Interviews: Preparing for Thought Bubble – we talk to Blank Slate
Thought Bubble has become one of the most keenly anticipated events on the British comics calendar, pulling in both a wide and diverse audience and exhibitors each November. Many of our friends in the UK small press scene make a point of having their new works ready to show off at T-Bubs, and the confidently growing British independent comics publishers – a sector we have reported on and reviewed from over recent years with great pleasure and satisfaction, I have to say – are right there with them: Thought Bubble has become one of the events where those publishers debut new titles (and indeed we’ve been posting a fair bit in recent weeks about some of the small press and Indy titles you can expect to see being debuted at TB). With this year’s TB rushing towards us this weekend we thought it might be good to talk to one of the busy, busy bees from that new wave of Brit comics publishers, and so we managed to grab Blank Slate Books‘ Martin Steenton for a quick chat about just what TB means to that kind of publisher and how they prepare for the show:
FPI: We’re well used to events like Thought Bubble from the perspective of readers going along to enjoy it, and we’ve heard from many of our friends in the small press about taking their work along to show, but what’s involved in getting an Indy publisher like Blank Slate Books ready to attend events like this? After all you have multiple titles and authors in your stable to sort out and represent, new books to have ready all in time etc – other than frantic panic, how do you organise yourselves for events like TB?
Martin: I’m slightly less involved than I used to be, but frantic panic sounds about right. Thought Bubble – particularly Clark Buscough – is always a Saintly patient godsend in terms of helping Blank Slate get the proverbial ducks in a row.
FPI: Thought Bubble just seems to become a bigger draw each year now, and from the self-published to the Indy presses it has become one of the calendar events where new works debut, and I know Blank Slate in no exception – can you tell us a little about some of the new books you’ll be debuting at Thought Bubble?
Martin: Already mentioned on the blog has been Lizz Lunney’s Take Away! collection (see here for Friday’s Upcoming preview peek of Lizz’s book – Joe). All of her best work is right here in one volume with new material, making it something special for her loyal fans out there as well as the kind of book I wholly endorse you buying for all the non-comic-reading squares in your life. My fave thing in there is her list of Alternative Greetings Cards. As a side note, Lizz ultimately rejected my suggestion that the cover be a Mills & Boon style rendering of her Romantic Bison character before designing the official cover with Woodrow Phoenix, which is probably testament to her sharp business sense if nothing else.
Darryl Cunningham will be debuting his new all-ages series with Blank Slate: Uncle Bob Adventures (also previewed in Upcoming last week – see here, Joe). If you have a younger reader in your life who you’re eager to expose to the wide world of literature and you’re the kind of cool adult who doesn’t shy away from the kind of moral complexities in books like Treasure Island, Uncle Bob Volume 1 is the book you need in your life. The stories within are based on all the novels and pop culture Darryl himself loved growing up, so, in a weird way, it carries that very personal element that made Psychiatric Tales (recently released in a new extended edition – Joe) so beloved into a completely new direction. Check out more info on the Blank Slate site!
From my own perspective as a reader, Pimo & Rex by German megacartoonist Thomas Wellman (who I think worked on a couple of Adventure Time episodes with the also-awesome Jesse Moynihan) should not be missed. We co-published this one with our supercool friends at Rotopolpress to make sure that Anglophones could have it on the same day as German readers. This is already selling like hotcakes and we are running out fast, so come grab one early from me in New Dock Hall or risk leaving empty handed!
We’re hoping that Jamie Smart’s long-awaited Kochi Wanaba will get through customs in time and be with us for the show. Knock on wood, we’ll be able to confirm its arrival with us in a day or two. It’s not available in the shops for a good while yet! Follow Blank Slate on Twitter for updates on that.
And I should also state that Line Hoven’s award-winning Love Looks Away is hot off the presses and will be on the table too!
FPI: All good to hear, a whole brace of cool new comics works (and in time for Chrimbo gifts as well as TB!). Can I ask what it is that has made Thought Bubble so special? Not just to the fans but to creators and publishers, I mean, why has it become such a draw not just to attend and show of your wares but something you plan for and schedule new releases to have ready to premiere at?
Martin: It’s very tough for a comics show in the UK – or perhaps anywhere – to get a wide variety of comic fans to attend. In the UK, the general trend is that mainstream genre comic fans have their MCMs and Super Comic Cons and literary/alternative/indie (whichever unhelpful descriptor you prefer) comics have their ELCAFs and Comikets and never the twain shall meet. Thought Bubble does a great job at bridging that gap and bringing different types of readers together in one building, largely by marketing around the idea of the medium itself. By all reports (I didn’t get a chance to attend this year) Lakes had success in this area too, so hopefully it’s the sign of a healthier, brighter industry to come.
FPI: I know your duties will keep you behind the Blank Slate table for much of the festival, but if you get away for a few moment are there any creators at TB this year you are eager to try and get to and pick up their work?
Martin: I won’t mention anyone from the cavalcade of stars on the featured guest list, but there are definitely some amazing names there. Off the top of my head (apologies to anyone I may forget here – my brain’s due a RAM upgrade), I’ll making a beeline for Jack Teagle and Donya Todd’s table and checking out what they have straight away. I’m not sure who Breakdown Press will have on their table, but they’ve got some amazing-looking new books, too. Kristyna Baczynski has produced some killer stuff recently, so I’ll be snooping round her table at some point. Also my good bud Philippa Rice has made some great looking little figures that will be – I think – available to buy on here table; I’ll be grabbing one of those if I get there in time!
Someone who I should mention who will be there is animator Joe Sparrow. A lot of people are sleeping on this ultra-talented guy at the moment. His comic Omnipathy #3 is proof of his great promise and I think he’s one of the rare folk who will appeal to readers all over the comics spectrum.
FPI: Any tips for the newbie visitor to TB? Or indeed any tips for the new exhibitor, come to that? Always pack an emergency supply of Mars Bars and bottled water?
Martin: Visitors: come to the Blank Slate tables first (101 and 102 in New Dock Hall. Head down the middle isle, we’ll be on the left), of course! First-time exhibitors: pack a lunch and don’t forget to allow yourself some time to look around. The best part of festivals is meeting people!