Scratching the Surface of Thought Bubble 2012

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This weekend saw Thought Bubble 2012’s convention, and…. phew, it was busy. I did my best to talk to everybody, but don’t think I managed to get to even half of all the people who were there. It was a brilliant show, and I’ll try to do justice to it with my rundown. Get ready….!

Let’s start with Roger Langridge, who was doing a variety of sketches. He was giving away head sketches for free, but if you asked for a Marvel/DC character, you had to make a charitable donation to The Hero Initiative. Despite being fully booked by the time I got there, Langridge kindly took the time out to draw me a head-sketch of Fred The Clown. Brilliant! All the while, his daughter sat by his side, reading comics on an iPad. It was her birthday, too – happy birthday!

DSC01297 Scratching the Surface of Thought Bubble 2012

I picked up a copy of ‘The Un-Manned Manned Craft’ from Misinterpreted Complications, and if you think the title rolls over itself, wait till you read the comic! I won’t spoil what happens to make the book so twisty, so you’ll have to head to the site if you want to know more.

There was a Dalek up to mischief at Thought Bubble. As a group of people who should’ve been more responsible watched on with glee, the Dalek silently patrolled the halls of the festival, sneaking up on people and freaking them out. At one point this Dalek spotted a boy, about eight, whose head was at exactly the same height as Dalek’s plunger. We should’ve said something, but instead we stood and watched delighted as the Dalek advances on the back of the boy’s head, slowly, ever so slowly, until eventually he made contact and elicited a piercing SHRIEK from the victim. You Daleks are such rotters.

DSC01287 Scratching the Surface of Thought Bubble 2012

Although again shunning a table in order to prowl the convention like the shadowy figure he is, Si Spurrier did pop into the signing booth to chat to fans about X-Men Legacy and Crossed. He was particularly delighted at the presence of several Crossed cosplayers. I handed him a picture of Kieron Gillen in bed with Mr Sinister, which he was also delighted with.

Art Heroes were insanely busy, with the team offering people the chance to create their own superhero, as well as launching the re-issue of Halcyon & Tenderfoot #1.

While the portfolio reviews for Self Made Man, 2000AD and Image were all conducted in public, Stephen Wacker opted to shroud himself in mystery. When it was time for someone to have a review with him, they would be spirited away into a mysterious back-room, only to emerge later, shaking and pale.

John Lees was busy celebrating the imminent Diamond release of his series The Standard, in which a golden-age superhero has to break off his retirement after his former sidekick gets in trouble. In the process, he realises that his mantle has been taken over by a reckless, showbiz-chasing legacy character.

Jason Aaron got the chance to sign some boobs.

DSC01299 Scratching the Surface of Thought Bubble 2012

Kate Beaton had the longest queue in the convention, with a line which went from one end of the hall right down to the other end, at one point. She valiantly fought against the queue with everything she had, but nothing she did seemed to cut it down. I don’t think I met a single person who didn’t have a copy of Hark A Vagrant to sign.

Becky Cloonan had a cuddly Cthulhu on her table. I didn’t take a photo! Did anybody catch it?

Always the most packed table at Thought Bubble, A Little Lost Shop was filled with books, prints, postcards, bookmarks – if it can be made out of paper and drawn on, it was on the table somewhere.

Although I didn’t get a chance to say hello to Paolo Rivera due to his lengthy line of excited fans, I did have a word with Fionnuala Doran, who told me that Rivera’s mother makes the best cookies she’s ever had. So apologies for not speaking to Paolo, but at least now you know who to ask if you ever want to taste the greatest cookies of all time.

Spandex and O Men creator Martin Eden launched continuations to both titles at Thought Bubble, with issue 7 of Spandex seeing release alongside The O Men book 2.

Some of the most excitement from the exhibitors came when news passed round that Mark Waid was going for a walkabout, popping in on various tables to see what people were publishing. He could be anywhere… and turn up at any moment! For extended periods of time, exhibitors would shun potential customers as their eyes scoured the aisles for a sighting of Waid, so they could lure him over to their stall.

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When I got to Emma Vieceli’s table, she was in a spirited conversation about the recent downfall of Vampires. Her series Vampire Academy doesn’t feature glittery vampires, but rather vampires who set on fire in the sunlight. Much consideration was given to the idea of putting up a banner which said “these are better than the Twilight Vampires, promise”. She was sat opposite from Terry Martin from Murky Depths, and danced as he played the Ukulele.

