The DFC up for sale

Published On March 4, 2009 | By Richard Bruton | Comics

Via Andrew Wildman comes sad very sad news from Random House:

The DFC, a weekly comic (launched May 2008) for boys and girls is up for sale, following a decision by The Random House Group to cease publication.

Philippa Dickinson, MD RHCB, said: “We are very proud of the DFC and the reaction it received from families, schools and especially the children who have enjoyed reading it. It is an innovative concept which we have been very happy to back. There can be no successes without taking risks, after all. Unfortunately, in the current economic climate, we have decided that the DFC is not commercially viable within our organisation.

“David Fickling, the staff at the DFC, and all the comic’s contributors have worked tirelessly to produce what is an amazing weekly publication and we would be delighted if a buyer could be found who would like to take the DFC on as a going concern”

If no buyer is found, the title will close on March 27th.”

There’s nothing on the DFC site yet, but I’ve just checked with Maureen Corish, Group Communications Director for Random House who confirmed the details in the release above, I’m sorry to say. Obviously this is a big blow – we were all really excited at the launch of a major new British comic (such a rare event these days) and as regular readers will know its proved to be popular with adults and with kids (as Molly showed in her reviews with her dad Richard). And of course it offered a major new vehicle for British comics talent – that’s going to hurt, losing both that outlet where their work could be seen and enjoyed as well as the obvious loss of potential earnings (and the worry is that if a buyer isn’t found and the DFC does cease after issue 43 it will put off others from trying to launch a new British regular comic even when the economy picks up). I wonder what happens to work already commissioned for publication later in the year?Any of our readers who were contributing to the DFC able to comment on that or even just let us know how this is affecting you and your thoughts on the news, please get in touch.

DFC Crab Lane Crew Jim Medway.jpg

(the DFC cover featuring the Crab Lane Crew by Jim Medway)

I can understand the reasoning – times are hard all over and everyone is drawing in the horns, which makes it hard to support a project which is still building support. The subscription only model of the DFC avoided many of the high costs involved in getting issues onto the nation’s newsagent shelves, but it also meant that it was much harder to be noticed and draw in new readers (as Richard noted in one of his and Molly’s looks at the DFC, when he showed it to other children at school many hadn’t heard of it – they liked the look of it when they found out, but its making them aware of it that is the problem). Its a blow, there’s now denying that, but while the news is depressing let’s cheer ourselves up a little by applauding the drive and initiative that lead to the DFC team creating such a well-received new comic (with great talent like Sarah McIntyre, Garen Ewing, Phillip Pullman, Neill Cameron and many more) in the first place.

I like it. I like how there’s a good mix of comics inside. And I like coming home on Friday after school and opening it up. It’s really exciting when you open it up and see who’s on cover. It’s nice that they give everybody a turn on the cover. That’s fair,” Molly tells her dad how she enjoys coming home from school to her copy of the DFC. Someone, please, buy out the comic or you will make her unhappy.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

18 Responses to The DFC up for sale

  1. Richard says:

    No,no,no,no,no,no.
    That’s just not good at all. Such a good comic, so many great strips. Now I have to go and tell Molly. Not going to be nice at all.

  2. Matt Badham says:

    Feck.

  3. John Freeman says:

    Also covered here on downthetubes, too: http://downthetubescomics.blogspot.com/2009/03/dfc-up-for-sale.html

    As you’ll see David (and British comics creators generally!) had high hpes for the title and this is sad news. There will be some gloating naysayers out there who said “I knew it would never work” but when it comes down to it, it was David and his team who buckled down and gave the project their best, and they deserve fulsome praise for doing so.

    David Fickling and others are members of the downthtubes forum — why not drop by and wish them well (http://downthetubes.ning.com/). You need to join first, mind. Cheers

  4. Lew Stringer says:

    The comic was brilliant. The subscription service wasn’t. After several glitches with my sub I pulled out, and others I’ve spoken to had similar problems. Makes me wonder just how widespread the problem was.

