Looking Back at Thought Bubble 2013

Apr 6, 2014. Posted in Comics, News

The 2013 Thought Bubble comic convention is now far behind me, as is my first experience from the other side of the table. I had a fantastic time, so much so I found myself feeling waves of sadness and loss both when leaving the New Dock Hall on Sunday evening, and on leaving Leeds the following morning.

Despite attending the convention in previous years, I didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect as an exhibitor. I suppose I had an inkling from the experiences of the friends I’ve met up there, but it was still a blank sheet in terms of interest in my work. All I could really hope for is for people to take a look.

The view from behind the table at Thought Bubble 2013

The view from behind the table before opening on Saturday.

I brought a humble bundle consisting of my first two mini-comics, Done and Control, and a fine selection of badges to sell; as well as art cards and sweets to give away.

Lem

I had the pleasure of sharing my table with Lem, a Leeds resident and Thought Bubble veteran, who had given me some useful preparation tips prior to the weekend which made setting up on Saturday morning a breeze. Lem was great company, helping pass away time during quiet spots and also fulfilling cover duties during the all-important comfort breaks.

Lem’s newest comic Botany is a delight—a 28-page microcosmic tale set deep in the cosmos, involving two humans, some alien dirt and a rather enthusiastic peace lily. The quip-filled script zips along supported by what I reckon is Lem’s best art, an assured display of emotion and action in stark black and white. Botany is available from Lem’s store.

Lem also brought with him his Melon of Chance. The Melon is an enticing combination of village fete and sales tool where people can pay a pound to pull a pin which picks a prize. Every player wins, and rare pins can win high value prizes. It’s a very effective talking point and a great way to engage with passers by, and with most of Lem’s stock cleared on the Saturday I had the honour of taking care of the mystic gourd for the Sunday. It was no coincidence Sunday was my more active day.

The weekend

With three halls and a stunning list of guest creators signing over the weekend, it’s a tough environment for attracting attention, especially as a first-time exhibitor and ‘nobody’ in comic convention terms. My two mini-comics, badges and give-aways made for an unfussy display. I was worried it would look anaemic, especially when tables all around me had an abundance of amazing things to see. Thankfully, both myself and my table partner Lem were kept busy throughout the weekend with curious folk of all ages.

When the doors opened on Saturday morning there was an orderly and very British dash through the entrance, past most of the tables to the rear of the hall, where many of the queue-drawing guests were based. It was exciting to see the day start with a bang like that, even if it took a while to see people filter by the table. From around 1130 to 1400, New Dock Hall was heaving with people; as many as I have ever seen. Both Lem and I were solidly on our feet for a lot of that time. Come the afternoon, I took my seat when I could and sketched the to-be-named robot character in various predicaments, primarily for my own entertainment but the sketches also made for fun bonus freebies.

Steev Bishop sat at his table and sketching, at Thought Bubble 2013

Yours truly sketching at Thought Bubble 2013 alongside a finely dressed Lem.

Saturday night fever

My MOMBcast travel partners, life partner Jane and good friend Nick, have been great company on our trips to Thought Bubble. Unfortunately something was off this year and both of them struggled with flu for the entire weekend. They gamely did their best to make the most of their time in Leeds (not to mention the money invested in the trip) by dosing themselves on a variety bucket of lozenges from Boots, but it took its toll.

Saturday night is usually a big social affair, with a restaurant trip before the official mid-convention party. This year, Nick fancied giving it a go and subsequently lost his voice. Jane retired to the hotel on Saturday to rest and recuperate for the evening, and I couldn’t in any good conscience leave her.

The upside was being able to watch the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special, and make our first ever room service order—a total indulgence but totally justified given the situation. Not so unusually for us, we ordered more food than our stomachs could realistically handle. Doctor Who wasn’t too bad either.

Sunday

Sunday was a quieter day, both in terms of weekenders gently recovering from the night before, and in general footfall. I’d met several people who had swung by on the Sunday on recommendation of friends who had visited on Saturday.

The Melon of Chance kept me on my feet for a good portion of the day, and I was really pleased with the opportunity it gave me to put my work in the hands of more people. In the quieter moments I sketched a few more giveaways.

Towards the end of the day Stephen Lacey, of the 20-Minute Longbox and Fantasticast podcasts, stopped by to interview me about my first convention experience for an episode of the 20-Minute Longbox.

As those with more experience than me will testify to, the one big difference as an exhibitor is how difficult it can be to break away from the table in order to see the rest of the convention. After stopping off at a few tables in New Dock Hall, I managed to shoot over to Royal Armouries Hall for about twenty minutes but ran out of time to do the Allied London Hall at all.

Whilst I got to catch up a little with Matt Dyson, Luke Surl, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Douglas Noble, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell and Robert Ball; there were many others I missed, like Dave Stokes (who at least stopped by my table, although I missed him at his), Martin Eden, Rob Cureton, Andrew Tunney, Tom Muller, and Olly Moss, as well as countless independent creators it would have taken—well—a whole weekend to see.

Dangeritis: A Fistful of Danger

My Derek Danger portrait as featured in the Dangeritis book “A Fistful of Danger”

Speaking of Warwick Johnson-Cadwell and Robert Ball, collectively known as Cadballs—their awesome online project Dangeritis made it to print, care of Great Beast. It’s a high-energy mash-up of complementary but distinctive styles, introducing the legend of Derek Danger. As a bonus, part of both the front and back matter features the guest art they’ve received since the start of the project back at the start of 2013, which I’m excited to say also includes my submission.

Thanks Cadballs. Thadballs.

Name Me, Win Me

As mentioned in a previous post, I ran a competition throughout the weekend to officially name the character originally known as Cute Bot. The winning name would earn the competition winner an exclusive A4 print posted straight to their door, and eternal bragging rights of course.

The winning name was decided the week after the convention, and the winner has already received their prize. The official announcement has yet to be made, but is coming very soon.

The end?

When the convention drew to a close and the attendees were whisked away, I was still buzzing from the exciting weekend. I expected to get to the end of Sunday and feeling pretty wiped, but I was still brimming with energy. Amongst the many sellers and exhibitors, I too had a series of little successes in being able to capture people’s attention and make a few sales.

It was a shame to see both travel partners suffer, however. Not only did it have a big impact on their ability to enjoy their weekend as much as possible, but really wanted to share the fun I was having with them.

I hope to return to a table at Thought Bubble 2014, and this time with everybody in rude health.

Until then you can purchase my comics and badges from my store.