matt fraction

A Thought Bubble Convention Review

A Thought Bubble Convention Review

Thought Bubble’s comic convention just keeps getting bigger and better every year. Not that I haven’t enjoyed every year I’ve been to the convention, which is four now, but this year’s convention was well-run, easy to navigate and seemed to grow and adapt to the needs of its visitors.

On the Saturday, I was lucky enough to get a few signatures from some of my favourite artists and writers. First of all, Cameron Stewart signed my copy of Sin Titulo (which I reviewed a while ago for Travelling Man) which was lovely; then a half hour queue lead me to Matt Fraction who signed my Hawkeye graphic novel (review) and first issue of Sex Criminals (just you wait until my review of this!). When I told Matt that I thought Sex Criminals was important, and would go down in history he sniggered at “go down”. Wonderful. I also had The Wake issue 1 signed by Sean Gordon Murphy who was kind enough to talk to me for a while on the Sunday: that interview will be up soon.

Then came the panels. First up was Image Comic’s Independence in the UK panel, which actually only had one third British panelists, but ah well. I always like the independence talk, it’s exciting to hear creators talking about being given the freedom to do their own work, which invariably ends up criticising Marvel and DC’s attitude toward the artists and writers. This made it much more strange when the next panel came out – the Marvel talk, which was obviously designed to big up the publishing house. It was absolutely hilarious though – the constant abuse of Jamie McKelvie from Kieron Gillen, David Aja finding it near impossible not to swear, and the dynamic married duo of Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue Deconnick. If comic conventions had Kings and Queens like proms, it would definitely have been them this year.

For Sunday, I kicked off the convention with the Diversity in Comics panel which was incredibly inspiring. One of my favourite speakers was Howard Hardiman, a self-proclaimed “queer cripple” with a fantastic sense of humour; after the panel I went to find his table, had a really interesting conversation with him about gender in Greek and Roman times and he signed a copy of The Lengths for me. I read the book on the train home and absolutely loved it; really brutal but touching. A review may come. I also really enjoyed hearing from Fiona Stephenson who has a very unique perspective, being a feminist comic veteran who now deals in stereotypical aesthetics of female beauty. Everyone else was fantastic too, of course.

The biggest change for me going into the weekend was the conversion of Women in Comics to Diversity in Comics. Traditionally, Women in Comics was my highlight of the weekend – a group of intelligent and inspirational women discussing one of my favourite topics – so I wasn’t sure how this change would go. But I have to say that it was a massive improvement. While I loved the old panel, after three visits it was beginning to feel like it maybe wasn’t making any forward progress; and to be perfectly honest, it’s become so much more even in terms of gender at cons. That’s why it was great to open the debate to other issues like sexuality, disabilities and race, because these are the areas which are truly still minorities in the mainstream comics fan world. When an issue is personal to you as feminism is to me, it’s easy to care about it but it’s important to care about other people who have problems you don’t know and don’t understand, and I walked out of the Diversity in Comics panel feeling hopeful for the future.

The other significant improvement that I appreciated was the streamlining of the buildings. The addition of the Allied London Hall meant that a proper exploration of the festival took two days, and it was nice to have an unfamiliar spot to wander around in. Although I didn’t go into Bub’s Lounge, I heard it was lovely and chilled out in there, and the temporary Cafe solved delicious pastries and coffee! Which was good because Tesco had run out of sandwiches by 2pm on the Saturday. And while the extra panel area was a little cold, it was nicer than having to go to the top floor of the casino (however lovely those rooms were) and helped the whole event feel much more seamless.

And finally, some of the best goodies I picked up over the weekend (on my severely limited budget).

  1. The Lengths. As I said, it’s a great book and meeting Howard was lovely
  2. Briar, a free comic being handed out from the same team as Porcelain: A Gothic Fairytale (my review here)
  3. A beautiful sterling silver clockwork earring with its own origin story in comic form!
  4. A lovely brown card A3 print, I believe the artist is Kate Mia White although I may be wrong. Incredibly intricate pen work.

And more…I’m sure! I haven’t made it through all of my finds from the weekend yet.

