“ A weekly kids comic series. „
Next time you go into the newsagents or magazine section of a supermarket, take a minute to look at the bottom shelves.
There, just below the bare breasts of Nuts magazine, the glossy consumerism of Cosmo and and the agony and ecstacy of Slimmers World, is the children's section. A raggle taggle mixture of television spin offs and boy obsessed pop magazines. Free gifts feature heavily on the front pages. Advertisements feature even more heavily inside.
The Dandy and the Beano are still hanging on in there - but only just, and their hand drawn pages look anaemic compared with the high colour photos of the brasher new comers.
The traditional comic of my youth seems to be dead and buried. Only a fool would try and turn the tide.
That fool is David Fickling, children's book editor, who two years ago declared the wish to create a brand new comic for children and bring 'children's comics back to where they should be.' He opened his doors to anyone who wished to help him, and fortunately for him, in walked some of the worlds finest illustrators and story tellers. The DFC was born, the first issue coming out in May 2008.
The DFC is a subscription only comic that is delivered to your door every Friday. Its core readership is the 8 - 12 year old market, although its appeal extends, in my view through to adults.
It has been previewed in the Guardian newspaper's 'The Comic' section, which appears every Saturday. Excerpts of DFC stories appear there each week. It is fair to say that if your child enjoys the Guardian's Comic section, they will love the DFC.
However, to compare the two is like comparing a christmas tree to Blackpool illuminations.
The DFC is 36 pages of high quality, high octane colour. It is funded purely by subscription. There are no adverts whatsoever. Simply cartoons and graphic stories.
Each week features to up 14 different cartoons and graphic stories. The variety of styles of story and artwork is vast. Comic shorts, reminiscent of 'newpaper funnies' such as Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes sit along side graphic book style adventure serials - the common thread being the sky high standard of all work featured. Writers have included Philip Pullman (writer of The Northern Lights series) while artists featured include Ben Haggery, the Hollywood concept artist whose worked featured in the Harry Potter films.
Any gender bias is avoided, which is refreshing in today's market. Certain stories will appeal to boys, others to girls, others to both. Fickling himself says that not all children will like everything - the stories are too strong in character for that - but he sees that as one of the strengths of the comic.
To give an idea of the variety and flavour of the stories featured, here is the index of stories featured in one issue, together with a brief synopsis of the story and style of artwork.
Monkey Nuts by The Etherington Brothers - toilet humour meets
disaster movie when a town is under threat from a tribe of psychotic cactuses. Old fashioned cartoon humour and artwork.
Vern and Lettuce by Sarah McIntyre - a brightly coloured, simply drawn animal based cartoon. My nine year old daughter's favourite.
Mobot High by Neil Cameron by Neil Cameron - a Manga style school based adventure strip.
Fish Head Steve - short funny cartoon, humour and style slightly reminiscent of Sponge Bob Square Pants
Violet - Manga adventure story
Doodle it - feature inviting children to complete the cartoon faces of a rogues gallery of criminals
Crab Lane Crew by Jim Medway - cartoon serial based on a group of animal friends with human characteristics.
The Prince of Baghdad - by Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood - classic graphic novel adventure series
Its Racing Cats and Dogs - a puzzle page
Peaches and Punch - a manga style short cartoon about a girl and her cat
Lazarux Lemming - DangerMouse type cartoon adventure series
The Mighty M by Laura Howell - Manga style slapstick cartoon
Sausage and Carrots by Simone Lia - funny one joke cartoon strip
The DFC arrives each week in a brightly coloured envelope, the top of which is featured in the picture above. It stands out like a psychedelic beacon from the rest of the post and my son adores seeing it on the mat, when he gets home from school on Friday. He says it gives him the feeling of the weekend arriving. It is fabulous idea to have it arrive at homes each Friday.
The DFC is not sold in shops. We pay £11.99 by direct debit each month, which we set up by telephone. You can also sign up via the website, www.thedfc.co.uk, which is well worth a visit, whether or not you are considering subscribing. Like the comic itself, the website is extra ordinarily high quality - bursting with bright colours, ideas and stories.
If you check the website, you are likely to find an offer whereby you get one month free.
My only complaint with the DFC has been the adminstration. It is adminstered by Random House and I have had numerous difficulties with comics not arriving and direct debits being set up wrongly. These have all been sorted out, but not without a lot of effort on my part. At one point, I was on the verge of cancelling the subscription, but was begged not to by the children. Hopefully everything will run smoothly from now on.
It is a shame such a high quality product is not backed up by an equally strong administration system.
If you have school aged children and can afford to see £11.99 leave your account each month, I heartily recommend The DFC. As its founder David Fickling said - it puts cartoons back to where they should be. As far as I am concerned, it is a triumph of quality over consumerism in an otherwise miserable market.