Last weekend was the now annual Thought Bubble Comic Convention, taking place at the end of a week of comic activities and events in the Comic Art Festival.
Molly and I headed across to Leeds for the Saturday, thinking we might only do one day, but, as you’ll find out, Molly decided very early on that she was having far too much fun and we made both days. It was the best Thought Bubble I’ve been to yet. And seeing as Thought Bubble consistently comes out as the best convention in the country, that’s a pretty high accolade.
So, what can I possible use to sum up the experience of Thought Bubble 2011, to fully describe a great weekend of a comic convention?
Well you might think this is a little trivial, but they managed to get the temperature just right. It’s the first convention I’ve ever been to where I’ve not been really sweaty hot and bloody uncomfortable most of the time, fumbling around with burdensome bag and jacket all day long. Of course, that may have something to do with simply having the show on a mid-November weekend and actually keeping the doors open.
But no matter, that small thing, being able to comfortably walk around, without need of a change of clothes halfway through the day is such a gift. And when they get the little things right, it’s a sure indicator that the organisers behind the show will do a fine, fine job on the really important things. And from my experiences, and the feedback I heard during Thought Bubble, coupled with the reports I’ve heard so far, they most definitely got the really important things right.
I can’t say it’s the best comic show in the country. Simply because I haven’t been to all of them. But it’s got to be one of the best, one of the most enjoyable, one of the best organised. Thought Bubble 2011 was, quite simply, rather a triumph.
And purely based on the numbers of people queueing early Saturday morning outside Savilles Hall, a huge success….
(Saturday morning outside Savilles Hall, Thought Bubble 2011)
(The cosplayers were out in force, as usual, supplying colour and comment all weekend.)
The whole show was bigger this year, set across two halls, the usual larger Savilles Hall and the smaller Armouries Hall, and stretching to a two-day convention. Nearly 300 stalls holding something over 200 different exhibitors and artists. It was huge.
Which meant that when the organisers announced it as a two-day, two-hall show, I have to admit to a little worry – would making it bigger and longer ruin the fun of the single day? Could they really make it bigger and still keep the wonderfully relaxed, welcoming, enjoyable feel of the show?
Well, yes and no…. purely from a visitors point of view it was wonderful. The crowded aisles and difficult navigations of 2010 were gone, the positioning of the halls across the plaza meant it felt connected, yet fresh air was never too far away. Savilles Hall was huge, airy, not as dark as I remember, full of stalls, but never really too crowded to move around comfortably. The smaller Armouries Hall was lighter and airier, and the positioning of the signing stalls in there, along with the wonderful activities/childrens areas was a real plus. More on that later.
(Savilles Hall – early Saturday – very busy, but rarely feeling uncomfortable – the perfect happy medium.)
(Armouries Hall – smaller, lighter, perfectly suited for the exhibitors inside)
But from an exhibitors point of view…. hmmm. The Sunday was obviously quieter in numbers. Much quieter at times. And anecdotal evidence from various exhibitors said it was quieter money wise as well.
Which presents a small problem for Lisa, Clark and the rest of the really talented and ever helpful team behind Thought Bubble. There’s no way they can go back to a single hall now – there are simply too many exhibitors to do that – they’ve simply outgrown that. And if you brought it back to a single day, there would simply be too much to do in one day.
But two days didn’t quite work this time. This time.
Personally I think it’s merely the first try and next year hopefully we’ll see both days buzzing as more people will get used to the idea that this is a two-day con, that more people will spread their visit out across the weekend.
Overall, I think Thought Bubble presents a really diverse and interesting spread of artists and comic folks, with everything from the big, big stars; Adam Hughes, Jeff Lemire, Sean Phillips, Tony Harris, Gail Simone, David Aja, Andy Diggle, Olly Moss through to the smallest of the small press. And everything in between. Likewise the mix of people is really pleasing. Lots of children around everywhere, especially over in the Armouries Hall with the extra attractions there. Lots of those wonderful cosplayers as well, and the roller derby girls acting as announcers and general “what the hell was that”-ness worked really well.
Molly and I met, chatted, browsed and perused for all we were worth all through Saturday. By the end of the day, I’d managed to cover just about half of the bigger Savilles Hall and merely done a quick runaround of The Armouries Hall. Busy day indeed, and so much fun.
Here’s just a few of the photos from Saturday….
First stop for me, conveniently located just inside the door at the Savilles Hall was the Blank Slate stand, both to say hello to Blank Slate publisher Kenny Penman and have a good look at Nelson…. the undoubted book of the weekend (more on that next time)
(possibly the coolest man there; Uli Oesterle, with a copy of his new, first time in English, work of brilliance – Hector Umbra)
(Signing at the Blank Slate stand – Kate Brown, Uli Oesterle and Mawil – absolutely rocking the pink sweater. Nelson was the book of the weekend – more on that later)
(More at the Blank Slate stand – a healthy backlist from one of the new breed of quality UK publishers – and it was lovely to see SelfMadeHero, Nobrow, Cinebook and Knockabout all exhibiting and showing just how strong the UK scene is right now)
(And jumping around a little chronolgically, it was lovely to finally meet Padraig and his lovely wife Deidre on Sunday – Padraig was over for an Alan Moore panel. Also a rare photo of Blank Slate publisher Kenny Penman – notoriously photo averse. Special thanks here go to Molly, for capturing me in a terrible, terrible photo. Cheers darling.)
From there it was out into the wilds of Savilles Hall, packed with people, yet never overly crowded, a really ideal situation.
(Lovely to see Gary Spencer Millidge there, whom I last saw 16 years ago!)
(Terry Wiley shows off his latest, always excellent Verity Fair)
(Graham Pearce of Sgt Mike Battle – with a special knitted Mike Battle that Molly was most taken with… and would have taken if she could have managed it!)
Special mention has to go to that Adam Cadwell fella, for creating a special Thought Bubble Lego Hunt, which proved very popular with children and adults alike, and had Molly scanning stalls all over the hall looking to track down the specially designed Lego comic creator figures:
(The Cadwell immortalised in Lego – the staring point for the Thought Bubble Lego Hunt 2011)
(Molly did get them all, but as the evidence here shows, she managed to get a little inside information from those in the know…. including Matt Sheret, the Paper Science crew and Filmish’s Edward Ross.)
And that was it for Saturday…. so much done, yet so much remaining to do. We’ll split the report into two, just like Thought Bubble itself. Next time, mostly about Sunday, and mostly in the Armouries Hall.
Saturday night entertainment was provided by the usual suspects, with Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing, Anthony Johnson, Jamie McKelvie all dropping tunes (as I believe the hip crowd call it) at the TB party. For more on that go and read Gillen’s blog piece. One day I shall make the party, because frankly, anyone who ends a set with a live version of A-Ha’s Take On Me is doing something right, but by that time Molly and I were on the train home, relaxing and reading the goodies we’d picked up during the day.