Tuesday 30 April 2024

Drawing by Mum in 1957 + April's Facebook ramblings

April 10: Just received most marvellous email out of the blue, re my mum:

“… I have been trying for years to ‘track’ your mother down, as she drew my portrait whilst ‘looking after’ me on a London to Edinburgh train on 1st September 1957! I have only just found her obituary online and I would like to convey my sincere condolences to you & your family.
“Corral will have only been 19 when she drew me, aged 9, after being ‘tasked’ by my aunt with looking after me till I got off the train at Darlington. (My parents had driven me to my aunt’s house in Basildon & left me in her care for the remainder of the summer school holidays, before my aunt sent me home on the train from Kings Cross).
“I have kept this drawing for over 60 years but still have fond memories of sitting gazing out of the window while your mother drew me.”
Isn’t that an amazing find?


April 7: Uncle Kev's Faulty Face Recognition, Example 97: So Jennifer Garner, out of the new Fantastic Four, is NOT the actress from season 1 of Reacher and Fall Of The House Of Usher. That's Willa Fitzgerald. But she IS the actress who played Anna in Inventing Anna, who WASN'T in fact the actress out of Unbelievable and Booksmart, who was of course Kaitlyn Dever. Got it.
Update: And she's Julia Garner, not Jennifer Garner! But apart from my ability to remember names or faces, I think I'm getting up to speed.

*******

When did the term OG creep into common usage?
I have only today discovered what it supposedly stands for. Though given that I’ve just seen it being used to refer to a pair of shoes and to Sir Ian McKellen suggests it has developed a certain flexibility.
I am the OG person who learns things a generation after everyone else.
Update: Thanks everyone for the mixture of condescension and commiseration.

****

April 6: Just watched Cocaine Bear at last. Jolly good fun.
And filmed where?
I had no idea till I kept seeing tell tale clues in the end credits. Did you know? Can you guess?
Update: I’ll give you a clue: I’ve just landed in that country.

(Reader, the answer was Wexford)


I'm not sure how keen Amazon are for anyone to buy my Eurovision Colouring Book. On the plus side, they've knocked a quid off the price. On the minus side, look at the bottom right hand corner of this picture.
"Usually dispatched within 3 to 7 months" - "FREE Prime delivery 29 May - 13 October, 2024"
Don't hold your breath waiting, kids. (You can get it on Etsy, it's cheaper and you get it next week)

*****

Is there a word for killing a world famous violinist?
Yehudicide
April 7: Things you discover when you're searching for something else. Who knew that Nicola Walker was in the Cambridge Footlights with Sue Perkins? Or that Andy Parson had curly hair? Once.

Visual gags that either never get old or that Cambridge Footlighters are obliged to do at some time: The Coathanger.
Above, Footlighters from 60 years ago in I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again; below, Footlighters from 40 years ago plugging their 2024 tour.

****

April 10: One thing that’s puzzling me, here in Ireland, is the so called Dublin Posh or D4 accent, as Joanne McNally has here. Is it just me or does it not sound in the slightest bit “posh”?
If you think of posh Edinburgh, or any posh variant of an English accent, aren’t they defined by sounding dainty or refined, with the edges smoothed off. This Dublin Posh, compared say to lovely lilts I’ve heard from Galway or Wexford, sounds more like a docker than a debutante.
Is it my ears, or an Anglo-centric snobbery?


Look at me slap bang in the middle of the ad for UKCGF comic cons. It’s like me and my free caricatures* are some sort of attraction.
*NB I now tell folk the caricatures are optional, they don’t have to have them, they’re free if they buy something from my table, or a couple of quid donation if they want it. So far two people out of 100 (only done this at one event so far) said I could keep it. And they were foreign students who, to be fair, might not have understood what I was saying.
See you in Swansea on Saturday for more of the same. (Also original Marvel and Gladiators art. And books. So many books. )


April 12: Happiness is: taking 20 copies of your book to Ireland hoping to sell them to kids. It’s the school librarians that buy them. One takes 4, one takes 2, one takes none saying they’re getting rid of books and going digital (the horror!).
Then on the 5th and final day the librarian says “I’ll take ten” and I only have nine left.
And she displays them. The perfect end to a highly enjoyable week.
(Though next year I’ll have to charge more. Hotels, car hire, airport parking, and flights mean a trip like this is noticeably more expensive than it used to be)


