danielle corsetto

Thought Bubble 2014 Review

Thought Bubble 2014 Review

It’s the end of November and, once again, Thought Bubble was a roaring success. Perhaps no bigger than last year, it had some noticeable differences in organisation that went down both positively and negatively, depending on who you’d talk to.

The most obvious change was the introduction of the marquee in the centre of the convention space. Immediately, you’d think that this had increased the size of the convention, although comparatively it was probably about the same size as last year’s extra room. The advantages, however, were that a marquee is a lot easier to keep warm than the hollow bare-brick wall. Also using the central space for the major signings (people you knew would be busy, like Scott Snyder and Jock) meant that the New Dock Hall wasn’t completely full of seemingly endless queues. The downside to that was having to queue outside, in November. Still, you can’t have it all.

Fortunately the weather held and we barely saw a drizzle of rain – I expect there was great thanks from the cosplay crowd, of whom there were an incredible amount this year. I’m not sure how but it seems that every year I think I must have seen all of the costumes, until I see the post-con pictures and wonder how I could possibly have missed the adorable child in the jumpsuit with a Portal gun.

Post-Con Swag

Post-Con Swag

Other than that, it seemed like business as usual at the convention, which was great. There seemed to be a few things that fell through – the Diversity in Comics panel wasn’t racially diverse, for instance, but more on that later – although nothing ground to a halt. When you’ve been to Thought Bubble a few times you begin to see the patterns of exhibitors – you always know Dr Geoff is going to be there, and the Romantically Apocalyptic crew.

As a socially awkward person, I don’t always revel in being brought into conversations at exhibitor stalls, but I did have a few wonderful chats this year with independent artists. While not independent, my favourite talk was probably with David Hine, whom I queued for patiently to have Storm Dogs signed last year, but whose desk was virtually empty this year. We had a fantastic discussion about his book The Man Who Laughs, the origins of the Joker and the private life of Victor Hugo. These are some of my most treasured moments of Thought Bubble, when I can geek out on something that excites me with someone who’s managed to make something awesome.

The talks seemed hugely popular this year – several that I tried to attend in the Bury Theatre had snaked back to the door and then doubled in length again, and the line for the Gotham talk had been hopelessly long, which was a shame. The ones I did attend were pretty great though; the first of which was one of my favourites, The Best Thing I’ve Read All Year, which was alternatively dubbed “The White Bearded Man Panel” thanks to a few guests falling through. At least they were aware of it!

This is the best place to get recommendations, and I walked away with a whole bunch. Huge thanks go to Tom from Gosh Comics for recommending the Comic Book Slumber Party table, and specifically the Fairytales for Bad Bitches anthology which was read on the Saturday night and gratefully enjoyed. Supreme Blue Rose was another big push, and of course The Wicked and The Divine, which just won the British Comic Awards prestigious Best Comic award.

Other potential highlights – which have either been positioned on my radar or gone onto my Christmas list – included The Salt Lakes by Matt Taylor, a translation of three Japanese history comics for which I can’t remember the name, Beautiful Darkness, a new Stray Bullets, The Wrenchies and the upcoming Ody-C, z gender-swapped sci-fi version of the Odyssey which I cannot wait to get my grubby mitts on. I’m going to be poor for quite some time.

It was a good laugh of a talk though, and the suggestions were great. I was particularly pleased that riot grrrl comics were being actively promoted! The riot grrrl anthology is now sat on my bookshelf, screaming to be read. In time, my beauty!

For the second year of Diversity in Comics, there maybe could have been a bit more diversity – both from last year as well as in general. Howard Hardiman was in attendance again, the self-professed “gay cripple” who penned the excellent The Lengths which I snatched up last year after hearing him talk. I also noticed for the first time this year that he has a fantastic puzzle piece tattoo all over his lower arm – love it. He also showed a segment from one of his new books about a sleepy badger, where the titular badger comes across a black, disabled lesbian, which was a fantastic nod.

Unfortunately the panel was overwhelmingly white this year, largely because Barry Nugent hadn’t been able to come. He was fantastic at the talk last year but I couldn’t help thinking, with the increased amount of non-white exhibitors I’m beginning to see in the halls, they might have been able to get someone else. Donya Todd was charming though, and from my South-West neck of the woods, so I was pleased to find that I had already picked up her work in the riot grrrl anthology.

