Dubai (AFP) – In a traditional robe, dark sunglasses and a fake moustache, the cosplayer lurked in the corner posing as an FBI agent in the Middle East: welcome to Comic Con in Dubai.
Dozens of youths turned up in their comic best for the seventh edition of the Middle East Film and Comic Con, which runs from Thursday to Saturday.
Headlining the event this year are Kristian Nairn — Hodor from Game of Thrones — alongside Ezra “The Flash” Miller and Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman.
Comic Con is expected to draw some 70,000 fans of geek culture, according to the organisers, all of whom are hoping to get a glimpse of their favourite stars.
Emirati Saad Ibrahim and his two young sons arrived at the event dressed in head-to-toe Star Wars costumes: dad as Anakin Skywalker, and his two boys as the villans Darth Vader and Kylo Ren.
“We brought the children to have a good time,” he said, adding that his family attended the event every year. “It’s great fun, and they get the chance to meet their superheroes.”
DC Comics and Marvel Cinematic Universe, the two giants of the field, both enjoy wide popularity across the Middle East, which is also home to a wide fanbase of Japanese anime.
And the market, according to industry insiders, is poised to grow.
“The Middle East is this untapped market and it’s huge,” said Suzy Pallet of the multinational event group Informa, which is organising the Middle East Comic Con edition.
“From a historical point of view, they were brought up on anime, they were brought up on comics, and that’s … grown into this love,” she told AFP.
“It’s just the same as any other region, but so much more in terms of the young population.”
At the opening, Emiratis mingled with members of Dubai’s varied expatriate communities, from India to Britain to Nigeria.
“This is my first time here,” said Sanaa, an Indian expat in a bright pink wig. “It’s amazing. People get to meet and learn about more comics. Kids these days don’t know anything about comic books.”
Founded in 1970 as the Golden State Comic Book Convention, San Diego Comic-Con is now the main annual event in the comic world, featuring panels and workshops led by stars of film adaptions and remakes of industry staples.
Comic-Con now has spinoffs across the globe, spreading as far as ultraconservative Saudi Arabia which last year hosted its first version of the event.