As previously mentioned, the Mindless dream team of The Beast Must Die, Illogical Volume and Andrew “Mandrew” Hickey made it down to Leeds for this year’s Thought Bubble comics convention. These are their recollections of the event, as distorted by the passing of time, sleep-deprivation, alcohol consumption, and the brain-scrambling dazzle of a white lounge suit:

Illogical Volume: I realised quite early on in my Thought Bubble experience that it wasn’t going to be as easy to write about as Kapow!, if only because it was really nice and unproblematic and totally free of Mark “fucking” Millar.

This shouldn’t be taken as any sort of slight on the event itself of course, because Thought Bubble 2011 was relaxed, kid-friendly, and packed full of both dazed pros and cheerful young upstarts.  It’s just… well, I’d struggle to make any sort of grand story out of the weekend, you know?

Still, after a couple of grumpy months, spending a weekend in this enviroment genuinely made me feel slightly more kindly to my favourite medium.

I mean, just look at this beast:

That’s Solipsitic Pop #4, a post-McSweeney’s indie comic that wants to take over your living room. This issue’s all about maps, and as if maintaining a thematic throughline across so many disparate parts wasn’t enough, it’s also brought to you by the colour green:

Ah… flicking through this comics reminds me of how much I miss the distinctive colouring of the Image-era Casanova comics, but I digress!  As you might expect, there are a couple of pretty/vacant strips in Solipsistic Pop, but there are also several small wonders – the sublime literalism of Kristina Bacynski‘s ‘Atoll’ forced a genuine laugh out of me at Leeds coach station, Stephen Collins‘ ‘The A to Z of Mrs P’ is as information heavy a one page comic as you’re likely to read this year, and Nick Edwards‘ ‘Triangle Noms’ looks like it was drawn both by and for the naughty kid in class.

My personal favourite strip is John Cei Douglas‘ ‘Footnotes’, which – I’ve known John for ages, we go back, he’s sent me comics and Stinger bars in the past, so I can’t pretend to be 100% objective here or anything, but… yeah, I think it’s still definitely the best thing in there.

I dunno, have a look yourselves and see what you think:

‘Footnotes’ reminded me of the final flourish of Jaime Hernandez’ recently complete Love & Rockets story ‘The Love Bunglers’, which is quite impressive when you consider the fact that John’s strip doesn’t have the weight of hundreds of other comics behind it like Jaime’s does.  In just four gorgeous green pages, ‘Footnotes’ does a great job of mirroring the way we build grand stories out of our romances while at the same time subtly undermining the validity of these feelings.  The fact that it does so through silent panel composition only makes it more remarkable.

(If I wanted to be a smartarse I could probably do a bit here about how Solipsistic Pop can be seen as a microcosm of Thought Bubble as a whole.  If I was going to do this I would probably point out that even at their most underwhelming both Thought Bubble and SP #4 [we{a}re] still charming, noting that if you ever find yourself being bored by the shouty post-punk band fronted by a Ragged Robin cosplayer, as I did at the mid-show party, you’d have to be a bit of a grump to find no amusement in the fact that you were being bored by a shouty post-punk band fronted by a Ragged Robin cosplayer. The fact that so many of the comics in SP #4 are concerned with how we map our thoughts and experiences would also prove to be very helpful, if I was going to be a smartarse. Which I’m not.)

I was pretty broke by the time Sunday came around – rumours that I drank myself into poverty with The Beast Must Die while throwing Ws at Kieron Gillen and shouting for ‘Gravel Pit’ have yet to be confirmed by reliable witnesses – so I couldn’t afford to buy too many of the wonderful looking comics on display. Still, after dancing for pennies I did manage to pick up a couple of comics on my travels:

Howl is a collection of short horror comics edited and tied together by “Dancing” Dan White. GOVERNMENT HEALTH WARNING: this anthology features a Fraser Geesin drawing of a naked lady (!), but my favourite strip in this anthology is actually Mindless contributor Danny Noble‘s properly horrible ‘Joanna’, which played on all of my fairly obvious issues relating to indifference and abandonment when I read it on the bus home, and left me feeling quite paranoid in the process. Thanks Danny!

If you don’t know from Cindy and Biscuit already, go find out about them then head over to Dan’s shop to buy more.  Honestly, these are some of my favourite comics of the year – like I’ve said before, Dan always makes sure that C&B look so free when they’re having fun that you really feel it when they hit the ground.

