ADVANCE REVIEW! Thought Bubble Anthology 2012 will go on sale Wednesday, November 7, 2012.
The Thought Bubble Anthology this features work from Gail Simone, Fiona Staples, Warren Ellis, Dave Johnson, Skottie Young, Tula Lotay, Sean Phillips, Gabriel Bautista, Tony Harris, Leigh Gallagher — well, a lot of people, essentially is my point. Filled with stories which last half a page, several pages or somewhere inbetween, it steps up from last year's inaugural anthology release in order to explore and play around with the form in surprising and brilliant ways.
The book doesn't attempt to create a theme, instead allowing the various creators to do whatever they want. This leads to Warren Ellis writing an optimistic page about dreams and achievement (his time away from comics seems to have given him time to re-appreciate the medium he recently worried about, delightfully drawn by Tula Lotay) while Skottie Young messes around with storyboarding for a short piece about a cat he used to have. Established creators rub shoulders with upcoming talent and competition winners here, with no noticeable change in talent or ability.
While some of the work here is immediately recognizable — Emma Vieceli's art is singularly her own, and nobody could ever mistake Kate Beaton — the newer talents here fit in perfectly amongst their new contemporaries. Steve Reynolds shows off a startling sense of design for his story, which is more noticeable for his immediate talent for lettering. Not afraid to use some blank space in the page, his story skitters around the page brilliantly. Likewise Martin Simpson's story evokes the art style of Dan Brereton whilst retaining something entirely new and fun in his art style and use of panelling.
Tony Harris perhaps tries the boldest storytelling in his opening story, written by his daughter (again, a newcomer to the field of comics who could teach a lot of established creators a thing or two) and featuring aliens and lipstick. Fiona Staples contributes a snappy three-panel strip right at the back of the issue which shows off her unique blend of creation and humor. Much like in Saga, this is a funny story because the creations feel so simultaneously real and fantastical. Creation seems to be a recurring idea in the various stories here.
Several of the creative teams look back on their relationships with comics as a medium. Gail Simone has some fun throwing the world of the comic store back a few centuries, while Ivan Brandon tells a rather sweet story about how comics changed the way he sees the world (drawn by my best mate Leigh Gallagher, no less!). Pete Doree persuades Sean Phillips to somehow fit 20 panels onto a single page as he explores his life growing up with friends who also loved comics. Comics, everyone seems to agree, are a pretty good thing.
2000AD's Strontium Dog crosses over with Richard Starking's Elephantmen for a centerpiece story, showing off the sponsorship Image and 2000AD have given Thought Bubble over the past few years. It's an entertaining piece, coming as a surprise as it follows up several tightly crafted stories with a looser, wider, more expansive style. There are bigger splash panels and a different style of coloring (from artist Boo Cook) which shakes the readers out of the bubble of the first few pages. The book is filled with such surprises. Clark Burscough and Richard Hughes (with Adam Cadwell) take a throwaway moment from a Bond film and turn it into an exploration of the loneliness of the supervillain. Ben Haith gets annoyed with his scarf. Matthew Sheret and Kristina Baczinski get an impulse for collecting. The comic veers from idea to idea on the turn of a dime. Or, to be more accurate, a 50p piece.
The most inspiring comics are at the back, with one-page stories from Sophie Kamlish, Ato Ame and Hannah Seakins which all offer some challenging innovation for the comics medium. While Ame uses his page to celebrate the superhero as a hero and champion for all — something we could all stand to remember from time to time, nudge nudge Marvel, DC — Seakins fits a neat metaphor into the page effortlessly, underscoring the whole point of this anthology. Thought Bubble, at heart, is about celebrating creativity, with no barriers. And nobody makes that clearer that Kamlish, in her story. Twenty-four panels fight for space as she crams at least fifty ideas into one piece, her creativity bursting off the page with each new reading. Her story doesn't just highlight the fun and joy of comics as a medium — it celebrates creativity and imagination as a whole.
It's a superb anthology, curated smartly and filled with joyful ideas, thoughts, stories and characters. It's bizarre, wild and brilliant.
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet's 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He's on Team X-Men, you guys.