It was a television advert for sanitary towels featuring blue ink instead of red that inspired musician Kev Sherry to create a new Scottish comic script character challenging society’s awkwardness over menstruation.

The ad sparked a conversation with a female friend, which led the singer- songwriter to a personal epiphany – one which has seen the creation of a Scottish feminist heroine.

Now he hopes the creation of the comic book characters in the fictional Scottish town of Cairnswell will encourage greater understanding of women’s menstrual cycle among men.

The 41-year-old songwriter, best known as the frontman of Glasgow indie band Attic Lights, said: “It was a fairly simple moment of realisation for me.

“We were watching TV, and when this advert came on she asked me why the liquid they used was always blue, as if women’s blood was something to be ashamed of. I’d honestly never thought of it before and the idea came from there.”

The idea has spawned a comic script collaboration with Italian artist Katia Vecchio, and the creation of Warpaint, which Sherry says is comparable with 1980s coming of age films Stand By Me and Goonies, but told from a feminist perspective.

He said: “The comic uses menstruation as one of the themes, and how girls are expected to be ashamed of it, but the lead character is a woman who is very up-front about that sort of thing.

“The characters have a fantasy world that they go to, a place where they imagine a better world and try to bring that world into reality. And in that fantasy world they’re not ashamed of their blood, their menstruation.

“It’s called Warpaint because the characters use their menstrual blood as a stand against the patriarchy and misogyny of their small-town upbringing. 

“It’s a difficult thing for a man to be writing about and I did a lot of talking with my female friends and to gauge how a woman feels about a man writing or co-writing.

“I asked things about the consistency of menstrual blood, and whether it was possible to use it as war paint. I discovered it was.

“But I’m not trying to tell women about menstruation. If anything, it’s for men like me who never actually think about it.”

The project comes in the wake of a major drive to eradicate period poverty, something which one in five women in Scotland have experienced.

Earlier this year the Scottish Government became the first in the world to make sanitary products available for free to all 395,000 of its pupils in a bid to ensure girls didn’t miss out on any part of their education through a lack of access to sanitary products.

Councillor Alison Evison, president of Cosla, said the £5.2 million initiative would “contribute to a more open conversation and reducing the unnecessary stigma associated with periods”.

Warpaint is published on worldwide online comic platform ComiXology, and will be followed by a novel and  solo album which Sherry is currently recording at Chem 19 studios in Blantyre, Lanarkshire with leading indie producer Paul Savage.

It follows the story of a 16-year-old girl being brought up by her religious grandparents, and navigating the impact of misogyny and bullying on women and men in small-town Scotland.

Sherry said: “She’s trying to escape and find a better life for herself. She’s the kind of rare kid you meet who doesn’t back down in the face of authority.”
Sherry is the lead singer and co-songwriter in Attic Lights, who have released two albums with a third due next year. 

He says he thinks of his songs as “songs women might write”.

“The way I make my melodies work, and the way I sing also has a feminine quality,” he said. “I went to that place, and also to the place where I had to take my male ego to pieces. But I couldn’t have done it without Katia, she’s what makes it ring true.

“The comic takes a fairly militant feminist slant on patriarchal attitudes towards menstruation and how young girls and your women are treated in society. But at its heart it’s a human story about friendship and regret and courage and kids who want to change the world being let down by adults who supposedly know better.”

The writer acknowledged the influence of comics such as Dundee’s iconic Beano, and 2000 AD whose character Judge Dredd was conceived by Greenock-raised John Wagner. Other Scottish comic book success stories include Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison.

Sherry said: “I worship at the feet of people like Grant Morrison.  I’ve been buying comics since as early as I can remember. The true love of my life is 2000AD, which I still read to this day. It’s  responsible for my political and moral outlook on life.”