Monday 31 December 2012

Predictions - how'd we do on 2012?

Hi Futurology fans, and did we all enjoy last night's BBC2 showing of Blade Runner, set in 2019 with its flying cars and smoking indoors? Well, the time has come once more to try predicting the coming year, and looking back on how well we did last year.

Last year, in this column, I tried predicting what might happen in 2012. How hilariously inaccurate was I? Let's see. The questions were...

1) Which classic TV show will be remade in 2012?
2) Which TV shows will be cancelled in 2012?
3) Who will surprise by getting their own hit TV series?
4) What new movie franchise will be announced/made?
5) How much will litre of petrol cost in Dec '12 (currently approx £1.30)?
6) Who will win Edinburgh Comedy Award 2012?
a) Best act? b) Best newcomer?
7) Celeb on the Slab?
8) Who will win the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest?
9) Who will become Mayor of London?
10) Who will be 13th Doctor Who?
11) Who will win US Presidency?
12) Who will be Labour leader at end of 2012?
13) Will any countries leave the Euro? If so who?
14) Surprise country to have a revolution/uprising?
15) What will be surprise invention/technicological advance?
16) Will average UK house prices rise or fall by Dec '12?
17) Biggest scandal
18) Biggest change in national newspapers
19) Biggest weather news
20) Christmas Number 1

Here were my guesses on Jan 1st 2012. How did I do?

1) The Good Life, The Avengers, Danger Mouse, Adam Adamant Lives, Fawlty Towers (the musical)
0 out of 5
2) Top Gear, Doctor Who, X Factor, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Hollyoaks
0 out of 5
3) Christine Bleakley
Not that I'm aware of
4) Desperate Dan
Should have put him in the cancelled column
5) £1.30 (ie no overall change)
YES - I got one right! Go - me! Go - me! Go - me!
6) a) A former Cambridge Footlighter b) An Avalon act
a) No. Wrong, it was an American, Doctor Brown
b) No, Wrong, it was a Norwegian, Daniel Simonsen
7) Prince Phillip - during the Olympics
Quack quack oops. Nope, even that didn't kill him. 
8) Croatia
No, Wrong, it was Sweden
9) Boris Johnson again
Yes. Got another one right. Less proud of this one, but right all the same.
10) Himish Patel (plays Tamwar in Eastenders)
The jury is still out on this one, but now I've changed my guess
11) Barack Obama again
YES - Third one right. And I bet I am the ONLY person who predicted that one. Right?
12) Ed Miliband still
YES - Another one right. Not that it was in question, but well done in getting the obvious ones, me.
13) No. Italy.
YES, and no
14) Southern states of USA
Silly suggestion, not even worth considering
15) The roll-up iPad
Was there a technological advance? If so, I missed it.
16) Fall by 5%
Up by 3.5%
17) Ricky Gervais jailed
Didn't happen, despite all his best efforts
18) Sun adds Sunday edition
YES, another bleeding obvious thing went ahead and happened
19) Snow & ice begins in October
No, rain and rain continued from May to December
20) Poverty charity single inc Bananarama
No, it was a Hillsborough justice charity record, and Bananarama were conspicuous by their absence.

So, out of 20 possible predictions, I got 6 right. Is that good? Let's move on and start predicting 2013 shall we..?

(NB: Here's how I fared in Paul Cornell's This Time Next Year quiz, which may well have inspired my own guessing game.)

My review of 2012 (in pictures)

And if that don't tell you all about our 2012, then I'll probably have to go back over it and write out the details so you can read them. For the time being, enjoy the pretty picture.

If you can't make it all out, this picture records that in 2012 the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre played a record 110 full length shows (mostly an hour, some 90 minutes) inc 42 shows at Edinburgh (2 a day), 38 tour dates, 30 days at the Adelaide Fringe plus 34 slots on stand up and variety bills.

I stayed in 33 hotels, plus 60 nights in our flats in Adelaide and Edinburgh and 30 nights with my family (10 with my sister's family, 17 with my Mum, 2 with Val & Rosie in Aberdeen and 1 with Hev's parents in Bodelwyddan) giving me a record 123 nights away from home.

On the less record breaking side I did fewer days teaching comics in schools - 82 days, compared to 2011's 124 days and 2010's 109; only did 8 caricaturing gigs (to 2011's 13) and only took 12 flights (to 2011's 46), though the distance to Australia and back meant I've hardly been a gift to global warming.

