Middle East Film & Comic Con was the best yet

With celebrity guests such as Gillian Anderson and William Shatner, plus an estimated 30,000 attendees, the 2015 version of Comic Con was a roaring success.

Cosplayers at Middle East Filom & Comic Con.  Victor Besa for The National
Powered by automated translation

Following three days of mayhem, with many a Blam! Boff! and Kerpow!, the 2015 Middle East Film and Comic Convention drew to a close on Saturday, April 11 after what was almost certainly the most successful, and definitely the best-attended event to date.

Exact visitor numbers were still unavailable, although estimates suggest more than 30,000 during the three-day festival of films, comics and all-round geekery.

Co-organiser Arafat Ali Khan says: “I still really don’t know where all these people come from – it’s insane. But we’ve already met our targets, so anything else is a bonus.”

Considering this year’s event had expanded into an extra hall at Dubai World Trade Centre’s after last year’s convention attracted about 22,000 eager film and comic fans, not to mention in addition to the well-attended and expanded outdoor stage and food and drink area, that’s quite an achievement.

The celebrity guest list this year was undoubtedly the strongest to date, from Star Trek legend William Shatner to X-Files star Gillian Anderson and Marvel's Agent Carter, Hayly Atwell and many, many more.

The convention could even be credited with challenging stereotypes about the region. We heard from more than one global celebrity that they were a little unsure of what to expect from a convention in the Middle East, only for their jaws to drop on walking onto the stage and being greeted by hordes of screaming fans dressed as their favourite characters.

This was Dubai, though, so things were still a little different at this comic con compared with more-established cousins such as those in San Diego and New York.

Almost every A-lister we spoke to or watched on stage seemed amazed that the audience in the Reel Cinema Lounge, which hosted the panels and question-and-answer session – was sitting in comfy leather seats. Gillian Anderson said: “I think this is the first Comic Con I’ve ever appeared at where the audience aren’t on folding plastic chairs.”

The final day carried on in the same manner as the template that had been set during the previous two days. Somehow, those who had managed to brave day one and two's 30-plus degree heat in a Chewbacca outfit, or dressed as a winterland lord from Game of Thrones, were still there in full costumes, presumably fighting dehydration by now.

Perhaps one of the most touching things we saw on the final day was the popularity of the Superhope stand. Superhope is a charity that aims to assist children with cancer all over the world, in part by helping them to develop their imaginations by creating their own superhero, then dressing them up for a photo shoot. Their stand had wisely employed a DJ pumping out hip-hop and trap, which attracted a huge crowd of dancing furry animals and superheroes, as well as plenty of onlookers who we hope took it on themselves to learn more about the charity (visit www.super-hope.org for more information) while they watched the bizarre scene unfold.

In other fundraising news, Yasser Alizera, the artist on teh new Arab superhero comic Wayl sold several original pages of art and did indeed finish his cover, which we reported on last week, but not in time to sell it at the event which is good news for collectors as you can still buy it by getting in touch through Facebook (www.facebook.com/Wayl.Comic).

There’s no question this year’s event was a success, and I can’t wait to see what new heights the organisers reach next year.

In sci-fi terms, I'm not sure how you top William Shatner headlining your bill. Perhaps Harrison Ford, with his triple-whammy attraction of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Blade Runner.

Then again, with a new Star Wars (that you may have heard about) due in December, not to mention Avengers: Age of Ultron later this month, a whole new crop of A-listers may be about to be available to the event's booking team next year.

Bring them on.