Sunday 31 December 2023

My Comic Strip Review of the year 2023

And so we come to my traditional review of the year, begun in 2010 and squeezed into the Tintermas period every year since. Sometimes I do it in incredible detail, sometimes less (see examples at foot). I also include this table, which I can't help thinking could have different categories...

For example "Books sold" would seem a sensible category these days. That 1000 figure (expanded upon in this blog post with stats) is rounded up (or possibly down) because December's online sale figures won't be in till the middle of January. But whatever the final number, there's no doubt that selling books live at book & comic festivals has become a solid, and profitable, part of what I do now. 

It's also a great validation of my efforts that, not only is it my graphic novels that sell the most at live events (as opposed to those colouring books, which still sell the most online), but my latest is proving my most popular. Richard The Third was dreamed up, at the comic festival in Macclesfield, in July, and I'd drawn a dozen pages by the following weekend. The Kickstarter campaign ran through September and raised more money than any of its predecessors. Then when it launched it already had more pre-sales than any other and has gone on to out-sell them in just a couple of months. Though I still have 400 odd copies sitting here in boxes so I'd better get shifting them.

The other, biggest, achievement of Richard The Third was that it emboldened me to send it out to agents. And, with luck I still can't believe, it has led to me being taken on by Emily Talbot of United Agents. We shall have to see what that might lead to.  

I made my presence well and truly known at comic and book festivals this year. LFCC in London, which I was invited to twice, and The Lakes in October were the two biggest events, seeing my biggest sales and also my most enjoyable chances to meet fellow comics folks (did I mention my team won a pub quiz?). Comic festivals in Bedford & Macclesfield were great, I should do more of those. But the biggest revelation was book festivals. I made an effort to offer my Comic Art Masterclasses to festivals, and ended up doing classes - after which I was able to sell books of course - in Clevedon, Fowey, Braintree, Beverley, Peterborough, St Ives, Kettering, Budleigh Salterton and Bewdley. Plus I did a run of six consecutive days at art centres in Northern Ireland (Newtownards, Omagh, Enniskillen, Belfast, Limavady and Larne now you ask) which was one of my best planned bits of touring ever.

Not that I couldn't schedule a few bits of excessive driving when I tried. I managed to get classes arranged en route to and from The Lakes, which was another splendid bit of logistics work. But then I'd find myself doing a day in Tweedmouth and having to drive the length of the country home the next day. I went to Tweedmouth twice this year! 80 days of Comic Art Masterclasses is exactly the same figure as last year, and about the same as 2019, so let's say that's about my average. The trip to Saudi Arabia, which was essentially four days taken to do two hours actual work, was the most extreme travel-to-productivity rating. It was also the best paid, of course.

The Scottish Falsetto Socks had their quietest year yet. With no new Edinburgh show, their efforts went into the Eurovision Sock Contest tour, which saw more sellouts than any tour before. With the good old days of lockdown behind us, there was only one Zoom show - when we played live to an audience at a comedy club in Glasgow, a feat we've not attempted since. And with my efforts going more into comics work, there was no real urge for them to produce comedy videos. They've not produced so few videos since they discovered Youtube way back in 2006. That said, the series of eight adverts for Conservatory Insulation Specialists that they produced, along with Dean Friedman, in the spring were probably their most profitable productions (per minute on screen, leastways), so they left their mark on the year and did themselves proud.

Hev was very busy on the house this year, as the visitors to our parties should be able to attest. Her work with paint and wallpaper is a treat, and her garden is a marvel. She still found time to write, with a series of historically researched blogs and articles under her belt, an updating of her Sawdust and Spangles book. And, in the autumn, she spoke about the Letine Family Murder at the Music Hall Society in London, which was very well received. Our membership of the Society Of Authors has seen us attending, and throwing, events in Monmouth, Stroud, Abergavenny and Chepstow.

Tadpole's still with us, enjoying our first full year in the new house and his second year as our cat (having only been formally adopted after a decade of adopting us but belonging to our old neighbours). At which point I realise my blog really has turned into one of those Round Robins people send at Christmas. So I won't tell you how we finally got the roof fixed and the upstairs ceilings repaired and plastered. No one will ever want or need to know that.

So it is, with the final domestic mention of buying a new car, that we come to the end of Hev & Kev and their little life for 2023. As you see, I now have an agent (having managed nearly 40 years as a professional writer, artist and performer without one) so we'll see what difference that makes to my ability to get on in the world. It's been a good and satisfying year for me creatively, thanks to Richard The Third and the sales of my previous books, and I have the incentive to work on the new ones currently on my desk - a new Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Thing - so who knows what will have become of them by this time next year.

