Monday 22 July 2024

Northern Ireland week - book selling and travels with my art

My name, according to Starbucks at Bristol airport. Where I spent way more hours than originally planned, en route to catching a flight to Belfast for a week of classes in art centres in Northern Ireland. Our two hour delay, it turned out, was because the plane had suffered a bird strike yesterday and they had to replace the nose cone. So that's a nice detail.

This time last year I did a six day run at Northern Ireland art centres and, as this blog records, I attempted for the first time to sell books to the parents of the kids in the classes. Then I was able to squeeze thirty books into an extra hold bag, a mix of my first 3 Shakespeare books.

This year I have Richard The Thirds and, because the second printing of the book has no Shakespeare script at the book, it is slightly thinner. So I am able to squeeze 40 Richard The Thirds into my bag, along with three Omnibusses. It would have been four Omnibusses, but the fourth has a slightly bent back cover, which I fear I may have just done by trying to squeeze them into my suitcase.

So, as I write this in my AirBnB room above a shop in Cookstown, I have more books available to sell then I had last year. Last year I had nearly sold out after two days. What will happen this time..?

Day 1 - Burnavon Arts, Cookstown - £91.91

11 x Richard The Third + 1 x Omnibus

After the morning session I was initially a little disappointed to have only sold 7 books. Then I realised, if I do that at every class, I'll have sold out after three days.

Day 2 - Ardhowen Arts, Enniskillen - £92.95

9 x Richard + 2 x Omnibus

That's the Omnibusses sold out already. And these sales were all after the morning's class. The afternoon group were the older teenagers, who have their parents meet them outside rather than coming in to get them, so there was no-one to sell to. I should complain, I'm more than halfway through my stock, with three fifths of the classes still to go.

I met up with Paul Trimble afterwards, who runs the Enniskillen Comic Festival, and he said once again that I should ship books over to him when I'm doing a trip like this. I must work out the cost of sending boxes of 40 books through the post. If I mail 80 books to Northern Ireland, (or mail 40 and take 40 on the plane) I'd be bound to sell 40 at least, meaning I could manage to take any remainder home. Next time.

Day 3 - Strule Arts, Omagh

Day 4 - Flowerfield Arts, Portstewart

Day 5 - Ards Arts, Newtownards

tbc



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

Who Notes - Doctor Who Reviews - Amazon - Lulu - ebook
Space Elain - Amazon - Lulu - iBooks - Barnes & Noble 
Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy - Webtoons
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon - Webtoons
Joseph, Ruth & Other Stories - Amazon
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  



Sunday 21 July 2024

Meteorites Poo From Outer Space - yet more comics by kids


This month's third batch of comics made with kids in my Comic Art Masterclasses is possibly the most satisfying selection of titles and front covers yet. Not a stinker among them, from classes in Somerset, Leicestershire, and Hertfordshire.


Frome Literary Festival's pair of classes was my first visit there and had them pencilling a return booking in the diary by the end. Not did two near-sellout classes give me a nice healthy doorsplit, and not only did I sell a lovely load of books to the parents afterwards, but they came up with two titles that led to two nifty cover designs.


Wednesday's pair of classes took me dangerously close to my old stomping grounds, as I started the day at Market Harborough library. Sadly the route to the afteroon's sessions in Melton Mowbray meant I missed going past my old school and veered right instead of passing through Kibworth. So I didn't get to wave to Mum & Dad's graves, but we produced two smashing comics together. And, yes, I flogged a few books.


Baldock in Hertfordshire is an arts centre that's had me back for a number of years. Memorably it was the final class I delivered in real life before the Covid lockdown of 2020. This time round, disappointingly, the morning class only had three pupils in it, out of six who had booked, while the afternoon was an over-sold sellout. The risks you take doing these things on a doorsplit. The comics were, as ever, a delight.

