Thursday 25 June 2020

My first Zoom Masterclass - it's good to be back

If anyone wants to book my Comic Art Masterclass this summer, I'm delighted to announce I can now do the whole show by Zoom!

Thanks to an excellent teacher at Red Maids Juniors in Bristol who brought this about, I delivered my first day of online Comic Art Masterclasses on Wednesday, via Zoom, and I'm delighted to report they went well.

I had had the greatest trepidation about offering this, having no idea whether I'd be able to bring the experience of my live classes to the small screen. But it worked. Although, for a large part, you have to keep the sound of the pupils muted otherwise it's a cacaphonic mess, it was possible to tell that they were laughing in the right places, and I even got an audible 'wow' at one of the apt moments.

These particular pupils, years 4, 5, and 6 at Red Maids, are well versed in Zoom classes. They've been doing them all term and are totally up to speed with muting and unmuting themselves to ask questions. This meant I was able to work with three large groups in the day, something that's not possible in an actual classroom. Getting 25 faces to a zoom screen, my first one hour class (with years 2 and 3) was a simpler affair, to two screens worth, the year 2s all being in one classroom together. 

Then the full two hour classes (4 & 5 in the morning, 6 in the afternoon) were to three screens worth of pupils, so over 50 of them. I simplified some parts of my usual class, so for example choosing the title for the group comic was done by selecting from just half a dozen suggestions, held up to the screen, rather than from the usual 30 ideas scribbled on bits of paper. And instead of doing all the examples on the flipchart, I did a lot of the "How To" drawings on A4 sheets on clipboards, which again worked fine. Hoping I get to do more of these, I can see how I can refine and expand these parts so we get more stuff that I design for this working method, rather than just adapting my previous routines. Given the large class sizes, only half of them could get their caricatures drawn, but we agreed that in advance and the teachers had chosen who would be drawn.

Because there was no travelling to be done, the class cost the school less than it would normally, and the time I would have spent in the car was spent finishing the front covers off, and doing additional caricatures from photos of kids who hadn't been able to be drawn live. NB: Caricatures drawn on Zoom suffer from one slight problem in that I'm looking up everyone's noses. It was hard to get them to position their faces so they were looking straight on to you. So they may go away thinking they all look a bit more nostril-y than they do in real life.

We weren't able to produce the finished photocopied comic, obviously, and because most of the pupils were working from their respective homes, it's not even something the teacher would be able to do. But, as has been the case in many classes before, if the kids aren't expecting a comic in their hands, they don't miss it. The teacher was kind enough to tweet the above photos of year 6 pupils holding up their work, which was of the highest quality, as good as I get in a hands-on class. (I wish we'd managed to get a shot of them looking less miserable. Trust me, they were smiling almost all the rest of the time!)

I shall now be plugging myself furiously to all my schools, as I now feel confident in offering these classes, and it would be great to get back to proper paying work again (not that I've not been enjoying being a full time graphic novelist, but I would have to see 100 copies of one of my books to earn as much as a day doing classes). The only tiny niggle I have is claustrophobia. Once I was doing the classes it didn't trouble me at all. But setting up the room, I was aware how much space a flipchart stand takes up. Once that's erected in my little studio, I'm left with as much space to work in as a space shuttle cockpit. And no one gets to see my legs. I'd forgotten how much physicality there is in my usual classes.

It's good to be back! Most satisfying to have done my first Comic Art Masterclass in three months (the last was at Baldock Arts Centre on March 14th). Let's see if I can arrange any more.

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 - AND NOW ONLINE VIA ZOOMemail for details. His debut graphic novel Findlay Macbeth is available on Amazon. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

Go To Greggs - The Socks live online

Recorded for Dean Friedman's Dean Zine Live Stream on June 21st, here's the Socks doing Go To Greggs, from last year's Roll Up show. I think this may be the first time this song's appeared online, so do enjoy it.

We also joined in with a singalong of Smelly Feet with Dean, some of the viewers, and this week's special guest Ben Norris. Next show the weekend after next (we're doing alternate weeks, it's great fun).

The Scottish Falsetto Socks full hour-long Superheroes show is available, free, on Youtube here. See more of their videos all over Youtube, follow them on Twitter and Facebook. And, if you're lucky, they'll be performing live again as soon as that's a thing.