The picture also mentions the Socks 81 videos, including the Never Seconds song which got mentioned in a book, my 13 Amazon Kindle publications including the appearance at last of The Tock, the return of The Sitcom Trials to Bristol, Manchester & London, the appearance of the World's Biggest Comic at the British Library (I really must collect it soon, it's been there since February), Louise's funeral in January, and the few illustration jobs I squeezed into the year (not enough comics this year, has to be said).

I'm sure I've missed a lot (I haven't detailed anything Heather got up to, which suggests her own review of the year will be worth looking out for) and as for what went on in the rest of the world, clearly I wasn't paying attention. Hope your 2012 was just as full. Here's to 2013 everybody.

My illustrated review of 2011
My illustrated review of 2010

Sunday 30 December 2012

In Praise of Marvel Comics The Untold Story

I have just finished reading a book I received for Christmas, Marvel Comics The Untold Story by Sean Howe, and it has been totally engrossing and a wonder to read.

At 437 illustration-free pages, and between hard covers, I'm grateful I had the holiday haitus to read it in, its bulk might have ruled it out as a travel read (it would have easily tipped me over Ryanair's hand-baggage allowance).

I'd love to recommend it to everyone, and being a proper book rather than something on a Kindle I can happily lend it to my friends who want a gander, but I'm not sure who would be as interested as me in what is, to a very great extent, a 400 page fanzine article.

That's not to say it's not well-written. It is very well written, and exhaustively so, listing hundreds of interviewees and people who've helped with research. It is expertly structured, drawing the reader through a narrative that remains compelling even through its hardest-to-follow events.

But those events are the 60-odd year history of Marvel comics. And who's interested in that?

Well, I am. And as I say I am unsure who else would be whose life had not been so influenced and intertwined with Marvel's. I read the comics as a child, and was one of a privileged generation of British kids in the 70s and 80s who were able to read reprints of the earliest Marvel classics from the 60s in weekly pocket-money comics at the same time as being able to buy the most exciting of the brand new comics fresh from the States. I then found myself writing and drawing for fanzines in the 80s as Marvel and the whole comic business went through an explosion of popularity and a creative revolution. And to top it all, in the 1990s, I wound up writing and drawing for Marvel comics, answering directly to the House Of Ideas in New York city.

And for most of this time I'd had a vague idea of what went on behind the scenes. In the 80s we read about the raw deal that had been given to the creators of these star characters, we knew Jack Kirby got nothing for being co-creator of everyone from the Fantastic Four & The Hulk to the Avengers & The X-Men, and that Steve Ditko was similarly hard done-by over Spider-Man. And in the 90s I knew, first hand, that the comics business was prone to ups and downs when I was on the wrong side of Marvel's filing for bankruptcy and was one of the two-thirds of the company's employees who found themselves suddenly out of work.

Now this book spells out in excruciating detail what went on behind the scenes. Great parts of the book are romantic and inspiring and make me want to rush to my desk and draw comics. (Indeed, when just one chapter into the book, I did just that and drafted half a dozen pages to a graphic novel/film proposal that I'd plotted a year ago). The story of how Stan Lee & Jack Kirby had gone from the highs of the wartime Captain America comics to the lows of the McCarthy era when, in the late 50s, Stan is given the job of firing most of the staff as the comics industry teeters on the brink of collapse, only for their little-noticed back-room not-quite-superhero comic The Fantastic Four to begin a renaissance in comics that no-one could have imagined, is a legend that deserves telling well and gets just treatment here.

The creative highs and lows and the struggle between the various waves of idealistic storytellers and money-minded executives is something that will come as no surprise to anyone who's read histories of any creative industry from the music business to Hollywood. And by the time we get to the 1970s, this book may start to shake off the attention of anyone who wasn't there at the time. But to someone who was a reader, as I was, it is a genuine revelation to me just what was going on behind the scenes. I guess, were this about about a car manufacturer or a chain of grocery stores, it would have no more nor less in the way of action and incident - and apart from a shocking number of people dying young, through stress or unhealthy lifestyle, this book is not full of events that would pass muster on even the dullest of soaps - but because it involves names I know well, comics that were the centre of my life, and a good few people I've subsequently met and worked with, it is riveting. I know things about, and have read stories from Jim Shooter, Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Sol Brodsky, Joe Quesada, Martin Goodman, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Steve Gerber, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Todd Macfarlane, Grant Morrison and dozens more  that I didn't know before and that I'm glad I do now.

