Thought Bubble Anthology 2015 coverThought Bubble Anthology 2015

Art: Emi Lenox, James Romberger, Tim Sale, Farel Dalrymple, Jordan Collver, Lucie Ebrey, Meredith Moriarty
Story: Marguerite van Cook, Richard Starkings, Rick Remender, Richard Worth, Clark Burscough, Shaun Manning
Story & Art: Dan Berry, Ray Fawkes, Tula Lotay, Julia Scheele, Emily Lambert, Kristyna Baczynski, Izzi Ward, Nicholas Gurewitch, Aimee Lockwood, Eva Holder, Jack Land, Jordan Vigay, Kate Beaton, Rachel Smith
Cover: Babs Tarr
Image Comics
November 11, 2015
Disclaimer: This is based on a digital review copy provided by Image.

Thought Bubble is Leeds’ comics art festival, a huge celebration of comics that lasts a week and is spread throughout the city. It’s now in its ninth year, and Image Comics began publishing anthologies starting from their 2010 festival. The anthology initially covered the winners of Northern Sequential Art Competition, now the Thought Bubble Comic Art Competition (TBCAC), and has expanded to include works from featured guests.

This year’s anthology packs a lot into 30-some pages; there are 23 pieces featured, including the six TBCAC winners from 2014, the top three from the under-18 category and the top three in the over-18 category (you can read these online here).

A few stories stood out to me, starting with “Rough Map.” By Dan Berry, it is a two-page short about a boy traveling through the woods, but also about the way we paint a rose tint in our memories through retellings. The art is a little dreamy and a little funny, and I appreciated how self-contained it was.

“Surface Envy,” by Julia Scheele, is a kinetic rumination on the Sleater-Kinney song of the same name, and Scheele’s experiences in taking up running. As a Sleater-Kinney fan, I could feel Janet Weiss’ drum hits as she illustrated her feet hitting the ground. The art is dynamic, with bold, wide black lines creating movement across the page; you can almost feel it in your own legs.

The three under-18 winners are very different in tone, but all show promising talents. The first place winner, “Zarmeena,” by Eva Holder, is a rather earnest story about a young Muslim girl’s love for music. The art is solid, with some nice shading in the colors, and Holder does a lot with a single page in terms of panel layout. The other two winners, “Painted Love” and “Robert Adams and the Genie,” are cruder in execution, but flow very well despite being somewhat predictable gags. “Painted Love” is still creates a cute homage to classical art. All three of these winners, to their credit, have managed to create very distinctive styles and voices as well.

The three over-18 winners are predictably more polished in terms of craft, and are also quite varied. “Bridges,” by Emily Lambert, is about two girls who befriend each other despite living on separate mountains. The art is a study of layouts and color contrasts—the panels are tight, symmetrical boxes that mirror each other from the left side of the page to the right, with the coloring mimicking that divide, creating a visual representation of the chasm between the friends.

“A Witch in Time” and “Trapper” are both wordless, cute stories about unfamiliar cultures. “A Witch in Time” was the comic I found most adorable in the whole anthology, with the witch’s delighted expression at the end of the page making me smile as well. “Trapper” is about a father who is a trapper of otters (or otter-like) creatures, hunting them for pelts to keep his child warm. The imagery of his child being warmed by friendly otters at the end is quite sweet, though I wonder if the father is going to keep hunting for his livelihood.

The collection as a whole felt a little uneven; it was a great mix of varied art styles and story beats, but going from a thoughtful introspective short to a one-page gag immediately made reading a little choppy. Perhaps this experience is enhanced if you are an attendee of the festival; a little taste from all the people you’re about see and hear might be all you need. Since I have yet to attend Thought Bubble, I can’t say if it’s more about augmenting your time there or not. But the individual works were all fairly interesting ways to highlight the creators’ diverse styles and showcase the work that Thought Bubble is trying to promote. And, at the price of $3.99, there’s a lot of comics inside for your buck.