April 17: To our credit none of us took photos at Alan’s funeral yesterday.
Damn. I bet we all really wish we’d taken photos. It was great, despite the circumstances, to see people we’d not seen for so long. It was a good send off.
Music included Birdland by Weather Report, and All You Need Is Love.
And I realise my opening line was a bit inaudible, so the gag of Alan’s that I opened my speech with was:
“I see there’s a lot of old people around. Must be cos we had such a mild winter”

*****

April 19: I was on the horns of a dilemma cos I was coming to the end of my print run of my self published book (Richard The Third, my biggest hit to date). Cos I'm selling them in schools, with kids taking about 25 copies a time, and they've been the big sellers at comic cons (eg 26 last Sunday), my initial print run of 500 was almost gone (so I'm ordering more, courtesy of the very excellent Stuart Gould, who I trust we all use).
My problem was: oh no, I only have 60 copies left, with 25 already bagsied by a school next week. I'm about to run out. Then suddenly in my studio I discover two hidden boxes. Hooray - I actually have 120 copies left.
So no I'm just feeling disappointed that I hadn't in fact sold as many as I'd thought. There's no pleasing some people.

(Reader, I ordered a new print run of 500 books for £1200)

****

April 20: Anyone else trying to get through Feud: Capote and the Swans? Only 2 eps in and left a bit cold.
Whether it’s the original book, the writer, or the director to blame I don’t know. Or whether it’s because it’s hard to sympathise with Elmer Fudd and his awful ladies who lunch, and why you should care about whatever happens to any of them.
They get what they deserved, ie their awful stories told. And he gets what he deserved, ie to be ostracised for it. And we still have five episodes to go.
It better perk up is all I can say.


April 22: Who Do You Think You Are, but for horses. Spotted this weekend at Calke Abbey. This one horse was the great great great etc grandad of Red Rum, Desert Orchid, Shergar, and Seabiscuit.
Posh folk and their inbreeding, eh?


April 24: A long lost find (by Hev) reminds me I was illustrating Shakespeare (gasp) 20 years ago.
This is the booklet from a CD-Rom called Superbard, from Harper Collins in 2003. Yes, they used to print a booklet telling you how to use your computer. Try telling the kids today.

****

April 26: Just did that trip to the Post Office that reminded me I need to raise my postage prices on Etsy. Hadn't given them a thought.
So I just posted a book to the Netherlands, it cost me £6.55 and I'd only charged the client a fiver postage. And domestic postage for a book is now £2.50, and I was still only charging £2.25.
Come to Uncle Kev for lessons in how to lose money in ways you never even thought of.

***

Cos I'm meant to be getting on with proper work, I've been distracted by this. The Variety glossary of movie terms that only they use. How many can you work out?
Ankling
The Eye web
The Frog web
The Hub
Beantown
The Lion
The Wickets
Mitting
An Oater
Pubcaster
Shingle
Solon
Terping
Zitcom

******

April 28: Last night’s movie is one I highly recommend: Blackberry
An excellent comedy, not made on a big budget, with no big stars in, it told its (true) story perfectly, with comedy throughout and not flagging once.
I knew none of this story, didn’t even know the Blackberry was a Canadian invention. V good.

*****

April 29: Forgive my ignorance, but what the hell's a HEIC?
I transfer some images to my laptop today and instead of coming across as jpgs, as they've always done, they're a heic. I now have to look up another word. Honestly, the future, would you stop coming up with new things?

