* I feel I should be adding a disclaimer about this post because it is almost more about the people I attend the con with, than the creators I go there for. But if you have read my site and previous comicon reports, you probably already know that! *
The Set Up
So here we are, once again. This is the third time I have been at this particular convention and it has always been so much fun. This time was a little different as I was bringing two friends from the United States. The twitter experience expands year on year with new facets to the fandom revolving around friendship that it often leaves me speechless. Alison and I both started tweeting and writing about comics at a similar time and have travelled this social media train together. Hence why she is called the First Lady of the House. She came with Scott, her husband and I was very touched they came to Liverpool to visit me. As I often find when meeting twitter friends, it was very easy and natural and as true as our friendship was, it suddenly manifested itself in a physical reality. My work colleagues once described these first time interactions as blind dates, but there is so much to be said about being able to talk to another person in any kind of forum whether it is in person or not. Testament to this is how wonderful Alison and Scott really were and how comfortable I was being around them. If they lived here, I would without a doubt be annoying them with my hyper-excitability on a daily basis. Anyway there is time for more reflection later, let us ramble introspectively:
I think one of the problems I have found with attending multiple conventions is that now I am used to speaking to the same creators. I spend less time discussing comics with them, I ask for a signature, make a comment on the books that I like and ask a simple question. These are the short snippets of conversations I had with the regular peeps. I have also include those new creators I just didn’t get a chance to get deep into conversation with.
I was quite unfortunate to not spend time talking to Kate Beaton because she had a very long queue the first day and never returned to her table after lunch on the Sunday (she had two panels to attend). Her work is exceptionally intelligent with excellent comedic timing. I did bump into her though and mentioned to her I had recently travelled to Toronto, where she resides. We talked about the shop, The Beguiling which I visited there and she mentioned how it was probably the best shop in Canada. I actually bought one of her books there, but as I introduced myself to her I never had the opportunity to follow up on our conversation.
Kev Walker was selling pages from his Avengers title for a very reasonable price, as I kind of expected he would given he did the same last year. He remains a happy man and is enjoying his time on contract at Marvel, much more than he did at DC.
Both Matteo Scalera and Sean Murphy are managed by the same guy who runs their commission lists. I was so pleased to make the list for Matteo and as my general philosophy is having creators produce their popular/current characters, I asked for a Grant McKay. I was not disappointed. Sean Murphy is quite the charming and cool character. He mentioned how he has slowly gotten used to having Hollingsworth colour his work, a follow up on a conversation we once had on his work being black and white. I also asked how much of Chrononauts was directed by Millar and how much did he bring to the table, “The bit where he punches the dude in the dick. I’ve often thought about producing a book of the scenes I actually brought to the comic”. I don’t think I need to say anything else about that!
When describing to Declan Shalvey how I thought Injection was a phenomenal piece of art, he still maintained how Moon Knight was his favourite because he was afforded full creativity for the work. I discussed how the shading on Injection was quite intense and how much more texture it brought to the characters. He showed me the black and white images of his sketch book that demonstrated the balance of colour and shading. Suffice to say it was Declan that was responsible for the rendering.
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie were ever-present and I mentioned how dark the tweets in the Tara issue were. Gillen has asked people to send their most horrible tweets to him and he mentioned how there were so many more. They were very surprised to see Alison and Scott at a con in the UK and discussed their experiences and approaches to cons in each country.
I firmly regret not finding my The Fuse issues for Antony Johnston to sign because I really adore that book. I did tell him that though and how much I liked Clem as a character. I also told him how rare it is to find such a true detective book, with a big reveal at the end. He maintained that the clues were in the book all the way through and made sense. They have three overall story arcs and he was very pleased he was to be able to maintain the momentum for the comic. I tell you something else, that man had a helluva deejay set at the after party.
Charles Soule only had a short signing session and seemed a little subdued. I had no idea he was actually employed in immigration law and that was why She-Hulk was such a well written comic. I asked how he sustained his work life and writing habits and he replied simply that he was a workaholic. I wished him all the best and said though he had big shoes to fill, the lawyer experience would probably stand him in good stead for Daredevil.
