Tuesday 31 October 2023

Quizzer & Chips & other stories - October's musings

Oct 1: Not to blow our own trumpet , but my team only went and won the @jenny_from_the_quiz pub quiz last night at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival
We were Helen Quigley, Andrew Sewell, John Freeman and me - Quizzer and Chips


Oct 5: Richard The Third - the Shakespeare graphic novel for fans of Dogman and Bunny vs Monkey - is available to order on Amazon now!

Oct 7: Loved: last night’s episode 1 of Ghosts final series
Hate: that the whole series has been dumped, as one, on iPlayer. This means the whole “party watch” once-a-week, must-see rendezvous nature of the show has been lost. The “water cooler discussing the recent episode” experience has been destroyed. The once a week podcast has been rendered futile.
And we have to, either, avoid spoilers for six weeks or gobble the whole series down like a toddler who finds the Christmas chocolates, with the inevitable disappointment this will bring.
Meanwhile Disney are releasing Loki, Only Murders, and The Bear as weekly episodes, because they know the value of audience-building, extending awareness, and viewer experience for broad-appeal shows.
I notice they haven’t dumped the whole series of Have I Got News For You though. Someone must know where the bodies are buried. (Or how time works).


Oct 6: Gosh Loki 2.1 was a bit poor wasn’t it?
What happened to the magic of the first series? That was all maguffin and no drama.
Pretty pictures though, I’ll give it that


Oct 9 (re article about the Frasier reboot):

“…there were three networks and 30 great comedy writers. Now we have 500 networks and 30 great comedy writers.”
Nice James Burrows interview, with good points on future of sitcom. The “theatre with a camera pointing at it” he has excelled in, with a live studio audience, now seems such a legacy product.
Emerged in the 50s, flourished in the 70s, had a second golden age in the 90s, but now seems a slightly odd thing.
Frasier ended just as The Office started, along with shows like Parks & Rec, and Malcolm In The Middle. What was once called Comedy Drama, because it had no laugh track, gradually became the new norm for sitcom. Now, with leading examples from Ghosts to Superstore, Brooklyn 99 to What We Do In The Shadows, who would ever bring a live audience back into the studio?

Oct 11 (Labour Party Conference):

Not saying it was a feeble protest, but Motsi has more dust blowing behind her every week on Strictly
Still, nice to see they’re keeping Ed Miliband busy


Oct 18: I'm not sure if this is good or not, but I'm choosing to believe it is. Richard The Third is currently #149 in Comic Book Adaptations of Classics for Children on Amazon
Well, I was impressed.

(Update: It rose as high as 40 at one point)


Oct 19: A Haunting In Venice fares poorly at box office

I know I keep sharing these "box office disaster" stories. Can we just conclude that, before 2020, lots of people went to the cinema, and that, since 2020 (for reasons no-one can explain), a lot fewer people are going to the cinema?
It's not the films' fault (though, obviously, it draws attention to films that are over-expensive to make, and ones that maybe were never all that good in the first place), it's just the way things are now.
So the bigger question is what do we do next? Do we champion lower budget movies, and use this as an incentive to emphasise new writing and novel ways of film making (like happened in the early 70s)? Do we relish our heyday of small-screen viewing (as also happened in the mid 70s)? Or do we re-invent the blockbuster again (like in the late 70s) and then invent some new technology that looks like it'll kill cinema for good but accidentally ends up reviving it (like we did at the end of the 70s with VHS)?
My prediction: More expensive streaming. I am so shortsighted I can't see another solution in the short term. Who can see something better?

 On my tour of schools in the North, up to and down from the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, I’ve been sending Hev photos of my occasionally subterranean hotel rooms, if only to stop her being jealous of my exotic travels.

The wide angle lens may not do justice to just how bijou some of these rooms are.


