Tuesday, December 02, 2008

DFC conclusions ......


In a week looking at the DFC, we’ve hopefully highlighted what it is that makes it so special. In a market dominated by licensed properties where a comic stands or falls by the immediate appeal of the throwaway plastic tack selotaped to the cover, to actually have a children’s comic that is all about the actual content is something we should all be celebrating.

The main thing that I hear people saying about the DFC is that it’s just very, very good. But all of this quality and excellence is completely wasted if it isn’t getting to the readership it deserves. Like Molly says in her interview; none of her friends have heard of it and earlier this week I stood up in front of the Year 5 and Year 6 class at the school where I work, showed them the DFC website, held up a couple of copies of the comic and asked if any of them read it, if any of them had even heard of it. Not one of them had.

It’s hardly an exhaustive survey, but it worried me. If I sound protective and overly concerned about the future for the DFC I make no apologies. After years of hunting around for a comic that Molly and I could enjoy together the DFC is an answer to my prayers. And hopefully that’s the same for countless parents out there as well. That children love comics is unquestionable. The sad thing is that so many children just don’t have the access to comics that we did as children just a few decades ago. The DFC goes a long way to restore something that I feared lost and I wish it well for the future. But it has to get itself seen by many, many more children.

This is the big problem it faces for the future. How to stay safe yet attract more children? The subscriber model is a safe model. It controls costs, reduces waste and enables solid projections of growth to be made. But the problem with that is that it’s target audience just cannot get hold of it. Comics are a relatively cheap entertainment. A child can pester their parents into buying a comic, or can use their pocket money to buy one when they’re out. But the DFC requires commitment beyond just putting pocket money down on a counter. Even the act of buying individual back issues requires the use of a credit card. The children can’t spend pocket money online.


So where next for the DFC? Obviously the current subscriber only model is a very safe model for growth. The publishers must be hoping to continue a slow and steady building of the readership. The recent Tesco promotion has hopefully generated some extra subscriptions. However, if the excursion into Tesco was a toe-dipping exercise and the DFC is looking to go to the news-stand, I hope it’s financially robust enough to absorb the hideous extra costs involved once the comic becomes sale or return. A decision to sell the DFC just like every other comic may give the comic far greater exposure but the risks also increase exponentially.

I really hope that the DFC seriously looks at increasing awareness in schools. To provide free subscriptions to all schools may be out of the question, but it’s such an easy way to get the comic into the hands of millions of children that something must surely be done.

Because in the end, the DFC is a great idea and something we should all be supporting. I’d love to be celebrating it’s 100th issue in 2011. Whether it’s for your child or yourself, there’s going to be something inside the comic that makes you smile.

We only highlighted a few of the strips in this past week - I deliberately chose Molly’s particular favourites. But in addition to Crab Lane Crew, Vern & Lettuce and Sausage & Carrots we could have talked of many, many more: Gary Northfield’s quirky Lil’ Cutie, Emma Vieceli’s Manga styled school girl drama Violet, Neil Cameron’s Mo Bot High where Grange Hill meets Mecha, the Etherington Brothers bonkers Monkey Nuts, Fish Head Steve, Sneaky, the quite stunningly beautiful Mezolith. But there just wasn’t time.


I’d recommend you all get online, head over to the DFC website and hit that subscribe button right away. Something as good as the DFC should be the comic that our children talk about to their own children in the same way we talk about the Beano, Bunty and Eagle.

David Fickling has said that he wanted the DFC to be:

A story-driven comic for children with the aim to encourage a lifelong love for great stories in every child who reads the DFC.

And so far, he’s succeeded spectacularly well. The DFC is one of the highlights of the week in our house. And it should be in your house as well. Reading comics is something that a shocking proportion of our children just don’t do anymore. This is your chance to change that. But the only way to make sure it stays around is to subscribe.

Over to you.

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