A very Happy New Year to you when it comes, and let's hope 2024 is kinder to more people than 2023 was.

My previous years' Comic Strip Reviews:

2013 - Bananaman & Socks In Space

2012 - Adelaide

2011 - Year in numbers

2010 - Socks, and Dad's funeral

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  

December Facebook ramblings


Dec 1: Today I have mostly been colouring stuff that wasn't in colour before.

Dec 1: How Facebook ads work. I just ran one, for a week, plugging my book.
By the end of its week long run, the ad has reached 5740 people, got 38 clicks, cost me £13.92. And I've sold an additional... 5 books. Yes 21 books sold in November pre-advert, and 5 sold post-advert. Suggesting the ad did nothing.
Profit from 5 books is about £6, so Return On Investment is minus £7.


Re: Sex Pistols on TV, this day 1976

I'm not sure I know anyone who actually saw this at the time. Did you?
You had to be in London or the South East and watching the local ITV. I, like most people, heard the legend from the newspapers over the next few days, and probably saw something about it in Sounds. Being fourteen at the time, I didn't think it sounded big or clever. I didn't hear a Sex Pistols record till the following year, and in fact that Christmas got the album by the band who'd cancelled the interview in the first place, Queen.
I didn't get to see the actual clip until, I think, 25 years later.


Dec 17: Oh dear, we tried watching Indiana Jones and the Dial Of Destiny last night. It's an education.
What it teaches most clearly is that, whatever it is that Steven Spielberg does when he's directing a film, this director somehow managed not to.
This film wins the prize for most outstandingly distracting CGI, which serves, on a regular basis throughout, to remind you that the things you're watching aren't really happening. In the first five minutes you've already got a bit tired of seeing Harrison Ford's Uncanny Valley youthified face, which the director insists on holding in close up for a second too long time after time. Then Toby Jones and Harrison Ford stand stock still on top of a moving train, totally unshaken by the movement of said train, and oblivious to the impending tunnels they've just been avoiding for the previous few minutes.
And don't get me started on the horse chase down the astronauts parade. Okay, I'll start. For starters, the CGI has you constantly aware that Harrison Ford's not on that horse, that chase isn't taking place down that New York street, and that New York street is in Glasgow anyway.
But that's not the worst thing about the horse chase. The worst thing is that - after Harrison Ford's horse has run into the subway, run onto the track, run a mile in one direction and dodged a train then leapt onto the other track, run for another half mile and dodged another train, then leapt onto a platform, which has by now to be at least two miles from where he started - Harrison then gets on a train, only to see the woman who was chasing him run up to the door of his train and just miss him. Somehow this woman, travelling on foot, has kept up with a man on a horse and been able to work out where he was heading in the first place, so she obviously has superheroic powers of deduction. Then she lets him escape on a subway train which even I would be able to work out where it's going and that you could carry on chasing him at the next station.
The bad CGI is at its worst in a deep sea diving sequence where actors faces are inserted into diving masks that are clearly being worn by someone else. And the action sequence that is the definitive "not as good as it should be" is the Tuk Tuk v car chase, which could have been great but just demonstrated how difficult these things obviously are to do.
This movie wasn't directed by Spielberg, that becomes clear even if you didn't know in advance. But it's written by the guy who wrote the widely ridiculed previous Indiana Jones, the Crystal Skulls one from 2008 that gave us the bad movie trope of "nuking the fridge".
Also missing was the humour that made the first two movies so good. So, all in all, it's a shame they tried to revive this old franchise, and I hope they don't try again.


Re: Comixology news

“Nobody gets into comics — or at least nobody stays in comics — to make money.”
A sobering quote, especially for those of us who’ve been making a living in the comics biz for 30 years. But a very interesting article.
I have only ever read a couple of comics on Comicology / Amazon and never enjoyed it. Is anyone making money publishing comics online, or is the printed page still where money is generated?

Dec 3: Graphic novelists? Fed up of seeing Manga getting all the shelf space at Waterstones? Don’t worry, here comes The Guardian with the graphic novels of the year to put the spotlight back on you.
British graphic novelists? Yeah, sorry, it’s not about you.
(Five Americans and some French folk. It’s like the 1970s all over again, when the top comic fanzine had a column called Unamerican Activities to cover the next-to-no comics that weren’t Marvel or DC)
So, kids, what British graphic novels should we be recommending to our rellies this Christmas? (Apart from Richard The Third, obviously)


Dec 4: First Christmas film of the season, the excellent Nativity. I thought I’d seen this, but I’d only ever caught bits of it on TV. It’s a classic.
Because of the improv nature of a lot of it, there are bits of plot that I found myself questioning at the end. Like why did Ashley Jensen go in the first place, and why is Jason Watkins stage invasion immediately forgotten? And quite where did the helicopter come from? But those quibbles don’t detract from a film that is the most dewey-eyed heartstring-tugging as well as laugh out loud Xmas movie I can think of.

