Comic conventions, such as Thought Bubble, are big. Tickets for the San Diego Comic-Con sellout within a matter of minutes. Exhibitors from all walks of life get to show off their wares. Famous guests and celebrities make appearances, have signings, participate in panels, and take photos with fans. Said fans have the opportunity to show off their geeky side without fear of being ostracised for being a nerd.
A friend invited me to a comic con in London last year. I had fun, but at the same time was disappointed. I got to meet some celebrities, including Lalla Ward, the actress that played my favorite Doctor Who companion. While I was delighted to meet her, I noticed a big problem. This was a comic con, but all the comic book creators were put in the small upstairs area.
They had big names such as Marv Wolfman, Paul Cornell, and Andy Diggle. However, what most people cared about were the actors that play superheroes on TV and Film. Not the people that wrote the characters, but the actors. Considering this was my first convention, it left me a bit disenfranchised with the entire ordeal. I went in expecting a comic con, not a Hollywood con.
Enter Thought Bubble in Leeds, UK. I was told about this convention by my Writing for Comics professor. It was a convention done entirely for comics. The only guests were people from the comics industry, exhibitors were indie comic book creators and panels were about what it’s like to work in the comics industry or interviews with famous comic writers. This was the convention I was looking for. So, I attended Thought Bubble during the days of September 22 and 23, 2018. This is the story of my adventures while there.
Day 1 Of Thought Bubble
I showed up bright and early at 8 AM, despite the flyer saying to not start queuing until 8:30. Thought Bubble is an outdoor convention, with several venues taking place around Leeds City Centre. There were three marquees set up along with three buildings giving space for the convention. This provided a nice atmosphere as we weren’t packed into a hot warehouse for hours on end. Also allowed for better and cheaper alternatives for food.
After a misunderstanding between the volunteers and the security guards that was resolved relatively quickly, I was able to get into the line. Due to it being an outdoor con, there were several queues for particular attractions. Since he was one of the people I wanted to meet, I hopped into the line for Greg Rucka, which was quite small at the time. Plus, I had contacted him via Tumblr in order to arrange an interview. He had told me to meet him at the beginning of the con to arrange it, so he was the first on my personal schedule.
Randomly Meeting One Of My Heroes
As opening time got closer and closer, more people showed up, whether they were guests or getting into the queue. I happened to look behind me and saw a familiar visage. Across the street was a goateed man with earrings and a beanie. It was one of my favorite writers of all time, Greg Rucka!
I got the people next to me to secure my spot and ran over to talk to him. I wanted to make sure he remembered my message from a few weeks ago. Not only did he, but he was more than happy to work out a plan for the interview. He even complimented my Lazarus t-shirt that I had bought in support of a charity. After he left to go get set up, I got back in line, overjoyed that I had just talked to one of my writing idols.
Leeds Town Hall Convention Area
It’s 10 AM and people roll on into the convention areas. I was one of the first people in line to get stuff signed by Greg Rucka. He was such a delight to talk to and even personalized my The Question: Pipeline trade with a special signature. We discussed exact specifics of the interview and he told me what happened with Frank Cho during his Wonder Woman run. It was great to see his side of the story, and I wholeheartedly agree with Greg Rucka’s decision.
From there I met Alex Maleev. I commissioned him to do a unique cover for Superman #1, written by his longtime collaborator Brian Michael Bendis. We discussed specifics, and I felt bad because what I wanted would have taken him to much time. He suggested doing a profile shot, and since the issue focused on Clark missing his family, I asked for it to be of Clark as a reporter and not Superman. I picked it up the next day, and it is absolutely beautiful.
I took a quick look around Leeds Town Hall which was where they were both located. The exhibitors had great stuff to offer. I stopped by a writer’s booth by the name of Michael Gordon. I asked his advice for breaking into the industry as a writer and I also bought his crowd-funded comic. Red Winter has now been picked up by Scout Comics, so look forward to seeing more of this great comic in the future.
Comixology Marquee Convention Area
I quickly run up the road to the Comixology marquee. I visited Cully Hamner to sign some comics and I commissioned a drawing of Renee Montoya as The Question. He was a great man to meet, and his work on The Question with Rucka is just stellar.
Finally, I got in the queue to meet Sean Phillips. The problem here was that the queue was for both Sean Phillips and Charlie Adlard. The line was taking a very long time to move forward and I needed to get in line for the 2000 AD writing contest. I was on very limited time. I talked to a staff member, who then expeditated people through the line that only wanted to meet one of them instead of both.
Sean Philips was so nice and very honest about his art. Despite how often he draws people in hats, and it always looks amazing, he admitted that it was very hard to do. He was offering quick sketches of anything. I asked for a sketch of The Question, as his art style matches the tone of the character’s stories. I was sad to find out he didn’t know the character, but he got a picture up and enjoyed drawing it as it reminded him of The Spirit.
2000 AD Writing Contest
I ran to get in line for the writing contest. After all, this was the main reason I came to Thought Bubble. As Thought Bubble is entirely comic focused, this unique pitching opportunity is designed to help people get their foot in the door of the industry.
We had to pitch in front of two previous winners and the editors of Tharg’s Future Shocks for two minutes. I had worked on a script for months and had a pretty decent pitch. But I got in line just a few minutes too late. They only had 50 minutes to get through everyone, so I didn’t even get called to do a pitch. There were four other people that were in the same boat as me. I did get to watch several people give pitches and many of them were great.
