Monday, 25 November 2013

Nic's Sticky Notes:There And Back Again...Or Thought Bubble 2013

So it was that we found ourselves running out of our door, waving our Thought Bubble booking and without so much as a pocket handkerchief, shouting, "We're going on an adventure!".

And make no mistake, Thought Bubble is always an adventure. As usual, Cy has so much following up to do when we get back, that I am writing the blog.

We departed The Shire, well, Kent, on the morning of Friday the 22nd November. I had double checked that I had remembered the table cloth. Forgetting it always haunts me, pre-convention. 4 hours later we found ourselves on the doorstep of the Holiday Inn in the Dwarven Kingdom of the North.

Actually, before we had taken even 2 steps from the train we were hailed by a cheerfully familiar voice crying, "Happy New Year!" Hundreds of miles from home and who should we find, but Yoms (of the Clockwork Watch), who we hadn't seen since last year (see, it makes sense) and his adventures at SDCC. Things like this are just one of the reasons that Thought Bubble is brilliant.

So, given the very small number of hours of sleep I have had over the past 4 days, let's try and remember the highlights.

Our table looked like this:

For the first time ever we did not run into Steve and Suzanne Tanner of Timebomb Comics in the hotel reception, but our sense of balance was restored when we found that our table was next to theirs. Even if you don't know Steve, you will have seen his jackets lighting up the convention floor, and this year he had a beautiful gold and black velvet frock coat. I persuaded him to let me try it on. Sadly, he managed to get it back before I could get it out the door.


Timebomb have always done great books, and if you don't know their stuff then you need to get over to their website and have a look. We were privilieged to hear about some books in progress and see some previews of upcoming projects. Longships is a beautiful, fully painted and deeply emotional story. Steve told me it is the first comic work from both creators, which makes it even more amazing. Defiant (by Andy Winter) is a comic based around The Battle of Maldon. This is one of my favourite poems, and I cannot wait to get my hands on both of these.

Sasha, Steve and Suzanne's daughter, has been coming to cons ever since she was only a few months old. This year she was practically running the table. Here she is sketching for the public.

While that's all cute and lovely it does actually lead into an important point about Thought Bubble in the light of a lot of recent discussion about certain aspects what is acceptable con behaviour, inclusivity, diversity, etc. We are actually seeing a new generation of con goers who have been brought up at the tables, who have been taken along and involved by their parents from an early age. These kids are our hope for the future. Conventions will be just be second nature to them. There will be no worry about "who belongs here".

Thought Bubble is showing the way into this brave new world with visitors from babes in arms to pensioners, all fully involved, all excited to be there, all sharing what they love. It just makes you happy in your face.

On the other side of us we had Stephen Downey and Lighting Strike. This created some sort of nexus of incredible Irish talent and we made a lot of new artist friends. Rob Carey was also back and forth a lot, so it was something of a reunion.

Art by Kev Crossley © Markosia
We caught up with Harry Markos, on the Markosia stand, right away and admired his lovely new hardback range, including Luna 1947, Crowley: Wandering The Waste and Pirates of The Lost World (more on that later).

We picked up our copies of The British Showcase, which looks great and is full of British talent. Adam Cheal, the editor, did a wonderful job putting it all together as editor, and Ian Sharman, as ever, made it look beautiful. You can pick it up in print from Markosia, or on Comixology.

Art by Scott James © Markosia
We also met Toby Short in person at last, and got our first look at Cy's new book The Case Files of Harlan Falk (art by Scott James and Alex Johns) in physical form before it went on sale.

A quick look it was, too, as the books flew off the table in record time. We had to restock from the publisher twice over the weekend!

Art by Paul Cartright © Markosia
We had a preview of Indifference Engine 2 chapter one on the table. This is the first time Russ Leach's gorgeous art on the book had been really on show, and it was really exciting to hear how many people enjoyed the first book and are looking forward to the sequel. They all loved what they could see so far.

Saturday was Cy's birthday and we had already got up super early so he could have the presents that I smuggled up. As it turns out, having a birthday at a convention is brilliant!

Cards arrived at the table from Conor and Lizzie Boyle and Stacey Whittle (although to my immense regret I did not see her all weekend, in the mad rush), donuts from GM Jordan and pages of original art from the shockingly talented Row Bird (from Gateway Drugs), Steve Penfold (from The Wrath Of God) and Stephen Downey (an original piece with headshots of characters from all the stories he has worked on with Cy), not to mention loads of birthday wishes and love.

