You can tell how crazy people in this country are about comic cons when you see someone go as far as using cotton and glue for make-up. Boy, that must have been painful to take off!
It was Noman Mateen who was cosplaying as Freddy Kruger (A Nightmare on Elm Street) at Karachi Film & Comic Con (KFCC) held at Atrium, Karachi on December 17 and 18. With ‘cotton-and-glue’ make-up covering his face, neck and hands entirely, he donned a look so scary that it was impossible to make eye-contact with him for more than five seconds.
Did he scare people off while on his way to the event? “Yeah, a few kids,” he says with a freaky grin. “This event is amazing. You get to see a lot of talent here,” says Mateen, who was dressed as Lucifer on the first day of the event, and won the second prize for the best cosplay.
Joker and Harley Quinn were the most popular characters of the event, chosen as cosplays by quite a few participants.
But among all the pairs, the best one was Hammad Khan as Joker (Suicide Squad) accompanied by his 4-year-old son Zauraiz as Batman. These two, who go by the name of Dad and Son Cosplayers on Facebook, have been cosplaying together for the past two years. On the first day of KFCC, they came as Spongebob Squarepants (Hammad) and Patrick Star (Zauraiz). Hammad says he wants his son to be a part of such activities so it helps him gain confidence.
Another cute little cosplayer was 3-year-old Rayyan who came as Spiderman and would strike the spidey pose as soon as you point the camera at him.
There were several other brilliant cosplayers: Maham Khan, who is a self-taught special effects artist, came as the Nurse from Silent Hill. She won the third prize shared with Ali Aslam as Scorpion (Mortal Kombat).
And it was Usman Zahid who won the first prize for the best cosplays — as Clicker (The Last of Us) on first day and Joker (Suicide Squad) on the second day.
Umer Hayat, who came as Edward Kenway (Assassin’s Creed) on the second day, said he was quite impressed with the way people have improved their cosplays over the years. “People have developed an understanding for comic cons now.”
Gauhar Aftab of CFx Comics shared a similar sentiment, "These are some of the best cosplays I have ever seen, and I’ve been to comic cons all around the world!"
But comic cons aren't just about pulling off the best cosplay.
"Even people's slightest of efforts count when it comes to cosplays… Comic cons are actually a way to bring together people who share the same interests and to have them exchange their ideas; for people to buy and sell their artwork,” says Zeerak Khan who came as Joker and was hosting the event in character.
“We do have a good audience, but in all honestly, I think we need a better audience. There needs to be more discipline,” he adds.
An art competition and gaming competition also took place at the event.
‘We need more comics’
Despite the presence of a decent fan following of comic books in Pakistan, we're still lagging behind in the production of comics books.
At the event, there were only two comic book stalls: CFx comic and AzCorp. The rest of the stalls were selling merchandise.
Gauhar Aftab of CFx comics, addressing the audience during a panel session said, “Kids like you, in other countries, they grow up to be artists and game developers. But over here, you end up becoming a doctor or something.”
Aftab was of the view that we need more platforms in the country so that young people get a chance to have their creativity utilised.
AzCorp Entertainment, which is behind comic books like Team Muhafiz and other upcoming ventures, had a panel session too, where they briefed the audience about their project ‘Mein Hero’. Under this project, they go to underprivileged schools and ask children about who their heroes are, and help them turn them into artwork. They also showed a trailer from their documentary about the same initiative.
The future of comic cons
The Karachi Film and Comic Con was first held in 2015 at the same venue. Have things improved in the past year? “Yes, things have improved in terms of support from the exhibitors, although people are still a bit reluctant in attending comic cons and we will be working to make this better for them in the future,” says Fahad Sheikh, one of the four founding members of KFCC.
“I think, for the future, we will need to change our approach and broaden our audience,” he adds. “We are also going to market this event to the people who watch superhero and pop culture movies but do not know about comic cons and such events. We want to bring everybody into the fold and hope to build a solid ground for the industry.”
Nehal Ahmed, another founder of KFCC, said it is important for comic cons to be held in the country because they “promote local talent and create a platform for the world to see Pakistan in a new light.”
He wants children who aspire to be artists to be encouraged by their parents instead of being told that it is “not a fruitful profession”.
“The industry is young and it needs all the support it can get.”
KFCC was founded by Fahad Sheikh, Nehal Ahmed, Prem Sagar Narayan and Tariq Younis Habib.
All photographs by Ema Anis