Thought Bubble 2017 runs 18th – 24th September!


Joe List Minterview (and more!) by thoughtbubblefestival

Borag thung bubblets! It’s now only 9 DAYS until the start of this year’s festival, and we’re so excited we can’t think of any analogies to properly convey that anticipation to you, dear reader. In lieu of an apology please find attached to this – our final blog post before the Thought Bubble 2010 begins – a brand new minterview, and a whole host of news about events later this month. But don’t just take my word for it, enlightenment is mere sentences away…

For our final minterview of 2010 we talked to esteemed fellow Mr Joe ListGuardian Weekender defacer extraordinaire, and creator of the magnificent Freak Leap – who is a true Friend of Thought Bubble. For a transcript of our conversation, simply read on, and I can personally confirm that everything he say in there is 100% true.

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

I’ve always enjoyed doodling; more recently I’ve tried to force them into various shapes, like boxes or hexagons, It’s a tricky procedure, but I’m getting there.

What led you to transfer the doodling onto the Guardian’s Weekend section?

Long train journeys and cheap pens!

Would you ever consider producing a long-form narrative comic, or do you prefer more condensed, self-contained story telling?

One day I’d love to write a three part novel. I’d call it “THE HOUNDS OF INFERNO” and would be full of maps and diagrams, as well as big words, like Octopuscloth and fungreatfulness

Are you a fan of comics in general? Any favourites you’d recommend reading?

I am a comics fan, but I don’t read as many as I should, I highly recommend the following comics creators;

Dan Clowes;

John Allison;

Tony Millionaire;

KC Green;

Luke Pearson;

Jonny Ryan;

Lizz Lunney;

Seth;

David Mazzuccelli;

There are many more that I adore; I would probably give you a different list in half an hour.

So, do you consider any comic creators to have a direct influence on your own work?

I do, although I’d say a lot of illustrators and animators had an equal influence. I recently did an inspiration map, which may better explain this. [see below – Clark]


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

I will be bringing Freak Leap again, and also my sketch book comic Guts, as well as a promotional book for my new web comic (also called Freak Leap). I will be bringing badges too, and some new stickers that you can have for free! I will also be framing some of my favourite drawings from the annotated weekender for the kind people of Leeds.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

YES, they are a lot of fun, shaking hands, buying and selling comic, seeing people’s confused faces when they quickly study a strange drawing you can’t remember including in a book. IT’S ALL WORTH IT.

Do you find your comics get a good reception from the general public? Do you think the UK is a good environment for nurturing local indie talent?

Well, I have never expected to be a big name, like Sir Roger Sunderfields or Derek P Saunders, but people seem to like my comics, as long as they aren’t lying to me.

And yes, I do believe comic shops are wising up to the inexhaustible power of the small press. A few large operators will now stock interesting books by the comic book wonder children of the UK. I saw a copy of Steven Gravy’s Acorn Diary next to a copy of Disney’s Invisible Space Aladdin the other day!

Well the UK small press community does seem to be packed with good folk, have you noticed any changes to the scene since becoming a part of it?

Good question, I got my UK small press license and ceramic Biro holder about a year and a half ago, and in that time, so much has changed. We’ve come up with a new secret handshake, had a number 1 hit single (with the instant classic, ‘Ink and Vimto’) and built England’s widest tree-house.

Finally – as ever – Thought bubbles or caption boxes?

Thought Bubbles my friend! Forever and all ways, Joe List

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Many thanks to Joe for taking the time to talk to us, you can also see his illustrations in the Answer Me This book, available at all good bookshops, and quite a few disreputable ones too I’d wager!

…And now for some Thought Bubble news! As you may have noticed from the opening paragraph of this post 2010’s festival is pretty close, so here’s some last minute highlighting of awesome stuff(tm)!

To start we’re super pleased that Kristyna Baczynski (another Friend of Thought Bubble) is putting on her debut solo show as part of this year’s Thought Bubble! We here at TB towers love Kristyna’s work, and we think you will too, so pop on down to the Hyde Park Picture House from November 14th to get a glorious eyeful!

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Next up, our friends at Momiji are inviting you all to bring your designs for their dolls to our convention! They’ll be running a workshop at their tables all day, and for £5.50 you can paint your own dolls and submit designs to be taken back to Momiji HQ and the creative team, with the potential that it’ll be put into production. As well as this 50% of the money will be going to the humanitarian charity Medicins Sans Frontiers. Super fun times and a worthy cause! It literally doesn’t get any better than that, y’all. Just drop by the Momiji table at Saviles Hall on Saturday 20th to find out more.