*cough* Talons of Weng Chiang *cough*

Dec 5: Oh gawd! Forbidden Planet in Bristol’s on fire!
(Too soon for jokes about fire damaged Spock etc)


Dec 5: Kiss debut digital avatars.

I seem to recall predicting exactly this, that Kiss would be the next big band to tour virtual avatars, a year ago.
My power of guessing the bleeding obvious continues unabated

Dec 7: There you go, there’s that argument settled once and for all.
Thanks to Al Bigley for the pic


Dec 9: Doctor Who - The Giggle
Oh dear. I wanted to like that more, having loved the previous two specials, but that was a bit disappointing
More than anything it seemed to be a collection of things Russell T Davies has done before, done again. Big battle on a high shelf over London, like in the first Xmas special. Dancing and lip synching to a dance number, while up in a high skybase, like the Master did to Scissor Sisters. Mysterious hand picks up a remnant of the Master, like someone did at the end of series 3. Splitting the Doctor in two so he had a spare he could go off and make another Tv series or a movie with, like he did at the end of series 4.
Worse he was doing things Steven Moffat had done before, again. Something planted in peoples minds hidden in the TV for years , like The Silence. The Doctor being some sort of president of the world, that Kate Lethbridge Stewart needs to ask permission from.
He even did things Chris Chibnall had done before, again. Like bringing back Mel. And doing the lip synching to a pop song routine, like The Master did literally just a year ago.
The unresolved plot threads and the “I’ll explain laters” outnumbered the satisfying resolutions, and actual emotional moments. Again, like Chris Chibnall would do.
The Trailer for Xmas looks good. Let’s hope Ncuti’s accent has decided what it’s going to be by then. Or will it always be a bit Scottish, a bit London, and a bit something else?
Anyone else disappointed?

Dec 8: A nifty cartoon. But my takeaway is having spotted a bit of colouring-in that the artist missed. See the bit of table to the right of the phone cable? They’ve forgotten to click and fill that bit of colour.
I take great consolation in this cos I’m doing this all the time. I don’t enjoy colouring, and keep trying to find ways of keeping it simple. Not spotting bits you’ve missed until it’s too late is something that makes me feel like such an amateur. Then I see someone doing it in The New Yorker and I realise it doesn’t matter.


Dec 11: Here’s a puzzle for you. I bought some old 60s and 70s Private Eyes in Hampstead yesterday. And on the back of some are these labels, pictured, with a list of names and dates.
The actual copies have “Cook” pencilled on the front, referring I assume to the Geoff Cook on the list. So is this a sort of lending scheme by which a dozen people share each copy of Private Eye?
Could it be that the denizens of Hampstead in 1972 were not as wealthy as they are nowadays? Who can solve this mystery?

Looks like this joke is not approved by Facebook.
I should have heard it coming a mile away.


Dec 9: Well there’s a spoilery reminder that the final season of Killing Eve was so bad we never finished watching it.
What shows have you loved when they started then never stuck till the end of?
Mine range from Happy Days to Resident Alien, and many more.

Can I just say I disagree with this picture (lifted from Richard Starkings ). I have always used voice/speech “bubble” and “balloon” interchangeably, and indeed I teach the subject using both terms. As does Wikipedia
Is it Americans or superhero fans that are overly pedantic about this? Who else would like to make it their hill to die on?
By the way, you’re also wrong about the mispronunciation of the letter H.

Dec 19: And here we see the difference between people. There are folks like us, and collectors and historians, who would never dream of burning a 100 year old historical document (if you’ve seen our house you’ll know we hang onto stuff way less valuable than that!). Then there are people who would burn hundreds of 100 year old historical documents because *checks notes* money. It’s always money.
In short they’re going to digitise old wills, which is good. Then destroy the originals, which isn’t


Dec 20: From now on I am reclassifying Whamaggedon to mean not avoiding the song (which is a great Christmas song, one of my favourites) but to avoiding people who moan about it.
I saw my first "boo hoo I got Whamaggedoned my life is over" post on December 2nd, so the ship has sailed for this year.
But next year, to save me from tears... well, you see where that was going.


