The Thought Bubble Comic Convention is the cherry on the top of Leed’s week-long sequential arts festival. Year after year it’s drawn the great and the good of the independent comic book scene from across the world, growing in reputation and popularity annually. Previous years have struggled to cope with the growing public interest in the event, with queues growing ever longer as hordes of comic book fans have crammed themselves into Royal Armouries and New Dock event venues. 2014 has seen a sharp rise in interest in comic book conventions, and there was some concern that this high point in the geek calendar might finally become a victim of its own success.
Instead, Thought Bubble 2014 not only rose to the challenge, but effortlessly outmatched expectations, turning a cold November weekend into a truly memorable and notable next step in the UK’s growing comic book industry. This was thanks in part to the presence of a third venue location; tThe Thought Bubble Teepee, which is more like a large semi-permanent marquee with heating and a carpeted floor. The organisers cunningly placed all the major guests here, meaning that queues for signings were able to be as long as they needed to be without getting in the way of other attractions. This, coupled with plenty of volunteers and relatively well thought-out schedule meant that no wait was too long and, though the event was full of people, it wasn’t too crowded.
With the likes of Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder and Becky Cloonan as guests, it’s no surprise that queues for signings were long. Panels were similarly well attended, highlights including the Spotlight on Gotham, which was packed with insights into how DC is ever improving its Batman-related output, and a live recording of the SILENCE! Podcast, featuring its outlandish host Gary Lactus and special guests Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing and Si Spurrier, all of whom are old hands at this sort of fun and made for a highly entertaining if slightly cheeky panel. Both Image and Rebellion also enjoyed the spotlight with their own panels, both of which held some great insights into how these notable publishers worked. Similarly, workshops were very well handled, including input from Jampire’s creators Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell teaching kids the joys of comic creation, and the ever-active Art Heroes providing a similar service for kids of all ages.
Thought Bubble’s main attraction isn’t restricted to the various guests and panels, instead its heart and soul are the various small press comic book creators and contributors who are manning the various tables. The UK scene is ever growing in this regard, and with each room designed to maximise footfall, it meant it was very easy to amble from table to table, picking up hot new books and talking to creators. At its core, Thought Bubble is a social event were fans and creators at all levels get to mingle and exchange ideas. This year’s convention achieved this goal extremely well. Those with a more energetic approach to socialising were also catered for by the mid-convention party, though as usual this was over-subscribed.
They are some minor gripes, of course; the event guide this year wasn’t terribly clear, being mostly style over substance. This meant that all the various goodies on offer were tricky to navigate, and because all the information was mixed in with the guide for the week-long festival, it often made it hard to pin down exact details. For example, actually working out when the convention opens isn’t readily apparent by picking up the guide. They were also seemingly less cosplayers this time round, but the weather was terrible, even for November.
Overall however, Thought Bubble is here to stay; it’s dealt with its growing success very well, and continues to get stronger every year. We’re looking forward to seeing how it surprises us next year.
Credit for all photos goes to Anne Davies.
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