Monday, 31 July 2017

Socks Do Shakespeare t shirts on Redbubble

Thanks to a new online printer I've started using called Redbubble, you can now get the Socks Do Shakespeare t shirt design on shirts and tops of all sizes and designs, including a big-image version that looks like this:

I know, cool ain't it? They start at just under £15. And you can also get the logo on everything from duvets and phone cases, to mugs and clocks. Check out the whole lot here, happy shopping (it's never too early for Christmas).

If you're more of a fan of the Classic Socks logo, that's available on a similar range of products, over on Cafepress. Where, I'm delighted to find, we've sold three shirts this year. A total of $69 worth of products, for which I'm owed a massive $5.59. I am the merchandise mogul.

Socks Do Shakespeare at The Camden Fringe, August 16 & 17 - Book now! 

Sunday, 30 July 2017

When Trump Got The Bieber Fever - comics by kids

I try, if I can, to avoid the kids coming up with Donald Trump as a suggestion for either the front cover or the demonstration strip in my Comic Art Masterclasses. Because once the name Trump comes up, kids can think of nothing funnier and he'll end up as their choice. So, when I show them the collection of comics by previous groups, I hide the Trump covers away and hope they'll be original and imaginative. In this week's classes, Trump trumped all, again, and wound up on three covers and two demonstration strips. But, hey, I'm well pleased with these covers from Backwell school. Two monochrome designs in a day. Quite stylish.

 If it's Tuesday, I must be in Greenock and Port Glasgow. A whistle-stop trip via Glasgow airport to two libraries. It is, finally summer holidays everywhere (though Scottish kids have been off for at least a fortnight and most go back in three weeks time), so I'm doing summer activities, in this case in Inverclyde libraries. And, yes, Trump is as big in Greenock as he is in Backwell.

Back in Backwell, we managed a whole day without a Trump title (though, as you can see from the reference I've put on the cover, he featured in the demo strip). The kids go away with an A5 comic, containing a strip by every one of them. I then add a bit of colour to the covers after the fact.

Saturday in Woodbridge Library, near Ipswich, counts as the longest journey of the week. Yes, it takes longer to get to East Anglia than it takes to get to Glasgow. And the kids managed a double-Trump here, with him starring in the demonstration strip in one class, and the cover of the other.

The celebrities these 8 groups chose for my demonstration strip were The Queen, Kim Kardashian, Will Smith, Donald Trump (twice), Barack Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Beyonce.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Nativity - script written

I've just written The Nativity. Though, I will concede, someone else wrote it first.

While I'm still waiting for approval and the go ahead to draw up The Book Of Ruth, Rahab, and Jael Wife Of Heber, all of which I wrote a few months ago, I was delighted to get the commission last week to write a Nativity adaptation for Bible Society, which I delivered on Thursday night.

Though we talked in terms of me writing a 4 page A4 strip, as I'd done with Feeding The 5000 earlier this year, I've delivered the laid-out script for a strip that runs to 16 A5 pages. For some reason the gags all came out as four-panellers, rather than my previous three-panellers (which give me a 9-to-a-page grid). So I'm keeping fingers crossed that Rachel and Bible Society will like this version, otherwise I'll have to lose a lot that I'm quite proud of.

As with all my previous Bible adaptations, I'm adapting something I've never read before, so it's a fascinating education for me to see what these stories actually have in them. We get a few gags at the expense of Matthew's opening to his gospel, which is a page of begatting (also covered brilliantly in this comedy routine by Richard Herring which, thankfully, I didn't see till after I'd written my version. We don't do the same gags, so phew.) I'm quite pleased with my characterisation of Angel Gabriel, and I've revisited my Herod, who I first wrote for Feeding of the 5000. He's a nastier bit of work in this story than he was in 5000, and we end on a bit of a cliffhanger with him (spoiler alert) calling for the murder of al boys under the age of two.

Possibly my favourite routine is having one of the Magi as a sort of Brian Cox character, much more interested than the science than anything more inexplicable. I hope to get the go ahead to draw this strip soon, let us see.

