Thought Bubble 2018 runs 17th – 23rd September!

Huw “Lem” Davies Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Hey guys! Things are really cooking here at Thought Bubble towers –  it’s just over three weeks until the opening of this year’s Festival and all hands are on deck to make this year our best ever. And apparently nautically themed. Who knew?! To tide you over on those agonising last few moments before 2010’s events finally arrive we’ve got a new minterview for you!

This week we had a lovely old natter with Huw “Lem” Davies, creator of the brilliant Bunny, who is part of the greatest team ever known – the Friends of Thought Bubble!

To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

I was interested in comics in general reasonably early I think. Of course the Dandy and Beano featured, alongside a dusty old hard-backed annual of Hotspur comics from the 70s that’s particularly dear to my heart. The Hotspur was especially interesting because it felt much more grown up, a bit darker, more rounded. And it had pictures of passenger jets that looked like Concorde flying through thunderstorms, which obviously the Dandy didn’t. I am sure that informed some part of my comic-drawing brain.

The longer I try and work out what actually made me think “Yes, I would like to draw comics”, the less certain about it I get. I know I used to draw primitive “comics” when I was 10 or so, but I can’t remember why. I think I just assumed that reading comics were fun, and drawing was fun, and obviously if I combined the two it would be double plus fun. And, what do you know, I was right in that assumption.

It was certainly more fun that whatever you’re supposed to do on long caravan holidays anyway.

Was there a discernible transition from making comics for fun to seriously producing them? Is it still double plus fun to do?

Not really, I think it just gradually happened over time by doing things which were a little more serious. They’re still double plus fun to do, else I think I would have given up ages ago.

Do you still read comics as well as produce them? Any favourites?

Oh yes, both online and off thanks to the local library carrying quite a broad selection of trades.

Stopping short of listing a whole lot of books that I’ve liked, I’ll just single out Northlanders Vol 1 by Brian Wood & Davide Gianfelice. It’s a great blend of beautiful art, great storytelling and it feels like a bit of a history lesson as well. I feel that Brian researches things properly and it makes the work stand out.

Is there any work, not necessarily in the medium of comics, that you consider an influence on your own?

Music is a big deal to me when making things, comics especially. I think it helps me concentrate and focus on the visual language I’m trying to use. Gosh, that sounds awfully pompous and Arty. But it’s all about getting into the right head-space, the right mood inside and kicking all the brain machinery into gear to make things work.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

If everything goes according to plan I will be bringing little Bunny mini-comics covering the first three chapters of The Continuing Voyages, Bunny book collections, random mini-comics and hand-made Bunny figurines and soft toy mascots! Maybe some posters and stickers? And perhaps a little something unusual to go along with them, a game of intrigue and chance perhaps? Keep an eye out for a watermelon.

What was it that prompted you to select (the admittedly adorable) Bunnies as your signature characters?

I think they were a meme, way back when. How it happened I’m not actually too sure.

Was the production of accompanying Bunny collectibles something you’d always had in mind, or did it stem from a desire to branch out and make something a bit different?

I think it comes down to really enjoying making things. I enjoy working out how items come together, how to refine the process, how to make them look just as I want them to. Problem-solving, essentially.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

I love Thought Bubble and conventions/shows in general because they’re fun and they’re work, and it’s so rare that you get to combine them. It’s great to meet existing readers, introduce some new ones to the rather confusing world of Bunny, getting to see old friends and catching up with comic-creating colleagues.

The only bad part is there is never, ever enough time. Sometimes it’s hard to leave the table and walk around a bit as a pedestrian and see the immense creative sea that stretches as far as the eye can see (or at least until the end of the hall). I generally leave feeling inspired… and very tired.

UK small press scene does seem to be growing ever more rapidly, have there been any noticeable changes to the community since you started?

To be honest I haven’t been involved at all in the UK small press scene at all until recently. I only did one UK convention and I was more involved in the US webcomic scene, so I’m really only just discovering just what’s out there on my doorstep so to speak. It’s all terribly exciting!

Finally – thought bubbles or caption boxes?

I have to admit to being fond to both. I require a lawyer to comment further.


Mad props to Lem for talking to us, if you want to talk to him too then come along to the convention next month!

In other comics news we’re super excited that Solipsistic Pop – the biannual and best UK comics anthology ever – is launching volume three on November 12th at The Black Heart in Camden.

