Friday 31 December 2021

My Comic Strip Review Of The Year 2021

My traditional comic strip review of the year, which I've been doing every year since 2010, was rattled off in a bit of a hurry, but I think it covers the salient points. It was very much a year of two halves, with the lockdown part being chocker full of Zoom classes and Socks shows, and the post-lockdown period being equally full of live classes and slightly fewer live Socks shows. Here are the stats:

School days - in person - 47

School days - Zoom - 57

Total school days = 104

Socks gigs - in person - 15

Socks gigs - on Zoom - 58

Total Socks gigs = 73 

Flights 1

Socks videos - 55 

(inc 7 x hour-long shows Social Club 1 & 2, Superheroes, Murder Mystery, Talking Of Changing The Subject, Minging Detectives, Eurovision)

Podcast videos - 16

It was the most diverse range of Socks gigs ever, I think. In past years we'd mostly be doing the same hour-long show, doing it 26 times at Edinburgh and a dozen times in previews, and as many times on tour, with a peppering of comedy club sets. The Zoom gigs were mostly comedy club sets, but they also included six brand new shows in the form of Burns Night (Jan), Interactive Murder Mystery (Feb), Talking Of Changing The Subject (Mar), two Social Clubs (Mar & April), and Eurovision (May). We certainly wrote a lot of new stuff in the first half of the year. Live gigs included Shakespeare, Superheroes, and Talking Of...

Details I meant to include in the strip were the kid in my Zoom class saying "Claudia Winkleman? She's my mum", some namedropping of guests in Comic Cuts The Panel Show, and maybe some more quotes of songs from the new Socks shows. But they're all somewhere in my past year's blog entries if you search for them. I usually also include the above stats as part of the cartoon, but to be honest I hadn't totted them all up till the next day. Whatever, they're recorded for posterity. Lucky old posterity. How do these stats compare with previous years?

73 Socks gigs is the most since 2013's 76 (our record is 110 in 2012)
104 days of classes is the most since 2015's 117 (103 in 2018, the record is 120 in 2014)  
55 Socks videos is beaten by 2020's 86, but never mind the quantity, have a look at the length. 7 hours worth of full length shows, that's going some. Damn, I miss being able to guarantee an audience for Zoom gigs!

Things that didn't make the comic strip, and haven't been in this blog all year, are the big domestic things that mostly revolve around the house. The house we live in which was, until the summer, troubled by the family upstairs who made life a lot harder throughout lockdown because they have two young kids who would jump up and down on, effectively, our ceiling at all hours of the day, right above where Hev was trying to work. They left in July, lifting a great weight off us. The other big story is the house we don't live in.

At my birthday party in October, the first social event we've had since the end of 2019, because lockdown, we ended up telling everyone about the new house we've bought. I say new house, it's actually a very old house. And we thought we'd be living in it by now (the first draft of our Xmas card was going to feature it). But, of course, since we jinxed it by telling everyone, things haven't gone smoothly, thanks to our buyer's buyer and the 'chain'. So, as of Dec 31st, we still don't know where we stand and, this time next year, quite where we'll be living. I'll finally write all about it when there's something I can write without jinxing anything more!

Happy New Year everyone

My Review of 2020

My Review of 2019

2018   . 2017 .  • .  2016 .  • .  2015 .  •   2014 .  • .  2013
2012   • .  2011 .  • .  2010

Buy the books:

Pop Star Colouring Annual with 50 images from 70s to now

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

Punk Colouring Book & Sales of the year

My final Colouring Book of 2021 is the Punk & New Wave Colouring Book. Another labour of love, I'm realising it appeals to such a niche market that it's possibly never going to sell worth a damn (after two days on sale it's sold one copy). But I have enjoyed doing it, as I have with all these colouring books. And looking at my sales for the past month and the whole year, the stats are fascinating.

