The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is almost upon us – in fact, it’s next weekend (17th – 19th October 2014). In the run up to the event, which has already taken over the Cumbrian town of Kendal with comics exhibitions, warm up events and over 40 shops turning over their windows to display comic-releated exhibits created by local children and comic creators, we’ve been running a number of interviews spotlighting at least a few of the huge number of guests and comic creators who will be at the event
Today it’s the turn of Beano artist Kev F. Sutherland, who will be delivering his Comic Art Masterclass back to the Lake District to teach the next generation of comic artists their craft.
A British comics veteran who I’ve known since the 1980s, Kev writes and draws for comics as diverse as The Beano, Marvel Comics and Doctor Who. He’s currently writing “Bananaman” and drawing “Pansy Potter”, and was the man who gave us “The Bash Street Zombies” and “Roger The Dodger’s Reservoir Dodge”.
For Marvel he drew Doctor Strange and Star Trek and has worked everywhere from Doctor Who Adventures and Match to Red Dwarf Smegazine and Viz comic.
He also teaches comic art in his Comic Art Masterclass which visits schools, libraries and art centres all around the country and the world – he’s taught comic art from Ireland to Abu Dhabi and from Norway to Toulouse!
downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Kev F. Sutherland: I’ve just written the Christmas story for “Dennis The Menace”, to be drawn by Nigel Parkinson, and you’ll see a lot of my stuff in this year’s Beano annual – the “Bananaman” and “Biffo The Bear” strips are mostly mine, drawn by Wayne Thompson.
downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Kev F.: Sadly, my weekly Beano strips are lucky if they survive in anyone’s collections (which, I suppose, makes them valuable classics of the future), so hang onto those Beano annuals. The 2007, 2008 and 2009 annuals have some of my favourite written and drawn work, including “Rodger the Dodger’s Reservoir Dodge” in the 2009 Beano Annual
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Kev F.: I have quite a mix of work, ranging from my live comedy shows (The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre) and my Comic Art Masterclasses, both of which take me out on the road travelling to all points of the globe. My script writing is therefore often done in hotel rooms and cafes. My artwork, though, is done at my desk with the simple method of stopping looking at Facebook, and getting on with it.
downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Kev F.: Creating comics. The finished work is a constant marvel. Am I the only person who finishes a page then stares at it admiringly for ages? Or am I more vain than everyone else?
downthetubes: And the worst?
Kev F.: There aren’t as many comics as there were [on the UK news stand], paying as much money as they did, for creators in my genre. I’m, primarily, a humorous comic artist who likes producing comics for kids. Let’s just say it’s not 1989 any more.
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Kev F.: The internet. In my day… in my day… we had to distract ourselves by looking out of the window or going down the pub. Now just answering your emails can suddenly lead you to looking something up, and before you know it you’ve checked Facebook and suddenly it’s this afternoon already.
downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Kev F.: There is greater diversity, and print-on-demand self-publishing has been a revolution. Online publishing and things like Deviant Art means anyone can get seen now, and the standard of artwork I see from new artists has never been higher. However, at the same time, no-one wants to pay for anything. So we have a situation where the number of people buying comics appears to be slightly smaller than the number of people publishing comics. I may need to see the stats.
downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven’t, what are you expecting?
Kev F.: Yes, it was brilliant. If there are any panels as good as last year’s Viz talk, I’ll be happy. I hope all the shops in town have joined in with their window displays again, it looked great last year.
downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Kev F.: I haven’t met Leo Baxendale. Though I’m not sure what we’d talk about.
downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Kev F.: It gives me a great boost to see I’m not the only person doing this stupid job. I usually come away remembering why I do it.
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Kev F.: Good luck. When I started trying to break into the business 30 years ago it was an unrealistic prospect for a British creator to work for American comics, but that changed radically. Maybe the next wave will see Brits conquering Japan? We can but hope.
downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Kev F.: Last week’s Beano. Your neighbour’s recycling bin. Keep your eyes peeled.
downthetubes: Kev, thanks very much for your time and your answers. See you in the Lakes!
• Kev F Sutherland will appear at the following events during this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival:
• Check out his official web site at: http://comicfestival.co.uk