I had a decision to make. I had already spent four hours collating all the trades and single issues I wanted signing at Leeds Thought Bubble. It was 4am and I was carrying a very heavy holdall, having already torn the handles off a paper bag. It is the obsessive completionist in me that must have my books signed by whoever is at the Con, even if I am not their biggest fan. In many cases I want to shower them with praise and tell them how much I love their work, and in David Aja’s case, tell him how much I love him. Then again the blogger in me wants to meet everyone and ask the pertinent questions so I can then provide further insight into my reviews. I am far from a casual fan and have become more invested ever since I started writing about comics. My day trip to the London Super Comic Con in March had left an insatiable thirst for more. There had to be a limit because I could not physically do all I desired, but I decided I would try, as an experiment or experience at the very least. I had a few aims that included a Kid Loki sketch from Doug Braithwaite and an interview with Kieron Gillen. The latter was easier because he had already agreed on Twitter to meet me. I had met Doug in LSCC but was too late to ask for a drawing, but that was not going to be a mistake I would repeat.
Before I get to the actual convention I want to mention the fantastic people I spent time with during my stay. @fractures was far too kind in booking my tickets and a hotel room, especially given the verbal lambasting he has to put up with from my direction every minute. I am not sure he would reciprocate, but I could not ask for a better Con compadre. I was also introduced to Rob and Trey who I was fortunate to have supper with on the Friday. It was so refreshing to have a dinner conversation where the topics were completely comic based and I could freely reveal my excitement without fear of judgement. Rob’s knowledge of the Avengers was so incredible that it left me with feelings of jealousy and pity simultaneously. I guess someone had to read through all those Heroes Reborn books and the complete works of Brian Michael Bendis. However I admired the passion and knowledge borne out of Rob’s love of the Avengers. There were others to meet but they would come along later.
After reaching the Royal Armouries, standing in the freezing cold for an hour, Frak and I were ready to enter Leeds Thought Bubble. My decision was made, I was not going for the big names but I was determined to meet Braithwaite. I managed to get to him first and make my requests. I must say I was very polite and plauditory before asking him for a commission. I have always thought that there should be some personal repartee before asking for signatures and sketches. My adoration for Journey into Mystery seems to constantly pervade my person and Doug’s Kid Loki was the first incarnation of the fantastic character I had fallen for. He was pleasant as always and commented at how surprised he was at the popularity of the character. We also briefly discussed his latest book Storm Dogs, before I felt worthy enough of my request. I had managed to get my name was on the list but I would have to wait until the following day before I could check in on my treasure.
I decided along time ago that one sketch a day would be ample a booty, I was free to go and chat to creators. I say that but there were some ample queues, notably Fiona Staples, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Sean Murphy, Matt Fraction, David Aja and Emma Rios. It was going to be a tough day so Frak and I decided to wonder around before joining the big waits. That is when we found Geof.
Interestingly Geof looks very similar to his own character Shaolin Cowboy, especially when he wears the cap. It is surprisingly disturbing but Geof is one cool guy. He had a bunch of prints to sell and, while we perused his portfolio, I asked what Dark Horse thought about the audacity of issue two of Shaolin Cowboy. If you have yet to read it then I will explain that every page is of the same action sequence, from a different perspective with not a single word of dialogue. He simply answered that he has a free reign to do what he likes, and he didn’t care what they thought. That is putting it mildly as I have removed the profanity from his actual statement. He was so candid and rebellious in character and he said there was more to come yet. By then I had decided on my print and there was only one real option; the cover from issue one. It is so poignant and vile that it is somehow stunning in it’s honesty. I also loved how he signed with a side profile of the Shaolin Cowboy.
It was at this point we realised to our horror that Jock was actually in the other convention hall, so off we trotted.
After a relatively smallish queue I got to meet the man who created one of my favourite Wolverine arcs of the past few years. He has acknowledged me on Twitter and was thankful for my Iconic Art Post, so I was incredibly pleased when he expressed his gratitude in person. It was incredible to me how he could be so humble when the quality of his work is so high. We had a conversation about the freedom of independently creating an arc completely of your own volition. This would become a common theme to my Con. I expressed my gratitude at how he finally created a story worthy of the title of the book. He was so pleasant and I was very pleased to have my comics signed, as you can tell from the photo:
It was time for Frak to go find Brandon Graham and I ventured off alone to investigate, which was when I found a surprisingly short queue for Miss Doyle.
