Monday, 14 November 2016

Thought Bubble 2016

TB16's lovely banner artwork by Emmeline Pidgen

Phew, where does the time go? Already a week since the wonderful experience that is Leeds in
November for the Thought Bubble Comic Art Festival's Comic-Con! Dave, as always, has already done his own overview of the show and other recent events, which you can find here, so mine will maybe be briefer than normal, let's see!

This perp's says he's at Thought Bubble looking for comics!

We have been fortunate enough to attend each one of TB's ten shows so have witnessed first hand their growth from Leeds City Hall basement to the three hall sprawl at the Royal Armouries and more as it has deservedly taken it's pole position as the UK's premier event for celebrating the art of comics and graphic novels and the joy of the medium itself.

When TB started it was one of only a handful of dedicated 'pure comics' shows on the UK circuit and was clearly the new kid on the block compared to the established Bristol Comics Expo and the growing Birmingham International Comics Festival ('BICS') which, along with Paul Gravett's Comica, had filled the void by the demise of UKCAC, the previously long running UK event. Over the intervening decade though both Bristol and BICS ceased, (although both recently resurfaced in smaller guises), allowing TB to establish it's own identity, contrasting markedly from the various 'pop culture' shows which appeared, by retaining comics and comics art as TB's centrepiece.

Kim Jung Gi's live drawing was very popular....
....all done feehand in ink!!

This approach and some savvy organisation know how and industry contacts from the committee has seen TB grow and embrace the comics medium to become what it is today, a showpiece event that everyone with an interest in comics can enjoy. It's audience has similarly grown to what must have been only a few hundred back in 2007 to the several thousands, who now enjoy the show and the various programmes of events during the week of the festival. While other 'comics-centric' shows have appeared since 2007, TB is now firmly established as the premier one that everyone wants to be at and it's a great place for seeing so many familiar faces from today's comic scene and make new discoveries amongst the many exhibitors, which despite the high demand, the committee carefully curate to give space to new talent.

Always a delight to catch up with ACE Comic's Mr Biff!
Mr Kennedy & friend!
Sara & Matt and MULP #3!

I won't list the many folk I saw and spoke to or the sadly equally many that I didn't, due to the size and scope of the event, but TB16 was, I think, a successful year for most, including ourselves. Like previous year's, sales were concentrated on debuting books and new titles with several returning customers 'hoovering up' everything we'd released since TB15, thank you! My wee Moments Of Adventure sold well, particularly on the Saturday, and generated some lovely comments and the new WesterNoir trade also doing very well, becoming our top seller of the show, despite many folks already having the individual issues - Dave and Gary's sales patter and the bonus story & pin ups being too much to resist!

David, Andy, Neil & Stuart, the prolific Treehouse Crew - 3 new issues since TB15!

Like previous TB's though, the competition for attention and sales is huge - some 350 tables across the three venues - and many browsers understandably spoke about watching what they spent as there was just so much amazing work to see. This may be the hidden 'achiles heel' for TB as it's not a cheap show to attend and while very busy it doesn't have the infinite crowds that the 'pop culture' style shows attract but TB attendees are on the whole dedicated comic fans and will buy what interests them, it's just that their purses and wallets can't keep up :)

Scott takes The Pith at TB16 - note the lovely luggage display!

In the end, despite a couple of titles selling very well our overall sales matched last year, almost to the £, which was initially disappointing considering how busy the event was but we were pleased that our new releases had found an audience and also that our - Asylum inspired - luggage display was well received - we may even consider a Haberdashery Department for next year! That said, TB really is an essential showcase for UK comics and we are already planning next year's new releases accordingly, hopefully see you there!

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