Sunday, 25 November 2012

Thought Bubble Comic Con 2012

Saturday 17th November was cold wet and grey but none of that mattered to me as my wife and I set off on the 13+ miles towards Leeds, today was my annual trip to the Thought Bubble comic convention and nothing could put a dampener on my spirit. Unlike previous visits to the convention this year I had a partner in crime my wife Helen was accompanying me on this trip, Helen had never been to a comic convention before so I did have a little trepidation on how she would react to the world she was walking into.
Like the previous year the convention would run over the whole weekend and be split between two conference halls, such has been the popularity and growth of Thought Bubble over the last few years.

Upon arrival we were greeted by one hell of a queue to get in but we happily joined the end of the line and patiently waited to shuffle along, to our delight one of the many and wonderful convention volunteers came along the line saying anyone with prepaid tickets can go through the door on right of the queue. I suddenly had a new best friend and within 5 minutes of arriving outside the convention we were having our wrist bands fitted and on our way into the main hall, once inside we decided to follow the flow and get a good look round although to be honest the flow was not that fast as people slowly drifted around. We passed one dealers table who was had silver age comics on display and Helen just gasped as she saw the prices of up to £300 per comic, one day I told her I will have one of those the look on her face said in your dreams.

I joined the line for Bryan Talbot who was there with his wife Mary and I picked up a copy of her and Bryan’s book Dotter of her Mother’s Eyes which they both signed, I also bought a copy of A Tale of One Bad Rat which I surprisingly didn’t have. Bryan not only signed it but drew a nice sketch of a rat on the inside cover, I now have quite a collection of Bryan’s work all signed with nice little sketches inside each of them.

Next stop was Charlie Allard who as you would expect had a very long line, but we waited patiently and I managed to get my copy of Walking Dead signed along with a copy of the 3rd trade of the book.

Then it was on to see Dave Taylor who signed my copy of Batman Death by Design,and I chatted with him about how much I had enjoyed the book and how much I enjoyed his art style in it, he said it was one he enjoyed doing but the pressure had aged him slightly while drawing it.

As we wondered around the packed hall I managed to get a wonderful sketch of Wild Cat from Gary Eskrin (I miss the JSA), he looked a little puzzled when I asked for it at first until so I said I had asked for that character as he had worked on the book JSA Strange Tales. After thinking for a while he answered yes I did I had forgot about that, it wasn’t until I got home and checked my back issues that I found the book came out in 2004. It’s no wonder he had forgotten about a 6 issue mini from 8 years ago, can’t wait to see his face next year when I ask for Alan Scott.

Next on my list was the surprise guests of the show Robert Llewellllyn, Kryten from Red Dwarf who has written several books(didn't know that) and had some of them with him, I spoke to him about the latest Red Dwarf series saying how much I had enjoyed it. He thanked me and said it was as much fun to make as it always was, I asked if there would be another series and he said nothing was planned but he would be surprised if there wasn’t. I picked up a flier for his new book about Red Dwarf called The Man in the Rubber Mask which he said would be out in December; I enjoyed my brief chat with Robert who was very friendly and happily to talk to everyone, an all round nice guy.

As always with Thought Bubble there were quite a lot of independents around and I spent quite a bit of time looking at their work and chatting with them, the guys who produce the comic Ladies & Gentlemen were there as you would expect as Leeds is their home town. I did a review of their first Issue and to my delight they have quoted me on the back of the second (fame at last), I also picked up issues from London Horror comics an anthology horror book as a horror fan I couldn't resist. I then came across Steve Tanner at the Time Bomb Comics stand as some of their books caught my eye, namely Dick Turpin and The Restless Dead, and Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague my family allegedly has a connection to this well known villain so every time I see his name I am drawn in. I chatted with Steve about his books and my family's alleged connection to the highway man and his gang and he seemed genuinely interested, which makes a change for me as peoples eyes normally glaze over when I talk Dick Turpin. Having enjoyed my chat with Steve who is a genuinely great guy I may add, I picked up the Turpin books which I will be reviewing these comics in the upcoming weeks.
In between our walking around and family ruminations we posed with the Dalek that was in the entrance hall, little did I realise that it was fully working and there was great delight when it came into the convention hall and interacted with the crowds.