Oct 20: Steph's Packed Lunch cancelled

So, whither Steph McGovern now?
Once upon a time, if you defected from the BBC there was no coming back. Who remembers the fate of The Goodies, Morecambe and Wise, and poor old Simon Dee? But that was a long time ago.
So, who can we think of who’s left a lofty position at the Beeb, gone to ITV, Sky or whoever, but has then returned to the fold?
Or, in these days of monetisable podcasts and YouTube channels, does it not matter any more and she’s better off out in the wilderness?


Oct 24: Currently watching Poltergeist. It is so very obviously, and characteristically, a Spielberg movie, it’s hard to imagine how anyone has ever thought anything else.

Watched the excellent The Fabelmans last night. And realised, from the big movie tip the kid gets, that I learned everything I know from watching Spielberg films:
"When the horizon is at the top, it's interesting. When it's on the bottom, it's interesting. When it's in the middle, it's boring as shit!"


Oct 24: Blimey, isn’t Boiling Point good?
It’s the most dramatic drama of all the shows we’re watching at the mo. The actors are so real and the emotions so gripping. It’s reminding me that I’m watching a lot of stuff that’s a lot more superficial , showy. And I guess quite a lot is a bit American, in an insincere way.
It’s got a lot in common with The Bear, though I’ve got to say I find that a bit shouty and macho in comparison.

This, Loki, is now officially the worst written TV show we’re currently watching
A little research tells me it’s because season 2 has a new showrunner, who wrote 1 ep of the excellent season one, but has proved to be America’s own Chibnall.
The good news is that the excellent season 1’s showrunner is now writing for… Doctor Who!
Doctor Who 1 - Loki 0
Update: My mistake. Michael Waldron was the showrunner of Loki 1, who has been replaced by the less good Eric Martin. Sadly Waldron isn't moving to Doctor Who. He's writing the next Avengers movie.
Update: I’m being unfair to Chris Chibnall who, for all his problems with exposition and his inability to resolve a plot, devotes a lot of time to developing characters, and he writes a lot of humour that he doesn’t get enough credit for. I’ll say it now, Chris Chibnall is a better writer and showrunner than Eric Martin.

Oct 28: Congratulations to Heather Tweed for her brilliant talk at the Music Hall Society Conference today. Superstar.


Oct 29: Very sad news about the death of Matthew Perry. If only Friends was being rerun somewhere, anywhere.
Could that be any more inappropriate?


Oct 30: Re article on Friends and death of Matthew Perry

“It’s hard not to mourn, along with the actor, the spirit of the 90s, with its relentless optimism and comically low stakes”
Really? Am I the only person who’s nostalgic, not for some Spirit of the Age, but for my own personal experiences and being younger?
For me the 90s was the biggest mixed bag of highs and lows (I started the decade working professionally in comics for the first time, and a few years later had had the business collapse around me and spent a while selling double glazing. NB Things improved later.)
I don’t remember “comically low stakes”, I remember thinking I’d have to declare myself bankrupt at one time. I don’t remember “relentless optimism”, I remember working for Marvel when they actually did file for bankruptcy and I ended up out of work again.
Could this article *be* any less about me. So, how you doing?
(Friends catchphrases. I’m doing Friends catchphrases.)


Oct 31: Thanks to the fabulous punters of Canterbury Festival last night for giving us a brilliant sellout show (sounded like a sellout to us). Eurovision with extra added Halloween, great fun.

My Books and where to get them:

Findlay Macbeth - Amazon  - Etsy 
Prince Of Denmark Street - Amazon - Etsy 
Midsummer Nights Dream Team  - Amazon Etsy 
Shakespeare Omnibus Collection (all 3 books) - Amazon

Richard The Third Amazon - Etsy

Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy 
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon 
Captain Clevedon - Amazon

Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  

Thursday 26 October 2023

Richard The Third is here

Good news, all you lovely Richard The Third sponsors, the books have arrived from my marvellous printer Stuart Gould. Here's a video of me 'unboxing' them:

Now I have the fun task of packaging them dispatching them to you all. Brace yourselves, they'll be with you soon. As soon as I can manage.