I also picked up two copies of both Giant Days and Ghosts by John Allison, one of each for me and my boy Scott.  John might be the only webcomics superstar to have stolen my uncle’s name, but he’s a lot funnier than my uncle, and Giant Days is almost like a version of Scott Pilgrim that’s specifically designed to make me think of visiting my ex-girlfriend in her Uni dorms. Which is nice.

Beyond that my budget only stretched to one issue of Roger Langridge’s Snarked (22 pages of gorgeous mischief for £1, yaasss!!), and a whole bundle of 25p comics, including: Strange Embraces #1-2 (which might actually look more unsettling in black and white!), a couple of random issues of the Kelly/Mahnke JLA (enjoyably formulaic superhero comics, both – I’ll probably pick up a few more at some point), a random issue of Steve Ditko’s Machine Man (good fun when the captions give Ditko’s art enough space to do its thing), Frank Ironwine #1 of #1 (in which Carla Speed McNeil makes a slightly clunky Warren Ellis script work by drawing some of the best character reactions in comics) and the last few issues of G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker’s Air, which proved to be every bit as intriguingly unsatisfying as the first.

More importantly, I got to hang out with Andrew and The Beast Must Die, touch Dan Oddballuk’s head, give Kieron Gillen a limited edition Mindless Ones banana, talk about The Death Ray with Jim Werdsmiffery, and chat to Ben Deep Space Transmissions, Paul Gravett and Peter Milligan.

I also got to see Judge Dredd peel a label off a Strom Trooper’s arse. Sadly, I wasn’t quick enough to capture this glorious moment with my camera, so I’ve recreated it here for posterity:

Ah, comics… they’re fucking brilliant, aren’t they?

They are.

Given that I lost quite a bit of money on this (as I knew I would), it’s perhaps unsurprising that I disdained the rich man’s 25p bins frequented by spendthrifts like Mr Volume, and instead went for the 20p comics, where I got the kind of haul Bob Temuka always talks about dreaming of finding – forty-nine issues of Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League for under a tenner!

My job at the table was mostly to not recognise people – I didn’t recognise Peter Milligan or Paul Gravett at all. But Peter Millgan in particular was great fun even though I didn’t know who he was. And in a Mindless Ones Exclusive!!! we can tell you that his favourite primates are bonobos.

Other Mindless Ones Exclusives!
Kieron Gillen is planning some new comics! You probably guessed that, admittedly, but we’re not going to go into more detail and spoil it for everyone.
Gail Simone’s husband nearly bought my book on the Monkees but then didn’t!
Children love Cindy & Biscuit! (Everyone loves Cindy & Biscuit)

It’s just like reading Newsarama after San Diego, isn’t it?

Well, no, it’s not, and that’s the thing. Thought Bubble is a much, much more relaxed, enjoyable event than any of the big media conventions. It’s entirely devoted to comics, for one thing – there were no special preview trailers for the latest superhero film, no special appearances by laddish comedians saying “I’m a geek too”. The closest thing to booth babes were some women on roller skates advertising some sort of young person’s roller disco. Instead, it has an associated academic conference on comics, panels on women in comics, and plenty of free events for children.

And unlike most other conventions, there was no segregation of stalls. As ‘indie creators’ (we had Dan’s wonderful comics and my books on sale, as well as being there to advertise this site) we were in the same hall, and given the same space and prominence, as Peter Milligan, Gail Simone, D’Israeli, Cameron Stewart, Dave Gibbons and a dozen more Really Big Names. And at the same time, the comics shops selling back issues were also mixed in with us. Everyone was equal – there was no indie ghetto.

I also discovered that being at a comic convention as an exhibitor is much, much more fun than going as a customer. You get a chair to sit on, special toilet access, and rather than having to walk round, the convention comes to you. Everyone walks past, and every so often someone comes up to you and tells you you’re great (though I felt a bit bad about taking compliments on the site’s behalf, as the new boy) and sometimes they give you money. I recommend it to everyone.

The best thing was, definitely, getting to spend time with Illogical Volume and The Beast Must Die (and finally getting round to purchasing all TBMD’s comics), talking with Ben Deep Space Transmissions and Jim Werdsmiffery (and not as much as I’d like with Crispy Commonswings) and planning for next time.

Because one day we shall return. Oh yes, we shall return. And after this initial exploratory venture, we almost know what we’re doing. Next time will be BIGGER, with MORE MINDLESSESSES, and MORE STUFF FOR SALE. We might even have a tablecloth that covers the entire table next time, we’ll be that professional.

But even should the unthinkable happen and we don’t get our act together to have a stall next year, you should still go along. It’s the most interesting mixture of friendly, welcoming and utterly civilised, while still allowing for drunken dancing to Charlie Adlard and Phil Winslade’s metal band and Kieron Gillen’s DJing.

