Sunday, 31 December 2017

My Comic Strip Review of 2017

And here, as is becoming traditional, is my Comic Strip Review of 2017. I do hope you like it. Inevitably it has a Venetian theme, commemorating the fact that Hev and I spent the best part of a fortnight, over two visits, in Venice, thanks to her artwork.

I seem, as ever, to be obsessed by my statistics, which I think speak for themselves, and offer little in the way of comment or analysis. It might have been good to point out that it was the Socks' most successful tour in terms of audience numbers and profitability, but instead I've just captured the fact that, by dint of giving Edinburgh a miss this year, they did their fewest total number of gigs ever. Quality over quantity, that was 2017's byword.

The weight of comic strip work I've had this year is rightly prominent. From the Women Of The Bible strips, of which I am inordinately proud and really looking forward to seeing in print in 2018, to the CII mural, which I spent half my time in Venice colouring, and the Milton Keynes 50th anniversary project, which experiment is going to be repeated again in 2018.

Hev's work gets a mention, which is a rarity in these annual strips, with her having two published articles, for Geneaology and Ripperology, and her work as an artist taking us to Venice. Being paid to go to Venice, only four weeks after we've gone on a holiday there, was both a boon and a paradox. As for what went on there, and some of the people she found herself working with, I'll leave it to her to tell you all about.

UPDATE: Fact check. Before anyone else points it out, I've just noticed the number of flights I've written in the slipstream adds up to 22, not 21. And that, since one of the flights was to Guernsey, then I've obviously flown with Aurigny, and not just Easyjet and Ryanair. Pretty sure the rest's right.

Socks, schools, comic strips, and buying a new car? Is that all that happened in 2017? Surely not. And the rest of this blog covers it all, I'm sure (and the fact that I've written fewer blog posts than any previous year rather suggests that I've been keeping myself busy). Here are those stats, ranked against past years.

School days   
Flights (return)   
Socks shows   
Caric gigs       
Nights away   
Socks vids       

My Comic Strips reviews of past years:

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre return with a brand new show in 2018. Stay tuned.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Shopping Maul or Mall? & other random musings

Someone didn't think this through at the Met Office. I'm living in a country that's preparing itself for Yellow Snow. #uksnow #uksnowmap

Were we the only people who immediately thought of this during last night's Doctor Who? (In our case we sang it quietly to each other, to the bewilderment of the rest of the family).

Settle an argument. Is it shopping mall, rhymes with Paul, or shopping mall, rhymes with Pal?

Responses on Facebook:

Maul as in Paul - 24
"Mal is British, Maul is American" - 6
Mal as in Pal - 4
Either - 1
Precinct/Arcade/Shopping Centre - lost count

I call mine Ozymandius. #uksnow

I guessed the language wrong, I am idiot. The sentiment remains the same. (Unless you're from there, which language would you have guessed? Seen in a shop window in Bristol.)

I notice the NUS's No Platform policy was adopted in 1974. Imagine if they'd done the same at Top Of The Pops. Everyone would have been 6 inches shorter.

How childish am I? Just made myself laugh, while Carols From Kings is on in the background, by remembering the lyrics:
We 3 Kings from Orient are
One in a taxi, one in a car,
One on a scooter, pepping his hooter
Wearing a ladies bra.

Dec 21: Am I going mad, or has the 1st Semi Final of Christmas #UniversityChallenge2016 gone missing from iPlayer? The other semi is there, and all other eps. But not that one. Anyone? BBC Four?…

Ooh ooh, if only there were a popular Scottish and English word that rhymed with the title of this film. Ooh ooh if only.

Now that's what I call a quiet news day

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres. email for details. Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre return with a brand new show in 2018. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Me talking Beano on Sky News

Having feared our journey back from Christmas at Kibworth would be delayed by snow, in fact it was delayed by just the usual loads of traffic. But, taking a wee break en route, I got a phone call from Sky News. Would I do a Skype interview about Dennis The Menace on Sky News? Easy peasy lemon squeezie said I. So I did.

Blimey norah, how hard was it to try and set up a bloody Skype interview? When did I last use Skype? More than a year ago, just before my old email address went tits up. So I couldn't remember my password and I couldn't sign in. And when I tried to start a new Skype account it asked for my Microsoft account, which I don't have, then told me the new version of Skype won't work on my sodding laptop which needs it operating system updating (long story don't start).

