Every year, Leeds' very own Armories Square is overrun with a menagerie of animated characters come to life. It can only mean one thing: Thought Bubble has come to town again. For the uninitiated, Thought Bubble is an art festival/comic convention, and this year was set to be phenomenal, with two more venues than usual, making this the biggest and busiest TB to date. The four venues, including two pop up marquees, New Dock Hall, and the Royal Armories Hall, were jam-packed with comic books, manga, independent artists signing their work, beautiful prints, adorable plushies, and let’s not forget Natasha Allegri: storyboard revisionist for cartoon network smash hit Adventure Time, and creator of her own animation Bee and PuppyCat. What I enjoy most about Thought Bubble however, is not meeting the artists, but the cosplayers that attend and set out to wow everyone with their incredible outfits. I caught up with some of Thought Bubble’s best dressed to ask them their opinions of cosplay and Leeds’ geek scene.
1. Black Templar from Warhammer 4000
This is Andy Marshall, last year’s winner of the ‘Cosplay Masquerade’: Leeds’ own cosplay competition staged every year at Thought Bubble. Hopefully you can see why he won: this cosplay is phenomenal, and completely homemade. Amazingly, this is his first cosplay. His first. (My first cosplay comprised of cheap accessories from Primark, a terrible shiny wig, and cringe-worthy make-up, so this in comparison is nothing less than majestic.) He started this Black Templar get-up last year, won the Masquerade, and has been improving it ever since, to wear again this year. He is a family man, and informed me that his wife and son were also at the convention in cosplay. Sadly I couldn't find them, as a picture of them together would have been adorable.
When asked why he enjoys coming to Thought Bubble, he replied, ‘Well, I live in Leeds, I have to do it!’
Fair enough. Andy, we salute you.
2. Lolita Group
Lolita is a fashion subculture from Japan, based primarily on Victorian-esque clothing and aesthetics. However, nowadays there are many varied styles of Lolita fashion, as exemplified by this magnificent group we found at Thought Bubble. There is gothic Lolita, sweet Lolita, punk Lolita, ouji Lolita...you get it, there are a lot of different types. And this group perfectly exemplified the variety within the Lolita subculture: all of their outfits were different but equally as beautiful. I asked them what they enjoy about dressing in Lolita clothing and belonging to such an elegant subculture.
Jo Gilbert: Basically, we enjoy looking nice and putting in lots of effort! It’s not every day you get to dress like this so you have to make opportunities for yourself, like going to cons and finding friends who also enjoy dressing in a similar way, so you have someone to go around with in your outfits.
The group all agreed that dressing in Lolita clothing made them feel comfortable and confident, that it gave them a chance to express themselves and to be super creative. They did however admit to getting some strange questions from the public when they made their way to Thought Bubble. Apparently they have been asked if they belong to a circus, a theatre group, or a ‘cumfest of fairies’? I asked them what they thought about Thought Bubble itself.
Michaela Barker: I like that the crowd here tend to be a bit older and mature, and that there aren’t so many weeaboos around!
(Note: ‘weeaboos’ means incredible excitable/annoying/pushy younger nerdy pre-teens, who insist on touching you no matter how many times you have told them that you don’t want a free hug.)
3. Marvel Group
For this group of Marvel ladies, who we caught inside of one of the marquees housing independent art, cosplay was relatively new. But that didn’t stop them looking kick-ass, and I had to ask them what they enjoy about cosplay and what got them started on the scene.
Caroline: What I enjoy most is making the cosplay, it is really fun! I enjoy working out all the problems that you encounter, if gives you a great sense of achievement when everything looks awesome at the end!
Sarah: Cosplaying as certain characters gives you a way of paying homage to them, like, everyone will know how much you love this character, since you put in the time and effort to make a cosplay based on them.
Caroline: And it also means you can do anything with your costume: you can make things a bit quirky. Like, last year I did a cosplay, and the character had this large chunky necklace, and I made it out of pasta. It was quite unique, and if nothing else a good starting point for conversation!
Indeed! I then asked them what they enjoy about Thought Bubble itself.
Sarah: There are more writers and artists here than any other con I’ve ever been to, and not only that but they are all very accessible. We can just go up and chat to them, no waiting in lines. It’s a great experience!
Caroline: Also, because it is smaller, it is easier to navigate. It doesn’t get a congested as larger cons to, like London MCM. You aren’t constantly fighting to get from one side of the con to the other! On the other hand, it is big enough and well known enough to cater for nerd celebrities and well known artists, which is awesome!
4. The Borg from Star Trek
This might be my favorite cosplay of Thought Bubble. Not only because it is incredible, and not only because the guy is actually called ‘Thor’ (seriously), but also because he was incredibly pleasant to talk to and humble about his work. He started cosplaying about 3 years ago, and like Mr Marshall, this is his first cosplay which he has been adding to and improving over the years, to stunning effect. He also enjoys the community aspect of cosplay; people in the Leeds scene have been incredibly friendly and supportive. He highlighted an important point about cosplay, that no matter how many people may think it a bit strange outside of the community, as soon as you enter a con with a good cosplay, you are treated like a celebrity yourself.
When asked about Thought Bubble itself:
‘I’m very impressed with how it has developed, I mean it’s twice the size that it was last year! There is an amazing array of artists that draw all sorts of styles and content, and not only that but it has a lovely, welcoming atmosphere. Also, the roller girls checking tickets on the doors is a nice touch!’