A little later than I had planned to publish this Blog, but I am having to fit everything around the production of the graphic novel nowadays, to enable me to finish it.
I have decided that the venue for the comic convention in Leeds is the best one on the UK, for actual ease of access. The site includes the car park, convention halls, and after party reception rooms, with the panels and workshops, just a short walk away.
The only thing that could now be added is hotels on the site, but as the buildings are already in existence then the short taxi journey to them has to be acceptable to everyone. As I haven’t stayed over, as it is a one day event up to this moment (next year’s event is set for two days of convention added to the week-long outer events) I don’t know how much of an inconvenience this is, but I haven’t heard anyone complain about the situation.
From the off for me it took around fifty eight minutes to get from home to the car park. The Sat Nav guided me along the way with complete ease. From the second floor of the car park and as I had no table and was only carrying my small A3 portfolio it took mere moments to descend from the second floor to the outside. From there it was around thirty seconds to a minute’s walk, so you can see what I mean about the convenience of the venue.
The organisation is great too, with one nice orderly queue of fans waiting for entrance and a more civilised bunch of folks in such a long queue you will find hard to beat. As a professional attending, despite not having my own table, my access could not have been smoother. I was allowed past the front doors and given my pass within moments and then I was through the reception foyer and inside the convention itself.
The first person I saw whom I knew was John Anderson of Soaring Penguin fame and we chatted for a while, whilst I perused his wares and he asked how the graphic novel was coming along and how Bentley was. He is a big fan of both, with Bentley easily edging his way to pole position with him.
As I turned to walk away and check out more tables I was instantly greeted by another comics buddy, Nigel Dobbyn, of 2000 AD and Billy the Cat fame. Again we stood for an age simply chatting about our families, the way of the world, the convention and our current work.
This was to be repeated many times though out the day.
As I covered the far left hand side aisle I ran across my longest known mate in comics, Al Davison, who was there with his brand new Hokusai – Demons graphic novel which looks absolutely superb.
I next crossed paths with my good buddy and fellow MaltaComicCon guest, Sean Azzopardi with whom I spent two long sessions during my time there idly chatting away about all sorts of things and who very kindly gave me a copy of his excellent ED Sketch Book, which now as pride of place amongst my other sketch books, from comics folks like, Bernie Wrightson and Alex Niño.
Then during my second chat session with Sean we were joined by firstly Lee Townsend, with whom I spent a good while discussing our mutual favourite prog rock band YES and then we were joined by Paul Gravett who kindly took me over to and introduced me to the guys at Blank Slate publishing. After a chat about printing we swapped cards and then I was off on my travels once more, whereupon I spied my good buddy, Barry Kitson, who as usual was sketching for the fans. It is almost unfair to call them that, in my humble opinion though, as his pictures he produces are nicely inked and sometimes coloured too, depending on the fans’ requests and further more they are still free in a new age whereby we see most comics creators charging for their sketches. Nothing wrong with either approach but nice to see such sterling work being produced at ever convention I have ever seen Barry attend.
It was whilst I was chatting with Barry that another mate of mine from the worlds of comics appraoched me, Mike Conroy, who very kindly showed me the dummy for his brand new project, his magazine, Multiverse, which looks fantastic!!!
Well, hidden behind John Romita Junior’s queue of fans and Barry’s who was to his left, lay the hidden treasure I had made the extra effort to attend Thought Bubble this year and that was in the form of French superstar writer/ artist/storyteller, Didier “CRISSE” Chrispeels, who was sat at his table next to his friend and colleague, Nicolas Kéramidas. I found it incredible that this marvellous talent did not have as huge a queue as his American counterpart. This shows for my money, just how much influence the US comics scene still hold sway over with the comics fans here in the UK.
Now I love John’s work as much as the next guy, but we do not often see any European comics creators here in the UK, much less someone of Crisse’s stellar achievements, but this made my introductions all the more easy and the first thing I did was buy a magnificent hard back book off him, which he very kindly sketched in and signed.
After the introductions, I told him I had first seen his work in the prestige format book, Tellos, Maiden Voyage, by Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo back in 2001 and had tried to get hold of him ever since to see if he would like to work with me on something, that something has since become, Worlds End, as you guys already know.
I also told him about the Malta Comics Conventions and that the organisers would love for him to go along to the next one and he was certainly up for that.
We spent some time chatting about the work he was doing at present and he was interested in seeing the Worlds End pages, which I had with me. He had gathered a queue again though and as the sketch was still wet I asked if I could leave it with him and I would return a little later and would show him the pages then.
I next came across my mate Bryan Talbot, or Doctor Talbot, as he is now known, since his honorary doctorate was given to him a few months ago now. Bryan as always was signing and sketching in both his Grandville volumes and chatting merrily away to his many fans, who were queued waiting for their books signing too. We chatted and Bryan asked how my graphic novel was coming along and I have to admit to feeling pleased that at least I can now say there is more than half the book completed.
At the end of that aisle I met and chatted to a couple of guys producing their own small press comics under the guise of Under Fire Comics, but sadly I did not manage to go back and get one of their anthologies, but have added them to my list of must sort out next time items.
