The ninth annual Thought Bubble Festival took place in Leeds over the week of 9-15 November 2015, however it is the huge two day comic convention over the weekend of 14-15 November that the vast majority of punters and creators think of when “Thought Bubble” is mentioned.
This year there were some 430 sales tables split between the massive New Dock Hall, the Royal Armouries Hall with its not so great lighting and, given that I haven’t been to Thought Bubble in three years, the new-to-me Marquee which, after the downpours of the weekend, was a little soggy underfoot come Sunday. While some shops and publishers had more than one table, there were plenty of the tables that were split between two different sellers so I would think that there were easily in the order of 450 different shops, publishers, small pressers, artists and writers vying for the punters’ attention and money. It is to the credit of Lisa Woods, Clark Burscough, Martha Julian and the rest of the Thought Bubble team that they can produce such a large, popular and highly successful event year after year.
Antony Esmond has already reviewed this year’s Thought Bubble here on downthetubes, as has our colleague Richard Bruton over on the Forbidden Planet International blog, so this is a run through some of the creators who were there, divided (very roughly) into Artists in Part 1 and Small Press in Part 2. Hopefully the fact that there is virtually no cross-over in the subjects of the photos in three DTT posts as well as the FPI post will give you some impression of just how many creators were there.
While there is no particular order to this run of creators it is perhaps fitting that we should start with one of Britain’s longstanding comic strip writer/artists, Hunt Emerson. Hunt had his latest book, Hot Jazz, there which reprints his 1986 strip about Max Zillion and Alto Ego along with new stories and a gallery of other artists’ jazz themed images.
There are more details of Hunt Emerson’s work at his website.
It is three years since artist Graeme Neil Reid has been at Thought Bubble and his latest project in that time was to paint one Doctor Who watercolour painting every week for a year, no matter what else he was working on. The result of this was a portfolio book to be sent to publishers and editors entitled 52: A Year In Time And Space which was available at Thought Bubble complete with watercolour sketches of various old and new Who creatures and characters.
Writer, artist and film buff Edward Ross has been producing his Filmish non-fiction zine in Edinburgh for some years now in which he discusses various cinematic themes in strip form – think of Darryl Cunningham dealing with the subject of cinema and you will get the general idea. However when SelfMadeHero wanted Edward to turn Filmish into a book he reworked the originals, as well as adding more, and the 200 page result was launched at Thought Bubble.
Beside Edward on the SelfMadeHero table was writer/artist Rob Davis who was rightfully pleased to have just won Thought Bubble’s British Comics Award for Best Book for his remarkable graphic novel The Motherless Oven. With more in the series promised, it will be interesting to see just how the sequel will live up to expectations.
Mike Collins has illustrated many British and American titles over the years but for us here on downthetubes he will always be a Doctor Who artist, whether for the comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine, the old IDW US comics, or his commercial Who work. However he has gone one step beyond that now as the storyboard artist for the actual television series itself. Mike has storyboarded the entire current series and Christmas special (bar the two Zygon episodes which didn’t require a storyboard artist) and had many of his (already broadcast) storyboards on display and for sale amongst his many other prints and pieces of original artwork.
From a senior Doctor Who artist to a junior one: Emma Vieceli was one of a number of creators ‘doing the double’ of back-to-back Lakes and Thought Bubble and the first issue of her new Titan Comics mini-series, Doctor Who featuring the Eighth Doctor, had appeared since Lakes. While we may know her work best through her manga and manga-esque work in other titles, being a Doctor Who artist will bring her work to a whole new audience, and one that probably wouldn’t even know who Jem and the Holograms are.
There are more details of Emma Vieceli’s work, including her two current TV based comics Jem And The Holograms and Doctor Who, on her website and Tumblr, while her creator owned series, Breaks, with Swedish writer Malin Ryden is available via Patreon.
From Doctor Who to Star Wars and Tanya Roberts who is a longstanding Star Wars artist on the various junior comics associated with the film series and its TV spin-offs. Her own latest work is as illustrator on the Gary Chudleigh written Plagued: The Miranda Chronicles, a post apocalyptic tale published by Black Hearted Press first as a three-part mini-series and in March 2016 as a collected graphic novel.
