On a cold Saturday morning in the middle of November anyone who walked past the Leeds Royal Armouries museum would be in for some strange sights indeed. A group of zombies having a conversation with Judge Dredd, Batman comparing his costume with another Dark Knight and a plethora of anime characters prancing around full of excite. No, this isn’t some sort of alternative reality where fictional characters gather to swap stories, it’s Thought Bubble. Leeds’ annual comic art festival had returned for a weekend full of art, discussion and above all, fun.
Celebrating its fifth birthday, Thought Bubble has grown somewhat from its humble beginnings beneath Leeds town hall. Now recognised internationally as a major comic book event and with around 5000 people attending it’s not hard to see why. This year it actually lasted a week, which included art and writing master classes, workshops, screenings and other special events that took place throughout Leeds at different venues. But to be honest the centre piece of the whole festival was the two day comic convention that finished the week off in style.
Both Saviles hall and Royal Armouries hall (the two largest exhibition halls in Leeds) were taking over by all things comic book. From a who’s who of the comic book world to the plethora of retailers it is truly a Mecca for any fan. But it isn’t just for the hardcore cosplayer or comic book enthusiast it also welcomes anyone with a passing curiosity. This is due to a fantastic friendly atmosphere, which can be found around the convention. The famous writers and artists, independent creators and even the fan in the queue are ready to show their love for the medium. It is possibly one of the only places where you can have a conversation about who would win in a fight between Captain America and Batman and then
discuss the importance of creating more LGBT characters in comic books.
In terms of guests the organisers really pulled out all the stops and brought together a wide variety of influential writers and artists that represent the true diversity of the medium. Tim Sale was the guest of honour (and a personal hero). Most famous perhaps for the art in the TV series Heroes, he also drew Batman: The Long Halloween, which was an influence on the recent Christopher Nolan Batman films. Other big names include Gail Simone, who is currently writing Batgirl and has been nominated for several GLAAD awards, Jeff Lemire, who is writing the critically acclaimed Animal Man, Kieron Gillen, the current writer of Uncanny X-Men, and the Eisner and Harvey award winning artist Adam Hughes.
The most surprising thing about meeting these comic book giants is how friendly they are and will talk to you about pretty much anything you want, unless of course it’s a top-secret creative project. Another surprise is that most of the artists will do personalised sketches of your favourite characters for you, if you don’t mind the wait. Some of the sketches will be free, others you may have to part with some cash for, but the end results are always fantastic.
Thought Bubble may have a superstar line up but they also fill their halls with a lot of independent creators. This gives them the opportunity to network with a larger audience and the Thought Bubble organisers should be congratulated for helping strengthen the industry by giving these creators a chance. In fact TQS will be reviewing some of these independent comics in the near future.
But the weekend isn’t all about meeting creators and buying comic book paraphernalia. The convention also holds several panel discussions that include as diverse subjects as film adaptations, women in comics and how to self-publicise. Each panel has relevant industry experts divulging their knowledge of the industry and they also welcome a Q&A session at the end so the fans have the opportunity to find out more. These panels stick to a rigid timetable, but that’s understandable. They are so well organised that they actually come across as professional lectures, but have the same friendly atmosphere that permeates the rest of the convention.
Thought Bubble is a great place to indulge your comic book fandom. You can speak with your heroes, learn how to get into the industry or just show off your best superhero costume. Roll on next Thought Bubble 2012!
Words by Dan