Sunday, November 30, 2008

DFC at six months - writers and artists have their say....


For the past few days, I’ve had my say and Molly’s had her say on the DFC Comic and how much we’re both enjoying it. But I thought it might be interesting to see what a few people who make the comic strips in the DFC thought when asked the question:

What do YOU think about the DFC?

(Links in the titles take you to the DFC creator pages)

Emma Vieceli (Violet)

I can’t speak highly enough of it. It’s one of the best things to hit the UK comic scene in years, but as to the readership - because of the young target age, we don’t actually get to hear much in way of feedback. the DFC offices quite often get really sweet letters from readers telling them which stories they like, but this isn’t the kind of age group to go discussing the stories online sadly.
I hope, hope, hope that word spreads and more people catch onto this amazing project. It’s an injection of life into the industry, and we’d be mad to let it go. ^_^

DFC Violet.jpg

(Violet by Emma Vieceli - website)

Peadar O Guilin (Sneaky)

I am one of the contributors — I write Sneaky. As a result, I’ve been getting all the issues, reading them, and passing them on to an eight year old child I know. Just like you, I find that we have radically different preferences.

I grew up on 2000AD and still gravitate towards those sorts of stories, particularly “Mezolith” with its amazing atmosphere. He’s more into “Animal Adventure Squad” etc.

Laura Howell (Sneaky, The Mighty M)

Sadly, there are absolutely no 8-13 year-olds in my acquaintance, so I’ve never once been able to speak to a genuine human child about their DFC reading experiences. But I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from people like Jim Medway, who go into schools regularly.

For my own experience, I’ve grown more and more keen on the DFC over time - which is not to say I didn’t like it at the beginning, but for me it started hitting its stride in the teen issues, when things like the DFC Olympics and Mezolith appeared . I think it offers today’s kids the closest experience to the one that I grew up with and loved, reading serialised stories in comics such as Mandy and Bunty (and for the lads, in the equivalent boys’ comics). And contrary to popular opinion, I don’t for a second believe kids have lost interest in serialised stories - just look at how they buy endless volumes of Manga, or follow the soaps, and there’s those seven volumes of books about some wizard or
other… I could see it becoming such a big deal amongst both kids and older comics fans, it’s just the question of how the raise awareness. I’m being boringly evangelical about it to anyone who’ll listen these days, but I want to see it on billboards and buses, I want
to see kids at comics conventions cosplaying as DFC characters! Bring Molly along to Bristol next year in a Verne outfit, that’ll be a start ^_^

dfc10 sneaky.jpg

(Sneaky cover to DFC issue 10 by Laura Howell - website.)

Robin Etherington (Monkey Nuts, Strange Strange World of the Weird)

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a number of days hosting comic workshops with children ranging from 6-13, a surprisingly wider demographic than the target 8-12 that the DFC initially hoped to attract. The first, and most notable response from all the children who have read the comic (and this percentage has been steadily rising over the sessions, from 10% to around 50%) is one of sheer joy. The original intention was to create an anthology styled comic with ongoing, serialised adventures, but there was a concern that children might find this a difficult reading concept to grasp. What we have discovered is that they positively RELISH the bigger multi-episode adventures, and cannot wait for the next instalment. The range of storytelling and artistic styles is also gaining appreciative noises from the young readers, as boys and girls of different ages constantly nominate different strips as their ‘favourite’, often citing three or four tales as equally fun.

The importance of Language plays a major role in our sessions with the children. I’ve been a firm believer that a child will read AT LEAST two years above their intended age, if provided the material. Words they cannot understand, or pronounce, they will simply skip over, their enjoyment utterly unimpaired by the experience. This is an opinion I’ve found exemplified through our workshops as children read sections of the DFC to us (which they take immense pleasure in!) happily engaging with challenging concepts, language and jokes. Wonder and Imagination are the two watchwords that my brother Lorenzo and I actively instil in every page of our work, and the DFC is rapidly inspiring this sentiment in readers of all ages. Children are happily buying into fantastical lands and mythical worlds, as easily as the more accessible school child based strips. Parents have engaged equally well with the DFC reading experience. The quality standard is something that David Fickling and his editorial team go to great lengths to guarantee, challenging the various creators to produce consistently superior material. Thankfully, the results have resonated well among those parents whose children are subscribing, praising the variety and originality of the tales.

All in all the feedback is superb. As good as it could be at such an early moment in the life-span of this title. 24 issues old and going strong, the future looks bright for the children of the UK!

monkey nuts cover.jpg

(Monkey Nuts cover by the Etherington Brothers - website)

Jim Medway (New At The Zoo, Crab Lane Crew)

I think David Fickling has compared it to a TV channel with loads of different shows on, and while that might be a good analogy for kids, Comics are a far more active and involving medium which is constantly asking the reader to fill the gaps and make mental connections. Other than that, he’s a real hero, and certainly very brave, and I think his risk has paid off. Every week you’ve got top quality adventure (such as the astonishing Mezolith) and humour (Little Cutie, Sausage & Carrots and Vern & Lettuce my personal ‘first reads’), beautifully produced AND the reader doesn’t have to put up with a single advert or commercial spin-off. for me that’s a really important plus, as it seems if kids do read other comics, more often than not it’s a TV or film tie-in. And while the Simpsons are excellent, it’s essential kids are shown that there is comic entertainment out there that is not instantly familiar. I ask in every school I work in, and it’s depressing how few recognise (let alone read) Tintin or Asterix. As far as I can make out, these are his models - use the comic to grow weekly strips into eventual published volumes.

My only problem with the comic is hopefully a temporary one, and that is distribution. Even if a kid has heard of The DFC, it’s a very small handful that have ever seen a copy. And if you’ve not ever seen it, you’re not going to know what you’re missing. And even if you’ve got the money, you still can’t buy a copy because you can’t spend coins online. The sooner it can be found in the shops the better, and I know they are working towards that, and doing a big push to get it into schools. Once kids can find out about it and access their own copies without relying on a parent subscribing, then the best British kids comic ever will truly gain the readership it deserves. I don’t know how many are subscribing, but I do know it’s building up slowly and steadily, which I think was always the plan.

DFC cover1.jpg

(Crab Lane Crew cover by Jim Medway - website)

So there you have it, the thoughts of some of the people involved with the DFC each week. The thing that most jumps out from all of those different responses is the passion that everyone working for the DFC has about the DFC. Everyone seems to want it to do well, which of course means that they continue to do well from it, but I really get the impression that it goes deeper than that. There’s an evangelical tone to a lot of this. People really do believe in it!

But then again, so do I and so does Molly.Which is probably one of the reasons that what was meant to be a short couple of pieces about the DFC this week has turned into some sort of marathon! More tomorrow!

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