Thought Bubble 2009


It’s been a week and a bit since the Thought Bubble Festival wrapped up in Leeds. Since then I’ve recovered, caught up on comics and survived a landslide of storyboard work. I can now reminisce about what was easily the best UK comic show of the year (there’s a handy summary of everyone else’s much more timely reports of the show here on the FPI blog).

I arrived with flatmate and artist Chris Doherty on the Friday and we met up with Marc Ellerby who I’d be sharing a table with the next day, his girlfiend Anna, John Allison and Joe List for a very fancy meal in a very fancy restaurant that for some reason loved to play house-trance music all night. Despite that we all enjoyed some great food under the glimmering eye of David Niven, who lounged in a huge photograph above our booth. He would be our suave spirit guide for the weekend.

The Friday night drinking carried on with other comics folk in an old Samuel Smith’s pub in a side alley and ended in the 13th floor bar of the City Inn Hotel. There we caught up with more comic creators and the Thought Bubble staff. I finally met Clark in the flesh who had kindly interviewed me and featured me on the Thought Bubble blog. He was as enthusiastic as I’d imagined him and all weekend he would always appear just in time to help us out. I’d forgotten the tablecloth, the only task Marc trusted me with, and Clark came through with a clean bedsheet from home. From his own bed! You just don’t get this kind of help at other shows.

I also said a brief hello to Ben Templesmith who, at the launch party at Fab Cafe Leeds the night before, has been admiring my mural behind the bar there. That was nice to hear and surprising as I’d painted it 7 years ago and would probably cringe at most of it myself.

Chris and I strolled back to the hotel at about 2:30, well, I strolled, Chris ran through flowerbeds. Up early the next day we dragged our bodies around the corner to the Royal Armouries’ Savilles Hall. Named after Jimmy Saville, the lobby has a series of photographs of old Jim’ll with famous types. Snoozing with The Beatles, singing at Nancy Sinatra and this one of him with Elvis. I’d seen these last year but people don’t really believe me so this year I got a photo.


Elvis has a gold record but if you look closely Jimmy seems to have a frisbee glued to a big doiley.

I met Marc inside the hall and we set up. Marc had the new issue 2 of Chloe Noonan, easily one of the most exciting new releases at the show (preview here, buy it here). What better way to start a show than receiving a complimentary Krispy Kreme doughnut from Leigh ‘Mr. Nice’ Gallagher? Answer: there isn’t. After I has scoffed the doughnut and Anna pointed out I had sugar all over my face, the day flew by as days at shows usually do. I didn’t get to see as many people as I’d like or buy as many comics but I was very busy all day, selling the brand new for the show Glastonbury: A Postcard Book and a surprising amount of Everyday Collections.

I also did a handful of sketches for people who had asked. My favourite by far was this one of Mr Noel Curry’s two children Fergal and Niamh and their friend Ludo. Noel has a write up of his day at the show with the kids here.


Peter Parker is overjoyed at my work.


A scan of the sketch from Noel’s blog.

EDIT: Here’s some copies of my sketch coloured in by Niamh and Fergal that Noel kindly sent me. Fergal added lines for noses in his because I had “forgot to draw them”.


In between selling and making fun of Marc, I had a good chat with Darryl Cunningham whom I hadn’t met before. His comics about psychiatry are disarmingly honest and deeply emotional. A book of these stories, Psychiatric Tales, will be coming out from UK publisher Blank Slate next year. As I said to Darryl, I can’t wait.

Towards the end of the day I had a brief chance to have a look around. First stop the Solipsistic Pop/We Are Words + Pictures table to pick up the first volume of the Solipsistic Pop anthology. Or Sloppy Pops 1 as I call it. It’s a beautiful object crammed with comics of a startlingly high quality. I am looking forward to submitting a story for the second volume, an autobio tale of haircuts, old drunks and Tommy Cooper.

