Monday 31 December 2018

My Comic Strip Review Of 2018

In the nick of time, here it is. My annual comic strip review of the year. Hope it doesn't look too maudlin in black and white. To be honest, I didn't have time to finish it in full colour so I opted for monochrome. As you can probably see, the image in the bottom right hand corner had to be changed from a picture of The Knoll, described as Mum's new home, to a picture of Mum herself, who timed it nicely and squeezes in as the final and biggest news of the year.

The last few months saw me moving out of my office of 16 years and working from home, with mountains of stuff currently in storage, at the same time as Mum was moving out of Windmill Gardens, her home for 50 years (we moved in in 1968, how perfect and anniversorial was that?), and into the Knoll care home for, it turned out, a little over four months.

The Socks had a good year, with Superheroes being another hit show at Edinburgh, followed by an interesting nine day run in Denmark doing a mixture of Superheroes and special Brexit shows. And I had another bumper year of comic art, drawing The Story of Joseph and, with Book Of Ruth and Jael Wife Of Heber, completed my Women Of The Bible book, which we should see in the new year. And, yes, I know I've said that before. Some publishers move in mysterious ways.

103 of my days were occupied delivering Comic Art Masterclasses and similar things at schools, libraries, art centres, festivals and the like all over the world. From Switzerland to the Isle Of Wight, Hannover to Dublin, and all points in between (inc all countries of the British Isles, as per, from Falkirk to Felixstowe and Enniskillen to Neath).

I can't begin to imagine how many miles I drove and flew this year, but I can only apologise to the environment. Here's the table of the big stats of the year.

School days
Flights (return)
Socks shows
Caricature gigs
Nights away
Socks videos

As for the year to come, all we know is it begins with a funeral on January 9th, after which surprises galore await I'm sure.

Happy New Year when it comes!

Kev F Dec 31st 2018

My Comic Strips reviews of past years:
2017 .  • .  2016 .  • .  2015 .  •   2014 .  • .  2013
2012   • .  2011 .  • .  2010

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

Sunday 30 December 2018

Mum, 1936 - 2018

Sadly, but as you were no doubt expecting, Mum, Corral, finally gave up the ghost at around midday today, December 30th.

With her usual immaculate timing, and consideration for everyone else, she was able to see her Birthday on December 20th and Christmas Day, and leaves us when we (Jude and Kev) are around to sort things out for her.

Thankyou to everyone who’s visited, sent the hundreds of cards and the thousands of kind words over the past few months while she’s been here in the care home in Kibworth. Hers has been a rapid decline since she had to move out of the family home in August, with her still able to draw and finish her Christmas card in October before she really started to fade.

Though she’s never been a fan of cliches, I think she’ll allow us to say she passed away quietly in her sleep and was feeling no pain.

News of funeral arrangements will come soon, when we know more. Corral wouldn’t want you to be sad or maudlin and we think she’d rather you raised a glass to her at Hogmanay, share fond memories of her, and have a Happy New Year when it comes.

Love from Jude and Kev

Death At The Circus - Murder Mystery Party

Hev and I just threw our first Murder Mystery Party for years, and it was the biggest one ever. Way back in the 90s we did quite a few of these, writing parts for up to 8 guests, often getting them dressed up. This time we just extended a party invite to a larger number of people (expecting a few to cry off and have other commitments at this busy time) and wrote the parts accordingly, handing them out to them when they arrived. Most didn't know there was a Murder Mystery element to the party. Thing is, we'd anticipated a few people not being able to make it, and everybody could. So it was that Hev and I wrote parts for 18 characters in our Circus based game - Death At The Circus. (Apologies to our friends who weren't invited, we really were trying to limit numbers, that was all).

Here's the rather mammoth page they had to chew through over first drinks.

DEATH AT THE CIRCUS – Murder Mystery Dec 2018. 

There has been a fire at The Hippocambrian Circus. It started in the animal cages and threatened all the animals. All have been saved except for the Animal Trainer THE GREAT BARTHOLOMEW and almost all of his Famous Performing Monkeys (one has survived). Bartholomew has been burnt to death, destroying any other clues on his person.

Once the fire has been put out we see that hidden beneath the monkey cages was the circus’s safe, the location of which was a secret to most of the performers, as was the identity of the keyholder (while the boss was away). Because of the heat of the fire, the safe was too hot to touch or open.

An insurance policy has shown up, insuring the lives of the Performing Monkeys. The name on the policy has been burnt off.

There are no footprints leading up to the monkeys cage, despite it being muddy all around.

You all have individual notes with the secrets you know, suspect, or are hiding. Here are the facts we all know.