If you'd like to recommend the book to friends, they can order signed copies at £6.99 each direct from me here

Or, if they're in some far flung corner of the world (where postage would be prohibitive) they can get the Amazon edition at £8.99 (but probably with free postage) here

And I can announce, with some amazement, that on pre-orders alone Richard The Third is currently.....
No 40 in Comic Book Adaptations of Classics for Children
358 in Fiction Comics & Graphic Novels for Young Adults
362 in Fiction Classics for Young Adults

Not bad eh? And all thanks to you. Watch your mailboxes next week.

Kev F

My Books and where to get them:

Richard The Third Amazon - Etsy

Findlay Macbeth - Amazon  - Etsy 
Prince Of Denmark Street - Amazon - Etsy 
Midsummer Nights Dream Team  - Amazon Etsy 
Shakespeare Omnibus Collection (all 3 books) - Amazon

Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy 
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon 
Captain Clevedon - Amazon

Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Ho ho ho - fun with a social media check

Can you spot anything wrong with the post, above, about me colouring my Story Of Joseph strip for Bible Society, back in 2018? Me neither. But I'll tell you who did find a problem with it. A company called Social Media Check.

You may recall, way back in January 2022, I appeared, with my Scottish Falsetto Socks, on Britain's Got Talent. Or rather I didn't. I filmed my audition on the stage of the London Palladium in January, our photo appeared in the launch publicity in March, and then, after a few months, it was clear that our appearance wasn't going to be broadcast. I naturally put this down to our performance not having been that great, and thought no more about it.

Until this week when, for various reasons, I remembered that back in March 2022 I'd been sent the results of a check that had been run on my social media, for Thames TV, by Social Media Check. And I wondered, could that have had anything to do with the decision not to broadcast our performance? So I looked again at the results. They came in two documents. The first was my Social Media Certificate.

It states, under Overall Risk Assessment, "Online Behaviourial Risks: Found" (above).

It then goes on to identify four categories. In Online Communication it reports "any findings within Swearing & Profanity and Consistently Negative Sentiment" and says that the  "Findings within this section were identified as potential risks and the original material signposted within the Digital Risk Assessment for review."

It does the same for Cyber Conduct, identifying Hate Speech and Banned or Proscribed Groups; for Personality Risks, identifying online trolling and verbal abuse; and for Digital Behaviour, identifying "pornographic and lewd content". In all four sections it says I have posts that are identified as potential risks.

In short, this Social Media Certificate makes me out to be some kind of cross between Gary Glitter and Osama Bin Laden.

I wasn't sure these results could be trusted. So, having let the thing lie in a drawer for 18 months, I checked out some of the links that were given in the accompanying document, the detailed Social Media Check Report. This broke down the fact that it had looked at my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, had examined 23,066 posts (rather helpfully telling me these had been viewed 161,462 times), and found 868 of these to have 'findings'. This, they said, was 4% of my posts.

4% problematic might not sound all that bad, but it still had me worried. I was being accused of using Hate Speech and posting pornographic content. And I was being accused in a formal document that had been paid for by, and sent to, a potential employer - who ended up not employing me.

Above you'll see, from the linking image in the PDF, that the Social Media Check Report clears me of any Negative Sentiment or Violent Images. This is ironic, given the thoughts I was having, already, towards Social Media Check.

I looked first at Potential Nudity. There was just one post in this section. Brace yourselves for it, it's a bit of a shocker. I was sharing a headline and a photo from The Guardian, and accompanying it with a rather funny joke I thought. And here is that "potentially nude" photograph...

Yes, you're right. It is a picture of Boris Johnson's face. This is the item of "potential nudity" that led Social Media Check to alert my potential employers at Thames TV that I was an Online Behavioural Risk. I felt the rest of the document merited exploration.

Under Hate Speech they had included the following link (and others similar) highlighting the word "Pansy". This post, and the others, were related to the fact I was writing and drawing the strip Pansy Potter in Beano comic at the time.

