Thursday, 25 May 2017

Donald Trump Sucks - comics by primary school kids


A wee bit of travelling for this week's visits to schools, taking me up to Southport in Merseyside for two days at Bank St Stephens primary. I effectively taught the entire school, doing an assembly to the whole lot of them, then classes with the years 3 to 6s (of whom there are only 3 groups, the school being that small), then an afternoon spent just doing caricatures of every single pupil in the school, from reception (who are as hard to draw as puppy dogs, by the way, you try keeping them still), through years 1 and 2. I don't think I've drawn an entire school before. Skills to pay the bills.


It's interesting to see the titles the kids choose for their comics, and tracing a slight maturity as we ascend through the years. So year 3/4 choose Sweet Mania, year 4/5 choose The Teacher With The Big Head, and year 6 give us Donald Trump Sucks. Giving me the opportunity to draw the highly topical "orb of evil" picture from yesterday's news, for which many thanks.




You can usually predict that, when a school has something rural in its name, that it'll be on a council estate. Words to look out for are Farm and Wood. Thus we find Fair Furlong Primary in Bristol, a lovely bunch of kids whose year 6 pupils had classes with me this week. Hello must take the prize as least inspiring title of the month, though I can hardly talk. Look at my cover for Capoop and compare it with Sweet Mania, above. Coming to the end of a cold all week and still feeling rather drained, you can see I pretty well phoned in these covers (drawn during the class, as ever, so it's amazing I ever get anything better drawn. But I usually do.)


The celebrities these five classes chose for my demonstration strip were Donald Trump, Simon Cowell (twice, he's making a comeback), Keith Lemon, and The Queen.



Comic Art Masterclasses coming up in 2017:

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.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Gags, stats & more Facebook nonsense


Andrex, "Skin Kind"? Call me picky, I prefer the paper kind.

Apropos of nothing, here are the various witterings I've splurged on the Facebook of late.


In praise of Doctor Who Magazine Toys & Games special.

http://merchandise.thedoctorwhosite.co.uk/doctor-who-magazine-special-46-toys-and-games/

On a totally spontaneous impulse purchase the other night, I bought the Doctor Who Toys & Games Special. Given that I usually don't buy DWM itself, this was an odd one for me. But I was taken by the bits I'd thumbed through in the shop, and found myself later in my hotel room devouring a surprisingly fascinating read.

Part social history, part fanboy nostalgia, if you enjoy interviews with old blokes who ran plastics factories in the 80s, or the son of the bloke who set up BBC Television Enterprises and issued the first licences for Dalek toys 50-odd years ago, you'll love this magazine.

Most fascinating revelation for me was the secret of the Scorpion Automotives Dalek costume. For anyone who's familiar with the rather cheap-looking Berwick Dalek playsuits that became ubiquitous during Dalekmania, with their cardboard visor and floppy red sheet for a body, the Scorpion Dalek is quite the contrast. Its head is a perfect Dalek replica, and its body a much more accurately proportioned thick vinyl. Even its eye-stalk and plunger are spot on. So why aren't we more familiar with this superior Dalek? You have to read three interviews to get the whole story.

John J Johnston's article tells us the full history of the Mark I, II and III models, at their ridiculously high price of £8, then tells us a fire at the factory wiped out the company. But was that the whole story? David J Howe's overview of the 60s gives us this same story, the factory fire being the cause of the costume's demise.

It's not until you read the interview with Richard Culley, who worked in brand licensing back in the 1960s, you get a hint of what might really have happened. He says "Somebody rang up from the press and said some kid had walked in front of their fire and this suit had gone whumph! We flame-tested another suit and it also went up. Yes they were flammable, and if you picked one of them up and smelled it - ugh, the stuff that was in there."




Okay, got an Only Connect for you. What links..?
Mitchell & Webb (2012)
Armstrong & Miller (2008 & 2014)
John Cleese & Eleanor Bron (1979)
Hale & Pace (1989)
NB: Don't spoil it if it's really obvious to you, it will be to some (just say that you've got it). Let real guessers have a guess.

