SINGAPORE - A hall of armoured suits worn by superhero Iron Man and a chance to work for Marvel are among the attractions at this weekend's Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention.
More than 180 exhibitors - including, for the first time, the Walt Disney Company - will congregate at Marina Bay Sands on Saturday and Sunday for the annual comic bash.
Marvel, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company, will hold panel discussions and autograph-signing sessions for fans at the convention.
Mr Chester Cebulski, senior vice-president at Marvel, says that the company hopes to sniff out budding local talent from sketching sessions held there.
"While our artists are mostly American and European who come with their own life experiences, we want an international sensibility in our works that fans from all over the world can identify with culturally," says Mr Cebulski, 42, who is also a talent scout.
Such multi-cultural references include having different architectural styles in comic strips, he adds, or drawing characters eating with chopsticks rather than fork and spoon.
Also on show: a Hall of Armour from the Iron Man movie franchise, with seven life-sized replicas of armour suits from titular character Tony Stark's Malibu mansion, including the Mark I and the Mark VII. Along with it, conceptual designer and illustrator for the three Iron Man films, Adi Granov, is making his first appearance at the convention.
Other well-known names in the comic and animation industry who will appear at the event are writer-illustrator David Mack of graphic novel Kabuki, and Marvel Television's vice-president of animation development and production Cort Lane, known for his work on Ultimate Spider-Man.
More than 40,000 people are expected at the event, says Ms Yeow Hui Leng, senior project director at the convention.
Thirty-five thousand people attended last year. The convention is organised by Reed Exhibitions, in collaboration with the creators of the New York Comic Convention.
The offerings at this year's show - the sixth - spans different genres, says Ms Yeow. "We try to present the show not just as an event for comics fans, but also a pop-culture show which highlights anything that is 'in' or fun, which includes television, music, films, cosplay and comics."
There has been a 40 per cent rise in the number of exhibitors, compared to last year. However, the number of popculture personalities attending has fallen from 35 last year to 24, this year.
Visitors with a taste for make-believe can look out for American cosplay artist Vampy Bit Me, who will come dressed as Psylocke from the Marvel comics. South Korean cosplayer Aza will turn up as Milla Maxwell from the Tales Of Xillia video game.
The Singapore convention is a change from the usual comics, TV and film circuit, in cities such as New York and San Diego, says American sculptor Jesse Yu - it is more intimate.
Better known as J*RYU, he does toy sculptures and will be making his first appearance in Singapore at the event.
Adds Yu, 40: "Singapore is so far from our usual convention circuit, so I expect that we will get to engage a whole new crowd of fans who don't get to meet artists as often. It will be awesome to finally hang out with them and revel in this scene that we all love."
Japanese artist Hideo Baba, producer of the Tales Of video game series, is also making his debut appearance here.
His maiden trip to Singapore will be a "study trip", he says, of how Singaporeans enjoy games, animation and Japanese comics.
Meanwhile, local fans are also getting in on the action. Home-grown cosplayers Clive Lee and Elpheal Ho will be attending, dressed to the nines.
Mr Lee, 34, a game design and development lecturer, will come in a homemade black Banshee Gundam outfit which weighs 28kg and cost about $600 to make.
He is looking forward to the convention.
He hopes for a greater emphasis on movie-making magic, such as the showcasing of recent science-fiction films such as Prometheus and Pacific Rim.
He says: "This would broaden the scope of the convention, making it more accessible to the public, in addition to just comics fans."
Ho, who is known as Kaika in cosplaying circles, is looking forward to the lineup of Asian artists, such as Japanese violinist Tam, who will perform anime songs.
The best part? Bonding with likeminded fans, says the IT sales executive in her 20s, who will be dressing up as Mogami Kyoko from Japanese manga Skip Beat!.
She says: "Getting together with other hobbyists is a natural extension of my love for anime, manga and cosplay. Even though it is make-believe, you feel that little bit closer to the real thing."
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