Home Con News Recap: TBF2014 Thought Bubble Sequential Arts Festival, Leeds (Sunday 16th November)

The Thought Bubble Sequential Arts Festival, Leeds (Festival: 9th-16th November / Comic Con: 15th-16th November 2014)


Day Two: Sunday 16th November

After what in comic con terms is a veritable eternity of sleep (a luxurious seven hours), it was time once again to get on the road and head back for the second day of the comic con of Thought Bubble which brought to an end to the week long 2014 festival – but while most were making their way to the Royal Armouries in Leeds for a more relaxed day than the busier Saturday, I was heading down with specific goal to achieve. I was a man on a mission.

image - thought bubble 2014 (sunday 16th recap 01)Firstly, after spending all that time in lines to get my Wytches Thought Bubble variants signed by writer Scott Snyder and variant artist Jeff Lemire the day before, I was determined to complete the trifecta by landing a signature from regular series artist Jock, who was scheduled to only appear on the Sunday – it soon became apparent that I was not the only one to want to meet the man himself. More on that in a second.

But secondly, and more importantly, I wanted to get around all the tables I could, pass around my business cards and properly introduce An Englishman In San Diego to as many exhibitors as possible, as well as getting their take on this amazing event. I’m wanting the site to become a great window for comics and pop culture fans to discover the latest news and the best way to do that is to get all the news from the horses mouth: the creators themselves. Best let them know I exist, then. First thing first, though: at 9am on a Sunday, let’s park up and head round the corner to see what the rest of the event would bring. It’s going to be a little more subdued, right?

image - thought bubble 2014 (sunday 16th recap 02)Hardly. If there’s one thing that comic cons have taught me, if it’s a particularly good and tested one, people will come out of the woodwork and make the absolute most of it from the second the doors open to the second they’re forcibly evicted from the building. And so, arriving in the Courtyard, I found lines for Jock were already beginning to form; cosplayers were already loitering the Royal Armouries, even more so than on the Saturday (the second day of the con is traditionally when the costumes come out in force) and the exhibitors were already at their tables. Right then: about that Jock signature…

Jock actually ran a little bit late on Sunday morning, allowing me to get better acquainted to the others in the Mondo Studios line – I was thrilled and encouraged to find that a couple of people actually knew of AEISD, mostly through my Twitter feed, which I had been updating throughout the festival. Indeed, a chap called Nathan thanked me for the Scott Snyder line updates that I had posting during the day, using the #TBF14 hashtag. What can I cay, I like to help where I can! To kill time in the line, I passed Nathan my iPad and briefly introduced him to both Jock’s work on Wytches, as well as Gillan and McKelvie‘s now-British Comic Award-winning The Wicked + The Divine – we had plenty of time as Jock’s Twitter kept us up to date with his progress – the joys of social media, we knew he had arrived in the Teepee before the Red Shirts did! To be fair, I’m stunned that anybody showed up at all, after Saturday night’s Mid-Con Party – a 4am finish?? These artist types party hard!

image - thought bubble 2014 (sunday 16th recap 03)Thankfully, this had been the driest Thought Bubble that I was aware of – this Sunday was a little chillier than the Saturday had been but at least it wasn’t absolutely throwing it down, which was a blessing. Didn’t mean that I didn’t want to get inside that heated Teepee as soon as possible, mind! Jock, running late but moving quickly, had his fans pass through fairly smoothly – no sketches from Jock today, thank goodness. When I got in front of him myself, I was shocked and stunned to find that he recognised me from my volunteer duties at TB the year before, when I’d pestered him for a commission for my SDCC UK Attendees group on Facebook. He had turned me down that time but he was happy to sign my issues of Wytches – and also one an internal page of one of my favourite panels. Lovely – and a great chap. Thanks, Jock.

My next signature target was the aforementioned Kieron Gillan and Jamie McKelvie – I had bought my copy of Vol. 1 ‘The Faust Act’ of The Wicked + The Divine, as had my friend Neil. He had thought ahead and gotten Jamie’s scrawl on the Saturday, I had decided to pass on yet another queue and check out the panel rooms instead… Oops. While Kieron had managed somehow to drag himself out of bed (and look pretty sharp doing it), Jamie was nowhere to be seen which means, while Neil may have his WicDiv signed by the pair, I’m going to have to settle for just Kieron (…for now. I’m gunning for you, Jamie! In the plus column, Kieron did add a little cartoon, thanking me for the wine I’d gotten him at the Party – hey, if anyone was going to congratulate him on his BCA, I’d thought it had better be me. I’d hate to think Jamie was avoiding me for not getting him one. That would just be bitter, man!)