Also in Hate Speech they had included every time I have used the word "loon". Loon is an affectionate term for a small child in Aberdeen. I am from Aberdeen.

Also in Hate Speech they had included every time I have used the word "Nazi" in a post about a news story. Even though, on every occasion, I am being critical of Nazis. Somehow this has been counted against me.

Also in Hate Speech they had included this post and selected the word "chink" from the phrase "chink in the armour". I would suggest they are being the racists there.

Also in Hate Speech they had included this post (pictured below) suggesting it uses the word "ching" in it twice. Where do I begin? Firstly I would have to ask whether "ching" is even a word, let alone an offensive word. Secondly I would have to point out that their system has misread the image which featured only the words "clutching" and "aching" from which the system has made new words, then decided that they were offensive.

Also in Hate Speech they had included this post (and others similar) where they suggest I have used a word I have not used and that does not appear anywhere in the post. In this instance they suggest the word "coon" appears. It does not. The system has mis-read the word "cool".

Under Swearing and Profanity they had included this post (and others similar) highlighting the word "cock". The system has misread, from an image, the word "sock" which appears many times, being the title of my comedy show The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre.

This is a mention of the Morecambe and Wise writers, Sid and Dick (you can guess which word is flagged as offensive). Similarly they'd flagged up a word from the name of Buster comic character Clever Dick, singled out part of the name Dick Van Dyke, and there was also a reference to the comic character Desert Island Dick, but I'd already removed that one myself.

Then we come to the Ho's. Oh, so many Ho's.

This became the most hilarious part of the search, as I went through the Social Media Report to find dozens of instances where Social Media Report's bots had identified the word "ho" - which they are under the delusional belief that a middle-aged white man living in Wales has ever used to describe anything other than a gardening implement - and in every instance they have identified something totally inoffensive, or not even that word:

This is a reference to the film director Bong Joon Ho.
This is a post in Italian, where ho means "I have".
This post contains the word "ho" - as part of the word "psycHOtic"
This post contains the word "ho" as part of the logo of The PHOenix comic.
Other posts include laughing pirates (see above), and Santa Claus, and indeed me laughing at something, or echoing the Seven Dwarves' "Hi Ho". 
Here, if you want to research them yourself, are the other instances of "Ghost Hoes" that I was researching when, mysteriously, I had to stop.

I had to stop searching on Tuesday afternoon when, inexplicably, the posts in question suddenly disappeared from Facebook. Posts I'd searched earlier had suddenly become unavailable, as had posts in the Social Media Check Report that I had still to look at.

This was very suspicious, and I have asked Social Media Check whether they had anything to do with the posts' disappearance. They haven't replied and, by Wednesday morning, the posts have returned to Facebook.

There are more instances I can tell you about from this erroneous document, for example this post, which says it contains the word "ass" (it doesn't); this one, of many, that says it contains the word "cock" (it doesn't); this one, of very many, which thinks it has the word "shit" in, but has in fact imagined the word after seeing the last letter of "year's" and the first letter of "hit" in the phrase "last year's hit show"; this post which has the word “Beaver” singled out as swearing, in a cartoon of the animal, the beaver; and this which misreads the word “titles” as “tities” which, I assume, is how it thinks I’d spell “titties”.

Amusing as these findings are, they are of course serious. This document was sent to a potential employer, who commissioned it in order to find whether a potential employee's social media would be embarrassing or problematic to them. The Social Media Certificate, taken at face value, very much suggests that I, the person named on the document, would be just that.

It would need an employer to search individually through the 800 posts listed in the Social Media Report to be able to identify that, in fact, the accused person was totally innocent and had been unfairly maligned. Would all employers do this? I don't know.

I have been assured by Thames TV that this Social Media Check was not the reason I didn't appear on BGT. I was clearly just not very good telly, as I had already concluded. But my concern remains for anyone whose employers or potential employers have used Social Media Check to examine their posts. I would urge you to check through the document yourself, link by link. And if anyone finds such a document has been used unfairly against them, I would urge them to seek redress.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have work to do, and posts to send. These Hoes won't hide themselves.

