Thought Bubble Punctured After Needled by Guest

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Thought bubble Zainab Akhtar Frank Miller

It's a frustrating thing to plan to attend an event only to find out the sole reason for your trip won't be there. The main act of the concert cancels for personal reasons. The theme park is closed for repairs. The kitchen is out of filet mignon.

This might mirror the feelings of fans of Frank Miller who looked forward to seeing him at the Thought Bubble Comics Art Festival in Harrogate, England. And while the trouble had been brewing for a number of weeks, the public first became aware of it when Zainab Akhtar, publisher of ShortBox, released this statement on Twitter on July 27:

"I am sorry to inform you that ShortBox and I will no longer be attending Thought Bubble festival this November. I was invited as a guest in 2020 which rolled over to this year. I have been excited to attend, represent my authors, and share our books with readers after almost 2 years of no conventions. However, as a proud Muslim woman, I cannot in good conscience attend a festival that deems it appropriate to invite and platform Frank Miller, a person who is responsible for the propagation of abhorrent anti-Muslim hate, particularly via his work. Anti-Muslim bigotry is repugnant and condemnable yet has become so deeply rooted, so widely accepted in society that it is not even given a cursory consideration, as evidenced once again in this situation. i cannot comprehend how time and time again, festivals and communities within comics espouse values regarding inclusivity, diversity, 'comics being for everyone', zero tolerance on hate, but all that lip-service evaporates when they are asked to enact those same values."

That, as the saying goes, is a lot to unpack, seeing that it includes all the right language about diversity and inclusivity while at the same time arguing for a disinvitation and excommunication. But it was the toss that got the snowball rolling downhill, and soon Akhtar (whose ShortBox publication would no longer exist in the same capacity by the time of the convention, moving away from their current model of packaging boxes of titles for reasons of international shipping costs) was joined by a number of creators who threatened to pull out of the festival should Miller continue to be hosted.


Also invited to the festival are Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, and James Tynion IV, none of whom addressed the subject on their social media accounts, perhaps due to their paychecks having benefitted so much from the foundational work Miller laid down for the modern version of Batman. Or perhaps they were going to and Thought Bubble responded too quickly (although never quickly enough according to many other posts about the matter) with their statement of disinvitation:

"Over the last fourteen years Thought Bubble has grown into an amazing community of comic creators and fans who we love, trust and respect. We have let you down, and in our commitment to maintaining Thought Bubble as a safe space for all, we have fallen short.

"We exist to share the art form and its worlds with people. If any individual group or community feels uncomfortable or excluded from our show then we've failed."

Thought Bubble -- you just excluded Frank Miller. By your own admission, you've failed again. But I digress...

"We know that many of you are disappointed in us, and have been expecting a comment on this before now. We are sorry for our silene while we've been trying to fix this.

"Frank Miller will not be attending Thought Bubble.

"We are deeply sorry, particularly to those who we should be standing up for the most. We hope that you can give us the opportunity to make this better and we thank you for holding us accountable."

Tought Bubble -- Frank Miller wrote Holy Terror ten years ago, and has already addressed that matter. So if history is a judge, your opportunity to make things better will take at least ten years before you are forgiven by your accusers. Hold tight, because it could be longer than that.

"We know there is still more to discuss and we will be replying to those who have been in touch. We hope you can bear with us while we do this.

"We won't let you down again."

Well, that's assuming you're given the chance.

Let's be absolutely clear on this. Zainab Akhtar did not want to go to Thought Bubble because Frank Miller wrote a book ten years ago she did not like. Furthermore, she is still not attending, so Thought Bubble gained nothing by disinviting Miller in a pyrrhic symbolic gesture. And nobody seems to be forgiving Thought Bubble any time soon. The same people who harangued the convention for inviting Miller are also taking the pitchforks to them for publicly disinviting him, claiming the action further endangers Akhtar (presumably by angry tweets or another Frank Miller comic). Apologies are always seen as an admission of guilt, and once guilty, it's just as Twitter user Darth Marenghi states:

Comics are a funny business.