******

April 30: Jerry Seinfeld talks about "woke" comedy

Ok, the whole “woke destroyed comedy” is nonsense, and I don’t think he meant that anyway. But his “where is comedy on TV?” point is an interesting one.
My TV comedy viewing habits have certainly changed over the years. I used to be a sitcom vulture. I ran a thing called The Sitcom Trials, which was part of my desire to join the great tradition of sitcom writing. A tradition which, when I looked up at the end of my twenty year experiment, had all but died.
The studio audience sitcom, where you laughed along with a crowd whose laughter you could hear, has almost entirely been replaced by the comedy drama (eg Motherland or Derry Girls, where the laughs are definitely there, but in a filmic rather than theatrical way) and panel games (eg HIGNFY and Taskmaster) which will regularly reduce me to tears, like Frasier and Fawlty Towers once did, but without the narrative element.
We’re told US TV is crying out for a new trad sitcom, something broad with wide audience appeal. They’d kill for a Friends, but will we see its like again?
Recently I’ve tried watching a few new BBC comedies and they’ve fallen flat for me. Mammoth, Mandy, and Alma’s Not Normal just seemed to lack the wit or the writing chops. Certainly when I rewatched Philomena Cunk and Motherland for balance I found I was still capable of laughing at comedy on film made under cloudy skies, so it was them not me.
Is there good new sitcom out there? Or do we not really want it any more?

*****

April 30: A post Baby Reindeer discussion, mentioning how Michaela Coel avoided starting a manhunt and opening a can of worms with I May Destroy You, led to me finding this story. In short Michaela spells out how she was abused by a stranger, whose identity we don’t find out, and how she and a colleague were verbally abused by someone in TV. Which could just as easily have started a “who was he?” hunt as Reindeer did.
Maybe nobody cared when these stories went into IMDY.


Some forty year old photos unearthed from a drawer, taken at a comicon in London in, I think, 1985. That’s Alan Moore on the right, along with Garry Leach, Alan Grant, Kevin O’Neill, Richard Burton, and Martin Lock of FA.

****

May 1: Nostalgic for the old Readers Digest, which ceased publication this week. My Mum and Dad got it and it was a big source of wisdom through my childhood.
If you never encountered it, it was a collection of articles from other magazines and papers, and abridged books, supplemented by features such as Humour In Uniforn, Laughter Is The Best Medicine, and “I Am John’s Spleen”, a piece where a body part would describe itself in the first person. That feature helped me to a B in O Level Biology.
Naturally Readers Digest has folded because it was, in sum total, just what you get on Facebook, except you had to wait for and pay for it, which are not concepts that work these days.
Interestingly, when it came to clearing out the parents house, the Readers Digests were nowhere to be found. They were not the sort of thing one held on to, they were the sort of thing you donated to the dentists waiting room. Now the whole thing’s gone to the dentists waiting room in the sky.


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
Joseph, Ruth & Other Stories - Lulu
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  



Thursday 25 April 2024

Deadpool Wolverine and school - what's appropriate?


And today's big question is: what's appropriate for kids? In the photo above you can see, from the top, the trailer for the new Marvel movie Deadpool & Wolverine; then a comic of the same name, which is one of the batch that I'm currently taking into classrooms when I teach my Comic Art Masterclass; and at the bottom right a comic strip entitled Deadpool Finds A Machen (sic) Gun, written and drawn by a Year 4 pupil at a school this week.

If you've not seen the Deadpool & Wolverine movie trailer yet, one thing that is most outstanding about it is its use of strong language. Although they only, it says here, drop the f-bomb six times in the trailer, it seems like more, and it also feels grossly gratuitous. Like a nine year old has been given a free rein to use sweary words for the first time and runs down the hall shouting them at everyone they pass. Or when a foreign exchange student learns them and uses them inappropriately in every sentence. 

It makes you nostalgic for the days when Eddie Murphy would make the headlines for using over a hundred in a movie (I think it was his stand up movie Raw back in 1987 that made the news at the time). But even then none would make it into the trailer. And if Deadpool and Wolverine were to continue the rate of effing and jeffing they manage in the trailer - 6 f-words in 2.5 minutes - then they'd easily beat Eddie Murphy's tame 223. (They would, as if it matters, get 213 f-words into a 90 minute movie at that rate. But since their movie is bound to be nearer two hours, that'd give them 288 f-words. NB, I am fully aware they won't be doing that.)