I've realised I managed to not mention the Feeding of the 5000 in my blog, when I completed it back in October of last year, so here's a snippet now. I don't actually know if it's seen print yet.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Microchips - and other small thoughts

Company to implant employees with microchips. What could go wrong? Okay, stalkers, yes. But can you imagine the scenario at your work where the stalker would be a tech-savvy geeky loner who works in the IT dept? Cyber theft? Maybe, but can you imagine anyone in your company who might get into debt, thru embezzlement of fraud or the like, and would be so high up in the company they'd have unique access to the computer systems? And as for real crime? Oh come on. Can you picture anyone at your place of work who might get in trouble, with drugs or gambling or whatever, so they'd end up rubbing shoulders with the criminal fraternity and have pressure put on them to share this info outside the company? Exactly. Don't worry. Don't go thinking it'll ever get to the stage where someone would cut off your finger to get access to your microchip. It'll never happen. Trust me, that is a news headline you will never see.

Private Eye don't want it, so here's that gag you all loved so much.

Last night we watched The Graduate, 50 years old this month, which is an excellent comedy that hasn't aged at all. Then you go away thinking, so what else has Dustin Hoffman made in the intervening 50 years? Try it. I came up with Tootsie, Marathon Man, and Kramer Versus Kramer, but then I was struggling. Think a bit harder you'll get Papillon, Midnight Cowboy, Lenny and All The Presidents Men. But then I get to thinking, there must be sooo many "Pointless" answers out there. Turns out, no so many. This is what happens when you're selective about the movies you make and don't cram in a lot of dross.

If you're going on Pointless, and Dustin Hoffman comes up, I'd say Agatha, Alfredo Alfredo, Madigan's Millions, and Who Is Harry Kellerman And Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? would be your winning answers.

Pop music has always been such a big part of my life. So it's increasingly chagrinning to be reminded how out of touch I've become. I totally sympathise with this article, yet at the same time have not heard of a single artist mentioned (except the ones from 10 years ago). Whenever I accidentally turn over to Radio 1 or 1Extra, I usually get one track in before realising "wait a minute, this is wrong" and turning back to 6Music. It must be like if our grandparents accidentally stumbled across a Pirate radio station in the 60s.

Is it too late to re-educate myself into 21st century pop music or has that ship sailed? Will I forever be able to instantly recognise singles from their intros, however bland, as long as they date from the late 60s to the late 80s (try me, from Andrea True Connection to Tiffany, no track's too naff to have gone under my pop radar), but be destined to be unable to tell Dua Lipa from Ria Lina and Maggie Rogers from Roger Whittaker?

Just enjoyed, for the first time, Gore Verbinksi's Lone Ranger. It was brilliant, an exemplary bit of action film making. Obviously it suffered bad publicity because, at its heart, it has Johnny Depp playing a Comanche, which is problematic and, well basically, racist. Which is a shame, and I don't know how you'd get round it apart from casting a Native American actor as Tonto, or having Johnny Depp do his brilliant comic action acting in a different film.
Johnny Depp really is outstanding in this, merging a Buster Keatonesque comic timing with Buster Keatonesque physicality and Buster Keatonesque... he's essentially doing Buster Keaton. And so is Gore Verbinski, wielding his CGI toybox with the greatest skill and, again, comic timing. There are direct lifts from The General and other Keaton movies, as well as heaps of references to everything from Ford to Leone, but not in a fanboy way (if anything, more of a La La Land way - is it an homage, or is it just "that's nice, I'll have that for my movie"). Genius steals, and having stolen, uses the bits well.
You can see why it had box office problems, the Indian-pretending aside. The rest of the cast, particularly Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger, are good but they're not outstanding. He grows on you, but it would have been helped by a real name in that role, or some of the others. It also has an uneasy balance of Disneyesque light entertainment, and blood and death. Being in the Western genre doesn't mean that you're Tom & Jerry, and I'd think a few kids & parents would be squeamish at quite the amount of indiscriminate death that is dealt out throughout.
But for action sequences, and tight unpretentious writing, it's an exercise in showing other film makers how it should be done. I'd like to see Verbinski apply these talents to something other than second hand pirate and cowboy franchises, he might make something that'll really stand the test of time.
Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video

Socks Do Shakespeare at The Camden Fringe, August 16 & 17 - Book now! 

