Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Convention Report: Thought Bubble 2014


Wow - pretty hard to believe that we almost skipped this one when it turned out that the Indifference Engine sequel wouldn't launch in time. Missing this year's Thought Bubble would have been a serious mistake on basically every level.

Right from the first hour, it was clear that there was a real energy to the convention this time, and the fact that we didn't have a new book to launch actually ended up giving us a lot more freedom to explore the three venues than we've had in recent years. When I started out doing UK cons, I was a blur throughout the whole weekend. As time went on and my catalogue of books stacked up, I found my horizons gradually drawing in to the point where I've barely been able to leave the table. Nic and I were determined not to let that happen this year, so we organised a tag team system that let us both prowl the floors in a flurry of catching up with old friends and furiously networking new ones. It looks like that's the format we're going to be pursuing from now on.


A major highlight this year was getting to watch Ollie Masters doing his first signing for his new Vertigo series, The Kitchen. Ollie's an old friend from the Insomnia days, and he posed for Stephen Downey as the body-double for the "Mr. Green" character in Slaughterman's Creed, so I've been enjoying watching his dazed, increasingly bewildered expression at being so violently catapulted into the spotlight. I scored a copy of The Kitchen #1 from him on the Saturday, and I have to say it takes me right back to the first days of Vertigo, when they were exploding out in all directions, creatively. Ollie's really onto something strong with this book and the fact that Vertigo saw that so clearly has actually ratcheted up my respect for them several notches as a publisher.

I picked up my copy of Cross from Lizzie and Conor Boyle at the Disconnected Press stand. This book was an amazing experience to work on, and Matt Timson's art on our story, Pulling the Plug, is breathtaking on the page. I grabbed a few extra copies to put on our table as well, because full-blooded satire is thin on the ground these days and that's actually a legitimate cause for concern.

Book sales in general were flat-out fucking scary from the start. We blew through our entire Cancertown vol. 2 and Harlan Falk stacks well before kick-out time on Saturday and, despite having brought literally double what we'd expected to need, we ran out of Cancertown vol. 1 the next day. More than anything, though, this year's Thought Bubble was about plugging back into the community and remembering why I signed up in the first place.

With that in mind, here's a partial run-down of the people who made it worth showing up, with immense apologies up-front to those I've inevitably missed:

Laurence Campbell: for continually proving that it's possible to be a major talent with mainstream recognition while remaining one of the nicest, most genuine people in the business.

Harry Markos: immortal, unstoppable - the indie publishing world's true Man of Steel.

Steve Tanner: indie Godfather of the UK scene and arguably the most energetic organism I know.

Sara Dunkerton: for this amazing cyberpunk/MULP commission...


Jennie Gyllblad: super-talented artist and probably the best dressed human ever.

Yomi Ayeni: amazing ideas man, writer and deliverer of the "double-fisting" joke that almost caused a catastrophic tea spillage.

Brett Uren: because catching up with the man behind Torsobear would have been worth the trip on its own.

Richmond Clements: a weapons-grade wit and among the most mercilessly hilarious people I've met.

P. M. Buchan: for making me look like the sane one with the family-friendly portfolio.

Valia Kapadai, Pavlos Pavlidis and Andreas Michaelides: three immensely talented storytellers I'm genuinely honoured to know.

Tim Pilcher: for tirelessly staffing the Humanoids stand all weekend and skilfully convincing Nic to let me buy her that glorious Barbarella hardback for our anniversary next month.

Eoin McAuley from Lightning Strike: for stopping by and getting me hyped up about potential projects.

Ben Read and Christian Wildgoose: because that new Porcelain teaser is a thing of heartbreaking beauty.

Nic Papaconstantinou: effortlessly likeable raconteur and self-confessed Ron Jeremy of comic book podcasting.

Jane from We Have Issues: whose last name has never been revealed to me, but who said very nice things about the Cancertown books.

Conor Boyle - getting another mention here for teaching me a trick that totally works to completely remove Snow's fuck-awful 1993 track "Informer" (I'll spare you the link) from my head.

Andy Bloor: for putting up with one of my more adrenal talk-bombs and still having the wherewithal to sell me a copy of his excellent Midnight Man (sadly, missed Mo Ali on the Saturday).

Roy Stewart: a man of few words and unbelievably expressive artwork. More from him as projects develop.

That Guy I Met Last Year: who came back to the table while I was away this time with a reminder that I'd promised an eventual Cancertown 3.

The entire crew of the now-traditional Post-Bubble Decompression Session, which this year consisted of Nic Wilkinson, Conor and Lizzie Boyle, Row Bird, Will Pickering, Valia Kapadai, Pavlos Pavlidis, Andreas Michaelides, and that guy named Duncan.

Wrapping it all up, I think it's done me a lot of good to reconnect. A few interesting possible projects cropped up, and I'll be talking more about those if, as and when they develop. For now, I've got a metric shit-tonne of following up to do, so I'd better get into it. Onward!



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