This weekend, as has probably be annoyingly obvious from our Twitter account, we went to Thought Bubble. It was aces. If you spent the weekend hiding under a rock, or just muted the hashtag because you didn't want to hear about my hangover, Thought Bubble is a fantastic comics con in Leeds. It's been growing like crazy, and is now a brain-buggeringly vast opportunity to discover new comics, talk to comics creators, and make a right old tit of yourself on a dancefloor.
Here's a quick run-down on what we bought, what we liked, what we missed, and possibly some other things as well.
I bought a lot less this time than last year, and looking at my bank balance I wasn't sure how; until I clocked that I'd likely drunk the difference. Taking that indictment as a segue: the on-site bar this year was a splendid addition. Having some sit-down breakout space with beer and great coffee made it much easier to crash for a bit. And let's face it, that's pretty essential at a hectic con, even without the Thought Bubble Sunday Hangover.
Ilkley Brewery supplied the beer at the con and party bars, and this was a damn fine call. If you see their stuff, check out the Mary Jane (big hoppy zing), and the Westwood Stout (white chocolate funtime).
There were also some comics. Probably.
Specifically, there were far too many cool looking things for me to get around, but here's what I picked up:
- Atomic Sheep - Sally Jane Thompson Canadian high school coming of age tales - art clubs, homesickness, discomfort, and great line work.
- Horizon: The Falling - Andrew Wildman Robots! Anxiety! Escape fantasies! Great pencils! A young girl falls into what might be a dream world, maybe, if her dreams were funky robotic.
- Orbital, vols 1-3 - Sylvain Runberg & Serge Pellé More great Sci fi from Cinebook. Diplomacy, drama, and a hugely realised universe.
- Mulp - Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton Indiana Jones with mice, and a gorgeous colour palette. But after all the humans are dead. Yeah - just buy it.
- Aama, vol 2 - Frederik Peeters Volume two. I loved volume one, and this is the next one.
- Porcelain: Bone China (sampler) - Benjamin Read (writer) & Chris Wildgoose (artist) The teaser for the follow up to Porcelain, a kind of twisted fairytale fantasy of bone china automata and bleak secrets. Look out for our interview with the creators on the next podcast.
- The Wicked and the Divine, vol 1 - Kieron Gillen (writer) & Jamie McKelvie (artist) Every ninety years, Tumblr is incarnated as... #WicDiv #Inevitable
Then there's a bunch of stuff I didn't quite get around to buying, but wish I had. So this is basically the big old list of apologies for not doing a capitalism at funky creators:
- Elemental Micah - Michael Georgiou
- Crying In Front Of Your Dog - Phil McAndrew
- CC3 - Rob Burton (writer) & A. Klassen (artist)
- Badger's Day Out - Howard Hardiman
- Gardens of Glass - Lando
- One Soul - Ray Fawkes
- Cindy and Biscuit - Dan White
Part of the reason I didn't pick so much stuff up this year was not - in fact - the bar. I didn't make it there until the Sunday. No, Saturday was in the main swallowed by a really good panels line-up. The regular "Best thing I've read all year" session was what it always is - a neat piece of quick-fire curation to kick off the show.
The two Images panels (writers and artists) had interesting stuff on process. In particular, a blend of artists who've worked primarily with one, or with multiple authors. This let them talk about collaboration styles, and different approaches to interpreting scripts. It was a lot less of an Image leg-frotting love-in than last year, and so bubbled along with more sincerity and fluency.
The session on diversity at the end of the day will have made for a pretty decent introduction to the topic. Amusingly (if sadly) they kicked off by apologising for a relative lack of diversity - they were a couple of folks down due to travel and/or personal issues. It's hard to criticise that, and actually I've not that often seen a diversity discussion that is at once so superficially culturally homogenous and so aware of the privileges and issues that brings.
I say "introduction" because it did feel like we started quite basic, and the discussion took a while to warm up. For a minute there I was worried we were in for an hour of bourgeois hand-wringing. But it perked up hard towards the end. In particular, there was some strong stuff on physical access, and what events like this and other comics cons can do to be more inclusive. Discussion touched on representation and conservatism vs risk taking in the retail chain, too, and that could easily have occupied a full session.
I wanted to cheer a bit when Howard Hardiman emphasised the point that it falls on all of us to educate ourselves about diversity, and not just shrug, muttering that we've done our bit, and offload the work onto marginalized groups themselves.
The mid-con party is one of the TB highlights. I've heard it referred to quite often as Nerd Prom. Fair. But Clarrie nails it:
The #TB14 Safe Space Disco: 400+ people dancing to 600+ rhythms.
— Clarrie Maguire (@problem_chimp) November 16, 2014
It's a big, fun, inclusive thing, and this year it was a big, fun inclusive thing with actual drinkable beer. (And no cloakroom, and toilets that would make the architects of the Guantanamo interrogation regime raise an eyebrow, muttering "Hang on a minute, mate". But that one's on Leeds town hall)
It turns out that if you have Paprika playing as the visual background to a dance set, no music on earth is so compelling that everyone won't just stop and gape in horror at the rapey butterfly scene.
Good times. Weird Times.
At this point, the Safe Space Disco is basically my favourite club night. Good work, Thought Bubble. Good fucking work.
If you want to hear a bit more, check out our hasty mid-con podcast.
There's a neat short write up here, from Liz, who we were mooching around with.
We also did a few interviews with creators and publishers, so look out for that on the site soon.
Dave, there, having a lovely time.