Right, got an Only Connect for you. What connects these four?
9 to 5
Utopia
Dennis The Menace
The Avengers


Sunday, 21 May 2017

Pilot to Extremis - My Doctor Who reviews to date


The more I think back over it, the more I enjoyed last night's Doctor Who, The Pilot. No spoilers here (that weren't in the trailer or the clips already shown) I hope, but was there a callback to every single other Doctor?

William Hartnell - Susan's photo, the sign from the Mary Celeste
Patrick Troughton - his sonic screwdriver on the desk
Jon Pertwee - his sonic screwdriver used by Nardole
Tom Baker - the Movellans, Professor Chronotis in Shada
Peter Davison, Colin Baker or Paul McGann - I need to look again to find these three
Sylvester McCoy - the Dalek ship landing footprints & the pool of oil
John Hurt - the oh-so-inaccessible Time War
Christopher Eccleston - this episode having almost the same plot as Rose
David Tennant - the mind wipe he did on Donna, School Reunion, Human Nature, Waters Of Mars
Matt Smith - River Song's photo, Curse Of The Black Spot water lady
Peter Capaldi - the Clara theme




Doctor Who spoilers from last night (so don't read if you've not watched it yet)
(To the tune of Melting Pot by Blue Mink)
Take a pinch of Gridlock
And the Empty Child's Nanobots
Blink & The End Of The World
And a little bitty of The Happiness Patrol
What you get is an episode called Smile.
...okay, that's all I've got for the Blue Mink song. But I enjoyed that (8/10). They're studiously avoiding the fanboy-heavy audience-scaring indulgence of recent series, and giving us Rose in The End Of The World. I think it worked. Very much one where I want to hear what the new 8 year old viewers thought. I'm hoping they liked it.
If I had any criticism, it was too exposition-heavy, and seemed to explain many things twice, and was a bit slow at times. But that's me being over-critical.
Also the trailer! Gave away how many plot twists? Showed the skeletons in the garden and included the "fertiliser" line. That's not a trailer, that is the definition of a spoiler.
I liked the attempt to turn "Smile" into the new "Don't Blink", but I don't think it'll catch on.
And I liked the bit where Bill opens up a book and its starts playing the opening titles to Big Bang Theory.
(Also did we get a hint that Bill might be meeting Chris Chibnall's Nefertiti sometime in the future? Being the only person who likes Dinosaurs On A Spaceship, I think that would be nice).


It's quite possible that watching it at 10.30 at night while drinking a couple of pints of beer in a hotel room having just done a great gig makes you better disposed to an episode of Doctor Who, but I though that was cracking. Gave it 9/10.

"So was Jesus". Oh yes, they went there.

The concentration on the central characters, their humanity, their empathy, their alien-ness, was really convincing, and made the whole thing all about something so much more important than the Maguffin, the big fish under the Thames. If that was all Sarah Dollard, and I'd like to think it was, then I'd like to see more of what she writes (and I hope some more of it is Doctor Who).

Who else was expecting the boss in the big house to turn out to be The Master (and not just Nathan Barley?). I was thinking "so that will explain why Missy wears period costume, cos she regenerates in Victorian London". Really? Just me?

Great comedy - The Doctor punching a racist is what this show should be more about more often - and a really human level story. Bill was great, The Doctor was great, the child actors were... did I mention Bill was great?

Echoes of all the right old stories in all the right ways. Bits of Empty Child, bits of The Next Doctor, bits of The Unquiet Dead, bits of Deep Breath, bits of Shakespeare Code (actual lines from The Shakespeare Code if I'm not mistaken), but all to a greater good.

I'll probably watch it in daylight sober and think it's cack, but right now it's the best of the series so far.


I think 'corny' is the word we're all groping for. Every haunted house trope, done not that originally, with lots of running down corridors, and a creepy villain delivering some of the hokiest dialogue ever.

And did the maguffin actually make sense? The woman's son discovers some alien insects that preserve his mother but somehow eat everyone else, suck them into the wood of the house, reshape the wood of the house, creak occasionally - for no reason other than to be like a bad trope from an unimaginative horror movie - and this keeps the woman alive, but she stays in bed all the time?



And meanwhile the boy grows up, but the house is frozen in time, and he brings in a new set of victims, but only every 20 years? What's he doing the rest of the time?