There were some great recommendations, including a seventies feminist publication called Spare Rib, and great women in comics like Suzy Varty, Trina Robbins and Eileen Crumb. We also discussed the problems when it comes to complaining about events like Thought Bubble and making them more accessible – I’d be curious to see if there are many negative reactions and how they are dealt with.

The Self Made Hero British graphic novelists talk was another great one, with the master of Cthulionic adaptations INJ Culbard joined by the creators of Ricky Rouse Has A Gun, which is another on my ever-growing Christmas list. I had already bought a series of grotesque cyberpunk postcards from John Aggs who describes Ricky Rouse as a “dumb book”, so was quite excited to see them talk about this piece that had been making waves for some time.

Finally, the only other panel I was able to make it to was the Journalism in Comics talk. The biggest topic of conversation was that of criticism, which was very interesting – we heard from Douglas Wolk, who prides himself on critical journalism, and Zainab who, like me, would rather be positive. Like her, I also shy away from giving negative reviews, being too aware that the subject could be reading it, although for someone in Douglas’s position this isn’t a luxury he can afford. I suppose it’s also about where you feel your responsibility lies – with the consumer, or with the creator of the work.

Again, the panel might have been a little better chosen. With only four panelists (including the moderator) it seemed out of place for one of them to barely do any comics journalism. Unfortunately music journalism doesn’t really translate as easily, and her comments – while insightful – felt out of context.

All in all, Thought Bubble still reigns supreme in the comic book festival circuit, especially as more and more conventions are going toward more mainstream media forms. Yes, Jason Momoa is very attractive, but comic book icon he is not – give me Tim Sale any day!

Finally, my weekend was made by meeting one of my personal heroes, Danielle Corsetto, and having her doodle in the copies of Adventure Time that I reviewed here and here.

So thank you once again Thought Bubble for the laughs, the inspiration, and the severely depleted bank account funds. I’m looking forward to next year already!


Posted by jenny in Comics, 0 comments
Adventure Time: Pixel Princesses

Adventure Time: Pixel Princesses

Danielle Corsetto and Zack Sterling reunite under the Adventure Time franchise to bring us back into the world of Oo in a new cyber-fantasy tale. In the same large manga sized format as its predecessor Playing With Fire, Pixel Princesses follow some of the best and most under-appreciated Princess of Oo as they kick some ass and learn about friendship.

Lumpy Space Princess is running through the woods, panting away – she’s late for something. Stumbling across an abandoned barbershop, she bursts in to a surprise party, but not the one she wanted. The hot wings are absent, there isn’t a big showing of Royalty and worst of all Breakfast Princess just has to criticise the fact that LSP threw herself a “surprise” birthday party. The Princesses in attendance are Muscle Princess, the older of the Breakfast Princesses who happened to draw the short straw, Embryo Princess – at the Tarot cards suggestion – Skeleton Princess, and of course LSP’s bestie, Turtle Princess. Turns out Bubblegum has her hands full with changing the molecular structure of the universe.

All that Lumpy Space Princess wanted was to have some fun Princess time, but instead begins to question why she would want to be a Princess anyway. One of the greatest visual jokes of LSP is in her disgustingly deep Princess Gem – in a panel here it slowly “shhlpp”s out of her forehead while the others look on in horror. Meanwhile outside our favourite androgynous robot BMO is sad that he wasn’t invited to the surprise party, and upon seeing the star Gem as it flies out of the window makes a wish: “Whatever it takes to be a princess, I wish I had it inside of me.”


The problem with making wishes in the Land of Oo, is that you never know where a mischievous wizard may be lurking, and unfortunately for the girls Magic Man is listening. In a flash, the Princesses are transported into a cyber world where they fall under attack.

The choice of Princesses is fantastic. Although LSP is a fairly common character, she’s complex like the Ice King; you have to feel a certain amount of pity for her despite her annoying tendencies. She is homeless after all! And while Turtle Princess has never captured my emotions, LSP needs a friend. Embryo Princess has haunted my dreams for some time now, and never said a word in the TV series – in fact they hardly refer to her at all, while Breakfast Princess has made very few appearances. And as for Skeleton Princess, I’m not sure she’s ever been named in the series; Finn once greets her with a vague “Hey…you”, but luckily Danielle Corsetto was a fan so she is finally getting some attention.