Gordon Robertson told me the name of his comic, which I couldn’t possibly mention on a site as refined as The Beat. If you want to know it, head to his site.

On their massive table, Travelling Man did incredible business. They also invited creators to join them at the table, with Adi Granov and Esad Ribic in attendance amongst many others.

Cakes With Faces offered shirts for all! Well, you did have to pay for them, but that’s kind of how this sort of thing works. Have you ever seen a cupcake smile back at you? This was your chance!

There WAS a Pixie cosplayer at Thought Bubble! I caught sight of her pink hair and wings and raced through the masses, in a hope to get a hi-five. Sadly, she has evidently teleported away by the time I got there, although Craig Hastie (of Comics Anonymous fame) bumped into her later and got a photo for me. Pixie cosplayer, you are the greatest!

pixie Scratching the Surface of Thought Bubble 2012

Speaking of Comics Anonymous, their table had a sketch-off event over the weekend, with artists picking out a character and an object/act from a bowl of suggestions, and going head-to-head on sketching the two things together. Leigh Gallagher and Will Pickering competed to draw “The Joker” + “Cheerleading”, whilst one of the other draws asked the competitors to draw “Batman” + “kicking Batman’s ass”. Perhaps one of the best results, however, was “The Hulk” + “drinking a cup of tea”, which resulted in Al Davidson drawing this:

aldavidson Scratching the Surface of Thought Bubble 2012

Some people were giving out free things! Amongst them was a preview of Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose’s Porcelain, a gothic fairytale which draws heavily from Charles Dickens. It’s a gorgeous-looking piece of work, with lovely art, superb colouring from Andre May, and a charming sense of story and character.

Just in case you hadn’t realised that Phil Noto is a very popular man, his schedule for sketches was booked out 10 minutes into the start of the convention. Ten minutes in, and his books were full! If that’s not a sign that you’re doing something right, I don’t know what is.

At the end of day 1, Adam Cadwell presented the first-ever British Comic Awards, giving out accolades to the Nelson anthology series, John Allison, Josceline Fenton, Luke Pearson and Raymond Briggs – who won the Hall of Fame award. Although unable to attend, Briggs sent the following message to those in attendance:

Ye Gods! Wizard prang! Top Hole! Bang On! etcetera. A great honour. Thank you very much indeed.

In 1949 when I applied to go to Wimbledon Art School, at the age of 15, at the interview the principal said: Tell me now, why do you want to come to my art school?
Well, sir – I said – I want to learn how to draw in order to become a cartoonist.
He went crimson in the face, stood up and roared at me: Good God, boy! Is that ALL you want to do?

I picked up a copy of Sgt Mike Battle from Graham Pearce, in which it’s revealed that America has quietly been responsible for winning ever war for the past hundred years. You may not have realised that Sgt Mike Battle was on-hand to defeat the Germans in both world wars, punching out Osama Bin Laden, and also assisted in the Star Wars against the Sith, but it’s all true.

Tucked over in one of the far corners, at the Image booth, were David Hine, Doug Braithwaite, Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen. Sadly, Fiona Staples came down ill a day before the convention, and had to sit it out – get well soon, Fiona Staples! Braithwaite and Hine were celebrating the launch of their new series Storm Dogs, with both men particularly excited at the warm response the book’s received from readers. Doug Braithwaite is perhaps the best wearer of hats I’ve ever met.

Gillen and McKelvie contended with an army of Kid Lokis and Mr/Ms Sinisters, while batting away questions about if any other characters might join the line-up for Young Avengers. The basic line here is – after issue #13, anything goes. So come back once that issue’s out, and they’ll almost certainly invite ANY characters you want to join the team. Almost certainly. Photo opportunities were rampant:

tbgillen Scratching the Surface of Thought Bubble 2012

Everywhere Leigh Gallagher walked, men and women swooned in his wake. 2000AD had a great con, as ever, with a variety of artists and writers in attendance. At any point in time you could see Henry Flint, Al Ewing, Rob Williams, Frazer Irving and even surprise guest John Wagner on their table, signing and talking to fans.

Eric Stephenson, who fought for “best dressed male” with Adam Cadwell, with ever-present, being in fifteen places at every moment. When not offering portfolio reviews or attending panels, he was talking to creators and wisely stroking his beard. His newly-launched series Nowhere Men was sadly delayed at the printers, meaning he wasn’t able to do any signings. He was so busy though, I can’t imagine where he’d find the time even if the comic had shipped!