Al Ewing and Lee Garbett are normally seated together but this time Al was wandering the convention waiting to be stopped. Lee is another gentleman I often speak to and is making more and more headway into the big books at Marvel. I requested a Batgirl commission as that was one of his best early books and he produced this for me. Alison and I interrupted Al during his travels and I commended him on the success of the ending to the Might Avengers. He mentioned that they gave him a brief and he was given a free run to finish as he pleased. It is very pleasing to see these two creators producing such quality work.
I had a very interesting conversation with Jason Latour and Si Spurrier as I approached Jason at Simon’s table. I was very keen to tell him that his piece on the confederate flag, at the back of an issue of Southern Bastards, was really insightful and instrumental to my understanding of it. Spurrier also added in how heartfelt it was and how as Brits we fail to understand the compulsion for some to keep the flag. Latour talked about how he had to write his feelings down and he was pleased we enjoyed reading it. Characteristically his replies were short and succinct.
Matt Kindt was as lovely as ever and stated that this was the first time he had seen the first and last Mind MGMT comic together in one place, as I asked him to sign them. I also complimented him on having an ending that was true to the whole book. He said how he was thoroughly relieved when it was over, which was a new experience as most of the time he is saddened when a book ends. The mental toll of such a story must have been difficult to handle at times. He is having a break but will return to painting at some point soon, with his wife who is also an artist too.
Phil Buckenham produced this commission for me and I was astounded. His artistic ability, especially his attention to detail is truly phenomenal. He seemed quite modest and I really hope he has more work in the future as his work is truly gorgeous.
I have always enjoyed talking to Simon Spurrier as the man is incredibly intellectual. Even though I regaled him with praise about The Spire and Marvel Zombies, he was disappointed that I stated that just because his name was on it, I knew it what to expect. I explained that in that I meant his characters were going to be well developed and there would be a deep meaning to the story. Even after that he said how he must change expectations! He also said how much he was enjoying writing The Spire and it is his most enjoyable book ever. He is always so pleasant and interactive and even though I see him at every convention, the conversations are deep and thoughtful. That also applies to Ales Kot too who also explained his workaholism. Ales’ thoughts on writing are quite passionate and unique as he focuses a large period of time on one book before moving to another. He needs to spend time within the characters and struggles to transition between them in order to write. I mentioned how much I loved the fact that Modok’s ringtone was Monster by Kanye West. It was also lovely speaking to Tom Muller again about the cover designs of Wolf. He sits next to Ales every convention and very sweet and pleasant to talk to.
Given that Alison is a personal friend of Marguerite Bennett it felt strange conversing with her in a hotel lobby. But she was as grounded as you could be and was very excited about coming to the convention. She was pleased that I had brought the first DC book she had written, one of the Batman Annuals. We both discussed how fast her career had moved and great it was to see more female writers in the bigger companies. I also asked how she wrote Angela 1602 because it was so difficult to read, and she remarked how pleased she was to be able to use the refined aspects of her English degree in a comic. Her time with the other creators was very enjoyable to her and they were more friends than work colleagues. It was good to see her very much enjoy her writing and I was very thankful for the chocolate she had on her table, deliberately to prevent the post lunch con apathy!
Farel is quite a reflective gentleman as I mentioned how I found the astronaut an odd character in the latest issue of Island. He said that he was a little out of place and anxious and he wondered where that came from. If I mention he had a note of sarcasm then you will know he was talking about himself. I noticed how he was truly a singular artist and he has a style that is not adaptable but a creative process that is imperative to him. He cannot tailor his work to the mainstream and he has so many ideas he must work on. Though he described himself as an uncomfortable person, he was remarkably honest. There is a subtlety of vulnerability that certainly manifests in the characters of his artwork. I finally bought The Wrenchies and he drew me my favourite character. It is worth noting how much detail he placed on the buildings in the background, he spent more time on that than the central character.