Kev F Sutherland, October 2023

My Books and where to get them:

Richard The Third Amazon - Etsy - Barnes & Noble - Waterstones
Findlay Macbeth - Amazon  - Etsy 
Prince Of Denmark Street - Amazon - Etsy - Kindle
Midsummer Nights Dream Team  - Amazon Etsy 
Shakespeare Omnibus Collection (all 3 books) - Amazon

Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy - Webtoons
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon Webtoons
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Hot Dogs & Big Buns - more comics by kids

A small but perfectly formed selection of comics by kids, and a few adults, in the last week's worth of Comic Art Masterclasses.

Bewdley Book Festival was a splendid event, and bigger than I was expecting. A lovely tourist-trappy town, that got a good crowd along for two sellout classes, at the end of which I also sold books. A perfect end to my late summer run of festival appearances. 

Ben's birthday party was, as it sounds, a birthday party in Bleackheath in London. Seven kids, two hours, bish bash bosh, brilliant fun was had by all.

Zion Arts Bristol. What you make on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts. Having charged a goodly fee to teach seven kids for two hours at Ben's birthday party, I then did two classes at Zion on a doorsplit. Sadly this meant teaching two groups of a dozen each - who were marvellous fun and a joy to work with - from 10am to 3pm, and coming away with about a third of what I took for the party booking. Such is the way of these things.

The five celebrities chosen by these groups to star in my demonstration strip were King Charles, Ozzy Osborne, Jeff Bezos, Mr Beast, and Dwayne The Rock Johnson.

My Books and where to get them:

Findlay Macbeth - Amazon  - Etsy 
Prince Of Denmark Street - Amazon - Etsy 
Midsummer Nights Dream Team  - Amazon Etsy 
Shakespeare Omnibus Collection (all 3 books) - Amazon

Richard The Third Amazon - Etsy

Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy 
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon 
Captain Clevedon - Amazon

Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  

Thursday 19 October 2023

Midsummer NIght's Dream - work in progress


For reasons that I'll go into in more detail when I feel I can, I've started on a new graphic novel. I'm going to be tackling at least two more Shakespeare plays, both in the simple style I've just used for Richard The Third. And, in the first instance, I'll be making a few chapters for demonstration purposes. Whether I complete the whole book right now, we'll have to see.

I've begun, because it was suggested, with Midsummer Night's Dream. I know this seems weird, cos it's a play that I've already tackled (as The Midsummer Night's Dream Team in 2020), but this is a more direct adaptation, taking my comedy approach rather than anything more left field, and aimed at the 7 year old reader.

Here's my worksheet so far.

Monday Oct 16th - Conversation that leads to the idea. That afternoon I start writing script.
Tues Oct 17th - Writing more script.
Weds Oct 18th - Script for first three scenes complete, all major characters sketched out. First page & logo drawn.
Thurs Oct 19th - Page 2 - 7 drawn, pages 8 & 9 pencilled.
Fri Oct 20th - Drawn up to Page 14
Weds Oct 25th - 15 - 17 (3 pages)
Mon Oct 30th - 18 - 22 (5 pages)

Tues Nov 21st (yes, that long between stints) - 23 - 28 (5 pages) + redrawing Helena's nose
Weds Nov 22nd - 29 - 33 (5 pages)
Thu Nov 23rd - p34 (1 page)
Tues Nov 28th - 35 - 39 (5 pages)
Weds Nov 29th - 40 - 42 (3 pages) - and a first draft front cover...

To be continued...

My Books and where to get them:

Findlay Macbeth - Amazon  - Etsy 
Prince Of Denmark Street - Amazon - Etsy 
Midsummer Nights Dream Team  - Amazon Etsy 
Shakespeare Omnibus Collection (all 3 books) - Amazon

Richard The Third Pre-order on Amazon

Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy 
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon 
Captain Clevedon - Amazon

Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  

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