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Crowds gather at the Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai. (MEFCC)

Celebrities, Artists and Fans Converge at Middle East Comic Con

A who’s who of comic books and film is in Dubai for one region’s largest annual pop culture gatherings

Celebrities, artists and comic book enthusiasts have converged on Dubai for one of the region’s largest pop culture gatherings: the Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC).

Now in its eighth year, some 50,000 people are expected to attend the conference, taking place April 11-13 at the Dubai World Trade Center, for a celebration of all things related to film and comic books. It features 420 exhibitors, including industry bigwigs Marvel and DC Comics, who are selling everything from comic books to toys and the latest in gaming technology. There will also be celebrity “meet and greets,” elaborate costume competitions and exclusive film screenings.

Dr. Swapna Koshy, an associate professor at Dubai’s University of Wollongong, told The Media Line that comic books and pop culture were becoming increasingly popular on the Arabian Peninsula.

“The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is fast developing as a hub to produce and shoot Hollywood blockbuster films and host events centering on the entertainment industry,” Koshy noted, pointing out that major cultural gatherings had become the norm in the country in recent years.

“In the UAE, channels like Spacetoon – which have been airing various types of anime, dubbed in Arabic – is a staple in Emirati households,” she said.

Anime, a style of animation that originated in Japan, has achieved international appeal in recent decades.

“Consumption is increasing and includes the anime cartoons Emiratis watch in homes, the manga volumes on their library shelves and the video games on their phones,” Koshy continued. “The last five to six years have witnessed a tremendous growth in anime culture.”

She noted that while Emiratis initially did not make the connection between Japanese culture and the anime cartoons they saw on TV, the UAE has successfully leveraged itself as a destination for fans of the genre.

“Fan culture is thriving in the UAE, and fans from many neighboring countries also attend events hosted here,” she elaborated. “Thus, Comic Con and similar events raise the profile of the UAE as a tourism and event destination.”

The country is drawing not only a growing number of comic book aficionados, but celebrities and leading decision-makers in the entertainment industry as well.

Among the stars in attendance at this year’s MEFCC is Tara Strong, an American-Canadian actress who has worked on numerous high-profile animations and video games, and voiced many popular cartoon characters, such as Batgirl, Raven from “Teen Titans,” Bubbles from “The Powerpuff Girls,” and Harley Quinn from “Batman: Arkham City.”

“I decided to do the Dubai [Comic Con], because I knew it would be an extraordinary travel experience and was excited for the opportunity to sign autographs for fans in the Middle East,” Strong told The Media Line, adding that it was her first time visiting the region.

Other celebrities making an appearance this year include British actor Benedict Wong, Iwan Rheon of HBO’s successful TV series “Game of Thrones,” and Hollywood star Katie Cassidy. Over the years, the event has welcomed a number of noteworthy celebrities, such as Gillian Anderson, William Shatner, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Jason Momoa.

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