Fresh Prince Of Denmark Street - video

A brand new bit of fun, a video of the 'rap' Fresh Prince Of Denmark Street' that I threw together when inspiration struck. I can confirm it's done little to boost the Kickstarter, but I enjoyed doing it.

The figure of me was made by Felicity & Tom, my Christmas present last year. Isn't it the best?

My debut graphic novel Findlay Macbeth, available on Amazon now:

Order through Gardners or Askews and Holts, ISBN 978-1-5272-5853-2

Friday 19 June 2020

The Deli Song - Dean Friedman and The Scottish Falsetto Socks

What a treat this was. The Socks duetting with Dean Friedman on one of our favourite tracks of his, The Deli Song (Corned Beef On Wry) from his classic 1978 album Well Well Said The Rocking Chair. 

This was performed live as part of his Sunday night Dean Zine Live Stream, a special All Request edition done on Zoom, rather than his usual SteamYard set up which can also be seen on Youtube and Facebook. This was a ticketed event, where the audience were also visible on screen. An odd set up, as many performers are discovering, because of the difficulty of filtering out each others sound. Essentially the performer has to mute the audience until the end of the song, then let their cacaphonic applause and comments crash over each other. 

The Socks had to unmute themselves to join in. Which, if you've ever tried operating the trackpad of a laptop while wearing socks on your hands, is a more complicated procedure than you expect. But it worked and I'm delighted with the result.

These concerts by Dean have been an absolute delight to be part of, we're doing another one this coming weekend,  and though hardly a big earner, he does pay us what he can for them, and they're getting the Socks to a whole new international audience, which is marvellous.

See more at, and we'll keep spreading the love.

The Scottish Falsetto Socks full hour-long Superheroes show is available, free, on Youtube here. See more of their videos all over Youtube, follow them on Twitter and Facebook. And, if you're lucky, they'll be performing live again as soon as that's a thing.

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Journal Of The Plague Year - May to June

Really? A month without writing a diary? In truth, drawing Prince Of Denmark Street has kept me delightfully busy. It’s been the best feeling, knowing what I have to do every morning, then going to my desk and doing it. And at the end of the day having between two and four pages drawn. 

(Work in progress on PODS here, and the new book here)

Dean Friedman’s DeanZine Live Streams on alternate Sunday nights have been my only Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre gigs. On April 19th we debuted Stay Two Metres Apart and did the What Kind of F&C Song; May 3rd we duetted with him on Lucky Stars and debuted Miley Cyrus; on May 24th we debuted The Bechdel Test Song, and on June 7th we duetted with him on The Deli Song. These have been the greatest fun and such an honour.

Felicity’s fortnightly Zoom quiz parties, which are the same weekends at the Dean shows, have been our only communication with the rest of the world to speak of. On May 23rd it was Tom’s Birthday Murder Mystery Night, which we curated and briefed everyone on, sat at Doris Hatt’s 1930s house in Clevedon. On Sat 6th June we did the Conservatory Escape Room. Others have been straight quiz nights, where Hev & I’ve loved making up questions which, I’m sure, no-one has enjoyed answering. I love answering other people’s questions, so maybe I’m getting more out of these parties than most.

May 7: Be honest, whose heart lights up at the words "is returning with a Lockdown Special?"

May 8: Was David Tennant auditioning for the role of Findlay Macbeth on tonight’s HIGNFY?

May 14: The Covid story - which episode are we in?

I’m finding it quite exciting not knowing which episode of the Covid Story we’re in. Is it the first chapter, or the end of Season One?

It all hinges on what happens following May 10th’s “Stay Alert” plot point. If nothing happens, infections continue to fall, and it all goes away, then it turns out we were at the end of Season One, and the disappointing Season Two will be more about the run up to the US election than anything else.

But if we get the Commuter Conundrum from the crowded tubes and buses, or The Clubhouse Cluster episode where every golfer and tennis player gets it, or the subplot of the Estate Agent Superspreader, it could be that we are in fact only at the end of episode one, and the season’s only just starting.

So exciting.

May 16: The Lockdown movie-trawl continues to see us watching things we might have otherwise overlooked. Here are two corkers from this week - Adult Life Skills and The Breakfast Club.

Adult Life Skills is by first time writer/director Rachel Tunnard, based on her award winning short, and it stars Doctor Who. Simple and sweet.