Volume 3 comprises an 80 page comic extravaganza for the discerning sequential art fan, featuring 30 original and exclusive stories from 26 of the finest comic artists living in the UK. Every imaginative, inventive and inspiring graphic tale within Solipsistic Pop 3 is uniquely tailored to be accessible to readers of all ages. An alternative comics primer for adults and children alike. Each anthology Includes a free Solipsistic Pop pencil for readers to create their own comic! Plus! An A3 poster & set of stickers designed by Philippa Rice.

There’s limited print-run of 500 copies, so be sure to nab one for yourself, and if you can’t make it to the launch party then it’ll be getting an official unveiling for the general public at Thought Bubble, where you’ll be able to meet most of the contributors too. Get them to sign it!


Finally, it’s the MCM Expo this weekend, running from 29th – 31st October at the Excel centre in London, we’re going to be there with our friends from Travelling Man, and we’re bringing copies of our lovely brochure with us, including the full 2010 festival programme! Come say hi if you’re popping along, and if you see us at the after-party maybe we’ll let slip some super secret Thought Bubble 2011 news. Mystery, intrigue, comics! YAY!

– Clark


Philippa Rice Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Greetings bubblers! There are now only five weeks until this year’s Thought Bubble Festival (18th – 21st November), and to celebrate we have a fresh minterview for you, and some Thought Bubble news as well. We spoil you, do we not?

This week we talked to Philippa “The Juzzard” Rice, whose wonderful webcomic My Cardboard Life continues to entertain us here at thought bubble towers on a regular basis. Philippa’s entry into the Friends of Thought Bubble roster can be found here, and more of her work can be seen on her blog. Let’s rap!

To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

I didn’t start making comics ’til I’d graduated from my animation degree and was looking for more accessible ways to tell stories. Prior to that, I always enjoyed reading comics. The first comics I read were probably from the comics section in the Sunday Times called “The Funday Times” which I used to collect in a ring-binder.

Was the transition from animation to static storytelling an easy one?

It’s a nice transition I think. And easier than say, animation to picture books. Because even though comics are static, the story can move through time quite quickly.

I have used animation in a few comics. It’s fun to have a moving panel or two but I’m not sure if it works really. As soon as there’s something moving in there, it distracts your eyes from reading the comic in the proper order. I’d like to experiment with that more at some point though.

So, what prompted the initial choice to create characters from cardboard and other materials, as opposed to simply drawing them?

Just experimenting with different techniques really. When I first wrote about Cardboard Colin I imagined him being painted, which seems a bit strange now.

Collage might actually be more straight-forward than drawing to be honest, because I don’t have to do any pencils, I just cut the pieces out, stick them down, draw the faces and other details on and that’s it.

How long does it take to create a new character? Does the physical making of them take longer than thinking them up?

It really depends on the character. Cardboard Colin doesn’t take long, but Silvia Foil is a nightmare to cut out. She blunts my scalpel. Cardboard Carl probably takes the longest because he’s made up of three different materials. Cardboard body, Denim jeans and a fabric beard. I remake them for every panel they appear in, so if it’s a comic with six panels and Carl is in every one, it will take lots of hours.

Thinking them up doesn’t feel like it takes very long, because I write things down in my sketchbook when I think of them.

What are your favourite comics at the moment? Are there any you consider an influence on your own work?

I just finished reading My Brain is Hanging Upside Down by David Heatley. That was a goodun! I like autobio comics, they can be so touching plus they’re guaranteed to be original.

Most of my influences come from picture books or animation rather than comics. Like the way Lauren Child mixes together loads of different patterns and textures in the Charlie and Lola books. I’m a big fan of unusual materials or techniques, as in animations by Jan Svankmajer and Caroline Leaf. Also I enjoy any kind of silliness. I love those old silly symphonies cartoons, and also Spongebob Squarepants.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

At the last few conventions I’ve done I’ve had a diorama on my table. A 3D model of the My Cardboard Life characters in a shoebox. At MCM Expo it was a picnic, at UK Web & Mini Comix it was a tea party. My idea for Thought Bubble is that the My Cardboard Life characters are going to be having their own mini convention inside that shoebox and they’ll have mini versions of the comics, mugs, badges and prints that I’ve got on my table, plus some other surprise items (surprises for me too since I haven’t made them yet).

