By Saleh Fareed & Adele Al Banawi
THE inaugural Saudi Comic Con festival kicked off with much fanfare Thursday night, as thousands of comic book and pop culture enthusiasts streamed into the Take Off club on the first day of a jam-packed weekend.
The three-day event is known for people dressed in costumes of their favorite characters and heroes.
Huge crowds flooded the Take Off venue as fans compete to get the first look at movie trailers and games. More than 25,000 people are expected to attend the three day event which is held in Saudi Arabia for the first time.
Cosplayers – people who dress up as their favorite comic or gaming character – wandered around the event talking to vendors selling comic figures, posters, and art.
The pop culture celebration kicked off with the festival’s preview night, where con-goers with three-day passes have the first crack at the collectibles, free swag and photo opportunities on the special venue of Take Off opposite Jeddah’s Red Sea Mall.
But it is not about fans getting together to dress as their favorite character. There is a lot of merchandise that has been brought to these events. The Take Off club has a whole section strictly dedicated for merchandise. Of course there are the comics, but there is also artwork, toys and video games as well.
The club is set up with vendors full of rare comic books, to exclusive signings from cartoon writers. The merchandise hall offers some material that is only available at comic-con.
“You really should go check it out, see that it’s not just comics,” Hatim Halwani, an attendee, said. “You’ve got stuff from anime, you got stuff from manga, you got people that dress up from video games.”
Celebrities from both the local and international entertainment scenes including Saudi film director Ayman Jamal, Saudi actor and producer Hisham Faqeh, British actor Julian Glover, US actor Giancarlo Esposito, British actor Charles Dance and Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen are likely to attend the three-day event.
Throughout Saudi Comic Con, there will be open discussions between moderators and speakers on various topics in the area of comics, video games, and production.
Saudi teens are happy to see the multi-faceted celebration of pop culture here in the Kingdom for the first time. Thamer Dahlan, 21, said: “I have always loved comics, cartoons and everything related to the world of being a nerd, therefore; I am so happy to attend this big event.”
He said he and his six friends had booked their tickets few months in advance.
Saudi Comic Con is being organized by Time Entertainment and backed by the General Authority for Entertainment, which oversees events and activities in the Kingdom. According to a press statement from Time Entertainment, “there is great demand in the country as tens of thousands of Saudis have travelled abroad to attend such events.”