The most excited I’ve ever been in my life was when I got to the front of the queue and got to meet Pia Guerra. Never fear! In the spirit of professionalism, I did manage to squeak out half a coherent word, which I think stands as a major achievement. Not only did she sign my copy of Y: The Last Man’s final trade, but she drew a little Ampersand too!

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My shrieks pierced the ears of everyone in a five-mile radius. Guerra shared her table with Ian Boothby, who entertained a variety of guests with his ‘create-a-story’ game. Guests rolled a set of dice which had plot ideas written on them, and Boothby promptly set about creating a story for them.

Antony Johnson, wearer of the snappiest shirts in the business, peered out from behind Emma Rios’ fearsome queue to sign copies of Wasteland and The Coldest City. One of the official DJs for the convention, he came to the rescue when Kieron Gillen accidentally destroyed everything in his bag (including his setlist). Leaping in, he let Gillen scour his iPod for songs, allowing the Phonogram writer to kick off the aftershow party properly.

Here are the two legends who were first on the dancefloor:

DSC01290 Scratching the Surface of Thought Bubble 2012

Aces Weekly seemed to be a hit at the convention, with David Lloyd under near-constant siege from fans. With a panel and table to man, as well as signing dates and several other duties, it was great to see how much support there was for new digital comic experiments

I’ve never met Timothy Winchester before, but he announced us to now be BFFs after 10 seconds of conversation. So now he’s my BFF, and as such may I invite you all to read some of his work at www.timothywinchester.com?

The Phoenix recently rose, with the all-ages magazine having one of the most popular booths at the convention. Big and bold, the magazine had a number of initiatives over the weekend, including a Phoenix-feather hunt which I tried but couldn’t complete. Either they’re really good at hiding feathers, or my once-mighty seeking skills have fallen apart from lack of use.

David Peterson drew Robin Hood!

peterson Scratching the Surface of Thought Bubble 2012

At the end of the last day, I turned (as ever) to Jared of OK Comics to walk me through how successful the convention had been. Not only had he sold several copies of Chris Ware’s Building Stories (you must have powerful shoulders to buy that and carry it around a convention, I’d imagine), had sold a wide range of titles. OK Comics primarily offers creator-owned and small-press titles, and customers had bought a range of books. All kinds of genres, and tone, and styles. Everyone liked something different, and found something which spoke to them at Thought Bubble.

Ooh look, I just created an analogy, isn’t it?

Many many thanks to everybody involved at the convention, especially Lisa Wood, Clark Burscough, and the army of and volunteers who did a fantastic job. Easily the best convention in the world, guys. Only 300+ days till next year’s con!

Comments

  1. Steve says:

    A great round up of the convention. Slight amend to the above, sadly Nowhere Men by Eric Stephenson et al. was delayed. A note on the Image table said there had been a problem with the printers, so unfortunately there were no copies of Nowhere Men on hand at Thought Bubble for Eric Stephenson or anyone else to sign.

  2. Oh, thanks. I saw him at the table and assumed he was signing. Will update!

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever been called a legend before (at least, in print). Thanks, chap (and apologies to any all who I offended/groped/headbutted/spilt the drinks of)

  4. There were some excellent mini comics on sale by Isabel Greenberg and John Allison!

  5. Thank you so much for the kind words, it really means a lot!
    Ang (Pixie cosplayer)

  6. Your costume was AMAZING!

  7. A fantastic con! The organizers and people who came to our table couldn’t have been nicer. Except for that one guy. Oh and that other one. Yikes! But they were the minority.
    Thanks to Thought Balloon and Travelllng Man!

  8. And by Thought Balloon I mean Thought Bubble.
    Jet lag makes fools of us all.

  9. Ha! True Steve, I kept tripping over the bodies everywhere….right bugger…
    Excellent to finally meet you, however briefly!

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  1. [...] Conventions | Steve Morris reports in on this past weekend’s Thought Bubble convention, in Leeds, England, which sounds like it was amazing. [The Beat] [...]

  2. [...] the event and come away with a completely different experience. So while Steve Morris brilliantly scratched the surface, the following is the tale of my adventures as I visited one of the UK’s most popular [...]

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