Are the characters in the shoebox environment ‘life-size’ versions of their online counterparts? How big are they in ‘real-life’?

Well the actual size of the characters in the comics varies a bit from panel to panel, but they are generally the same size as the models in the dioramas. Pauline is about 7cm tall and Colin is 4.5cm. The only real difference about the models is that Colin’s got wire legs and arms instead of ink lines.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

I do! It’s a novelty for me to meet real, actual people who read my comics. Plus it’s a massive inspiration boost to see everyone else’s work.

Have you noticed any changes in the UK community since you started creating comics yourself? Is it different to those in other countries from what you’ve seen?

This is a tricky question! It’s difficult for me to judge. In the past two years that I’ve been making comics, it does seem like the UK comics community is changing and growing, and that people are talking about comics more, but perhaps I just feel that way because I’m gradually getting more involved myself.

No, what am I talking about, UK comics are going through the roof! Look at all the stuff that’s going on, I’m seeing events and workshops appearing all over the place. Look at Solipsistic Pop! It’s amazing. I don’t really know about the communities in other countries, but let me tell you, UK comics are hot news, and we are going to show them!

Finally – Thought bubbles or caption boxes?

If they both asked me out on a date I’d go for the thought bubble. He’s kooky yet considerate.


Thanks to Philippa for talking to us, and you can see her talking in person on a panel as part of the Thought Bubble programme which was released recently (segue!).

This year the festival has even more wonderful (and mostly free) events taking place around our centre-piece one-day comic convention! For full details check the website and if you’re planning on attending any of our limited place events then please e-mail thoughtbubbleinfo[at]googlemail[dot]com as soon as possible to book a space and avoid any disappointment!

This year we’ve also expanded the number of screenings being shown in association with Leeds International Film Festival, featuring a number of exclusives that you’ll have to see to believe! Yay!


Related to this, our friends at Leeds Central Library’s Your Space are running a regular series of free manga meets for people under the age of 20. Full details on the flyer below.

That’s your lot for now, last few minterviews coming soon, and we’ll have some last minute Thought Bubble 2010 surprises for you as the start of the festival draws ever closer! Zounds!

– Clark

Howard Hardiman Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Hey you guys! Super special minterview time! Hold your shocked gasps until the end, please. This week we’re talking to Howard Hardiman (now an honourary Friend of Thought Bubble)  the excellent creator behind cutebutsad, whose latest comic project – The Lengths – is looking like it could be something very special indeed. In his own words it “will tell the story of Eddie, a young man who moves to London to art school, but in his quest to find himself, he finds Nelson, a muscled prostitute who he becomes infatuated with and follows into a world of drugs and vice and then his quest for absolution once he finds that it’s a life he’s not cut out for.” Powerful stuff, and from the previews alone the artwork looks gorgeous.

For more of Howard’s work I suggest checking out his website, and he’s on twitter too, but without much further ado, here’s the chat we had...

To start off, do you think you could give us an idea of how you first got into sequential art?

I don’t even know if I’m entirely sure what that means, really. When I was growing up, once I’d stopped wanting to be an astronaut, a mother, a vet or Spider-Man, I wanted to be a writer, then a poet, then while I was at art school I started getting into photography alongside writing poetry. I toyed with both, getting a few things published but never being happy, having a few exhibitions of photography, never quite being happy with those either, then I started doodling on post-it notes while I was at work and drawing very bad pictures of animals saying slightly random things. From that, I wound up selling a zine and some post-it notes in picture frames at the UK Web Comics Thing a few years back, then Badger sort of appeared and I suppose that’s a sort of skewed potted history of me. There wasn’t a moment when I thought, “Yes! Comics!” and I think I still spend more time looking at other kinds of art than comics, to the point where I feel a bit lost when other comics artists are talking about things they’ve read – I still feel like I’ve got a lot of catching up to do because of all the time I’ve spent looking at and reading other stuff, but get me on my favourite artists and writers and I’ll bore you to death with my geekdom.

So, in amongst the ‘other stuff”, is there any work that you’d consider an influence on your own output?

