Sunday, 27 February 2022

Defender Of The Fridge - more comics by kids


This week's travels have taken me up to Lancashire, over to Yorkshire, and down to Ruislip. Oh, and one class done from the back room.

Nearly two week later I hadn't finished writing this blog post. As you'll see from the surrounding posts, this is because, in the intervening time, we moved house, with all the upheaval that entails. I now find I can't remember a thing about these classes!


Colne is in Lancashire, I can tell you that much. And they came up with a couple of nifty titles, so well done them.


West Craven is also in Lancashire, I think, and they also came up with good titles. I'm so sorry, I wish I could remember more.


I can tell you that these strips are from a library in Ruislip, and that the two extra covers you can see in the montage at the top of the blog are from Baildon Belles, a Womens Institute grab who had me in to do my class on the night between the two Lancashire schools, and the other is from a special class I did on Zoom for a select group of just four kids. Did I mention I've been busy?


The celebrities these eight groups suggested, to appear in my demonstration strip, were Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne The Rock Johnson (twice), Vladimir Putin,  Lebron James, Tom Holland, and Rick Astley (I fear I didn't make a note of who Baildon Belles chose).


Friday, 18 February 2022

Adventures Of A Bum - comics by kids at Bexley Libraries

My thanks to the good people of Bexley Libraries for organising three days of Comic Art Masterclasses visits, to six different libraries across their catchment area through the week of Half Term. They've ended up with the kids suggesting titles for half a dozen brilliant comic covers. As always, they take away an A5 black and white photocopied comic containing all of their strips, their caricatures, and this cover drawn by me, with doodles by them. I then colour the covers when I get home, and these get emailed to them.


Bexleyheath and Sidcup libraries started the week well, with well attended class and some nifty titles.



It's a testament to their organisation, that all six of these libraries, which were no more than a 15 minute drive inbetween, were equipped with flipcharts and pads, had well laid out tables and chairs for all the kids, and had provided all the materials we needed. They even had identical photocopiers that all worked perfectly. It's a rare week in libraries that you get all of those things.



It was also good to drive round bits of the country that I hadn't seen before (or if I had, having been to Erith & Bexleyheath before, I'd forgotten). These towns are on the border of Kent and South East London and, as a result, I was seeing a lot of those bits where the city ends and you see the countryside beginning. 

The celebrities these six groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were The Queen, Boris Johnson, Ariana Grande (twice), Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, and Selena Gomez.


Buy the books:


Top 20 David Bowie

Top 20 Scottish Pop

Top 20 Rom Coms

Top 20 80s Pop Superstars

Top 20 Christmas Movies

Queens Of Pop


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


Sunday, 13 February 2022

Socks Eurovision at Leicester 3 times (we heard you the first time)

No, I don't know why there's a mural of the last supper on the wall of Kayal now. It's dated 2020 and definitely wasn't there last time we played here. Whatever, the Socks couldn't be more delighted to be back at the Leicester Comedy Festival after the inevitable cancellation of 2021. Our last live appearance before lockdown (on a proper stage, we actually did a party in Margate afterwards) was LCF 2020, and now we signal the return to normality by previewing a new Edinburgh show at the Kayal in Leicester. We're doing three shows, at time of writing we've done two. Here's how they went.


It was billed as The New Show, with me having had no idea what I'd do way back at the end of last year when I put it in the programme. In reality, I've ended up doing the Eurovision Sock Contest. 

Friday night had an advance audience of 14, but I think we ended up with nearer 30. On Saturday advance sales were 64, so we ended up with pretty well a sellout. (Last time I looked, Sunday's 2pm show was standing at 2 advance sales). 

Friday's show went very much from the script we'd used for the two online versions of the show in 2021 (May & August), with the addition of the Postcodes routine (so we could reference BGT) and a few other tweaks. The show went well, but I felt the script needed tightening. So, on Saturday afternoon, I rewrote the script, got a new printout done at hotel reception and worked with that. 

The big changes between Friday and Saturday's script were: Deep C Diva, the Austro-Hungarian contestant, originally had the character of a racist politician. These gags just fell flat, and indeed just sounded racist. So I wrote her a new routine which is just a string of plastic surgery gags. That made a big difference. The second big change was the running order of the 7 songs. On both nights we open with Jonny Forrina (France), then Sexiblond (Scandinavia), and Dekonstructivist Kollectiv (Germany). On Friday it then went 4: Graham Norton (Ireland), 5: Azerbicurious (East Bloc), 6: Fine Fare (UK), and 7: Deep C Diva (Austro Hungary). 