Where else are you going to see Judge Dredd face off against K-9 ?

The Beast Must Die


I can only heartily concur with Mr Hickey and Mr Volume in stating that Thought Bubble was an extremely bloody nice comic con. Lots of lovely friendly people, nice creators and the staff were all ultra-nice. Also got to catch up with some of my favourite small press compadres.

Plus Cosplayers (which are THE BEST thing to view with a hangover). Nothing better than a pasty Punisher browsing a comics stall to cheer the spirits.

Had a few nice folk pop by and see the Mindless – props especially to Ben DST, Werdsmiffery, the lovely John Riordan, Paul Gravett and Peter Fucking Milligan!

Sold a fair few comics, but seeing as I ballsed up my travel up to Leeds, I was never going to make any money. And to be honest, it’s testament to Thought Bubble’s positive vibe that it didn’t bother me in the slightest.

(It occurs to me that the last two full-on comic cons I’ve been to were Kapow (Kapoo) where I had jetlag, and Bristol years ago where I was on acid. Not sure what that say about Thought Bubble, but I definitely felt a lot fucking saner there…)

But who cares about all that – let’s talk the stash, bitches!

I didn’t actually buy much on the 1st day, apart from the absolutely fucking brilliant Olympic Games by Lando of the Decadence Comics collective.

Heavily indebted to Moebius and some of Otomo’s shorter works (in particular the devastating ‘Farewell to Arms’), ‘Olympic Games’ is simply brilliant; bleak, beautiful and perfectly judged, drawn in a deceptively excellent thin line. It’s like an arthouse Rogue Trooper comic, and it looks like this:

I also swapped comics with John Riordan, whose Hitsville UK comics, produced with Dan Cox, is a blast. A post-Phonogram jaunt into the heart of a demonic record label, it’s got the jaunty vibe of Whizzer & Chips, mixed in with a healthy dollop of Deadline’s style, and then mixed with a music fan’s love of obscure one-hit wonders…kind of like a supernatural version of the Factory Records story. Great stuff, and John is an absolute treat of a man:

We were sat next to the very lovely Warwick Johnson Cadwell, and we too swapped our comics juices. I also purchase an utterly splendid ‘Avengers’ print off him. A true gent, with a nice loose style and just a hint of the McMahon’s about his work:


I also scored some total bargains.

I picked up a copy of Igort’s fabulous 5 is the Perfect Number for £3. This hard boiled crime story is right up there as one of the best looking comics of the last 20 years:

Even better than that, for the same absurdly low price, I got Yuichi Yokoyama’s utterly unique, and bafflingly brilliant Garden. I devoured this immediately when I got home, and haven’t been so mesmerized by a comic for…well I don’t actually know if ever. The closest thing to the experience are those bizarre cubist, geometric nightmares you have when you’re a kid. (You had those, right?)

In a word, genius.

On day 2, we Mindless few took it in turns to stumble out into the wonders of the 25p comic boxes – Illogic Volume and myself suffering mightily from post-prandial remorse, which as all sensible folk know can only be cured by buying shitloads of superhero comics.

For my sins I picked up a whole bunch of later period Ditko (Speedball, The Fly and the truly fucking weird Secret City Saga, which is Steve Ditko drawing a Jack Kirby comic which features a cameo from Bill Clinton…)

I also got hold of some issues of Hex, the barking mad gonzo future version of Jonah Hex, as written by the one and only Michael ‘don’t call me bugshit crazy’ Fleischer. In particualr I got the Keith Giffen drawn final issues, done in his ‘Munoz’ period. I absolutely love Giffen’s art at this stage – along with the ‘5 yrs later’ Legion issues, and Ambush Bug, that’s some of my favourite shit right there.


In the ‘random’ category, I found a couple of Topps Comics’ Ray Bradbury Comics, featuring adaptations of his stories by Harvey Kurtzman and Matt Wagner (!), Richard Corben and Sean Phillips, along with classic EC reprints by Jack Davis and Al Williamson. Now if they aren’t worth 25p, what are?

I also picked up some of these.

If you don’t know why, I’m not telling you…

Ultimately the best thing about Thought Bubble was a comic con that made me proud and pleased to be a comic creator as well as a fan. It was fantastic meeting up with Andrew and David (and getting hold of Andrew’s great books – go buy them!), and it was great to rep-re-zent the Mindless Hive Mind. We’ll be there next year, so you should be too!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.