The culmination of the Thought Bubble Comics Arts Festival in Leeds was this last weekend and, as with previous years, it was a busy bustle of comics in all forms. I was there from the Friday night party to the close of the halls on the Sunday and got to chat to some downthetubes favourites and some newer faces in the small press scene and beyond.
I was given an interesting counterpoint to my attendance this year by travelling up with a newbie to Thought Bubble: a comics reader who hadn’t been to a convention in around five years who had some interesting points to make on what has changed.
Most notable was the growth in the small press and indie comics scene. In fact, nearly the whole of the usually prestigious New Dock Hall was made out of tables of DIY and indie small publishers. Interestingly my newbie pal commented, “Don’t they invite Marvel, DC or Image?”
It was an intriguing point to make that I don’t really have an answer for. Small press is at pretty much its most popular time now in 2015. There are loads of fresh and interesting comics for sale (with only a few duds – in my humble opinion). But as we discussed, this is not everything comics fans want to see (as you can see by the cosplayers above). Were Marvel and DC Comics invited? Image Comics have certainly had a big presence in years gone past, but this year they didn’t seem to have a table, although they did again publish the Thought Bubble Anthology, which is available through all good comic shops.
Is this a problem for the years going ahead? I worry that it might be. Personally, I would have loved to see a bigger presence from the big companies. Does just the small press seem too niche?
I pose this as a question and not as a jibe. If the popularity of this DIY scene takes a nosedive, how will this affect Thought Bubble in future? We need to start realising that there are plenty of comics fans who are not creators and maybe cater for them a little bit more.
The other thing that I missed was a selection of good quality back issues (you know, for the fans of comics before the year 2005). Seemingly down again on last year, the amount of back issues bins to rifle through was severely lacking. I know of at least a handful of people who turned up with a ‘Wants List’ only to be disappointed. To me, a Comic Convention really needs a bunch of long boxes you can browse through. Before coming back next year I will probably look to see who is exhibiting first. This is a shame as the history of comics can only help to encourage and enlighten the future creators (and I really wanted to grab some old 2000ADs, Starblazers and fill the holes in my First Comics collection).
Anyway, that’s enough of that, back to my usual positivity.
Without a doubt the stars of the convention were Christian Wildgoose, Laura Trinder and the rest of the Improper Books crowd. With recent releases like Night Post, Porcelain: Bone China, MULP and Briar they are literally taking comics in the UK by storm with the joyous quality of their stories. Christian may literally be one of the busiest people at a table I have ever seen. Being a lover of all their books I was smiling to myself every time another attendee walked past with one of their books tucked under their arm. I had three friends message me to pick up books from them at the hall as the rumours are that they are selling out fast. Big things are in store for all these guys – and well deserved.
Taking a small break from his work on Slaine was the super talented Simon Davis. His work blows me away every single time and his recent work on the 2000AD story Slaine: The Brutania Chronicles (see the review here) is the highlight of the weekly every single time it appears. (I even bought a fully painted page for the bargain price of £70). Always a gent, and really keen to talk about his craft and art in general, I could have spent all day (and all of my money) looking through his pages.
First-time table runners but long time attendees were two of my favourite people in comics Bob Turner (left) and Alan Henderson (right).
Bob has been twisting my melon with his crazy book DTHRTL – Death Rattle (reviewed here) and Alan has been tugging at my heart-strings with books like Thread Bear and Other Stories (which you can read about here) Two hugely talented creators who looked like they were having fun the whole weekend, it was great to finally meet them.
• You can find Alan at www.pennedguins.tumblr.com or on Twitter @Shadow1972
It was great to meet Warwick Fraser-Coombe after recently reviewing and enjoying his super violent (yet super excellent) vigilante horror comic Revenger: The Shadow Conspiracy (you can read the review here). Warwick talked about his craft and had some breathtaking posters with him for sale – can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. Genuinely a creator to watch.
There were plenty of old friends at Thought Bubble this year as well as new faces. One of our old pals here on downthetubes was Mike Medaglia with his new gorgeous looking hardback One Year Wiser. It takes a quote for every day of the year and illustrates around its meaning. He also had some superb prints and the last few copies of Seasons (hidden under the table!). If you ever need cheering up in the workday I thoroughly recommend Mr Medaglia’s work.
One of my favourite guys to spend some time with over the long weekend was Andy Bloor (seen above to the right, being interviewed by Red Mask From Mars and The Awesome Comics Podcast rabble-rouser Vince Hunt). Andy has been knocking it out of the park artistically for a while now with work on books like Midnight Man – Bullet Time (reviewed here) and artwork on the Electricomics line with Leah and Alan Moore. He tells me that the second issue of Midnight Man is on the way and he had some excellent prints and original art for sale. A really talented and funny guy who is for big things – watch this space.
I caught up with Anastasia Catris in the Marquee. She is pretty much the busiest person in comics this year. Not only does she produce some great trading cards for the big two, she also produces some lovely quality colouring books and still finds time to publish Cirque Du Mort. She has a great eye for colour and mood (not just her hair – smiley face) and is always incredibly enthusiastic. Great company.
Always exceedingly great company and also one of the most talented men in comics was Mr Duncan Fegredo. I got to spend some time chatting to Duncan recently and he tells me that he is working on some new Hellboy stories after his spectacular work on M.P.H. with Mark Millar. Duncan always had a line at his table a mile long and was selling some astoundingly detailed Hellboy universe prints.
I got to have a great chat with Nick Soucek and Simon Moreton who are not only highly talented comic creators in their own right but also the organisers of the Bristol Zine Fair which you can find details of here
I grabbed a copy of Simon’s new book Plans We Made which is an exercise in stripping out the unneeded visuals and verbals to make a comic that floats through everyday life with a feel of nostalgia and grace. I am a huge fan of both his work and his style.
• You can find Nick on Twitter @nickplanning
I really do need to mention that this weekend was pretty darn wet. The rain never seemed to stop, which may be why it felt like numbers were down a little bit and there were a few less cosplayers than recent years.
As usual, for me, the whole Festival an exercise in laughing, talking comics and trying to get to the bar. The British comics community in the UK treats holds Thought Bubble in very high regard and I hope that this long continues. (Just a few more comics from pre 2005 would be nice.)
I personally got to hang out with some great creators and fans and even got time to record some fun interviews with creators for The Awesome Comics Podcast.
A little advice – always take the following Monday off from your day job.
Many thanks for reading.