Having set off from Kibworth with an ETA, finally getting home at 5pm, it took us 45 minutes of fannying about before we finally ended up doing the interview over Hev's Skype account. The interview was live at 6.30 and, what do you know, went quite well. Apart from the fact that I momentarily got Nigel Parkinson's name wrong and called him Harrison.

If you blinked you missed it. Though you might find it archived here on the Sky News website. (Can't be sure how long it'll be there). Trust me, I was brilliant, and they'll probably have me on to talk about comics every week now.

UPDATE: Today, Thursday, I've done two more interviews, with BBC Wiltshire (a cough and a spit) and with James Whale on TalkRadio, which was great fun. I think you'll find it here. He's totally confrontational, railing against Political Correctness in a tabloid way, and gives good grist to the mill for those of us who like a good argument. I enjoyed that.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Daily Express Christmas - Scottish Falsetto Socks

A fourth, and I should imagine last for this year, Christmas themed video from the Socks. And when we had so much artwork to be getting on with. What can I say, sometimes the mood takes me, and half a day later the Socks have written and recorded a routine that they can't use in the live show and which has the shortest shelf life imaginable. And jolly good fun it is, enjoy. A Daily Express Christmas, click to play.

At time of writing, our Christmas videos are getting way more views on Facebook than on Youtube, but, if you're interested, as of Dec 23rd, our Youtube scores are:

Fannying Around The Christmas Tree - 619 views (10,900 on Facebook)
The Snowman - 315 views (2,800 FB)
The Reindeer Song - 582 views (2,900 FB)
Daily Express Christmas - 225 views (1,300 FB)

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre return with a brand new show in 2018. Stay tuned.

Monday, 18 December 2017

2017's Most Popular Celebrity with schoolkids is..?

Most Popular Celebrity of 2017, according to schoolkids

This year I visited schools in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Guernsey giving my Comic Art Masterclasses to kids aged 7 and upwards, and a few adults. As part of every class, I do a demonstration strip on the flipchart and get them to suggest a celebrity who will star in it. I take four suggestions from the room, then we have a quick knockout to choose the favourite. 15 minutes later I've done the demonstration strip starring their favourite celebrity, and I make a note of who they chose, mentioning them somewhere on the front cover of the class comic.

Until last year there was a stand-out popular choice who topped the chart every time, Simon Cowell. Chosen 31 times in 201524 times in 2014, and 25 times in 2013, (before which time I'd not been counting) Cowell ruled the roost as far as the kids were concerned. All of which changed in 2016 when Cowell got suggested a mere 20 times, beaten by Donald Trump, who was chosen 25 times.

(My thanks to the teachers and staff of St Aidans, Fortismere, Finham Park, Bowhouse, Sacred Heart, St Bernadettes, and Inverclyde Libraries for these photos, tweeted by them this year)

So, to 2017. Who did the kids chose?

Disappeared from last year are Justin Bieber (2nd last year) and David Beckham (7th), neither of whom got chosen even once this year.

ALSO RANS Chosen only once: 

Andy Warhol
Anne Frank
Ant McPartlin
Bill Gates
Bob Marley
Charles Darwin
Chris Packham
Connor McGregor (mixed martial arts fighter)
Damon Albarn
Daniel Craig
David Attenborough
Declan Donnelly (last year's No 7)
Ellen Degeneres
George Clooney
Harley Quinn
Harry Hill
Harry Potter
Harry Styles
Jackie Chan
Jake Paul (a Youtuber, I'm told)
Jeremy Corbyn
Jodie Whittaker
John Cena
John Lennon
Johnny Depp
Kanye West
Katy Perry (last year No 10, 2015 No 7, 2014 No 2)
Keith Lemon (10th last year, 2nd in 2014)
Kojak (chosen by year 3)
Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo DiCaprio
Mel B
Michelle Obama
Mr Bean
Mr Tumble
Muhammed Ali
Nicki Minaj
Peter Kay
Phil Vickery (had a kid in the school)
Rag & Bone Man
Rick Astley
Rowan Atkinson
Selena Gomez
Simon Pegg
Stevie Wonder (chosen by Year 2s)
Theresa May
Tom Baker (suggested by Pete Doherty's son)
Tom Cruise
Usain Bolt
Will I Am


