You love Spider-Man (and you insist it must always be hyphenated) and know every little thing about this Marvel Comics superhero. For instance, you relish telling anyone who would listen that the radioactive spider that bit Peter’s hand bit another student’s ankle before it died and that student (Cindy Moon alias Silk) also gained superpowers from the radioactive spider bite.
Perhaps, you adore not Spider-Man but the X-Men, Goku from Dragon Ball Z, or Ariel from Disney's version of “A Little Mermaid.” It doesn’t matter which comic, manga, anime, television, film, or game character you like.
You’d surely love a comic con festival that celebrates popular culture, like the Middle East Film & Comic Con (MEFCC) happening at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) on 3-5 March 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
If you're a comic-book nerd and have had your share of comic cons, you know what to expect and what you're in for, so you should be fine. However, if you're a comic con newbie, especially when it comes to international comic cons like the MEFCC, everything can be extremely overwhelming.
Exhilarating, breathtaking, fun — yes, the experience should be all that and more. Still, it can be so hectic, mind-boggling, and staggering that it leaves you clueless about how to act and conduct yourself. Unable to decide what is and what is not done, you might end up not doing anything fun.
You certainly don't want that, so read on for some valuable advice on etiquette for comic con novices.
1. Ask for Permission Every Time
See an artwork you like? Do not take a photo without asking for consent from the artist.
For instance, suppose you are at the MEFCC’s Artist Alley and find an interesting artwork on exhibit.
Remember that although the piece is on display, you cannot assume the artist has given the public (yes, you) the license to take photos as it wants. Instead of assuming consent, ask the artist outright. Frankly, how hard could it be to approach the artist and ask them for permission to take pictures of their work?
How about cosplayers? Can you take their pictures at will?
Cosplayers come to comic cons to display their costumes. They’re there to let hundreds or thousands of people witness their transformation into their favorite comic, manga, anime, TV, film, or game character. That said, you cannot assume they consent to their pictures being taken.
Therefore, if you see cosplayers you’d love to snap pictures of, approach them and ask them for permission before you focus your camera and start clicking the button or shutter.
Oh, and speaking of focus, do not take disrespectful photos (like one zoomed in on a cosplayer’s behind). It's best to take full-body shots, although close-ups of cosplayers’ faces should be alright if pictures are taken with consent.
Finally, when posing for photos with other people (cosplayers, artists, celebrities, other comic con attendees), do not put your hands on another person’s body or come so close your bodies are touching without first asking if it’s alright to do so. Ask permission before imposing on another person’s rights and space, and you should be okay.
One final note: If you intend to publish your photos online (which is likely), tell those you shoot that their photos may end up on social media or your website. Note the artists’ and cosplayers’ names, so you can correctly attribute their works to them.
2. Do Not Monopolize Anyone’s Time
At the MEFCC, you will get the opportunity to meet your favorite artists and creators in Meet The Stars. As you get your shirt or merch signed and pose for photographs, you will get the rare chance to chat with them.
Even if you have a lot of things you wish to say or a gazillion questions you feel you must ask, rein yourself in and keep things short. Just say one or two lines about how much you enjoy their work. You can perhaps tell them which of their work is your favorite, but that’s it.
Meet-and-greet events are for everyone with a ticket, and your favorite writer, artist, or actor has hundreds of other people to meet. They cannot chat with you for long, and you shouldn't try to monopolize their time.
How about if you're lucky enough to see them at an after-party, bump into them in the lobby, or share an elevator ride with them? It should be alright to chat, right?
It’s okay to start a conversation with anyone, celebrity or not. Just say “Hi!” strike up a conversation (about their work or their costume, not their appearance), and end it gracefully after a few minutes, especially if they let you know (with words or their body language) that they’re ready to leave.
You can even give them an opening like, “I’m sure you’re busy. It’s so nice meeting you.” If they need to leave, they’ll take the cue and walk away.
Whoever it is you end up talking to at a comic con — celebrities, stars, cosplayers, fellow comic con goers — you cannot monopolize their time. They have places to be, people to meet, and things to do, so you can’t trap them into conversing with you indefinitely.
3. Keep Things Appropriate
Even if you are impressed by how lovely a cosplayer is, refrain from talking about their appearance and physical attributes. Focus on the costume and the character portrayed by the cosplayer.
Likewise, if given a chance to ask artists and creators questions, especially in open forums, limit your questions to their work and creative processes. Do not ask personal questions; never ask them anything about their body or dating preferences.
4. Line Up
Comic cons are widely attended events, so you can expect long lines to get into the comic con venue, meet and greet stars, or participate in individual sessions. Line up properly, do not delay the queue, and never cut lines.
5. Come Prepared
You should come with a bag (a backpack or a large tote is a good option) packed with all your comic con necessities:
- A refillable water bottle
- Pills for a headache or stomach upset
- Notebooks and pens for autographs and note-taking in creative academy sessions
- A graphics tablet (for digital art workshops) or a sketchbook, pencils, and Sharpies (for non-digital workshops)
- The merchandise you want signed
- Your phone and camera, plus a portable backup power supply
- A hat and sunblock (for outdoor events)
- A foldable bag you can take out and use to carry merchandise you'll collect during the event
- A change of clothes
Most importantly, make sure you shower and brush your teeth before you leave for the convention.
Ready for Your First Comic Con?
In March 2023, there will be cosplays, meet-and-greets, creative academy sessions, mini-concerts, contests, film screenings, panel discussions, and gaming tournaments in Abu Dhabi during the MEFCC.
It’s the perfect time to attend your first comic con. By keeping the above guidelines in mind, you’ll surely have a great time.