Helen was happily taking snaps of the crowds, guests and cos players who seemed to be there in even bigger numbers than normal, to my delight Helen was really getting into the swing of the convention not only taking photos but also posing with some of the cos players for photos. The one where the joker gives her rabbit ears as she stand with him Batman and Black Cat is my favourite,she had become so involved that at one point she chased down a 10th Doctor lookalike and got him to pose with the Dalek I was so proud.

Other highlights of the day included my signed Swamp Thing & Batman prints from Yanick Paqutte who also signed my issue 1 of Swamp Thing, a wonderful Hit Man sketch from John McCrea who had previously drawn a Joker sketch for me in 1996 at a London convention. Several Doctor Who prints one of which showed all 11 Doctors and my talk with new Doctor Who writer Andy Diggle while he signed the 1st issue of his new book, to my surprise he asked me where I bought it from as he didn’t have a copy due it was hard to get in the UK. I told him eBay and he asked how much, when I said £6 he said I hope it was worth it I told him it was but I would wait for the trade for the rest.
Before we knew it the convention was coming to an end it was 5pm and the day had just flown by, I have to say hand on heart that this was one of the best conventions that I have ever been too and if anything did go wrong or not to plan we never saw it. The one thing that struck me about this convention was the amount of family’s that were there many of them in costume, and as Helen pointed out most of the male comic fans had girlfriends or wife's, so the lonely geek stereotype promoted by The Big Bang Theory is not that accurate.


My Thoughts on the show:
I personally had no complaints and thought the convention was very well organised, people I have spoken to since who had tables have said that everything went off as it should have. What I love about Thought Bubble is that despite how quickly it has grown in resent years, it still has that small convention charm and feel about it. Everyone is accessible and friendly and the commercial aspect that seems to dog other conventions isn't evident, and my it long continue to stay that way. If I could make a small suggestion its get some normal cider in the bar, the look on the barman's face as he offered Helen raspberry cider, and she said do I look like I drink overpriced poncey cider was priceless.

And finally special mentions go out to:
The cos players who were amazing this year, all the volunteer's who give up there time and kept the show running. Last but not least my wife Helen who helped make this the best convention ever, and also lent me some money when I had ran out I'm one lucky man.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Evil Ways by Bobby Nash

The main character of the story is FBI Agent Harold Palmer, Harold is taking some much needed time off from work to spend with his younger brother Franklin, who is the owner of the local newspaper in the sleepy Georgia town of Sommersville.
Sommersville's a town where the most that happens is a few drunken fights at the weekend, and the odd domestic disturbance now and then a great place for Harold to relax and catch up with his brother.

There's not too much that can go wrong on this trip you would think but unfortunately for Harold his visit coincides with the towns annual Autumn Festival, add to the that the class of 2002's 10th anniversary graduation reunion and you have a whole town heading towards party time, and Harold doesn't like crowds or party's. 

But in the mist of this celebration a killer is on the loose and he/she has their sights firmly set on the classmates of 2002, but this is no ordinary killer they are clever, calculating and they enjoy what they do.
Now don’t be fooled by my simple snap shot of the plot this is more than just a simple murder mystery book, there is a hidden complexity to it which you see with the introduction and interaction of the various characters, as their lives slowly become interwoven with each other once again. The story is peppered with sub-plots throughout the book some lead somewhere important and move the story on, some become just part and parcel of a characters daily life.
One such character is Sheriff Tom Myers whose home life plays only a small part of the story but you get a glimpse into the turmoil the man is going through, as he struggles with his loyalty to his dead parent’s home and doing what he knows is right by selling the home to keep financially stable as his wife suggests. It’s also clever writing that his wife is shown in a sympathetic light; she is not a woman who is throwing tantrums to get her husband to do what she wants. This is a wife who loves her husband and constantly worries about him, but knows he needs a strong push in the right direction now and again to do what’s right for the both of them. Throw on top of that all the problems he now faces at work and you have a very good grasp on the world of Sheriff Myers, does knowing all this move the story on, well probably not but it does connect you to the character and makes you care what happens to him as the story progresses. All of this helped to make the Sheriff the stand-out character of the book for me and I would be more than happy to read a solo story that featured him, as a side note he does appear in one of writer Bobby Nash’s other books Deadly Games.
The whole story moves on at a cracking pace and no part of the plot is wasted no matter how trivial it may seems at the time of reading it, the whole book is littered with small clues throughout that take you on the same ride as the characters to the final conclusion of the book and what a conclusion it was.
I was hooked on the book from the first paragraph, and read the book in the space of a week which for me is a quick read; it’s also an indication for me on how good I think a book is if I read it that quickly.

