So I went to Thought Bubble yesterday. I have a kind of vestigial interest in comics, I guess. I tend to read them if they’re sitting in front of me, or are online and in the rare position of actually being halfway decent web comics. I know pretty much nothing about the “scene” or the specifics. But I’m kind of fascinated by storytelling in general, so that small interest’s always been there. Phill Cameron prodded me a couple of weeks back and asked if I was going, and… well, why not? A chance to meet up with some people I don’t get the chance to see too often, and only an hour’s walk from my house. Might as well, y’know?
I hear Thought Bubble’s basically the UK’s best comic convention. That’s probably why it was insufferably busy for most of the day. That’s great for the event itself, of course, and brilliant for the exhibitors. It did mean a lot of standing around and shuffling very slowly around the hall, though, meaning my legs ache like hell today. Or maybe that was the dancing. It probably was the dancing. But more on that in a bit.
As well as meandering around and finally buying a copy of Phonogram: Rue Britannia off Kieron, several years behind the times, I wandered into a couple of panel sessions. The first was on horror in comics, but was somewhat let down by the fact that no one on the panel seemed particularly interested in horror, despite having worked in the field. As such, it never really stemmed far past “I guess people like horror in comics. I write/draw horror comics because people pay me to do so.” Far more interesting was a panel, hosted by Kieron, on games/comics crossovers and the similarities and difference between the two media. I think what I took away from that is mainly a games-related thing: that the reason videogame storytelling is frequently so woeful is because there’s no creative control within the writing process. As in, the story’s basically fixed by the designers, and the writer just does the script. Kieron rightly pointed out that the best game stories – Planescape, Psychonauts, BioShock – emerge when the writer is the designer. Nothing gets lost between the pairing, as a single person holds ultimate control over the narrative.
Pictionary happened. Pizza happened. Then an aftershow party happened, which, as someone not hugely into comics but rather fond of partying, was probably my highlight of the day. Kieron and his partner-in-comics Jamie McKelvie did a DJ set each, along with a few other comic folks. It started a bit wedding disco-y, with people sitting around oversized tables around the outside of the room, and the bar wasn’t serving lager on draft, meaning enormously expensive bottles all night… but man, it proved to be a really great evening. Once it filled out a bit, and a few drinks had gone down everyone’s throats… well, imagine a club at which the playlist is exclusively awesome and the entry requirements state “NO IDIOTS” in huge, bold letters. There was a lot of dancing, and it was – y’know – because dancing is awesome, not because it makes sense to show off on the dancefloor. I have memories of CSS, Blur, Joy Division, Pulp… well, there were, I’m sure, several more artists played than that. For some reason, those are the ones that stick today. As a result, my neck feels like it’s about to snap, which at least distracts from any hangover I may have buried underneath the dancing-related pain.
So, yeah: really glad I went, despite feeling like a bit of an outsider to begin with. That’s not to say anything of the people I went with – Phill, Si (whom I met through Phill at the Eurogamer Expo) and Bekki, Dan and Pete, friends of Si’s, who proved to be the most excellent company. This might be a bit sickly, but I feel like I made some friends yesterday, y’know? I don’t think I’ve laughed, sung or danced as much as last night in a very, very long time. And I suspect that if you’re actually into comics, the convention bit would have been bloody awesome too.
EDIT: Gillen’s written an absolutely fantastic account of just why the evening do in particular was so brilliant. It’s basically what I said, only he’s far more articulate than I. Also, I took precious few photos, due to forgetting I had a camera with me until we’d actually left the convention, then getting too drunk to bother with taking photos. But the sort of 6pm – 11pm stretch is covered by these.