The celebrities these six groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Jeff Bezos, Cristiano Ronaldo, The Weeknd, and my favourite of the week, suggested by one of the younger members of the group "Edward, but I don't know his surname". We'll never know who, if anyone, he meant, but the suggestion was so hilariously popular it beat the other three hands down.

Oh and how were the book sales at each venue? Frome = 24 books, Harborough & Melton = 15 books, Baldock = 13 books.


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

Who Notes - Doctor Who Reviews - Amazon - Lulu - ebook
Space Elain - Amazon - Lulu - iBooks - Barnes & Noble 
Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy - Webtoons
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon - Webtoons
Joseph, Ruth & Other Stories - Amazon
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  



Thursday 18 July 2024

Enough now, we get it - Marvel superheroes and other phenomena


Enough now, we get it


I’ve been getting the feeling with US superheroes, from the evidence of kids in my classes, that the general public has reached the “Enough now, we get it” moment. Again.


You see I feel, when something is breaking through to popular culture, that it goes through three distinct phases:


Phase one: What is this? I have genuinely never seen anything like this in my life before!


Phase two: This is the biggest and best thing ever, it deserves to be this successful and I hope it never ends!


Phase three: Enough now, we get it.


I’ve seen this with so many things that I’ve loved over the years, from movements in pop music, through TV shows, to the comic books that have been my life’s longest love.


The first one that I experienced was Glam Rock. Because of my age, the very first music I was aware of, via Ed Stewpot Stewart’s Junior Choice, was Bubblegum Pop. I bought, or had bought for me, The Archies, The Monkees, and The 1910 Fruitgum Company (from whom, I think, the name Bubblegum Pop, was derived). 


The apogee of this “movement” was The Partridge Family, a TV show that cast a child actor and his step mom in the leads, put them in a studio with The Wrecking Crew and the last wave of Brill Building songwriters, and produced a string of hit singles and albums, every one of which I bought. However, at about the age of eleven, it was made clear to me that this was music for children, and what I really should be buying was the new “cool” music - Glam Rock.


The first Glam Rock artist I saw on Top Of The Pops was Gary Glitter, about whom we don’t talk much. Luckily about the same time the real cool acts came on screen: Marc Bolan, Roxy Music, and David Bowie.


So of course I went out and bought Slade, Mud, and The Sweet. Cos I was only eleven and couldn’t tell the difference between the cool acts, and the ones that kind of dressed like the cool acts. However, between them, the Glam Rock acts at both ends of the musical seriousness scale ruled the roost for about three years.


Until the start of 1976, when suddenly we all went “Enough now, we get it”. 


Watch the re-runs of Top Of The Pops 1976 on BBC 4 and you’ll see the evidence. The final non-charting singles by everyone from Slade and Mud to The Bay City Rollers and The Glitter Band. With the exception of a very small few, who turned out to be proper rock stars - and who had stopped wearing the glam make up noticeably earlier than their counterparts - the Glam Rock gang mostly gave up the ghost and disappeared. And, by the end of that year, the next big thing had taken over (it was, depending on your sensibility, gender, or physical location, either punk or disco. If you were lucky it was both).


With TV shows I saw it with Monty Python (Phase one 1969, phase three just after Life Of Brian) and The Goodies (1970 till they left the BBC in 1979). And with comic books it was happening before my eyes, rolled out in real time.


I came upon Marvel Comics, and became a devoted reader, right in the middle of their first Phase Three. Around 1974, when I started picking up Marvel UK’s weekly black and white reprints, the readers in the States had already said “Enough now, we get it”.


The Fantastic Four’s heyday had ended when Jack Kirby left in 1969, Spider-Man’s ended with The Death Of Gwen Stacey in 1973. The X-Men had been cancelled in 1970 and were only gradually being reintroduced around then. Across the board, the superhero comics were seen as the last decade’s thing. Whereas Marvel was producing a whole raft of non-superhero books, many of which became the lead in their own British reprint titles. 