Walter Tottle - the gang back together

Just very briefly, for an hour outside a Costas in Ipswich, we got the band back together. After a day of classes at Woodbridge library, with Hev in tow having a Saturday out in Ipswich, I managed to meet up with Nick & Kev for the first time in over a decade.

The last time Walter Tottle, our childhood band, met up was at a school reunion in Market Harborough in 2003, when I joined the band on stage for a rendition of Pump It Up, and they entertained us with the hits of 1978. It was fantastic to meet up again at the weekend and discover that they're still playing.

Kev plays with a punk band, with a pirate theme, and Nick plays with Kev's wife in a folky double act. And they have between them a far better memory of our teenage years than I ever had. In our brief time together I learned that, in the photo above, that's not a real Gibson after all, but it's still the guitar Kev was so proud of that he ran all the way to my house to show it to me and dropped it on the way. I was reminded of the story of the talent contest when we got to the stage only for Kev to find his guitar case was locked and he'd left the key at home so he had to sprint all the way back to get it, while we waited for him. On stage. Quite how I've forgotten things like this I can't imagine.

Ironically it was my third weekend in a row in East Anglia, after playing Latitude the previous weekend and worked in Norwich the Saturday before that. Hopefully we'll meet again for longer, soon, and not leave decades in between meetings.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

Socks Do Shakespeare at The Camden Fringe, August 16 & 17 - Book now! 

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Jodie Doctor Who comic strip

It seems to be a popular thing to do, so I had a stab this week at drawing a comic strip of the new Doctor Who. And why not. I realise that, while striving for a likeness of Jodie Whittaker, I've ended up doing a spot on likeness of Alison Brie out of Glow, which we're currently enjoying on Netflix.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

Socks Do Shakespeare at The Camden Fringe, August 16 & 17 - Book now! 

Friday, 21 July 2017

The Mash Report - some thoughts

Like the Curate's egg, parts of The Mash Report are excellent. But its treatment from most commentators I've seen online so far will concentrate unfairly on the bits that are a bit rotten. Which is a shame. Nish Kumar is the perfect anchor, and the in-character bits by Andrew Hunter Murray and Rachel Parris were perfect. The mock headline news bits were abysmal (the writers fault, not the presenters) and should be the first thing to go.

Surely though the biggest problem with Mash Report, and this is a problem also suffered by Channel 4's 10 O'Clock Live, and the 11 O'Clock Show & The Late Edition before it, is that they are all DOING THE DAILY SHOW! And you can't do The Daily Show unless a) You are as good as The Daily Show or b) You are The Daily Show.

Dammit, even The Daily Show's not as good as The Daily Show for the past year. But it's still up there. As is Last Week Tonight, The Colbert Report, Samantha Bee's show and all the US shows where the writers have had the last 20 years to get up to speed, and where this format of writing is second nature to them.

Mimicking another country's format is never going to make you the winner in this game. Look at Jonathan Ross. He looked at US TV, saw David Letterman. Ripped off that format for his Last Resort show. Where did that get him? Okay, bad example.

But look at our TV comedy successes and you usually see originality winning. The Day Today (grown through radio's On The Hour) was a new way of spoofing the news. Have I Got News For You (grown through radio's News Quiz) invented the comedy news panel show. I hear Spitting Image is up for a revival, and you can see why: the kids in charge of TV commissioning are too young to remember that Spitting Image wasn't actually funny the first time round.

So Mash Report is a nice effort, but unless it carves its own niche will probably not last. In the meantime, I hear Charlie Brooker might be getting another series of News Wipe. Perhaps we could keep this gap in the schedule open for him?

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

Socks Do Shakespeare at The Camden Fringe, August 16 & 17 - Book now! 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Kittens In A Blender - comics by kids

Here at St Sidwell's Primary in Exeter, we see the clear difference between year 3 and year 6. When asked to come up with a name for the group comic, the youngest kids choose Kung Fu Kittens, the oldest kids put the Kittens In A Blender. As always, the kids take away a black and white A5 photocopied comic containing all of their strips and an individual caricature by me, all behind these covers, which I draw while they're getting on with their work.