In the month of December, the Eurovision book is the clear success story, having sold 33 copies in only a fortnight. It will be interesting to see how that progresses. Having had longer on sale, though, the 1960s book has hardly sold any. That's what makes me realise that it, and the Punk book, were done more for me than anyone else. Then when we look at the whole year's sales, we see that the 1980s book is the hit of the year. It was the fourth book I published, the first to be drawn in the line style I've stuck with, and for whatever reason it's sold 3 times as many as any other book. Is it the cover? Is it the decade? Whatever the reason, 101 sales for the 1980s book will have earned me about £250 (it's hard to say as the royalty varies, it may be more) and should, fingers crossed, continue to sell. As for my 'proper' books, the Shakespeare graphic novels, there they are at the foot of the table (with one of them, Midsummer Night's Dream Team, not having sold a copy on Amazon at all). I console myself that, at live events, the Shakespeare books have been the big sellers (see below). Let's see how this all continues in the new year.

Amazon sales Dec 1 - 31 2021

Eurovision (pub Dec 14) - 33

1960s Pop Stars (pub Dec 9)  - 6 

Punk & New Wave (pub Dec 28) - 1

1980s Pop Stars - 47 (total 101)

1970s Pop Bumper  - 27 (total 38)

2020s Pop Stars - 24 (total 37)

1990s Pops Stars - 11 (total 20)

Pop Stars Annual - 10 (total 18)

1970s Pop Original - 6 (total 25)

Total Amazon sales Jan 1 - Dec 31 2021

1980s Pop Stars - 101

1970s Pop Bumper  - 38

2020s Pop Stars - 37

Eurovision (pub Dec 14) - 33

1970s Pop Original - 25

1990s Pops Stars - 20

Pop Stars Annual - 18

Halloween Colouring Book 1 - 14

1960s Pop Stars (pub Dec 9)  - 6 

Action Blank Comic Book - 5

Halloween Colouring Book 2 - 5

Halloween Blank Comic Book - 3

Super Blank Comic Book - 3

Findlay Macbeth - 2

Prince Of Denmark St - 2

Cute Blank Comic Book - 1

Punk & New Wave (pub Dec 28) - 1

Convention Sales (Clevedon, Coventry, Lakes, Thought Bubble, credit card sales only)

Midsummer Night's Dream Team - 49

Findlay Macbeth - 44

Prince Of Denmark Street - 44

Colouring Books - 20

Wallop Annual - 2

Buy the books:

Pop Star Colouring Annual with 50 images from 70s to now

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

Saturday 25 December 2021

Merry Christmas From Hev, Kev & Tadpole

 Merry Christmas everyone, from Hev, Kev and Tadpole.

A story comes with it. Tadpole is our cat. And he's sort of been our cat for the last 12 years, except he wasn't ours, he belonged to Annie & Tony next door. We never fed him, but he'd come round to ours all the time. Then, when they sold next door and were about to move, we bit the bullet and asked if we could adopt him. They nearly bit our hands off. Of course the chance to pass on a needy food-devouring monster, who's 15 years old and about to cost us tons in vets bills, was an offer they couldn't refuse.
So Tadpole, nee George, has been officially our cat since February 2021 and can, for the first time, appear on our Christmas card. He's doing a colouring book, cos that was my big thing recently.
A Happy New Year when it comes.

2017 - Kev F comic card, the Socks' card
2016 - Kev F comic card, the Socks' Shakespeare card
2015 - Kev F comic card, the Socks' Minging Detectives card
2014 - teasers for mine & the Socks' cards, I failed to put the finished things online!
2013 - Kev F schools card, the Socks don't seem to have had one
2012 - Hev & Kev's fairytale card (a classic, above), Kev F schools card,
2011 - Hev & Kev's and the Socks cards
2010 - Hev & Kev's card (below), and Kev F comic card

Buy the books:

Pop Star Colouring Annual with 50 images from 70s to now

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

Friday 24 December 2021

TV OF THE YEAR 2021 - The Top Ten

 TV OF THE YEAR 2021 - The Top Ten

Remember these are only my opinions, and chances are you, dear reader, saw a totally different range of TV to choose from. But here are what I thought the ten most notable TV shows of the year. Following, of course, the…


These shows are such staples, and of such consistent quality, that I never feel like putting them in the chart. Yet we never miss a single episode of any of these, nor would we:

Strictly Come Dancing

Richard Osman’s House Of Games

University Challenge

Only Connect


10 - Post Mortem: No One Dies In Skarnes (Netflix)

I have yet to find anyone else who’s watched this. It was a little gem, a Norwegian thriller, which looked from the start that it was just going to be a crime procedural, then very quickly took a turn for the slightly quirky. And comedic too, a refreshing variation on quite a few themes. The second year in a row there’s been a Norwegian show in my top twenty.

