When the weekly DFC comics magazine came to an end in 2009 after only 43 issues many in the UK comics scene were saddened by its loss. The magazine was launched by David Fickling Books, a division of Random House, in 2008 and while it may not exist anymore as a weekly comic, the imprint is marching ahead with six reprint collections released last year, and plans to release at least four more volumes, including entirely original work, this year.
David Fickling Books is best known for publishing children’s books, including a number of works by Philip Pullman, and the award-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, so it was a surprise to some when they entered the comics market.
Fickling says he created the comic because it was something he’d always wanted to do. “I grew up reading comics. They were everywhere,” says Fickling. “I think it’s a huge loss that there aren’t really any comics for younger children.”
“We had a massive comics industry in the UK in seventies,” says Fickling. “But they were bought up by very large corporations. And the large corpratiosn stopping making comics. Suddenly we didn’t have a comics industry here, even though children really love them.”
For The DFC Fickling wanted comics that were driven by story, narrative, and characters, and not just “funnies”. He succeeded, and the comics published included everything from Mezolith, a dramatic account of life in a tribe living 10,000 years ago, to Good Dog, Bad Dog, a comedic noir about canine police officers. The episodic format of the comics was designed to make you “desperate to read next week’s episode” says Fickling, but they also read well in collected form.
“We were attempting almost all the different ways a narrative can be told,” says Fickling of the comics in The DFC. The wide variation of styles and the overall quality of the work seen in the anthology seems to back up Fickling’s claim that the editors “wanted to give the authors as much freedom as possible“.
The collected editions were part of the DFC’s plan from the beginning according to Fickling. “We always wanted to produce book versions,” he says. “We want to get the comics to children.” Fickling’s intention with the library is to create a huge variety of choice for readers. He knows that this will take time, but is looking forward to the day when children’s sections of bookshops in the UK will mirror those in France and other countries by featuring large graphic novel selections.
Fickling says that they thought long and hard about using the A4 format (approximately 8.3 x 11.7 inches) to release the books in the UK, but that as the size “doesn’t exactly fit the American standards” they’re looking into various ways to release them overseas. Whether that will involve reprinting the books in a different format, or partnering with a publisher with more experience in that area has yet to be decided.
So what does The DFC have planned for this year? There’s the second volume of Monkey Nuts plus a new comic called Baggage, both by the Etherington Brothers, a Vern and Lettuce picture book by Sarah McIntyre that will include some comics content, a spin-off from Good Dog, Bad Dog by Dave Shelton, which won’t just include comics, collections of Super Animal Adventure Squad by James Turner, and Fish Head Steve (which is also being developed for TV) by Jamie Smart, and more.
Meanwhile Fickling has high hopes for a return to publishing periodical comics. “I want to bring the DFC back again,” he says. Let’s hope he manages to do so.
Tomorrow: The “unstoppable” Sarah McIntyre, creator of Vern and Lettuce.
Wednesday: Neill Cameron, creator of Mo-Bot High.