Thought Bubble Festival 2014: Interview with Lisa Wood – Comics, women and superheroes

thoughtbubble2014

Thought Bubble Festival is a non profit organisation committed to promoting comics and graphic novels as an important cultural artform. It is the UK’s largest event that is dedicated to celebrating all forms of sequential art. And lucky for us – it happens every year.

This year special guests include Scott Snyder, Becky Cloonan, my personal favourite Jeff Stoker, Brenden Fletcher and a ton more – to see the full list, click here.

The festival was created 8 years ago by Festival Director, Lisa Wood who is not only a badass superhero for creating an event so awesome thousands of people will be flocking to it, she is also a fantastic illustrator working under the alias Tula Lotay, working on Supreme Blue Rose with major writer Warren Ellis for Image Comics and Bodies for DC’s Vertigo comics.

Lisa took the time out to talk with us about women in the comics industry, superheroes and what you really need to be reading. You can check it out in full below…

Lisa wood thought bubble 2014 (1)
Lisa Wood

NLY: Thought Bubble festival is a very female friendly affair, how important is it to you to give women in the industry a platform and a voice to showcase their talent?

LW: I think that it’s imperative to the industry that people from all backgrounds are given equal access to the industry, and that those already working in comics use their position to try and increase the diversity of creators working in the medium. If a cultural medium doesn’t adapt and diversify with the community it exists within, then, quite simply, it stagnates and that’s bad for both creators and readers.

NLY: Over recent years there has been a shift in the comic book industry and now there are a lot more women like Sara Pichelli (Ultimate Spider-Man) and Becky Cloonan (Gotham Academy) who are getting to express their voice and talent in comics. And while it is still fair to say that the women definitely don’t outweigh the men in terms of the male to female ratio, things are moving forward.

How do you feel about this shift and do you feel there is more work to be done?

LW: I feel that the direction the industry is moving in is the right one, and I hope that the increasing diversity of creators working on titles for the big publishers continues apace. The comics community is an amazing one to work within, especially the diversity in the small press and independent circles. I think there’s always more work to be done in terms of increasing the access available to creators from all walks of life, and I see that as a vitally important role that modern creators have to embody.

NLY: Thought Bubble Festival has been running for 8 years and has increased in popularity so much that when it first started out you were expecting around 500 people, and this year’s festival is looking to be around 20,000. This is an amazing increase and a testament to your hard work.

Would you say this is a sign that comics are becoming more mainstream? 

LW: I’d say that it’s a definite sign of the shift of comics into the public eye. The recent on-screen adaptations, and the globalisation of culture, thanks to the internet, has increased the number of ways people can consume comic titles exponentially, and this means people who would normally never have picked up a graphic novel are able to explore the medium and uncover its hidden gems. Comic really do have something for everyone, and I think it’s really exciting seeing the number of people that are starting to read them. We can certainly speak to the increasing popularity of comics in terms of increasing attendance, but we’re also really indebted to all our attendees for helping spread the Thought Bubble word far and wide.

NLY: What kind of an impact do you think comic books and graphic novels could have if they continue to become more mainstream and why are they culturally important?

LW: I think comics are already having an increasing impact as educational tools, and getting young people who would normally see reading as a chore to pick up something that can help develop those skills. We’ve worked a lot with the awesome team at Leeds Central Library, trying to help increase the number of comics that they can have access to, so that more people around the city can read some of our favourite titles for free.

NLY: Superheroes, (in particular DC and Marvel) are at the forefront of the public’s minds, mainly due to the mass marketing and constant news that we get around the cinematic franchises for either company. Do you think this is having an impact on sequential storytelling and the comics industry in general?

LW: I think that the indirect impact that they have on the industry is massively beneficial – driving people towards the source material, and getting more people through the doors of local comic shops. A lot of creators these days who work on superhero comics are also developing creator-owned properties, and so this helps increase the potential readerships of these titles.

NLY: How do you feel about the female led superhero movies that have been announced? Do you think it should be as big of a deal as it is?

LW: I think that it’s very important to ensure that the superhero movies being put into production have as diverse casts as possible, as this is going to be a lot of people’s entry point into the medium, and so if they feel that they’re not represented then it’s going to drive them away. Seeing Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel films going into pre-production is great, as they’re both amazing role models, when handled well, and I hope that this paves the way for some great movies that encourage even more viewers and potential future readers.

NLY: There are a lot of really great comics and graphic novels out there that are not based within various superhero franchises, do you feel that they are getting pushed to the side due to the current enthusiasm for superheroes?

LW: I think that depends on the individual perspective – a lot of people, who only consume comics through the mainstream media’s representation of them, may think that superhero comics are the medium, not the genre, but it’s important that people know how diverse comics can be. One of the most important aspects of Thought Bubble is promoting the amazing diversity of titles and creators within comics, because there’s literally something to appeal for everyone. It’s also one of the most important aspects of the local comic shop – I’ve worked with Travelling Man for years, and the staff there are some of the most knowledgeable people about comics that you’ll ever meet. I think comics act as an amazing community for helping new readers find their footing, and then be able to dig deeper and find even more titles that appeal to them.

NLY: What graphic novels or comic books would currently make your recommend list?

LW: This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki is amazing. It’s such a beautiful story of two young girls’ friendship on a summer holiday. It’s heart breaking at times. It has a wonderful ethereal quality to it even though it’s completely grounded in reality.

Emily Carroll’s Through The Woods is a fantastic collection of her horror stories. Each one reads like a wonderful vignette not dissimilar to Angela Carter’s magic realism horror fairy tales.

NLY: What advice would give to someone wanting their start in the comics industry.

LW: From an artist’s point of view it would be to draw as much as possible. Learn about proportions and perspective so its second nature. If you have this as a starting point you can draw anything. Study camera angles in films, the way the shots move from one person to the next, one scene to another, this will give you a good sense of visual storytelling, something which is very important in sequential art.

We will be covering more fun from Thought Bubble Festival 2014 this weekend, so watch out for our tweets and features over the next couple of days!

Susie McBeth

Susie McBeth is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Nerd Like You.   Susie is a comic book reading, anime loving, superhero obsessed, writer, editor, artist, gamer, occasional supervillain and all round very nerdy girl.   When not working on content for NLY and sneakily fitting in the odd zombie kill, she can be found writing entertainment posts for national news entertainment site The Metro as well as writing guest posts for Bit Rebels and a plethora of other sites (Google will tell you all).   She also writes books - including the recent How to become a Supervillain in 10 easy steps.

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