My question is : should I now be bringing Deadpool & Wolverine comics into a class of 8 year olds? The comic is pretty safe reading. The images are borderline strong, I mean they wouldn't pass the Comics Code Authority rating of my childhood, but there's no x-rated language, no nudity, and although people get shot up and cut up, they all turn out to be androids and there's no blood. (I tell a lie, there's one scene where someone has made a totem pole out of body parts. Oh god, I've been taking this into primary schools!) (And I now spot that, in tiny letters on the front cover by the bar code, it says "Parental Advisory". Oh god!!)

The thing is, the pupil who drew that strip - and he is not alone among the kids I teach - was already more than familiar with Deadpool. And indeed he's a character I'm asked how to draw more than most others, and usually by primary school kids, so under the age of 11.

So, if I am (from now on) banning Wolverine and Deadpool comics from the selection I bring in and show to children, what else should I be editing out? Is it appropriate for me to be regularly drawing Harley Quinn on the flipchart at the start of the class, as in the example below, when she already stars in an age-inappropriate adult cartoon on TV, and is about to be played by Lady Gaga in a very dark and undoubtedly R-rated version in Joker Folie A Deux?

In short, where are the boundaries, and how is anyone supposed to know them? 

Once, long ago, it was pretty easy. Fifty years ago, when I was growing up, stories about superheroes in spandex fighting villains were self-evidently nonsense for children, and were marketed and branded accordingly. All US comics had to carry the Comics Code badge and have no content that was unsuitable for an 8 year old to read, and the British equivalents followed a similar unofficial code. Since the 1980s we've had comics for, so-called, grown-ups; since the 90s we've had the f-word in mainstream comics published by, first, DC, and then Marvel; and this century it's been a relative free for all. 

But my job is, variously, writing and drawing comics for kids, and teaching comics to kids. I want them to understand and enjoy this artform, and I'd like to introduce them to the widest range of content as I can. But I clearly have to draw a line, in places where I previously didn't have to. 

I can show them "safe" Wolverine, and tell them his history and his place in Marvel comics lore. But I then have to say "stop  - out of bounds" when it gets to the most recent movie and the latest comic version, which is on the shelf in our WH Smiths between a Simpsons comic and Commando Picture Library.

The movie then begs the question of how we prevent our kids being exposed to language we don't want them to hear, and a movie environment that normalises it and makes it attractive to use, in the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Kids like to complete the set, they like to watch everything in the collection. So an obsessive 11 year old, who's devoured every Marvel movie from Iron Man to, god help them, the third Ant Man thing, will simply have to watch Wolverine & Deadpool. And, knowing Marvel, they won't be able to follow the plot of the next movie that comes out if they haven't watched it.

It's an f-bombing minefield. Am I alone in my concerns?



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
Joseph, Ruth & Other Stories - Lulu
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  




Wednesday 24 April 2024

Avocado with lots of Peppa, & a makeover - more comics by kids


From Abergavenny Writing Festival to a prep school in Northamptonshire to two schools in Staffordshire, these Comic Art Masterclasses were a delight, though a little dominated by Peppa Pig. They did also involve a lot of Taylor Swift, and a slightly embarrassing post-event makeover.


Christchurch Lichfield was a return booking, and they came up with smashing titles this time. Bobby Dazzler was a surprising term that seems to have returned from the olden days, and there we see our first mentions of Peppa Pig and fatness.


Abergavenny Writing Festival was a fun one-off gig, which included Cath and Oliver from our Society Of Authors group as class members. After this class, Hev and I then had to make our way to Nottingham for the Scottish Falsetto Socks to perform Eurovision at the Theatre Royal that night. I like to keep busy.


Maidwell Hall in Northants is a very posh prep school. I was invited by the head, who'd previously been at Horris Hill, which was the poshest prep school I'd previously taught at. The infectious nature of Peppa Pig made itself clear here. Whenever the kids see a previous comic, ie last week's example from Lichfield, with Peppa Pig on, they seemingly can't think of anything funnier in the world. So, as we're whittlng down their thirty suggestions, the Peppa titles win.