There was no one else I lavished more with praise than Wes Craig. I have been in awe of his panelling from day one and he discussed how his inspiration is very much the leftfield scene such as Chris Ware. He was genuinely surprised at how success Deadly Class has been and how popular his work has been. We spent a little while talking about the pages that were our favourites such as the crowd scene in the issue where Marcus takes his acid trip. He was almost disappointed he didn’t put more detail into the page. I asked for a photo but I did not expect the b-boy pose is honour of Run DMC!
Rick is very much the polished professional con attendee. He is smiley, engaging and you have the feeling he has answered all questions before. He described his writing process as one where he develops outlines for each story arc and project so he can pull out an issue and get to work on it. Each title has a different itch he needs to scratch, and he is fortunate to have such great artists working with him. He has grand plans but he enjoys the personal
stories. We discussed how Venom and Deadpool were written completely different to what they were once before because he needed to find a reason for someone to care about a character. There needs to be an aspect that allows empathy, which was why writing Stel’s optimism in Low was so incredibly difficult and took so long. He also mentioned that Black Science is only really just starting to come into shape as there was so much action, the characters are now receiving the time they need to grow. This makes a lot of sense especially as the latest issue is all about Grant, and him only.
We had heard she was sketching for £10 and so Frak and I made sure we hit her table first on the Sunday (don’t get me wrong, we were always going to be visiting her). And sure enough she did. Rocket Girl has been one of my favourite Image titles and I mentioned how her petulant face was one of the reasons why. Amy was a delightful lady in awe of the people around her, and was enjoying her con visit. We discussed the colour of the book and her inability to stop colouring parts of the comic, when she should just put her pens down. She enjoys the process immensely and never feels like she has finished which is probably why the book has such vibrancy. I asked about the design of DaYoung’s space outfit and Amy then told me of her time at college where she studied Korean. The shapes on the chestplate are actually Korean for the name DaYoung but the aesthetic of the language was natural for the design. That was a completely surprising and amazing answer to the question I asked. I told her I was looking forward to reading more work and thanked her for my sketch.
Last year I missed her one hour slot for signing and I was certainly not doing this again. I got to the Travelling Man tables ten minutes before, asked where she would be and stood by her table alone. Very quickly the queue grew and I was looking at the lady herself. She was very much in con organising mode as she was very much interested in how we thought the convention was going. She spends approximately an hour or two a day on its running throughout the year and this does leave her plenty of time for painting. I remarked at how popular she has become in the US, and she told us of how she was astounded at the amount of people visiting her tables at recent conventions over there. I said it was no surprise given how impressive Supreme Blue Rose was and how amazing her issue of #WicDiv was. In classically British style she was modest and humble and concerned that the prints she was selling had crinkled corners. I purchased a print but was not expecting her to paint it for me. All of a sudden the image had completely changed shape and appearance. It is beautiful and one of the best spontaneous con purchases I have made. It was delightful meeting Tula and certainly worth the yearlong wait!
This image sits on my desktop of my laptop and is from Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree comic. As much as it shows DMC and Run it represents the beginning of my friendship with my best friend. The love of hip-hop runs stronger than comics in me and I have revered Run DMC for many years. So much so that for most of my twenties I wore my trainers without laces. I was asked why so many times why I did it, and my response was always, “You just don’t understand”. I told DMC this and he laughed and said, “They never understand!” He asked how I kept my shoes from falling off and I told him how I experimented with Velcro and hiding my laces under the tongue, before asking how he managed the same. He responded by saying how they always bought one size too small. An idea I was completely blown away by because it had never occurred to me but made so much sense. I then asked why they wore their shoes without laces and his answer was something I have been looking for most of my adult life. “We were so excited to get new sneakers that we couldn’t wait to get home, or even put the laces in. We just walked out the store and put the laces around our necks”. There it was, an explanation for one of the most iconic hallmarks of hip-hop. Scott then entered into a conversation about his father’s record collection and DMC’s love of music and I was just in awe. The photo below represents a unification of the passions of my life combined with the people I share it with, all borne out of a love of comics and social media.