For Saturday I changed it to 4: East Bloc, 5: Ireland, 6: Austro Hungary, 7: UK. This separated out the two Northern accents of East Bloc & UK (one's supposed to be Manchester, and one Yorkshire, but I bet I'm the only one who can tell them apart) and left the, supposed, best till last. The UK's Stick Your Brexit Up Your Arse had been the outright winner on Friday (and on the two online versions).

The great news was that we now got a better spread of good reactions for the songs across the board, and when it came to the audience vote at the end (done on audience response, guaged by the Gnome playing Graham Norton moving along the top of the set) the results were really close. Saturday's result was a 3-way tie between Deep C Diva's Ignore The Song, Azerbicurious's East Bloc People, and the ad lib song.

Ah yes, the Ad Lib Song. That'll be a big variable in every show. Between songs 4 & 5, we get the audience to name a country that's not in the contest, and we adlib a song from their suggestions. On Friday we did Australia, to the tune of Neighbours (getting good laughs from the topical fact that Neighbours has just been cancelled this week). And on Saturday we did Wales, to the tune of Manic Street Preachers' Design For Life. If we can keep that feature working, it's a good part of the show.

Saturday's show was a much tightened improvement on Friday's. We'll see how an audience-lite Sunday show goes. I've now confirmed that we'll be playing a shorter Edinburgh run this year, because of the (hopeful) house move, from the 3rd to 14th August, at 4.45 in the afternoon. Eurovision Sock Contest it is, it'll go in the programme next week.

UPDATE: Sunday's show ended up with 30 in. But, at 2 in the afternoon, they weren't quite as voluble. A good test of the material, which needs tightening to make sure there are laughs for even the toughest crowds. The improv song was Costa Rica, done to a cod-Tango tune and a definite high point. Good reactions to all songs, the UK won, with Austro-Hungary and the East Bloc tying for second.




Friday, 11 February 2022

Nun That Killed Your Mum - first kids comics of the year

The return to schools in 2022 has been slightly slower than last year, and I've not done a big email shout out to schools, which I often do at this time. So January was quiet, but February in my diary is chocker. Let's see how it builds. We've got off, creatively at least, to a good start, with front covers produced by kids in Reading and Wythall near Birmingham.


Abbey Juniors in Reading is one of many that had had me in, in real life, before the pandemic, and had me on Zoom this time last year. It was good to mark a return to normality by teaching Year 6 in person. They come up with a pair of perfectly random titles. Bananna is so spelled because it was based on a kid called Anna, and I never got to the foot of quite what a £2 Mum might be.


Woodrush High was a first time school, who found me, I think, as a result of those emails I send out at the start of the year. Reminds me, I should get round to doing those again. I'd just been colouring the Enigma Variations strip when I produced these, which meant the colouring I added to them when I came home was quicker and more confident than it sometimes is. I often find I get out of the swing of doing any one of my various skills, be it writing or colouring, or coming up with ideas for the Socks. And then when I start, I don't want to do anything else. So, when I came home from this school I was still enjoying colouring. That mood will fade I'm sure.


For the second of my two days at Woodrush, working with years 7 & 8, it looked like it was turning into a domestic violence-themed week of comics, after we'd smacked someone's nan and then killed their mum! I was pleased with the Nun cover.


Woodrush year 8s had been doing work on the history of comics, they all had scrapbook pages they'd produced. And, unfortunately, they'd been working from a Youtube video which was, of course, just the history of American comics, mostly superheroes but including EC. So, when it came to drawing my flipchart page to leave them with, I threw in as many of the strips they'd missed out as I had time for: Asterix, Tintin, Maus, Snoopy, Naruto, Judge Dredd and The Beano. I really ought to produce a concise history of comics for schools.

The celebrities these six groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip, which I do every time, are I think pretty representative of the names that will end up at the top of the list, if I get round to compiling it at the end of the year: Simon Cowell (twice. He was most popular choice 2013-2015, and 2nd since), Donald Trump (most popular choice 2016 - 2020), Snoop Dogg, Kim Kardashian, and Dwayne The Rock Johnson.



Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Writing that bloody crime novel.

 

Remember way back in September Tony Lee said we all ought to write crime novels, cos they were a way of making money from your writing? Well, finally this week, I started.