Obviously I love doing a good homage, so apropos of nothing - and totally unrelated to the title they'd come up with - I did a pastiche of a Neal Adams Batman cover, with Donald Trump thrown in for the hell of it. These two are from DeFerrers Academy in Burton, working with years 7 to 10. For who, for some reason, there is nothing funnier than the meme "Why you don't go in Shrek's swamp". I still have no idea why.

The Latitude Festival was fun again, with my classes run in tents, and so the kids didn't get a copy of the comic to take away. But they gave me a chance to do a nifty Theresa May drawing, and they chose Jeremy Corbyn as their favourite celebrity, which was nice.

Back at St Sidwell's school, we get the sweetest titles of the week. Hermione and a Unicorn? And a pasty? This is what you want your kids to be doing isn't it? So let's pretend this is what they come up with every time, shall we?

The celebrities these 8 groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Jeremy Corbyn, Simon Cowell, Elvis Presley (twice), Emma Watson, Donald Trump (twice), and Ed Sheeran.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

Monday, 17 July 2017

Jodie Whittaker The New Doctor - video by The Socks

Yesterday the new Doctor Who was announced, and today The Socks made a video about it. Enjoy. Let's see if this is as popular as our DUP video from last month.

At time of writing it's only been up for four hours. Youtube has 135 views, Facebook 4800 views, 140 shares, and 13,337 reached.

UPDATE: Tuesday night (1 day later), Facebook 18,000 views, 355 shares, 47,406 reached. Youtube 519 views.

Weds night, FB 32,000 views, 524 shares, 79,918 reached. Youtube 660 views.
Thurs night, FB 37,000 views, 585 shares, 89,918 reached. Youtube 735 views.
Sat am, FB 40,000 views, 598 shares, 94,676 reached. Youtube 911 views.

UPDATE: 6 weeks later Sept 3rd: FB 53,455 views, 680 shares, 341 likes. Youtube 1534 views.

Socks Do Shakespeare at The Camden Fringe, August 16 & 17 - Book now! 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Socks Do Shakespeare - best tour ever

As the dust settles, and I have a brief respite from the string of schools I'm working at this month, I'm able to look back at the Socks Do Shakespeare tour that ended in Ludlow in June, and happily record it as our most successful tour yet. It is, without question, my favourite of our shows, and has had universally the best reception from audiences, who've turned out in good numbers too.

I was chuffed to be sent this review, from Anita at the Ludlow Fringe, which should be on their website:

It is often said that Shakespeare never wrote a funny joke in his life. It may even be true. What is certain is that the bard never write a joke remotely as funny as the one come up with by the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre about the negotiations between Richard III and the bloke who answered his emergency call of "a kingdom for a horse" at the battle of Bosworth Field.
     Just to be sure, I ran it past a few friends and their unanimous reaction confirmed my original impression. So, without much further ado, I now have the honour of announcing that their show does indeed feature the greatest Shakespeare-related gag of all time.
     Not that their show isn't packed with loads more. It is. It's just that this one is bloody hilarious and it alone is worth the price of admission from now until the end of history.
In fact, I've just told it to myself again and... give me a moment....
     Go see the show for yourself and tell me I'm wrong. If you do not laugh out loud a lot I'll eat my shorts.

The graph is a little deceptive. It shows our settlement for every show (red line) and the average of those (green line), and currently has a gap for the Brighton Fringe shows, for which we haven't been paid so don't know what we made yet. Also still to come are the two Camden Fringe shows in August. But what it's not showing is the actual profit for each show. Obviously a show like The Rondo in Bath (which is that big spike you can see to the left) is a clear winner all round, our settlement far exceeding the guarantee, and the travel costs being negligible. But the spike to the right is Aberdeen Uni, which includes travel costs being added on as part of the settlement. And don't get me started on Inverness. When I deduct the travel and accommodation costs from the Inverness gig, which I went into plenty of detail over earlier, we have a show that only just broke even.