9 - Dollface (Star/Disney+)

Until I saw her in WandaVision, I didn’t think I’d even seen Kat Dennings. Turns out she’s been in the Marvel movies since Thor a dozen years ago, and was in a sitcom we never saw called 2 Broke Girls. This comedy drama, with brilliant layers of surrealism and fourth-wall-breaking meta stuff, was a total delight. Being made with the kind of budget you get with Disney shows (though this is Star, whatever the difference is, in fact wikipedia says it’s Hulu) it seems unfair to try comparing it with shows made for a tenth of the budget. But that’s what I just did, into the top ten it goes. 

8 - Only Murders In The Building (Star/Disney+)

Another Hulu/Star/Disney series with a movie-sized budget (so unfair, sorry normal telly), this was the best bit of comedy crime drama writing, with fabulous turns from Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, and a perfect balance of fun and twisty plot. Also it centred around a podcast, and this was the year I did a podcast, so up the chart it shoots.

7 - Unforgotten (1 - 4) (ITV)  (v) Line Of Duty 6 (BBC)

Let me make it clear, Line Of Duty is not in my Top Ten. I thought it was a parody of its former self, and would have relegated it to the Lost It section of my chart, save that I wanted to make a point. And the point I want to make is how much better Unforgotten was. They were both screening at the same time early in 2021: series 6 of Line Of Duty and series 4 of Unforgotten, the latter of which we’d never seen before. They are both crime procedurals, and they both have a formula of sorts. But whereas LOD was being raved about, and getting the highest ratings live TV had seen for years, Unforgotten was, well, forgotten. But whereas Line Of Duty’s once-interesting characters (who we knew well, having blitzed all five previous series again in 2020) had now become reduced to little but cyphers delivering plot points peppered with risible catchphrases, Unforgotten was about realistic characters dealing with the struggles of life as well as the mechanism of their crime story. Nicola Walker’s character was the strongest of leads, and the direction and writing allowed for some proper acting from all concerned. 

The formula of Unforgotten, we discovered once we went on to watch series 1 to 3, is repeated every time like clockwork. A body is found, the cold case investigation starts, there are 5 key suspects all apparently unconnected, there’s an episode where everyone is asked “do you think there’s something you should be telling me?”, then the plots twist and, best of all, the one whodunnit is never the one you were thinking. 

Series 5 of Unforgotten is on the cards and I hope it keeps up the quality. Line Of Duty could learn a lot from it, but I doubt it’s bothered.

6 - Pen15
(Hulu / Sky Comedy)

Until I started writing this, I didn’t know 3 of my Top Ten were made by Hulu. Hu knew? This self-described cringe comedy, of which we have only seen a series and a half so far, is the best capturing of the angst of being a teenager for years. Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play their 13 year old selves and, as well as telling great stories that are as painful to watch as they are brilliant, they also experiment with the form. The way the behind-the-scenes staging of a school show turns into a dance routine is hard to describe and truly wonderful. And there’s an episode done entirely as animation. Okay, as soon as I try describing Pen15 to anyone who’s not seen it, I find I’m describing things that have been done in Community and Bob’s Burgers and Miranda and The Office. But trust me, it’s it’s own show, and a gem of one.

5 = Wanda Vision + Loki (Disney+)

I could not feel more guilty for putting this in a chart up against shows made on a BBC budget. One episode of Loki probably costs more than the whole last ten series of Doctor Who. It’s just unfair. However these TV shows, made with the budget of blockbuster cinema releases, have spent the money well, and that includes on scripts as well as special effects. It is to their credit that I didn’t know a fraction of the stuff they were referencing from the comics, and it didn’t matter. WandaVision did a metatextual retake of the history of sitcom while also giving the audience a challenging puzzle to chew through, before developing into more of a familiar superhero drama, but one full of viral moments, easter eggs and memes that made it the most important thing on TV at the time. Loki, for its part, just did all the things that Doctor Who wishes it had thought of and did them better than Doctor Who could afford to do. Two brilliantly entertaining shows that probably set the bar for what’s to follow.

