Film and Comic Con. They attended screenings, took part in workshops, played video games, entered competitions and queued to meet idols such as Jason Momoa from Game of Thrones.

More star power was provided by John Rhys-Davies, best known for playing Gimli the dwarf in the Lord of the Rings films, Luciana Carro from Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead's Laurie Holden, and Sammy Clark, who sings the theme tune of the Arabic version of the cartoon series Grendizer.

Many fans entered into the spirit by dressing up as their favourite movie or comic book characters. Some made do with Darth Vader or Incredible Hulk masks, while others wore full costumes.

There were the inevitable Star Wars stormtroopers, a common sight at the huge Comic Con events held in the US. One seemed to be having a spot of trouble with his armour, as a piece was hanging off.

The Invisible Man put in an appearance, as did Wonder Woman on stilts - a tricky one to carry off while negotiating stairs. The Joker, Wall-E, Chewbacca and a host of others were also there.

Of course it can get hot in those costumes, a problem Iron Man solved by lifting his headgear and standing with his face in the chilled air stream from a mobile air-conditioning unit.

The American Seth Wright, 21, a film student at the SAE Institute in Dubai, shuffled in as a zombie from The Walking Dead.

"I did the make-up myself, it's something I do for fun," he said. "I love this event, I hope it gets bigger and bigger each year, there's promise behind it. We've definitely needed this, there's a very big nerd community."

Mr Wright was joint winner of a zombie walk contest that Holden presided over. Contestants had to lurch menacingly towards the star, who felled them with a toy gun just as they reached out to grab her.

Those who expired most convincingly won extra credit. The other joint winner, a little girl dressed as Spider-Man, was so scared by Mr Wright's make-up and dying twitches that she ran offstage. Other finalists included two ladies in abayas who did zombie impersonations inspired by Michael Jackson's Thriller video.

Attilio Rigotti, a 20-year-old Chilean who is studying theatre at New York University Abu Dhabi, wore an Indiana Jones outfit, complete with whip.

"Ever since I was a kid I've loved Indiana Jones," he said. "There are a lot of people here in costumes, which is really exciting."

Fans who didn't have a thing to wear made a beeline for the Mr Ben's Costume Closet stall, where they were able to pick up a last-minute outfit. Its managing director Jayne Eastland said: "There's been a huge amount of interest in the anime ranges and the superheroes especially."

The event attracted fans from abroad such as its web developer Hind Mohammed, 27, who travelled from Bahrain. "Comic Con is a huge international event so it's very nice to have it here in the Middle East," she said.

While the fans loved meeting the stars, the celebrities said they also enjoyed the encounters.

"One of the great advantages of coming to Comic Con to meet real fans is you get to put faces to those people who paid for your children's education over the years, and paid the mortgage," Rhys-Davies said.

Clark said: "It's a very big responsibility to meet the fans."

And Holden said: "I think art is so important, it brings together the community and it's so wonderful to meet the fans who support it. It's kind of just a big love-fest."

csimpson@thenational.ae

For more pictures from Comic Con go to our photography blog