If you noted my disclaimer at the beginning of this post than I am sure you are wondering what I was talking about given that I spent the last 3000 words talking about creators. Do not be concerned that I am about to launch into a long narrative about how amazing my friends are and what great times we had. Thought Bubble was a little different this time and I noticed that the post con blues were hitting me hard. At the event I found myself apathetic at queuing and less interested in creators this year and I held higher value on the people I was spending my day with. It is a time to get together often for people who would never see one another otherwise. It is a rare occasion to discuss comics and share what we love. The convention floor as a playground for people to express their love and it is very interesting to observe how their fandom manifests itself. For the first time it was not just Rathan and I walking the floors but I spent a great amount of time with Alison and Scott. Given that Alison has a podcast show she has spoken to many members of the industry before and has a more personal rapport. This is quite apparent in watching her interact but I imagine she was like that before she hosted The Hangout. She is very similar to myself in that she is passionate and likes to engage with people. The relationships we forge have governed how we read our comics. I refuse to reveal which artists I have had difficult conversations with and those names I will not read anymore. They exist because it is not always great but I never mention the difficult con conversations. By her side is the ever-stoical Scott who is quiet and reserved unless there is a whiff of Green Lantern in the air, then he is mesmerised and enchanted. Fractures has been around a while but has only just started to talk to artists and writers, something that I take full credit for which I think has simultaneously enhanced and diminished his con experience. I would like to think more so the former because we have only really met a couple of unpleasant people. His thirst for art is more tempered than mine and only recently have I really started to think about how I am going to progress in this wonderful world of comics. I cannot keep buying art. I cannot afford it and I definitely cannot keep on with the custom frames. I have more art than walls in my habitat. This collecting process feeds into a materialistic frenzy, something that I have always thought of myself as not being. In actual fact I have plenty of art and comic goods that I need never buy anything again. And I am happy with that. Even in writing this post I am aware of the commissions I have promoted and the tweets and texts I receive. I dislike the fact that I become jealous and envious of people and their experiences and at the same time conjure those feelings in others. I only just realised that this doesn’t bring me the most happiness in comics because it is a never ending pursuit. You must find the part of the fandom that brings you ultimate joy, unfettered, unrestrained and everlasting. I have been thinking about this a lot and there were a few moments at Thought Bubble that make me believe I have found mine:
I wondered into the New Dock Hall and finally met @RobJonesWrites who I have been friends with for a few years now. His enthusiasm is intoxicating and has helped to build @madiuscomics. In fact he asked me for my advice a little while ago on one of the books, which I gladly gave, knowing full well I was no expert on the matter. There he was with his stall and comics on display. I was immensely proud because, in essence, he was living the comic dream together with Michael (@Rapiaghi), Nick (@Nick_Gonzo), and Brad (@BUGJAMed). I decided I would buy every comic on their stall in order to support them, and also made Fractures do the same. I have a huge pile to read through and will be writing about them in the next couple of weeks.
I then entered the teepee and heard, “It’s Kulbir!”. It was Sam Read (@bronzetrex), writer of EXIT Generation. This was another book I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to review a year ago. It brought me great pleasure in telling Sam how happy I was to finally see his book on the shelves in my local comic shop. We had a lovely conversation about the journey he has been on, future books and other artists he has met along the way. He implored me to seek out creators he knew but alas I was too busy chasing those signatures to do so. I found that Thought Bubble seems to be rapidly expanding as a convention because there are so many people to talk to. This often means that you spend less time visiting the lesser known but immensely talented writers and artists elsewhere. One of those lesser know people was Stephen Mooney, but that is no longer the case…
Stephen Mooney wrote and drew a book called Half Past Danger, which I fell in love with. I interviewed him, reviewed the comic and even have a commission of his on my walls. He is a good friend of Declan Shalvey and used to talk about how great his career was progressing. But as Grayson and Midnighter are becoming more popular, Stephen is now flying high. I cannot tell you how happy this made me because I know he will succeed further; it is only a matter of time and I will be steadfast in my support all the way. These three experiences made me think quite hard about where I wanted my own fandom to go. I enjoy adorning my walls with artwork and will continue to do so, but this cannot continue to expand at the rate it currently is. My writing already has turned naturally to creator owned works and as Image seems to be wooing the bigger names, I can see myself veering towards the smaller publishers. If I can play my part by supporting the incredible amount of talent scattered across the halls of the convention then it is more worthwhile than any signature or commission I acquire.
