Words by Amy Bellwood
Thought Bubble Festival has a long history of nurturing talent and encouraging collaboration between the creators who attend our comic book convention. Whether it’s launching new careers, supporting new artists, making connections, or simply helping people make like-minded friends, Thought Bubble plays a big part in the comic book world to ensure that the industry continues to thrive.
This year Thought Bubble and our amazing title sponsor comiXology are honouring this proud history by renaming our marquee outside Leeds Town Hall the Ask for Mercy Marquee, in celebration of an incredible comic created by two artists who met at Thought Bubble.
Comic book legend Richard Starkings and rising star Abigail Jill Harding met at Thought Bubble in 2015, after Abigail was included in the Thought Bubble 2015 Festival Anthology, published by Image Comics and compiled by Richard’s company, Comicraft. While looking through the proofs of the comic, Abigail’s art caught Richard’s eye; ‘it was so confident and creative,’ he remembers. They met in person at a pre-convention signing at Travelling Man York where Abigail showed Richard the same comic and was surprised that he had already seen it. ‘He asked me if I was taking a portfolio to the convention that weekend and I said yes. I remember him saying “good, I want to see it”... I took [my] portfolio to his table at the convention and the next thing I know he asked “would you like to illustrate an issue [of Richard's ongoing series Elephantmen] for me?”’ Richard remembers too; ‘When I saw her again at Thought Bubble I had already started thinking about a story for her.’
That one story evolved into a creative partnership that this year released Ask for Mercy; a stunningly dark tale set in World War 2. The comic combines Richard’s rich, experienced storytelling with Abigail’s vibrant illustrations to create an incredible action-packed fantasy horror.
Richard has been working in comic books 'for as long as I can remember' and is perhaps best known for his series Elephantmen, having also worked on huge titles like The Real Ghostbusters, Transformers and Dr. Who before moving to America to focus on graphic design and lettering. Following that, Richard went on to establish his own studio, Comicraft; the comic book industry’s leading lettering and design company.
Abigail is an exciting rising star in the comic book world, with 2018 being her first year as a professional comic artist and illustrator. She was delighted to collaborate with Richard, after being a long time fan of his creator-owned series Elephantmen. She recalls ‘I read Elephantmen and the world Richard created was what I could best call ‘realised’ and so compelling. The characters are incredibly relatable even in the most outlandish of settings. The layers and depth are what I really love about Richard's work.’
Richard is equally enthusiastic about working with Abigail, saying ‘she is a natural, her work has a vibrancy and energy that tells you right away that she loves drawing and she loves comics. I know how hard she works on every page and that whatever I present to her will come back to me loaded with more story possibilities and more character than I have the right to expect!’
Thought Bubble is a hotbed of creative activity and we're so proud to have a history of encouraging new collaborations, uplifting amazing talent and promoting home grown creators. This is one of the many reasons why comiXology has been involved in the show for the past few years, as they continue to use their high status in the comics world to promote new talent and groundbreaking titles. With comiXology Originals already in development, they were on the lookout at Thought Bubble 2017 for amazing work and talented creators to add to their publishing roster. They saw the first editions of Ask for Mercy at Thought Bubble 2017 and knew straight away that it was worth getting behind. Jumping forward to this year, Ask for Mercy became one of the headline titles released at the grand launch of comiXology Originals earlier this summer.
Thanks to these connections made through Thought Bubble, and the support they received from comiXology, the duo are going from strength to strength and are are continuing work on Ask for Mercy, featuring Abigail’s new demonic creation Alizarine. Find out more and visit Richard and Abigail at Thought Bubble 2018 in their namesake Ask for Mercy Marquee outside Leeds Town Hall this September!