And our recent victims can be instantly restored to life by the woodworm?
And this was written by the guy who wrote Doctor Foster??

The more I think about it the more I wish I'd given it a lower score.


(I seem not have written a review of Oxygen, which is surprising. Obviously couldn't find fault. Which brings us to Extremis)

Last night's Doctor Who (spoiler-filled mini-review, look away now).
Very good. It had a few common Moffat tropes:
- You think Person A is the subject of the execution/funeral/etc, it turns out to be Person B (he did this way back in Press Gang)
- It's all been a dream/VR/fake person (plastic Amy, plastic Rory, Silence In The Library, all that Zygon stuff)
- Over-labouring the lesbian bits. "No need to feel guilty"? Really?
- Dialogue is unrealistic because it's the set up to a gag. "No need to feel guilty"? I see, we geddit. Still, really?
- Some bad poetry. If those lines quoted from River Song's diary are supposed to mean anything, they're very contrived.
I'll confess I was a little confused by just how long we've been in the hologram version of reality. Since the start of this series? This episode? 1963?
And when Nardole says "what do those look like to you?" and Bill says "projectors". They couldn't look less like projectors could they?
I'm also tempted to do some more spoilery guessing. After all, those decayed monks' mouths are very static, in a very similar way to the Mondas Cybermen's mouths. They couldn't be, could they?
But it had some good zapping between flashbacks, and a good set up for whatever comes next so it got 9/10 from me.
Last night's Doctor Who (spoiler-filled mini-review, look away now).
Very good. It had a few common Moffat tropes:
- You think Person A is the subject of the execution/funeral/etc, it turns out to be Person B (he did this way back in Press Gang)
- It's all been a dream/VR/fake person (plastic Amy, plastic Rory, Silence In The Library, all that Zygon stuff)
- Over-labouring the lesbian bits. "No need to feel guilty"? Really?
- Dialogue is unrealistic because it's the set up to a gag. "No need to feel guilty"? I see, we geddit. Still, really?
- Some bad poetry. If those lines quoted from River Song's diary are supposed to mean anything, they're very contrived.
I'll confess I was a little confused by just how long we've been in the hologram version of reality. Since the start of this series? This episode? 1963?
And when Nardole says "what do those look like to you?" and Bill says "projectors". They couldn't look less like projectors could they?
I'm also tempted to do some more spoilery guessing. After all, those decayed monks' mouths are very static, in a very similar way to the Mondas Cybermen's mouths. They couldn't be, could they?
But it had some good zapping between flashbacks, and a good set up for whatever comes next so it got 9/10 from me.
Last night's Doctor Who (spoiler-filled mini-review, look away now).
Very good. It had a few common Moffat tropes:
- You think Person A is the subject of the execution/funeral/etc, it turns out to be Person B (he did this way back in Press Gang)
- It's all been a dream/VR/fake person (plastic Amy, plastic Rory, Silence In The Library, all that Zygon stuff)
- Over-labouring the lesbian bits. "No need to feel guilty"? Really?
- Dialogue is unrealistic because it's the set up to a gag. "No need to feel guilty"? I see, we geddit. Still, really?
- Some bad poetry. If those lines quoted from River Song's diary are supposed to mean anything, they're very contrived.
I'll confess I was a little confused by just how long we've been in the hologram version of reality. Since the start of this series? This episode? 1963?
And when Nardole says "what do those look like to you?" and Bill says "projectors". They couldn't look less like projectors could they?
I'm also tempted to do some more spoilery guessing. After all, those decayed monks' mouths are very static, in a very similar way to the Mondas Cybermen's mouths. They couldn't be, could they?
But it had some good zapping between flashbacks, and a good set up for whatever comes next so it got 9/10 from me.

The BBC sci-fi series is removing dialogue from a scene out of respect for victims of the terrorist attack
RADIOTIMES.COM

It's not surprising that a few lines about terrorism have had to be edited out of tomorrow's Doctor Who. I was reminded of the plot of Extremis just now, reading a dumb thing someone had said on the TV news, about how "if they had something to live for why would they have been a bomber?". This is why we atheists struggle with religion, and why we sometimes need fantasy writing to explain it to us. There are people in the real world who have, in effect, "read The Veritas" and believe, as a catholic friend used to phrase it, that this material world is just a "five minute life". The real life is the one that waits in heaven. If you believe that, and if you also believe that dying in a just cause benefits you on the other side, then would any true believer have any difficulty being a suicide bomber? Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori*, and all that.