Dec 22: Today I heard a Christmas song by T Rex that I'd never heard before (Christmas Bop). It has exactly the same chords as Last Christmas.
What's the betting a ten year old George Michael had that very record and, a few years later, ad-libbed new words over the top?
That's my theory. Prove me wrong.

Dec 22: Ralph McTelf - one for the kids there


Dec 24: We’ve watched three Doctor Who Christmas specials already this year, this was our fave: The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe.
Also loved Last Christmas (Capaldi) and the Christmas Invasion (Tennant). Shame Jodie never had one.


Dec 26: Re The Church On Ruby Lane

A big crack in the ceiling that makes people never have existed? Didn't we have one of those all through the Matt Smith years? I didn't like it then.
A mysterious Northern companion we don't know where she's come from? Didn't we have one of those ten years ago called Clara? I didn't like it then.
Music that engulfs every scene and doesn't let you enjoy the acting? Didn't there used to be less of that or did I just dream it?
A Doctor whose Scottish accent makes some of the things he says hard to hear? Didn't we have one of those 35 years ago with Sylvester McCoy? I'll be honest, that grew on me.
Building up impressive looking villains then disposing of them without twist or surprise? Having a line where you make the point that Goblins aren't time travellers, then ten minutes later they're time travellers? Doing a bit too much telling not showing, eg all that stuff about luck and coincidence science? Isn't that what we got all through the Chibnall years?
I have to say an episode which seems to be all about setting up a new 'impossible girl' story arc rather than being a satisfying self-contained adventure in itself left me feeling a little let down. (Especially when, in contrast, later the same night, Ghosts gave us a perfect final episode which got everything right and left us with tears in our eyes.)
Ncuti is fine and had some good moments, and I have faith in RTD's writing. This just wasn't as good as the phenomenal over-promotion led one to expect. We enjoyed spotting the Bristol locations though, and Hev liked it more than I did, so there's that.

Do we have enough Christmas trees? These are the two you can see from the street. Hev has decorated five. So far. (All artificial and bought in past years, in case you fear for the harm we’re doing the planet. )
What I’m saying is the nights start drawing out now. We like to think we’ve helped.
(Of course it’s not a Tardis front door, what do you take us for?)

Dec 24: Siri, show me the true spirit of Christmas parking


Dec 25: “He’s been!”
Quite why our cat’s bowel movements are a reason for celebration today I don’t know. But everyone’s saying it.

Dec 28: To “cane it”. Who else thought that was a phrase someone coined in the 90s to refer to taking drugs? Here I find it in the 1948 Giles annual (a Christmas present) in reference to devouring margarine.
You live and learn.

Dec 29: In praise of the Ghosts Annual. Okay, they don't call it the Ghosts Annual, but I do. If you like the series, you'll love this.
It's done as an archive, so all the contents are in the form of letters, magazine articles, diaries etc. I've laughed out loud so far at such things as Pat's police interview, Alison's interviews with the ghosts, Thomas's annotations on Byron and Wordsworth poems, the official report on Humphrey's death, Julian and the select committee, it's just brilliant.
I don't think I've seen something done like this, certainly not done so well, since the childhood books of 50 years ago: The Goodies File (and the Goodies Disaster Movie), and Monty Python's Papperbok. This has the same attention to detail, and has the characters so spot on, it's like half a dozen free bonus episodes.
You can keep your podcasts and your DVD extras (though don't, I love the podcast and the outtakes too!). Vive le TV spin-off book (done well).

Dec 29: Happiness is reaching a nice round number, and finding your latest book is so much more popular than the rest
(These are sales through D2D/Ingram, I sell more through other channels)

Dec 29: Hi folks. A quick heads up. If you’ve not listened to Comic Cuts The Panel Show podcast yet, you’d best be quick. I’ll be stopping paying to keep it online soon and it’ll disappear.
I made 18 episodes, mostly back in 2021. Two guests each bring in a comic and have to guess what they are. Then we talk comics.
Listen while you can (most will be remaining on YouTube)

Dec 31: It’s a year that ends in a 4. That hardly ever happens.
*studies notes. realises this is his 70th of these*
Cannot work that out. Does the maths again. “1964, 74, 84, 94, 04, 14, 24…. Oh Jesus that’s seven! How? How?”


Re: Steamboat Willie passing out of copyright

Apparently my version is “against Facebook standards”. I should have drawn more Steamboat and less willy.

My Books and where to get them:

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

Richard The Third Amazon - Etsy - Barnes & Noble - Waterstones

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

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