After getting the business card of Michael Molcher so I can submit my pitch via e-mail, I ran to get some of my commissions before the next panel I wanted to attend. All the commissions were amazing, and I even got the Cully Hamner one signed by Greg Rucka as I loved their run so much.
Comics In Conversation – Greg Rucka Panel
The next thing on the agenda was I attended the Comics in Conversation: Greg Rucka panel which was hosted by Claire Napier. The panel was interesting to watch. I had seen panels with Rucka on YouTube and so forth, but never experienced one in person. Greg is a very funny man, and would regularly crack jokes to keep the audience entertained. The panel was just talking about his career, the way he comes up with his characters, and the differences between his Big 2 work and his creator-owned work.
Once the panel was over, I walked around some more the convention area, taking a stop at the Ask for Mercy marquee. I talked to several of the exhibitors, got advice on working in the industry, and bought some cool art. While walking around I was handed some free posters from a professional poster designer. The final thing I picked up was a gift for a friend that I was seeing a few days later.
The gift was an indie horror comic done by a local writer/artist. I took a break to get some lunch at 3:30. After having a difficult time finding a restaurant without a wait time, I just went back to my hotel. I was exhausted, and despite there being another panel that day I wanted to attend, I called it a day. I had to get up early the next morning anyway for my interview with Greg Rucka.
Day 2 Of Thought Bubble
The second day of Thought Bubble began with me meeting Greg Rucka in his hotel lobby at 9 for the interview. We started off heading for Starbucks but found out it was closed. We went to Café Nero instead, and he paid for my drink and pastry. He is such a wonderful man, and as you would expect, very kind and intelligent. Since this was my very first interview, he was kind enough to help and gave me some advice.
After some unwanted interruptions, we moved to a small alcove with steps that wasn’t far away from Leeds Town Hall. The interview continued uninterrupted for a bit, and I was having a wonderful time. I was with someone that I looked up to, and he was actually enjoying the questions I asked. After a bit, he wanted a refill on his tea so we went up to the now opened Starbucks.
After a brief pause of the interview to talk about something I personally wanted to ask him, we resumed. He got me into the convention area early as we were in an interview. Greg was so professional about everything and allowed me to continue the interview until the con had started and people were coming up to his booth. He actually suggested we meet up later that day to finish out the interview.
To say I was ecstatic about this would have been an understatement.
Discovering Some New Works & Creating Worlds Panel
I met some indie artists and writers in various marquees, including the Originals marquee that I had somehow missed out on during the first day of Thought Bubble. I asked for advice about getting a start in the industry and was even seeing if any of the artists would be willing to work with me in the future. One of the big things you learn trying to break into comics as a writer is that you need some completed artwork in order to submit to most publishing companies.
The next thing on my schedule was the Creating Worlds panel. Hosted by Steve Morris, the guests were Kate Ashwin, Leila del Duca, Ollie Masters, Afua Richardson, Greg Rucka, and Ram V. Listening to these creators talk about worldbuilding was fascinating. They all had a different approach to the writing process as well as how they go about researching certain subjects for their work.
What was even more interesting is that they all came from different experience levels in the comics field, including some of them having only worked in webcomics. As a writer, this was my favorite panel to attend as I learned a lot while also having fun.
Warren Ellis Keynote
The final thing on the schedule before Thought Bubble ended was attending the Keynote by famed comics writer Warren Ellis. I knew I had to attend this keynote, as I had missed Warren Ellis previous talk on the first day of Thought Bubble. I quickly went to Greg Rucka to inform him that I would be a bit late to the meet up for the next session of the interview. We agreed to meet up at his hotel again at 5:15.
Warren Ellis is well known for his angry old man persona, that is both hilarious and opinionated. He played up this persona for laughs, had a very well written speech, and had clearly practiced the timing and delivery to perfection. This Keynote was designed to be the end of Thought Bubble, so it was optimistic while also addressing issues.
It covered the beginning of comics to the modern day. How comics continue to evolve to reflect the world around them, and since it’s a medium with no rules, it tends to attract mavericks and people that air on the side of strangeness. He welcomed us to join him and many others in the driver seat of comics as the industry needs fresh and diverse voices in order to continue its evolution.
Greg Rucka Interview Part 2
Thought Bubble may have ended, but my day surrounded by comic professionals was not over. I met up with Greg Rucka in his hotel lobby for the second half of the interview. When I showed up, he was actually at the hotel bar sharing a few drinks with his friend and famed comics and Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell. I waited around as I did not want to interrupt a friendly drink between two of my writing idols. After a few minutes, Paul Cornell had to leave and Rucka was ready to resume the interview.
We walked up to the Starbucks around the corner and I secured a table outside. He went in and being the incredibly nice man he is, paid for another drink for me. Unlike last time, we had a few interruptions and were able to finish the interview at the same table we started at. This interview was a real treat.
These two days at Thought Bubble were some of the best days of my life. I met people I look up to and even got to meet new people whose work I enjoy. I spent nearly two hours with Greg Rucka! How cool is that?
So if you live in the UK, or fancy a visit there in late September, I suggest attending Thought Bubble. It takes place in Leeds City Centre, so you are surrounded by beautiful architecture and scenery. And on top of all of that, you get to attend a comic con whose focus is actually comics. Thought Bubble is the comic convention for me, and I plan to return very soon.