Last weekend was the outstanding Thought Bubble Comic Festival held this year in the North Yorkshire Spa town, Harrogate. There is a special way to pronounce the town name and, despite growing up not that far away, I never get it right. Luckily, this is typed out and you can say Harrogate any way you want to in your head.
For those of you who don’t know, Thought Bubble is probably the best Comic Convention in the UK. It’s devotion to sequential art and all of those lovely creators who work hard all year round, is obvious from the moment you step into the convention centre. Everywhere you look are artists eager to talk about their work and there’s none of that Media Convention baggage which tends to overshadow the comics guests. Thought Bubble is a convention for comics creators and comics fans.
I love it.
I’ve forgotten how many years I’ve been attending but every year I enjoy it as if it’s my first. And this year was no different: I caught up with some friends; made some new friends; bought some goodies; and met some amazingly talented people.
I’ll start in the middle with my highlights from the weekend, with the Mid Con party. Every time I’ve been to one of these I make the same mistake, I turn up fairly early. The start of these parties are always bewildering but as the wine starts to flow, the lights go down and the music starts to play, a good time is had by all (or at least most). This year I spent a lot of time talking to Matt Wilson about his work and avoidance of dancing.
I only managed to attend one panel, although there were four that I had my eye one. The one that made it was the first panel on Saturday, which is why I remembered when it started, unlike all of the others… The Strip Panel Naked Panel, hosted by the always humble Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, featured Dave Gibbons, Mariko Tamaki, Daniel Warren Johnson and Matt Wilson, each talking about their approach to creating their work. It was interesting to hear the different approaches that they all take in creating comics. Especially Daniel Warren Johnson who adopts the ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ approach.
The biggest thing I took away from the panel is that, when it comes to the speech in a comic, less is more. Both Tamaki and Gibbons both liked to cut the talk in their comics down to a minimum, with Warren Johnson using the same tactic for his scripts as a whole: the benefits of doing your own artwork.
Later in the day I spoke to Daniel Warren Johnson some more, especially about Murder Falcon which is a spectacular comic, 50% outlandish, 50% heartbreak. I was impressed by the comic and impressed by the writer/artist. I even managed to get my hands on a copy of his Old Man Skywalker mini-comic. It looks stunning.
I met a number of artists/writers over the weekend (more on them in a minute) and it would be an ideal opportunity to network and try to get interviews, statements, etc, however, Thought Bubble is one of my greatest joys and I don’t want to turn it into work. I meet the creators I want to meet as a fan, and often mumble my way through conversations because of the awe I have for these people. I’m allowed to be a small child meeting my heroes and don’t want to lose that by making it a 'job opportunity'. So the people I spoke to, the people I met, I met as a fan.
People like Christian Ward, whose artwork is mind blowing, even more so in print format (which is why I have two). He was having a troublesome start on Saturday because of queues from a table next to him but the staff were on hand to sort it out and it didn’t stop us from having a natter. He is another creator who has made a lasting, positive impression on me. Check out his website to see the amazing work that he is doing.
Another Artist worth checking out is co-creator of Killer Groove Eoin Marron. While doodling on my issue one of Killer Groove, I looked through his original art and discussed some of the more poignant moments of the comic. Such as the split in the road that Jonny drives towards in the final issue and does Jackie dispose of the master tapes at the end? I also found out that he would love to do follow up stories based on the characters but it would most likely be under a different title. Whatever he does next, I look forward to seeing more of Eoin’s artwork.
I bought a tea towel.
What else does one buy from a comic convention? I will in fact admit to going with the intention of buying a tea towel. I found out that at last years Thought Bubble, Alison Sampson had a specially printed tea towel based on one of her comics. As I missed out last year, I bee-lined for Alison’s table to see what she had chosen for this years design. And I love it. It’s based on a cover for the exceptional Winnebago Graveyard, one of my favourite comics for a few years ago. We also had a chat about favourite panels, apparently WG seems to have that effect on people as Alison told me a number of people have a favourite panel from that comic. See Alison’s artwork in the current Hit Girl comic or on her website.
Over the course of the weekend I met a large number of people, some all too briefly while I managed a short chat with a number of others. As always I tracked down Paul Cornell to ask about more Saucer State comics and congratulate him on the wonderful Podcast Hammer House of Podcast, unfortunately Lizbeth Myles had just popped away and everytime I passed the table she wasn’t there so I didn’t get to say nice things to her about her work. So, if she sees this, I love the podcast and the banter between you and Paul is delightful to listen to. Several of the films that they talk about I’ve never seen but they’ve convinced me that I need to see them.
I can’t possible mention everyone I met, but I can’t not mention Alan Martin. Creator of Tank Girl, a character that still makes me laugh out loud. It was the first time I’ve met him despite reading his comics for the last 30 years so it was a definite pleasure, even if it was only for a few brief moments.
Other worthy mentions:
Russell Mark Olson. I picked up Gateway City Volume 1 which Dick Tracy mystery crossed with a secret Alien Invasion. Great artwork with a spiralling narrative packed with adventure and action.
Kristyna Baczynski. I love her work, it’s emotional, personal, and always a lot of fun. Her mini-comics will take you on wonderful journeys across beautifully rendered landscapes. Every aspect of her work is lovingly designed and produced: reading it is like snuggling up in front of a warm fire on a winters evening.
Jonathan Burton. Currently working in France, Jonathan produces artwork for special illustrated prints of novels such as Game of Thrones and The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy. His art style is very fitting for fantasy but it was his quaint movie poster for Withnail and I that really caught my eye.
Mr Hope. Cute caricatures of famous geeky characters and endearing new creations greet you at Mr Hope’s table. He manages to get a twinkly bit of magic into everything he draws. I’ve known him for a few years now and am always impressed by his new drawings/products. This year he told me about an exciting project he’s worked on...but I’m not sure if I can say any more yet..
Finally, the wonderful creators from the Family Store based in Brighton. They stock a massive range of stuff from T-Shirts to enamel pins to comics and Zines. They have a selection of artists producing work for them so there is plenty for you to choose from, although to be honest it is difficult to choose between everything they have on offer.
This year, Thought Bubble was in a new venue but it was still Thought Bubble through and through. In fact, it took to Harrogate (however you say it) like a fish to water and was one of the best weekends in it’s 12 year history.
Roll on 2020!
Life long comic book reader, collector, and reviewer.