James Bacon takes stock of this year’s Thought Bubble Festival, reflecting on an enjoyable comics-filled event in Yorkshire …
There was a warmth and friendliness amongst fans in the chilly autumnal morning before Thought Bubble’s convention weekend began, the queue in Harrogate lengthened far into the distance, all awaiting the doors to open. Anticipation was evident, plans obviously made with comics in hand for signing and hopes for sketches and maps with tactics. The news that Shelly Bond and Phillip Bond had, unfortunately, cancelled their appearances, wound its way through those gathered, and was greeted with sadness. There was much expectation about these two eminent professionals’ appearance – but, reluctantly, convention goers changed their plans, and spirits remained warm.
The excitement rose as the Red Shirt volunteers diligently checked tickets and gave out wristbands. That culminated as the doors opened, comic book fans bags were searched, and then I observed the rush for the entrance. The Fear of Missing Out crept into my heart… why were people running? But it was OK, these were keen fans caught in the current trend of getting limited edition posters, eagerly rushing towards the two booths, washing by me as I strolled through the hall, relaxed.
Thankfully there was space at the Commando table and they had a number of excellent promotional items, I picked up some copies of the war comic and writer and editor Georgia Standen Battle kindly signed and gave me the “Union Jack Jackson” issue, No. 5287 which she had written.
Neil Kennedy and David Gray were promoting the Art of Ian Kennedy exhibition, but to my surprise, they also had some original art available to purchase, including favourite characters and military aircraft, which was delightful to see, and an incredible opportunity for fans.
Ruairí Coleman, who is currently working on the superb Superman – Son of Kal-El, was happy to do a sketch on a blank cover of Edge of Spiderverse, although even though the doors had just opened, his list was already started.
Ruairí’s artwork continues to impress me, and he is friendly in his engagement and his work is delightful. I then continued walking through the event and Kieron Gillen was busy signing, too. His work on DIE and Once and Future has been so good, I consider these really strong stories.
DIE, by the way, is being turned into a roleplaying game, which is quite exciting, and they had a sample available to look at and were busy taking pre-orders. There’s more info at rrdgames.com/die-rpg.
American writer G. Willow Wilson, perhaps best known for creating Marvel Comics’ Ms. Marvel, aka Kamala Khan, proved a superb guest. Given that her work has had a major impact, and Kamala Khan has certainly pleased fans, incredibly so, and the breadth of her work, from Invisible Kingdom to the prose books, Alif the Unseen and The Bird King, it was brilliant to see her at Thought Bubble.
Willow was really interesting, such a pleasure to speak with, and one of the fine examples of why Thought Bubble is such an excellent event. Then, as if there was a theme, Willow gave away copies of her brilliant Poison Ivy.
Jacob Phillips is a relative newcomer to comics, who has gently made a strong mark with his brilliant comic artwork, both with Newburn, which is very exciting, and Texas Blood, which has really developed into a cracking story, and it was great to see him and he was next to his father, Sean. Jacob has an ability that is so desirable in the industry, consistency to a high standard, and it was fab to get him and Sean to sign some comics.
It is a nice thing to see. My own father often said he would love to do my job, so seeing this parental connection makes one smile, while wonderful to recognise Jacob though as a fabulous artist who credibly stands on his own output.
Rachel Clark-Yeo and Mike Donaldson, were selling the first issue of Coming Home, Re-Live’s anthology comic to raise awareness of UK veterans’ mental health. As previously reported on downthetubes, this really nicely produced comic includes contributions from Emma Vieceli and Keith Page, and features Ian Kennedy‘s last published work as a wraparound cover.
This is a very thoughtful and well developed project, Mike’s story is really well crafted and the story “A Healthy Fighting Force” is a fabulous example of short comic work. It was also really nice to chat to Rachel and Mike, artist on “Stretcher-Bearer Stan”, both of whom took time to chat. The anthology is available to purchase here online.
Guillermo Ortego was busy. His work as inker on Warhammer 40k – Marneus Calgar last year, a mini series written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Jacen Burrows, has obviously left its mark. I really enjoyed his work on Garth Ennis’ Punisher Soviet, pencilled by Jacen, too, and asked for a sketch. (Ennis has explored the Punisher considerably, and I noted that he said in March hopes to revisit the character with a Vietnam story, and I look forward to that).
