When it was first announced last year that 2011 would see Abu Dhabi host the first Middle East Film & Comic Con, the interest and attention from around the world was significant. In the wake of the populist uprisings rocking Tunisia and Egypt, which have since spread to Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, the decision was made to postpone the convention until this coming Winter.
For more information about the show and its revised plans and scheduling, CBR News reached out to Arafaat Ali Khan, Director of Public Relations at ExtraCake P.R.A., the organizers of the convention, to ask about the decision to postpone the event.
CBR News: Since you first announced your plans for the convention, has there been a lot of enthusiasm, both locally and internationally?
Arafaat Ali Khan: The enthusiasm has been overwhelming, actually. We always knew there was an interest, but the response through our website and social media sites has been very encouraging. The Facebook page grew organically and has become a forum for people who love anything to do with pop culture, and we have been receiving table requests from amateur artists on an almost daily basis since we launched.
The support we’ve received from international talent, both artists and celebrities -- including some legends in their field -- has been very humbling. The comic book and entertainment industry has been incredibly supportive, and we’re very grateful of that!
You've delayed the convention until this winter, which I'm sure wasn't a decision that was made lightly. What was it that made you first think about holding off on the show and what was the thinking behind the decision?
Well, we have always maintained two things when organizing this first-of-its-kind-event. One, it was a Middle East-wide event, and two, it was all about the fans and talent in this part of the world and giving them something they have not had a chance to experience here before.
Though our part of the region is unlikely to ever see any kind of turbulence, our neighbors quite simply had more serious issues on their mind. Our concern was that these people wouldn’t be able to participate in competitions or attend [at all]. As a sign of respect, we made the decision to delay [the show]. We’re very happy to say that the decision has been welcomed almost across the board, and we’re now focused on making it bigger and better than ever!
Given that you're now pushing the show to Winter, do you think it will actually work better at that time of year simply because it will occur away from convention season here in North America?
It’s hard to say, really. We’ll find out later in the year, I guess! The response, not only from fans but partners, exhibitors and guests, seems to support that view, though, so hopefully it will all work out for the best.
One question I've had since first hearing of the show is what is the comics culture like in the UAE and, more broadly, in the Middle East? Is it dominated by American comics? Franco-Belgian comics? Manga?
Manga and Anime are definitely a pop culture that has been adopted as our own in the Middle East. The late Seventies and early Eighties saw numerous classic Anime imported and dubbed flawlessly into the Arabic language, and many fans in this part of the world grew up with these as part of their childhood -- myself included! Amateur artists in the region tend to emulate the Manga style, and even children seem to have this style in their scribbles.
That said, traditional American comics are also very popular -- Marvel, DC and their titles are well loved, but you will also find titles from other publishers, such as Dark Horse, IDW, Top Cow, Dynamite and more very much in demand as well. It’s a very interesting market, with a varied demographic. There’s a little of everything, really.
For people reading this, can you tell us a little about who will be at the show and what people can look forward to?
It’s difficult to give any teasers, to be honest, until we confirm the new dates. There will be some major players from the comics and film industry in attendance, though, alongside worldwide celebrities that will get people excited!
In terms of what to expect, we’re trying to make sure the event has something of interest for every fan of pop culture. We will have a section for US and UK style comic books; Manga and Anime; a gaming area for video, card and table-top games like Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer; artist, writer and celebrity signing areas; a cinema section with previews and classic movie showings; workshops on drawing, writing, financing and more from some of the industry veterans; forums with guests, figures and memorabilia -- really, the list goes on!
And for those comics professionals who read this and say, I want to go to Abu Dhabi and be a part of this, how should they get in touch with you?
Our new, interactive website will be live as soon as new dates are announced, with a list of guests, exhibitors and ticket sales. In the meantime, we urge all those interested to ">join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.