Ming was such an enthusiastic and lively person that it was such a pleasure talking to her. Even though I was not the greatest fan of Mara, I adored the artwork which became the sole purpose for my purchases. We had a discussion on the minimalistic writing of the book and how Brian Wood gave her freedom to draw. She was given scene directions but that was all, and thoroughly enjoyed drawing the book. They had envisaged a character that was a deviant from the mainstream norm, and how together they decided on her skin tone and nationality. She was genuinely surprised at the success of the book, and I mentioned that the art was so beautiful that there would always be people buying it. Her talent was immense because as this conversation took place whilst she was drawing me this:
I had already reached my target of two sketches for the Con in one morning! It was completely opportunistic and I was incredible lucky, but it was not to run out there. As I peered over to see Frak second in the queue for Brandon, I found myself second in the queue for my next sketch.
I find the word cool a little ubiquitous and given its loose definition, not always an accurate adjective. However Sean Murphy was the coolest guy at Thought Bubble. He was late and his queue had dissipated except for one loyal fan, @DrPaji. His love of Sean is all over his twitter feed and I was beginning to realise why. I had inadvertently stood behind him trying to catch the attention of Frak, just as Sean had arrived. To my absolute surprise he was sketching too and I was next in line. He was so chilled and relaxed because while I asked about Punk Rock and The Wake he was drawing me this:
I decided a long time ago I wanted a sketch of Cemetery from PRJ, because he was one character that had so much emotional depth and motivation. An anti-hero that was already dead and buried for his past sins, so clearly I was incredibly pleased with the headshot. We discussed how intricate and detailed his style was and how that almost removed the need for a colourist. This was certainly the case for Punk Rock Jesus but for The Wake, Hollingsworth successfully employed murky greens and blues. The pencilling and colouring needed to look like the depths of the ocean and it works incredibly well. I asked whether he liked his work coloured and he replied that he actually preferred it black and white. This was a genuine surprise to me but very interesting indeed. He was also quite the humble gentleman as I thanked him for a wonderful sketch.
Having gained two sketches and breaking my own rules, Frak had just got to the front of the Brandon Graham line. He was quite an interesting chap as I interjected the consultation with nosey questions of my own. Brandon had been approached by Kanye West to carry out some work for him. As a big fan of Yeezy, we were suddenly entering a conversation about his artistic temperament and wide ranging appreciations. It was quite surreal. I then asked about his love of the House to Astonish podcast, which has been referenced in his work. I do believe that Brandon got to meet Al Kennedy, from the podcast, the following day. Dammit I still did not get to ask him about the wolf penis.
I wondered around already overwhelmed with my day, and came across Stephen Mooney just sketching away all alone. I decided this was a perfect time to introduce myself and ask for an impromptu interview. And that is exactly what I got. The transcribed conversation will be posted soon on the House. Stephen was a very pleasant gentleman and I was exceedingly pleased to tell him his book, Half Past Danger, shouldn’t work but surprisingly does. He readily admitted that the concept and pitch sound a little ridiculous: An Indiana Jones hero going up against dinosaurs and Nazis. However Mooney is the sole creator and keeps the plot straightforward and simple, letting his art do the work. There is nothing exceptional or complex about the characters or plot, but the pencilling is just gorgeous. The conversation ventured into the constraints of an artist by the writing and how this was his passion project. I remain very grateful to Stephen for his time and will be reviewing the finale to Half Past Danger very soon.
It was time for lunch and we were joined by Rob, Trey and further Horizon Labrats, Kyle (@JohnnyTimpulse) and Mark (@Dirtylash). Kyle is a very laid back convention goer and seems to have the right idea, in not obsessing about meeting people, but just soaks up the atmosphere. Mark was very impressive in his craftsmanship, as he had made the trick arrows from early issues of Hawkeye as part of his cosplay. This is a photo of him in full regalia and action:
As we re-entered the hall, I headed towards the Image tables where I met Eric Stephenson, who is in charge of publishing at the company. Not only that, he is the writer of Nowhere Men, a book I rave about frequently. Unfortunately my excitement failed to pass his defences, as he was not in a talkative mood. This was a shame as I had some interesting questions to ask about the book, but instead the only answer I received was “essentially”, when I asked if his motivations for the book were The Beatles and Steve Job’s Apple Corporation. I felt like a petulant child who had been told to calm down and behave himself. However I was not phased for long as I still managed to pick up a limited edition copy of the trade. I never liked the original cover as I found it a little strange, but the pure white with Nowhere Men indentation is perfectly pretentious for the tone of the book.