Adam West 
Albert Einstein (as seen on Big Heads, sadly not the real thing)
Boris Johnson 
Dwayne The Rock Johnson 
Ed Sheeran 
Elvis Presley 
Lionel Messi  (2016 10th, 2015 8th)
Morgan Freeman 
Will Smith 


8th Equal - chosen 3 times each

Benedict Cumberbatch 
Emma Watson 

7th - chosen 4 times

Michael Jackson (2016 11th / 3, 2015 2nd / 12)

6th Equal - chosen 5 times

Ariana Grande (2016 7th/ 5)
Barack Obama (2016 5th /6, 2015 8th /4)

5th Equal -  chosen 6 times

David Walliams (2015 7th/ 5, 2016 not chosen once!)
Taylor Swift (2015 7th/ 5, 2016 chosen twice)
The Queen (2016 5th /6, 2015 5th /7)

4th - chosen 7 times

Kim Kardashian (2016 4th /7, 2015 3rd /10)

3rd - chosen 8 times

Cristiano Ronaldo (2016 11th / 3, 2015 4th/ 8)

2nd - chosen 11 times

Simon Cowell (2016 2nd/ 20, 2015, '14 & '13 1st)

1st Place, and by far and way the winner, having been chosen an unprecedented 42 times...

Donald Trump (2016 1st place/ 25, before which he'd never been mentioned)

So there we have a tiny and only slightly scientific insight into the minds of school pupils in this country in 2017. I hope it's been of interest. Here's to more of the same in 2018. Who'll be popular then? Your guess is as good as mi - it's going to be Trump again, isn't it? God help us all.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Saturday, 16 December 2017

My Top TV of 2017 (Part 3, The Top 10)

MY TOP TV OF 2017 (Part 3, The Top 10) 

I've listed my favourite TV of 2017 numbers 25 - 11, as well as the Also Rans and other categories, so now here are my personal favourites of the year.

10 - Doctor Who series 10 (BBC 1)

Back in the top ten again*, the favourite TV show of my childhood had a good, strong series. With the usual highs and lows - a three parter with the best start, a better middle, and a disappointing end; some brilliant stand-alone episodes like Oxygen and Thin Ice; a couple of meh-ers (not a fan of Knock Knock or The Eaters Of Light myself); and a smashing two part climax (only marred by the show spoilering its best surprise right from the start, which was a great shame), it was on good form. The news of Jodie Whittaker as the next Doctor was a high point of the year. I can't wait till series 11. (2016: not eligible, 2015: didn't rank, 2014: No 4, 2013: No 10, 2011: No 10)

9 =  Inside No 9 & W1A (BBC 2)

Buried at the start of the year, and always the bridesmaid when it comes to being the talk of the town, series 3 of Inside No 9 was as strong as the first, especially its opening Christmas episode The Devil Of Christmas. Dark, sophisticated, witty, ambitious, and expertly executed comedy, never played for laughs. With more League Of Gentlemen coming before Christmas, I'm happy to add any plus points from that onto Inside Number 9's score for the year.

And W1A (included in joint 9th place cos, in the first draft of this list, I had totally missed it out by accident) also had a strong third (and, in this case, final) series, benefitting a lot more from cross-promotion than its dark stablemate and providing some of the funniest cringe-out-loud comedy of the year. Also has the most infectious catchphrases. For weeks I found myself saying "yes exactly yes" to almost everything, with no sense of irony whatsoever.

8 - Eastenders - Death of Ronnie and Roxy / Project Dagmar (BBC 1)

Now here's something that I never thought would figure in my TV of the year, the most ignorable television of all. Since Brookside went off the boil over two decades ago, Eastenders is the only soap opera we've watched in our house, and I'm happy to go months without seeing an episode. As indeed I've done through much of this year too. But a couple of high points have been really impressive. Firstly the filmic episodes back in January in which they polished off Ronnie and Roxy (with the scarf in the swimming pool). Then with a bit of long-form plotting which started right back at New Year and is coming to its climax 12 months later - Project Dagmar and the surprise return of Wilmot Brown. 

What other TV show could bring back a character, and actor, that you'd not seen for 30 years? And, uncharacteristically for this frequently rambling, contradictory and cocked-up show, the writers have managed to keep this plot on the rails and see it through. Notwithstanding us also seeing one of its most risible storylines in the spring - the "Let's All Lift Up A Bus (Have A Banana)" story. It wouldn't be a proper Eastenders year without it also including some of the worst TV of the year, along the way. (And don't get me started on the offensively poor representation of BAME characters, especially Asian. But that's a moan for another day).

