The new droids who burst out of Thought Bubble: Joe Palmer

The 2015 winner of 2000 AD/Thought Bubble new artist competition chats about why it's important to try, try, try again...

10 months ago

Every year, 2000 AD gives new writers and artists the chance to get their first work for the Galaxy's Greatest Comic at the annual Thought Bubble convention in Leeds.

Put before a panel of top creators, prospective art droids have their work scrutinsed while would-be writers must pitch their own original Future Shock in just two minutes! They're not for the faint of heart but the competitions have launched the professional careers of some of the newest talent to grace the pages of 2000 AD!

The competitions are happening again at Thought Bubble on 22-23 September and you can see the rules and download the art competition sample script here...

The art winner for 2015 was Joe Palmer, who went on to provide art for a Tharg’s Future Shock, ‘Lifosuction’ written by the 2015 winner of the writing contest, Rory McConville.

You can find ‘Lifosuction’ in Prog 1972 and Joe’s second Future Shock, ‘An Inconvenient Tooth’, written by Martin Feekins, in Prog 2079.

How did you hear about the 2000 AD talent search and what convinced you to enter?

The first time I entered the competition, it was 2013. I think the first I heard of it was via the Thought Bubble website. I saw the ad and knew I wanted to give it a shot - it didn’t take much convincing for me to think it was a good idea, as it seemed like an amazing opportunity!

What did winning the contest and seeing your art in the pages of Prog 1972 with ‘Lifosuction’ mean for you?

Winning the art competition meant an awful lot to me. I was putting everything I had into improving my skills, and so it was to a certain extent validating to receive that kind of positive feedback. It was a very emotional moment as I remember. You deal with a LOT of rejection when pursuing a career in comics, and so to get a thumbs up once in a while really does mean a lot.

When the Prog came out I was extremely excited to see my work in print. I headed out to Forbidden Planet in London and grabbed five copies for myself and close family. It was a happy day!

As for the competition itself, can you tell us a little about the process, with the portfolio sessions and getting to the second day where your work was critiqued by the art judges in front of a live Thought Bubble audience?

As I mentioned before, I first entered back in 2013. I tried again in 2014, and won in 2015. I was pretty familiar with the process by this point as I’d watched the previous year’s panels and how they went down.

Essentially, as an artist, you draw a four page Future Shock (the script you follow is available on the Thought Bubble website) in time for the weekend of Thought Bubble and bring it to the 2000 AD table on the Saturday. They then select entrants for the second round of judging which takes place in front of an audience on the Sunday. In 2013 and 2014 I didn’t make it through the first round of judging, but I was determined and persistent so I came back for another go in 2015 and it paid off. As for the actual experience itself, it was nerve racking, but it’s nothing compared to what they have to go through in the writing competition!

How did you approach the creation of your Future Shock, ‘Lifosuction’, for 2000 AD, how did the collaboration and editorial process work for you?

It was a really smooth process, as I remember. I was working with the winner of the writer’s competition that year, and the script was clear and well written. Shout out to Rory McConville, who has gone on to write a huge amount of great stuff for 2000 AD and the Megazine since winning, and is still working for them currently. Rory’s script made my job really easy. Working with editor Matt Smith was also a breeze, and he gave some good notes which made my art better.

Since winning the competition, how do you think your work has evolved and where has the competition win and subsequent Future Shock strip taken your comics career?
I was working fully digital back then, and my art style has evolved considerably which is both a strength and a weakness. When you’re starting out as a professional in comics, it’s of benefit for editors to know what they are getting when they hire you. I’ve zigged and zagged stylistically as I’ve gotten to know myself better, and as a result it’s been a challenge to market myself as a particular style of artist. I did get the opportunity to illustrate another Future Shock for 2000 AD , which appeared earlier this year, and was a great experience.

What advice would you give to up and coming writers and artists about getting into comics in general, and the 2000 AD/Thought Bubble competition in particular?

To comic creators in general I would say my number one piece of creative advice is ‘get to know yourself’. What type of artist are you? What do you want to achieve? The clearer your goals are, the easier a time you’ll have as the path will be clearer to you. Be persistent beyond normal sane person levels. Work your butt off!

As far as entering the 2000 AD competitions goes, I would say that you have absolutely nothing to lose. Yes, it’s a bit scary and you might get rejected, but in the scheme of things that really isn’t that bad. If you want to make comics professionally, there is no clearer route to a paying job in comics than this competition. To the artists out there in particular- if you want to get a start in the industry, you need to find a way to get to Thought Bubble. At best, you will get professional work, and if you don’t win you come away with four new pages in your portfolio and solid advice on how to improve. If that doesn’t make you want to enter, I don’t know what will!

When did you first start reading 2000 AD, and who would you count amongst your artistic influences?

2000 AD was always a regular fixture in my house. My dad has bought every Prog and Megazine since Prog one, so there were always stacks of comics around. He’s still buying it to this day! As for influences, there’s way too many to mention, but to name a few off the top of my head: Katsuhiro Otomo, Mike Mignola, Moebius, James Harren, Bruce Timm, Daniel Warren Johnson, Fiona Staples, Mike Wieringo, etc., etc.

What comics (or other writing/art) work have you done so far, and what’s coming up for you in the future?

I recently self published my own one-shot called GRIND which I’m really proud of, and I am returning to work on a sci-fi webcomic called The Outrunners with writer Jonathan Gelatt later this year. Aside from that, I’ve worked on a ton of small independent projects.

I’m working on another one-shot at the moment, which I’m going to self publish again. I’ll also be exhibiting at Thought Bubble this year, and will have copies of my books available there. If you’re going to the show, come and say hello! Aside from that, I’m pitching a couple of projects to publishers and hustling to make a living!

See more of Joe’s work at his website!