Original Art from Gateway Drugs (Row Bird), Wrath of God (Steve Penfold) and Character Study (Stephen Downey)

© Improper Books
My primary objective at the con was to make sure I got a copy of the preview of Briar being handed out by Improper Books. Cy went and snaffled one up before the con even started, and I could not believe that they also sent him back with a copy of Butterfly Gate (written by Benjamin Read, art by Christian Wildgoose). I have just read it and it's an amazing piece of work. A totally "silent" comic...but don't let that fool you. You can hear the music perfectly well. It's dark, lyrical and extremely unusual. Go and buy it now, and pick up their other book, Porcelain, while you're at it. Porcelain is our pick for "comic of the year" by a mile.

It was lovely to hear all of the well deserved success of Improper Books. In fact the whole weekend was filled with people full of good news and great stories, whether that was positive portfolio reviews, pitches, new projects, different media and collaborations...just the buzz of ideas of flying around is dizzyingly infectious. Thought Bubble always feels like a celebration of everything we love about comics.

Especial congratulations to Tom Foster on winning the 2000AD art competition and Garen Ewing on his BCA success. If you haven't read the Rainbow Orchid series then go and get them, too. I'm full of good advice on what to buy today, aren't I?

On Saturday I was assumed to be Heather Shepherd, but I was only looking after Teaceratops for her, safe on my t-shirt. Teaceratops is her Twitter avatar, so it's and understandable mistake. Really, though, she doesn't have a crest, or horns and you can buy all her delightful creations in her online shop. And if you haven't read her comic, Sunrise, then that's another one to add to that list I know you're making while reading my recommendations here.

I've been waiting for a while to pick up Pirates Of The Lost World by Richmond Clements and Conor Boyle, and got my hands on the hardback this weekend. Conor drew me a triceratops in it... using a dinosaur pen! This made me very happy.

Art by Conor boyle © Markosia

As always, we got the chance to meet up with collaborators and make mad plans. We made some of particularly mad brilliance with Row Bird. We had a great time with Row and Caz, and huge thanks to them for offering a lift to the station on the way home. The question is only whether or not we will awake something down there in the darkness...

More Unseen Shadows were cast in whispered conversations between Cy and Barry Nugent. Plans are afoot for several things and somehow Jason Prosser is to blame! It was also time to reveal that Sara Westrop and I are really THE SHADOW HOUNDS... but we have already said too much!

Art by Steve Penfold  ©Unseen Shadows
The divine ultraviolence, lovingly drawn by Steve Penfold was on the table in the Blood Cries Out preview. This is the first graphic novel in the Unseen Shadows project and should be out next year. People responded well to the blood and broken glass and screaming angels and babies sleeping peacefully in the nursery.

Wrath of God (Cy Dethan, Steve Penfold, Gat Melvyn, Nic Wilkinson), the first comics outing for The Reverend, will be available from Comixology from 27th November.

On Sunday morning I got stabbed with a spear and wielded a giant axe before the convention had even opened, when we met John Bliss of the Teutonian LARP group, after I admired the Elendil helmet on his table.

At various points during the weekend an angelic little face appeared through the gap in our banners. Do not be fooled, though, it was Philip Buchan, and he was clutching comics full of unspeakable things in his paws! He gave us Blackout 2. We will prepare ourselves!

Having chatted to Alistair Stuart on Twitter over the last year, it was good to finally meet him in person and find that he was also having a wonderful time.

It's always lovely to meet everyone, but particular mention must go to being suddenly terrified by an excitable Jennie Gyllblad in the queue for tea, looking ravishing as always in her beautiful costume, and to talking with Nick and Jane of MOMBcast which I always enjoy, getting into the intricacies of X-Wing with Ant and Amy McGarry-Thicket, catching up with Scott Grandison after more than a year, and our first visitor, Paul Richardson who was there at first light, ready for a pack howl.

It was so busy that we didn't get to leave the table basically at all, other than to restock on books or tea, so there were a lot of people we didn't catch up with, or managed a fleeting wave, a word and backward glance only. Sorry to Dani Abrams, Mike Garley, Martin Simmonds, Serena Obhrai...and many, many more.

Sunday night with Dion Winton-Polack, Graeme Howard, Row Bird, Caz Benner, Lizzie Boyle and Conor Boyle was...well, I guess you just had to be there. Richmond Clements was sadly missed, but we were able to channel his spiritual presence through the special words he taught us when he walked amongst us in years past. We shall go forth and spread his good word as we walk the earth...but avoiding Lewes at all costs!

Thanks to all the Thought Bubble organisers and crew, and to everyone who was interested in our books and wanted to chat, you make our weekend.

Same time next year, eh?

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