Cosplay, superheroes and gaming were at the forefront of Middle East Film and Comic Con on its opening day.
Pop culture fans turned out in droves for the start of the three-day event as it returned to Abu Dhabi for the second year in a row at Adnec.
Hollywood stars Matt Smith, May Calamawy, Anthony Daniels and voice actors Christopher Sabat, Zach Aguilar and Paige O’Hara were on hand for meet and greets, fan photos and discussions.
Meanwhile, the Artist Alley was bustling with local and international talents showing off their colourful and crafty artworks for fans to buy.
This included former Studio Ghibli production coordinator Hirokatsu Kihara, Disney animators Mike and Patty Peraza and Marvel and DC comic artist Dominic Glover, among others.
Those hoping to learn also took part in the Creative Academy sessions where artists offered their tips on specific topics, such as an animation focus workshop with Saudi animator and filmmaker Malak Quota, and a live drawing session with visual artist Ken Lashley, who has worked for Marvel and DC.
There was also a Cosplaying 101 workshop for beginners who are interested in the art but unsure of how to start.
As always, cosplay was front and centre with many people showing up to the event in their most creative outfits, such as Emirati film fan Turki Almoalla as the horror villain Pinhead and Sophia Isabel as Scaramouche from the video game Genshin Impact. She wasn’t the only person dressed up as a character from the game, with Rafaela Santos appearing as the character Yae Miko.
Other popular costumes included superheroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman, Doctor Strange and Loki.
This year's Comic Con also has a gaming tournament where participants can compete and show off their skills in titles such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Fifa 23, Rocket League and Fornite. Stations this year include the return of NBA 2K League, which is hosting Malik “Slaughter” Leisinger and Ramo “Ramo” Radoncic over the weekend.
Friends Clara Bourjeily, 13, Sara Hammond, 14, Shamsa Salem, 14, and Celine Sunagatullina, 13, returned for their second Comic Con dressed in cosplay. Clara as Jotaro from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Sara as Hatsune Miku and Shamsa as Asuka Langley from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
“I like attending Middle East Film and Comic Con mostly to hang out with other people. It's more like a fun area to walk around and I really enjoy doing that,” says Sara.
Although Celine didn’t have enough time to show up in cosplay, she was able to shop around in the Artist Alley and pick up retro gaming posters from a local artist. While she knows that sometimes people may not understand the appeal of comic cons, she suggests people give it a try as there are many things to do.
“[Comic Cons] are not nerdy, they're cool,” she says. "Even if you're not an anime fan, there's still Lego events here, there's Batman and Marvel and everything. Even if you're not like a fan of any TV shows, it's still really fun to be here to see all the cosplays.
“There are also events like eating spicy noodles, which I just did. And I started crying on the spot. It’s really nice. There are stalls where you can buy things that you can't find in malls.”
Clara also adds that last year’s Abu Dhabi debut was her first Comic Con and she really enjoys being around other like-minded individuals.
“I decided to come to Comic Con because I really like just like gaming and anime,” she says. “I feel like at Comic Con, I meet a lot of people who have the same interests as me and it's just really fun because I can kind of relate to people that I don't even know.”