2017 TOUR
May 12 - Croydon Spread Eagle
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
May 26 - Aberdeen May Fest
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 20 - Grassington Festival, Yorks
June 23 - Hertford Comedy Festival
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe
August 15 - 17 Camden Fringe


Comic Art Masterclasses coming up in 2017:

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.

Have snot will travel - a week with a cold


Me in Brighton. Time flying.

It was on the Thursday night, during my third Comic Art Masterclass of the day in St Peter Port Guernsey, that I realised I was getting a cold. That feeling you get at the roof of your mouth, like the ceiling between your pallette and your nose is getting thinner (is that just me?). The meal that evening, where I was sat just 4 places along from Clare Balding and at the far end of the table from Terry Waite, saw the cold progressing.

The next day, Friday, went from drained to fraught as I flew back from Guernsey, trying my damnedest not to infect everyone else on our propellor driven plane. Then, having landed in Bristol and got home just before 1pm, the plan was simple. Hev and I were staying in a hotel in Brighton, I had a gig in Croydon. We'd drive to Brighton (3.5 hrs), I'd drop Hev off then nip up to Croydon for my 7.30 gig (1 hr away) then back to Brighton, all ready for two days of shows at Komedia.


Croydon Spread Eagle, our name in lights

As the traffic ground slower and slower and satnav's ETA went up and up it was clear that this wasn't going to happen. And not only was my cold getting increasingly draining, but I may have forgotten to mention that Hev is much much more unwell than me. She went to the Doctor the previous week, suffering kidney pains and other symptoms akin to those that saw her hospitalised a year ago. The Doctor fobbed her off having found nothing. So she went back to see the Practice Nurse on Monday and, much more sensibly, got prescribed a course of antibiotics. I'm happy to report that, at time of writig a week later, these have been having the desired effect and she's feeling a lot better. But on Friday May 12th, the course was only just starting and she was feeling very very unwell, in great need of a lot of rest.



What she didn't need was to be stuck in a car with me for 5 hours. What she really didn't need was for us to change our plans so that, instead of going to Brighton first, she came with me to Croydon and sat at the back watching the Socks Do Shakespeare.

It was a great Socks Do Shakespeare gig, now you ask, and a near sellout, so all good there. We finally got to our hotel in Brighton at about 10.30. Did I say hotel? It's a guest house, with a very friendly hostess Marina, but my god a lot of details to explain when all we wanted was to go to bed. They don't have keys, they have codes on the doors. They don't have breakfast, they have vouchers for nearby cafes. Oy vey. Whatever, we got parked on a free spot in front of the building, so that's good.


Saturday we did some lovely Brighton-seeing, then I did a cracking Socks Do Shakespeare gig at Komedia, then it was off to Stephen & Nick's for the most delightfull dinner. Between us, Stephen, Nick & I got through 5 bottles of wine. I failed to take any photos of us of course, the only photos I took being of Stephen's brilliant bookcase devoted to books with double-entendre titles. Best bookcase anywhere ever.


Sunday was hard. Hev was suffering very badly from the effects of the antibiotics, and we started the day by checking out of the guest house and being charged for two days parking, which we'd thought was free, at £12 a day. We were both too drained by illness to argue, only working out afterwards that, arriving at 10.30 Friday night & leaving at 10.30 Sunday morning, we should only have been charged for one day's worth of parking anyway. This is the sort of bad mood thing that starts a day off badly, and as it progressed Hev got nightmarishly bad. She became hypersensitive to sound, which was very badly timed with us being on Brighton seafront as a drum band started up. We ducked into the boat museum to get away from it, only to find that it acted as an amplifier for the noise. We escaped to the beach to get away from the noise, only then realising that Brighton beach is made of noise. Its entire surface is pebbles, so every step anyone makes is piercing to hypersensitive ears. Add to this the whizz of low-flying frisbees (I fear I traumatised a child by flinging his frisbee back at him when it missed us by inches) and the thud of boot against football, and the beach very quickly proved to be somewhere else we needed to escape.