And I'm probably the only person who'd managed to let 35 years slide by without ever seeing The Breakfast Club. John Hughes truly was a brilliant and original film maker (I can watch Home Alone and Planes Trains & Automobiles forever) and this has stood the test of the decades well. Feeble ending notwithstanding (spoiler alert) it's an excellent bit of writing and directing.

May 21: The jury's still out on Sweden. I was, a month back, keeping track of Sweden's Covid death toll, but found it wasn't telling us anything conclusive. Today we learn Sweden has the highest death rate per capita in the world from Covid. But that still doesn't tell us anything.

The Swedish government's argument is that people were going to die from Covid, and that's what's happened. They've let it happen faster than other countries, which means they'll achieve 'herd immunity' before other countries, and in the meantime they've kept their economy running more actively than other countries.

Meanwhile New Zealand has all-but eliminated Covid from the country, meaning that as soon as they let in an infected tourist their Covid pandemic restarts from scratch.

The UK are somewhere in the middle. Unlike New Zealand and Sweden, the UK didn't have a plan. Or rather they started with the Swedish plan ("Herd immunity, and if a few pensioners die, then tough" - Dominic Cummings), then when they realised our hospitals wouldn't be able to cope with that rate of cases, they moved in the New Zealand lockdown direction, but far too late. And here we all are then.

It will be months before we can start reaching conclusions about what was the best thing to do, who did the best thing, and what people did wrong. In the meantime, judge not lest ye be judged yourself, I guess.

May 22: (The Dominic Cummings story breaks) 

New Game show idea: Corono-dem or Corona-done?

Who do we forgive for breaking the rules, who do we let off because we like them? Round 1: Dominic Cummings v Neil Gaiman.

Round 2: Kirsty Allsop v our upstairs neighbours.

Repeat until you've vented sufficiently.

Sources close to Dominic Cummings defend his trip from London to Durham while he had virus symptoms.

May 24: Dominic Cummings is let off

Disastrous. This is where the Second Wave of infection begins. From this moment on no one will heed any instructions for lockdown. If a government employee can flout the clear laws and guidelines, then nobody will feel bound by them.

This cowardly decision has killed people. (Says he, hoping to be proved wrong.)

The good news is, we live with 250 miles of loads of great places, so sightseeing trips are back on.

Don't worry, we plan to kidnap a 4 year old child to ride shotgun. We know the rules.


May 31:

Whither Lockdown?

The lockdown has disintegrated, whether by cockup or conspiracy (and my money's on cockup). This week, quoting "Cummings Rules" we drove through the centre of Bristol for the first time in 2 and a half months (we live ten miles away) and even stopped to buy something. It looked like a normal weekday except most shops were shut. I'm sure most of you can report similar experiences from the last two sunbathe-and-barbeque weekends.

The problem will come if this much vaunted Second Wave is really big, as some say it will be. Chances are places like my town (in North Somerset, the whole county of which has had just 444 cases and 94 deaths) have seen nary a microgram of coronavirus in all this time, and any drop of it that's come to town has been avoided till it died. If, as is feared, the first tourists bring it for, effectively, the first time and we have a super-ballooning of cases, how will anyone impose a lockdown again?

June 1: You know what I've always wondered? Whose job is it to put Trump's toys back in his pram every night?

June 2: Today I am buying ISBN numbers. Rather optimistically I am buying a pack of ten, instead of just the one I need.

From this we can conclude the pandemic will end tomorrow, I'll get back to work in schools, and will never have time to write another book.

June 7: That feeling when you get a survey from a car hire company asking how much you enjoyed the car you forgot to cancel from your cancelled flight this weekend!

(Yes I'm checking my future flights!)

June 15: Here's what you're missing. The convention table you could have seen me sat behind at Satellite Conventions Glasgow & Lawless: A Celebration Of British Comics Bristol & #LFCC & The Lakes (you still might) & Bath Comic-Con and more...

Who's organising any social-distanced cons? I'll sign books and throw them at anyone who wants one!

The 3rd Book - Work In Progress

And so, though my thoughts are seriously turning to starting making money again, hopefully with virtual classes and maybe even the start of genuine live appearances again this summer, work has begun on a third book (as Findlay Macbeth starts to make a few tentative sales, and Prince Of Denmark Street is 14 days from the end of its Kickstarter campaign).

