Thought Bubble: The Yorkshire festival of comic art featuring creators who have worked on Star Trek, Star Wars, Iron Man and Batgirl

It became a ritual every Wednesday from the age of seven. Lisa Wood would go with her father to the market in Batley where she lived.

At the magazine stall, she would hand over twenty pence, and in exchange, she’d walk away with a selection of comics. “Before being pulped, they’d go to from the newsagents to these second stalls where you could pick them up really cheap,” Lisa says. “So dad would give me 20p and for that you could pick up five issues. I just loved them from that point on.”

Fast-forward 30 years and Lisa founded what has become the UK’s largest comic art festival. From its humble beginnings in the basement of Leeds Town Hall in 2007, Thought Bubble has grown 15 years on to draw in comic fans and those who make them from across the globe.

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Its ethos, though, is still the same – to celebrate comic art and to promote its power to inspire, educate and bring people together. It’s something Lisa is passionate about. “When I was a child, I struggled with dyslexia and reading,” she says.

Lisa Wood, the founder of Thought Bubble comic festival.Lisa Wood, the founder of Thought Bubble comic festival.
Lisa Wood, the founder of Thought Bubble comic festival.

“I did very poorly at school and my dyslexia was never picked up on. Comic books always helped me through that and I learnt to read because of them. When we were at school, reading a book would be a massive challenge.

"You’re looking at a full page of text and to an individual who is dyslexic, it’s incredibly daunting and hard to understand – and that creates barriers to learning to read and write. When you look at comic books you have text broken down into small areas in small paragraphs and it appear alongside emotions and images. That can entice you in and help you to engage.”

Comic books did just that for Lisa, who is now 47 and based in Ilkley. She is also known as Tula Lotay, an artist and illustrator, who has created pieces for the likes of DC, Marvel and Boom! Studios in a career which took off on the back of Thought Bubble. She studied art at Bradford University, though it was only in her late 30s that she began being paid for her art.

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Lisa was working at the Travelling Man comic shop in Leeds when she had the idea for what was to become the first Thought Bubble event, a celebration of comics organised with the support of Leeds International Film Festival. She had expected 150 would turn up. In fact it was nearer 500.

Comic book illustrator Lisa Wood.Comic book illustrator Lisa Wood.
Comic book illustrator Lisa Wood.

As Thought Bubble grew annually, Lisa got to know the guests who would attend and also began sharing her own comic art on social media. "A lot of the people in the industry that I knew said to me ‘oh my goodness you can draw, you’re really good’,” she says. “Through their encouragement and the feedback I was getting online, it made me want to draw more.”

DC Comics got in touch and things spiralled from there. So much so that demand for Lisa’s illustration work was in part why she decided last year it was time to step back from Thought Bubble, to focus more on her family and art. “It’s really hard leaving something you have set up from the beginning,” she reflects. “But it felt like the right time to step away and I know it’s in safe hands.”

Thought Bubble is bringing together some of the most influential writers, artists and comic creators in the world alongside thousands of fans and a grassroots community. Lisa is still involved this year as a guest, taking part among others such as British comic creator Kieron Gillen (Star Wars, Iron Man, Thor), Gail Simone, best known for her work on titles including DC’s Bird of Prey, Batgirl and Wonder Woman, and Marc Bernardin, a television writer-producer who has worked on the likes of Star Trek: Picard and Masters of the Universe: Revelations, and is a comic writer of Genius, The Highwaymen, Monster Attack Network, and Adora and the Distance, a graphic novel inspired by his experience of raising a child on the autistic spectrum.

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Like Lisa, Marc’s love for comics started in childhood, growing up in New York City. “My father brought me home a brown paper bag of comic books one day,” he recalls. “I devoured them and then I discovered there was a comic book shop not very far from my house. That became a weekly ritual going and seeing what was on the shelves and buying whatever took my interest.”

That was until his teens, when the comics were temporarily cast aside. A career in entertainment journalism later drew him back and he began covering films and comics for Entertainment Weekly. In touch with many of the people involved in making comic books, Marc soon turned his hand to the craft himself.

A journalist by day, he started in the comic world by moonlighting for the likes of Marvel and DC. “It fed something in my soul,” the 50-year-old says. “As much as I loved journalism and still have a fondness for it, you can make stuff up,” he laughs. “You are free to invent and unbound by things as interruptive as facts and truth.”

The screen came calling when a number of Marc’s comics got optioned for film and television. "These days, getting your work into the hands of people who might like it is nowhere near as impossible as it used to be,” he reflects. “We live in a time where the traditional barriers to these industries don’t really exist anymore. If you want to make a comic book and you can draw, you can make one.

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"If you can make one, you can go to a print shop and print out some copies and hand them out to friends, bring them to a festival like Thought Bubble, or put it online. You have a movie studio in your pocket. You can shoot and edit and distribute right from your phone. All of the things that used to be hurdles kind of no longer exist. You just have to have the ideas and have the will to execute them.”

Thought Bubble will see talks, workshops, exhibitions, film screenings and art installations held across Yorkshire from November 4 to 13, with a comic convention on 12 and 13 at Harrogate Convention Centre. Visit

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