I could, were I feeling masochistic, go over these figures and deduct travel, accommodation, and Festival entry costs (eg Glasgow, Leicester, Brighton, Camden, Ludlow all had up-front costs to get the show into the brochure and/or to hire the venue, which I've not shown here). But those costs will only make a real mark on about a third of the shows (the Scottish, Irish & Festival shows), the rest being a pretty simple matter of turning up and playing, usually for a guarantee, sometimes for less, sometimes for more. Either way it's been a feel-good tour.

I'm frustrated that I've made no progress in selling the Socks to the TV, but that is entirely up to me so I'd better damn well get on with it. If you don't ask, you don't get. So what say I get in touch with the people who matter now, and invite them to our Camden shows? Stay tuned for news.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

More Ducks, Pigs, Unicorns, Trump - comics by kids

Howard The Duck remains probably the favourite comic from my childhood, so I was delighted to have an excuse to draw him (ie copy Gene Colan's classic front cover) on this comic from my class at Norwich's Lords Mayor Day classes in the library. On the other hand, on the same day, I got to draw a Star Wars parody, which was fun, despite the fact that I am Earth's least Star Wars-y person. It's not as bad as Pink Floyd in my list of Top Ten things I hate, but it's up there.

Favourite cover of the week, and nicest title, is Piglet Power Choo Choo Shlay Hub Tea Crunchy Bottom. That'll do, Piglet Power, that'll do. And Donald Trump is back after a while away, appearing on his second cover in a few days. Not as contentious as last week's Assassinate Trump, so that's good.

What is it with teenagers and memes? These kids were year 7 to 9, and so many of their suggestions were unoriginal memes. It must be a vital part of growing up, the need to join in and blend in rather than stick out and be original (which year 5 & 6 excel in), but it is frustrating when you're trying to encourage them to be imaginative. En route to coming up with Spicy Memes, this class at Pill (just down the road, shortest drive to work all year) came up with titles that ranged from KFC to Killer Chickens to Nandos and back. What did my generation do, before they'd invented takeaway fried chicken? Oh yes, I remember. Stayed thin.

The celebrities these classes chose to star in my demonstration strip were The Queen, Bob Marley, Kim Kardashian, John Lennon, David Walliams, and most novel choice of the bunch Rick Astley.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Chicken, Fish, Pigs & Trump - comics by kids

There was a lot of wildlife in the titles for the comics suggested by pupils in schools this week. I did a day and a half at Ruskin Juniors in Swindon, and two days at Northbury Primary in Barking, doing the Year 6s at one and the Year 5s at the other. Zombie Chickens is my favourite cover (sometimes the logo just works out right, being drawn at speed during the class), and Assassinate Trump is one of those covers that you realise afterwards is the sort of thing that might come back to bite you. What can I say? The teacher didn't have a problem with it. Primary school kids find no-one funnier than Donald Trump. And in a class that is 90% BAME and probably 50% Muslim, all I can say is that he started it.

Meanwhile in Swindon, the titles again erred on the side of inadvisability. I managed to disguise the worst of the Rainbow Farting Pig, but if anyone comes back complaining about my insensitive attitude to recently deceased Nans, I can only apologise.

It's always good to have the opportunity to google a bit of reference and knock out a simple but effective front cover, so I was pleased with my dolphins. And the flipcharts this week have benefitted from my arriving in good time every morning. A worrying trend I'm finding in schools recently is that kids don't recognised Minnie The Minx. They guess everything from Pie Face to Dennis The Menace's Gran (do I draw her looking very grandparental? That comes up a lot). But few get Minnine first time.

And back in Northbury, here we see me doing my politically correct over-compensation, making sure the kids are well represented on their comic covers. I'm sure the kids aren't that fussed, or even aware of such things, but I like to make sure my comics don't end up whitewashed like, for example, Eastenders. (Right now Albert Square, ostensibly set in East London, seems to have more gay characters than Asians, which is a bit weird).

The celebrities these 7 groups chose for my demonstration strip were Cristiano Ronaldo (three times), Donald Trump (twice), Ed Sheeran, and, for a bit of much needed variety, Leonardo Da Vinci.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 
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