Thurs June 5th - First 6 page treatment written of new book (at that point called The Midsummer Night's Team)
Friday June 5th - 2nd draft treatment 
Sunday June 7th - 3rd and 4th drafts, after 2 lots of notes from Steve, and initial notes from Hev. Draft is now 9 pages, title is now The Midsummer Nights Dream Team.
Thurs Jun 11 - Characters designed. All 21 of them (above)!
Fri 12, Sat 13 - First writing done. 13 pages biro scribble.
Tues 16 - First draft biro script finished, 35 pages.
Weds 17 - Script broken down into rough panels. 517 panels in current form. (Findlay Macbeth was 475 panels, Prince Of Denmark Street 490 panels). UPDATE: Just realised it's 517 panels + the opening 15 silent pages (yes, it opens with a silent sequence). We got us a long one!

That opening 15 page sequence, as it currently stands. Hopefully I know what it all means.

Friday 19th - Script broken down into pages. It's 120 pages, again. (Findlay was 120 pages at this stage, later extended to 125, PODS was 114 pages, later extended to 118). Here's the most boring photo you'll see today:

Saturday 20th June - designed a logo for the front cover. Sunday, decided this will be known as the rejected logo. Sets the wrong 'parody' tone for the book I think...

Tuesday June 23rd, began laying out pages with voice bubbles. First 43 pages laid out.
(I noted back on March 30th it took me two days to lay out the first 30 pages of PODS, but today was a little easier cos the first 15 pages of MNDT are silent!)
Friday June 26th (after my triumphant return to classes on Wednesday, followed by two days plugging them to schools) Laid out up to page 63. 
Sat June 27 - Laid out up to page 80
Sun June 28 - Laid out up to page 88
Mon June 29 - All 120 pages laid out! Next stop, pencil roughs.

I began writing PODS in the first week of lockdown, on March 20th. Rough script finished March 31st. 5 days to lay it out into scripted laid lout pages, 7 days to produce pencil roughs. In the end I drew 118 pages, and covers, and extras, between April 16th and June 1st. 6 weeks & 4 days, or 46 days, to draw 118 pages. Two and a half pages a day. 

10 weeks from conception to completion for PODS. That means the new book could be completed by the 25th of August, unless I hurry up and get some proper paying work in! Blimey, I could even finish a fourth by Christmas and be a fully fledged pauper.


Tuesday 9 June 2020

PODS first 10 pages

Book sales, Kickstarter figures, and new videos

Here's a new video I've made to promote the Prince Of Denmark Street Kickstarter. We'll see whether it makes a difference.

Sun 31 May - Kickstarter launches
Weds Jun 3 - Kickstarter reaches its £750 target
Sunday Jun 7 - Passes the £1000 mark
(As I noted in February, Findlay Macbeth reached £500 in 2 days, but after 6 was stuck on £711. It reached a final figure of £1308 after 30 days)
PODS Kickstarter at time of writing (Tues Jun 9) £1163
Weds Jun 10 £1241
Thurs Jun 11 £1372
Fri Jun 12  £1422
Sat Jun 13  £1438

Tues Jun 16 I tweet: 
How publicity works: The Kickstarter for my new comic was going up by about £50 a day up to Friday night. On Saturday the Clevedon Literary Festival went live with a video by me on it, plus I was on Radio Bristol on Saturday morning talking about my books. Since then the Kickstarter has not gone up by a penny!

Within 3 hours it has gone up to £1538. By 7.30pm it's at £1617
Weds Jun 17  £1641
Thurs Jun 18 £1686
Sun Jun 21 £1713
Mon Jun 22 £1737
Tues Jun 23 £1753
Thurs Jun 24 - Hoy! With 4 days to go, we've dropped from £1753 to £1740. Then down to £1720! Before rallying and going up to £1790.
Fri Jun 26 - £1840
Sat Jun 27 - £1920
Sun Jun 28 - £1975
Mon Jun 29 - £2031
Tues Jun 30 - with 2 hours to go, down to £2011
Hooray - Kickstarter closes with 100 supporters and £2024 pledged.

Thurs June 5th - First 6 page treatment written of new book (at that point called The Midsummer Night's Team)
Friday June 5th - Wrote 2nd draft treatment of new book
Sunday June 7th - 3rd and 4th drafts, after 2 lots of notes from Steve, and initial notes from Hev. Draft is now 9 pages, title is now The Midsummer Nights Dream Team.
Thurs Jun 11 - Characters designed. All 21 of them!
Fri 12, Sat 13 - First writing done. 13 pages biro scribble.
Tues 16 - First draft biro script finished, 35 pages.