Evil Ways was Bobby’s first novel which has been re-released in both book form and all types of eBook, there is also a free download of the first chapter available on Bobby’s web page to give you a flavour of the book.
If you would like more information on this book or other works from Bobby click this link to his web page, or the link below to get to the Evil Ways excerpt.

Evil Ways book cover is the sole property of Bobby Nash and only used as an aid to this review, the cover will be removed if requested to do so.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Doctor Who #1

I am normally not a fan of comic adaptions of TV shows, however the resent Star Trek / Doctor Who cross over somewhat changed my previously held views against these type of books. So when I heard that a new Doctor Who book was coming out and the artist would be Mark Buckingham my interest was piqued.

The story starts off in Victorian London where a clairvoyant is contacting a woman’s dead farther; unfortunately all is not above board as the woman’s husband looks under the table to see the clairvoyant’s husband making sure that ghostly things happen on queue. As you can imagine the couple aren’t too happy with what they discover and threaten to call the police, however the husband changes his mind when the clairvoyant points out that if they are called she may have to tell his wife of a meeting he had with a young lady by the beach. Clearly the young clairvoyant has some powers, even if she is unable to contact the dearly departed.
Meanwhile the Doctor along with his companions Amy and Rory (before the angels story) are visiting the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, something I suspect the Doctor wants to do as Rory points out they should be going to Majorca. It’s during their walk round the exhibits that the Doctor hears a scream which takes him to a policeman who is frozen in time mid fall, in front of what the Doctor calls a Quantum Resonator. A machine that lets you see other worlds that might have been, so seeing this in Victorian London is like seeing an atom bomb in the Library of Alexandria well that’s the Doctors explanation.

The builders of the Resonator are brought to the exhibition and it turns out to be the clairvoyant and her husband, they explain that she sometimes goes into a trance like state (this happens to my wife on a Saturday night I blame vodka), it was while she was in one of those trances that she drew the plans for the resonator and her husband been good with his hands (behave) built it for her. However they could not get it to work so they sold it to the exhibition, the Doctor confirms that the clairvoyant is telepathic and that she is been used by some unseen force to build the resonator.

As you would expect the Doctor dives head first into the problem and sets off with Amy to find the source of the energy which is now powering the Resonator, leaving Rory the clairvoyant and her husband behind. All does not go as the Doctor expected and you are left with a cliffhanger at the end of the book, something which I think is sadly missing from the modern Doctor Who show.

Was it any good?

Well as an adaptation of a TV show it captures the feel and quirkiness of the show perfectly, and Andy Diggle interpretation of Matt Smiths Doctor is spot on. Mark Buckingham’s art seems to be made for this book, and except for the odd occasion he captures the likeness of the Doctor and his companions perfectly. I particularly liked the page showing the Doctor entering the exhibition as it has a few Easter eggs for long time fans, a Mummy from the Tom Baker era, a statue which looks to have a Sea Devils head, and what looks like a Sontaran helmet in a glass case.

Now here comes the bad news and my moan about the book, unfortunately this comic based on one of the longest running UK TV shows is not widely available in the UK. Which for me is absolute madness when its set to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and at a time when its popularity has never been higher it would surely be a big seller on this side of the Atlantic.
I recently vented my frustration about the difficulty of getting this book on a podcasts Facebook page, and was told by a fellow fan that IDW don’t have the rights to sell Doctor Who books in the UK. The fact that they called the crossover book Star Trek/ Doctor Who, meant that it was effectively a Star Trek book so it could be sold over here it didn’t help my frustration be helped me understand why it was hard to find. I eventually found a copy on EBay but it wasn’t cheap, and unless I can find a more regular source then I will wait for the trade which I am reliably told will be available over here.