Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category
There’s something of a running joke with a lot of truth in it; that I know very little about comics and yet know so many people involved with them that it’s almost wrong that I haven’t tried to make one. It’s not for the want of trying, I’ve never invented a good enough story to tempt me into finishing even the most basic strip in order to tell it. You only get one first comic, after all. Drawing isn’t a problem, we’ve all seen xkcd and I can, er, do a bit. Plus I know lots of good artists. Back to the first sentence, there.
I do know and love some comics, of course (Ghost World, Phonogram, Love and Rockets, lots of online ones), but it doesn’t stop me feeling a little out of place in geek conversations at Thought Bubble. And yet this is the third time I have attended. I went to the very first convention, in the crypt of the Town Hall, and it was very hot and rammed to the gills. I went last year, where it was enormous and crazy and so unlike the first one it could be an entirely different thing were it not for the same welcoming atmosphere and lots of familiar faces. The only one I have missed was the second, the first in Saviles Hall, because although I had a ticket, I won a competition to meet my long time heroine Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane in Doctor Who and her own titular adventures) and have her read me and a select group of kiddywinks stories, and I couldn’t miss that.
So, this year. Even bigger than last year. I check Twitter before I go, and friends working the convention say there are huge queues outside long before the opening time of 10am. I revise my plans, dropping the idea of going to a couple of panel discussions, because I can’t stand for long in queues. Later, Jamie McKelvie tells me they had to hold back the first panel by twenty minutes because people were struggling to get into the building. One issue with not posting out ANY tickets (all collecting on the door) and so many people coming from out of town.
The cosplay element has ramped up to the point where I’m constantly falling over young kids dressed as obscure manga characters I can’t even begin to identify, along with zombie rollergirls. My little Doctor Who fan heart jumps with pride at the number of Eleventh Doctor cosplayers. Matt Smith’s costume may be a little less casual than David Tennant’s, but it’s considerably easier to pull together something recognisable from charity shops and Ebay, as well as the more dedicated fans pooling knowledge to get something screen-accurate. Anyway, a joy to see fezzes and tweed galore. It’s a long way from the cons that are purely aimed at selling people overpriced signed photos and “limited edition” merchandise. In fact, most creators here will happily sign stuff for free, and the queues to meet writers and illustrators at their own stalls are long, but good-humoured. I spot Bryan Talbot, John Romita Jr and so on with their mobs fairly quickly. There are also plenty of small press stalls, stalls where people of all ages can do an activity (painting Momji dolls, designing aliens and creating comics with Gillian Rogerson and Sarah McIntyre, live art, the Hexjibber installation etc) and lots of chat going on.
I meet up with my mates Lou and Mike and stumble upon many other friends (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Paul Cornell – new novel out next year and I can’t wait, Geof from Fetishman and his crew including my chum Mavis Cruet, Mark from OK Comics and so on) and end up buying all my stocking fillers from small independent producers. Not bad.
All the experienced convention exhibitors and attendees tell me Thought Bubble is their favourite UK con, and I can totally see why. I love being able to support writers and artists, hang out with friends and see the enthusiasm of hundreds of fans. The one issue this year is that it has almost become too busy. I struggle with crowds at the best of times, and is hard to stop too long at stalls or ask about getting sketches done (many artists will oblige) when you’re blocking a thoroughfare. I also didn’t take too kindly to being pestered by a flyerer from some big company, it didn’t feel in the spirit of the show. Sure, many of the creatives work for e.g. Marvel and DC, but to me the event should be about the creators and the small press and to a certain extent the independent shops. Big flashy books and commercialism can stick to the high street and Amazon.
If I could make one change, I’d put the shops into one room, the creative activities into another and the writer/artist stalls into a third, or at least into separate areas of a much bigger room. Browsing stalls, talking to/watching the activities of artists and getting involved in art all require their own spaces and go at their own speeds. People who can’t afford to go to restaurants need a friendly area to eat their lunch that isn’t sitting on the floor of the foyer, worrying about getting in people’s way. But that’s just space and people management, and Thought Bubble attendance has grown exponentially in the past four years. I still love it, sign me up for next year. I might have made a comic by then. Or at least read a few more, having bought some and been given more for free this year…