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Workshops. Fan art. Celebrity meet-and-greets. This year’s Middle East Film & Comic Con (MEFCC) is ready to go.

MEFCC is the region’s annual geek fest, where famous faces, artists and cosplaying fans come together under one roof — Zabeel Halls 4, 5 and 6 in Dubai World Trade Centre, in this case.

This year, organisers of the event are hoping to hit the 70,000 visitor mark over the course of April 6, 7 and 8.

“We hit just over 60,000 last year. We’re hoping to keep on growing,” said convention co-founder Arafaat Ali Khan. He added that the outdoor festival area has been expanded to include more food trucks and activities.

“Our international guests that have been coming have given us a lot of praise and said, ‘Oh my gosh, you’ll be as big as San Diego [Comic Con] soon.’ So you know, hopefully, when we hit that 100,000 mark one year, then we can shout about it a bit.”

If you’re one of the thousands who are planning to head down to the convention this Thursday, Friday or Saturday, we have ten things you shouldn’t miss out on:


1. One of the most anticipated parts of any Comic Con is the chance to meet-and-greet the celebrity guests. Anthony Mackie — a.k.a. Falcon from the Captain America and Avengers films — is this year’s headlining star. You can also grab photos with, or a signature from, Greg Grunberg, Liam Cunningham and wrestling champion Kane, amongst some other geeky celebs. The full schedule of these sessions are up on the MEFCC website — but keep in mind, you’ll have to buy vouchers at the venue and queue up to get your photo/autograph, and the prices vary from one star to the other.

Watch: Anthony Mackie who plays Falcon in the MCU talks to press at #MEFCC.

2. If you’ve ever wanted to live the WWE lifestyle, you’ll get an opportunity at the con this year. Organisers have introduced a WWE ramp, where people can walk out as their favourite superstar wrestler, with standard hype music and everything. (Muscles and fighting experience not required — even the scrawniest of fans can feel like beasts up here.)


3. Trekkies, make sure you’re ready, because an unmissable feature this weekend is the Star Trek 50th anniversary exhibition, brought to the con by the Dubai Film and TV Commission. This is a globally touring exhibition showcasing 50 art pieces by 50 artists, with one piece from late actor and photographer Leonard Nimoy, who famously played Spock in the original franchise. The original TV series began airing in 1966 and celebrated five decades in September of last year.


4. The indoor zip line returns. So if you have the guts to glide over the MEFCC proceedings and get something of a bird eye’s view for a second, then this one’s for you.


5. A new addition this year: the International Artists’ Alley, which will house 36 tables of international publishers and artists coming down from Europe and America. This includes — but is not limited to — DC’s Harley Quinn illustrator Chad Hardin, Dynamite’s Maria Sanapo, Disney’s James C Mulligan, Marvel’s Simone Bianchi and sculptor J Ryu. But be sure to check out the Regional Artists’ Alley, too, and support your local artists — organisers told tabloid! that even though they lose money on artist’s tables, championing the local art scene is an important part of MEFCC. Some artists will open up commissions on the spot, so our recommendation is getting a personalised sketch.


6. Entertainment has been amped up this year with a full line-up of performers on the festival main stage, including Megatronic, Chronicles of Khan and Ras Al Ghul. One interesting act coming down from Japan is a group called Maidreamin, a product of Japanese ‘maid’ cafes, which are a staple of pop culture in Japan. Maidreamin is one of the biggest such chains with 17 locations around the world. Three of their top stars — Hinata, Peace and Iroha — are coming to perform at MEFCC. They’ll also be walking around the venue, taking pictures with fans and selling their merch.


7. 501st Legion, a global group of hardcore Star Wars fans that get together for charity and to promote the franchise. Members, who are all volunteers, have to go through a strict vetting process — you can’t just buy your costume from eBay, apparently, but have to be specific and faithful to the movies. They often visit hospitals dressed as Darth Vader and Stormtroopers, interacting with children and fans. Their motto? ‘Bad guys doing good.’ They’ll play a part in the opening ceremony at MEFCC, and hold a workshop at 6pm on Saturday.


8. Workshops, workshops and more workshops for all those pop culture lovers who’d like to toggle between consuming and creating. From writing your own comic strip and drawing like a Disney pro, to voice acting, animating and character development, there’s a huge range of topics being discussed at various workshop rooms at the convention this year.


9. The annual cosplay competition. Every year, cosplayers turn it up to eleven by suiting up as their favourite comic book hero, film character, manga personality and beyond, from the super mechanical to the ultra-nostalgic. This year will be no different. If you didn’t sign up for the competition by deadline (March 31), it’s worth it just to go down to the stage and watch the show. International cosplayers Linda Le, Nicole Marie Jean and Madeline ‘Zhiana’ Rose will also be attending the con.


10. Catch the regional premiere of sci-fi film One Under the Sun as part of Novo & Imax Cine Club. The screening will take place on Saturday at 4.30pm, and attendees will be let in on a first come, first serve basis. Actress Pooja Batra, who will be at MEFCC, plays astronaut Kathryn Voss, the sole survivor of a space mission gone awry. Voss tries to reunite with her terminally ill daughter, but has a target on her back after the government finds out she’s returned to earth with an extraordinary gift.