Comic artist, writer, tutor and creator of the hilarious Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, Kev F. Sutherland has launched a modest crowdfunder for Findlay Macbeth, his 125-page debut graphic novel, re-writing Shakespeare’s perhaps best-known tragedy, and I caught up with him to ask a few quickfire questions about the project.
Set in 1977, Findlay Macbeth is a mild mannered salesman working for Alba Industries, but when he fails to get the promotion to Managing Director, things turn a bit ugly…
Kev F Sutherland is a writer and artist on comics as diverse as Beano, Doctor Who Magazine, Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Star Trek, Oink, VIZ, Zig & Zag’s Zogazine, Red Dwarf Smegazine, and dozens more.
He writes and performs the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre and makes regular appearances as a comedian, presenter, and general know-it-all on TV and radio, as well as teaching kids how to create comics in his popular Comic Art Master Classes. He’s even appeared as a despairing advisor on The Apprentice!
“The idea for Findlay Macbeth began as a stage show, basically how I’d like to stage Macbeth itself,” Kev tells downthetubes, “a mash-up of Abigail’s Party and the play!
“I’ve always seen Macbeth as much more of a put-upon wimp than a warrior, so downplaying his role from King to star salesman in an average small business in the 1970s was my starting point.
“This graphic novel contains passages you’ll recognise from Shakespeare’s original,” he explains, “along with story and dialogue of my own with twists and embellishments that I’m rather pleased with, though I say so myself.
“As well as my comic story, printed in manga paperback format, I’ve included the full text of the play of Macbeth, so you need look no further to check out the original.
“I’ve aimed to make the book accessible to readers of all ages, and I think it works as a good way of seeing Macbeth the play itself (albeit with some changes). Let’s just say, if you’re old enough to read the words and see the violence in Shakespeare’s play, then you’re old enough to read Findlay Macbeth.
“I’m very pleased and proud of this, my first full-length graphic novel (my previous work having been limited to comic books and annuals) and I really hope you’re going to love it too.”
“I aimed modest with the Kickstarter, that target being just under half the print costs, knowing I could make up the difference,” he notes. “I want to use the campaign to reach an audience, and sell copies in advance. I’ve reached the initial target already so, hopefully, will be able to offer ‘stretch goals’ to supporters.”
Kev has already had two £100 pledges – supporters who will be able to choose two pages of original art from the book.
If Findlay Macbeth is a success – and Kev says he doesn’t know how he’d measure that – he’d love to do another in a similar vein.
“It’s the biggest thing I’ve drawn on spec, ever,” he reveals. “To put it in context, if I’d been doing this project for a commercial client, such as Beano, the script and art would have cost someone between £15,000 and £25,000. As it is, I’ve been paid nothing, and produced it in my down time (in January, which is the quietest month for school visits, comedy shows and art commissions).
“If, by some fluke, I sell enough copies to cover all those costs, I would turn down other work and produce another book at the drop of a hat. Let’s see if we get any further than just covering printing costs, for now!”
Meanwhile, Kev is is looking forward to seeing the release of another of his projects, Tales From The Bible, published by Bible Society.
“They commissioned, and have paid well, for the 120-odd pages I’ve drawn over the last three years,” Kev tells us. “They seem to be doing a lot of market research to find their audience and set a price for the book, hence the frustratingly long wait (I finished the last strip a year ago). Your guess is as good as mine as to when it’ll appear.”
He also continues to be busy with his Comic Art Master Classes, but asked what has been the strangest comic character one of his students has come up with over many such workshops over the years, he’s loathe to pick just one.
“In my classes, kids come up with something strange every minute, it would be impossible to single them out,” he says. “I do about one hundred days a year in schools, teaching up to sixty kids a day, so that’s over 5000 mad ideas they generate under my watch.
“That said, my favourite comic title of recent weeks was ‘Buttcheek Stinklesburg’!”
Findlay Macbeth looks great fun – but of course I would say that, wouldn’t I, having been threatened with crazy sock puppets, and what with commissioning Kev back in my Doctor Who Magazine days. So you’d better go and check the project out for yourselves now on Kickstarter, hadn’t you?