Planet Of The Apes was the first one I started getting every week, then Dracula Lives, and Conan The Barbarian. I wasn’t too fussed about Mighty World Of Marvel (starring the Hulk) or Spider-Man Weekly, because I felt I’d done those comics when I read them as a five year old in Fantastic and Terrific comics. Conan, Dracula and the Apes were the cool stuff, the like of which I’d never seen before. Their back up strips would be sci fi stories from the US black and white magazines, and other left-field stories like Kull The Conqueror and Ka-Zar The Savage.


Other novel strips featured anti-heroes, like Luke Cage Hero For Hire, and Morbius The Living Vampire. All this was self-evidently cooler than the camp heroes running around with their pants outside their trousers. And when Howard The Duck and Man Thing came along, my pantheon of cool comic characters was complete. I’d witnessed Phase Three of the yawn superheroes, and was smack bang in the middle of Phase Two of the cool comic characters.


Which ended, for me, in 1979 when I grew up, went to art school, and realised I liked 2000AD comic all of a sudden. I had my own personal “Enough now, we get it” when Howard The Duck got cancelled and I wasn’t that arsed about the rest of them. When next I looked, all my favourite comics had either disappeared, or no longer had whatever magic they’d once had.


At which point Frank Miller came along, and the whole cycle started again.


Which brings us to now, and the rollercoaster ride that has been Marvel Superhero movies. When I started doing my first Comic Art Masterclasses in 2004, I’d try and impress the kids with my artwork from Dr Strange and Ghost Rider and they’d shrug, nonplussed. None of them had heard of any Marvel superhero, expect for Spider-Man, who was fast approaching his own Phase Three on the movie screen.


Then, since 2008, it’s been Nirvana. Not only did I enjoy about a decade where kids were Doctor Who fans (don’t ask me to plot all the Phases of Who, we’d be here all day), but at the same time they were blown away that I’d been a Marvel comics artist. I mean, obviously, none of them had ever read a Marvel comic, and over the subsequent fifteen years I would meet only a handful who ever had read one. But they all knew the characters from the movies, and that stardust rubbed off on my remote association working on the comics (which, I guess, they thought of as some sort of arcane merchandise spin-off or something).


Iron Man was Phase One. Nobody had seen superheroes movies as good and exciting and original as this since, maybe, Tim Burton’s Batman or even Christopher Reeve’s Superman. The Avengers in 2012 remains an iconic high point in cinematic culture which I can happily rewatch endlessly to this day. That was very Phase Two.


Then, to my constant surprise, Marvel’s Phase Two kept going on and on, for year after year. I was already getting a bit Phase Three-y by Avengers Age Of Ultron, but they’d win me back round with an Ant Man or a Doctor Strange movie, and dammit those Guardians Of The Galaxy movies were good. But by the time of Infinity War, I was mind-boggled that they’d kept the audience going along with them for all this time. No phenomenon lasts that long, it was beyond belief. One got to thinking they had made some deal with the devil and this success would never end.


Then it ended. Some would say thankfully. Since Covid, and the streaming situation, Marvel have made a string of movies that, though some have distinguished themselves at the box office, are solidly Phase Three. The success this year of DeadPool Vs Wolverine is both deliberately ironic and ironically ironic, in that it’s a movie whose strapline may as well be “Enough now, we get it.”


Superhero movies will carry on, and there’ll be jump-starts to a dozen franchises whose last rites have been read more than once. But it’ll be a while before we get another Iron Man to Endgame sized “I hope it never ends” phase.


The exciting thing is, somewhere out there now a new Phase One is starting. And none of us knows what it is yet. Any suggestions?