We found respite by having a snooze in the car, in the quiet of a car park. Then I went off to do my Socks gig (both of these being afternoon shows) while Hev stuck to the quieter streets. Then we headed off home and had a much smoother drive back than the drive up had been.

I then had 4 days in schools, two in Wiltshire (a 2 hour drive turning into a 3 hour one on Tuesday, but I've had worse) and two in Kings Heath. It's fun and it pays the bills, all the time monitoring the progress of my cold, from the dizzying stage (over in a day really) to the nose-blowing. My god, the nose-blowing. I have expelled my own body weight in snot, and 8 days later it's still coming.


As I posted on Facebook, I know the Doctor Who episode I'll write. It's called Bogey.
- Opening scene is on a golf course
- Lead character's a big fan of Casablanca
- Chase scene uses one of those hand-operated railroad carts
- The Doctor whistles "Hitler has only got one ball"
- Guest appearance by Dick and Dom
What did I say? Writes itself.

Bringing us to Friday, and a drive to Leeds. Because I don't do nearly enough driving, and why get a new car if you're not intending putting 5000 miles on the clock within its first month and a half? Friday night, the Socks played to a full house at the Carriageworks in Leeds, and took a record breaking ninety quid in merchandise (having taken delivery of the brand new Socks Richard III comic at last, courtesy of our new printer Stuart Gould, and having dropped the price of the Shakespeare t shirts slightly).


Saturday night we were home in time to watch Doctor Who on only an hours delay, and Sunday is very nearly a day of rest. Very nearly. I'm about to drive off to Merseyside for 2 days at a school in Southport. And on the horizon we have the Socks playing Aberdeen on Friday and Inverness the week after. And somehow I'll be artworking that whole Milton Keynes 50 comic during all this time.

Yes, I work out this schedule all by myself, thanks for asking.



2017 TOUR
May 12 - Croydon Spread Eagle
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
May 26 - Aberdeen May Fest
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 20 - Grassington Festival, Yorks
June 23 - Hertford Comedy Festival
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe
August 15 - 17 Camden Fringe



Comic Art Masterclasses coming up in 2017:

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.

Friday, 19 May 2017

The Lovely Teachers - kids comics Brum & Wilts


A few interesting syndromes have come out in this busy week of Comic Art Masterclasses in primary schools. The big one was caricatures on the front covers. One class per school every day this week came up with a comic title featuring either their teacher or one of the class. In Winterbourne Earls Wilts it was Mrs Rawnson herself, who apparently has done cartwheels in the class before now.


In Grove Primary, also in Wiltshire, the class chose The Lovely Mrs McPherson as their title, these covers also showing us a couple of eternal recurring popular features. The kids still love Adventure Time (which is good, being able to draw something simple that they respond to), and they are mad for pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows (it is, I am told, a meme. Like I'd know).




I do two days every year teaching the year 5s at Colmore Juniors in Kings Heath, I must have been doing so for 6 or 7 years now. And here we see something I try and ensure I do, reflecting the ethnicity of my pupils in their comic book covers. I know I'm a bit self-conscious about it, but for me nothing would be worse than leaving a group of kids with a Beano world of caucasian faces in the work we'd produced together, which would leave most of them unrepresented on the page. So, although we have a Johnny Depp-alike on that first cover, we have a representative selection of grannies in the background. The second cover made the job easier, since it was Kayla (on the left) who'd come up with the title, name-dropping and mis-spelling Qaailah (on the right).


Okay, okay, I then went and gave them a Beano world of white faces on this next cover, but to be fair that reflected a third of the class, so is totally justifiable. And although I've coloured the Mrs Mallard cover in green (completing the set of autobiographical class comic titles), the kids depicted are fair reflections of the kids themselves. Not, of course, that they're aware of any ethnic differences between each other at all. Let's keep our fingers crossed that that never changes.




The celebrities these 8 classes chose for my demonstration strip were David Walliams, Donald Trump (twice), Declan Donnelly, Boris Johnson, Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, and (most originally, and it was because they'd genuinely been studying him in year 5, not because he was on Bigheads or anything) Andy Warhol.