There is little doubt that I will continue to meet creators from the bigger companies because I genuinely enjoy doing so but I plan to make the transition to the undiscovered world, in a bid to unearth those hidden gems. The first stop on this journey is London Super Comic Con! Wish me luck.
Of course the evolution of my personal fandom was not the only reason why the blues had me. This was the first convention where I really stood back and noticed how big my Twitter circle of friends had become. I wanted to take some time to mention them and request that you all follow them as I do. They have become very important to me over the years and I enjoy speaking to them more than anyone else.
The #HorizonLabs con photo seems to expand at each visit and this was the biggest yet. Fractures introduced me to these great people and I am pleased to be counted among them. It is important that I mention Tobias (@nicsopana) as he missed the chance to be part of the photo, but is integral!
Left to Right, Top to bottom: Rathan (@), Amelia (@MightyMillyRos), Trey (@), George (@Scampi_N_Chips), Rob (@Refgemlin), Kay (@), Kyle (@JohnnyTimpulse), Dave (@), Me and Mark(@dirtylash) and the little Bat boy is Jack.
Over the last few cons I have spent more and more time with Sam (@curexcomplex) and Fee (@feemcbee) who are the most passionate David Aja fans in the world! Dylan (@Dylan_L_Jones) and Joe (@JoeTeulon) have also become regular con goers and are great to talk to anytime you see them. And Tony (@TonyVnrs), my Belgian friend with the most hypnotic voice and a beautiful beard. That may sound weird but it will all make sense when you go and speak to him.
Only recently have I been making an appearance on the @intercomicspod podcast and I was very pleased to have met some of my hosts. I really regret not taking the time to photograph these peeps in their lycra cosplay, but I am an idiot. Please follow Jack (@), Matie (@Super__Cyan), Kyle (@JustKyleMc), and Mat (@GeekWithoutFear).
Simon (@MritalkApple123) is another dude who I have been meeting regularly at cons, quite commonly with his parents who were missed this year. I know he may see that as embarrassing but he’s a very knowledgeable writer and you should be following him too.
I have been trying to arrange an local comic book club in Liverpool but Kieran (@vintagelaureate) has been so inconsiderate by trying to get an education and raise a family. One day Kieran, one day!
You will NEVER find a man more dedicated to Sean Murphy than Paul (@DrPaJi), I mean this Chrononauts cosplay is just brilliant. With Paji (as I know him) is his friend David (@littlechief1982) who I finally got to meet at this years con and I hope next year they will stay another day.
Every year and for the upcoming years I will make fun of Quiz (@quizlacey) for his unashamed dance moves and that he was once one of those comic filled suitcase filled kinda guys! But his dedication to the Fantastic Four is beyond belief, no seriously.
The Berries (@ & @) are an example of some of the best comic fans I have met. They are passionate and friendly to all they come across and are ambassadors to the art. The fact that their first UK convention experiences were so great is testament to the amiable fans they met here too. I have been close to Alison for years now but only met last week. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? I have never interacted with Scott as much, but that didn’t stop our time together from being interesting, intellectual and enjoyable. It is a blessing to be able to meet people who share your passion, even if they are from across the world when the friends next door to you just don’t understand. I always wax lyrical about the type of interactions the world of comics can bring, and will continue to do so because I now consider them two of my best friends.
Oh and before I finish I have to mention @….again. Every convention we go to, I share a room with Rathan, he buys every single con ticket, almost books every hotel room, rations my cash flow, gives me paper for commissions and wakes me up every single morning. You may think I am joking but it is true, and I give him abuse all day long. What can I say? Ain’t love grand?