The new droids who burst out of Thought Bubble: Laura Bailey

2017 winner of 2000 AD/Thought Bubble new writer competition chats about her experience pitching live to Tharg the Mighty!

7 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...

Writer Laura Bailey won the contest, at the second time of trying, in 2017, and her first Future Shock, 'Sunday Scientist', appeared in Prog 2072, with art from 2017’s winning artist, Paul Williams.

Since then, she’s gone on to write a Terror Tale and a DeMarco P.I. story in the 2018 Sci-Fi Special and has a new DeMarco storyline coming up in a future Megazine.

Richard Bruton caught up with this rising star to talk about Thought Bubble, the terror of pitching live, and what winning has meant to her.

What did winning 2017’s 2000 AD & Thought Bubble writing talent contest mean to you?

Winning the contest was probably the most extreme amount of positive emotions I’ve ever felt in my life. It’s something I wanted so badly but in my heart of hearts thought it wasn't going to happen. Even as the contest was unfolding, I sent out texts to my family saying it was a no go - I thought Tharg wasn't into the story. Bearing in mind this was the second time I entered, I was doubly bummed out, and so to go from thinking that to being announced as the winner was a 0-60 U-turn!

And after that intense experience, how did finally seeing the pitch in print feel?

The feeling of being published was a calmer experience, but just as sweet. It’s surreal to see the Prog with your story inside, sitting on a shelf in your hometown W.H. Smiths or local comic shop. Seeing the artwork made from your own words is incredibly satisfying as well, I can’t think of one negative thing about the whole experience.

Going back to entering the contest, how did you hear about the 2000 AD talent search and what convinced you to enter?

When I first heard about the talent search, I was already considering pitching to Tharg through the mail but I figured the contest would be a much better way to go about it.

What are your memories of the actual process of pitching at Thought Bubble and the preparation involved?

If you’re one of the few people who get the chance to pitch [writers get the chance to show their ideas on Saturday and the best ideas are given the chance to pitch live on Sunday], you get instant feedback there and then, so even if you don’t win (like I didn’t do the first time around) you still come away with writing tips. As I was not successful the first time round, I spent the next year trying to make the story as hard as possible for the panel to reject. The method was to study the Future Shocks of the past, come up with as many ideas as possible, and then finesse them so they could stand toe to toe with my favourite Future Shock.

In regards to pitching itself, I turned up as early as possible. Spoke to nobody in the queue, put my headphones in and listened to the same three songs on my iPod, looking like a crazy lady rocking backwards and forwards. I was making sure I was focused on the task ahead as I was pitching without notes - wouldn’t recommend that approach unless you practise your ass off.

As a winner, what essential advice can you give to those writers who are thinking of heading to Thought Bubble this year to pitch?

The only advice I can give is study past Future Shocks, make sure your pitch is under two minutes, if you don’t win keep trying, and listen carefully to all the feedback given on the day.

Since your 2017 win, how has your career taken off and how do you think your writing has evolved?

It’s been less than a year since I started writing for 2000 AD and it’s been a steep learning curve with each script. My own shortcomings as a writer mean that, sometimes, what I want to get across is lost in translation. But, hopefully, my writing will continue to evolve with each script, into being a more direct representation of my thoughts and ideas.

Since winning I’ve written several stories for 2000 AD. I wrote a DeMarco story for the Sci-Fi special, and a Tharg’s Terror Tale called 'Quilli'. Before the competition, I was publishing my own comics which were probably being read by about 20 people max… so it’s been quite a difference!

When it comes to your writing, what are your chief influences?

Preacher, The Fat Slags, Halo Jones and Junji Ito’s Tomie. The four comics of the apocalypse!

What would a dream writing job entail?

The dream character I'd want to write a story for changes every month. Obviously Judge Dredd, but probably right now I'd love to write a story for The Clown. Also, I had crazy fun writing my Terror Tale called 'Quilli', so it would be great to write another.

Finally, what’s coming up next for you?

At the moment I’m writing the DeMarco story for the Megazine, can't say too much about it as it's in its early stages. Part one is called "An eye...".