Comic Art Masterclasses coming up in 2017:

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.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Awesome Sauce - kids comics from Guernsey to MK


And suddenly I found myself in Guernsey, courtesy of the Guernsey Literary Festival, doing not one, not two, but three Comic Art Masterclasses in one day, in two schools and the Guiles-Ailes Library (try and guess how you pronounce Guiles-Ailes, and indeed most Guernsian place names. You'll be wrong). As ever, the groups produced an A5 comic to take away, and I did a caricature of every single one of them. Along with the caricatures I did the previous night at a book launch at the library, that's well over 100 faces drawn during the visit. A greatly enjoyable trip it was too.


The colour on these front covers is just a little something I do afterwards, for fun, and to add to the quality of the kids' end product. I'm worried I may now be taking a little bit longer than necessary colouring these covers, but somehow once you've popped you can't stop. The photo on the right is me in the library, with odd lighting that makes me look like I'm in Christopher Eccleston's Tardis (in reality the lights merely made all the colours of the comicbooks look wrong, like you'd added too much blue or something, most unusual).




The third and final day of the MK50 project in Milton Keynes produced these two front covers and, more importantly, many pages of strips and drawings by the pupils, which I must now stitch together into an 8 page full colour magazine by the end of the month. No pressure.


I've done my classes at the Dorchester Literary Festival in Oxfordshire every other year since 2011 and it's lovely to be invited back. The classes take place in a gorgeous vaulted hall, the old Priory I think, which dates back a few years (though I got great mileage teasing the kids with fact that the only date shown on its walls is the date of restoration. They now think all buildings from 1994 look like this). Check it out:





The celebrities these seven groups chose for my demonstration strip were Peter Kay, Donald Trump (twice), Benedict Cumberbatch, David Walliams, Michael Jackson, and Emma Watson.


Comic Art Masterclasses coming up in 2017:

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.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Have Socks Will Travel - the tour continues


The 2017 Socks Do Shakespeare tour rolls on, with some great gigs taking place in a variety of interesting venues. Here we see the Socks set up below a parachute. No, me neither. I think it's the soundproofing. This was Stroud Subscription Rooms, where the audience was smaller than some gigs, but a good and appreciative bunch.




And this was a tent, in the grounds of Chiddingstone Castle, in front of an audience of mostly kids. Our first attempt at doing a family friendly Shakespeare show, and by golly we did it. F*** Up Some Shakespeare was the only song we had to drop, and the Equivocator sketch and When We Met needed a bit of trimming, but the rest of the show's perfectly suitable for kids (though it probably takes the parents there to get most of the references). I could be minded to develop a schools version of the show if I thought there was a market.


Talking of marketing, here's the sales graph for the tour, and it's looking rather good. If it wasn't for that plunge in the graph which is our show at the Bill Murray in Islington (fingers crossed we do better than that when we return there for two nights at the Camden Fringe in August), we'd be looking at a record breaking successful tour to date. The two peaks are Aberystwyth and Bath, where we were returning for the third or fourth time apiece and have built a good audience, almost doubling the guarantee at the Rondo in Bath. Satisfying but not astounding are the two-nighters at Leicester and Glasgow (where I've averaged out the two nights every time, and where we do way better than most shows of our size, festivals being an odd business). Very pleasing is Frome, which was a doorsplit only, our first time in town, and did very well indeed. Taking a gamble on doorsplits has meant we slipped below our guarantee in Swindon and Stroud, but not too badly. All good paying gigs, and leaving in our wake a lot of satisfied happy punters. And, as I am reminded by the Chiddingtone Festival gig where I charged less for a 2 and a half hour art class than for a 45 minute show, it pays the best per-minute of anything else I do.


One thing I've missed off the graph is any costs. Never mind the travel costs, which if I billed them at 45p a mile might wipe out a couple of these shows and would put the Bill Murray into minus figures, there are also a few other costs. Leicester & Glasgow Comedy Festivals had listing costs, Leicester's being higher than Glasgow's. But they're dwarfed by the cost of next week's Brighton Fringe gigs which, with a listing fee of £240 and a hotel cost which I daren't even remind myself of, means we need to have a near sellout for both shows to break even. As Spinal Tap's manager might say, in some towns our audience might be coming more selective.







