We recently held the biggest (and friendliest, IMO) pure comics convention in the UK here in Leeds. It’s called Thought Bubble and even if you just take the weekend into account – it does run for an entire week – it’s a massive thing. There’s no movie or TV tie-ins, Marvel & DC are not represented as companies, there’s no famous people from 1970s scifi signing autographs for £15. It’s all about the comics – the writers, the creators, the artists, the ones who are all of the above as well as promotors, sales bods, website techies, accountants, merch makers and tshirt models, and everything else besides. It really highlights indie creators, too; as well as the “names” in comics, there’s so much incredible talent that gets a voice at Thought Bubble that would get lost at MCM or NYCC. I think it’s the most democratically level playing field on the comics scene right now. You get tiny self-published creators sat next to Kate Beaton or Al Ewing. Nicholas Gurewitch and Joan Cornella and Darryl McDaniels (as in Run DMC) in the same place, with Noelle Stevenson and Matt Kindt and Marguerite Bennett a few tables apart. It’s like living in a village of adorable arty geniuses.
Every year since 2007 I’ve attended Thought Bubble’s convention weekender, from the early days of being in the Town Hall basement to moving over to the New Dock site & basically taking over every available inch of space. Since 2009 (I think) I’ve been a volunteer, and I’ve been a hall leader since ’10 (or ’11, I forget). I *love* Thought Bubble. This year was no exception to that; I’ve seen it grow and grow and grow and it’s down to the incredible work by (in no particular order) Lisa, Marf, Biz, Mikey, Darren, Steve & Clark with Nabil and the Travelling Man gang doing whopping amounts of behind the scenes stuff about infrastructure and bookings and logistics and everything that it’s grown so smoothly and the weekend runs like an extremely precise clock. Pete does some work as well, I guess. (Pete runs the volunteers so he’s technically my boss for the weekend.) It does mean I get – maybe – an hour over the weekend to look at halls other than the one I’m managing. But I get to know my hall really, really well. Also I get to see friends of the sort you see once a year in really testing circumstances, which means you definitely find out who can help you dispose of a body.
Anyway, I bought stuff. I don’t have a photograph of it, but here’s the list:
- Sarah Gordon’s Strip
- John Allison’s The Case of the Lonely One
- Tom Siddell’s Gunnerkrigg Court vol 5 and Traveller
- Benjamin Read & Chris Wildgoose’s Porcelain vol 2: Bone China
- Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Lumberjanes, vols 1&2 (with others)
- Lisa Cummins’ Madam Butterscotch vol 1
- Joan Cornella’s Zonzo
- Kate Beaton’s Step Aside, Pops
I’ve read everything I bought. Here’s the five second reviews.
John Allison’s The Case of the Lonely One is lovely and hilarious, and surprisingly sad in places. I read Bad Machinery like some kind of obsessive so I know what’s coming but these self-contained stories are incredibly well put together, they don’t need to be read in order and I love the hardcover printed editions. This is the most onion-y of the Bad Machinery stories.
Tom Siddell’s Gunnerkrigg Court vol 5 is properly great. Tom’s art has come on in leaps and bounds and this book showcases some of the best. His storytelling works – you don’t get to see everything; in fact, you see surprisingly little given how huge the Court universe (Courtiverse?) feels – and you’re not patronised as a reader. Fill in the blanks yourself, it’s part of the fun. Traveller is one of the tales from outside the Court; it follows Paz one summer. This one-shot made me cry. It’s heartrending. There’s a positive note and I guess in the Courtiverse there’s always the chance that… well. Read it.
Porcelain vol 1 was one of my favourite books of 2013. Bone China expands on this and lived up to expectation. It made me furious, in a good way. Stunning writing that pulls absolutely no punches, with artwork to match. I really, really want Read & Wildgoose to get Ivory Tower done, but at the same time I want it done properly. This is what makes me think British Comics is in a good place.
I’ve loved Sarah Gordon’s art for years. Strip is astounding work. It’s not enjoyable, it’s incredibly accomplished. To describe it too much would give it away; this is work that deserves to be read, but it’s something that you’ll read rarely. The visceral nature of the book should make you uncomfortable, and rightly so; it’s possible to go into this expecting one thing only to get something entirely different. This was a well deserved BCA nominee.
Madam Butterscotch was a whimsical buy, because I loved the art deco character designs I’d spotted on the stall. It’s a fun tale of an assassin who runs a tea shop; light and fluffy, it holds much promise and I look forwards to seeing it develop.
Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona is a triumph. This is the sort of writing I wish I could do; the tale of a shapeshifting sidekick to a villan in an odd technological/swordfighting milieu with humour, emotion, an undercurrent of UST between the hero & villan and the basic fact that the good guys and the bad guys are just perspective. Excellent art which suits the story perfectly. Lumberjanes is also fun; considerably lighter in tone to Nimona, though not to its detriment. Seek it out, if you can. It is excellent, empowering storytelling to give to daughters and nieces for Christmas.
Step Aside, Pops is a followup to Hark! A Vagrant and is in much the same vein. If you know Kate Beaton’s work you know what this is. I love it, despite being incredibly difficult to describe. Books like this make me want to learn reviewing properly.
Finally, Zonzo. Cornella is so, so disturbing. The comics – I say comics, I mean tableaux – are very funny but on second glance incredibly disturbing. The joke is sometimes very subtle but it is always there. The art is clever – sometimes a bit samey but that’s the joke – and has an innocence to it which just makes everything wierder. Joan is a really nice chap, though; somehow that really does make the work stranger.
Oh, but that’s not quite finally, is it? In my hall was Nick Gurewitch of Perry Bible Fellowship fame (I adore PBF, seek it out, read it, buy his books). He’s a very nice fellow who has skills and he was selling prints. I asked him for a sketch;
(The bunny loves the Thought Bubble.)
Bless. And roll on next year, when TBubs will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary. It’s going to be huge and I shall be there in my red shirt, asking to see wristbands and making sure everybody is happy.