The first ever, three-day Saudi ComicCon (Feb 16-18, 2017) closed this Saturday in Jeddah:
The inaugural event, organized by Saudi firm Time Entertainment, saw smaller crowds than the older, Dubai-based Middle East Film and Comic Con, which reportedly has seen more than 50,000 fans at its annual three-day event.
ArabNews reported 7000 fans on the Saudi ComicCon’s opening day, and the event‘s website suggested there had been 22,000+ over the course of the three days. But while crowds might not have been as large as at the Dubai event, the social-media chatter was certainly enthusiastic.
In the international coverage of the event, stress was either laid on restrictions (no cross-dressing, no gender mixing), the novelty (first-ever Saudi ComicCon), or on international authors, actors, and producers.
But there were also events geared at local and regional writers and artists. These included workshops and talks on “Don’t Tell Your Story, Show It, “From Comics to Marketing,” and “The Making of Arab Superheroes.”
The latter featured a discussion of the “Saudi Girls Revolution,” a Saudi comic series that’s focused on Arab superheroines, and a talk by Saudi banker-by-day, comic-artist-by-night Naif Alkhairalla, whose comic “Black Restrictions” is about magic and “the choices we make that might appear right and beautiful but whose results might be disastrous.”
Alkhairalla was at the ComicCon to talk about “using comics as a platform for independent story-telling.”
Alkhairalla earlier told the Khaleej Times that, “I didn’t decide to really get into comic books until Comic Con Dubai 2013. When I came here [to Dubai] and I saw young Arabs and Saudis making their own comics and I got excited and inspired to make my own comics. This is the first time I made my own and distribute my comic.”
There were also regional artists at the Jeddah event. The writer behind “Emara, a young Emirati vigilante who fights crime across the Emirates” was, for instance, at the first-ever Saudi ComicCon.
The Saudi government’s General Entertainment Authority told news organizations it supports the event because of a ComicCon’s “strong family appeal.”
“Providing more entertainment” is apparently one of the goals of the KSA’s “Vision 2030 economic diversification plan.”