I had a bad feeling about this year’s Thought Bubble, but I’ll get back to that in a minute.
On Friday, since I was up that end of the country, I grabbed the offered chance to do a signing at Legacy Comics in Halifax with comrade Dougie Braithwaite. And here we are:
Which was genuinely lovely – it’s an unusual shop in its location, and the signing had a fascinating atmosphere which I can best describe as like a local shop. As in, a local shop which is in a village which is the only real shop there, and as such, everyone knows each other and is a genuine community. I could have sat and watched people come in all day, really. I also just about managed to survive eating a Milk Chocolate Hob Nob milkshake, which struck me as the sort of thing that be designed to turn me from my unhealthy state into an actual corpse.
On a similar note, Comics Anonymous came down from Glasgow en route to Thought Balloon to i) say hello and ii) provide me with Fiery Irn Bru. Jamie and I had been lusting after it for weeks, and it is indeed, would have been the dream companion for Flaming Hot Monster Munch in the PC Gamer standard diet circa 1999.
And then off to Thought Bubble.
As I said, I was somewhat down on it. There were a few things that had sort of raised my eyebrow beforehand. It had escalated when a mistake had lead to the books we ordered a month back not be delivered in time for me to bring them up with me, meaning we had no books to sell and so spent our time with our feet up on the table. And a second error which lead to our hotel only being booked for one night, which is somewhat problematic. But the former resolved in an incredible roll of the dice, as they turned up on Saturday morning, and Delightful Wife was able to get two friends of ours who were driving up to pick them as they were leaving and get them up for late Saturday Afternoon. Admittedly, it was only the Singles Clubs, but better than nothing. And the room situation was sorted out with sterling and much appreciated efforts from the Thought Bubble folk. So that was okay.
But really? Even if it wasn’t, it’d have been okay. Thought Bubble really was as lovely as ever, and I came away enormously tired and entirely refreshed. As I wandered away from the party on Saturday night, I actually voiced my reservations – and noted how pleased I was to have my hunches annihilated. Optimism should crush cynicism, which is a good message to take-away from anything.
Also, Loki tried to kill me.
Jamie and I just signed all day Saturday, signing in our inimitable fashion and talking all manner of nonsense to anyone who stepped all near (Including some fairly scandalous lies at Comics Vanguard, but they had just given me some really scary fan art, so I figure it’s fair game). A lot of readers, new and old, and generally overwhelmingly lovely. I realised it was my first UK (specifically) comics con since I started Uncanny X-men, which had an obvious (and not unpleasant) effect on the people who turned up. I was manning the desk alone on Sunday, as Jamie had to wander back to London to carry on chasing a particularly nasty deadline. It was very much a traditional Con Sunday, in terms of being much quieter. It’s the first time Thought Bubble has gone two days, and I suspect it’s tricky to say whether it’s worked or not – the enormous fog would have hurt the crowds a little anyway, I think. I managed to get a chance to buy almost everything I wanted – though almost forgot Nelson, like a fool. But while I managed to get all the hellos I wanted, I missed all the panels bar the one I was actually on – where Andy Diggle, Pete Doherty, Antony Johnston, Rufus Dayglo and myself talked about our favourite comics this year. Well, abstractly. We mixed in a bunch of stuff about the future of comics in there, including a fairly extensive examination of how panel-to-panel transitions worked. The universally agreed highlight was Antony teaching Pete how to use the Ipad, though the recommendations were fun. I talked mainly about SVK, the new Solipsistic Pop and Habibi. Was especially pleased to hear that people had been grabbing copies of what we recommended from the show, which I consider a small victory. I’m also thinking about doing a comics-of-the-year list to go alongside my trad tracks of the year one, though probably pre-Xmas, so people can order ‘em for presents or something.
In short: Con get!
There was also another Loki, was more polite.
(And, yes, that’s two more female Loki’s. This is totally a “thing”.)
Oh – and then there was the Saturday Night party. As always, it skirted with open disaster when a very important wire was nowhere to be found, and I had the image of Boo Cook trying to stretch his eight CDs across five hours, in a kind of pop music equivalent of the feeding of the five-hundred. But the cable was eventually found and the party was on. And the party really was on. Boo went for it immediately, and the crowd responded, with barely a gap between music and a writhing dancefloor. It’s a theme of the night – people came primed for dance. I found myself talking to Al Ewing, noting that at the first Thought Bubble, he and I were the first two people to go on, by ourselves, in a must-try-and-get-shit-started way, not really expecting anything to happen. But then, after that first night where Mikey summoned music from a laptop plugged directly into the stage, it’s grown into something people talk about. And so people hear about it. And they think “I fancy some of that”. As in, the people there come knowing that Thought Bubble is the con where people dance.
Mikey, con-broke from working since 4am, didn’t DJ for the first time, so breaking tradition. It broke in another way, because Al Ewing came on earlier, and dropped his poptimistic shapes earlier. Hell – he got a crowd chanting AL! AL! AL! moment prompted – if I remember correctly – by a crazy-ass A-ha live version, which was the first genuinely enormous song of the evening. Between Boo and him was Antony Johnston, who played things a little more oblique, with a set consisting solely of metal cover versions. \m/! Then was Jamie – after some technical problems delayed his set, who played as populist a set as he’s every dropped. By which I mean, he played Duran Duran as well as LCMDF.
I’m not one to talk about populist. My set couldn’t have been more populist if I was handing out five quid notes. Starting with the Seth-Bingo-quotation of Atomic, I basically worked my way through the best floor-fillers in the last thirty years. I was trying to work out how to play some indie-stuff, and did the expected Kenickie and Belle & Sebastian, but felt the overwhelming duty to just play stuff which every fuck knows. Shameless. Absolutely shameless. Mixing which involved basically playing a record after one another, perhaps with a half second when both are playing, and no-one seemed to care. Go for the critical hit. If you’re going to play Jackson, Madonna and Dee-lite, you play Billie Jean, Like A Prayer and – er – Groove Is In The Heart, obv. After the big pop prayer, I smirkingly dropped My Chemical Romance and jumped onto the dancefloor. And people still danced! It was one of those ones.
(I wore the white suit from the Signapore trip, as I figured, “why not?”. It was, shall we say, the subject of much commentary.)
Clark followed, similarly pop with a bit more Hip-hop slant, and manfully continued onwards until 2:30, at which point his body gave in (like Mikey, he was up from 4am). This meant Antony and I stepped in and double-teamed it, swapping pairs of songs back and forth until we wrapped it up at 2am. Throats were destroyed with Total Eclipse Of The Heart, which remains the Rome that a certain kind of set leads to. The dancefloor was a scene of Epic Melodrama of caligulan intensity. Totes!
In short: See you next year.
Thought Bubble actually runs for a week. I’m never up for the other events, but Matt Sheret and Kristyna Baczynski were the writer and artist in residence, and if you want to read about what was going down, you could do far worse than going and reading their blog entries. For example, not reading their blog entries.