We Are Words + Pictures had their Paper Science newspaper anthology for sale including my Spilt Soda comic. It looked great gracing the whole of the back page. I got one of those for free of course.

Paper Science on Matt Sheret’s floor.

From there I hunted down Joe Decie to pick up more of his What I Drew comics, then bought the nearest book I could find by Cameron Stewart to get it signed before the show shut at 5. I’d met Cameron in June ’08 at the MoCCA show in New York and was quite flattered that he’d remembered my name. At all the comic shows I’ve been to, I’ve never queued up with a pre-bought book to get it signed by an artist before (not for myself anyway), which kind of shows how much I admire and am inspired by Cameron’s work.

The queue for the amazingly talented Frank Quitely was far too big to join even as the show was closing so my fanboy behaviour ended there.


Enjoying a much needed Vimto (photo stolen from Lizz Lunney who added the charming cats).

After packing up, Chris and I tried and failed to find a hotel for the night and resigned ourselves to the 2:45am train back to Manchester. With that out of the way we met with the usual gang for a meal at Pizza Express. We were joined by Andi Watson, creator of the lovely Glister books and Marc’s favourite man currently living. I had a good chat with Andi’s friend Ed Hillyer mostly about the work of Eddie Campbell which I have not properly looked into. Ed convinced me it was essential to do so. Perhaps fazed by the day, perhaps high on pizza, John and Joe ended the meal with  relentless singing, including a musical number about the origin of Coffee. I was greatly amused.

Then it was on to the Alea Casino for the official after party. After the brilliant time had by all last year, expectations were high but never doubted and the party did not disappoint. After Kieron Gillen had hijacked the sound system last year to create an impromptu Phonogram Disco, he was put in charge of music for this year. To spare him DJing for the whole 6 hours, myself, Marc and others were asked to do 30 minute sets. I was on at 12:30am after Matt Sheret‘s sickeningly popular setlist. I have to applaud Tom Humberstone and Julia Scheele (both of which create comics well worthy of your attention) for helping me in my moment of panic when Kieron told me the CD I had burned on my Mac wouldn’t work on his PC laptop. I scrambled up the stairs to the smoking alcove to find Tom and Julia who had a Macbook somewhere. We successfully imported the songs and connected the Mac to the sound system with literally a couple of seconds before Matt’s last song, Love Will Tear Us Apart, ended.


DJ Cadwellerby in full flow (photo courtesy of Joe List).

Kieron has a much more thorough report of the evening’s music here, my favourite snippet of which being this:

“…he was over-running. I was going to ask him to move on. He said he had one track left. I asked what it was. He told me. I said he could play it.

After all, I could hardly not allow a man to play Where’s my Jumper.”

Here’s my full setlist:

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love – Solomon Burke
You Left The Water Running – Maurice & Mac
Sweet Soul Music – Arthur Conley
Get Up Offa That Thing – James Brown
The Love You Save – Jackson 5 (this cleared the floor, I have no idea why)
The Snake – Al Wilson
Heat Wave – The Jam
36-24-36 – Violent Femmes (this split the crowd)
A Nanny in Manhattan – Lilys
I Was Born (A Unicorn) – The Unicorns
Hypnotize – The White Stripes
Bank Holiday – Blur
Purr – Sonic Youth
Where’s Me Jumper – Sultans’ of Ping F.C.

I would do a Spotify playlist but half of the tracks and covers are not on there. My taste is too obscure!

After a few hardcore indie lovers danced their hearts out to ‘Where’s Me Jumper?’ Marc took over the empty dance floor and played all sorts of cool US indie rock, Pavement, more Sonic Youth, and bands I’m not cool enough to have heard of. After that me and Chris had to leave for our train (which turned out to be a replacement bus, joy!) so we missed what must be the pinnacle to such a joyous weekend of new comics and new friends, the 3am Take That tribute.

I couldn’t have possibly had more fun at Thought Bubble this year, it was easily one of the highlight’s of my year.