Thought Bubble was the weekend-bef0re-last – the Leeds Comic Convention that’s ended up a fixture in my yearly schedule – and this year certainly did nothing to make me change my mind about that. It’s the first time me and my girlfriend Emma actually did it as a proper weekend, going up on the Friday night (as the event itself is Saturday–Sunday), and I’m very glad we did, as it made life an awful lot easier. Comic Conventions are always a very different vibe to SF literary conventions, and this year was just as friendly, diverse and colourful as ever, with a large number of cosplayers, and a whole variety of comic folk, from small-scale indies to big-level Marvel/DC folk.

It was a great time, but I’ve got the worrying feeling that I didn’t quite make the most of it. It’s probably the curse of huge expectations – I’ve basically been looking forward to this since last year – and of peaking way too early, thanks to the first thing I did on Saturday being queueing for a while to get sketches from artists Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba – but the con did feel a little broader and less easy to take in this time. The three halls were huge, and packed full of stuff, which made it easy to miss things, and also I ended up frequently caught between considering whether or not I wanted to queue for other artists and potentially get sketches (the first year I’ve tried to do this seriously), or if I wanted to do other stuff like visit panels, just browse, or – rather more importantly – eat.

I’ve ended up feeling as if there’s an awful lot I missed. I did catch the writer’s panel on Sunday, with people like Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Brandon Graham talking wonderful sense about the writing life, and it’s once again left me feeling like I need to get off my arse and try to actually fit some comics writing into my already busy-as-hell life. That was the only panel I properly caught, unfortunately (which wasn’t helped by the awesomely user-unfriendly programme, which was a tabloid-sized newsprint-style magazine, and laid out in a way that made the programme hard to unravel), but while there may have been a bit of directionless drifting at times, I also took in some excellent comics, and got to catch up with a whole variety of friends as well.

It also didn’t help that the mid-con party, which last year was awesome, was this year somewhat marred by an organisational snafu that led to us having to queue for almost forty-five minutes in the freezing Leeds cold, thanks to them not having enough bouncers to cover the venue’s capacity. (We kept being told “the venue’s full” by certain people – only to find there was plenty of room once we got in). Thankfully, I’d brought wine with me that helped keep me warm (and slightly mitigated the fact that I wasn’t in any way dressed for cold weather, having not expected to queue at all), and we did end up having a brilliant time on the dancefloor once we got inside, but things didn’t always feel quite so smooth and effortlessly fun as they did last year, which was a small shame.

However, there were still plenty of highlights – like getting more comics from John Allison, the artist behind fabulous webcomic Bad Machinery, and getting to have a chat with artist Cameron Stewart while he signed and sketched in my copy of his fantastically creepy comic Sin Titulo. I also, in a moment of pure what-the-hell managed to get ace designer and artist Rian Hughes to sign a copy of his gorgeous art book Soho Dives, Soho Divas. And, on Sunday, after having given up on the plan of getting anything else major signed, especially by Brandon Graham, an independent artist who writes the bonkers SF saga Prophet, me and Emma had said our goodbyes and we were literally about to leave – I was in the entrance foyer to the main hall, waiting for Em – when I actually ran into Brandon Graham. Again, in one of those moments of mad impulsiveness, I grabbed the chance to just say “Hello, just wanted to say that I really love your work”, and he actually ended up doing a sketch for me there and then, which also gave me the chance to briefly geek out with him over the pleasures of mid-1970s Doctor Who (a big influence on Prophet) and Blake’s 7. The sketch was awesome, and the whole encounter left me in a complete daze for the rest of the evening – and while there may have been a few ups and downs for my personal Thought Bubble experience, overall it’s just made me even more determined to make sure I don’t miss out on stuff next year….

(I would have included some pictures, but I seem to specialise in taking the least interesting con photos ever. My iPhone 3GS has the magical capability of taking an environment packed with colour and fun, and turning it into nondescript shots of people milling around lots of tables. Next time, I shall do better…)