We spent last weekend in Leeds for Thought Bubble, one of the biggest comics conventions in the UK. We’ve just about recovered enough to tell you what we learned.
The Thought Bubble convention was amazing to behold. Outside the Royal Armouries, Batman chatted to Judge Dredd, and Storm Troopers casually dawdled – at one point having their photo taken with a small boy in a wheelchair. Two halls were filled with stalls: from big hitters like Blank Slate,Top Shelf and Self Made Hero, to smaller indie publishers, to self-publishers - some of whose comics were of such high quality they were indistinguishable from the ‘pro’s. Roller girls glided among us, smiling at the fun of it all.
There were also a variety of talks, some of which we attended. So here’s what we learned from Thought Bubble:
The message here echoed a quote from Clive Gillinson we heard at the AmbITion Scotland webinar last Friday: “Money follows vision”. Finding a way to make money from your comic is a case of creating something so wonderful that your loyal audience goes on to buy merchandise and further issues, and you can sell advertising on your site.
Crowdfunding has been used successfully to fund comics, but there was some talk about the language of asking for money: remember that it’s about presales for a beautiful product, not a donation for the survival of an artist. Anyone wishing to use crowdfunding as a way to make a comic was advised to bear this in mind, and also realise that audience loyalty can be a one-time thing.
Spotlight on Alan Moore
Alan Moore fans are…intense. The cover of Alan Moore: Storyteller, by Gary Spencer Millidge, is a photo taken of him in his younger years, and as his clear blue eyes gazed from his wrinkle-free face I was reminded not of Alan Moore, the cranky writer, but Jesus, saviour of mankind. Oh dear. Moore apparently hates the comics industry, and I wondered, particularly during the talk which was all adoration and no criticism, if the pressure of being a hailed as a genius is a bit too overwhelming to bear.
Women in Comics
Whilst Suzy Varty described times early in her career when she was ‘the woman’ in the comics industry, Emma Vieceli told us she was tired of being asked by journalists if it’s hard for a woman to get into the comics industry. She says yes; it is hard for a woman to get into it. It’s also hard for a man to get in. Everyone has to work hard to break in. We came away from the talk full of hope for a day when a woman only panel on women in the industry is no longer considered necessary.
The Future of Comics
Overwhelmingly, the advice has been to make whatever you feel is missing, create whatever you feel should be there. Any kind of story can be told, and any kind of art can be used to express it. Big publishers are now taking comics very seriously indeed, and a new, curious audience is growing, with the technology for the way we view comics changing all the time.
It’s hard to predict just what that the future is in terms of money, but as a form of art and literature, comics are booming.
Upcoming comics conventions:
A new crowdfunding site for the arts in Scotland, AngelShares Scotland, launched last week
Are women in comics really entering an age of acceptance? Are we being too hard on Alan Moore-mania? And what would you rather have - an online read or a comic you can hold in your hands? Comment below and let us know what you think.
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