Si Spurrier continually had a long queue, unsurprisingly, and it is nice to see that writers who you’ve always picked up become more and more popular. I waited for a quieter moment, and said hello. I still think Si’s run on Hellblazer is the second best run of the entirety of the character, a wonderful job, and it was a real loss that it was finished at 12 issues. Yet this is no bother, for there is no shortage of work by this highly prolific writer, his most recent Damn Them All, with Charlie Adlard, obviously proving a hit with those in line to get it signed.
Etienne Kubwabo, who created Beats of War, came to my attention when he was interviewed by Glasgow 2024’s James Michael Hughes, where they spoke about his personal journey from a war torn country to the city of Glasgow where he know lives.
Etienne drew inspiration from his home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and created a black superhero for Scotland, while through his comics and film he addresses the issue of war and the feeling of otherness that comes with a refugee status. Beats of War is a very polished and professional comic, and very impressive, and now up to its third issue.
The atmosphere and vibe around the venue was really lovely, it was great to meet people randomly, and I was pleased to meet David Ferguson and then, Maura McHugh, who has just been involved with the creation of a game Jennifer Wilde: Unlikely Revolutionaries, which was based around a comic story she wrote.
The game is a hand-drawn Point & Click adventure with a unique comic book inventory design, set in 1921, in which young French artist Jennifer Chevalier becomes embroiled in death, espionage and revolution, assisted by the ghost of Oscar Wilde.
Maura introduced me to Neil Roberts, whose work for Commando and 2000AD is stunning. He, like Maura, was enjoying the convention but I noted he had a very discreet portfolio with him, and he kindly allowed me to have a look, at what I can only describe as really desirable and very beautiful selection of work, a chance opportunity which I relished.
Anna Morozova was in high demand for sketches. Her work on 2000AD is very popular, and she had some original comic blue pencil pages of Judge Anderson amongst art that was on sale, and selling well. Her work is deftly and brilliant, so cleanly done, and really captures action very strongly.
Nick Brokenshire was in top form, and it was lovely to chat to him about Andor, which has certainly proved hugely popular with fans. While Star Wars comics and art were in evidence the TV series was definitely proving something to talk aboout positively. As ever, Nick who continues to impress with his work was in great form.
Also at Thought Bubble was writer Gerry Finley-Day, who was at the 2000AD booth, as was Jamie McKelvie, and they were very welcoming to fans, while Michael Molcher‘s sampler for his new book, I am the Law: How Judge Dredd Predicted Our Future, about the world of Judge Dredd and real world policing proved popular and in demand.
With over 400 tables, and many selling work, there was no shortage of fresh and new work available. I was pleased to pick up Down Below from Limit Break Comics, an anthology of mystery, myth and murder, with fourteen very well done stories, edited by Paul Carroll and Gary Moloney, a really nice publication.
Joe and his Killer Robot Dad by Sam Read and Mick McMahon was another nice find, I had not anticipated seeing Mick, who is always so relaxed and friendly, and who happily sketched a Judge Dredd and was busy all day sketching.
Ro Stein and Ted Brandt were on hand, and I was delighted to see their original artwork for the Marvel Voices Pride #1 story “Permanent Sleepover”, which saw the debut of Escapade, Sheila Sexton (She/her). It was so nice look closely at this very strong original work. There is an aspect to this story that I utterly adore, a concurrent part in a different style and it really is well drawn and so incredibly tempting and as ever Ro and Ted were happy to sign comics and chat.
I also managed to pick up Alien Heart by Anna Fitzpatrick. I had previously gotten her TRIP publication and I admit that I would love to have a hard copy of Between Worlds, a stunning digital piece of epic proportions, so I was pleased to get a print edition of this work.
Talks were very well attended and the cosplay competition was certainly bus . I note that there was a really nice atmosphere in longer queues, such as that of David Aja and Declan Shalvey. David was kindly including small remarks on comics or graphic novels that he was signing, and everyone was pleasantly patient and happy to wait for such a bonus, and both professionals were happy to sign for longer than scheduled.
Fans were obviously enjoying the convention. Too soon, Saturday had flown by and people were leaving. It was a terrific event, all about comics, well organised and planned. So much work had gone into the event, and it went well.