Last month saw the annual appearance of the Thought Bubble Comic Art Festival in Leeds – the convention element of which is a permanent fixture on the convention calendar for the majority of small pressers in the UK. I was there selling The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel with co-editor Geoffery Crescent and we owe everything to underground comics king Jon Lock and Lucy Brown for their generous assistance with travel and chinwaggy chit-chattery.
Sales at Thought Bubble are always a complicated affair and the reason for that is quite straightforward – there are many good comics also for sale that must be bought. Often you see fellow small pressers and professional types wandering around with crumpled notes in hand, a deranged look in their eyes in a very visible expression of “we’re not going to break even at the end of all this but by crikey I’ll have a handsome bookshelf”. Therefore – what better way to examine a solid convention experience than dissecting the stash you procured?
It is however impossible to list every single person exhibiting that I love and quite a few were selling comics I already had – so they’re not represented below, despite being integral to the glorious con experience – so due nods and warbles to those who bought from us or spoke to us or just nodded enthusiastically in our direction. The sheer amount of friendly and enthusiastic roaming and selling types is what makes Thought Bubble the best convention on the calendar for me.
Our friendly table neighbour was a comic collective from Dundee who regularly publish an anthology very similar to Bristol’s own Bear Pit. They were selling an overwhelming mix of zines published by members of their collective and their own anthology entitled “Treehouse” – I got ahold of their latest issue pictured above. I love anthologies. On our other side and sharing a table with us was popular Facebook man Berkeley Mews who’d come by from San Francisco of all places and was selling books, prints and buttons of his webcomics.
• Find out more about Treehouse here: https://www.facebook.com/TreehouseComic
• Find out more about Berkeley Mews here: https://www.facebook.com/berkeleymewscomics
12-Hour Half Marathon
Friendly hirsute Bristolian Mr Simon (Si) Gurr – a fine and fabulous illustrator of no small renown – was in Thought Bubble 2014’s new bustling “Teepee” where the majority of the guests had been stuffed. It was here I accosting him in search of goods and came away with a smart 12-Hour comic that features biscuits heavily and had a FREE BISCUIT. ARRRGGH I LOVE FREE BISCUITS.
• Find out more about Si Gurr here: http://simongurr.wordpress.com/
7 String Volume 2
Not technically a Thought Bubble purchase but a Kickstarter reward from another successful campaign by small press omnititan Nich Angell, this is a a glowing, energetic tale of a boy with a sword-guitar in a musical world where songs are combat and all is rendered with a relentless and irresistible enthusiasm. It’s not hard to see why he’s such an oft-mentioned name on the scene – all that and smashingly nice too. The get.
• Find out more about 7String and Nich here: http://www.nichangell.co.uk/7string.html
Long Gone Don
The Etherington Brothers
I’ve been buzzing about the Phoenix comic ever since the long-distant past when I picked up #0. It’s all charming, breathlessly imaginative, tremendously engaging, beautifully drawn – it’s the kids comic the UK has been waiting for. Unfortunately for me it’s subscription-heavy and I’ve shied away for an age to committing to that kind of thing due to one thing or another.
Then at this year’s Thought Bubble I saw they had done the unimaginable, the incredible. They’ve started doing softcovers. OH LAWDY MAMA. I decided to go for The Etherington Brothers’ brain-meltingly gorgeous Long Gone Don” out of their selection (see link below) – and every person I showed it to that weekend without fail went to get one themselves. It’s that kind of achingly endearing, outrageously detailed kind of European artwork that a younger me and the current me just goes for. Here’s hoping that there are more volumes of this (and the Phoenix’s other jawdroppers – I’m looking at you, Pirates of Pangaea) are not far off.
• Find out more about The Phoenix’s new softcovers and the like here: http://www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk/shop/
Random Trials #2
Ever since having a chinwag with Dean Beattie at Melksham earlier this year I’ve been hooked on his weird bandy-legged style – and after an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign the second of his Random Trials books has arrived. I haven’t even lumbered over the manic looking Issue 1 as yet but fellow DTTer Antony Esmond has said some lovely words about this one elsewhere on the website
• Antony Esmond’s Random Trials #2 Review is here: https://downthetubes.net/?p=17985
• Find out more about Random Trials and Dean Beattie here: http://www.deanbeattie.com/
CROSS – A Political Satire Anthology
Edited by Lizzie & Conor Boyle
Despite not generating much noise on Kickstarter there was a genuine buzz at the convention for Disconnected Press and their new political satire book CROSS. I’d been told about it much earlier in the year and my excitement had reached fever pitch by the time I finally got my face around it – comics and satire are a combination as old as space and … well you know how I feel about anthologies. Strongly.
