Thought Bubble 2013: The Pretty Much Almost Full Report

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So Thought Bubble 2013 has come and gone, a massive celebration of British – and foreign – comics talent, lead by the mighty Lisa Wood and featuring creators from all round the world, fans from all walks of life, and comics of every size, shape, style and form you could ever imagine. Here’s a rundown of all the things I got to see – which maybe equates to almost half of everything that was going on this year.

Thought Bubble’s main hall was dictated by two lines: one was for Matt Fraction/David Aja and Kelly Sue DeConnick/Emma Rios, who were in one corner of the convention. The other was for Fiona Staples, at the other corner. Hugely popular, there were a number of people in Hawkeye and Pretty Deadly cosplay, as well as this staggeringly brilliant Saga duo:

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Image Comics were in particularly great form at the convention – Image and Marvel are the two American companies who have really embraced the festival. Creators like Ales Kot, Ming Doyle and Brandon Graham were all present, sketching and signing under the ever-watchful eye of Ron Richards. Even after making it through the mid-show party – which defeated several creators – Richards managed to remain stalwart, standing at the table from the very start of day two.

The first day hosted several panels and discussions, including live editions of podcasts like Silence! and Decompressed. Image’s panel saw Eric Stephenson speaking to a host of creators about the benefits of creator owned work; and was followed by Marvel’s panel with Stephen Wacker and CB Cebulski taking to the stage to talk about life in work-for-hire with their guests.

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One of the main stars of this year’s festival was Isabel Greenberg, whose work was selling out all around the convention site. Her book Tall Tales and Outrageous Adventures, from Great Beast, was sold out by Sunday. In its absence, I instead picked up The River of Lost Souls, a retelling of some unexplored areas of mythic Greek folklore, and she drew some lost souls on the inside cover for me.

Another big-seller was Dungeon Fun by Colin Bell and Neil Slorance, which was possibly the talk of the weekend. An all-ages story about a girl who lives in a moat and one day encounters a sword and a quest, their tables were busy every time I walked past, and they seemed to be well on their way to a sell-out.

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Alongside their book were three other titles, which seemed equally popular: Exit Generation by Sam Read, Caio Olivera and Ruth Redmond; And Then Emily Was Gone by John Lees and Iain Laurie; and Master Tape by Harry French, Amaru Ortiz Martinez and Lesley Atlansky. All those books were lettered by the aforementioned Colin Bell, who seems dead-set on becoming a one-man industry.

On that subject of one-person industries: Dan Berry, who debuted two new books at the festival (having made four in just one year) and also hosted Jeffrey Brown in a live conversation for the podcast Make It Then Tell Everybody. With the podcast bringing a range of new readers to his work, his shelves rapidly started to deplete once the doors were opened – I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d sold everything by the time he left.

Last year was a big year for publishers Improper Books, whose series Porcelain was picked up by Delacourt for European publication. This year they had the news that Porcelain would be expanding into a trilogy over the next few years, as well as a preview of their new work Briar, both by Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose. Knight & Dragon, a choose-your-adventure story from Matt Gibbs and Bevis Musson, was also showcased at their stand.

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In the corner of the Royal Armouries Hall, a webcomic-alliance had formed. With Kate Beaton, Meredith Gran and Nicholas Gurewitch all next to one another, people crowded round to watch them sketch, sequence, and make comics. At one point Bad Machinery’s John Allison showed up, to increase the internet star wattage beyond the ken of mortal understanding.

2000AD hosted a number of their creators for signings across the course of the weekend, and culminated the festival by announcing the winner of their portfolio competition for 2013. Last year saw Will Morris win – more on him in a bit – and this year Tom Foster was announced as the winner. His prize is the chance to draw a story in an upcoming issue of the prog.

I had the chance to speak to Craig Collins, who had a whole range of comics on his table – including Metrodome and Crawl Hole, both of which I know have had very good reviews recently. I can’t remember what we talked about! But I remember it being pretty funny? This is one of the worries of seeing so many people in so little time, your memory starts to implode within itself.

Paul Duffield’s ‘The Firelight Isle’ was debuting a preview at Thought Bubble, his new webseries following the finale of Freakangels. A lovely, stunning piece of work, you can also find the story online over here, which I recommend more than anything else. He was joined by the brilliant Kate Brown, who had comics AND a cuddly ferret on her table.

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Liz Greenfield shared a table with Lizz Lunney, and told me about her new webcomic Swallow, A ‘Quarter-Life Crisis’ about a girl who wakes up one morning to discover she’s accidentally swallowed a phone, and now she’s getting all her alerts directed straight into her brain.

The first day closed out with the second annual British Comic Awards, hosted by Adam Cadwell and David Monteith. Awarding five prizes over the course of the evening, the winners were

Best Comic: Robert Ball for Winter’s Knight

Best Book: Glyn Dillon for The Nao of Brown

Best Newcomer: Will Morris

The Young People’s Comic Award: Garen Ewing for The Rainbow Orchid

and the Hall of Fame was presented to Leo Baxendale, creator of characters like The Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx. It was a brilliant ceremony, and congratulations are due to all the nominees and winners.

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One of those nominees was Dan White, for his series Cindy and Biscuit. Telling the story of a monster-fighting girl and her pet dog, I was lucky to pick up the first issue of the series from Dan – it’s a rollicking adventure with a surprisingly affecting emotional twist in each short story. Much-recommended.

