This weekend 23rd / 24th November sees the annual Leeds comic convention known as Thought Bubble, it’s a convention that has very quickly grown and it is fast getting a reputation of been the UK’s best comic con. It has grown from a one day convention in the local town hall attended by around 500 people, to a week long celebration of all things art which culminates with a two day comic con at the New Dock Halls and Leeds Amery’s. Last year around 10,000 people attended and numbers are expected to increase again this year, which is why they have probably added an extra convention venue which is great news for comic fans and the city of Leeds as well. The guest list is massive this year and it wouldn’t be fair to spotlight someone over someone else, although I’m looking forward to meeting Rafael Albuquerque the artist on the brilliant American Vampire. If you are interested in seeing who is there or want to attend the con then click the link at it will take you to the website: Thought Bubble Comic Convention.
Looking forward to the con and planning my time out (yes I do plan, sort of) it made me think back to other conventions I had attended, my first ever comic convention was way back in the mists of time 1993 to be exact. I was a fresh faced teenager in truth I was 32 and I had travelled to London with my son to attend the convention know as UKCAC, this of course stood for the United Kingdom Comic Art Convention and it was the biggest convention of its day. It’s hard to describe how I felt that first day as we handed our tickets over and received our convention badges, but I liken it to how Alice must have felt the first time she set eyes on Wonderland. All the big players were there Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Vertigo each with their own stands, and of course writers who were signing their books and artists who would if asked politely draw you a sketch. Now these were the days when sketches were free, yes you heard me right free, now I will admit that the ones that are done know are in most cases more detailed than the ones done back then but they were free so you didn’t complain. Now this is where the waters of time become muddy as over the years I attended all the UKCAC conventions from 93 up to 98, and I’m unsure which convention year some of my highlights took place but I do know that they happened at UKCAC. So below with no years attached are some not all I may save those for next year, are my convention highlights.
While having a rest in the bar area with my son I was asked if the spare stool at our table was free, having said yes expecting it to be picked up and taken away the person in question sat down with us. It didn’t take me long to realise that we had comic artist Glenn Fabry sat with us, now I had heard or read not sure which that if you bought Glen a drink you had a friend for life. So yes you guessed it I finished my drink and as I got up I said “can I buy you a drink Mr Fabry I’m a big fan”, he smiled held up his glass and said “thanks and can call me Glenn”. I then had an enjoyable time talking comics with one of the great British comic artist,
I got to meet Dennis O’Neil and as a Batman fan I cannot tell you how excited I was to meet the great man himself, its just unfortunate that I was wearing a Superman t-shirt when I had my photo taken with him.
That's me in the cap by the way
I got to meet artist Mark Buckingham for the first time and managed to get a Death sketch from him, as a Sandman fan it was a big deal to me and the sketch sits proudly on my wall.
DC held the first UK showing of their new Superman TV show The Adventures of Lois & Clark which stared Dean Cain & Teri Hatcher, in a time when there was no Internet widely available and no You Tube to see this show before anyone else in the UK was a real geek out moment.
I bought my first piece of comic artwork for £35 at the end of convention comic auction; it was a sketch of Death and another character who I still don’t know to this day. Unknown to me the artist was sat behind me and thanked me for buying it, then posed for a photo holding it for me good times.
My son John bought his first collectible comic at UKCAC all by himself; he had been saving up for most of the year and was looking for something special to buy. He is a Spiderman fan so he obviously wanted something connected to Spiderman; he had eventually set his heart on the Superman Spiderman crossover comic that came out in 1976. Having asked me if he could spend his money on it I told him if that what you want then of course he could, he didn’t want me to go with him so I stood watching as he approached the seller and asked how much it was. I can’t remember the price but once he knew he had enough money he said he would buy it, the seller gave a quick glance over to me as John was sorting out his money and I just nodded. A moment later John was coming over comic in hand beaming from ear to ear saying look this is what I bought with my own money, a proud moment indeed as I realised my little boy was fast growing up into a geek.
At one convention comic auction a Captain America sketch by Jack Kirby was been sold off and bidding had got to around £50, confident that the great mans work would go well into double digits I shouted out “let make it a straight £100”. John just looked at me open mouthed and said “ do you have £100” and “you know mum will kill you if she find out”, I just smiled and told him it would be OK as it would sell for a lot more than the £100 I had bid. To my horror there were no more bids coming in and as the auctioneer began saying “if there’s no more bids I’m selling” panic began to set in, I not only didn’t want to have to tell Helen I had blow £100 on a sketch I didn’t have £100 to begin with. Just as the words sold were about to be uttered much to my relief someone from the back shouted £110, when the bid came back to me I just shook my head and dropped out of the bidding. I laugh about it now but I learnt a valuable lesson that day, don’t try to be Billy big balls if you can’t back it up.
So that’s it just a few memories from my times at UKCAK a convention that is sadly no longer with us, the last one was held in Manchester in 1998 before becoming Comic Festival and relocating to Bristol. The Manchester convention was my last one for many a year and I didn’t go to another one until Thought Bubble in 2009, I do however look back very fondly on UKCAC and the great times I had there.