With more than 60,000 pop culture fans expected to attend Dubai’s Middle East Film and Comic Con this month, we meet Arafaat Ali Khan, the man who helped make geek culture cool in Dubai
Tell us how Comic Con got started
Myself and co-founder Ben Caddy are massive pop culture fans, and we were chatting about the lack of a Comic Con here. We knew there was interest in the region and lots of talent, so thought why don’t we do it ourselves? It took a year or two of research, and a lot of people told us ‘This is crazy, it’s never going to work’. But we were adamant it would.
Was there a moment when you realised you’d made it?
In our first year, 2012, at Dubai International Marine Club, we had guests lined up but we didn’t have a single big sponsor. Our first press conference lasted an hour and a half, and we were dying to get out and see if anyone had turned up. Then we found out there was traffic all the way down Beach Road with people trying to get into the event. In the end, we had more than 15,000 visitors in our first year.
What do you think has been the secret of Comic Con’s success?
I think it’s the fact that we’re passionate fans, just like our audience, so we look at everything from the perspective of ‘Will this excite us?’
What’s the biggest misconception about the event programme?
People don’t think that there’s something for everyone. They think pop culture is very niche and they picture lonely geeks reading comic books in their mom’s basement. But actually, pop culture has gone so mainstream these days, thanks to shows like Game of Thrones, the Marvel movies and Harry Potter. There’s a fan in everyone.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
Keep your passions alive and stay committed to them, even if you have to do that outside of your day job. Whether you’re a banker who sketches or a journalist who loves comic books, make time for the things you love.
What advice would you give to someone who’s attending Middle East Film and Comic Con for the first time?
Prepare to have your mind blown. There’s such a buzz around the place and the positivity is palpable, but do your research beforehand. Know what you want to see and what you want to do, because you won’t be able to do every single thing.
April 6 to 8
Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, Thur 11am to 9pm, Fri and Sat 10am to 10pm, Dhs100 to Dhs500. Tel: (04) 3321000. Metro: World Trade Centre. mefcc.com