As I think back over it to pick out anecdotes worth repeating, I'm finding myself thinking that no-one else might much care what Jack said to Stan on a radio phone-in in the 80s, or what bizarre suggestions various editors-in-chief made to writers over the years, or how come Vince Colletta ended up inking so many comic strips despite being the fans' least favourite. And I'm amazed at myself when the book gets to the corporate buyouts of the 1990s and what began as a story of bright young creators bustling with ideas that excited a generation turns into an arcane Financial Times article about leverages, buyouts and takeovers, and I'm still reading and enjoying it.

See if you imagine this sentence coming from an interesting book: "Perelman's various holding groups... filed for Chapter 11 protection in Wilmington Delaware: Mafco Holdings, which owned MacAndrews & Forbes, which owned Andrews Group, which owned Marvel III Holdings, which owned Marvel Parent Holdings, which owned Marvel Entertainment Group and Marvel Holdings." Well it does. Though I will concede it's not the book's most interesting sentence.

I feel proud to be part of Marvel's history. Not that I'm mentioned in the book or anything. But in the book we find Stan Lee in the late 60s asking colleagues "Why would you want to get into the comic book business?... the most you can say for the creative person in the business is that he's serving an apprenticeship to enter a better field". And ten years later we have Gerry Conway saying the same thing to fans at a con. Well now I say stuff like that to the kids I teach. And luckily, just like it did back then, it just makes them want to get into comics all the more. Comics are funny that way.

Congratulations to Sean Howe for dedicating himself to writing this book. I hope he will find a host of readers as satisfied by it as I am.

Marvel Comics The Untold Story, on Amazon

Saturday 29 December 2012

Us, all over Cardigan

Well, look at us on the front cover of the website for Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan. We're there on May 29. Stay tuned for the spring's dates, you'll hear about them all soon enough.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Christmas jumper-tastic

It's Christmas Day and we've opened some smashing pressies, with more to open tomorrow and the next day when we meet the other bits of the family. They're all great. But some presents cry out to be photographed immediately and these are they. Woolly jumpers knitted by Annette, not just for Hev & I, but also for both of the Socks. Brilliant.

Monday 24 December 2012

Aquatic Owls vs The Moon - final comics by kids this year

And now, the end is near, and so we face, the final curtain. Sorry, just been listening to Elvis's version of My Way on Top Of The Pops 1977. And talking of changing the subject, here are the final comics of the season produced by kids in my Comic Art Masterclasses (click to enlarge)...

I sense a review of the year is on its way, so enjoy these for the moment and I'll get back to you. These are the fruit of stints in two schools in London and one in the West Midlands.

If you want to see more of this nonsense....

Keep Calm & OMG Panda! - comics by kids June 2012
Kid Afro Spaghetti - comics by kids June 2012
Phil Mitchell Meets Patrick - comics by kids May 2012
Fartimouse Owl - comics by kids May 2012
I ❤ Gingers - comics by kids May 2012

If anyone wants me to come and show their kids how to do what I've been doing for a living for the last two decades in my patent Comic Art Masterclasses, drop me a line, a comment, a Twitter, smoke signals, the usual methods. Click below to see more, including video and contact details.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas from Hev & Kev

Our Christmas card for 2012, of which I am quite proud. If you got a printed version of this you are one of a very tiny number of family & friends, please don't feel unloved if you didn't. Socks venues and my Comic Art Masterclass schools all got cards with different designs.

The original for this drawing came from a book of Christmas spreads from Womans Home Journal and, I'm afraid, the original artist from the 1920s remains anonymous. If you know who's responsible, do please let me know. And a Happy New Year when it comes.