2017 TOUR
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
May 26 - Aberdeen May Fest
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 20 - Grassington Festival, Yorks
June 23 - Hertford Comedy Festival
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe
August 15 - 17 Camden Fringe

15 Original Ideas from Doctor Who

Has Doctor Who run out of ideas? With the current series featuring lots of things you can't help thinking you've seen before (nanobots, wooden people, a beast below etc), I've racked my brain to find why I've been so impressed by Doctor Who back in the past (just thinking of the last 12 years). Was it just because it was a novelty, or was it really that stuffed full of original ideas I'd never seen in Doctor Who, or anywhere, before? So here, as a hint for the new showrunner Chris Chibnall as to the sort of originality I'd like to see again, is a Top 15 of things from Doctor Who that have made me say "I've never seen that before" or "Wow, why didn't I think of that?"


Tardis parked the wrong way round (Fear Her)

A small thing, but a redeeming feature of a much-derided episode. The Doctor parks the Tardis between two skips, the wrong way round, so he can't open the door. So he has to dematerialise and rematerialise the right way round. Come on, had you thought of that idea first?


Went away for 12 hours, came back 12 months later (Aliens Of London)

The Doctor had been time-travelling for over 40 telly years before this simple but brilliant thing happened. Then we got the whole emotional mudslide of how this would affect a real family - a Mum, a daughter and a boyfriend - when something like this happens. Where else had you seen that done, back in 2005? 


Tardis surrounds things (Parting Of The Ways, Dinosaur on a Spaceship, Knock Knock)

It's a multi-dimensional ship, why can't some things appear inside it? Of course they can. It started dramatically in Christopher Eccleston's Parting Of The Ways ("Is that all you've got? Nul points"), and is done most amusingly in Dinosaurs On A Spaceship (by Chris Chibnall, which bodes well for the new showrunner, it being him), and again nicely in Knock Knock.




Doctor becomes a human (Human Nature)

I could just as easily find this contrived and unconvincing, but it was so expertly carried out in a brilliant fully-realised story, that it remains an immaculate and original Time Lord trope. They can "become human" and keep their real self in a pocket watch. Hmm, it sounds really hokey when you say it out loud. Well at least they didn't use the same trick a few episodes later, then totally forget about it forever after.


Tardis comes to life (The Doctor's Wife)

Although it includes my least favourite trope, having "The Doctor" in the title of an episode, it's the definitive example of something that every Doctor Who writer has: the Doctor Who idea they've been keeping on the back burner since they were a teenager. What if the Tardis, who we've heard referred to as female and with some sort of character (especially by Paul McGann in the TV movie), was actually made into a real-live female character? They got away with it.


Alien's name isn't a race, it's a family (Aliens of London)

Genius. From every sci fi film you'd ever seen, Star Trek very much included, every alien race were the sole representatives of their planet. The planet Vulcan was occupied entirely by Vulcans, etc. Amazingly their authors were humans, who live on the planet Earth, where not only does every country have different nationalities, but every small town therein has different groups with different surnames. So, amazingly, it took until 2005 for us to get the Slitheen family, who lived on the planet Raxicoricofallipatorius. (An original idea by Paul Cornell, borrowed by Russell T Davies.)


Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey (Girl In The Fireplace onwards, River Song)

Between Doctor Who ending (in 1989) and reappearing (in 2005), we had Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the movie that invented wibbly wobbly timey wimey, and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Unless anyone can prove otherwise, Bill & Ted was the first place to posit the notion that you could plan to do something when you time-travelled to the past or future, then turn out to have already done it. They did it, I believe, with a bucket of water balanced on the top of a door. Steven Moffatt went on to do it by having River Song jump off a building and be caught by the Tardis, and land in the swimming pool, in The Impossible Astronaut. Along the way, most famously, we've had The Doctor send messages to someone in the future on video tapes, and in Girl In The Fireplace leap through a mirror on a horse thus travelling from a 51st century spaceship to an 18th century chateau, and it all made logical sense. You may argue that Back To The Future created this trope, but Doctor Who very much owned it. Then, to an extent, wore it out. As for characters who meet each other at different points in their individual timelines, Audrey Niffenegger got the jump on Steven Moffat by having the idea first, but by God Moffat went on to milk it every which way. We also got 6 year old Amelia and 20 something Amy appearing together, which was nifty. 




