That ties right in with our other main concern. I've developed kind of a bingo card of Thought Bubble regulars over the years - friends I see at every show and rely on as sort of an anchor for the experience. Those regulars were pretty thin on the ground this year, largely because of schedule clashes. With so many familiar faces not attending, the whole thing could've turned into a slightly rudderless experience for us.
I know. What was I thinking, right? Thought Bubble provides - and this year ended up being one of my favourite visits to the convention so far. Here's a basic run-down in pictorial form.
This handsome feathered fellow was spotted at Kings Cross station, where he's apparently employed to terrify pigeons. I have to say, not one single pigeon was seen that day, and the hawk (whose name we didn't manage to catch) certainly knew how to put on a show for the crowd.
Once in Leeds, we took advantage of our unaccustomed lack of tables and schedules to poke about Leeds for a bit. We were surprised to find a high-profile celebrity guest in the shopping centre, in the form of my third favourite Batmobile.
On the other hand, we did also encounter this little sip of nightmare fuel just a few metres away...
Straying briefly into the Royal Armouries, Nic's attention was suddenly caught by a sign promising use of an indoor crossbow range. Observe her "Imma shoot the HELL out of this crossbow" face...
Followed quickly by her highly authentic "I'Z SHOOTIN' MAH CROSSBOW!" pose..
...and BOOM - check out her final shot right in the centre there!
Alright, back to the convention. Here's another thing we never get to do when we're stuck behind a table all weekend: buy bloody comics! It turns out that while we've been busy playing shopkeeper all these years, there have been people like Lucian M. Stephenson turning out glorious work behind our backs. We picked up an art book here...
...and the third issue of Fraser Geesin's worryingly entertaining The Cleaner here.
Nic found herself a giant ladybird to ride, which was oddly delightful despite the rain.
Meanwhile, I talked serious grown-up business with the Metal Made Flesh crew of phenomenal artist Simeon Aston and world building mastermind Jeremy Biggs. I've got more to say about this meeting soon...
Tim Pilcher, one-manning the Humanoids stand. Humanoids have been turning out some really interesting work, so it was good to get chatting with Tim and to see their exploding range of books.
Despite being at death's door on the Saturday, David Wynne put on a surprisingly brave face at the Orang Utan table with Ian Sharman. Orang Utan's range of books and other media continues to expand impressively.
The Improper Books crew, or a significant part thereof. Not sure how Sara Dunkerton managed to duck out of this shot. Nic's first purchase of the convention was the latest MULP instalment, Sceptre of the Sun - which came with an awesome riding-bee sketch from Sara.
A rare shot of Andy Bloor. Andy's doing some great stuff, including Midnight Man with Mo Ali, which I'm enjoying a lot.
Phil Buckenham at his table. Phil's a fantastic artist, who's done some amazing work for the Metal Made Flesh project.
The unstoppable Gary Erskine, my co-conspirator on The Final Piece of Me. We were a stretch goal in the last Metal Made Flesh book, and it was an incredible experience for me. I'm hoping to get another chance to work with Gary in the future. He's a legitimate legend and a genuinely nice guy.
Naturally enough, this post really only scratches the surface of Thought Bubble 2016. Highlights that I didn't manage to catch on camera included GM Jordan piloting the Markosia table, the brilliant Laurence Campbell, whose table was crammed with admirers every time we saw it and old friend Ollie Masters, who's doing cool things with major publishers these days. Long-time hero of mine David Hine provided me with my first purchase of the convention in the form of the beautifully disturbed Cowboys and Insects, with art by the ever-astonishing Shaky Kane. David's a true gentleman in an industry overrun by brigands and mountebanks. If you aren't reading his work then you're depriving yourself of a unique voice in comics. Then there was PM Buchan and Martin Simmonds' Heretics launch party/art exhibition, which was basically mind-blowing and worthy of its own blog post at some point, plus the annual post-convention Decompression Session, featuring the incomparable Conor and Lizzie Boyle of Disconnected Press, among others. Honestly, that Sunday-night unwinding exercise is reason enough for Thought Bubble to exist in the first place for me.
Anyway, I'm spent for now. Bottom line: if you aren't a Thought Bubble regular already, you absolutely should be. Roll on TB2017!