I hate public transport.
No two ways about it. Despite what our Beloved Leaders might tell us, it is slow, inefficient and tends to deposit you miles from where you want to be (sort of like Ryanair in that respect). Especially when trying to get across Leeds on a Saturday from the station to the Royal Armouries for Day one of Thought Bubble.
Right, confessions out the way first: I have never been to a convention before. I’ve reached the grand old age of 32 and never been to exchange pleasantries with fellow nerds en masse. But thanks to a birthday present from the awesome EmJ, I find myself at Clarence Dock in the company of two Mega City One judges, an Imperial Scout Trooper, Michael Keaton’s Batman and a large number of childrens’ cartoon characters. Where else are you gonna see a five-foot-six Pikachu?
So, suitably impressed, I found myself pursued by a Dalek around New Dock Hall – it’s its own fault, if it extends its plunger towards you it’s only polite to shake hands, ain’t it? Luckily the Tenth Doctor, Donna and about a dozen Amy Ponds were around to help. Immersing myself in some sort of geek nirvana I tried to avoid paying huge sums of money for model kits (even though they had a movie Enterprise and Reliant from Wrath of Khan) or t-shirts, I stuck resolutely to buying up all sorts of new emerging comics and meeting loads of new artists and writers.
Frankly there’s too many great people I met to thank individually so sorry to anybody I miss out. Big shouts to writer Neil Gibson and artist Caspar Wijngaard for a sample copy of T-Publishing’s most recent horror comic Tabatha, review coming up soon. Much love to: the guys from Genki Gear for providing EmJ’s unfathomably groovy t-shirt; Hester MacFarlane for her brilliant children’s book Morti and the Quest for Awesome; Adam Cadwell for getting me hooked on his Mancunian vampire comic Blood Blokes; and also to the guys at UK Comics for the giant poster of Margaret Thatcher leading zombie hoards descending on Parliament behind their stall.
Although it’s difficult to pick out anything in particular as being better than the other exhibits, two do stand out. Weekly story comic The Phoenix had their artists battle in the It’s On! drawoff. The highlight has to be Matt “The Story Stallion” Baxter competing against Adam “The Exhumer” Murphy to create underwater knights.
My other favourite is definitely Doctor Geof’s Travelling Tea Museum, dedicated to the imperial steampunk adventures of the First Tea Company. Kudos to everyone who turned up in Tea Company regalia, we all need to be prepared for the multitude evils of Jam Sponge and the dangers posed to daily zeppelin use by aerial krakens.
I also got to attend the first annual British Comic Awards later that night. Unfortunately cut short by the staff at the Armouries wanting to get home, it was an honour to be amongst some of the UK industry’s rising stars. Results on the night were (pics at bottom of page):
- Best Comic: Bad Machinery: The Case of The Fire Inside by John Allison.
- Best Book: Nelson, edited by Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix.
- Young People’s Comic Award: Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson.
- Emerging Talent: Josceline Fenton.
- Hall of Fame: Raymond Briggs.
I was made up for Ray Briggs to be the first entrant into the British comics hall of fame, although I was rooting for a posthumous entry for Frank Hampson.
On a personal level the highlight of the day (apart from meeting Robert Llewellyn – see top of page) was definitely the 1,000 word talks given by various comic producers, writers and artists. Each speaker had been given a 1,000 word limit to write about a particular aspect of comics and what it meant to them. I have to give huge recognition to Antony Johnson for his inspiring words, but more than that even to Kieron Gillen (currently working on Uncanny X-Men). His passion for his subject matter leapt out of the screen at the audience and he is now one of my heroes. He delivered a line in his talk that has pretty much focused my mind on changing my life, chasing whatever dream I have nestled away in my head. Simply put, everyone should have faith in their material and push it no matter what anyone else tells them: “find a windmill, tilt at the f***er”.
Needless to say I’m looking forward to next year already. Maybe Lister’ll be there…