It was then I met Nick Spencer who was signing next to him. This was the second time we were to meet, the first being at London Super Comic Con. Given he was such a pleasant and talkative man, I asked for my second interview, which I happily received. I plan to post this in the next few weeks too so I will only mention that we covered Morning Glories, Superior Foes and his relationship with Jonathon Hickman. Suffice to say I was very pleased with the recording.
I decided it was time to join one of the longer lines and invest my time in waiting.
I found Mr Fraction friendly but quite intimidating at the same time. He dresses well and is quite talkative, but he didn’t seem to smile much. Maybe it was because my opening gambit was, “How did you research how a young girl goes through puberty and masturbates?” I can appreciate how that may come across as a little provocative. Especially when I refused to accept his answer of watching a lot of porn and beating off a lot. It was actually quite an amusing start to our conversation. As we ventured onto Hawkeye, I remarked at how novel and leftfield the approach to the book was and did he think it would be such as resounding success. His reply was that they both didn’t think it would pass six issues, and then eight issues and then twelve issues. His point was that their expectations were so low that they could not believe how they are still going. I was obviously incredibly praiseworthy. I then inquired about Satellite Sam and how it was completely different from any other book he had written. This got him interested as he described how television was made in the sixties in some detail. His research was quite impressive and he went on to relay how he combined that scene with the realisation of your father’s sins. He described a real person unknown to me who, upon their death, had their photo collection of ladies of illegitimate affairs discovered by their son. It was the shock and decline of a person’s character that inspired the book. The concept is remarkably novel and Chaykin is certainly the ideal artist for the book. Our meet became quite the interesting discourse and he validated my whole analysis process and reason for existing on the blogosphere by saying,
“You know, you ask a lot of intelligent questions, and I don’t think I’m answering them very well.”
And with that I left a very happy man.
Now this queue was not even a queue. It had been capped at lunch on the Saturday and essentially had yet to even open on the Sunday. There were some organisational problems because I don’t think anyone actually realised that he would be sketching for free for everyone. And I mean everyone! These were not the quick five minute drawings but intricate coloured masterpieces. The delays from the first day moved to the second and it was not until 3pm on the Sunday that the queue was opened for just signings. There was some frustration and a lot of vitriol expelled towards the Con volunteers. It was during these hate sessions that I had met the lovely @FeeMcBee and @curexcomplex, who were unrecognisable from their Twitter profiles. We shared love for David Aja and dispensed venom towards the organisers. Each one of us had actually met Aja outside, whilst he snuck off for a cigarette on multiple occasions. I essentially ransacked him and told him that I loved him (as promised) and that I was going to wait for him for as long as it takes or until he told me to piss off personally. He promised me that he would sign my comics and that was enough for me. I am not sure what his intentions were prior to arriving but it seemed he was going to do a fantastic sketch for everyone that wanted one. Genuinely I believe he would have kept going if he was allowed and this was how gentlemanly and giving he was to all of us. He was sweet and humble as I looked on adoringly at his generosity.
My day had essentially ended and I had achieved far more than expected. I was very pleased with almost all of the people I had met and was more than ecstatic at the sketches I had commissioned. You can imagine my face when I went back to Doug Braithwaite and picked this up:
Wow, just wow.
