Friday, May 30, 2008
The DFC has arrived
Issue No.1 of Britain's brand new weekly children's comic, The DFC, arrived today on schedule. The subscription-only comic is intended to be published every Friday, but the problem of relying on the Post Office is that the Post Office isn't always reliable and some subscribers are still awaiting their copies.
The comic comes within a distinctive DFC envelope which, once the rubbery glue is easily removed from the flap, is ideal for collectors to store the issue in. Enough of the packaging. Does The DFC live up to the hype? Read on...
I was pleased that the A4 comic is not printed on glossy paper, but instead is on high quality matt stock which makes the 36 page publication feel more substantial. The first issue kicks off with the much publicised Philip Pullman strip, John Blake, drawn by John Aggs. The title character himself is only seen in one panel, but that's excusable as it's the mystery surrounding him that is the main plot of this introductory adventure.
Next up is Super Animal Adventure Squad by James Turner. Easily the funniest strip in the comic, but unfortunately is only one page (whereas John Blake and some other strips receive five or six pages each).
Another single page humour strip, Vern and Lettuce by Sarah McIntyre, is charming and beautifully drawn and coloured. I suspect this strip will be more popular with girls, although I'm only judging that from this initial strip of course. For balance, I think the style of Monkey Nuts by the Etherington Brothers will appeal more to boys, but hopefully all children will get a kick out of the comic.
The DFC has quite a task ahead of itself. In trying to appeal to both boys and girls it risks alienating both if some are too put off by certain strips. The Boss looks like it may successfully appeal to both sexes, and could be a good modern day equivalent of a Children's Film Foundation type adventure.
What impressed me most about the first issue is that there's not one badly drawn strip in it. Everything is top quality material, and with the likes of Laura Howell, Dave Windett, and Jamie Smart in future issues it looks likely to remain that way. (Jamie is already here in a small way; providing illos for the contents page and drawing a puzzle page.)
The main drawback as I see it is that practically every strip is a serial. (This is because they're intended to be republished as separate books in the future.) Unfortunately it means that in some strips, such as The Spider Moon by Kate Brown, there's six pages of very little happening because the whole adventure has presumably been paced as a graphic novel. Considering that today's kids will be mostly unfamiliar with continued strips, having seven cliffhangers a week to suddenly deal with may be expecting too much. It also leaves the reader feeling a bit undernourished story-wise, in my opinion. One less serial and a few more humour strips instead wouldn't hurt.
I have a theory (probably mentioned on this blog before) that the most successful British comics over the last 100 years have been those which broke with formula and did their own thing, becoming very influential on the medium: Comic Cuts, The Dandy / The Beano, Eagle, 2000AD, Viz. In The DFC's favour, it breaks with the current tradition of comic/magazine hybrids and tv tie-ins and brings a sensibility from children's books to comics. Time will tell if it'll be a trend-setter.
The DFC reads like a posh kids' comic, with polite dialogue and mannerisms.There's no "traditional" slapstick, no cheeky kids, no Beano rip-offs, and certainly no fart gags. Surely today's "streetwise" kids will hate it then? Personally I'm not sure that many "streetwise" kids even read comics (or anything) today. I grew up on a council estate in the sixties where most of us seemed to read comics, and I still live near there but these days I never see any children, or even, come to that, their parents, buying comics on the estate. Society has changed, the so-called "underclass" don't buy comics, the old "working class" is now more affluent and middle-class, so The DFC may have the right idea in aiming at a different attitude than the comics of old. One reason the old weeklies eventually failed was because they didn't move with the times or shift their focus. The DFC feels modern and is more akin to a European comic than a traditional British one, but that's not a bad thing.
Overall, The DFC is a quality product. If it can be seen by enough kids, I'm sure it could work, but I do have reservations. The subscription-only method is an excellent way to circumvent retail giants and avoid their spiraling charges for shelf space. However it does make the comic invisible unless one chances across the website or hears of it through the media. I hear that publisher Random House are committed to it though, so hopefully it won't go the way of similarly-ambitious Nineties weekly Triffik! and suddenly have the plug pulled leaving contributors in the lurch.
I've initially subscribed for the first 13 issues but on the strength of this first edition I'll probably extend my sub later. The DFC has a struggle ahead of it, as would any new title, so I hope it finds the readership it deserves and thrives (which in turn may encourage other publishers to produce more comics). Good luck to all involved.
The official DFC website can be found here: