Friday, 29 March 2013

Watching TV with the Scottish Falsetto Socks

A brand new video from the Scottish Falsetto Socks, they're watching the telly.





SOCKS ON TOUR - Your next chance to see the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

Mar 21, 22, 23 - Glasgow Comedy Festival, The Dram
Mar 30, April 5 - Bath Comedy Festival, Ring O'Bells
April 12 - Plough Arts, Torrington, Devon
April 13 - Barnfield, Exeter
April 27 - Gardyne Theatre, Dundee
April 28 - Eden Court, Inverness
May 1 - Swindon Arts Centre
May 9, 10 - Komedia, Brighton Fringe
May 25, 26 - Inverness Happy-Ness Festival
May 29 - Theatr Mwdlan, Cardigan
May 31 - Exchange Arts, Keighley
June 1 - Junction, Goole
June 2 - Barnsley Civic
June 8 - Warwick Arts Centre
June 25 - Leicester Square Theatre, London
June 27 - Victoria Theatre, Halifax
June 28 - Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol
July 2, July 9 - Leicester Square Theatre, London
July 13 - Cardiff Comedy Festival
July 14 - Sheffield, New Barrack Tavern 2pm
July 20 - Bedford Fringe
July 21 - Derby Funhouse 3.25pm
July 22 - Clowns Pocket, Neath
July 31 - Aug 25 - Gilded Balloon, 10.15pm, Edinburgh Fringe
Sept 7 - Derry Waterside
Sept 21 - Braintree Arts Theatre
Oct 26 - Canterbury Festival

Further dates to be added, (plus regular appearances at your local comedy club, check listings for details and, if you can't find us, ask your local comedy club to book us, it can't hurt). Watch Facebook, here or ents24 for updates.



See all other Socks tour dates in the Scottish Falsetto Socks Gig Guide.

Big Box of the Nineties

Here in my studio there's a box collecting dust. It contains the 1990s.



Having been proudly displayed in the back room at home for a while, it is now up the road in my studio where no-one can see it and where, I'll confess, I've not looked at it for a while. It's full of junk valued between cheap and free, collected up in the nineties at the same time as I was hanging onto shampoo bottles shaped like cartoon characters. In my mind they were pop art icons of the future, and I've always thought they looked pretty cool. There are others who might disagree. See which stars of the screen you can recognise in this box of delights (click to enlarge).

You should be able to see at least three Batmen, a Two Face, a Riddler and a Flash; Dennis The Menace and Teacher from the Bash St Kids, a Ghostbuster, a classic Cyberman and a Tardis bookmark from the Doctor Who exhibition in Llangollen, an original 1975 Billy Connolly tour badge, a Gromit shaped birthday card, a Spongebob Squarepants electric fan, a Captain Scarlet badge, Troy Tempest & a Captain Green; and just hidden from view are Bart Simpson, Darth Vader, The Rocketeer, Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Last Action Hero, a Spice Girls chocolate bar, a Desperate Dan chewy bar (which has, I fear, leaked), a Tin Tin pencil case, a Jurassic Park fridge magnet, a Teletubbies mouse mat, a Batman toothbrush, a Nightmare Before Christmas pencil and, inevitably, a cuddly toy. Oh and some football player who, I was told, looked like me.

Opening up the drawers I find a chocolate Hercules from the Disney film, an "I Am Not Dave Gorman, Are You?" badge, a hot dog, a jumping frog, and Albuquerque. Some day there's going to be an episode of Antiques Roadshow that really lowers the bar.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Ouch - the Chilli Sauce Is In My Eye! - comics by kids

A bumper bundle of comic books here, the covers thereof, produced by the pupils of my Comic Art Masterclasses in Edgeborough Surrey, and a couple of schools in Malvern (click to enlarge)



This was, I thought, a particularly impressive week for inspired titles for my kids, ranging from Year 3 to Year 8. "God Said To The People Of Bethlehem LOL" is pure genius, isn't it? That was an 11 year old. Many of you out there struggling to come up with original ideas might feel the urge, at this moment, to just plain give up.

This week's celebrities (in the "treads on a worm" demo game, where I ask the kids to choose a famous person with which I demonstrate the fine art of visual storytelling) were Keith Lemon, Taylor Swift, Simon Cowell (3 times), The Queen, Gok Wan, and Michael McIntyre. There are many more comic examples on my website, including this little lot:

I Flushed My Magical Penguin Down The Toilet - Mar 2013
The Bean Men - Feb 2013
Aquatic Owls vs The Moon - Dec 2012
The Hairy Bottom - July 2012
Kid Afro Spaghetti - June 2012
Fartimouse Owl - May 2012
I ❤ Gingers - May 2012

If anyone wants me to come and show their kids how to do what I've been doing for a living for the last two decades in my far-famed and much-loved Comic Art Masterclasses, drop me a line, a comment, a Twitter, smoke signals, the usual methods. Click below to see more, including video and contact details.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Stan Lee canvasses, what's all that about?

Have you seen these in those high street galleries? I've seen them now in Bath, Leicester and Glasgow. Giclee canvasses of classic Marvel comic covers, signed in silver pen by Stan Lee. Costing 4 grand for the set of six.



Who buys these? Why? And what do they tell us about high street art, and comics? The thing that troubles me most is that they are only credited to Stan Lee, as if he drew them. In most of the cases he didn't have anything to do with the content, and the actual artists (Gil Kane, John Buscema, JohnRomita, Dave Cockrum and Jim Steranko) are totally uncredited. Steranko has even had his famous and prominent logo removed from The Hulk comic.

These works are definitely an insult to the artists who drew them, who I am guessing would make no money from them were they still alive (okay, Steranko is the only one who's still alive, someone ask him if he's getting paid). I think they're also an insult to the intelligence of anyone who buys them. You could scan a comic and blow it up yourself for a fraction of this price, so what people are paying this money for is Stan Lee's signature in silver pen, in the sure and certain knowledge he'll be dead before the decade's out and their investment will increase in value.

Well, increase in value it might, but as long as it hangs on your wall, it'll be displaying your disregard for the artist whose work it actually is. And if you don't know the name of the actual artist, it marks you out as a shallow money-grabbing ignoramus. With a big kids comic on his wall.

Too harsh?

For the record I had an exhibition in 1983 of canvasses made from blown up Marvel comic panels, all of which sold as signed originals. A set of six would have cost you less than 4 grand.

Monday, 25 March 2013

RCA Secret - my postcards

Once more I'm being exhibited at the Royal College of Art. Alongside 2700 others. Yes, it's the annual fundraising RCA Secret art auction where artists are invited to illustrate, decorate, deface or otherwise fill up a postcard with art and then their work is sold anonymously. Congratulations or commiserations (delete where applicable) to whoever bought my three cards. This is what they looked like (click to enlarge).



My three cards were all drawn in Malta back in February. And, whereas once I thought whoever bought my cards would be disappointed, thinking they might be getting a Hockney or a Peter Blake, last year I met one of my proud purchasers, a teacher at The Brit School in Croydon, who sought me out to tell me how much she'd liked my card which is why she'd bought it. Which, I suppose, should have been obvious to me. This rather suggests my automatic assumption is that all art collectors are crass and see artwork as investments and nothing else. Shame on me.

Doctor Who Sex Scandal - be careful what you wish for

Back in October, as the Savile story was breaking, I posted a blog with the provocative title Could Doctor Who be dragged into Savile sex scandal?. The answer was supposed to be no. Today the front cover of the Daily Mirror looks like this.



Reporting on Richard Marson's new biography of John Nathan Turner the Mirror, and of course the Mail, makes a lot of the behaviour of JNT and his boyfriend, the latter being more of a wrong 'un by the sound of it. The Doctor Who connection is pretty tenuous, with this Gary Downie bloke having nothing to do with the show, and the inclusion of a photo of Colin Baker on the front cover is dreadful (not that I didn't feature Colin & Jimmy Savile together in my own blog post, but that was different).

A far more intelligent and insightful review by Mathew Sweet can be found here in The Guardian.

Well, it wasn't the story I was expecting. I was thinking we might learn of unwanted behaviour by blokes in Ice Warrior costumes or some such, but this doesn't surprise me in the least. The only hope is that this story will blow over quickly. Maybe we could distract attention by digging up some dirt on Play School. After all, didn't it have a spin off show called Play Away? The clues were there....

Now, who's for a t-shirt..?


Sunday, 24 March 2013

3 nights, 4 gigs in Glasgow

Last night the Socks played not one but an unexpected two gigs, adding a 15 minute slot at Ha Ha Comedy's 11 o'clock show to their scheduled hour long Socks In Space to make it 4 gigs over the last three days here in Glasgow.


This picture, courtesy of Dean O'Dinosaur on Facebook, captures the Socks in a couple of their new Socks in Space costumes from Thursday night's show.

As with our run of shows at Leicester Comedy Festival last month, we've used these shows as Previews, or Work In Progress shows (and if there is an accurate definition of the difference between the two I'm afraid I'm not aware of it yet), presenting an hour long show which includes some items from our previous Edinburgh and touring show Boo Lingerie, and an increasing amount of new material.

Thursday night's show, which had the smallest audience of the three, saw the first outing of the new Melies Brothers routine (don't look for it online, it's live-only so far), parts of which go down very well, and other parts of which were removed by the Friday show and further improved for Saturday. The Taylor Swift song (a version of We Are Never Getting Back Together) appeared on Thursday only and is now, I think, dropped for good (you also won't find that online yet); Bowie at 66 returned for the Saturday show and might stay; and Fireball XL5 has been going down well all three nights as has Expendable (not online).

The sketches debuted in Leicester - CPR, Bionics, and Time Travel (n.o.) keep getting better, and one called What You Didn't Know has never yet been performed and looks destined not to be. As we go along the new stuff is squeezing out the old, and a good bit of writing I got done on Saturday morning really helped the opening of the show, four top rank gags of which I'm very proud, and the threading through of a couple of running gags that hold things together. I realise none of this is of the slightest interest to anyone but me, in fact you're now reading my private diary, bugger off why don't you?

Socially I had the best time after the first night, drinking with John McShane and Pete Renshaw from Plan B Books, putting the world to rights and admiring the Lobey Dosser statue just across the road from our venue, a photo of which you'll see soon. And on Friday I went to Edinburgh for a fruitful meeting with the Gilded Balloon about our forthcoming Fringe shows, including the return of The Sitcom Trials, after which I took in all the galleries including what, in our house, we call The Museum Of Faces.

Notably, while most of the country seems to be crippled by snow, there's been barely a flake in Glasgow or Edinburgh, both of whose streets are free of white stuff, here's hoping I manage to fly home later today. Thanks Glasgow Comedy Festival, and to Alan who booked it and Tony who ran it, it's been our best GCF yet. Next stop Bath Comedy Festival, where I shall be repeating my track of doing my first show during the first brand new episode of Doctor Who, with all that portends.



SOCKS ON TOUR - Your next chance to see the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

Mar 21, 22, 23 - Glasgow Comedy Festival, The Dram
Mar 30, April 5 - Bath Comedy Festival, Ring O'Bells
April 12 - Plough Arts, Torrington, Devon
April 13 - Barnfield, Exeter
April 27 - Gardyne Theatre, Dundee
April 28 - Eden Court, Inverness
May 1 - Swindon Arts Centre
May 9, 10 - Komedia, Brighton Fringe
May 25, 26 - Inverness Happy-Ness Festival
May 29 - Theatr Mwdlan, Cardigan
May 31 - Exchange Arts, Keighley
June 1 - Junction, Goole
June 2 - Barnsley Civic
June 8 - Warwick Arts Centre
June 25 - Leicester Square Theatre, London
June 27 - Victoria Theatre, Halifax
June 28 - Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol
July 2, July 9 - Leicester Square Theatre, London
July 13 - Cardiff Comedy Festival
July 14 - Sheffield, New Barrack Tavern 2pm
July 20 - Bedford Fringe
July 21 - Derby Funhouse 3.25pm
July 22 - Clowns Pocket, Neath
July 31 - Aug 25 - Gilded Balloon, 10.15pm, Edinburgh Fringe
Sept 7 - Derry Waterside
Sept 21 - Braintree Arts Theatre
Oct 26 - Canterbury Festival

Further dates to be added, (plus regular appearances at your local comedy club, check listings for details and, if you can't find us, ask your local comedy club to book us, it can't hurt). Watch Facebook, here or ents24 for updates.



See all other Socks tour dates in the Scottish Falsetto Socks Gig Guide.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Socks at BBC TV Centre

BBC TV Centre is, tragically, closing its doors and winding up production after 50 years of being the centre of British broadcasting. I am so so glad that The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre got the chance to make a tiny bit of TV there before it got sold off. Here's their behind-the-scenes video from the dressing rooms of TVC2, home to Blue Peter and Top Of The Pops among many other shows. Enjoy...



This video is from way back in 2007, before the Socks wore any costumes, not even the ubiquituous kilt, and possibly doesn't rank among their best. But I've enjoyed watching it for the first time in five years, we hope you do too.



SOCKS ON TOUR - Your next chance to see the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

Mar 21, 22, 23 - Glasgow Comedy Festival, The Dram
Mar 30, April 5 - Bath Comedy Festival, Ring O'Bells
April 12 - Plough Arts, Torrington, Devon
April 13 - Barnfield, Exeter
April 27 - Gardyne Theatre, Dundee
April 28 - Eden Court, Inverness
May 1 - Swindon Arts Centre
May 9, 10 - Komedia, Brighton Fringe
May 25, 26 - Inverness Happy-Ness Festival
May 29 - Theatr Mwdlan, Cardigan
May 31 - Exchange Arts, Keighley
June 1 - Junction, Goole
June 2 - Barnsley Civic
June 8 - Warwick Arts Centre
June 25 - Leicester Square Theatre, London
June 27 - Victoria Theatre, Halifax
June 28 - Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol
July 2, July 9 - Leicester Square Theatre, London
July 13 - Cardiff Comedy Festival
July 14 - Sheffield, New Barrack Tavern 2pm
July 20 - Bedford Fringe
July 21 - Derby Funhouse 3.25pm
July 22 - Clowns Pocket, Neath
Aug 2-26 - Gilded Balloon, 10.15pm, Edinburgh Fringe
Sept 7 - Derry Waterside
Sept 21 - Braintree Arts Theatre

Further dates to be added, (plus regular appearances at your local comedy club, check listings for details and, if you can't find us, ask your local comedy club to book us, it can't hurt). Watch Facebook, here or ents24 for updates.



See all other Socks tour dates in the Scottish Falsetto Socks Gig Guide.

Those Kindle sales in full

Having put a new comic book up on Kindle for the first time in ages (Battler Britten No 1, get it while it's hot), I thought I'd take a look at how the sales of my other titles are doing since I uploaded the first ones in January last year. Don't get too excited everyone, those sales look like this...

No1 - Hot Rod Cow. The only one of my books that didn't get plugged with a blog post has sold more than the rest, with 114 copies downloaded. At 77p a time it's not making me rich but good to know it's out there being enjoyed.

In 2nd place at 38 copies is The Tock. Given that you pay £2.50 a copy, that's actually pretty good. Okay, I'm not Neil Gaiman, but it's a start, a toe in the water.

After which it all gets a bit risible.

The Scottish Falsetto Socks comic, which has only been on sale since August, is in 3rd place with 18 sales, beyond which I won't bother you with figures.
No 4 - Situation Murder (which, in celebration, I have now marked down in price to £1.50
No 5 - Mr Hawk The Immortal Partie (now down to £1.50)
No 6 - Lavender Millbank Mob
No 7 - Tales Of Nambygate - The Nit Inspector
No 8 - Go Wild In The Country
No 10 = Sinnerhound and Kiss Me Son Of God
Now come on everyone, I'm trying to build a publishing empire here. Do you really think I can do that on a dozen sales a month? What do you mean I should make more new comics? Cheeky.





Battler Britten - now on Kindle

For the first time on Kindle (and other devices) you can now read Battler Britten, my World War Two Battling Air Ace comedy which first appeared in Blag & UT comics back in the nineties. Click for a free preview.



Revisiting this story (The Secret Agent), which was originally serialised over four issues of Blag comic, is a delight. The story rattles along and the puns are excruciating. If this proves popular, I have more sitting there in the comics waiting to be rescued. This story and Battler's origin strip appear in print in Tales Of Nambygate (a massive and invaluable volume available from Blurb), but subsequent stories The Yanks Are Coming and One Of Our Glen Millers Is Missing remain unpublished since 1992. And what about the newspaper strip version that ran in the Daily Sport for a year? The original artwork for that has been in a box somewhere for over twenty years. I might have a look.



Other books by me, available on Kindle.





Friday, 15 March 2013

I Flushed My Magical Penguin Down The Toilet - more comics by kids

Another busy week teaching kids how to do comics, ooh it's hard work. And what have they come up with..? (Click to enlarge)



These comic book covers (and you can see a glimpse of a few of the kids strips and their caricatures - did I mention every kid goes away from my Comic Art Masterclasses with a comic containing a strip by each of them plus their individual caricatures?) - come from schools in Weston Super Mare. That's right, just a week-full of schools in Weston Super-Mare (or to be more precise Worle, which is a town in its own right, which everyone very cruelly thinks of as a bit of Weston but it's not). 3 days at Worle Community College and 2 days in 4 primary schools. A busy old week. And who did they come up with in the old "celebrity treads on a worm" routine, when I ask them to name a celebrity? See below...

This week's celebrities were Keith Lemon, Ed Sheeran, Elvis Presley, Selena Gomez, Harry Styles (three times), Michael Jackson, Simon Cowell, and Lionel Messi. No great surprises from this week's years 4 - 7s, bless them, they were all lovely.

If you're developing a taste for this kind of thing, there's a whole archive of Comic Art Masterclass comics on my website, including these choice examples and many more...

The Bean Men - Feb 2013
Aquatic Owls vs The Moon - Dec 2012
The Hairy Bottom - July 2012
Kid Afro Spaghetti - June 2012
Fartimouse Owl - May 2012
I ❤ Gingers - May 2012
Help I'm A Superhero Get Me Out Of Here - April 2012

If anyone wants me to come and show their kids how to do what I've been doing for a living for the last two decades in my patent Comic Art Masterclasses, drop me a line, a comment, a Twitter, smoke signals, the usual methods. Click below to see more, including video and contact details.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Is this comics?

Is this comics?

I visit a lot of schools teaching comics, based on my 20+ years in the comics publishing business, and I like to think I know what I'm talking about when I talk about comics. So imagine my concern when, at one of my recent secondary schools, I found this display on the wall.



As you can see the subject is very clearly and boldly "Comics". And displayed beneath are two magazines, Peppa Pig and Dora The Explorer, neither of which, in my estimation, is a comic. These are childrens magazines for pre-school readers, neither of which contains a comic strip. You will find picture stories and you will find captioned picture stories, but mostly you will find games and puzzles and in neither of these will you find a voice bubble.

And, in my book, if there are no voice bubbles, it's not a comic.*

Comics, be they comic strips or comic books, whether you choose to call them graphic novels, managa, bandes dessinees or The Beano, are a clearly defined artform. They are the telling of stories in pictures. They are not illustrated picture books, usually intended for younger kids, where you have the words on one page and the pictures on another. Comics are the artform where words and pictures are integrated to tell a story.

Pre-school childrens magazines are not comics. So why are they being taught in schools as if they are? This is not, I must point out, a mistake only being made by this one school. Over the last few years I have found a number of secondary schools teaching, as part of Media Studies, a "Comics" module in which, as is the case in this school, the pupils are asked to design a front cover for a comic.

Yes, that is the sum-total of what they are being asked to do, under the banner of comics. To design a cover. Not to write and draw a comic. And clearly certainly not to understand what a comic is, since Peppa Pig and Dora The Explorer are being bracketed under the subject title while not actually fulfilling the criteria that would qualify them as comics.

So, for our secondary school pupils in the UK today, comics are not being taught. Instead these pupils, who in my experience respond positively to and learn a great deal from comics when they see them for real, are being asked to design a front cover for something loosely described as a comic while not being one. A lot of time is given to targeting an audience, designing and marketing. But none to the contents of an actual comic, ie the artform of graphic storytelling.

This is like pretending you're teaching Shakespeare when you're only looking at his posters. It's like studying film by learning how to design a DVD cover. For a video game. It's like telling someone they've learned how to cook when all you've told them is how to  write out a menu. Would poetry or music stand for this? Or sport?

Am I the only person who thinks that this is a dreadful misrepresentation of an entire artform that insults the intelligence of the students, adds to the ignorance of all involved, and does the artform and gross and damaging disservice?

I would love to hear other peoples opinions on this.

Kev F Sutherland
COMIC ART MASTERCLASSES
http://utproductions.co.uk/masterclass.html






* Dictionary definitions include:

Comic stip: a sequence of drawings, either in color or black and white, relating a comic incident, an adventure or mystery story, etc., often serialized, typically having dialogue printed in balloons, and usually printed as a horizontal strip in daily newspapers and in an uninterrupted block or longer sequence of such strips in Sunday newspapers and in comic books. - Dictionary.com
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/comic+strip

Comics: Comics is a medium of expression in which images, often incorporating text, information such as narratives. - Wikipedia

The OED has "comic strip" as a category and defines "comics" as an Americanism.

Jekyll & Hyde live - Scottish Falsetto Socks

Brand new online from the Socks, one of the favourite routines from 2012's Boo Lingerie show, their version of Jekyll & Hyde recorded live at the Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh August 2012.

SOCKS ON TOUR - Your next chance to see the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

Mar 21, 22, 23 - Glasgow Comedy Festival, The Dram
Mar 30, April 5 - Bath Comedy Festival, Ring O'Bells
April 12 - Plough Arts, Torrington, Devon
April 13 - Barnfield, Exeter
April 27 - Gardyne Theatre, Dundee
April 28 - Eden Court, Inverness
May 1 - Swindon Arts Centre
May 9, 10 - Komedia, Brighton Fringe
May 25, 26 - Inverness Happy-Ness Festival
May 29 - Theatr Mwdlan, Cardigan

May 31 - Exchange Arts, Keighley

June 1 - Junction, Goole
June 2 - Barnsley Civic
June 8 - Warwick Arts Centre
June 25 - Leicester Square Theatre, London
June 27 - Victoria Theatre, Halifax
June 28 - Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol
July 2, July 9 - Leicester Square Theatre, London
July 13 - Cardiff Comedy Festival
July 14 - Sheffield, New Barrack Tavern 2pm
July 20 - Bedford Fringe
July 21 - Derby Funhouse 3.25pm
July 22 - Clowns Pocket, Neath
Aug 2-26 - Gilded Balloon, 10.15pm, Edinburgh Fringe
Sept 7 - Derry Waterside
Sept 21 - Braintree Arts Theatre

Further dates to be added, (plus regular appearances at your local comedy club, check listings for details and, if you can't find us, ask your local comedy club to book us, it can't hurt). Watch Facebook, here or ents24 for updates.



See all other Socks tour dates in the Scottish Falsetto Socks Gig Guide.
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