This year was to be only my second time attending Thought Bubble, the first two years ago and, having missed 2018 as it was the weekend after my wedding. As much as I was tempted to bring my wedding dress and get a second wear of that puppy at the mid-con party, I opted for gorging myself on pasta in Italy, instead. The lead up to this year was an interesting (read stressful) mixture of nerves, to-do lists, and giddiness since I was tabling at the con for the first time, so I knew it was going to be a very different kind of experience.
The last items needed for the table had arrived/been finished only on the Thursday before and so on Friday, I drove up to Harrogate–the new location for Thought Bubble being Harrogate Convention Centre since the con has outgrown Leeds city centre. My husband, Michael, and our friend Adlai were passengers and they attempted to keep me sane as a four hour journey turned into six and a half hours.
We managed to make it still within the set up time so we got everything unpacked and on the table. Michael and I had a half a table split between Forged, the series he is writer on, zines to promote the podcast we do with two other friends, Comic Book Classroom as well as selling Our Hero t-shirts, a collaboration with our friends Adam Sherif and Rosie Knight. Our table was next to the artist of Forged, Ryan Jenkyns and two down from the colourist, David Cooper, so we were excited for a weekend amongst friends.
With the hellish journey and the work for the evening over, it was time to meet our friends for dinner and then coerce them via guilt to help us fold zines. We ended the night in their airbnb playing charades and consuming a highly-reduced cake in the shape of a shark. Which I can recommend as an excellent start to a con weekend.
On Saturday we wanted to get up bright and early to get to the hall for final touches, plus Michael and I are perennially early for things, so our morning was fuelled by one of the only places open before 9 a.m. on a Saturday in sleepy Harrogate: Greggs’ vegan sausage rolls.
We had been (very easily) persuaded by a friend to do a casual cosplay of Barda and Scott Free ala Mitch Gerard and Tom King’s Mister Miracle which was fun and I was mostly happy to have an excuse to wear gym leggings all day. So it was kind of odd, technically accurate, but mostly amusing that, after a photo I posted was of me lifting Michael up was retweeted by Mitch Gerards and Tom King, strangers on the internet started indirectly calling him a Soy Boy.
But we didn’t see that until the evening as we were busy talking to loads of people, which was great! It is my favourite part of tabling, you get a chance to speak to a ton of people you normally wouldn’t get. Find out what they’re doing at the con, what they’ve seen and bought. But the best thing about tabling is getting to see almost everyone at the con walk past you, which is a great advantage for Cosplay Bingo! Tim, makes up bingo cards for everyone in our friend group, randomised per card with a unique square per person. I am glad to announce here, in this very public forum, that I mastered them all and got not just the first row of the weekend, but also the second.
It was a really great day people loved the t-shirts, except for a few, almost exclusively older, white men who either shook their heads disapprovingly as they walked past or else decided they needed to stop and tell us that they DISAGREED with the statement on them. But hey, if you’re pissing off those guys then you’re usually doing something good.
My friend, Mia, came over fifteen minutes before the halls were closing and told me she had bought a page of original art from issue #8 of the 2017 series, The Unstoppable Wasp, from Brandt & Stein. So I basically ran over to their table and snagged a page I really love, which includes some lovely stuff between Nadia and Janet. They were both so lovely and I may have told them how I cried when I learnt the series was ending because it was my first comic heartbreak, the first ongoing book I had read from the first issue, that I loved, that was cancelled way too early (in my opinion).
The Saturday night mid-con party is kind of the highlight of the con for me, which seems sacrilegious to say when it doesn’t include any comics, but the essence of the con is reflected by the party dance floor. It feels like a combination of the best club you can imagine and an incredible wedding dance floor. A group of friends who are basically family, which expands over the night to include enthusiastic dancers both familiar and new. All dancing their hearts out to songs both new and classic across a variety of genres, though admittedly quite pop heavy, from a mix of DJs. Although, despite his best efforts, Kieron Gillen is incapable of fully relinquishing the reins of the DJ booth and spent most of the part hovering by the side of whomever was on the decks.
It is a very soul reaffirming time for me. Perhaps because I love to dance, I love to dance with my friends and I love to dance with new friends. I loved early on in the night when there is space for me to show off and I loved the late night floor when it’s basically a mosh pit, but to Carly Rae. Plus, this year Katie West brought enough glitter for the whole dance floor, even if some people’s application resembled slathering on sunscreen rather an artful design. It made the whole place shine and was helpful on Sunday to identify fellow party goers/new friends.
Sunday was tough to drag myself out of bed, especially since I had decided to do my first full blown cosplay on top of tabling, I’m not sure what I was thinking, but after seeing Into the Spider-Verse this year, being an existing Spider-Gwen fan and having done ballet since age five, I had been dreaming up a Gwen Stacey at Ballet Class cosplay. So there I was at 9:30 a.m., back behind the table, wig on, make up done and ready to don my tutu and pointe shoes come 10 a.m. when the doors opened.
It was a good but strange day, I wandered the floor for a few hours and it was quite lovely when people were into the costume as well as slightly horrified at me standing on my toes. I feel like it was something I needed to do to get it out of my head and it was just a bonus that other people appreciated it.
I got to pick up some great books–including issue #4 and #5 of NPC Tea by Sarah Millman, The Ink Witch and The Necromancer by Izzi Ward, Left from Steven Ingram, Eldritch Animals by Mara Jayne Carpenter, Haru from Joe Latham, and Minority Monsters by Tab Kimpton –and see the work of so many amazing indie creators, artists making awesome art. The full breadth of British comics is in those halls and it was so fantastic to see this work and speak to the people behind it. Almost everyone is just so passionate and it reinvigorated my love for comics.
Sunday we went to the end of con drinks for exhibitors and guests etc. and it was a really chill way to end the weekend. Kieron spent the entire night/weekend escorting people to the men’s bathroom of the hotel to show them the, admittedly, very impressive and weird facilities. But mostly it was a chance to actually catch up with all the people we had said hi to, or danced with or who had stopped by our table over the course of the weekend.
Thought Bubble is a great atmosphere, never stuffy, most people are open and friendly and everyone–exhibitors, guests, and attendees–all just seem really happy to be there. There is so much disheartening stuff that goes on, particularly with major publishers, so it was a nice reminder that maybe, just maybe comics are good?