image - thought bubble 2014 (sunday 16th recap 04)So, with my weekend’s signature goals achieved – kinda! – it was time to hit the tables. Starting at the very back of the Teepee, I weaved my way around the artists and creators that had brought their work for fans to see and, hopefully, buy. It was interesting to hear from the majority of exhibitors say that, while everyone over the course of the weekend had been encouraging and enthusiastic about art work and books on display, the main source of passing trade was from the small bits and pieces that accompanied the main work: buttons, postcards, sample prints and the like. Only the recognised dealers, such as Orbital Comics, GOSH! Comics, OK Comics, Travelling Man and Forbidden Planet, having any real success in shifting any book quantities. Artists and writers that attend recognise that the main advantage for attending Thought Bubble is to get their product out and seen by the general public, as well as networking with the movers and shakers of every facet of the comics industry – the real business is done once the show is done and dusted. However, it’s encouraging to know that exhibitors can cover the cost of appearing at the con just with smaller items.

With Thought Bubble being a purely creatives-focused event, there were none of the other distractions that you can find at most cons – no charm bracelets, no tote bags made out of  Star Wars bedsheets and certainly no piles of Pop Funkos littering the stalls. This meant that, everywhere you looked in all three halls, there was something of creative merit; it’s a fantastic testament to the curators of TB that every stand is also of the highest quality. The people who put this show really know what they’re doing.

It’s possibly for this reason that, with the three hours I had to spare between leaving the Kieron/McKelvie table and attending the final panel held in the Speech Bubble area, ‘Comics and Journalism’, I didn’t even get around the whole of the attendees tables, managing to get around the Teepee and Royal Armouries halls and failing to see anything properly in New Dock Hall – and yet I still feel I saw plenty, it’s remarkable. Counting as highlights: meeting Babs Tarr and Becky Cloonan to talk about the fun of meeting fans face-to-face while also catching up with colleages in the business that they don’t see too often, as well as talking about actually doing successful business at cons such as Thought Bubble; catching up with Justin Ishmael from Mondo Studio after only speaking with him by email (ooh, gave me one of the Matt Taylor ‘Back To The Future’ posters to pass on to one of our readers – more on that on our Twitter feed); watching Tim sale at work, which is always a joy; meeting Boulet, Matteo Scalera and Andy Diggle (who decided to do the home stretch of Sunday of Thought Bubble right with a cheeky pint or two – good man!); and introducing myself to a cracking bunch on new talent, including the bunch from Action Lab who convinced me to pick up their brilliant female-led Princeless comic. Indeed, it was a pleasure to pick up a whole pile of books which I’ve been working through since the con finished. And being introduced to new comics is what it’s all about, right?

image - thought bubble 2014 (sunday 16th recap 13)I then had only two last jobs on the hitlist: I hotfooted it over to the Speech Bubble panel space for what was the only time of the weekend  (I had not been encouraged to go in there up to that point, what with the cramped conditions of a halved room capacity) to see the ‘Comics And Journalism’ panel, in a hope that I could pick up some hints and tips, what with me slowly taking steps to become a proper journo an’ stuff. It was actually very worthwhile, with Zainab Akhtar, Dan Berry, Laura Snapes & Douglas Wolk passing on nuggets from their many years in various forms of writing, print, web and the like. It was interesting to hear their different approaches to dealing with criticism of their own work and of reassessing their output once it had hit the public domain. Well worth the time. And then it pretty much all over.

The second the clock struck five, the exhibitors started breaking down their tables – it says a lot that all three halls still had a sizeable attendance and booths only began stashing away their wares the moment that the organisers announced that the festival was now closed. I was in the New Dock when that happened and the collective cheer that went up from tired yet satisfied guests, attendees, volunteers and staff was heartwarming – they all knew they had put on something truly special.

For me, however, the weekend wasn’t entirely over – the Armouries staff know me from my DJ duties at the venue over the years and they were happy to let me set up shop upstairs in the Wellington Suite to host my Cup O’ Tea Google+ hangout where I shared my bag of goodies with a live audience – it was great to hear that people out there were hearing about the festival for the first time and promising to make the pilgrimage in 2015, even from overseas. I’m just glad to do my part. Although, the almost instantaneous bids for the Wytches comics and the Mondo poster convinced me that all that queueing was worth it!

By the time I was done broadcasting at seven o’clock, a full two hours after the show had closed, the sky was fully dark, everything had been packed away, bar the Teepee and rather spookily, it was like the con had never even been there. All done for another year. Anyone else need a drink?

image - thought bubble 2014 (sunday 16th recap 26)

image - thought bubble 2014 (sunday 16th recap 27)

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