“In my own experience, the link between reading a comic and reading a book is wonderful and exciting,” says publisher David Fickling, who will launch a comic book program this May called The DFC (The David Fickling Comic). For Fickling, whose London-based, eponymous imprint at Random House publishes children’s books on both sides of the Atlantic, the launch of The DFC reflects his lifelong love of comic books. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do. I grew up with comics,” he says. “There was a huge comic industry in this country, and now we’re one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have them anymore, [except for] bits and pieces here and there.”
The comic will be sent by mail to subscribers on a weekly basis, with each 36-page issue printed in full color on 100% recycled paper, and without advertisements. According to Fickling, his company is “totally involved” in the comic. “It couldn’t be done without Random House,” he says. “We make the editorial decisions and make sure it’s good. Random House helps with marketing, finance and spreading the word.”
The first issue is scheduled to arrive in U.K. mailboxes on Friday, May 30. “Children love to get post every Friday,” Fickling says, “though I can’t promise it’ll arrive Friday in the rest of the world.” (Of the comic’s availability worldwide, he notes, “If you’re prepared to pay postage, it’ll be sent to you.”) He does not rule out having issues available in bookstores or newsstands at some point, but subscriptions will initially be available through The DFC Web site.
According to Ben Sharpe, deputy editor for The DFC, the site (currently just a holding page) will evolve to support the comic with “additional editorial content, interesting background material and interactivity.” Fickling envisions the following scenario: “Imagine getting a comic on Friday and on the cover there’s a dragon attacking Parliament. Then you go online, enter a code you’ve been given and see what happens next.”
Each issue will feature around seven different storylines by various authors and illustrators, with different strips ending and being replaced by new ones over the course of a year. Approximately 20—25 authors and illustrators will contribute per quarter. Fickling is keeping most of the contributors’ identities under wraps for now, but notes, “You won’t be surprised that some of our contributors are our authors and illustrators. It’s invigorating for the books.”
A key criterion, both in terms of art and text, is accessibility. “It’s fair to say that any genre or visual style that is appropriate for the mass market will be considered,” says Sharpe. “Really, we’re just providing the place in which great content can appear.”
Fickling sees the comic as a platform or stepping stone for readers who might not naturally gravitate toward books. “It’s not a competition between books and comics,” he says. “These are both story carriers, and that’s what’s needed in the world. ‘What happens next?’ is a great question. Comics have that, and the best books we do have that.” In terms of the comic’s educational value, Sharpe says, “Parents or institutions may recognize the potential, but it has to be created as an entertainment vehicle. Otherwise it won’t serve any other functions.”
Although the comic will target readers eight to 10 years old, Fickling asserts, “I fully expect it being stolen by other members of the household. If I could take Pixar and bottle it in comic form, it would be fantastic,” referring to the cross-generational appeal of the company’s films.
To tease the launch of the comic, Britain’s Guardian newspaper is running a strip produced by The DFC, which has generated some early interest, and Fickling says that they may pursue other newspaper or print tie-ins, adding “Obviously, tie-ins to books are natural, too.”
But for now, Fickling is content for buzz to build slowly by word-of-mouth. “We’re not really trying to blast it out there. We’ve had a few hundred [site visitors] without advertising at all. It doesn’t need to go off like a rocket. That it lasts is more important to me.”
From Good Dog, Bad Dog by Dave Shelton