Hello, and welcome to the official website for Thought Bubble – an annual festival that celebrates sequential art in all its forms, and takes place every November in partnership with Leeds International Film Festival. This year’s festival will take place 11th – 18th November 2012, with a huge center-piece comics convention on 17th – 18th!
We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped make last year’s festival such a success, and we hope you’ll all join us again this year for what promises to be our best Thought Bubble ever!
Over the coming months we’ll be updating the website with more guests, event information, and details of how you can get involved with the festival fun, so be sure to check back regularly, or sign up to our RSS feed.
Thanks for visiting, and we hope to see you in November!
For 2011′s festival logo we wanted something a bit special, so we went to illustrator extraordinaire Becky Cloonan, who hit it out of the park. Becky provided us with a variety of rough sketches focusing on literary characters with a tweaked comics theme, but as soon as we saw her take on Snow White we knew that was the one for us. Below is Becky’s step-by-step process of how she went about creating the finished piece.
(All information below can be found at Becky’s Blog.)
I’ve spent the last few weeks working on an illustration for this year’s Thought Bubble festival in Leeds, England. While I was working out all the details, I remembered a few people asking me if I wouldn’t mind showing my process a bit, so I tried to take some snapshots of the picture at various stages of completion.
I’ll walk you guys through it.
After doing a few thumbnails and narrowing the ideas down, I did some pencils. At this stage they were still pretty rough, but tight enough to work over. I knew I would be inking the figures, and painting over the background in photoshop so I didn’t bother tightening the trees up much.
Then I did some color tests- this step is usually pretty important for me, because it will lay the foundation for the rest of my color work. The colors for this came easily, which was a bit of a surprise. Usually I struggle with colors, but these were pretty straightforward.
Then I went ahead and threw some ink on Snow White and the Wicked Witch, like usual- with a brush and some ink. Pretty straightforward.
After that I worked on painting the background. I call it painting, I guess even though I work in Photoshop I end up approaching it as though I was working on canvas. I start with an underpainting of the basic colors I want to use, selecting from my roughs when it suits me. Then I build it up and move objects into the foreground and background when appropriate.
Now I lay on the figures! They were relatively simple to color, I only used one or two shades to lighten and darken the flat colors. My main objective was to get Snow White to stand out- Originally my idea was to have her be completely black and white, but it just didn’t feel finished. So I added red, since I had the idea to add some to the background, and it really grounded the center of the image, and made her pop out without making her look completely removed from her environment.
Also notice on the witch, I colored the linework so the only black you see in the picture is on Snow White. This way the witch and the comics fall into the background a bit.
I wasn’t sure about the sapling on the left that I had drawn in my original sketch, but I decided that area was pretty empty and needed a little somethin somethin to pull it together more. I also added the tree behind the witch to fill the space and add another vertical. These were all pieces of my original idea that I had deemed excessive, but thought to bring them back in the end. I guess you should always just go with your gut! I tend to over-think things, and second-guess myself if I work on something for a while, not really a good habit I guess. Anyway this is the final version!
And here is a close-up:
Carol L. Tilley, a professor of library and information science at Illinois, says that comics are just as sophisticated as other forms of literature, and children benefit from reading them at least as much as they do from reading other types of books.
“A lot of the criticism of comics and comic books come from people who think that kids are just looking at the pictures and not putting them together with the words,” Tilley said. “Some kids, yes. But you could easily make some of the same criticisms of picture books – that kids are just looking at pictures, and not at the words.”
Although they’ve long embraced picture books as appropriate children’s literature, many adults – even teachers and librarians who willingly add comics to their collections – are too quick to dismiss the suitability of comics as texts for young readers, Tilley said.
“Any book can be good and any book can be bad, to some extent,” she said. “It’s up to the reader’s personality and intellect. As a whole, comics are just another medium, another genre.”
Critics would say that reading comics is actually a simplified version of reading that doesn’t approach the complexity of “real” books, with their dense columns of words and relative lack of pictures. But Tilley argues that reading any work successfully, including comics, requires more than just assimilating text.
“If reading is to lead to any meaningful knowledge or comprehension, readers must approach a text with an understanding of the relevant social, linguistic and cultural conventions,” she said. “And if you really consider how the pictures and words work together in consonance to tell a story, you can make the case that comics are just as complex as any other kind of literature.”
Tilley said some of the condescension toward comics as a medium may come from the jejune connotations that the name itself evokes.
“The term ‘comic’ is somewhat pejorative and tends to denote the child-like and ephemeral, and it brings to mind the Sunday funnies that you used to line your birdcage,” she said.
The term “graphic novel” is sometimes used to give comics a measure of respectability, Tilley said. But some artists, including Pulitzer-Prize winner Art Spiegelman, hate the term.
“They feel it’s just a dressed up euphemism for comics,” she said.
Despite their popularity among juveniles in the early twentieth century, comic strips of that era were written and drawn primarily for an adult readership.
“Comics were originally an adult medium, since newspapers reached a primarily adult audience, but they very quickly turned into something that was appropriated by kids,” Tilley said. “Certainly by the first decade of the 20th century it had become a kids’ medium.”
According to Tilley, even in the early 1900s, there were teachers who raised concerns about children reading comics – that their content wasn’t appropriate content for a children, and that it wasn’t real literature.
