By James Bacon: It’s hard to describe just how pleasant it was to stand in queue with fellow fans on a fine autumnal morning patiently waiting outside Harrogate conference centre for the doors to open for Thought Bubble. A relaxed atmosphere, discussing what they were hoping to pick up, their interests, and even how they were just looking forward to browsing, or getting posters, comics, art and signatures. The queue lengthened steadily, but it was hard to know whether it would be busy.
The Thought Bubble team came out early and checked tickets, Covid Vaccine passes, and applied wristbands. Discussion turned to who was coming or not coming as some late changes had unfortunately occurred, totally understandable in the time of this global pandemic. Fans are understanding, tempering disappointment with the reality, people need to look after themselves.
The doors opened and fans made their way in, no rush, there was a little excitement by some to get limited edition posters, but I just strolled in.
I went through the rooms, knowing there were a few people I’d really like to meet, say hello to, and get comics signed by. It’s always hard to know what queues will be a killer, so I went to David Mack (http://davidmackarts.com/), artist on Kabuki, Alias, Cover and for me some favourite work, Daredevil from the early part of this century, the Smith, Bendis run, which I picked up at the time. David had written some stories as well as doing covers and interior art, and had a history of story writing. He was unbelievably nice, such a pleasure, I took some of his many prints. I was stunned by his Jimi Hendrix and Captain America, and of course a favourite character, Echo. I was able to arrange a sketch and agreed to pop back later. He was super nice, and so engaging and just kind. It is unbelievable when an artist or writer just exceeds all your expectations in niceness. In all honesty, most comic people are superb, welcoming and just good to fans, and David Mack was the finest example.
I walked over to the James Tynion IV (https://tinyonionstudios.com/) queue, which was moving promptly, and got some comics signed. A slick operation was in place for himself, comic artist Martin Simmonds and co-creator of The Department of Truth, and Álvaro Martínez Bueno who is working on House of Slaughter and The Nice House on the Lake. The system was well managed, and I took the opportunity to get some ‘Remarked’ comics, or rather a sketch on a comic, and this was good. These comics are hugely popular, issue 1 of SITC went up to eight, can you imagine? James himself was lovely, as were Martin and Álvaro. It is amazing how things have moved on, a number of years ago, James was just as nice at SDCC.
I was absolutely delighted to find some comic artwork for sale, by Ro Stein and Ted Brandt, (https://www.brandtandstein.com/) exceptionally well known for their Eisner-nominated comic Crowded, this included art from The Champions, Captain America and The Mighty Captain Marvel and I could not walk away from such a keen prices, for such well-drawn work, they were kind enough to hold onto this for the day, and I left my David Mack Prints with them with the art, and they were so nice.
I continued to accrue signatures on some comics, and had a plan. At times understanding and patience were required, but this was not in short supply, some people had just not been able to make it, for whatever reason, and occasionally an empty table was all that would be there, indicating that something had occurred. It was easy to forget the challenges faced by so many in the halls of fans, browsing and buying, and it was an occasional reminder, and hope, that all was OK for them.
Guillermo Ortego (https://willortego.com/About) was on hand with art from Punisher Soviet and Magnus Calgar, two terrific works by Garth Ennis and Kieron Gillen respectively and I was torn, but a very affordable page of Punisher Soviet sold me. Yet, again the brilliance of the artist came to the fore, Guillermo wanted to finish some inking on the page as he had scanned and digitally done that, and so, later when I collected the page, he had brilliantly inked it and I was stunned.
I met Sara Alfageeh (https://www.sara-alfa.com/) currently from Boston, Harvard Sq, but shortly moving to San Francisco, two wonderful places for comics, and of course, I asked about her work on the Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy, which is stunning and she also has a considerable claim to fame, in that she came up and created with Saladin Ahmed, the character of Amulet, Fadi Fadlalah from The Garden State, who first appeared in Ms Marvel, and it was lovely to speak with her and get that comic signed.
Jacob (https://twitter.com/jacobr_phillips) and Sean Phillips were seated together and I got some signatures, it’s amazing to see a son follow in his father’s footsteps, and make such an impact, Newburn and That Texas Blood from Image are proving very popular.
I was very pleased that comic creators brought along items to sell, that may seem obvious to some people, but I love a signed comic, and sometimes, you find new comics to you, when you meet the creative, and sometimes comics are elusive, and suddenly the creator has them, and is selling them. This was a big win for me at Thought Bubble. Nick Brockenshire (https://nickbrokenshire.co.uk/), Margaux Saltiel (https://www.margaux-saltel.com/) and Rebecca Nalty all had comics that I picked up. I also got an incredible sketch from Margaux, who was very engaging, her colours and soft line beautifully done.
Meeting and speaking with, and buying Irish comics are, probably unsurprisingly, very important to me. I was super pleased to meet Rebecca Nalty, (rebeccanalty.com/) who has worked on Bog Bodies (an incredible work) as well as Star Wars, and even better, Rebecca had a run of her Star Wars comics, and so I bought them. Eoin Marron (https://twitter.com/eoinmarron), who has just worked on Punisher 2099 was happy to remark a comic for me, and in great form, and I spent too much time at the Irish Comics (https://irishcomics.ie/) table, staffed by Paul Carroll (https://irishcomics.ie/paul-carroll-2/) and Gar Luby (https://garethluby.wordpress.com/). Gar’s work is really quite nice, his style lends itself to being dynamic, he has a good line, and is well able to do cartoon style with flourish, but also can tackle classic characters well, and I was able to get a superb Dark Knight sketch from him.
I went about and took some photos, masks were briefly removed for photos, but replaced immediately of course, and overall it was a big event. Over 400 tables in total, and hundreds of creators. I noted though, that for the first time in years, since probably 2008, I had not bought any small press comics. Perhaps it has been the long gap since events, my focus on art, or that so many professionals had their work for sale, but I noted that afterwards, as I reflected, there were a lot of small press tables, and getting the balance right must be hard, and at the same time, it is without doubt that big names do draw in crowds, as evidenced by the lines for well known artists and writers.
I had a terrific time and felt the Thought Bubble team had done a superb job in the circumstances.