The rest of the graphic novel is set like an old arcade-style video game. Corsetto was inspired by the recent film Wreck-It Ralph and experiences as a child playing on her Nintendo, and Sterling includes some of the ridiculous elements from traditional girlie manga for fantastic comedic effect. The Princesses must go through different simulated levels in BMO with his aim being to find out what it takes to be a Princess, although he seems to have lost the user manual and isn’t in any mood to help after being shouted at by the Breakfast Princess.
In the classic tradition of these capers where misfits are thrown together against their will, each of the girls has something unique to bring to the table. They each learn what it means to be not just a Princess, but also a good friend. It also gets rather existential at points – when the Princesses complete a level they are reward with the sign “Congratulations! You’ve saved the princess” and an image of themselves in pixel form. These sections are particularly great to get more of a feel of some of the lesser-known Princesses – for example, Embryo Princess not only outsmarts but manages to guilt-trip the cheat code out of a frog who was deliberately misleading her, and in the process defends Lumpy Space Princess. When she sees the pixelated Embryo Princess blowing a raspberry at her, she calmly meditates “Oh, that was deep”.

In the following round the girls find a fruit tree surrounded by cute fluffy animals, who will turn into monsters and attack unless someone is eating the fruit. While LSP eats, Muscle Princess the obvious warrior takes up a sword to the bunnies, but just can’t bring herself to destroy such adorable creatures. Luckily Skeleton Princess steps in; as she says, “I’m literally dead inside”. She slaughters every last fuzzy animal brutally while the other Princesses look on in horror (don’t worry, it isn’t shown!) and when confronted with her pixel doppelgänger simply shrugs and walks away.

Every now and then BMO appears as a “helping hand” for the Princesses, most notably in Turtle Princesses’ Star Fox-inspired level where he acts as her co-pilot Danger Mommy. Wearing a wig and sunglasses he shouts encouragement in the form of “Go to you room!”, “Pick up your toys!” and “Eat your potatoes”. Upon winning, he dubs her “mommy’s favourite” and promises her dessert. Star Fox isn’t the only video game homage however, as one of the levels includes plants falling from the sky and enemies which shrink the players (à la Mario), and the last level is inspired by Tetris.


In case you were wondering, Breakfast Princess’s power was to make pancakes with Canadian maple syrup. Where does she get it from? “You don’t wanna know.”

LSP eventually learns to stand up for herself and use her own unique talent – puzzle solving – to save her other Princesses, but not before giving Breakfast Princess a good talking to for always putting her down. Go LSP! She doesn’t just save herself however, as next to her pixel copy is a tiny BMO. He ejects them from his game and they make him a Princess crown from what appears to be nachos and doilies, held together with cheese. He’s so happy he wishes he could wet himself.

The comic is more chaotic than the emotional Playing With Fire, and quite similar in arcade tropes to the new Adventure Time video game Explore The Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW. The Princesses are dropped into these levels which can begin immediately and without any indication of how to play the game or what their end goal is for some time. It’s manic but it has a kind of order to it. BMO works as an excellent framing device, as BMO’s gender has never been defined making the wish to be a Princess all the more fun; one of the best things about Adventure Time is the show’s ability to stay above gender stereotyping, and BMO simply shouldn’t need one.

While the next of this series of Adventure Time manga-sized comics is not going to be written by Danielle Corsetto, an equally competent writer in the form of Kate Leth will be running the show. She’s worked before on the Adventure Time comic spin-offs Marceline and the Scream Queens and Fiona and Cake, as well as contributing to Locke & Key and Womanthology. Basically, when you’ve finished Danielle Corsetto’s Girls With Slingshots, please go ahead and check out Kate or Die.


For more excellent comic reviews, head to travellingman.wordpress.com

Posted by jenny in Comics, 0 comments
Adventure Time: Playing With Fire

Adventure Time: Playing With Fire

I freaking love Adventure Time.

I feel like I need to begin with this, so you know that this isn’t a comic book I just picked from the shelf knowing nothing about it but one I anxiously waited to appear in Travelling Man. Adventure Time is one of my favourite cartoons, not just because it reminds me of the terrifying and hilarious shows I was brought up on (Invader Zim, Ren and Stimpy etc), but because it has an insane amount of depth to it that is frequently overlooked in shows aimed at children. I am completely unsurprised that it has become so popular with adults, especially adult geeks, as it features many influences and themes from video game and comic book cultures.


