I'm honoured and flattered to be the subject of a double-page spread in today's Eastern Daily Press, with an interview and photos from my Comic Art Masterclass in Dereham, Norfolk.
Comic genius inspires youngsters
(Must say I prefer that headline as it appears in the paper)
His comic strips have brought the Bash Street Kids and Doctor Who to life for countless readers. And yesterday Kev Sutherland – an artist with iconic comic The Beano – shared his skills with the next generation of cartoonists at a workshop in Dereham.
The Beano’s sales approached 2m in the 1950s when the likes of Dennis
the Menace and Minnie the Minx were at their prime but numbers are now
down to 38,000, and Mr Sutherland said comics are “increasingly a
minority sport, especially for younger readers.”
Toftwood Junior School, Mr Sutherland said the future for comics among
today’s youngsters lies in a different direction and increasingly
He said: “They want chain saws, zombies and violence –
all the stuff they get in computer games. I want to see books for kids
with violence – cathartic and well-reasoned violence. Kids don’t like
soft stuff, by and large.
“When you see the stuff the kids have
created for themselves, mostly it’s explosive gun-toting hamsters
blowing up Jeremy Clarkson or Peppa Pig, and that’s where eight-year-old
brains are at.
“I find some people are a bit disturbed by the violence in the stories. They should read Shakespeare or the Bible.”
of the one-page comics his audience produced proved his point, with
titles ranging from The Killer Tree Gets Simon and Gangster Frenzy to
Teletubby Massacre, although Love showed a gentler, surreal streak.
Dereham Neatherd student Josh Crisp, 14, said he uses the internet to read Japanese manga and learn how to create them.
said: “I read a lot of manga but they are hard to draw. I used to read
Beano and had a couple of annuals at home. It was quite good, but I got
bored of them.”
Mr Sutherland said stories that interest him
inspire his work for the Beano, and he has brought back old characters
and written longer stories that children can invest their time in. In
one 16-page story, Julius Sneezer returned in the form of an Ofsted
He said: “It’s when you do long stories you can do
things that are worth kids reading. Stuff you read as a kid like Tin Tin
and Asterix books are stories where you reward the kids’ attention and
you have given them time to have something to read.”
He pointed to
the success of manga comic books in Japan, where one story can run for
200 pages and computer games are inspired by comics, rather than drawing
away potential readers.
Beano has launched its iPhone app, which entered the top ten most downloaded apps on the Apple news stand within two weeks.
Sutherland has started experimenting with selling his comics on Kindle
devices, and last month received £7 from sales in Britain and France.
said: “If you are driving kids towards words and pictures that can only
be a good thing, especially if they are reading the words, rather than
just hearing them.”
Mr Sutherland takes heart from the explosion
in popular children’s books, but said comics need to be better and more
affordable to duplicate their success.
The internet, by avoiding the expense of colour printing, could help with the latter.
also said comics had one advantage over big-budget films and computer
games – children can create their owns strips using exactly the same
tools as the professionals.
Added to the main article, there's a piece in the Comments and Opinion section (which I can't find online) continuing my observations that comics could have a revival of interest given the right material. So thankyou EDP for the cracking coverage. And memo to myself, I should pay more attention when doing interviews in class so I don't say things that come across a bit naff. "...last month (he) received £7 from sales in Britain and France" doesn't sound so much witty and self-deprecating as it does pathetic. And "They should read Shakespeare or the Bible" sounds like I'm suggesting those as nice alternatives to violent reading whereas my point was that they are more violent than people think. Ah, whatever, no publicity is bad publicity.
If anyone would like to bring my Comic Art Masterclasses to their school or art centre, do please email or twitter.