Well, I worked at the National Gallery on and off for a for a few years and I think now that I’ve spent the last year doing the MA in Illustration at Camberwell and taking a lot more time on drawing and composition, the influence that painting’s had on my visual language is starting to come through, so I’ve been finding myself going back to look at how Caravaggio used light and how how painters like Titian and Reubens use composition. I’m not for a moment saying I’ve got an ounce of their talent, but it’s really inspiring to have that resource available. I’m also a massive fan of the way some artists can create a sense of mood or spirituality through tone, like Rotkho or Van Gogh – the exhibition of Van Gogh and his Letters at the Royal Academy this year was amazing, particularly because they had lots of pages from his sketchbooks and it really gave you a sense of how he thought and there’s a slightly self-indulgent part of me that wondered if some of these artists might have found their way into comics if they were working now.

Um, other stuff. I love Klimt for texture, and I’m not ashamed to say I got a bit emotional when I saw his paintings first-hand in Vienna a few years back. I’m also a bit of a fan of Mapplethorpe’s photography, not just because there’s a lot of beautiful men in it, but because of how incredibly he uses light to lift subjects into a timeless place and I’ve been looking at a lot of that lately, too. That said, for The Lengths, I’ve been looking at a lot of photos of naked men, like Joe Oppedisano’s work, because it’s a territory I’m delving into there.

I’m still a big fan of poetry and I think there’s an influence there that endures, whether it’s Plath or Hughes (when he’s introspective) or the acrobatics of Gerard Manley Hopkins or the beautiful intellect of someone like Miroslav Holub, there’s something about the craft of poetry that still holds huge appeal to me and it’s something I think I will return to.

Books wise, I’ve been really excited by Scarlett Thomas this last year since Anna Petterson got me reading The End of Mr Y, and that book’s raised my expectations of what storytelling’s capable of weaving into itself, but I’d also have to say I’m a bit of a fan of slightly intellectually arrogant philosophical novels as a general rule, so I still go back to Hermann Hesse as one of the best of that genre.

I’ve also been reading The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker over the last year, which tells you an awful lot about how stories are constructed and what they’re for, archetypically, and that’s surprised me that it’s made me intrigued rather than horribly depressed.

Oh, I’m also a huge fan of stuff about science and I get far too excited about quantum physics and astronomy, but I can’t quite say that’s really filtered through into my comics, apart from a line in Polaroids from Other Lives, but who knows what might come in somewhere down the line?

That wound up being a bit of a list, didn’t it? I think the basic thing is that I’m excited by loads of things and I think the beauty of comics is that it’s a very malleable medium, so there’s, at least theoretically, room for all of these influences to worm their way in, so it’s a perfect place for someone who’s a bit of a synaesthete like me to be dotting around from place to place, falling in love with lots of things at once.

Do you think there’s an expectation that a ‘comic’ creator should be a font of geek knowledge – that the production of sequential art goes hand-in-hand with being a ‘nerd’?

Well.  I think there’s a stereotype that comics fans are introverts with no sense of a world outside of comics, which is really being exploded as the audience expands and becomes more literate and I think we’re living in a culture that’s increasingly visually literate and consumes an incredible amount of coded visual information all the time, so it stands to reason that we consume comics in a very complex manner. I think it’s only reasonable, then, that if you’re creating comics then you’re someone who’s also a bit immersed in the same way of thinking so that you’re giving the reader something that will stimulate them.

I know that I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been able to share things with an audience right from the start with what I’ve been making, but that’s also meant that I’ve been learning in public a bit and as I say, there’s times when I’m aware that that makes me quite exposed because there’s so many people who know so much more about comics than I do, but that’s brilliant when people are so generous with what they know, I really can’t take it as criticism; I can’t be blamed for not knowing what I don’t know.

That’s not quite what you were asking, though, was it? Are comics people nerds? I don’t think so; I think there’s such a diversity of work being produced and a diversity in the audience drawn to the work that perhaps wasn’t there when the only comics you’d be exposed to would be superhero comics or newspaper strips that it’s less true than before to say that it’s a niche thing to like comics. I think the DIY Zine scene and the art books scene has brought a lot into the world of comics, just as the mainstream success of stuff like Watchmen has at the other end of the market.

Still, I only read Watchmen quite recently; I hadn’t liked the way the colours were printed and that had put me off, so I was late to the game on that one, but I don’t think I mind that much knowing that I don’t actually know the names of all the alien princesses in alternative Marvel universes. I think there’s room for all that and more.