I'd written a plot back in November, featuring my insurance claims adjuster character called Underwriter Hogg.  But I wasn't happy with the plot, that seemed a little complicated, and couldn't get round to start writing it.

Then on Friday 4th Feb I started writing a new one. I wrote, at the top of the Word document, "Made up as I went along version" and just started making shit up as I went.

Last night, Tuesday, I went to the pub with Steve and told him how I'd already written 7500 words. Tonight, at 5pm on Wednesday, I've written 15,148 words. All just made up as I go along. I only have the vaguest idea of how the rest of the plot's going to develop as I'm writing it. And I'm sure I'm going to paint myself into a corner and be unable to finish the thing satisfactorily.

But two key things stick in my mind from "The Tony Lee Speech" which he gave me back in September. It only has to be 70,000 words long. And - and this was the kicker - "it doesn't have to be well written."

So far I am definitely fulfilling one of those criteria. Now I just have to see if I can spin this nonsense out for another 53,852 words and let's see whether this becomes the start of my publishing empire (in precisely the way that the colouring books, on which I wasted three months, and which currently sell between one and four copies a day, sometimes none, wasn't).

And why have I chosen that picture from Findlay Macbeth at the top of the page? When and if I finish this first novel, hopefully all will become clear.


UPDATES

Fri 11. Car into garage Wednesday, School Thursday, less than an hour's writing Friday. 15,865 words.

Weds 16. First bit of writing in a week, in my hotel room in Dartford, between schools, 8.30 - 10.30 at night. 17,488 words.

Fri 18. Classes cancelled by storm, but blown-down fences and other stuff distracting. 18,888 words. Plus an extra half hour at night, 19,293 words.

Sun 20. A day of writing (storm outside) but more thinking than writing done. 21,574 words.

Mon 21. Busy with house moving news, squeezed a tiny bit of writing in. 22,626 words.

Tues 22, 6pm. 24,674. 8pm 25,484.

Weds 23. Tiny bit of writing (the Decree Nisi scene, inserted early on in the book) before setting off to overnight stay in Lancashire. 26,015. 9pm, a brief scribble in my hotel room. 26,400



Buy the books:


Top 20 David Bowie

Top 20 Scottish Pop

Top 20 Rom Coms

Top 20 80s Pop Superstars

Top 20 Christmas Movies

Queens Of Pop


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




Thursday, 3 February 2022

Enigma Variations - new comic strip


Well, this one took long enough to finish, but finish it I have. Today I finally finished colouring and delivered the seven page strip Enigma Variations, which should appear in John Jackson & Brian Clarke's Spitfire Annual later this year. Following the success of last year's Space Elain it is, sadly once more, not a paying strip, done as a labour of love. But a reminder that I can still do full colour comic strips like I once did for a living back in the day, and it's another one that I'm quite proud of.

I've managed to get a wartime spy comedy romp into seven crammed pages, including my new character Enigma, Winston Churchill, and even The Balls Pond Banditti, a group of kids who first appeared in Larks comic in 1893. They are, I'm pretty sure, out of copyright now. 

I began this strip back in September, at the time of the Meanwhile Festival in Coventry, when I also doodled the front cover while in conversation with John. I managed to get that drawn only a few weeks later, and got the script for Enigma scribbled out, but could I find the time to draw it?


I had Enigma's 7 pages pencilled in the run up to Thought Bubble in Harrogate in November, and took it with me, intending to ink it in my hotel rooms after the various schools I was doing that week. But, of course, I wrote and drew a Punk & New Wave Colouring Book instead. (To be fair, that's sold about half a dozen copies, so it's earned me nearly fifteen quid, which is more than I'm getting for this strip). 

I would dearly love to make money from the comic strips I'm able to write and draw now, as I'm pretty sure they knock spots off the stuff I was doing 30 years ago in Gas and The Damage, but sadly I'm unable to get paying gigs in The Beano at the moment, I've never beaten down the walls of the Phoenix comic, and I doubt I'm fresh and sexy enough for any of the publishers out there who are making comics that actually sell. My graphic novels do okay at conventions, when I sell them myself, so maybe that'll have to do for the time being.

Publishers out there, I'm still here, and this is the stuff I do. Just saying.


Buy the books:


Top 20 David Bowie

Top 20 Scottish Pop

Top 20 Rom Coms

Top 20 80s Pop Superstars

Top 20 Christmas Movies

Queens Of Pop


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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