4 - Lupin (Dans L’Ombre D’Arsene) (Netflix)

What do you know, a second foreign language show in my top ten? This time it’s French, and a splendid little find. Inspired by the Arsene Lupin books of 100 years ago that I’d never heard of but that are massive in France (the French Sherlock Holmes, so they say), the show created a string of brilliant heist plots, every one full of splendidly unpredictable twists and satisfying resolutions. It held its series-long story arc together better than most, and bodes well for the promised second series. Again it’s the Netflix budget that helped it to be so good, but the idea running underneath it is very strong. 

3 - Taskmaster (1-12 + NZ) (Channel 4 / Dave/ Avalon)

A game show? In the top ten? Surely this should be in the Honourable Mentions or Sequels? And it will be next sure, I’m sure. But the thing is, I managed to not discover Taskmaster, or to watch it properly, till the end of 2020. At which point Hev and I went back and watched every series in order and got totally hooked. It’s just the funniest game show, with a level or originality that hasn’t been seen for a while, and quite a challenging ambition in the formats conceived of by Alex Horne. Crossing over to Channel 4 at the end of 2020, the series lengthened, and the confidence of the participants and presenters grew. They maintain great apparent camaraderie while always making the games involving for the viewer as well as being potentially humiliating for the candidates, but never crass or exploitative. It’s like It’s A Knockout without the  nonces. We were so desperate for our feed of Taskmaster that we then took to watching the New Zealand series, available on Youtube, which wasn’t quite as good, but wasn’t bad. We tried watching a Danish and a Swedish episode, but to be honest couldn’t work out what the hell was happening. It’s still an amazing franchise though, and deserves being remarked upon as one of the most original TV formats of the decade.

2 - Resident Alien (Syfy / Sky)

This was a joy. The fact that it’s adapted from a comic book is just a bonus. I’ve not actually read the original comic (by Steve Parkhouse, and writer Peter Hogan who was good enough to join me on my podcast this year) and that’s irrelevant. What Syfy have ended up making is that hardest of things, a family friendly comedy drama. No swearing, no nudity, none of the cheap shots you can get away with on streaming shows. We have an inclusive cast, including Native American central characters, and we have an alien, who’s come to earth and having to pass himself off as human, One part Mork & Mindy, one part Northern Exposure, it’s perfectly balanced and a total delight. That it’s not at the top end of everyone’s TV of the year is a travesty. Or, you might say…

1 - It’s A Sin (Channel 4)

As I come to the top of my chart and realise that, for the first time ever, my Top Ten doesn’t include a single BBC programme, I console myself that the author of this year’s favourite flits between channels, and that his next show will be another BBC show. And his show after the show after next will be bloody Doctor Who! How amazing is that? Until then, though, this was his production for 2021, made back in 2019 but, presciently, dealing with a nation facing up to a pandemic. Russell T Davies’ It’s A Sin is a marvel of television.

Its historic reconstruction of the 1980s was chilling, capturing not just the superficial appearance - and the sound track - but the mood of the meeting. A society in which gay kids were, at best, ignored, and at the very least misunderstood, turned into a world where they were feared and shunned, thanks to the most terrifying and mysterious illness. It’s A Sin is a horror movie with an invisible monster lurking in the shadows, while also being a laugh out loud comedy where ordinary people are trying to live ordinary lives, sometimes their only worry being that they’re too fabulous for their own good. When the inexplicable plague comes into everyone’s lives, the way everything changes is all too real and consumes everyone.

I can’t describe so many of its great moments for fear of spoilers. If you can watch It’s A Sin with dry eyes you’re a harder-hearted soul than me. The magic Russell T Davies can perform with characters on the screen has never been more impressive than this.

So there you have it, my Top TV of 2021, spread across a few blogs, feel free to disagree. Now, I wonder what delights 2022 holds...

My Top TV of 2021 Part 1 - Lost It, Just Crime?, Made In Bristol

My Top TV of 2021 Part 2 - Sequels & 20 to 11

My Top TV Of 2020

My Top TV of... 2019   2018 •  2017 • 2016 • 2015 • 2014 • 2013 • 2011 • 2009

Buy the books:

Pop Star Colouring Annual with 50 images from 70s to now

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show
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