Thought Bubble 2017

PrintE-mail Written by Kieron Moore

These days, the term ‘comic con’ tends to be used to refer to events which fill halls with merchandise stands, cosplay competitions, and out of work actors charging fifty quid for an autograph. And while those events can be a lot of fun in their own right, there aren’t always that many actual comics. That’s where Thought Bubble comes in.

T-Bubz to its friends, Thought Bubble brings the UK’s comics community together in Leeds this time each year, with a week of events culminating in a full-on convention over the weekend. But this year, its eleventh, saw a major change for Thought Bubble as it moved from Leeds Dock right into the city centre.

Convention marquees were placed in Millennium Square, on Cookridge Street, and outside the Town Hall, with further events inside the adjacent buildings. This new layout resulted in a much higher footfall – vendors we spoke to were more than pleased with their sales over the weekend. There were some problems with the location, however; queues weren’t well labelled, meaning you could end up waiting in a signing queue by accident when you just wanted to enter the building, and one panel stage was rather oddly placed inside a busy convention hall, meaning if you weren’t right at the front you struggled to hear anything being said. Nevertheless, these problems can (and hopefully will) be easily rectified for next year, and Thought Bubble’s army of hardworking volunteers were always on hand to help out. 

As to the actual content of the festival, Thought Bubble continues to seriously impress. Just about every indie comics publisher in the country had a stand, and you could easily spend a whole weekend (and a whole lotta cash) exploring the enormous range of funny books on offer.

If you wanted to rest your legs/wallet, there were a number of panels, with comics creators giving their views on worldbuilding, crowdfunding, film adaptations, and much more. There were also art and writing competitions run by 2000 AD, offering great opportunities to budding creators, though it was a disappointment that the writers’ session only had time for a small selection of the competitors ready to pitch – perhaps more time could be allocated in future.

It was the headline guests that the crowds flocked for, though, particularly Gerard Way, even if he’s more famous as the lead singer of My Chemical Romance than for the comics he now writes. The other big name was Brian K Vaughan, writer of popular series including Saga and Paper Girls; Vaughan gave some very insightful talks and panel appearances, plus was on hand to sign comics.

Another highlight was the mid-con party, for which Trinity Kitchens offered a range of street food and cocktails – pricey and tenuously comics-themed cocktails, but we got through most of the menu anyway, in the name of good journalism. Some favourite comics creators even had a go at DJ-ing (except for Kieron Gillen, who’d promised he’d never do it again and so definitely did not this year, as the mask-wearing DJ who was not Kieron Gillen would like us to report). A great time was had by all. 

And, though some faces were a little tired the next morning, everyone remained in good spirits. It’s difficult not to at a convention like Thought Bubble, which is full of creativity and community spirit and which is a celebration of the immense talent in the UK comics scene. If the teething issues with the new venue are resolved, next year should be even better.

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