Kev & Hev 2012

You might also enjoy...
Our cards from 2011
Our cards from 2010
The Sutherland Family cards 1957-2009

Saturday 22 December 2012

We're in the Musical Comedy Awards


An unexpected Christmas bonus, the Socks have made it into the top 40 for the heats of the 5th Annual Musical Comedy Awards. Here's how they put it:

So drum roll - and apologies for the delay in releasing the results! We are so happy with the brilliant entries this year and just want to thank everyone who entered. If you're not through, then we'd like to offer you two comps to one of th...e first round heats as a way of saying thank you for entering. If you are through, expect an email in the next day or two for organising the heats - please be ready to be flexible on dates if you can be. In no specific order, here are the 40 acts who will be taking part in the 2013 WeGotTickets Musical Comedy Awards:

1. Totally Wired (Winners of the London Irish Musical Comedy Show - through to the Quarter-Finals)
2. Helen Goodwyn
3. Sandy Foster
4. Ben Glasstone
5. Slap & Giggle
6. Hill & Weedon
7. House of Blakewell
8. Ben Champion
9. David Elms
10. Dan Lees
11. Jonny and the Baptists
12. Jo Stephenson
13. Steven Seller
14. Tamar Broadbent
15. Cecilia Delatori
16. Angus Barr
17. Ross Hughes
18. Joe Charman
19. Emily Rose Simons
20. Nat Wicks
21. Austin Francis Connection
22. Laurence Owen
23. Jenny Bede
24. Lucy Rebecca Cox
25. Gabriella Burnel
26. Hannah Brackenbury
27. We Are Goose
28. I am I am
29. Trine Munk
30. Tammy Stone
31. Eric Davidson
32. The Scottish Sock Falsetto Puppet Theatre (sic)
33. Jo Browning
34. Dave Cribb
35. Jacky Wood
36. Howard & Dan
37. Paddy Cullivan
38. Tina Turner Tea Lady
39. Christiane O' Mahony
40. I Was Once a Dinosaur

Congratulations to those who are through and we can't wait to see you perform at the competition! Here is a link to buying tickets for the first round heats - once we have the full line ups we will add the competing acts to the bill too:

Sunday 16 December 2012

The Socks top videos of 2012*

(* and 2011 and 2010, see below)

I'm quite surprised by how many videos the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre ended up uploading to Youtube in 2012, 81 in total (though quite a lot of those were short plugs for shows on the tour, the most popular of which was the one for Aberystwyth). Some crackers, some meh, and some more popular than others. Here comes a rundown of the Top 25 based on viewing figures. Now, bear in mind that they accumulate viewings as the months go by, so those from earlier in the year are likely to rank highest, though you can see October's The Killing is already in there, as is last week's Gangnam Style at number 23 with a bullet (as we say). Here they are...

The Top 25 Socks videos of 2012

25 - Five Ply
24 - The Beatles
23 - Scottish Falsetto Socks - Gangnam Style
22 - Hammer Films Song
21 - History of Leicester (left)

20 - The Killing (left)
19 - Anglo Saxons in Leicester
18 - Poe
17 - Bank Robbery
16 - Titus Andronicus

15 - Burlesque
14 - Boo Lingerie Song
13 - Flotilla
12 - Lying In The Streets (left)
11 - Tribute to Johnny Cash

10 - Bucket List
9 - Pun Run
8 - Jubilee
7 - Horror Movie Cliche Song
6 - Adelaide Waiting (left)

5 - Top 10 Celeb Baby Names
4 - Sherlock take 2
3 - Sherlock take 1
2 - Argyll & Bute - The Never Seconds Song (left)
... and the Number One is...

Most popular Socks video of 2012, Sherlock. Amazingly only about ten seconds of it ended up working well enough to be in the live show, Boo Lingerie. Here are those few seconds in full.

Amazingly I've looked back on the last couple of years, only to find I never got round to wasting an afternoon totting up the best videos of those years. So lets have a look at those top tens shall we?

Top 20 Socks Videos of 2011

20  Racing Commentary
19  Whats Missing
18   Fifa
17   Sooty 
16   NOTW Tribute

15   Trees
14   Royal Wed Commentary
13   Wills & Kate
12   Prof Brian Cox
11   Peanut

10 Antiques Roadshow
9 Dickens 200
8 Period Drama
7  Benton
6  Torchwool Miracle Day

5  Dr Who Comic Relief
4  Hands Off Royal Wed Song
3  Dr Who Season Six
1   London Riots

Top 10 Socks Videos of 2010

10 - Doctor Who The End Of Time part 3
9 - John Cage's 4'33"
8 - Ga ga Rasputin
7 - Doctor Jokes
6 - Vuvuzela

5 - Pub Jokes
4 - Doctor Who The End Of Time part 2
3 - Shyte
2 - Doctor Who The End Of Time part 1
1 - Star Wars 

12 Days of Christmas from the Socks (on Metafilter & FW)

This is a seasonal classic that we're delighted to dredge out again, which has now been picked up by Metafilter.