He was joined at his table by Fraser Geesin, who had a number of books on offer. I picked up Headrust and The Cleaner: Man of Destiny. Headrust is a particularly charming and fascinating collecting, assembling various stories about his family into one book.

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There was a family area in The Armouries Hall, with The Phoenix hosting art tables and all kinds of other activities. Neill Cameron was one of many artists who taught lessons on how to draw robots, and Kate Beaton dropped in at one point to add her own to the collection. I briefly got to meet the awesome Liz Payton, who helped put together the ‘Phoenix Presents’ column with me.

Art Heroes were just around the corner, selling their terrific series Halcyon & Tenderfoot and running a competition to see who could design the best superhero. From a blank panel, they soon amassed an absolute ton of submissions, as you can see here:

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Maris Wicks and Joe Quinones had a busy convention, with a number of panels and signings all set up. I picked up Primates, by Wicks and writer Jim Ottaviani, which tells the story of zoologists Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas, all three pioneers in helping us to understand primates. Also, Maris Wicks drew a bunny rabbit inside my copy!

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One of my favourite comics of the convention was Dangerine, by James Lawrence. A brilliantly silly superhero story about a courageous lad who gets given the powers of, well, a tangerine, the comic came to be after Lawrence peeled an orange and realised the half-peeled fruit bore an uncanny resemblance to a Power Rangers-style helmet. The costume and character soon followed.

There was a third hall this year, The Allied London Hall. Set up because the first two halls had sold out within hours, this was an interesting hall to walk through. With none of the headlining guests present, the third hall had a loose, disassociated identity, with mask-makers and crafts stalls standing alongside creators like David Baldeon and Nick Brokenshire. It was easy to get a little lost in the variety and depth of the new hall.

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I would point your attention to several of the people there, however! Olly Moss and Mondo Comics were displaying posters, which proved to be the biggest draw of the weekend. By all accounts, the queue to buy the prints began at 3am on Friday morning, and lasted at least twenty-four hours.

The Little Lost Shop is one of the most packed tables at Thought Bubble every year, with Mair Thomas presenting comics, posters, bookmarks, key holders, magnets – she makes all kinds of illustrative bits and pieces.

Roger Langridge was sat overseeing the rest of the Allied Hall, and was sketching free headshots for anybody who came by. He has just released the second issue of his new series The Fez, and to celebrate he was kind enough to sketch the eponymous hero for me.

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Amy Chu had a number of her comics on display, including The VIP Room and Girls Night Out. The latter is particularly great, featuring a number of artists including Sean Chen and Brian Shearer, as well as colourist Rachel Rosenberg. Amy had a number of American chocolates on her table – a dire warning for anyone who would dare oppose her. Upset Amy Chu and you have to eat a butterfinger! What worse fate could there be?

Clockwork Watch Comics always make an incredible effort at Thought Bubble, a small-press publisher who wear incredibly fancy steampunk attire. They’ve built a whole world out of their comics, making their comics into a culture of their own. I got the chance to speak to the creator, Yomi Ayeni, who was a delight.

Team Girl Comic had a new issue out of their anthology, their ninth publication in total. Editors Gill Hatcher and Claire Yvette have seen their series become part of the core of Thought Bubble over the years, with the all-female anthology showcasing just some of the MANY diverse and bewilderingly brilliant female artists and writers there are in the UK (and abroad!) 

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Back in the Armouries Hall, Gordon Robertson successfully ran a raffle called Comics Vs Cancer. Having beaten cancer himself, he was raffling off a number of prizes, including signed posters from Jamie McKelvie, Kate Brown books, signed Alan Moore originals, nd all kinds of other amazing things. He said he’d raised at least £500 by the end of the first day alone!

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Mariah Huehner told me about sci-fi centaurs, which is something I’m eternally grateful for. She was at her first Thought Bubble, and seemed to be really enjoying herself there. She had a range of sketches and commissions going on through the weekend, including a lovely one of Wonder Woman which I wish I’d had the money to buy.

(I pointedly left my debit card at home, so I couldn’t go and get more cash out the machine! I’ve bankrupted myself at Thought Bubbles of the past)

Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire also seemed to be having a fantastic festival. I got to talk to Declan about the rise of an Irish comics community – a community he helped to build. Stephen Mooney was also at the festival, signing copies of Half Past Danger, and also present was the next superstar colourist Ruth Redmond – although I sadly missed her at the weekend.

I really enjoyed Thought Bubble 2013. The festival expanded greatly this year, but managed to keep the independent spirit which had first gained it notice and attention. Everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves – and especially the fact that there was now a coffee bar serving all day, curing the British comic industry of hangovers one-by-one.

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I’m missing out on so many of the amazing people who were there, I know – there was John Riordan and Dan Cox, Adam Murphy, Sarah McIntyre, Craig Collins, so so many people and I can’t get everybody crammed in! But you were brilliant! Special thanks to Zainab Akhtar and Laura Sneddon, who were both brilliant! I also got to briefly meet Padraig O’Mealoid, before sadly loosing track before I could have a proper chat with him.

It was an absolutely packed convention, with more things going on than anybody could ever hope to see. Did I even remember to tell you about the fact Warwick Johnson-Cadwell drew me a commission of Pixie, my favourite X-Men character? Because he did!

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@stevewmorris

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  3. […] “Clockwork Watch Comics always make an incredible effort at Thought Bubble, a small-press publisher who wear incredibly fancy steampunk attire. They’ve built a whole world out of their comics, making their comics into a culture of their own. I got the chance to speak to the creator, Yomi Ayeni, who was a delight.” – The Beat […]

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