Over the past thirteen years, Thought Bubble has evolved from a small-time convention into one of the most popular comic cons in the U.K. What makes Thought Bubble so unique is its ability to focus on creators of sequential art in all its forms. Whilst many cons choose to fill up their signing booths with actors from cult TV series and films, Thought Bubble ensures its guests a diverse range of creators from all disciplines.
From big names, such as Brian Azzarello and Jamie McKelvie, to indie creators and small-press publishing houses – this year’s fantastic range of practitioners did not disappoint! It was refreshing to see so many people excited to meet the minds behind their favorite creations, rather than gushing over some random guy that was in like one episode of Star Trek: Voyager twenty years ago.
Of course, I can’t talk about creators without mentioning two of my favorites: Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. It was an incredible experience to get to talk about Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me and its importance as a source of relatability for the LGBTQ+ community. They were so lovely and supportive, Rosemary even drew a little doodle in my copy of Laura Dean.
Charlie Adlard was also a delight to meet. After a poor experience I had previously had with another creator (who after much consideration, shall remain unnamed), I wasn’t expecting Charlie to be so friendly.
At many cons, the signings can feel rushed, but each creator really took their time to talk to people, which I appreciate.
Of course, the other major aspect of Thought Bubble is its huge range of panels and workshops available, spanning across a breadth of locations throughout the week-long festival. There’s always so many to choose from, but some of this years’ most insightful included ‘Life Isn’t Binary’ and ‘The Future of Filth’. Both were hugely educational and essential topics, which not only promoted core values but also allowed attendees to think about how they can adapt and improve their own work. I hope that next years’ festival will continue to include panels covering a range of diverse and under-represented niches. It’s great to see so many people questioning values and growing who may otherwise not have been exposed to these topics.
Leeds Arts University (where I’m a student) are heavily involved with Thought Bubble, even more so following the launch of the BA Comic & Concept Art course just over a year ago. LAU even had a table promoting the course, so obviously I went to say hi.
Alec Chalmers, a BA Comic & Concept Art lecturer, had the often-challenging job of interviewing Brian Azzarello in our new auditorium. The event was very informative for anyone interested in writing, as well as people with a general interest in the comics industry. I was quite shocked to hear Azzarello state multiple times ‘I don’t read comics’, which seemed odd, in a room consisting mostly of comic art students. However, there was a lot of key information and good advice in general, along with the revelation that Azzarello’s keen to write a run of Doctor Doom.
Panel Show was an exhibition being held at Sunny Bank Mills – a show focusing not only on comic art, but also on the process and development of the work. This included examples of pitches, outlines and scripts from published comic writers. One of my university tutors, the lovely Beth Dawson, was amongst the exhibiting creators.
I had the pleasure of meeting Myriad’s creative director Corinne Pearlman twice over the course of the festival (at my university and at the convention). Myriad is an independent publishing house based in Brighton and Oxford, who mainly specialise in publishing books with strong political, LGBTQ+ and feminist themes.
They have a fantastic selection of graphic novels, with stand-outs such as Kate Charlesworth’s Sensible Footwear, Darryl Cunningham’s Science Tales (as well as his new release, Billionaires) and Una’s Becoming Unbecoming. I also have to mention Gareth Brookes’ unique and fully hand-embroidered graphic novel The Black Project. All of Myriad’s books seem to possess unconventional elements that push the boundaries of what you expect from the graphic novel format. It’s great to see such a range of topics, styles and presentation.
Magic Torch Comics
A Scotland-based company, Magic Torch Comics are a small publishing house that also run comic workshops in schools, helping to aid literacy and develop creativity. I was talking to Paul Bristow at their booth and I was immediately intrigued by the strong elements of Scottish heritage present in their books. After an enlightening chat about the Scottish comic scene, I ended up buying The Stowaways, a story based in Greenock in 1868, exploring the tale of seven young stowaways on their way to Quebec.
If you’re interested in checking out some of their comics for yourself, there’s a whole selection of comics available to read for free over on their website magictorchcomics.co.uk.
Competitions & Opportunities
One reason why Thought Bubble is really special, is due to the opportunity to create and grow. If you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure you’ll be familiar with 2000AD, but if not it’s a weekly UK-based sci-fi magazine that collects various comics together, including ongoing shorts.
2000AD offered two competitions this year – writing and comic art. Aspiring writers had the chance to go on stage with two minutes to pitch their concept for a series to a panel of judges, with the winner being chosen to develop their idea. Artists were provided with a short story script and asked to bring their finished pages to a panel of judges on the day. The winning creative would become 2000AD’s newest comic artist. 2000AD’s competitions have been an important stepping stone for many successful writers and artists, such as Grant Morrison, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland.
Vault Comics were also offering portfolio checks, giving constructive criticism and guidance to anyone looking to work in the comics industry.
Over all, Thought Bubble is an amazing opportunity for anyone aspiring to work in the comics industry, as well as anyone with an interest in comics looking for a fun and inspiring weekend. There’s just so many activities, guests and opportunities that it would be impossible to mention them all in this article. However, I’ve touched on some of my favourite elements of the weekly festival, and I can honestly say...Thought Bubble is the best comic convention in the U.K. Here’s to next year!