Artist Gary Erskine had a new sketchbook available for Thought Bubble. While Gary has a wide background in comics from Judge Dredd to Doctor Who, Dan Dare to Hellblazer, he has been commissioned to create one-off images from various films and TV series and he has brought these together into his new sketchbook with offerings from Alien, Bladerunner, Firefly, as well as his more familiar Star Wars prints.
There are more details of Gary Erskine’s work on his Tumblr site.
Another of the creators that Titan Comics has taken on is artist and writer Jay Gunn, otherwise known as Jason Wilson. His now complete five-part eco-horror series Surface Tension tells of the remnants of humanity surviving on an island but unaware of what is below the surface of the sea around them. Jay tells us that he intends to expand the original series when it gets its graphic novel compilation.
Not all the artists at Thought Bubble were from the sequential world. Fiona Stephenson paints 1940s and 1950s style pin-ups along the lines of Gil Elvgren and George Petty and she had prints, cards and large posters of her work for sale.
From curves to angles and, like Emma Vieceli, Keith Burns was another artist ‘doing the double’ of back-to-back Lakes and Thought Bubble. Also like Emma, the first issue of his new Titan Comics mini-series, in Keith’s case Johnny Red, had appeared since Lakes. Indeed with Titan Comics having a sales table at Thought Bubble as well there was the chance to pick up Keith’s own variant cover for issue 1. Keith was showing off his Johnny Red and Aces Weekly original artwork as well as producing new ink and wash sketches over the course of the two days.
Improper Books seemingly sprung from nowhere at 2012’s Thought Bubble, with a short preview of their Porcelain graphic novel being one of the event’s talking points. This year they were releasing their fifth title and had all their writers and artists on hand to sign and sketch their books. Knight And Dragon is an all ages, silent, ‘solo dungeon’ style book where the reader can choose to see the story through the eyes of six of the book’s characters including the Knight, the Maiden, the Dragon, and even the Knight’s Horse. Artist Bevis Musson and writer Matt Gibbs manage to pull off this rather complicated concept in an unusual but fun book.
There are more details of Bevis Musson’s work on his DeviantArt page.
There are more details of Matt Gibb’s work on his website.
There are more details of Knight And Dragon including preview pages on the Improper Books website.
Matt Gibbs is also writer on MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun with Sara Dunkerton on art duties for this mousey 1930s Indiana Jones style adventure which, as of issue 2, has become part of the Improper Books family of titles. Matt and Sara talked to downthetubes about all things MULP just before Thought Bubble.
There are more details of Sara Dunkerton’s work on her blog.
There are more details of MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun including preview pages on the MULP website.
Improper’s only UK hardback book to date is Night Post by artist Laura Trinder and writer Ben Read. This is yet another silent tale of the postman who delivers mail to the ghouls and ghosts and other strange creatures that come out at night, including creatures from the casts of everything from Universal horror movies to Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales. Night Post is a visual delight and, despite its theme, is also an all ages book.
There are more details of Laura Trinder’s work on her website.
There are more details of Ben Read’s work on his website.
There are more details of Night Post including preview pages on the Improper Books website.
Ben Read is perhaps best known for writing the wonderful Porcelain graphic novel from 2013 which was illustrated by Chris Wildgoose. This tale of a street urchin taken in by the creator of automatons was a revelation when it was released and was deserved acclaimed. Since then Ben and Chris have produced the more overtly science fiction Butterfly Gate while their take on the princess trapped in the tower, Briar, was released a month ago at Lakes. However it was Bone China, the sequel to the original Porcelain, that was one of the most anticipated titles being launched at Thought Bubble this year and the demand for signed and sketched copies was more than either of them had anticipated.
There are more details of Chris Wildgoose’s work on his website.
There are more details of Ben and Chris’ Improper Books titles with preview pages on the following links:
Indeed both Porcelains and Briar proved so popular over the two days that most people’s view of Chris was of the top of his head as he did yet another sketch for eager buyers.
With thanks to all the creators for allowing their photos to be taken.
The downthetubes review of Thought Bubble 2015 by Antony Esmond is here.
The Thought Bubble website is here.
Creators @ Thought Bubble 2015: Part 2 – Small Press will appear on downthetubes very soon.