x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The Vulcan salute and Grendizer, still tickets to the stars

Comic Con offered every adult a chance to reconnect with their inner child without being judged or looked down upon. It was also a geek's paradise.

What do you get when you combine a rusty, broken-down swing-set, rolls of aluminium foil, empty kitchen tissue rolls and a group of geeky children? A space ship, of course, with a special "silver crew" ready for yet another journey up into the stars and beyond.

Yes, my friends and I were geeks growing up. I guess we still are.

Our imaginative activities can be traced to the play area in the corner of a basketball court in Saudi Arabia, in the compound of my youth. There we would shake that unstable metallic structure, pretending to manoeuvre through the galaxy and shoot out rolls of aluminium foil through the tissue carton rolls by blowing them out at imagined "enemies".

We didn't have silver suits, but we did put a lot of glitter on our bodies and forehead to distinguish us from other creatures of space.

This swing-set played many roles. It was a ship for super heroes like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. It was also the "cat lair" for animated characters like ThunderCats. It was even a dragon's lair at times, home to dragons that we kept renaming with different names like "ice", "Pepsi" and "chocolate" depending on our mood.

We would make up secret codes, special greetings to know friend from foe, and even use different languages so that certain adults wouldn't understand our plans. But somehow they could still decipher our messages.

My favourite character has always been Spock, the half-Vulcan, half-human character from the original Star Trek television series. I would greet my parents with the Vulcan salute, and often they would reply back with the same hand gesture. For non-Trekkies, this salute is offered in the form of a raised hand, palm forward with the fingers parted between the middle and ring finger, followed by the famous line: "Live long and prosper."

As we become adults, most of us held on to our passion for these fictional worlds, but we kept this passion private. Only once we knew someone shared our love of comic characters would we open up and talk excitedly.

So when I headed to the Middle East Film and Comic Con festival this past weekend in Dubai, I was delighted to find thousands of people like me - fans, artists geeks or nerds, depending on which definition you prefer - still pretty much in love with their childhood heroes and cartoons. It was a chance to dress up like a character and not be made fun of. If anything, it was a way to break barriers and make conversation.

I wore my Oscar the Grouch T-shirt from Sesame Street, which got me many thumbs up and allowed anyone to simply approach and strike up a conversation about Oscar and other characters from TV.

"I feel the Count (from Sesame Street) is a womaniser and a pimp," a teenager said to me, who was dressed in a Spiderman T-shirt. I disagreed, since I like Count Von Count and often my sister and I would copy him whenever we end up counting something by adding that accent and his laugh.

Comic Con offered every adult there a chance to reconnect with their inner child without being judged or looked down upon.

One of the best parts was to meet the legendary Lebanese crooner, Sammy Clark, who despite being a successful singer in his own right, will forever be remembered as the singing voice behind songs in Arabic-dubbed-Japanese animations, like the widely popular sci-fi Grendizer and Jazerat Al Kanz (based on the classic Treasure Island).

"I never imagined I would be remembered because of a cartoon about UFOs and robots," he said in jest, as he posed with me and Jihad Al Atrash, the Arabic voice for the dreamy Daisuke (or Duke Fleed), the main character in Grendizer. I had such a crush on Daisuke.

The fictional world remains one of the biggest escape portals we have, and the many geeks who are often made fun off, actually rule the world.

 

Rghazal@thenational.ae

Twitter: @Arabianmau