Yesterday I had the intriguing privilege of checking out Comic Con Dhaka; which turned out to be one of the most bizarrely exciting events I have ever attended.
I believe I can sum it up in a single word: Fantastic!
Up until Saturday afternoon, I was a Comic Con virgin. I had, to my deep shame and eternal chagrin, never attended Hal-Con in Halifax, never watched people dressed as my favorite comic book characters parade around a convention centre with pride (it’s a toss-up between V and Rorschach for me personally…just in case you cared to know) and had certainly never received multiple, overly enthusiastic bear-hugs from a ninja turtle. Now, I can proudly say that my first Comic Convention was in Dhaka, Bangladesh. And I have the T-shirt to prove it!
The conference was hosted by the brand-spanking new and surprisingly well-polished Jamena Future Park in Bashundhara. After purchasing our tickets for 150tk, passing the dilapidated Bat-Mobile fashioned out of Styrofoam and entering the Indiana-Jones style temple façade, we were assaulted with a kaleidoscope of t-shirts, action figures, posters, a surprisingly well-crafted “mini-TARDIS” and much, much, much more. As we began our exploration, we were quickly pulled aside for an interview with a camera crew and reporter. (Begin diversion.)
The only true quality needed to be broadcast on national T.V. or plastered on the front page of a major Facebook page in Bangladesh is to be born Caucasian. I was interviewed live on television several times last year and I was snatched up and interviewed by pretty much every reporter in sight when I ventured into the heart of the party on Bangla New Year last April. I had sporadic introductions in broken English from locals for the next month explaining that they recognized my furry face from the holiday programming. Fun stuff! (End diversion.)
So anyways, after being pulled aside and awkwardly interviewed with my coworkers for a few minutes, I continued my exploration of the event. One of the most encouraging and exciting discoveries at Comic Con Dhaka was that there is actually a thriving Bangla-language comic culture here in Bangladesh. A plethora of Bangla-language comic artists and writers were proudly displaying and selling their work, which was both cheap and surprisingly decent quality. I suppose my subconscious-ethnocentric-psyche had prepared me to be disappointed with the quality of locally written and published graphic novels. I was humbled and found myself blown away by the quality and depth of the stories I encountered (translated to me by my high school students of course. Ami ektu Bangla bougee)!
It was fascinating to see that despite the popularity of Western heroes, villains and monsters, Bangladeshis have added to the comic-book culture and created their own, locally relevant graphic novels which feature quintessentially Bangladeshi character roles such as poor rickshaw wallahs, withered imams and scrawny fishermen. They crafted organic stories based in Bangladesh that are relatable and relevant to the culture here…and I think this is awesome!
Other personal highlights of the event included watching the “We Draw Stuff” guys at work and buying an ink portrait of Bumblebee from them, perplexedly wondering why SpongeBob Squarepants would dare invite himself to a Comic Con (it’s a disgrace but I digress) and marveling at how much time and effort Bangladeshi high school students poured into their costumes.
In short, Comic Con Dhaka was a unique experience I wouldn't have missed for the world. I learned tons, watched talented artists at work and experienced repeated hugs from a loving ninja turtle. And I have the t-shirt to prove it!