Last weekend I attended the Thought Bubble Convention at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. It’s the centrepiece of a full week’s worth of events in and around Leeds involving comics (or sequential art to give it its Arts Council-worthy name) and gets big names in from all around the world. The Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard is a regular guest, as are Kieron Gillen (writer, Uncanny X-Men, Thor) and Andy Diggle (former 2000AD editor, writer: Batman, Hellblazer). Fans queued around the building to get sketches from the guests and, while I’ve never craved a piece of original art, it’s cool that people always have the chance to get up close and personal with their favourite artists like this.
They were joined this year by talent such as Scott C, who was the art director on Double Fine games Psychonauts and Brutal Legend; and Robert Llewellyn, the actor/author best known as Kryten from Red Dwarf. Although it was impossible to get in to have a word with him, I still got a little kick from knowing I’ve stood only a foot away from Jake Bullet!
It being November in Yorkshire, naturally it was a bit cold. (Of course, even if it were July, it’s still Yorkshire and you’d be just as likely to feel the chill.) This never seems to deter the cosplayers though – fans of comics, anime and film showing their fandom by dressing as their favourite characters. There are Flickr sets full of prime examples, as well as on the TBF Facebook page.
I don’t usually attend panels cos I get more fun from just walking around and throwing all my money at people while grabbing their comics, but I was lucky enough to enjoy a session of talks by Kate Brown, Andy Belanger and Antony Johnston – the latter being the man who wrote the Dead Space game. Their enthusiasm and passion for what they create really struck a chord with me – especially Johnston’s speech about how creative people need to find a balance between their ego (which says “you are a genius”) and their fear (which says “who’s gonna read/watch/play this crap?”) I’m sad to say that I don’t create nearly as much as I used to because the fear always won; but knowing that other people feel it too really spurred me on to…well, create this blog for a start.
While the stalls were stocked with thousands of comics produced by the Big Two, it was great to see so much independent talent manning the booths and pushing their product. I got to have a quick, we’re not worthy-esque chat with Simon Perrins, creator of Hope For The Future – described by SFX as “like Buffy, but with more swearing”. Which sounds about right. Issue #14 was finally on sale, having finally been posted to his house exactly one day after last year’s event, but it’s a bloody good read as always.
I could only muster a quick chat with him due to the sheer amount of sketch requests he had to fulfil last week, but Marc Ellerby is a thoroughly pleasant chap whose diary strip Ellerbisms has now made it into a full-colour bumper book, a thing of ordinary yet real beauty. I love this strip because of its everydayness; I’ve had very similar conversations with friends around a table at the pub before and its universal humour is twinned with some great illustration.
Another shout out has to go to Jennie Wood, whose mini-comic Adventures with Depression was probably my favourite buy of the day. Small but perfectly formed, it’s a series of images reflecting one’s troubled mindset – all their self-doubt and worry spilled onto a drawn page. It reminded me of Edge of Darkness not because it’s about nuclear destruction (it isn’t) but because there’s something beautiful to be found amongst the bleakness in her work – I found I could really relate to it.
With the con over, I headed out with some friends and family for a few tipples. I met a few new faces too, which is what I love so much about Thought Bubble. The atmosphere of creative and passionate people (more commonly known as ‘geeks’) all getting together in pursuit of something they love. I would highly recommend that any fan of comics, literature and even just general geek stuff should attend Thought Bubble.
And now – I’ve got all this lot to get through!