It was just another Sunday evening yet something was very unusual. There was Spider-Man hanging out with children, Obama posing for a selfie with fans and a couple of blood-stained zombies lurking around. Somewhere in the distance, you could hear Iron Man screaming, “Oye, Joker. Idhar ao! (Hey, Joker! Come over here!)”
Karachi Con 2015 arranged by Dastak Activations at a mall in Karachi’s Saddar area was attended mostly by young adults who are fans of anime, manga and other comic books.
Comic Cons have been taking place all over the world since quite some time now, providing a platform for diehard fans to dress up as their favourite characters and meet up with artists, actors, celebrities, and authors. The phenomenon is, however, relatively newer to Pakistan.
Anime and manga fans have been in the country for a long time and have been holding underground events in the past, but it has only been a couple of years since Comic Cons started taking place on slightly bigger levels.
Karachi Con was arranged by the Dastak Activations team consisting of Prem Sagar Narayan, Aniq Yameen, Luqman Nadeem, Fahad Shaikh and Nehal Ahmed. “We held a Comic Con in 2014 as well but it was quite a small one. Comic Con is not just a gathering of fans. It has a panel of artists and publishers and also incorporates gamers, artists and movie buffs,” says Nehal.
The only woe of comic fans is that they are not taken seriously as a result they face lack of recognition from the general public. “Parents look at their children cosplaying and think it is a waste of time … We want to hold events like these so it becomes a common thing,” adds Nehal.
Cosplayer Alina also holds a similar opinion, “People think anime is weird but they hardly know anything about it … Anime has a lot of emotions, which makes it better than other cartoons.”
Luckily, things seem to be gradually getting better for the community. “We had pre-sold around 200 tickets of the event even before we had started publicising it. If we are able to gather fans for such events only through Facebook then it means that this does have a niche market in Pakistan.”
Fahad Sheikh thinks it is too early to compare our cosplays to those in international conventions but there has certainly been a lot of improvement. “I saw such good costumes at this event that it was difficult to comprehend how the cosplayers made them.”
Though the enclosure where the event was taking place seemed small due to the number of attendees, the venue turned out to be a good choice. “The space is small and cluttered here but I think this is a smart idea to have such events at malls as it grabs more attention and brings about awareness,” said Babrus Khan, a digital artist and senior graphics manager at Team Muhafiz, a local comic book series.
“I’m a girl!” exclaimed Alina, dressed in a large hoodie with swimming goggles on. She was cosplaying as a male anime character — Shino Aburame from Naruto. She is a huge fan of anime and has cosplayed in other Comic Cons in the past as well.
The toughest part about cosplaying in Pakistan is finding and putting together costumes and related accessories. But fans have let their creativity shine through, and the cosplays seem to be getting better with each event. Some of the cosplayers were also seen wearing the same costumes in the Dastaan-i-Pakistan Comic Con (DPCC) held earlier this year in Karachi, in light of the fact that so much hard work went into making them.
There was Pyramid Head (from Silent Hill), also spotted at DPCC earlier, who won the first prize for the best dressed cosplayer at Karachi Con. Other amazing cosplayers included a female Deadpool and a Hitman who could send shivers down your spine with his evil stare. The ‘walkers’ from popular TV series The Walking Dead were no less creepy.
“It’s good to see fans now opting for more difficult cosplays. I have seen a girl dressed up as an anime character on which she spent 18 hours just stitching the costume,” says Nehal, himself a comic book fanatic, a gamer and a movie buff.
While most were dressed to impress, Shariq Hameed took the idea too literally. While donning an Iron Man mask, he was also holding a clothes iron in one hand. “I have been cosplaying at various gaming cons for the past two years. Events like these give you a chance to meet like-minded people. I actually got to meet many of my virtual friends here,” he said.
Misha, who is Japanese from her mother’s side, suited up as Mew Ichigo from the Japanese anime Tokyo Mew Mew. She moved to Pakistan last year and was attending a Comic Con for the first time, and also seemed to be enjoying it a lot.
Another participant who was too lazy to cosplay but too smart to not let the opportunity slip by pasted a note on his shirt saying, “I am playing an invisible costume. I am a cosplayer!”
Karachi Con 2015 seemed like a perfect hangout event for all comic enthusiasts. There were comics and merchandise being sold, there was online and offline gaming, fan art competitions, as well as live music performances. However, a significant absence felt was that of the local artists.
There were a very few artists given coverage at the event. There was one stall by CFx Comics which is behind Pasbaan and Haider comics; another stall by Team Muhafiz who were selling their two issues that have been released so far; and stalls for artists Rahil Ahmed Khan, Hazique Khan and Muzammil. But it didn’t seem quite enough, considering how the industry has seen a sudden rise in producing excellent artists lately.
With the absence of the local artists, there was also the absence of their characters. “Unfortunately, not many are adopting the local characters. Western and Asian cosplays dominate such events,” says Babrus while giving the example of how there was a cosplay of Bloody Nasreen, a character by artist Shahan Zaidi, in DPCC. “We also still haven’t incorporated amine film characters (in Comic Cons), but hopefully you will get to witness them in the future.”