Coming Soon: Thought Bubble 2014!

It’s been a fun convention year for me, hitting my local shows at Glasgow Comic Con in July and MCM Scotland in September, then traveling to New York Comic Con in October.  And as has become tradition, the convention year will come to a grand close with Thought Bubble in Leeds.  Held at Royal Armouries over the weekend of Saturday 15th November to Sunday 16th November, it’s always a great show with a buzzing atmosphere, and this year promises to be the biggest ever, with an array of high profile guests including some of the hottest names in comics.

Oh, and I’ll be there too.

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You’ll find me at Table 77 in the TB Teepee, the brand new exhibitor venue on the Royal Armouries campus.  I have a table of my own this year, partly because the amount of comics I now have available for sale is spiralling madly out of control and can no longer be contained to a half-table.  But though it says “John Lees” on the marquee, this is very much another case of “John Lees and Pals”, as I’ll be joined by some awesome guests.

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And Then Emily Was Gone #1-#4 will all be on sale from my table, as will a selection of exclusive prints based on the series’ eye-catching covers.  This horror-mystery series tells the story of Greg Hellinger, a former detective plagued with monstrous visions, whose search for a missing girl takes him to the Scottish Orkney Islands, where strange and terrifying things are happening.  This has been a breakout hit this past summer and really seems to have built up a bit of momentum, so I’m really excited to bring it to Thought Bubble and hopefully introduce it to some new readers just in time for the final issue coming out a couple of weeks after the con.  To represent the book, I’ll be there, and so will Iain Laurie, the incredible artist of the series.  He’ll have some original art from the comic for sale, and is doing sketch commissions too.  I’ve seen him work on the show floor first hand, and trust me when I say an Iain Laurie convention original is something any serious comic art collector is going to want to add to their repertoire…. a sight to behold!  Iain will be at my table for most of the weekend.  And Then Emily Was Gone letterer Colin Bell will also be on-hand at the show… he’ll be at his own table in New Dock Hall, table 161, selling his own excellent comic, Dungeon Fun, so when you stop by his table to buy that make sure to get him to sign your copies of And Then Emily Was Gone too!

TheStandard06_03I’ll also have, for the first time at Thought Bubble, the entire series of The Standard available to buy.  The Standard #1-#4, and the double-sized finale, The Standard #5The Standard is the award-winning story of a superhero legacy that spans across two generations, and the interconnecting lives of the men who have worn the mantle.  Supplies of issue #1 are VERY limited, so make sure you get to the table quick if you want to pick up a copy.  Also in attendance at the show will be Will Robson, a highly-talented artist who joined the series as co-artist for issue #5.  He’ll be at my table signing and sketching from 12:00-1:30pm each day.  When he’s not at my table, you’ll find him at his own table in New Dock Hall, table 181a.

I’m really looking forward to Thought Bubble, and can’t wait to meet up with friends old and new and spread the word about my comics.  If you’re at the show, please stop by Table 77, TB Teepee, and say hello!

My First Experience Tabling as a Pro

The Queen Margaret Union at Glasgow University

Next month, I’ll be attending the New York Comic Con.  While it would be exciting  enough going as a fan – and to be honest, a big part of me is still thinking of it like a fan, wondering what creators will be there and what books I can buy – it’s all the more amazing in that I’ll be attending as a pro.  It still feels a bit surreal, to be honest, and I can’t quite get my head around it.  Rather than that mega-event being my first experience tabling as a pro, I thought it might be useful to attend a couple of local events first.  So, this coming weekend I have a table at the Glasgow Comic & Toy Fair, representing GLoW and selling copies of my comic, The Standard.  And, more short notice, I got invited to attend a special Freshers’ Week comic event at Glasgow University last Friday.  I thought I’d write up a little blog covering my experiences on the day.

I hadn’t really thought much about it leading up to the event.  A couple of days before it, I e-mailed Gary Chudleigh – co-founder of Obscure Reference Comics, writer of cool comic series Villainous, who I would be sharing a table with – about things I might need.  He gave me some helpful tips about inventory, some of which I’d already considered, others I hadn’t: Sharpies for signing books, a point of sale clearly denoting the prices while also showing some art from the book, plastic pockets for putting comics in once sold, and lots of change.  I also found out Gary would be late to the show, and I’d be on my own for the first half.

Setting up at the venue.

Get-in for the event was at 11am.  Being my usual tardy self, I arrived around 11:30.  We were in the main function hall of the Queen Margaret Union: I can recall from my student days this was a pretty desirable chunk of real estate, and its the same venue next week’s Glasgow Comic & Toy Fair will be held at.  There were no exhibitors here today, though, just fellow indy comic creators.  The cool thing about getting involved in the Glasgow small press scene over this year is that I actually knew most of the pros enough to at least say a quick hello as I entered.

I was a bit intimidated by how massive my table seemed, especially with no Gary to fill out the other half.  I only had a couple of comics – The Standard #1 and The Standard #2 – and as generously as I spread them around, my offerings still seemed pretty thin in comparison to the rich back catalogues ofered by the Khaki Shorts or Team Girl Comic crews.  But as I organised everything, I did still feel a little swelling of pride and excitement at being able to present something I’d written for sale.

My table - lookie, it's my stuff!

The doors opened for customers at 12pm.  Unfortunately, there weren’t really many.  As it turns out, the university had not marketed the event at all in thei Freshers’ promotional material, so we didn’t actually have any audience of people interested in comics.  In fact, save for people who knew the pros tabling and had come along to visit/support them, the only folks who showed up were students who stumbled in by accident while looking for free booze or club coupons.  It’s quite disheartening when the first person that comes to your table says, “I don’t recognise any of these comics.  Do you have any Spider-Man?”  With how quiet the show was, I actually spent a lot of time catching up on my comics reading.

I still managed to make a few sales over the course of the day, though, so all things considered, I’d say I did pretty well.  I got some good practice working on my pitch – the guys at the table next to me must have been sick of hearing it by the end of the day – and I got to refine it a little based on what people seemed to react to: the idea of a superhero as a “sleazy reality TV star” seemed to get everyone’s ears pricked up.  Another good idea came from Gary, about having a copy of the comic set aside for people to thumb through.  This worked very well for me, as if my pitching left people cold, then a glimpse of Jonathan Rector’s stunning artwork was often enough to reel them in.

Things picked up once Gary showed up.  He also managed to make a few sales of Villainous.  And I also have to thank Luke Halsall, who came along and sat at our table for a bit, and in that time did a bit of aggressive salesmanship that helped us both out a good deal.

Me (left) and Gary Chudleigh (right) shilling our wares.

In terms of things I’d like to take onboard for my next con, one thing I was totally unprepared for was the interest in making comics.  I had about 4 or 5 different people asking me about writing comics, and if there were any communities in Glasgow that they could be a part of.  Of course there is, I’m a member of one: the Glasgow League of Writers.  And I… have no info on them.  I don’t even have paper on me to write info down.  Cue much, “Erm… do you have a piece of paper on you?  I can….uh….write down this Twitter handle, and….uh…. yeah.”  Next time, I’m gonna try and have some leaflets/preview booklets ready to hand out to people, with samples of work from GLoW as well as contact details.

At 4pm, it was all over, and we packed up and headed home.  Overall, it was a quiet show, but I expect the upcoming Glasgow Comic & Toy Fair to be much more busy.  And I still had a good experience tabling.  Maybe a quiet show was what I needed to ease me into the groove.  Most importantly, I managed to get some experience tabling as a pro at a comic event for the first time.  I’m glad it won’t be the last.