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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Comic Con 2018: celebs, geeks and a giant Alien sculpture 

Tens of thousands attended the annual celebration of all things pop culture in Dubai

A giant Alien sculpture at Comic Con which is now on sale. Courtesy Roomnumberone
A giant Alien sculpture at Comic Con which is now on sale. Courtesy Roomnumberone

The Middle East Film and Comic Con descended on Dubai once again over the weekend for the city’s annual celebration of all things pop culture.

And fans weren’t disappointed as the event headed into relative middle age with its seventh annual edition.

Among the top celebrity draws this year were Judge Dredd and Star Trek star Karl Urban, who revealed that he copes with the struggles of keeping on-set secrets by talking to his dog, and Justice League’s The Flash, or Ezra Miller in real life, who neatly sidestepped audience questions about the storyline for his character’s forthcoming standalone movie by simply suggesting that fans “remain excited” about the movie.

Comic Con’s about far more than celebs though. Among the highlights in the halls this year were Netflix’s dedicated Lost in Space stand, which took visitors through the process of registering for space travel, sitting in a mock up space ship for a simulated crash, and emerging on a mysterious alien planet. We don’t know if the elaborate set-up won them any subscribers but it definitely had crowds queuing all weekend for their very own space odyssey.

An eye-catching mask. Reem Mohammed / The National
An eye-catching mask. Reem Mohammed / The National

Netflix weren’t alone in their commitment to the show. Friday night saw Marvel screen a 20-minute showreel celebrating the 10th anniversary of Marvel Studios, with a packed Roxy Cine Club witnessing never-before-seen behind the scenes footage from the sets of Ant Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Infinity Wars.

Out in the halls, meanwhile, Montegrappa were in attendance with a selection of super-exclusive Game of Thrones pens – the most expensive model, one of only seven solid gold pieces, was selling for some Dh215,075, although staff admitted that that particular model hadn’t sold by Saturday evening. Further expensive trinkets could be found in the form of an $11,000 life size metal sculpture of the alien queen from the Alien franchise, while, more affordably, memorabilia manufacturer Funko were selling their Pop!s models of characters from shows including Stranger Things and Game of Thrones for the very first time, exclusively at the show – the first time Pop!s have been made available at a Con outside North America.

There were changes this year too. It was the first show since founders Arafaat Ali Khan and Ben Caddie sold the event to international events company Informa, and Ali Khan admitted there was a bittersweet taste to his first show as a mere "consultant": “It’s like waving your kids off to college. You’re sad but ultimately you know you’ve done the right thing,” he said. “Our ambition was always to be one of the most anticipated cons in the world and we could only go so far with the resources we had. We needed more resources and the manpower to do that.”

Ali Khan adds that, despite the slightly unusual sensation of looking in on his own show from the outside, he’s confident for its future under its new owners: “I think content-wise this show has been the best yet. Not just the celebrities, but the artists, these people I’ve been reading since I was a kid, they’re at our show, Netflix bringing the whole cast of Lost in Space, that’s huge, the Marvel exclusives, a proper closed room exclusive like at San Diego. I can’t argue on the content side,” he said. “I know we’re going in the right way. I think this is that transition year to the next level, when people don’t say ‘let’s save it for NY or San Diego. Let’s do it in Dubai.’ We’re going the right way, and I’l definitely be staying on to grow with the show.”

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Get your geek on: Middle East Film & Comic Con - in pictures