Etchinghill in Rugeley was another fun set of classes, with Year 4s. I got caught out by the titles they came up with. While carefully ensuring they didn't vote for the more scatological titles, and making sure I played down the Peppa Pigs this time, I wasn't really paying enough attention to the title they did choose. Inspired no doubt by the fact that I refer to Bottom as an ass, when I'm showing them my Midsummer Night's Dream Team, they found the "...Fat Ass" title above the most hilarious of the classfull. But the inclusion of the words "drunk, deaf" and "blind" along with disgusting and fat is something I should have really addressed. In the whirl of activity I didn't, and I drew it. Quite rightly, the next day the school got in touch and asked if I could amend it.


Phew, I think I just about got away with it. Probably have to put that school down on the "no return booking next year" list.


The celebrities these seven groups chose to star in my demonstration strip were Taylor Swift (three times), Usain Bolt, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jeff Bezos, and the most original suggestion of the month: Jimmy Hill. No, I don't know how they knew him either.


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
Joseph, Ruth & Other Stories - Lulu
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  



Monday 15 April 2024

April Live Book Sales - Wales, Ireland, events & schools



Selling books hand to hand and face to face continues to be my best way of getting them out there. Last month's tally shows me selling the equivalent of 66 Richard The Thirds at live events, and an actual 96 Richard The Thirds in schools, while my sales on Lulu/Amazon, Etsy, Blurb & D2D combined add up to about 40 books, which really doesn't compare.

April started well with the good librarians of Dublin taking 20 Richard The Thirds between them (the profit from which may just have covered the cost of the extra bag I need to take on the plane to carry them), and my next school ordering 29 copies in advance. Then came my first live event:

Swansea Stars Of Time Comicon, Sat April 14th

Total £393 - All books and caricatures, no art sold.

Richard The Third - 26
Midsummer (new edition) - 6
Prince Of Denmark St (original) - 4
Findlay Macbeth (new edition) - 2
Omnibus - 1
Socks Superheroes - 10 (sold out)
Doctors Who Colouring - 3
Euro Vol 1 - 1
Euro 2, 60s Col, Xmas Col - 1

This total follows on from Bristol with the practice of charging for my caricatures, which I had formerly been giving away free as an attractor to my table. Now I say they're free with a book, or a couple of quid donation (or they don't need to keep them, but no one took that option). Halfway through the day I'd already run out of my 100 pre-printed sheets and had to go out and buy more, so I drew about 150 caricatures in the day. If each of those netted me at least a quid, then that explains a fair bit of the total. It also explains the complete sellout of Socks Superheroes comics. At £3 that's the cheapest thing on the table, so they'll obviously plump for that if they really only want the caricature. So I need to print me off some more pocket money comics.

The next option up pricewise would be my three classic Shakespeares at £5.99, but as you can see the overwhelming choice was Richard The Thirds at £6.99, which tells you the demographic of the crowd. Hundreds of parents with kids, for whom Richard is the first choice by far. Some of them have alreay made a beeline for it because they've spotted the "Dogman" lookalike logo, which is starting to get me worried that I've done too good a job in apeing that house style. I mean, it's supposed to appeal to Dogman fans, but I don't want anyone thinking I'm passing myself off as the real thing. 

The new editions of Findlay and MNDT are the Lulu editions without the play at the back which, having sold out of my original 500 print run of both, is all I have left to sell. Meanwhile Richard is down to its last 90 copies, so I'd better get ordering that new print run, hadn't I?

This is my biggest one day total, excluding artwork, sales yet. Other events have taken two days to not raise that much. eg (book sales only, no art):

NICE Beds Sept Sat & Sun = £353
LFCC Nov Sat & Sun = £297
LFCC July Sat & Sun = £294
Bristol March Sat only = £279
Lakes Sept Sat & Sun = £266 
Exeter March Sat & Sun = £187
Torquay Feb Sat only = £213

April Sales In Schools

Apr 8 - 12 Ireland - 20 Richards sold @ €7 (yet to see what this becomes after deductions)
Apr 18 - Christchurch Lichfield - 26 Richards @ £6 = £156
April 20 - Abergavenny - 3 Richards, 3 MNDT, 1 Tales From Bible = £46
Apr 22 - Maidwell Hall, Northants - 9 Richards @ £6 = £54
Apr 23 - Etchinghill - 23 Richards @ £6 = £138





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
Joseph, Ruth & Other Stories - Lulu
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  


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