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Finally, a quick mention of our programme of FREE workshops and masterclasses as part of this year’s Thought Bubble Festival! We still have places left on a few of them, but they’re filling up quickly so move fast to avoid disappointment! Details as follows…

ComixBox with Laydeez Do Comics! 13:30 – 15:00 Leeds Art Gallery Hepworth Room
16+ FREE
Laydeez do Comics is a comics forum, open to all, focusing on autobiography & domestic drama, set up by artist Sarah Lightman & illustrator Nicola Streeten. This is a fascinating opportunity to hear from an array of comics artists & academics, who each get just 10 minutes to share their work and research. The international line-up includes: comic artists Maureen Burdock, Francesca Casavetti, Monica Hee Eun Jensen, Rikke Hollaender, Karen Hansen, Ina Kjoelby Korneliussen, Edward Ross & academic Rikke Platz Cortsen. Please note places are limited, to sign-up email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Create Fun Eco Mini-Comics! 13:30 – 16:00 Leeds Art Gallery Tiled Hall
Ages 12 to 18. FREE
HI-EX’s Vicky Stonebridge will show you how to make your own handmade small story books using a variety of waste products, old magazines, scrap paper & packaging! Quick, easy, & fun to do. Please note: this is a drop-in workshop but places are limited, to sign-up email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Storyboarding & Portfolio Workshop 13:10 – 15:00 Leeds Library Exhibition Space
Ages 14-19 years FREE
Join concept & storyboard artist Steve Beaumont to find out how to create storyboards for film, video games or tv advertising. Plus bring your portfolio with you to recieve a portfolio critique. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Diarise Your Thoughts Workshop 14:50 – 15:50 Leeds Library Your Space
Ages 14-19 years FREE
Want to make a comic of your favourite gig, day out, or experience? Adam Cadwell can show you how! Well know for his Glastonbury postcard strips & his work with the Manchester Comics Collective, Adam will take you through the steps of making your own comic & recording experiences in comic form. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Tony Harris Art Workshop 15:00 – 16:00 Leeds Art Gallery Henry Moore Room
16+ FREE.
Eisner award winning artist Tony Harris (Ex Machina, Starman) is one of the most critically acclaimed & respected artists working in the business today. This special insider look at his creative process will give an insight into how those award-winning comic book panels came to be & is a must-see for any fan of sequential art. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Grandville Mon Amour talk 15:30 – 16:30 Leeds Art Gallery Hepworth Room
16+ FREE
Comics Legend Bryan Talbot discusses his graphic novels Grandville and Grandville Mon Amour, and the venerable & ongoing tradition of anthropomorphic characters in illustration & comics from which they have grown. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

Andy Diggle’s Breaking & Entering For Comics Writers 15:45 – 16:45 Leeds Library Exhibition Space
16+ FREE
Following the sell-out success of last year’s writing workshop, the former 2000AD editor & writer of such comics as The Losers, Hellblazer, and Daredevil will be here to pass on some tips & tricks that help separate the wannabes from the gonnabes. Topics include the value of your own initiative & the “DIY aesthetic”, as well as concept, structure, theme, pacing, conflict, exposition, how to pitch to editors… and how ‘not’ to! This class will conclude with a Q&A, so come armed with questions. Please note: places are limited, book early to avoid disappointment, email: thoughtbubbleinfo@googlemail.com

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Finally, the amazing Adi Granov is raffling off his ridiculously awesome double spread cover from Incredible Hercules #138 in order to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care! Tickets, and further details, can be found on the website. You can also buy tickets from his table at this year’s thought bubble convention, and the winner will be announced at the end of the day (Saturday 20th November). Don’t miss out on a chance to own some superb comic book art, and help yet another exceptionally worthy cause in the process!

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That’s it for now, and probably until after this year’s festival. We’re super busy getting all the last little details squared away, and we’re thinking this could be our best Thought Bubble yet. Thanks for reading during the build-up and I hope we’ll see a lot of you at our various events from the 18th – 21st November!

– Clark



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.

The
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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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



Bits and Blogs by thoughtbubblefestival

Hey gang!

It’s just over two months until the start of this year’s festival and we’re well on the way to bringing you the best Thought Bubble yet!

This week we received the lovely news that we will once again be getting funding for this November’s events from the Arts Council. A proper post with the details of this will be forthcoming, but in the meantime it will suffice to say that we’re over the moon! (Literally – we blew the money on a multi-stage launch vehicle and are currently in orbit over the sea of tranquility.)

To keep you full of comic-related cheer in the run up to Thought Bubble 2010 here are some details of related events that are taking place soon!

First and foremost is  the, er, first Leeds Alternative Comics Fair, which will be held at A Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds on Saturday 18th Sept 2010, from 12-6pm.
It will be free to enter, and the bar itself is open until 3am, serving good food and a large selection of drinks. A number of excellent exhibitors will be showing off their wares, and a communal table – featuring comics from many more creators – will be present for perusal.

