Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

MEFCC: All you need to know about the Middle East Film and Comic Con 2019

The annual pop culture fest returns to Dubai this weekend, bringing with it stars of the screen, artists and exhibitions

It’s been a gone-in-a-flash seven years since the Middle East Film and Comic Con first took over the Dubai International Marine Club in 2012. That event's debut line-up featured a pre-DC Extended Universe Jason Momoa, exhibitors including comic book giants Marvel, and an attendance of around 20,000 eager comic and movie fans.

Over the intervening years, the event has moved to Dubai World Trade Centre and expanded its footfall by more than double – 2018’s seventh con saw some 45,965 visitors pass through the doors. Guests over that period have included giants of the pop culture world such as Star Trek’s William Shatner, aka Captain Kirk, The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson and Marvel supremo, the late Stan Lee.

Highlights of last year’s event included Netflix going all out to promote its remake of Lost in Space, flying the entire main cast to Dubai to hold a panel and meet-and-greet with fans, karate classes with Power Ranger Jason David Patrick, and the slightly surreal sight of Kristian Nairn, aka man-mountain Hodor from Game of Thrones, performing a DJ set on the main stage.

We can’t guarantee any techno-touting fantasy giants this year, but the event still promises fans of pop culture their annual fix of celebrity guests, entertainment, workshops, dressing up, shopping, food and fun all under one roof (and outside in the sun, too).

Here’s our guide to the geekiest weekend of the year, the eighth annual Middle East Film and Comic Con.

The celebs

The talks, meet-and-greets and panels with stars from film, TV and beyond are always a big draw at Comic Con, and this year is no exception. Marvel and DC will face off over the weekend, with Benedict Wong, who plays Dr Strange’s sidekick Wong, and Shazam’s Zachary Levi both set to hold meet-and-greets with fans, while DC has extra back-up in the form of Arrow’s Katie Cassidy.

Game of Thrones, which will enter its final season on Sunday, the day after MEFCC, is also well-represented, with Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton) and storyboard artist William Simpson set to share the stage to discuss their time on the show.

Elsewhere, bodybuilder Kai Greene, prolific voice actor Tara Strong, and top cosplayer Alodia Gosiengfiao will be meeting with fans, while The Walking Dead’s Aaron (Ross Marquand) will be holding a Q&A.

The artists

Simon Bisley's art for Returns To Judge Dredd. Courtesy MEFCC
Simon Bisley's art for 'Returns To Judge Dredd'. Courtesy MEFCC

There would be no comics without artists, and you can find big names from publishers such Marvel, DC, IDW, Dark Horse, Manga and beyond at the show. This year’s international guests include 2000AD legend Simon Bisley who, as well as having worked on strips including Judge Dredd and Slaine: The Horned God, was also the inspiration for Simon Pegg’s aspiring comic book writer Tim Bisley in his TV breakthrough Spaced.

Bisley will be joined by Eisner Award winner Sana Taked, Pokemon mainstay Mitsuhiro Arita and current Batman artist David Finch.

Away from the big names, check out Artists Alley, where regional designers, artists, comic creators, animators and more display their work in the hopes of one day joining the bigwigs at a future show.

The Swyp Main Stage

Cosplayers at 2018 Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai. Courtesy MEFCC
Cosplayers at 2018 Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai. Courtesy MEFCC

We’re usually guaranteed great weather at Comic Con, and there’s no better way to while away a few sunny hours than checking out the weird and wonderful goings-on at the outdoor main stage.

The annual cosplay competition is always a highlight, with the costumes visitors wear ranging from quirky, to genius, to downright bizarre. With cash prizes and trips to Japan to take part in the World Cosplay Summit on offer, these guys take their cosplaying seriously, and the group competition in particular has offered some amazing sights over the last few years.

The stage will also offer bands, celebrity appearances and probably a few surprises along the way, too.

The MEFCC Theatre

Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane), Hellboy (David Harbour), and Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) in HELLBOY.(David Harbour), and Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) in HELLBOY. Photo by Mark Rogers
Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane), Hellboy (David Harbour) and Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) in 'Hellboy'. Mark Rogers

The MEFCC Theatre is the base for the weekend’s celebrity panels and Q&As, and will also be screening movies and shows from local and international content creators all weekend.

This year that means visitors can catch an exclusive pre-screening of Neil Marshall’s forthcoming Hellboy reboot. Closer to home, prolific local horror director Faisal Hashmi will be hosting an exclusive screening of his latest chiller Wicken, as well as taking part on a panel, along with the film’s cast, on the challenges of making low-budget horror in Dubai.

The exhibition

2018 Middle East Film and Comic Con in dubai. Courtesy MEFCC
The 2018 Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai. Courtesy MEFCC

Comic Con draws all kinds of traders to its vast exhibition within the Trade Centre’s halls, from corporates touting their latest big-budget fare on immaculately constructed, themed stands to local one-man traders flogging retro gaming consoles from a table, and everything in between.

Add to this a wealth of comic stalls where you can pick up everything from the latest Manga offerings to early editions of classic Marvel and DC titles, and it’s safe to say your wallet could take a beating if you don’t pay attention.

The basics

When should I go?

MEFCC opens to the public at 2pm on Thursday and closes at 10pm. On Friday, the venue opens at noon, again closing at 10pm, and on Saturday opening is at 11am and closing at 9pm.

How much will it cost

Tickets range from Dh115 for an advance single-day pass to Dh1,800 for a three-day “super VIP” pass. Visit www.mefcc.com to purchase tickets in advance.

How do I get there?

Dubai Metro will drop you right by the venue at the World Trade Centre Station. Parking is available at the venue but with up to 50,000 people expected, you’ll have to get there early to find space.

What should I take with me?

If you’re planning on stocking up on comics and memorabilia, take plenty of money and a sturdy bag. If you’re planning on cosplaying as Catwoman in six-inch stilettos, you might want some flat shoes after 11 hours pacing the halls. A phone and battery charger is definitely useful as it’s easy to lose friends in the packed halls, especially if they, like 2,000 other people, are dressed as stormtroopers.

Where can I eat?

The festival area, where the Main Stage is situated, is also home to its food village, which is always stocked with a variety of F&B options, usually including themed meals featuring your favourite characters. There are also plenty of food options within the Trade Centre, and at the two adjoining hotels, although we’re pleased to report that, on past experience, the food in Comic Con is tasty and plentiful. Plus, for an event with a captive audience, the prices are as reasonable as anywhere else you’ll find in the vicinity.

Updated: April 8, 2019 09:33 AM