Original story telling / The Doctor-lite episode (Love & Monsters)

Just before box-set TV on Netflix and the like was inventing the Bottle Episode (see TV Tropes) Doctor Who was one of the shows getting away from linear, chronological storytelling, to construct episodes in a different way. From Rose's voice over in Father's Day through Doomsday, we were playing with the way an episode was told. The Doctor-lite episode, including Turn Left, was an opportunity to do this. Say what you like about Doctor Who's most Marmite episode, Love & Monsters, but it was the most unusual and un-Doctor Who-like episode you'd ever seen.  NB The Doctor-free episode had been done, slightly, 50 years ago with the William Hartnell free episode Mission To The Unknown. Slightly.
  

Musical interlude (Last Of The Timelords)

The Master pushes The Doctor around in a wheelchair, miming to Scissor Sisters? So surreal and original it gets edited out of the Netflix version of the episode. That original.


Tardis Translation (Fires of Pompeii)

The Tardis translates everything. So what if you're in Ancient Rome and you speak Latin? I won't spoil it for you, but the answer is brilliant.


Virtual Reality (Silence in the Library)

This is one of those tropes that's now so overused you never know whether you're in an alternative reality, a dream, a simulation or what. Remember Sleep No More? No. Nobody does. And I bet they can't remember whether it was real or not if they do. But the virtual world of Silence, and the ghost voices of its characters stored in some uploaded fashion, remain the most highly original people-stored-in-computers I've seen to date. Having a virtual Amy for half a series wasn't so pleasing for me, but you can't deny it too was a first.


Companion goes back to see her dead Dad, changes time (Father's Day)

This must be the oldest "What If" storyline of all time, but outside of Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life, I don't remember it being done as well as this. You go back to see the Dad who died when you were a baby - already the most touching pitch you've ever heard - then it goes wrong in a brilliantly sci-fi way, and gets solved in an almost Biblically sacrificial denoument. Blimey, this is a really good story isn't it?


Live action in real time (Midnight)

How many episodes happen in real time like this? 42 did, written by Chibnall (boding well again blah blah), but Midnight is the best. No trickery, it's almost a stage play, with an unseen menace and some Tom Stoppardian dialogue. If another show has done an episode like this, I've not seen it.


Shrunken Tardis (Flatline)

It is multi-dimensional, so obviously at some time it'll shrink. Giving us an Addams Family moment where a hand moves the Tardis along by finger power only. A truly brilliant visual image that you can't imagine no-one else had thought of before, but Jamie Mathieson got in there first. (Again, it had been done in the old series, in The Time Monster with John Pertwee and Logopolis with Tom Baker, but not as well as this).


Time Lords can change sex & ethnicity (Doctor's Wife, Hell Bent)

Of course they can. Why would anyone ever think you could turn into a different actor, for practical TV-making reasons, and that actor not be ABSOLUTELY ANYONE! You've made up a silly, nonsense, random way of extending the life of your TV show, why would there be any restriction on what nature of person takes up the role? The 1960s, we're a bit racist and sexist, obviously. The 1970s, we're still a bit racist and sexist and, let's face it, it would be odd for a black Doctor to be in the show that is followed by The Black & White Minstrel Show. The 1980s, obviously we can't be too hasty about these things, after all we already have Juliet Bravo and Lenny Henry. The 1990s, there's no Doctor Who so we needn't think about it. The 2000s, we're reviving a show from the 1960s, so baby steps to begin with. Bringing us to the 2010s, when Time Lords can change sex & race. Which, of course, they always could. 



So there you have 15 or so Doctor Who moments of brilliance and originality. All we ask of for this level of originality every single week and we'll all be happy. Is that too much to ask?



2017 TOUR
May 5 - Artrix Bromsgrove
May 6 - Stafford Gatehouse

May 12 - Croydon Spread Eagle
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
May 26 - Aberdeen May Fest
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 20 - Grassington Festival, Yorks
June 23 - Hertford Comedy Festival
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe
August 15 - 17 Camden Fringe



Comic Art Masterclasses coming up in 2017:


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.
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