I had decided to go early to meet Fiona as her lines were long, especially considering she had begun to sketch on the second day. I was quite lucky because my brother had arrived at the Con so I had my own physical queue marker. No seriously, this is how I achieved so much! Fiona was a lovely lady and I remarked at the freedom she had with Saga. She was incredibly thankful at how Image and BKV had given her so much space to create. We discussed how beautiful her covers were and how she had pushed the boundaries of what could be depicted in a comic. I was disappointed to find out that a few people found the Stalk as appealing as I did, but that did not stop me from asking for a sketch of her. As she drew away I asked about how she developed her process of digital artwork and whether it impacted on her breaking into the industry. Amazingly she said it was not an issue at all, the fact she produced her artwork on time was the essential quality for an artist. I guess as we have well and truly moved into the digital age, there are no boundaries to the graphic format either. Once again I was genuinely impressed with her friendliness and time for her fans. Oh yeah…this was my final sketch:
Ales Kot is a funny guy. I went to his table with the express purpose of trying to find out whether the comic Change actually made any sense. I was genuinely impressed with the answer. He has written the first issue as you would any comic, but found that when Morgan Jeske drew the issue, he had produced some panels that were not accounted for. He had expanded the story and added his own ideas to it, and so Ales then took the deviation and ran with it. This continued throughout the whole book and, in his own words, Change had become a jamming session between writer and artist. There were no boundaries or restrictions and the book had become it’s own entity. It was a beautiful concept and completely made sense to me. Ales is a free thinker and defies convention. Hence the reason why he chose to have different artists on his book Zero. The story intertwines and has already changed issue order, but there is no coherency between artists. As I asked the question regarding the lack of continuity and how it would affect the plot, he looked at me puzzled and just said, “Why not? It will be amazing”. That is the moment when I realised Ales was not to be contained and his style may not suit a mainstream book, but it is his story and he will tell it as he wishes. I had so much fun in the few minutes I spent with Ales, and I will certainly hunt him down in future to hear more of his thoughts.
There were signing session for quite a few writers but there was one I was very keen to meet, and I needed him to know how good his book was. That book was X-Men Legacy.
For the entire ninety minutes that Simon was signing, he had a queue of people waiting to meet him. This was an indication of how successful Legacy and Six Gun Gorilla actually are. I had to tell him that Legion was a brilliant character and how he managed to breathe life into him. He was obviously flattered and he was very pleased with the book because it had lasted beyond expectations. We discussed how he had developed the plot and introduced new characters including a romantic twist. Interestingly when I asked if he thought people got the book, he replied that probably only half did. He certainly appreciated that it was not easy to follow and people were easily lost. As irate as I am about how the book is not as highly appreciated as I would like, Simon was remarkably optimistic at its reception. It was recently revealed that he is to take on X-Force, yes that is correct, without adjectives. His excitement was clear as he talked about the new cast and the return of Dr Nemesis. It appeared he was making headway at Marvel and I was more than pleased with his success.
On my way to the main hall I bumped into Adam (@comicbookkidUK, www.comicbookkid.co.uk) and Laura (@batsdontkill). I recognised Laura quite easily because of her bright blue hair, but more notable her incredible Nightwing costume. The attention to detail on her outfit was impressive and I was desperate for her to enter the cosplay competition, but alas, she refused. It was great seeing Adam too, a fellow blogger and we spoke about how we use our blog for cathartic purposes. Speaking of recognisable hair, this was how I spotted Ari (@ariellalphabet) another fellow blogger (http://myheartliesinfilmandcomics.blogspot.co.uk). It was great seeing her as we have been twitter friends for a long time and she always seems to be watching or reading something I completely adore. I am still waiting for her opinion on Breaking Bad and Cowboy Bebop. As we were separated by the Fraction queue I made my way to see a pairing I was quite excited about.
As Declan sat there working on a sketch I was unsure at how he would respond to my inane questioning. I took the risk and asked how he found working on the Deadpool book, giving how the character is so popular and niche. Declan was a very amicable gentleman and was happy to chat away at how he prefers the serious and deep storylines as opposed to the comical. Duggan and Posehn have slowly built Deadpool into a character with depth, and the latest arc sees him play the hero in a way rarely seen before. This suited Declan perfectly as not only was he able to showcase his strengths but also draw Captain America and Wolverine. We discussed how the book did not use those characters gratuitously and how Deadpool held his own. He thoroughly drawing a character who transitioned into a persona more suited to his artistic style. The conversation ventured into how colouring was all-important to the book, and how he requested the pale, almost white palette to emphasis the longing and despair of his protagonist. Declan was also very enthusiastic at his new project with Warren Ellis, Moon Knight. Ellis seems a perfect accompaniment to his artistic tone and with Jordie on colouring, I cannot understand how this book won’t be amazing. This acts as a perfect segue to our next artist, sat right next to Declan.
