scott snyder

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
Words With Sean Gordon Murphy

Words With Sean Gordon Murphy

I was lucky enough to steal some time with the much sought-after creator of Punk Rock Jesus Sean Murphy at the 2013 Thought Bubble convention – anyone attending will have seen how long and constant his queue was! We talked about his art inspirations, the messages behind Punk Rock Jesus and the benefits of creator-owned work.

PRJprint color by seangordonmurphy

JM: How would you describe your style of art, the themes that have influenced the way you work?

SGM: I’ve pretty much taken what I like about manga and about European illustration artists and mixed them together. I think when Americans see my stuff they think “Oh, where did this come from?” Really I’m just delivering my favourite styles that I’ve seen, in South America, Japan and Europe.

JM: What were your influences for Punk Rock Jesus? I’ve read that you were inspired by the 2008 elections, and the worry about Sarah Palin getting into office.

SGM: Yeah, that’s pretty scary! And how it looks to the outside world, I can’t imagine. Gun control…she’s really scary. A lot of comics don’t really tread on that ground, and I think it’s a shame that they don’t push the boundaries more. The superhero stuff is great, you know it holds up 80% of our industry, but that’s not the stuff that I always wanted to draw, so I thought that Punk Rock would be a way to address some of the political issues, but also be a good excuse to do a sci-fi story with some action. I think the trick was to give people enough medicine with enough entertainment as well.

JM: Most writers will agree that it’s preferable to create their own work rather than work on existing superheroes, but do you prefer working with someone like on Punk Rock Jesus or collaboratively with someone like Scott Snyder on The Wake?

SGM:I like to do both. Doing Punk Rock was great, but it was very exhausting because I had to do everything myself. It’s nice to switch off, just get a script and not have to think about where the story’s going and just be in charge of art duties. So I imagine I’ll be going back and forth through my career.

JM: Is there a classic figure you’d like to put your own spin on though?

SGM: I like doing my own stuff, the way Image is going right now and the way Kickstarter’s working…there isn’t money if I did Batman or Punisher or something cause Marvel can’t pay what Fiona Staples makes working on Saga for example, or what East and West is making. It would be nice to step in and do Punisher or Wolverine or something one day. I’m not sure; I’m sure there will be excuses to do that in the future, but right now probably not.

JM: There was talk a while ago of a movie of your comic Off Road, do you think that’s something that might still happen?

SGM: I don’t know, I don’t think so. I heard that Mandalay were looking at it. But sometimes movie companies look at books and they don’t tell you if they’ve passed on it, you just never hear about it, so it is what it is.

JM: There were also rumours about you doing a sequel to Outer Orbit, something a bit more silly.

SGM: No, I wouldn’t do a sequel. That was one of the books that was fun to do, me and my partner at the time had a great time – Zach Howard – but I don’t think it’s in the future any more. It was a fun little space romp but nobody really needs it, I get very few copies to sign and I don’t hear about it very much. Zach seemed to think that people were very interested in it but I never really got that impression.

JM: You’ve done some work for Nike and Land Rover – are those jobs you took just for the money, or because you really wanted to do it?

SGM: Oh, the money.

JM: So you wouldn’t want to do it again?

SGM: I would. I mean, I didn’t go after those jobs, they just rang me up and said “would you like to do it?” and I said sure, it paid the bills. I’m sure I was pretty desperate for money at the time, but…the Land Rover one was fairly hassle free, the Nike one as well. Not all those jobs are like that, sometimes there’s a lot of overbearing people that you have to please. I had to do a job for Activision once, it was a nightmare. If I ever do video game stuff again, I want to make sure that I won’t have that kind of interference. I actually got offered to design characters for Assassin’s Creed III, and it was one of those jobs that I was so disappointed I couldn’t take it, because I was doing Punk Rock Jesus and had made other commitments. Still, whenever I see a poster or advertisement for Assassin’s Creed I’m like “aagh!”, like you’ve fallen on your keys, like I wish I could have done that!

JM: If you could do anything, what would you do?

SGM: There’s a point where I’d like to step out of comics and develop an indie game, I don’t know how. If I had proper capital, if I can Kickstart it, bring my name to the project and get it moving and do like a 16 bit retro style game you could download, I think I’d do that.

JM: You’re a little over half way through The Wake now in terms of release. Are you happy with how that’s going? Do you have plans for any other projects coming up?

SGM: Yeah I’m thrilled, I’ve never been on a book that has killer sales like this. I’ve had stuff that’s sold okay, and stuff that’s got reviewed well, but never really brought in the dollars. I’ve just finished twelve pages of Batman with Scott, which will be out on the 27th January, and I should be finished with The Wake in nearly April. After that I might think about going to Image for some creator-own work, maybe work with Mark Millar or something like that.

Check out my review of Punk Rock Jesus, and Alasdair’s review of The Wake, and of course Sean Gordon Murphy’s website.

For more comic book reviews go straight to

As an added bonus, here’s a picture of my cat sleeping on Sean Gordon Murphy and Scott Snyder’s The Wake. Aaw.


Posted by jenny in Comics, 0 comments