7 - Preacher (seasons 1 and 2) (Amazon Prime)

It's a rare show whose second season is better than the first, but Preacher managed it. Operating on a parallel storyline to the comic on which it's based (which I adored 25 years ago), it's also the second show in my Top 25 this year to give a central role to Adolf Hitler. (Check out Number 15 and the episode we forgot to mention). An excellent and original comedy with more blood than any TV series I've bothered to watch before. Pacing itself for a long run, which should be fun.

6 - The Handmaids Tale (Channel 4 / Hulu)

Blimey, keep it light 2017. This is the most dystopian drama of the year, chiming horribly with the zeitgeist in the first year of ubergroper Trump's presidency, and just months before Weinsteingate and the #metoo movement. Tensely claustrophobic, with an excellent gripping script, strong direction that at times makes you doubt whether your eyes have lost the ability to focus properly, and a stand-out lead performance by Elizabeth Moss, the only worry will be whether it spreads the original novel too thinly if it's tempted to stretch beyond a second series.

5 - Upstart Crow 2 (BBC 2)

Marmite comedy at its finest, I don't think I've found anybody who's had a kind word to say about this comedy by Ben Elton, but I've loved the second series even more than the first. The fact that I spent 2017 touring Socks Do Shakespeare probably influenced me, seeing another writer tackling the same subject matter, and knocking it out of the park. The final episode, where Will delivers a Shakespearian reworking of Ben Elton's classic British Rail routine, was a self-indulgent treat and a highlight of the comedy year.

4 - This Country (BBC 3)

Hands up who else has seen This Country? Well sort it out, cos it's brilliant, it's still on iPlayer, and there's another series on the way. The only thing, in fact, that lets This Country down is the fact that it's called This Country! What sort of title is This Country? I can't remember that title, and I've watched episodes more than once (when I can find the damn things, being unable to remember the damn title from one day to the next). Why the hell it isn't called Kerry and Kurtan I don't know. It features the most impressive new comedy double act of the decade, Daisy May Cooper and Charlie Cooper. Where did they come from? And why aren't they all over the rest of TV promoting this show? I'm fed up of being the only person who's seen it. It's called This Country. 

3 - Glow (Netflix)

Another thing I never thought I'd find myself enjoying, all-woman wrestling from the 1980s. But Glamorous Ladies Of Wrestling took that little-known, or long-forgotten (depending on whether you'd ever heard of it before) TV phenomenon and made it into captivating and brilliant TV comedy drama. This year's The Get Down (by which example, we can probably expect it to lose it next season. Let's hope not).

2 - Motherland (BBC 2)

Best comedy of the year, and a contender for best comedy of the decade. The most original comedy characters for ages, in a world I've not seen explored so well before. Any similarities between the characters of Motherland and my sister and her fellow London competitive mums is, I'm sure, purely coincidental. I now have to seek out the previous work of Sharon Horgan (which everyone's raved about and I've always missed), cos if it's this good I have treats ahead of me. Meanwhile co-writer & director Graham Linehan's made his best show since The IT Crowd, and has atoned for burying Count Arthur Strong's TV career.

1 - The Trump Presidency (All channels)

No comedy has been funnier and no drama more scary and unpredictable than this helter skelter roller coaster mixed metaphor car crash of an epic horror disaster. No costume designer or make up artist has created such grotesques as the likes of Trump and Kelly-Anne Conway. No showrunner has hired and fired so many leading players, just when they're getting interesting - did anyone else blink and miss the Anthony Scaramucci episode? No writer has dared rip up and rewrite the rulebook with such regularity and disregard for common sense - the Jerusalem story? The Roy Moore story? The Dentures? And those were all just in last week's episode! And just when Reality TV thinks it's got the monopoly on TV where you can't guess what's going to happen next, you get a show which is so batshit unpredictable it makes others look hopeless tired and transparent. We all hope this one won't run and run, but if it does, and it continues to be as constantly entertaining as this, then the slippery slope to the end of civilization as we know it will be way more fun than we ever expected.

So there we have it. My Top TV of 2017. What did I miss?

My Top TV of... 201620152014201320112009

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre return with a brand new show in 2018. Stay tuned.
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