With a striking and incredible cover from 2000AD design king Pye Parr and featuring small press and professional luminaries it really does tick all the boxes and there was no single book I was more looking forward to getting at Thought Bubble this year.
• Find John Freeman’s Cross lowdown here: https://downthetubes.net/?p=18355
• Find out more about Disconnected Press and Cross here: http://disconnectedpress.wordpress.com/cross/
Cinebooks is always my favourite table to visit at any UK convention and it’s not simply for the delightful conversation of Cineman Aldous – but my ever-growing collection of stunningly beautiful European albums is never NEVER EVER complete. Taking advantage of their ‘3 for 2’ offer this time around I picked up the second bumper book of Thorgal – a bewitching combination of Scandinavian adventure and fantasy from the legendary combo of Rosinki & Van Hamme and the latest two books of Orbital – a gorgeously drawn political space opera from Sylvain Runberg & Serge Pellé.
• Find out more about Cinebooks here: http://www.cinebook.co.uk/index.php
The Kill Screen #1 & 2
Mike Garley & Josh Sherwell
I enjoyed and reviewed the PDF copy of Kill Screen #1 earlier this year on DTT but Garley’s beguiling techno post-apocalyptic story has its roots in me and I decided to put my dog where my money is. I mean mouth – and get the first two issues physically from the fantastic duo.
• Read my review of Issue 1 here: https://downthetubes.net/?p=16088
• Read Antony Esmond’s review of Issue 2 here: https://downthetubes.net/?p=17268
• Find out more about Mike Garley and Kill Screen here: http://mikegarley.com/the-kill-screen/
Edited by Bolt-01 and Richmond Clements
Wrapped up in a fantastic PJ Holden Chopper cover – a new Zarjaz is always worth a purchase. Being as it is the premier fanzine in existence – standing as a testament to the endless creativity and passion that 2000 AD inspires. The Futurequake press editing team are indeed one to be reckoned with!
Find out more about Zarjaz here: http://thequaequamblog.blogspot.co.uk/
How to Be a Superhero #1
Ned Hartley & Gavin Mitchell
Recommended to me by that whirling dirvish of creativity himself Gavin Mitchell is this – a tale of a con gone wrong in a world of superheroes. Anything with Gavin’s art in it is a buy for me but after chatting to the brilliant Ned Hartley and viddying his other comics (particularly Punchface) I realised that it was going to be singularly funny as well so I thought:
…and bought it.
• Find out more about Heartless Comics here: http://www.heartlesscomics.com/index.html
At the much-missed Hi-Ex convention in Inverness in 2012 I got ahold of the first Anthology of the work of students of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (University of Dundee) from smiley-faced lecturer Phillip Vaughan. Anyone with half an eye on the history of British comics knows how important the city of Dundee is and the fact that it has this comics course and is still a hotbed of sequentially minded geniuses (the aforementioned Treehouse collective – some of them former DJCAD students being a case in point) is an incredible cocklewarmer. I snapped up Three (from last year) and was dismayed and overjoyed to hear that two and four had sold out. Looks like I’ll be picking up the odd editions then!
• Find out more about the Anthology and comic studies in Scotland here: http://scottishcomicstudies.com/about/
Amelia Cole and the Unknown World
Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride & Nick Brokenshire
I’d been eyeing this stupendous looking volume of magic and adventure since the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in 2013 – and finally I felt it was time to part ways with m’cash and the friendly Nick Brokenshire was there to chinwag with which was a bonus. Looking forward to reading this one!
Find out more about Amelia Cole here: http://www.monkeybraincomics.com/titles/amelia-cole/
Owen Watts is a small press editor, artist and colourist. He currently co-edits The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel – a twice-yearly small press anthology featuring over 15 different emerging creators every issue. He has recently helped colour Ben Dickson & Gavin Mitchell’s Santa Claus vs. The Nazis for Aces Weekly which is due out as a single volume with Borderline Press later in 2014. He also runs the 2000 AD forum art competition, reviews small press comics and becomes a hippo every second Thursday.