I’m impressed when there’s people whose entire lives seems to revolve around comics, and the collectors and cosplayers scared me at first and now just amaze me. I just hope no-one’s too offended when I don’t know who that wig and codpiece combo’s meant to make you.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble, what will you be bringing to the convention?

Well, I’ll have the two Badger books and some of the artwork from the first book for sale and some of the short comics I’ve made over the last couple of years, but this last year I’ve had my head down to do a lot of development work on a new comic, The Lengths, which is my first foray into “proper” comics storytelling with words and a long story and panels and things, rather than the wordless tales for Badger or the graphic poems I made for Polaroids From Other Lives. The Lengths is based around interviews I did with men selling sex to men in London, so it’s quite a heavy subject and it’s one I want to do justice to, so I’m hoping to have something to show from it in time for Thought Bubble, but it’s slow progress, so if it’s not done in time, then we might just have to cope…

What inspired you to take on the – presumably quite dark – subject matter of prostitution in comic form, as opposed to, say, just publishing the interviews?

At first, when I did the interviews, I’d thought they were going to end up forming a play, and I got as far as having meetings with artistic directors at theatres about putting it into development, but it wasn’t feeling like the right medium for the material and I didn’t want to go ahead with it. I wrote a couple of articles around it, about attitudes that escorts have towards HIV, and I was quite pleased with those, but they were a different beast to telling a story, so I just kept the material for a couple of years until I didn’t have such a strong sense of being able to remember the people attached to each interview so I was able to approach it again as a story rather than as an account of real people’s lives.

I think there’s something really personal about comics that you don’t get from other media, so it seemed like the right way to do it, and making the characters dogs has a symbolic importance in the story as well as making it a more anonymous experience for the reader and for the people whose lives I’m talking about in the story. There’s still a lot of real events that will be in the comic, but it’s now much more of a story rather than an account and I’d like to hope that making it a bit more symbolic and emotional means that more people will be able to relate to what’s in it.

I would still like to use the interviews, but perhaps I’ll save them up for when the collected edition comes out and use a few of the transcripts then. There’s some really moving, funny and chilling things that came out in those chats and some of the guys I met through that process I’m still friends with now, so I’m hoping they’ll like the way the comic ends up.

Is Badger finished now, or might we see his inquisitive little face again?

Oh, Badger will be back, but I think he’s very much connected to a particular mood for me and he pops out when I don’t really expect him to, so we’ll have to see when he comes out.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

No, Thought Bubble is rubbish and all the organisers are mean. Ha, seriously? Yes, although I’m not sure how many events I could say are “like Thought Bubble” – it’s got such a good atmosphere and the crowd is really engaged with the comics and the artists there, it’s seriously one of my favourite events on the comics calendar of the year.

That said, the slumber party that Timothy Winchester, Lizz Lunney and Philippa Rice had at Caption will live in infamy.

Well, we can be quite mean sometimes. Do you think the UK general public’s ‘acceptance’ of comics in the mainstream has increased over the last few years?

I’d like to think so – I’ve only been making comics for the last few years, so I can’t really comment with any authority about any difficult wilderness years before then, but it’s been a very supportive couple of years for me and I’m really happy with how it’s been going. Obviously, I’d love to see a situation where we had more of us able to make a living out of making the work we love and I’d like to see Marc Ellerby being more stalked than Jordan and Tom Humberstone (see, I can get his name right sometimes!) nodding sagely on Newsnight, but let’s see, eh?

Thought bubbles or caption boxes?

Actually, in The Lengths, I’m kind of going for neither, so the narration sort of floats in the background. I don’t know if that counts as captioning, if it’s a thought bubble the shape of the sky, or a caption box that’s the window of a District Line train.

Hmm, that wasn’t terrifically good at answering the question, was it?


Thanks to Howard for taking the time to talk to use, we’re really looking forward to seeing the finished copies of The Lengths, and hope you out there in the interwebs are too.

In Thought Bubble news – we’ve finalised the programme for this year’s festival, completed the brochure designs and will be officially announcing the full line-up of events very soon. Sunday’s workshops and masterclasses in particular are looking very strong, and Thursday and Friday’s academic conferences should be a fascinating insight into the more ‘serious’ side of comics.

Fresh minterview next week, just a few to go now in the run-up to Thought Bubble 2010, don’t forget to enter our comic competition, the deadline for submissions is Monday 18th October!

– Clark