Posted by jenny in Comics, 0 comments
Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon

Back in September, I reviewed the second issue of Fraction and Aja’s run on Hawkeye. Despite never being particularly into The Avengers, and knowing nothing about the character Hawkeye (Clint Barton) but what is in the The Avengers Assemble, the minimalistic, mod-style artwork drew me in; when I read it, I was so glad that I had. This run has managed to capture the attention of those who would never normally pick up Hawkeye and brought many of us to love this version of our hero, Clint.

The background is this: Clint Barton has become the leader of the Secret Avengers, and Kate Bishop of the Young Avengers has taken his mantle. This series isn’t about the Avengers though, just about Clint and Kate in their spare time, being heroes on an everyday scale; from saving a dog’s life and the homes of his neighbours in the first issue, to a high-speed car chase complete with trick arrows. But what all the issues have in common is that they portray Clint as a funny, easy-going good guy who just can’t help but get himself into scrapes.

The first issue is a simple story of a newly rich Clint Barton trying to save the homes of his neighbours by buying their apartment block. Of course money isn’t an issue for him any more, and he brings a bag of money to meet the Russian who owns the building but ends up in an all-out brawl in the streets, during which he kicks a dog out into traffic. Clint Barton, loveable hero, takes the dog to the vet’s to be patched up, and ends up going wild when faced with the man who hurt “Arrow” (who he renames Lucky).

The second, the one I reviewed last September, is a great single story of Clint and Kate infiltrating a circus show during which the criminal circus steals from the wealthiest scumbags in Manhattan. Not necessarily important enough for the Avengers to deal with, but Clint recognises the handiwork of the ringmaster as a student of the Swordsman, the man who taught Clint how to be a human weapon (hence, My Life As A Weapon). Clint and Kate’s relationship is beautiful; of course, with Clint, there is always the hint of sexual tension, but for once he is being sensible, and it only adds to the barbs of their loving insults.

The third issue is full of sex, car chases and trick arrows, which are fantastic. From the bola arrow to the putty arrow to the explosive-tip arrow…they are all great and fun to see in this high-paced, raunchy stand-alone issue. The fact that Clint wears purple boxers, and the countdown of his nine bad ideas of the day, are great examples of the humour of the comic, but easily the best visual gag of the issue is when Clint is found in an indecent situation and leaps across the bed naked with just a retro Hawkeye mask face covering his privates. It’s absolutely perfect.

Javier Pullido took over on the artwork in issues four and five, which go directly together and deal with some of the issues of the Avengers, as Kate and Clint try to get their hands on a video tape of Hawkeye committing a political assassination. The artwork is more traditional than Aja’s but that thread of purple colouring runs consistently throughout as Clint continues trying to charm his way out of incredibly awkward situations. Madame Masque is a rather interesting villain and Clint and Kate are a tight team as always. Some of the panels really stand out, such as those drenched in red and with Chris Eliopoulos’s hand-lettering. It’s another fun story which reinforces the idea that Clint really is a good, honest man – the best kind of superhero.

Perhaps an odd addition to the collection, the last issue is a Young Avengers Presents illustrated by Alan Davis, and the artwork is wildly different with much more vivid colours and almost fantasy-esque costumes. It mostly deals with Kate’s love-life, and the first time she and Clint meet and their friendship is formed. He puts a lot of trust in her, and it’s interesting to see how the relationship has developed throughout Aja’s run.

Hawkeye is a comic book for people who enjoy funny, loveable superheroes who aren’t too serious. The humour is typical of the humour of Deadpool and Spider-Man, where not only the heroes are goofy but also the book itself – just one great example is that when someone speaks in a language Clint doesn’t understand, it is translated to a rough approximation of what he thinks it means, and insults are replaced with “(Derogatory patriarchal epithet)”. Every issue begins with the line “Okay, this looks bad”, and it usually really is; poor Clint. Aja’s mod artwork is both retro and refreshing, Fraction’s writing ensures Clint’s humour is unrelenting, and Matt Hollingsworth’s colouring is exquisitely subtle. Easily one of the funniest superhero comic books you’re likely to pick up this year.

Originally posted on the Travelling Man blog

Posted by jenny in Comics, 0 comments