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

Who Notes - Doctor Who Reviews - Amazon - Lulu - ebook
Space Elain - Amazon - Lulu - iBooks - Barnes & Noble 
Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy - Webtoons
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon Webtoons
Joseph, Ruth & Other Stories - Amazon
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  


Monday 15 July 2024

The Trump Shooting - What Really Happened

 

July 14: My Facebook today:

50% conspiracy theories (it was a blood capsule, he nicked his ear with a razor blade, he could never have sprung up so fast, the dead punter is an actor)
50% people taking the piss (Van Gogh meme, Alec Baldwin gags, grim reaper cartoon, jokes about the irony of gun control, and gags about two inches and further to the right)

Could be worse. Could be sodding football.

July 15: Now that the dust has settled, to put my conspiracy theory nut friends to one side, here's what I (and all sensible folk) think happened yesterday:

A disgruntled youngster who'd been bullied at school got his hands on a gun (because that's what happens literally all the time in the USA) and set out to do an "I'll show them all" shooting.
Donald Trump's security was as thorough as they usually are but, because he does too many of these events, on an almost daily basis, he strains the team's abilities and resources and they can easily be in danger of missing things.
The kid got onto a roof which was outside the high security cordon, because it's his town and he knows it better than some over-worked visiting security team, and he wasn't spotted by anyone until seconds before he popped up to take the shots.
Because he was outside the security cordon, his ability to hit his target was limited. He took a number of shots in rapid succession. The first one or two went wide of the target, the second or third hit the target's ear, and the subsequent shots, taken after the target had ducked, hit members of the crowd, killing one and injuring a number more.
The security team could see the shooter, pretty well instantly, and shot him immediately, because that's what you're meant to do.
The end.
There was no conspiracy, because why would there need to be? School shootings, shootings at public events, drive-by shootings of innocent strangers, and murders by disgruntled citizens happen almost every day in America. This was, apart from one of the people involved, unexceptional.


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

Who Notes - Doctor Who Reviews - Amazon - Lulu - ebook
Space Elain - Amazon - Lulu - iBooks - Barnes & Noble 
Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy - Webtoons
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon - Webtoons
Joseph, Ruth & Other Stories - Amazon
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  




My Little Pony In The Hunger Games - more comics by kids


When I refer to these collections as "a week's worth of comics" they're usually spread over more than just one week. But this time we're looking at four consecutive days, in Wells, Churchill, Halesowen, and Wells again.


The Blue School in Wells has a plaque up on the wall commemorating its most famous alumnus, Edgar Wright, director of Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz (set in Wells of course) and Baby Driver and others. At first I thought, because of its name, it was a private school. But it's not, it's a 1500 pupil state school on the edge of Wells and its kids came up with some fun ideas.


Churchill School in North Somerset have been having me back for some years now, which is lovely. This time, rather than giving me two groups in a day to work with (my usual m.o.) I had one group for the whole day. With some groups I struggle to spin what is essentially a two hour class out to six hours, but luckily this lot were an attentive and interested bunch. So when, having produced our first comic of the day, I then got them to work in small groups on a second comic strip, they were able to do it, and it inspired lots of interesting new input and feedback from me. I also got the kids to draw the front cover themselves, which served to remind me that, actually, drawing logos by hand and filling a cover with a big bold image is not as easy as I make it look, and I can forgive myself for those times it doesn't coming out looking like an award winner.


Windsor Academy in Halesowen is a school I hadn't been back to since 2015 - they still had the comic covers on the wall that we'd produced then, and in 2009. God I've been doing this a long time. They distinguished themselves by being the school this week where kids brought money in to get signed copies of my books. They also made some fine comics.


If it's Thursday it must be my second visit to The Blue School in Wells, and my two favourite covers of the week.

The celebrities these seven groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Bob Ross, Ryan Reynolds, Paul McCartney, Barack Obama, Simon Cowell, Terry Crews, and Adam Sandler.


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

Who Notes - Doctor Who Reviews - Amazon - Lulu - ebook
Space Elain - AmazonLulu - iBooks - Barnes & Noble 
Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy - Webtoons
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon Webtoons
Joseph, Ruth & Other Stories - Amazon
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  






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