My Thought Bubble experience had a shamefully late start.
This was partially because my cosplay preparation took a bit longer than I had expected. To look remotely like Cassidy from Preacher, I needed another round of hair dye (Mango Copper) as well as convincing smears of fake blood on my chin and shirt. Since I only had one full day at the convention, I figured I might as well go for the gore.
The late start was also partially due to the pre-con party on Friday night, where I stayed until the early hours of the morning. It didn’t have quite the same leveling effect as the DICE parties – where attendees and guests chilled, drank, and shared off-the-record anecdotes as relative equals – but the atmosphere was still comfortingly relaxed and sociable.
As a result, it was early in the afternoon when I made it to my first official Thought Bubble panel: writers and artists for 2000AD talking about their careers. The panelists were recent/current 2000AD creators which was both helpful and disappointing. Hearing from people who know how the magazine operates today provided a more realistic picture of what writing or drawing for 2000AD entails. However, I had hoped to hear something about the publication’s history, and the panel didn’t cover that at all. I did manage to ask a question relevant to my child-brain interests, though. “If you could write or draw a fight between any two characters that you’ve worked on, who would they be, and who would win?”
After the panel, I had time to check out the festival’s wide range of exhibitors. The small presses and indie creators were well represented; some of them were in the same venue as big-name creators. I bought a short independent comic called Wanker’s Tan, which author Sarah Peploe described as focusing on “unwholesome indoor pursuits” – of course, I had to buy it.
I’d already decided that today would be a 2000AD day, so I then headed to a screening of Future Shock, a documentary on the magazine’s history. The movie was well put together and didn’t shy away from incidents that portrayed the publication in a less than favorable light. For instance, former editor David Bishop angrily recalled sexist ads created and disseminated by their managing company (despite his protests) which used the tagline “Women just don’t get it.” The main reaction from the Thought Bubble audience was an audible gasp of horror. That, I thought, was a good sign. If the attendees didn’t just recognize that the ads were unacceptable but actively found them upsetting, then it was more likely that they supported gender equality in comics fandom and creation. The only problem with the screening was that the film kept freezing and skipping. I suspect this was a loading issue rather than a problem with the movie itself, but for future screenings, I hope the Thought Bubble organizers will fix similar issues as soon as they can.
In the evening, I headed to the mid-convention party at the Leeds Town Hall for some dancing. On the way, a man criticized me for “playing with” everybody and “flirting,” and I alerted him to my displeasure through a few expressive hand gestures. Once I was surrounded by the camaraderie of Thought Bubble’s party people, though, my anger was replaced by the desire to get funky.
All of the DJs were convention guests: Boo Cook, Antony Johnston, Jamie McKelvie, Laura Snapes, Kieron Gillen, and the team of Al Ewing and Lee Garbett. A large screen near the DJ booth was showing anime movies, including Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and a truly bizarre feature wherein a man slides his hand under a woman’s skin and one character looks like an anime version of J. Jonah Jameson.*
The music selections were eclectic but fun to dance to, and many of the attendees were introducing themselves to each other or simply joining circles of dancers – in other words, making new friends. (Why do people dance in circles when in the club? It is a mystery.) At the end of the night, the remaining partiers sang along and interpretive-danced to “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
Maybe that’s why people like Thought Bubble so much. It isn’t just about the amount or caliber of guests, although those are obviously important; it’s the chance to hang out with a lot of other comics fans in a friendly atmosphere. Who wouldn’t look forward to that?
*I have since been informed that the movie in question is Paprika. It was unsettling.