Tues Jun 2 - Bought ISBN numbers for PODS (and 9 spares)
Friday June 5th - PODS gets a plug on
Tues Jun 9 - These 8 agents all emailed. Most of these 15 agents emailed.
And most of these 65 agents!
First reply Sam Hiyate. No from Diana Fox, Bernadette Baker, Linda Camacho.

Findlay Macbeth sales on Amazon - as of June 9, 13 paperbacks sold, 6 ebooks.
June 9 - First two books via Neilsen (both for Gardners the book distributors).
Jun 10 - Two Findlay Macbeth packages are returned undelivered because their labels fell off!


Conservatory Escape Room Challenge

ESCAPE ROOM – Hev & Kev questions


You are trying to escape from THE CONSERVATORY. You have 10 choices. You get a point if you make the correct choice, and an additional point if you can correctly say why. So there are 20 possible points to be made. Give your first round of guesses IN ONE POST please. When we see how wrong you all, I’ll give you clues about the choices to make (if you still need them). First person to get more than 10 points on first guess wins a free signed copy of my book Findlay Macbeth.


1)    You have to throw something. Choose between THE STONE and THE SWITCH.


2)    You have to burn something and conserve something. A TREE and A BOOK. Which do you burn?


3)    Choose between these pop records: JUMP AROUND and GETTING JIGGY WITH IT


4)    Choose an operating system. Will it run on MAC or PC?


5)    Choose a place to STUDY: The same place as…?

a)    Erik Satie, Camile Saint-Saens, and Mantovani

b)    Bernard Hermann, Nina Simone, and Wynton Marsalis


6)    There’s a CONTRACT. Do you want to add time to it, or shorten the time left?


7)    GLASS half full or glass half empty?


8)    Choose where to hang out in CENTRAL PARK;

a)    The memorial area by West 72nd, near the Dakota Building

b)    North East corner near Museum Mile, between 104th and 106th


9)    Choose a FILM. Which one?

a)    Alexander Dovzhenko (1930)

b)    Clement & La Frenais (1985)

c)    M Night Shyalaman (2019)


10)  Which are we? A song by The Thomson Twins or Gary Numan?


Happy Escaping campers!







Reason: We’re in conservatory. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones



A: Burn the BOOK. Conserve A TREE

Reason: We’re in the conserve-a-tree




Reason: It’s by House Of Pain (Pane, get it?). We’re in a conservatory. (The other is Will Smith)



A: PC.  Reason: Windows. Conservatory.



A: Choose a:  The CONSERVATOIRE A Paris. (B was Juilliard in New York)



A: ADD TIME.   Reason: It’s an EXTENSION. (We’re in a conservatory)



A: EITHER. Both glass.



A: Choose b, The Conservatory Garden (a is Strawberry Fields)



Choose c M Night Shyalaman (GLASS, 2019)  The others were Earth and Water



A: Gary Numan – WE ARE GLASS (not We Are Detective)

Monday 8 June 2020

The Facebook Group where we pretended Edinburgh hadn't been cancelled... is cancelled

On balance I preferred the upside down cow myself. What's anyone else think of the new tent in George Square gardens?

This was my favourite, and most liked, of my posts in a charming and short-lived Facebook group called A group where we all pretend that Edinburgh Fringe 2020 was never cancelled. Which has now been archived, or effectively cancelled itself. 

For my part, I was enjoying making up an ongoing story about 400 chairs, which began in someone else's post (which I'm trying to find) about trying to get people to move chairs from one venue to another. The point of the group, you see, was to parody the cliches and experiences we all know and love from putting on shows at Edinburgh. My posts are below, followed by some other favourites.

My God this weather! This is the road up from The Pleasance this morning. It's neck deep down at the junction with Cowgate.

If it weren't for an impromptu bridge someone's made out of 400 chairs the Royal Mile would be totally cut off!

Good news, I've found the 400 chairs. Bad news, that guy's been up there for three hours now, he clearly had no plan for getting down. Anybody?

Anyone up for tearing down one of those 'statue' guys on the Royal Mile and chucking him in Leith Harbour?

(Ten Minutes Later) I've just emerged from the rabbit hole of scrolling down that group and, you know, you really had to be there. None of the posts, in the cold light of day, actually seem worth quoting after all. Well, it was fun while it lasted.


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