The monthly Adventure Time comic from BOOM! Studios started in February 2012 and has already expanded to include a Marceline and the Scream Queens miniseries and another six-part series based on the gender-swapped reality of Adventure Time, featuring Fiona the Human and Cake the Cat. The comics have been nominated for several Eisner awards this year and as the latest edition we have the half-size graphic novel Adventure Time: Playing With Fire.

Somewhere between manga and a regular weekly comic, this piece is bigger than manga but drawn black and white (although many have noted how odd it feels to read manga from glossy pages) and is frequently compared to the Scott Pilgrim series in format. The illustrations come from Zack Sterling, illustrator for the TV series, so you know it’s going to be good, and as an interesting choice of writer we get Danielle Corsetto, author/artist of the daily webcomic Girls with Slingshots, of which I am also a huge fan. So I don’t mean bad interesting; she has a childish sense of humour but an adult approach to serious subjects that works fantastically with the tone of Adventure Time, but Corsetto was brought up preferring strips to books and has traditionally worked within the tight confines of a few panels.

Flame Princess, the star of Playing With Fire, is a relatively recent addition to the Adventure Time cast and is seldom seen without Finn. Until Jake’s arrival in the Fire Kingdom, she had been kept in a giant lantern on the advice of Princess Bubblegum and has since fought a battle to reign in her fiery (sorry) side and learn to be good, no matter what her father expects of her. Corsetto describes her as impatient and destructive, but a sweetheart really, and this comic is her first proper outing.

Flame Princess is one of the more conflicted characters of Adventure Time, constantly torn between her father’s wishes and what she wants, and her childish innocence makes it seems that her violence is just a defense mechanism. She’s made of fire and has its destructive powers, but is determined to be what she wants to be, not just the evil Fire Elemental her father, Flame King, wants her to be. In the TV series he has been seen subliminally whispering the word “evil” into her ear when he thinks no one else is around, and in an attempt to escape him and the destiny he has laid out for her she has developed an unlikely relationship with Finn – unlikely not just because she burns his skin, but because his tears hurt her and she considers him a Water Elemental.

There are some fantastic moments of character progression in Playing With Fire: Finn shows his caring, adult side when he defends FP’s irrationality and his teenage-boy side when he blushes over being called her boyfriend, although Finn’s soul is stolen shortly after, leaving Flame Princess and Jake with a miniature apathetic Finn. Jake takes rather a back seat, and that’s okay – this is about FP’s journey to become her own kind of hero, starting with rescuing her boyfriend from a series of puzzle dungeons. Deep within the caves, Jake tries to help but ends up mocking her aversion to water with his usual flippancy. With rebellious fury she goes against what Jake tells her and seriously hurts herself in her own stubbornness.

When she wakes up in the Fire Kingdom, her father gives her the Lion King “this is all yours…” speech for dramatic effect, telling her to embrace her evil side, before going on a rampage of popcorn and fire. Not knowing before that she could will herself anywhere, she wishes to get away, and finds herself back in the dungeons, headed toward the soul room. She tries to melt Finn out of his terrifying alien soul pod, but it doesn’t work – in frustration she cries, hurting herself as she does, and confesses that she thinks she loves Finn. The dragon who kidnapped him lets them free now that he has experienced real love, and Flame Princess works on cooling her skin so she is able to kiss Finn without burning him – something that is both clever and a good solution to potential logistical problems between the couple. Things seem to be looking up a bit now that they have both admitted to their feelings, but it’s obvious that FP’s destiny will continue to haunt her; she’s still unsure she has what it takes to be a hero, and the book ends with a dream in which she turns into her father. Well actually, the book ends with a delightful dialogue-free classic B-mo adventure about the house.

This comic had all of the mad greatness of Adventure Time with cute artwork details (including a cameo of the Snail!), some character development which would be near-impossible to put into the children’s TV show, and a series of puzzle dungeons that would have been great on The Crystal Maze, although the main draw has to be the compelling characters that work perfectly in the Adventure Time world. Luckily for us, Danielle Corsetto is also writing the second volume, which comes out in September 2013, so hopefully this will pan out to be THE Adventure Time comic for those – like me – who are probably far too invested in the show.

Originally posted on the Travelling Man blog.

Also, THIS:

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