As part of the extended look at the DFC going on this week here on the blog, I thought it would be nice to look at some of mine and (more importantly) Molly’s favourites. Obviously, this is a quick sampler, as favourites come and go, but overall, here’s what really gets first look each week. Molly decided she was far too busy to take part in this, but spent a long time drawing her favourites for your enjoyment. So without further ado, the first DFC review:
Crab Lane Crew
by Jim Medway
Crab Lane Crew has been mentioned a few times in my talking to various people about the DFC. And rarely in a kind way. People just didn’t like it, didn’t get it, thought it was just two pages of nothing going on. And I initially thought exactly the same thing.
Like I said to Molly when I interviewed her, I didn’t get it at first either. Because essentially it’s just a group of kids standing around and talking. I just couldn’t get past the fact that nothing really happened each week.
But the thing is, Molly absolutely loves it, adores it. It’s one of the first things she reads in the comic. And that’s pretty much the problem with every bit of writing I’ve ever read so far about The DFC. You see, we just don’t really get it. None of us do. We’re too old. It’s not our comic.
(Crab Lane Crew (c) Jim Medway. The Crew doing what they do; talking, laughing, hanging out and being friends).
So I talked to Molly about it and she basically explained it with a shrug and a nonchalant “it’s just nice to see them talk and have fun”. After that I got it. Like she said, Crab Lane Crew is not some hilariously funny thing, no great adventures are had.
But it does have something children value above all else; friendship. Molly sees something in Crab Lane Crew that she sees in her own school and her own friendships. Jim Medway has just tapped quite brilliantly into that. He’s a great educator as well from what I can gather and runs extremely successful workshops for children across Manchester and many of his ideas get road-tested for children on children. Artistically, Crab Lane Crew is deceptively simple as well. But it’s simply wonderful. Molly can recognise every single character and can talk for hours about them all. In fact, when we started talking about this idea to review the strips she decided she was actually far too busy, but would gladly draw the ones she really, really liked.With Crab Lane Crew she just kept going , and going, and going….
(The actual pictures are full A4 things, I’ll put them up at my blog Fictions for further perusal.)
But this sort of dedication to a comic, this much love for it’s characters – that’s the thing that will keep the DFC going from strength to strength for hopefully many years to come. Crab Lane Crew is a perfect example of just how tuned into it’s readership this comic is. Don’t listen to us 30 and 40 somethings. Talk to the children who love it.
I emailed Jim about the DFC in general and his thoughts on that will be in tomorrow’s posting, but he did talk about the process behind Crab Lane Crew, which I thought was fascinating and revealing and went some of the way to explaining why it’s just such a hit with Molly and many other children:
Back at the start of the year I showed my character designs to about 4 classes, Y5 and 6 of 2 schools. I asked them which they’d be friends with, what you might buy them for a birthday present, that sort of thing. I got them to come up with titles (‘Catty Cat Cats’ my favourite, but the rest unusable – they just kept seeing them as cats not kids!), as well as the sort of things they’d get upto. Alongside loads of plain strange ideas, I ended up with lists mentioning karaoke, go carts, football, hide and seek, bike rides, camping and so on. I’ve been using this list ever since as a prompt. Not every idea comes from here (the Crew have their ideas and responses to situations), lots of episodes are prompted by it.
I meant to say something about the CLC logo – I designed it hoping to imitate the kind of bubble writing a 10 or 11 year old might do themselves, as if one of the Crew had drawn it. don’t know if that’s of interest to you! I wanted it to fit in with their lives, as I think kids are interesting and entertaining enough to warrant a strip they might identify with. While I’ve nothing against robots, aliens, assassins and superheroes, I do think there’s room and potential for kids comics to be a lot more than just escapist and fantastical. Grown ups get all the best comic artists and writers, plus the wider breadth of genres (with American splendor, Persepolis etc).
Crab Lane Crew is in the DFC each week. Art by & (c) Jim Medway.