Friday, May 16, 2008

Buy the DFC

There, that’s the subliminal advertising done.

I couldn’t possibly say what DFC stands for, but if I mention that it’s published by my publisher David Fickling and it’s a comic, you may be able to work it out. Issue 1 is out at the end of month and it was launched yesterday at a do at the BFI.

Comics were big in my day. The newsagents were packed with them. My character was permanently shaped by Countdown, which became TV Action and then folded when I was 8. There were (and still are) the obviously comical comics – Beano, Dandy. There were (far too many) war-based ones – Warlord, Battle, Victor. There were the more generic ones, which I think were my favourites: Valiant, Hotspur, Tornado, Bullet, each of which covered a variety of genres. Oh yes, obviously, 2000AD, launched in 1977 when 2000AD was still in the far future. And Starlord, which had a brief fling in the late 70s before merging with 2000AD but which I frankly think was better. I’d probably not have written Time’s Chariot if not for their ‘Timequake’ series.

Mergers were a common thing, which was unfortunate if you had a subscription to two comics which became one. For a while they would present themselves as X & Y – Battle & Hotspur, 2000AD & Tornado – before assimilation would complete and the name of the Y partner would mysteriously vanish from the masthead. The exception to this was Whizzer & Chips which actually was one comic pretending to be two.

And for the gels, bless them, there was (I believe) Misty and – heaven help us – Bunty. Bunty?? I still can’t quite believe my life encompasses a time period when girls were expected to identify with names like Bunty. Why not just call it ‘Frumpy Bluestocking’ and be done?

But what they all had in common was good ol’ straightforward story telling, a maximum of plot and a minimum of words, week after week after week without fail. Blimey. As a kid you just took it all for granted but the creative effort must have been stupendous.

And now the DFC. If you’re a regular blog reader with a really long memory you might remember me coyly announcing two great pieces of news, 15 months ago, that I couldn’t then expand on. Time’s Chariot was one and the DFC is the other. David is launching a new comic, bringing the standards of the golden age that he (and I) grew up in to today’s online media-savvy interactivity-drenched younger generation. It’s a proper paper product but only available by subscription, thus avoiding the ruinous discounts and terms required to get any magazine into a newsagents. He’s pushing it heavily at schools. The stories run the whole gamut of all the comics mentioned above, with drawing styles and plot lines that should cover most of secondary education. It’s a lovely thing just to hold. I showed it to my designer colleague this morning and it appealed to four of his five senses (he didn’t, as far as I could see, taste it). And Philip Pullman has contributed a strip which is good boy’s own adventure and doesn’t seem to push atheism. In short, nothing to hate, everything to love.

The launch do was held at the BFI, tucked away beneath Waterloo Bridge. In fact as far as I can tell it’s part of the bridge’s integral structure. Having walked three sides round a large square to get in at the BFI’s front door, I found that the party was in the Film Café, which opens right out onto the south bank.

So, 400 people crammed into quite a small space for wine and nibbles then, mercifully, we were released out onto the riverside where David (left, dark jacket) and Mr P (right, light jacket) released 100 balloons with complimentary subscriptions attached to them for any finders.

Can it work? I’ve no idea. But if David (and the full resources of Random House behind him) can’t do it then I’ll concede no one can.

In other news my favourite bookshop, Abingdon’s Mostly Books, has won the Booksellers Association New Bookshop of the Year Award, And quite right too. Nice things, excellent things are happening to people that I like. They are not necessarily happening to me. I may feel a little on the periphery, but I’m big enough to share their joy.

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