I also chatted to Jason James, who produces a wonderful comic for Apple’s App Store entitled Ghost Boy, which also took my eye. I also picked up some other advertising literature for some of the other wonderful books on display there, but sadly there wasn’t enough time to chat to many others, so next year’s two day event may enable me to do this, although the plan is to have a table in 2011, to promote and sell the Worlds End graphic novel.
I chatted with Dean Ormston and his wife Fiona Stephenson at their table and arranged to meet up with them after the show. I couldn’t manage to get near to my other buddy from the Marvel UK days, Dougie Braithwaite, but did manage to catch up with fellow MaltaComicCon2 guest, Gary Erskine, who as usual was sketching away for the fans.
The sight which intrigued me most was the Cinebook tables which now have an incredible line up of books, some of which I have bought over the last few years. The plan was to buy some more, but again time ran out and I will either have to wait for another convention, or else place an order on line, which do you reckon will come first...I’ll leave you here with that thought.
I decided to make my way back to Crisse’s table and saw a queue on front of me in the aisle I was walking down and there behind it signing his many books on display with his colleague, Book Cook was none other than my good buddy and future Worlds End letterer, Rich Starkings, whom I had not seen in at least twenty years, or so, who was signing his Elephantmen books.
He caught my eye and made room for me to sit and chat with him at this table, where we discussed our families, comics, life in general and all manner of other subjects, as he continued to sign relentlessly. Once I was captured like this he asked when he was going to receive the script off me to letter the graphic novel and I explained I had only recently received the script back from James and I had to give it the once over and then he could have it.
The next week, or so will see me do this and then I can wing it off over the net to Rich’s studio in the USA for him to begin lettering. One of the fans asked if he was correct in assuming Rich was also a letterer and before he could answer I did so for him, saying this was THE best letterer in the business, which I know meant a lot to him and certainly made the fans smile too around him.
That is after all why I am employing him alone to do the honours with the lettering. I want this book to be the best thing I have ever worked on, so why not use the guy I hold in high esteem to place the literary side of things.
Well, after an absolute age, I parted company and although we were due to meet up at the after party that evening, sadly I never got to see him again, so hectic was the day and evening. I will be in touch soon though with the script.
Just before I reached Crisse again I met up Leah Moore (Alan Moore’s daughter) and her husband, John Reppion and their little son, Edward. This was the first time I had met the little fellow and he is definitely of comic blood, as when Darth Vader, yes the actual one out of Star Wars walked past with his Storm Troopers and Judge Dredd he did not bat an eyelid. I have to add here that there is always a large Cosplay contingent at Thought Bubble and this year was no different.
It was at their table that I met up with another buddy Michael Molcher, whom I first met here in Blackburn when he was still in school. His father was the minister at the time at the church in the centre of town, where I have parked my car now for over twenty odd years. Now somewhat older and much taller we chatted for a while with Leah and John, before I finally said my goodbyes and prised myself away to go back to Crisse’s table.
Eventually I got there and we chatted further and asked each other about our current and future projects and he asked to see the pages from the book. By now the sketch was dry that he had produced and I was now its very happy owner.
We arranged to meet up at the after party at some point and I then spent some time looking through Nicolas’ prints and having bought a couple of them had him produce a sketch for me too, which was part of the deal.
He had only just made a start on it when the stentorian voice of one of the organisers roared out that it was now time to leave the hall, before the first of the tables were folded up, or rather thrown to the ground (an attempt to get rid of the stragglers perhaps?). Regardless the sketch was finished and a fine one it is. I plan on framing it in the next week, or so, so I can display it here in the studio.
I met up with Dean and his wife, Fiona and we set off for the after party along with Dougie. Like I say the situation of the venue is perfect and within a minute we were inside the Casino, where the after party had been booked.
Eventually we found the room where we were meant to be for the after show party and we sat down, me with a coca cola, as I was driving and spent the rest of the evening chatting. We were soon joined by Sean Phillips and Duncan Fegredo, with whom I spent half the night chatting, Bryan Talbot, Gary Erskine, Paul Gravett, Adi Granov, his wife, Tamsin Isles, Didier Chrispeels and Nicolas Kéramidas, with whom I spent the second half of the evening chatting, and Peter Doherty, who told me that John Smith was also there at the bar, a fellow citizen of Blackburn and a writer for 2000AD amongst others. I hadn’t seen John since the early nineties, so we did a little catching up too.
Then eventually, around two fifteen, I decided to call it a night and head off home back across the Pennines. I arrived back around three thirty, or so and after unpacking, answering a few emails and spending a short time with my little mate, Bentley, who had obviously missed me during the day, I retired to bed with a cup of tea and my hard cover Crisse art book.
Below some photographs of the show:
Bryan Talbot signs Granville Mon Amour
Rich Starkings signs Elephant Men
Darth Vader meets Judge Dredd
Barry Kitson sketches for the fans
Barry Kitson hands his sketch over to fan, Karl
Leah Moore, John Reppion and Edward
Peter Doherty sketches for Nicolas
Nicolas sketches for Peter Doherty
I had an absolutely fantastic time this year and although the plan had first been to attend with a table the freedom not having one afforded me, meant I was able to catch up with a great many of my friends in the comic business, some of whom like Richard and John I had not seen in a long while.
Until next time, have fun!
November 26th 2010