I had been so inspired by Jordie’s colouring of Nowhere Men, that I researched some basic principles of colouring and wrote a post about it. Jordie was so pleased and grateful that she was very welcoming at Thought Bubble. She strikes me as a person who is still on a high from the accolades she has recently received for, what seems like, every book on sale. She was by far the single artist who signed the most books for me. You will notice that her signature is on a few comics posted above. Her passion and fervour for her work was firmly on display as we discussed her creative process and the differences colouring makes to a comic. It is a difficult life for a woman in the industry, let alone a colourist and she talked about how women really have to take a stranglehold on their projects and be better than everyone else. It is obviously unjust but it is improving and there are some shining examples to aspiring artists. We also discussed her inspirations and who she learnt from. I actually recorded this conversation and so will be posting a full review of her thoughts. Most importantly for Jordie was how colourists are only just gaining more credibility, and her latest book has her whole name on the cover, which is rare for any book. It was her drive and determination that really radiated across and I was incredible impressed at the amount of time she had for everyone. She was inspiring to me personally as I now plan to write another colourist post. Jordie is a wonderful lady sure to continue her success on Moon Knight and the other hundred books she is colouring.
There is a reason why I placed Jordie and Kelly Sue at the end of this post. They were both so wonderfully humbling and warm that it was endearing to me that they had managed to do so much in a male dominated industry. I am far from able to comment on the difficulties women have, or the depth of the sexual inequality but I know there are not enough women in comics full stop. I am trying very hard to understand how a female hero can be written, without being the obvious equivalent to a male counterpart. Given the level of introspection I apply to analysing comics in my reviews, I have yet to work out why Carol Danvers is such as appealing heroine. She is as impressive as many of her male colleagues but yet maintains a delicate and caring side. I don’t know how Kelly Sue does it but it is refreshing and this is exactly what I said to her.
Kelly Sue DeConnick
There is something about Kelly Sue. As I watched from afar how she smiled at everyone she met, and admired her enthusiasm for even the quietest of fans. I failed to understand the determination to maintain her demeanour in front a guy who was clearly ready to sell her work on Ebay. But she did and her positivity was unwavering. As I introduced myself I thanked her for her support of my blog. and I was as happy as could be when she recalled my avatar picture. We had a great conversation about Carol Danvers and how much success she had with her. We made parallels with Hawkeye considering how he also acts as a guardian for the people in his apartment building. There is a key difference between Carol and Clint and that is their gender. Carol is loving and warm whereas as Clint it quiet and resolute but both hold similar positions. I shared my love of Andrade’s art and how he captures the love of the book. Her passion was as greater than mine and it was clear she loved that comic as much as everyone else. There were also mentions of how, as a couple, Matt and she exchange ideas and assist each other quite regularly. Okay I admit it, I was trying to get her to confess that she helped write Sex Criminals #1. We also discussed the success of Pretty Deadly and how lucky she was to have Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire with her on the book. She was as incredibly excited and spirited about her comics and that was when I realised why Carol was such an endearing character, because I could see Kelly Sue in her. What DeConnick brings to her book is honesty and love, and the rewards of that pursuit are coming to fruition. It is written there clearly with her inscription in the Captain Marvel trade. Kelly Sue has taken a character and made her extremely popular and is using her to inspire others out there. I saw numerous people handing her sketches they made of the Carol Corps. It was an inspirational sight and I was really pleased for her. She was so lovely that I could not pass up an opportunity to be photographed with her.
As she left her table at the end of play Sunday, she passed a copy of Pretty Deadly #2 (not yet released) to the volunteer who was managing her table. This was a lovely gesture and one I found quite touching.
Thought Bubble had come to an end. I was exhausted but had a fantastic weekend with comic book fans, creators and friends. I had achieved almost all of my aims, and yes I did interview Kieron Gillen whilst making him late for a panel discussion. I had met a great number of people and had some insightful and inspiring conversations. I write this because I want to share some of those thoughts with you and I am thankful for you persisting to the end. This weekend serves only to remind me at how far reaching comics can be, and how they can bring people together. I finally got to meet people I had become friends with on Twitter and it felt completely natural. I had the opportunity to express my love and ask about characters and stories I have thought deeply about. I take those experiences and develop them into my own work as I write further reviews. Comics inhabit a particular space where interactions between people really emphasis the emotions already developed. It is a passion worth sharing and as the world becomes a smaller place, it means it is even easier to do so. There is little greater in life than finding someone that shares the same fascinations that you do. I look forward to meeting even more of you.
I got to say it was a good day.