And when the first comic books were published as omnibus collections of popular published comic strips in the mid-1930s, “the same concerns sprang up again from adults,” Tilley said.
“They claimed the texts weren’t good texts because they used slang, there were misspellings, they used colloquialisms and that the pictures were of questionable merit.”
In 1955, after a sustained outcry over the suitability of comics as children’s reading materials, the comics industry instituted a restrictive editorial code. Soon thereafter, juvenile readership plummeted.
“Between 1955 and the last 10 years, it became very much an adult medium,” Tilley said. “Part of that was because the comics code watered down what could be sold in drugstores, and also because they were slowly getting out of the affordable price range for kids. Comic books became incredibly tame, and the more sophisticated comics were direct sales to adults from the comics publishers.”
In 1940, a comic book was 10 cents, while the average hardcover juvenile book was $2.
“That’s a 20-to-1 price ratio. Now it’s not quite so generous – maybe 4- or 5-to-1. As it’s become an adult-focused format, kids have been priced out of the market.”
Recently, many publishers and creators of comics – including Spiegelman and another Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Chabon – have advocated reconnecting a juvenile audience with comics.
So far, those efforts have met with mixed success.
“If you look at the comics that are being mass-marketed to kids,” Tilley said, “it’s mild, tame stuff with a strong commercial tie-in to another media format. There aren’t many stand-alone titles unless you go to comic book store.”
The one exception is Manga, the Japanese version of comic books that has its own unique artistic and narrative style whose influence can be seen in the “Astro Boy” and “Sailor Moon” franchises.
“You are going to find a wide selection of Manga at most bookstores,” Tilley said. “That’s another part of comics that has taken off – one that kids have claimed as the format of choice for themselves.”
Although commercial publishers of comics have yet to recapture children’s imaginations, Tilley says that some librarians and teachers are increasingly discovering that comics can be used to support reading and instruction.
“In the last 15 years, we’ve seen some big changes. For instance, comic book publishers and distributors are showing up at library conferences and some review journals regularly evaluate graphic novels. That would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. So it has caught on, to some degree.”
Public libraries collect comics and graphic novels much more than school libraries, primarily because of decreases in funding and emphasis on strong ties to the curriculum through No Child Left Behind.
“Comics tend to be omitted under those circumstances,” Tilley said.
Despite their marginalization, Tilley said the distinct comic book aesthetic – frames, thought and speech bubbles, motion lines, to name a few – has been co-opted by children’s books, creating a hybrid format.
“There has been an increase in the number of comic book-type elements in books for younger children,” Tilley said. “There’s also a greater appreciation among both teachers and librarians for what comics and comic books can bring to the classroom. For example, the National Council of Teachers of English sponsors an instructional Web site called ‘Read, Write, Think,’ which has a lot of comics-related material. Instructional units like these would have been much more rare 10 years ago.”
Tilley’s research on comics was published recently in School Library Monthly.
- Phil Ciciora for www.news.illinois.edu/
We are very pleased to announce that Thought Bubble will be celebrating its 5th birthday this November! This year’s festival will be our biggest to-date, as we bring an expanded line-up of events to Leeds, including academic talks, film screenings, free workshops and masterclasses, book give-aways, competitions, and an expanded two-day centre piece convention!
Not only will this year’s convention play host to 300 exhibitor tables spread across two halls, and feature a full programme of talks and panels in luxurious cinema-style theatres, we will also have our biggest guest list yet with massive talent from all over the world including Tim Sale, Adam Hughes, Esad Ribic and lots, lots more TBA soon! Tickets are now on sale and we’re constantly updating the line-up of attending guests and exhibitors, so make sure to check back regularly!
2011′s convention after party (held at Alea Casino) will play host to Charlie Adlard and Phil Winslade’s band Mine Power Cosmic, plus special guest DJs to help attendees unwind after a busy day on the convention floor and keep the good times going until the early hours. There’s guaranteed entry for the first 500 people who buy weekend passes, so act fast to avoid any disappointment!
This year sees our biggest ever convention taking place across two halls and two days (19th – 20th November). Last year was our busiest yet in terms of both attendees and exhibitors and we felt it was time to make a few changes to reflect this increased attendance.
We’ve increased the aisle width in Saviles Hall, and designed the Royal Armouries Hall floor plan to ensure that there’s as much room for wandering and browsing as possible, and as well as this we’ve implemented a new wristband entry system that should allow people to get into/travel between the convention spaces as quickly and easily as possible.
We’re extremely glad to see more and more people coming to each Thought Bubble, and we’re dedicated to ensuring that each year’s convention is better than the last. Hopefully this year will be our best yet!
See you in November!
We’re extremely happy to be able to bring you the first details of our first ever Thought Bubble Anthology. We’ve been working away on this for quite a while now, getting it all shiny and ready for the public’s discerning gaze, and we’re super pleased with how it’s turned out. We’re still finalising everything ahead of printing, but we can tell you that it will be distributed globally this summer by Diamond Publishing, is made possible by a generous grant from the Arts Council UK, and that all proceeds from its sales will be going to Barnardos.
The anthology will showcase a wide variety of creators and styles, as well as giving you another chance to see the six winning entries from last year’s inaugural Northern Sequential Arts Competition!
We’ve got a sneak peak at the cover below, featuring our wonderful festival image for this year from Becky Cloonan, and we’ll have full details on how to get hold of a copy very soon.