INTERVIEW: The 2012 Thought Bubble Anthology is Here!

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Lisa Wood is the founder of Leeds’ Thought Bubble Festival, which is now only ten days away (AIIEEEE indeed, readers), but last year also saw her compile a Thought Bubble Anthology book, with all proceeds going to the children’s charity Barnardo’s. Last year’s anthology, released throughImage, saw creative talent like Mike Carey, Anthony Johnson and D’Israeli contribute short stories, and this year’s entry is even bigger. Out today, the anthology features stories from Gail Simone, Tony Harris, Warren Ellis, Sean Phillips, Fiona Staples, Skottie Young and many many others.

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Not only that, but the Anthology also features emerging talent from the UK scene, with winners of the Northern Sequential Art Competition finding themselves suddenly next to people like  Kate Beaton and Richard Starkings. To find out more about how the Anthology first came to be, as well as exactly how one goes about persuading Warren Ellis to write you a story (do you leave a supply of Red Bull at his front door with a heartfelt request? Does he have a Bill Murray-esque answering machine he only answers on special occasions?), I spoke with Lisa about the title. Which, I believe I mentioned, IS OUT TODAY. Go buy it! It’s brilliant.

Steve Morris: The first anthology in 2011 came about as a way to show off the entrants from the Northern Sequential Art Competition. When did the idea come to put these competition entries into an anthology like this? Was this always the plan?

Lisa Wood: It was kind of the plan! We started talking about putting together a small, self-published comic anthology with the NSAC entries back in 2010, but then the idea snowballed. Image liked the sound of what we were doing, so we got all our comics industry friends involved and ended up with this amazing comic! We’re hugely grateful to everyone who helped out with that first issue, we couldn’t have done it without them, and the same goes for this year’s anthology – very much a team effort!

Steve: Once you chose the winning entries, you mixed them in alongside established creators like D’Israeli and Mike Carey. How did you decide which creators to invite to the project? Was this all done through networking at the convention?

Lisa: Well, we didn’t pick the winning entries – we have a wonderful judging panel each year who kindly take on that herculean task for us, yet more people that we’re eternally grateful to! We drew up a longlist of creators we’d love to see work together, and produce a comic for us, and contacted them — and nearly everyone was able to say yes! That was pretty incredible, and so we ended up having to increase the page count!

Steve: Did you ever consider having an overruling theme or genre for the anthology?

Lisa: Initially, yes, but then thinking about it we decided to go with an open submission policy – it better reflects Thought Bubble’s aim to showcase everything that comics has to offer!

Steve: Likewise, did you involve yourself as an editor, or did you leave the work in the hands of the creators, let them do what they want?

Lisa: The creators were left entirely to their own devices, besides the technical requirements of the pages, and we think the quality of the comics speak for themselves in terms of what a great job everyone involved did.

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Steve: All profits raised from the Anthology go to Barnardo’s, a children’s charity in the UK. What motivated this decision?

Lisa: Barnardo’s took care of me as a baby. They found a foster home for me and then adoptive parents, so I owe them a great deal. They are a wonderful charity committed to transforming the lives of vulnerable children across the UK through their projects and campaigning. Thought Bubble donates to them annually among other charities. I feel so pleased that we can use something as wonderful and creative as our anthology to raise money for them.

Steve: What inspired you to start the competition to begin with? Did it feel like a natural extension of the convention?

Lisa: We wanted to try and give people a chance to get their work out there, people who maybe hadn’t gotten the opportunity to have their work seen by such a big audience before, or who were looking for a different avenue to try and break into the industry. One of Thought Bubble’s core aims is to try and give the more obscure or overlooked aspects of comics (and their creators) the recognition they deserve, and the NSAC resonates strongly with that.

Steve: Do you think it’s important to have projects like the NSAC, to showcase writers and artists? How important is it to have these showcases for new talent in the UK?

Lisa: Oh, definitely! Giving new or just starting out creators every opportunity to get their work seen is essential if you want the community and the industry to keep growing. The British Comic Awards show that there’s a hotbed of talent established in the UK and producing some amazing comics, so making sure the next generations get the chance to continue this legacy and keep passing the torch and bolstering the awesome comics heritage that the UK has is extremely important.

Steve: How do you think the UK scene has changed over the past few years?

Lisa: The scene has grown immeasurably over the last few years, it’s crazy how many talented people such a small island can produce! In terms of what’s being created, the internet and social networks are obviously allowing comics to evolve really quickly, and online comics like MadeFire and Aces Weekly are really interesting uses of digital distribution.

Likewise, Paper Science and Solipsistic Pop have shown what interesting subscription models and creative line-ups can lead to in terms of anthologies. Again, looking at the British Comic Awards’ shortlists for this year give a good indication of how both “traditional” and more modern experimental comics are all coming from the UK scene at the moment.

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Steve: You also contribute to the anthology yourself, this year drawing a story written by Warren Ellis. How has the experience been?

Lisa: Amazing! When I asked Warren to contribute to the anthology I didn’t expect him to say yes. When he told me he’d like me to draw it I was ecstatic! Working with Warren is brilliant, he’s an incredible storyteller. He gave me very descriptive panels with reference so if felt easy, but he also let me take the story in my own direction through my art. I also drew Gail Simone’s story for the anthology [which you’ve just seen above, readers!] which was another wonderful page to work on. I had a lot of fun with that one. They are both wonderful writers.

Steve: Do you have any plans to expand on the anthology in future? Is this something you could see coming out more than once a year?

Lisa: I don’t think we’d be able to do more than one a year, as the festival planning schedule is really demanding and we’re a small team, but this year’s anthology is even bigger than last year’s bumper oversized edition, so don’t rule it out!

Steve: Are there any stories you’re particularly excited to show people this year?

Lisa: Yes! Tony Harris has illustrated a story written by his 5 year old daughter Lucia - it’s called ‘Underpants’ and it is amazing! I love the fact that with the NSAC winners we have 4 stories in 2012’s edition all by young people.

There’s also a new 6 page strip by Richard Starkings and Boo Cook which is an Elephantmen/Strontium Dog crossover [which you’ve also seen above, readers! Isn’t life great?]. Boo’s art is beautiful and those pages are so much fun. Thanks to Comicraft and 2000AD for letting that happen!

Steve: You run Thought Bubble & Travelling Man, produce an anthology, and draw comics for Warren Ellis and Gail Simone. Does life get any better? Do you ever sleep?

Lisa: Haha no and no! I do work far too much but I love it so it’s ok. I feel so lucky and happy to be doing what I do. But really the thing that makes it all so special for me is working daily with friends who I love. Life doesn’t get better than that.

Many thanks to Lisa for taking the time to answer my questions. If you want more, then you can find her on Twitter, visit the Thought Bubble Website, or, y’know… head to Thought Bubble!

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