The Thought Bubble team will be about, in a rare example of our attending a comics event for purely social reasons. It should be a most enjoyable afternoon!

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Next up is Posy Simmonds in Conversation with Paul Gravett at the National Media Museum in Bradford on Tuesday 28th September, 7.35pm.

Posy Simmonds, writer of the Guardian’s original Tamara Drewe comic strip will be interviewed by comics expert Paul Gravett on her extensive career as a cartoonist, writer and illustrator, and the ever-popular Drewe character.
(Tickets £5, £4 concessions)

This event will be followed by a screening of Tamara Drewe at 8.40pm.
(Tickets £6.50, £4.50 concessions.)

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Finally, we want to see your comic art for the New NORTHERN SEQUENTIAL ART COMPETITION hosted by Travelling Man and Thought Bubble. The deadline is approaching fast so don’t miss out!

Entries need to be loaded on to flickr by the 11th October 2010.
Age groups 12 to 17 and 18+

The theme of this year’s competition is ‘November in the North of England’. Your story can be told with text and illustrations or by imagery alone. It must be a new, complete story with 6 panels or more and the page must contain the story’s title. Your page can be as wacky and creative as you wish, you can make the theme very prominent or just have a slogan on a background character’s t-shirt!

All entries will be showcased in a digital exhibition at venues in Leeds and the surrounding area for a period of two weeks prior to Thought Bubble taking place.

The panel of judges (including 2000 AD Editor Matt Smith, Imagine FX Editor Claire Howlett and Marvel Spider-Man Editor Steve Wacker) will select two runners up and a winning entry from each age group, the overall winner in each category will receive £200 of graphic novels and a private tutorial with a leading writer or artist based in the North of England.

All 6 winning entrants will see their work published in a special Thought Bubble Free Comic Book Day Anthology, and the winning story will also be published in Imagine FX.
The Free Comic Book Day Anthology will be distributed around the world in May 2011 as part of Free Comic Book Day, a worldwide initiative to promote sequential art.

To view the application form click here.

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That’s it for now, fresh minterviews on the horizon though! Check back soon…

– Clark



Kristyna Baczynski Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Howdy Hey! A fresh minterview for you all to devour with your eyes. This week we’re talking to the super-cool Kristyna Baczynski, a previous Thought Bubble competition winner, whose entry into the Friends of Thought Bubble canon can be found here. I’d highly recommend checking out her website for further ocular delights! Spect-ocular!

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

Sure, I reckon the seed was planted right back in my formative years – as I’m sure it is for most folks. Reading picture books: illustrations telling a story.

My mum would take us to the library once a week to check out some new pulp; a most treasured activity. It was here that I became enchanted with seeing an image illuminate a story – words transform into being; communicating with pens, paint and paper.

Do you think the general association with children’s stories is perhaps why comics are viewed with a certain amount of derision in some circles?

I think the idea that comics are any less valid as a communicative device than text-only books is ridiculous. Also, the thought that children’s books have nothing to offer if you aren’t a child is pretty demoralising.

Whether it’s a newspaper, hardback novel or broadsheet newspaper there’s still the same amount of shit you have to wade through to reach something you can connect with and find meaningful. Children’s book, comic or otherwise – there’s always a gem to be found – it just takes some looking.

If someone can dismiss a tome simply because it has an air of juvenility, then they are going to miss out on a heap of beautiful things. And by this breath cinema should then be equally scorned. It too combines language and image – but we don’t see cinema as being wholly tainted as juvenile and frivolous. It, too, has the potential to be profound, absorbing and immersive.

Comics are as versatile, descriptive and limitless as any other communicative tool – simultaneously linguistic, visual and most importantly valid.

…Nerve touched.

I do hate it when comics are dismissed as ‘kiddie’ stuff. Do you still read comics to this day? Do they continue to be a source of inspiration to you?

Absolutely – I read comics almost every day. And am continually inspired by their writing and ingenuity.

Your work tends to be infused with a sense of whimsy and a slightly idiosyncratic sense of humour, does this reflect you as a person?

An obscured and refracted reflection, yes… I am hopelessly enamored with language and wordplay, it is true.

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

An amalgamation of avidity and unerring anxiety. But also a spread of new zines, prints, comics, apparel, oddities and assorted occular goodies.

The production HQ (dining table) will be thriving come November.

A fine selection! Have you always worked in multiple media?

Why, thank you.

Not always multiple media. It always starts with mechanical pencils, micron pens and paper – but the more I work the more I tend to turn my hand to. Staving off boredom and stagnancy with adventure and exploration.

Do you enjoy attending events like Thought Bubble?

