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Comic book and film heroes come to life in Dubai for the largest pop culture event in the Middle East

DUBAI // For geeks and film buffs alike, it is the comic book equivalent of Mecca – and the 2017 Middle East Film and Comic Con festival in Dubai has proved a draw for the region’s superhero fans.
MEFCC is the region’s largest pop culture festival and the only large-scale consumer event for fans of comics, film and gaming entertainment on offer in the Middle East.
Gaming may have overtaken comics in the popularity stakes of the young at heart – but it is the much-loved characters who remain central to the annual festival’s runaway success.
Comic book and fiction film heroes were brought to life during the three-day World Trade Centre festival, as fans kept with tradition by dressing as their favourite characters to add a splash of colour to proceedings.
Comic books have changed the lives of many, including an Emirati woman who draws characters to distract her thoughts from her illness.
"My mother found out I was diabetic when I was really young," said Hessa Butweel, 24.
"She used to buy comic books and colouring books to take my attention off my illness. This was the starting point for me when I began drawing comic characters."
MEFCC’s guests are not just celebrities on the screen. Workshops and panels bring some of biggest talents in the industry to share their knowledge.
Highlights included Anthony Mackie, who played Sam Wilson, alias Falcon, a partner to Captain America. Mackie is also known for roles in Oscar-winning films The Hurt Locker and Million Dollar Baby.
Cas Anwar, an award-winning actor who has appeared in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and several hit video games, fielded questions from fans on his career and the characters he has played.
"I came with my friends to this event to meet new people and enjoy wearing our favourite comic characters’ customs," said Axel Marcus, 13. "I am a big fan of comics and my favourite is Marvel Comics."
Others were inspired by comics and film to take up art and release their creative potential.
"Art makes up a huge part of my daily life," said Hessa Al Mansouri, 23, who was visiting the Dubai event for the third year.
"I am a big fan of the portrayal of black characters in comics. All artists share their work and ideas. My art is a bit mysterious, I love drawing scary things."
Comic book conventions first began in San Diego in the 1970s, and have since been flourished globally and in Dubai since 2012.
Although comics remain central to the exhibition’s success, gaming has captured the attention of many new visitors.
"We came here to present the Battle Park game, the largest paintball and airsoft field in the Middle East," said Emirati Saeed Al Muhairi.
"People can come and join us at the festival to try out the game."
Other key highlights were the Star Trek 50 Year Exhibit, featuring 50 art pieces by 50 artists from 10 countries - all inspired by the much celebrated science fiction television and film franchise.
The collection includes work by the late Leonard Nimoy, who played the role of Spock from a 1965 TV pilot episode to the 2013 film, Star Trek Into Darkness.
Much was on offer for the legions of fans looking to snap up original artwork and movie memorabilia, with more than 300 exhibitors across the show floor, shop and ship comics village, Manga town and Dubai culture artists’ alley.
The exhibition was officially opened by Mona Al Marri, director general of the Dubai Government Media Office.
"Dubai is growing as a regional focal point for talent, resources and investment in the entertainment sector," she said.
"This event adds to the creative environment of Dubai and contributes to further fostering innovation and artistic excellence in the industry."