Andy Le Petomaine
Not involved, away at the time
Madame Le Bon Bon
Not involved, away at the time
Victim, Animal Trainer
Someone had taken out insurance policy on monkeys.
No footprints leading up to cage. Safe was under cage, who knew? Too hot to open.
Ava Gopopalegover
The mistress of the air, her feet never touch the ground.
Ivan Gopopalegover
The legendary catcher, known as The Great Receiver
Siamese Twins
Novelty act of the show, they speak in unison & are a century too early to know how politically incorrect their title is.
Siamese Twins
Bearded Man
Less popular novelty act, jealous of other more interesting acts, with a fiery temper
Mme Chevalier
The ballerina of bareback riding. Has she an equestrian equal? Neigh.
Mr Muscle
Can lift any weight, his showpiece is lifting all the rest of the performers above his head while burping Champagne Charlie
Human Cannonball
Flies from a cannon, which he can self-operate. He is also resident fire-eater, fire-juggler, fire-breather, and Health & Safety Officer.
The Great Oobliay
The master magician and card sharp, makes his money with sleight of hand and loses it as quickly at poker.
The Little Oobliet
Training to follow in the Great Oobliay’s footsteps. Also a trainee pickpocket.
Birdona de Wyre
Wire walker
Can balance on the head of a pin and walk record distances on the high wire
Leo Slayer
Rival Animal Trainer
Less popular than The Great Bartholomew, he has so far trained fleas but they ran away. So he trained mice, who also ran away. Then dogs, who ran away. Then goats, who ate his tent, and the mice, then ran away. Is working on training cats.
Fenella Freud
Trick cyclist
The fastest thing on wheels, this brother and sister team joined the circus recently and no-one knows much of their background.
Ferdinand Freud
Trick cyclist
East European siblings, mysterious & secretive.
The circus’s ever popular clown, everyone loves him
Mme Hoopla
Does the books for the circus, good at multitasking.

Then each person got their personal sheet to read, with secrets they knew, and their suspicions, like so...

In addition to these notes they got extra clues - a message from Madame Futura's Crystal Ball and a look at something the surviving monkey wanted to show them. These looked like this...

So, have you solved the crime yet? Don't worry, neither did anyone else at this stage. Each person got to ask one question, all of us gathered together in a group, then they wrote down and handed in their guesses. Nobody had the correct answer.

Then we relaxed and partied for a bit, which is when the party started to sound like our usual entertaining event (Hev & I were worried that, rather than being an ice breaker, the Murder Mystery had led to a first half hour of everyone sat round silently). The party looked a bit like this (but really, you had to be there)...

Then after the food had come out we had the final round up. People got to compare clues with each other, then made their final guesses as to whodunnit, how and why. And this time, though 14 people got it wrong, two people (Chris and James) guessed the culprits, for widely varying and incorrect reasons. Here is the full selection of Crystal Ball clues, do they point to a killer yet?

I'd love to show you all the individual players' sheets, with all the different clues they had, but life's too short and I can't imagine anyone would ever read them all. So stop reading now if you don't want spoilers.

Here is the explanation of the crime, as read out by the surviving monkey (played on the night by me).


Hi, I’m a Performing Monkey. My name’s Uncle Tom Cobley.

You know my fellow Performing Monkeys - Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon and Harry Hawke. We were called that after Widdecombe Fair. Cos our boss, The Great Bartholemew, came from Widdecombe.

And his brother, Stanley, named himself after the town. He called himself Widdecombe The Clown. Widdecombe the Clown is Stan Bartholemew, the Great Bartholemew’s brother. That is, Jack Bartholemew’s brother.

So on the night we were doing what we always do, nicking stuff off each other. The stuff we nick from the punters usually. And watching you lot, having your rows, and combing your horses and whatever. And playing with fire. You all do that. The fire bloke taught you, and he even taught us. Dunno why, we couldn’t see the point.

Fire bloke taught Bartholemew - he’s the monkey who can’t speak proper monkey  - how to make fire come out of his trousers. Brilliant, we pissed ourselves every time. And he taught us some fire tricks, and we could never work out why. Breathe fire, throw fire, set fire, that sort of thing.

So we Monkeys nick stuff off each other, and there’s nothing more valuable to us than these tags. They’re called name tags. They’re our treasure. Cos, well, they seem to mean a lot to everyone. I mean you lot. You do the ah-thing when you see the tags. “Aah”. Don’t know what the rest of what you say means, but it begins aah. We like aah.

So we were nicking tags. And, cut a long story short, I won. I got everyone’s tags. And they’re like, we want them back. And I’m like, seriously, this has taken me all night. Then I remembered the fire tricks. So I torched them.

So I get to keep the tags. Look. I’ve got everyone’s tags.

What’s your problem? Let me explain, I torched everyone, so I win tags. That’s A Good Thing. Cos I have All The Tags.

What bit of winning don’t you understand? I’ve just beaten Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawke - and Bartholemew The monkey who didn’t speak proper monkey, and all -

(Sung) and Bartholemew The monkey who didn’t speak proper monkey, and all.


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