I have an uneasy relationship with ‘comic-cons’. my love of comics is well established – as long as I’ve been able to read I’ve read comics in one form or another – from Rupert the Bear to The Beano to Roy of the Rovers to The Eagle to 2000AD to Marvel, DC, Image and all the others…but I’ve never really felt at home at the gatherings. Not dogmatic enough in my fandom maybe?
That said I loved ThoughtBubble when it was in Leeds – it was always a lovely mix of indie creators selling their wares, cosplayers showing out for their people, veteran and new fans all mixing with professionals amongst everyone and speaking at the well organised panels.
These days it takes place at the remarkable Harrogate Conference Centre. Remarkable because it seems so weird for such a HUGE venue to be in such a small town. It is a great space for exhibitors – all in one place, big enough to cope with the peak times, accessible and filled with helpful staff.
It is however – in my opinion – a disaster of a venue for the panels. A cavernous room, two competing parallel sessions at a time and headsets for the audience to ensure you can hear anything. It all leads to a slightly soulless and very disconnected feeling. It seemed to affect some of the speakers as well. I was excited to listen to Gail Simone – she is not only a fabulous writer but a spiky and fun Twitter presence. Whether it was the format or jet lag or the weak interviewer it was a stilted and slightly uncomfortable session. Not at all what I expected and quite a disappointment.
On the other hand Scott Snyder adjusted to things quickly and was an enthusiastic and insightful speaker both on a panel and his own ‘spotlight’ session. I thought he was open, honest and really thoughtful. I’ve long since given up on my dreams of writing comics (or anything not on this blog) but am endlessly fascinated with the writing process and the business of comics. He was a great speaker on both topics.
He also shared my favourite quote of the weekend. In relation to a question about ‘impostor syndrome’ he shared something Neil Gaiman had told him;
You will either not feel good enough or think you used to be better. That is all there is.
In fact he was impressive enough as a speaker that I immediately ordered the collection of his American Vampire series and downloaded Comixology for the first time in ages to check out his line there.
It was nice to run into Cole and chat to a few creators I’ve met previously about their work. I bought a pile of books from folks – my only rule is buy nothing I could easily get from the Excelsior gang. I try to avoid superhero fare – and as I dislike fantasy, manga or horror books – that can leave slim pickings for the remaining stuff I might enjoy but I am happy with my stack.
It was amazing to see all the youngsters in their costumes – various flavours of Ms Marvel were prevalent as well as Disney+ era Star Wars stuff – and a lot of video game and anime stuff I have no idea about!
I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather since Friday so that might contribute a bit to my general grumpiness but I think this will probably be my last visit to the event.
It being in Harrogate adds the best part of an hour to my travel (just due to the connections not quite lining up) so that is now nearer five hours than four. Financially it is a big commitment and then – with all due respect – Harrogate isn’t Leeds. Not really a hot bed of my other interests to distract me here in the time between panels I’m interested in and after I’ve splurged on my comics.
I’ll miss it in my annual events schedule as I don’t think there is anything that will replace it in the panel heavy style I’d want. I guess I’ll have to stick to ATX in Austin and swap out TV for comics!