No, we have no idea quite what Metafilter is, but here are people discussing our video on it:

And here we are on a site called The FW which is full of nifty stuff and I realise as I write this I am sounding older than I actually am.

Should you like this kind of thing, there is an entire Scottish Falsetto Socks Christmas videos playlist featuring 35 seasonal vids by the boys, from Coldplay Christmas through Elvis Costello's Winter Medley via Songs You Daren't Sing At Xmas and Winter Wonderland to Baby It's Cold Outside, the Hogmanay Song, the Killer Reindeer Song, and many more. Available now on K-Tel records*.

(*Not available on K-Tel records)

Friday 14 December 2012

Our view, before and after

They've been chopping down trees in the grounds behind our house. These pictures don't quite do justice to it. Here's the view before/during...

(click to enlarge). By the time we realised what was happening and whipped out the camera they'd already taken down the two biggest trees in the middle of what was a dense area. You can see the tree surgeons standing in downstairs' garden (no, of course they didn't ask permission) throwing back over the wall great lumps of tree that had fallen down there. And here's the shot the next day...

It probably doesn't look much different to the casual observer, and the camera can't really capture the depth of the tree coverage that's gone. Previously our bedroom looked out on a veritable woodland, and now it looks out onto the most terrifying thing of all - people. You can now see into our bedroom from the path on the far side of this cleared area, which is about to become a car park for new-build houses. We should count our blessings there aren't houses going there.

To be fair, the trees included big Leylandiis which had shot up in the last decade and actually cut out a lot of light, and what we're now looking at is closer to what was there when we moved in two decades ago. But it's quite a shock to the system when it happens. You can get attached to trees.

There you go, a report from the home front. Now, on with your business.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Socks Gangnam Style

Does what it says on the tin.

We're not proud to jump, belatedly, onto a bandwagon, but if you enjoy this sort of nonsense, then do have fun.

And quick, while you still can, order the Socks' 2013 calendar in time for Christmas...

Merry Christmas to all my schools

This year's specially-produced Christmas card sent to all the schools who've had me this year (apologies if I missed anyone, I hope I didn't). Separate cards for Socks venues and for family & friends have also gone out in the post. Lucky 100-odd people who've got those between them. To everyone else, they'll be appearing online for your pleasure soon.

And a Happy New Year when it comes.

If anyone wants me to come and show their kids how to do what I've been doing for a living for the last two decades in my patent Comic Art Masterclasses, drop me a line, a comment, a Twitter, smoke signals, the usual methods.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Forbidden Planet - Scottish Falsetto Socks

Brand new from the Socks, a stab at doing Forbidden Planet, and testing out some new costumes.

And quick, while you still can, order the Socks' 2013 calendar in time for Christmas...

Saturday 8 December 2012

Vinny Jones CPR - Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

Brand new from the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, they have a go at doing Vinny Jones CPR (as happens in the current TV campaign). Click & enjoy.

And quick, while there's time, order the Socks' 2013 calendar in time for Christmas...

Saturday 1 December 2012

December in the Scottish Falsetto Socks' calendar

This is how we celebrate December on the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's 2012 calendar, with my joint favourite image, Gone With The Wind...

You can still buy the calendar with its 12 unique brand new specially drawn cartoons by Kev F formerly of The Beano. It's good for another month and is a collector's item joy to treasure. Click on the image to see more of the calendar and the link to the shop, or if you can't wait, buy it here.

More sensibly you'll be looking forward to 2013 with the brand new Socks calendar...

A video with a specially recorded song by the Socks promoting their brand new 2013 Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre calendar. 13 brand new images, perfect for Christmas. Order it now.

This unique celebration of the Scottish Falsetto Socks will see you through the year 2013, containing as it does every single day - with none missing - and all public holidays lovingly hand-mentioned, and costs just £10.25. Have a look for free and order now, you know it makes sense.

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