Absolutely. Thought Bubble 2009 was my first step into the world of conventions and fairs – a day which was so unutterably wonderful, I am forever convinced of my enjoyment for such events.

They manage to summon a treasury of interested, enthused and engaging people, which is rare and heartening… especially to studio-bound recluses.

We do attract an awesome bunch of attendees it has to be said. Any important lessons learned from your first outing?

That a fearful attitude is nothing but a hindrance. Staying indoors drawing is a solitary occupation that can make you a hermit. Going out and meeting a bunch of like-minded and talented denizens is the perfect antidote.

Do you think the UK small press community is welcoming to débutantes? How easy did you find it to establish yourself on the scene?

If there is a ‘scene’ I’m unaware of it, or already a happy member. It’s something quite abstract really, and I don’t know who, what or where it is… I’m just here drawing, printing, blogging and emailing. And I’m very lucky that some people have noticed my work and said some very lovely things. I am indebted to them all.

By making your own comics, you are already a member.

Finally – Thought bubbles or caption boxes?

There is a necessity for both, and a certain loveliness to be achieved with none. Honestly, though, I think I’m a caption box kid.

…I’m going to be shunned as a defector now, aren’t I?

Rats.

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While we’re never ones to call for ostracism following the denouncement of the humble thought bubble, we do find that those who partake in the act tend to meet their comeuppance. Mark my words. My ominous, ominous words…

In other news, our friends over at Comika are having an exhibition! If you’re in our nation’s fair capital you should go check it out. You know you want to. Details on the flyer (below)

That’s all for now! Check back soon for another minterview. See ya!

– Clark



Thought Bubble 2010 Hyper-efficient mega-news post by thoughtbubblefestival

Alright guys, this is a big one, we’ve got a lot to get through and we’re losing daylight here people. Read like you’ve got a purpose! WHAT IS YOUR MAJOR MAL- sorry, sorry, started channeling R Lee Ermey. Again. Seriously though, we’ve got a whole bunch of news for you in this here post, and it’s all pretty dang BIG.

Ok, We’re now able to officially reveal the two TOP SECRET newly announced side-projects that Thought Bubble has had up its sleeves for this year.

The first is the Northern Sequential Art Competitiona contest we’re running in association with Travelling Man comic shops, Imagine FX, and 2000AD – open to all artists/writers (12 years old +) in the United Kingdom. There are some great prizes on offer, and we can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with. ALL entries will also be displayed as part of a digital exhibition in venues across Leeds and the surrounding areas in the two weeks prior to this year’s Festival. To the drawing boards!

The second is related to the first (and is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while now), namely compiling a Free Comic Book Day Anthology. This will feature big name contributors from across the sequential art spectrum, as well as our competition winners, and will be launched on May 2011’s FCBD! Thought Bubble will bring the comics to YOU. (Yes, you)

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Next up is the heartening news that Thought Bubble 2010 is well on the way to full lock down – we finalised the programme for this year’s festival at the weekend (and it’s looking pretty spiffy if we do say so ourselves), and there should be some shiny new flyers and brochures winging their way across the country soon.

A few things to be said on this note – first is that pre-order tickets are selling fast. If you want guaranteed entry to the Saturday evening’s after-party (as conferred by the first 500 pre-booked tickets) – with music provided by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Team Phonogram and the Thought Bubble Soundsystem – then don’t delay. We’ll put out an announcement once they’re gone.

The second is that we’re now running very low on exhibitor tables for the Saturday convention. If you’re still planning on attending with your wares then get in touch quick to bagsie one of the remaining few. Again, an announcement will be made when they’re all gone.

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In related event news, our friends at the Anime League are running their Alcon again next month and it should be a blast!

Alcon will run from the 9th-12th September at De Montfort University in Leicester!

Alcon has everything from an anime night-club, companies to buy anime goodies from, screenings of the latest anime, a bar, artists alley, cosplay cafe, DDRing, a J-Culture room, Cosplay Hangout, roleplaying, Card Gaming and much much more. It’s a four day event and all for just £29.
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Finally, we’re super excited about the Leeds Alternative Comics Fair which will be taking place in our fair city next month. Organised by friends of Thought Bubble Hugh ‘Shug’ Raine and Steve Tillotson,  full details can be found on their site – or on their rather delightful posters (below) –  and real-time updates are coming thick and fast on their twitter! It’s awesome to see another great event taking place in Leeds, and it looks like the next year or so is going to see a whole host of new comic shindigs popping up all over the country. Excelsior!
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And that is literally all the news. Check back soon as we’ll be posting the programme for this year’s festival in the near future, and it looks set to be our best yet! We can’t wait, and it’s just over 3 months to go! Cushty.
– Clark