  5. Kenny says:

    I subbed for the first 26 and thought it was an excellent little comic even if many of the strips ran a bit young for me (of course what you expect in a kids comic). Some excellent cartooning in there. I didn’t re-subscribe as like Lew I had no copy delivered on 3 occasions and one double delivered (always fixed it but hassle, hassle). As it was something I was following to see what new cartoonists jumped on board it wasn’t an essential for me and I let it lapse at the end of my sub. I think 2 things standing in its way were one the sub model which can never really work long term for a publisher like RH with an eye on the bottom line and the fact that DFC wasn’t entirely free to make their own decision didn’t help. I was trying to set up sales through the FPI stores for about 2 months with Tom Fickling (David’s son) but it never reached a conclusion as they were always having to refer upstairs on the financial viability. I also thought the Phil Pullman strip was a bit of a misstep – BIG name – not very good strip. So if that is what drew you in might just have spat you out just as fast despite a lot of the other work being first class. Will be interesting to see how many strips get collected as books by Fickling which i think was the original plan.

  6. Never thought their economic model would work, but I did hope it might create a niche.

  7. Chris says:

    Sad news.

    Anyone taking on the DFC will need to get it into shops. Even more crucially, they will have to sort out a line of trade paperbacks.

    Personally, though, I don’t expect a buyer to be found.

    All eyes must now turn to Judge Dredd Megazine. I really hope we don’t lose that one…

  8. Tom Green says:

    That’s a damn shame. I liked what I read, and from the contributors that I spoke to, there were very high hopes.

    I think the falling down point was the model of direct subscriptions over mainstream distribution and nothing to do with the great content.

  9. Mark Clapham says:

    Very sad news. Chalk me up as someone else who didn’t renew after constant subscription glitches sent me chasing missing issues. Three or four missing issues in a twenty-six issue sub wasn’t a good hit rate.

    Still, a crying shame as a lot of the content was very good. I liked John Blake, but I can understand why others might not – it didn’t seem ideally paced for the episodic form.

    Hopefully JB, The Boss, and others will find homes elsewhere, at least in terms of collections of the existing materials if not for continuations.

  10. Andy says:

    Many people are negative about the subscription model. To sell in shops would require either double the cover price, adverts or half the money spent on content.

    Sad that some people had subscription problems though I must say I never did.

    As with any new business, as Joe pointed out, time is needed to build up the customer base. To cut a new venture off after less than a year is absurd, particularly considering the potential for fostering new talent and to be more commercially minded, generating book, film and game spin-offs.

    If enough people care, maybe a web orgnised co-operative of many small investors could buy the comic? Crazy? Where did Obama’s campaign fund come from?

    Andy

  11. Lew Stringer says:

    The subscription idea was fine Andy, and I admired them for sidestepping the oppressive retail system, but any negativity came from the subscription dept inefficiency. When that’s the sole method of distribution it should have been more reliable.

    Also, they might have gained more subscriptions if they’d set up a PayPal system. I found it incredible that they never did this.

    It might have also helped if they’d responded to requests for news. As it was, bloggers had to promote the comic off their own bat.

    Lew

  12. Dave Morris says:

    It’s a very great shame. I feel personally for David Fickling, one of those visionary publishers (all too rare these days) who has the courage and determination to grab a big idea and just run with it. If guts and energy alone could have swung it, the DFC would have been huge.

    And of course there are all those fabulous strips that will be left unfinished. At least my own favourite, MeZolith, did reach the conclusion of its first chapter. That one needs to come out in trade paperback as soon as possible – which will, I’m sure, bring it to an audience far wider than could ever have encountered it in the DFC.

    Several of my friends said they would have subscribed if they coud have cherry-picked the strips they wanted and had a customized POD comic delivered. I guess the technology to do that affordably isn’t far off, so maybe in future another UK publisher will try resurrecting the subscription model for comics. It would be terrible if the DFC’s failure put them off for good.

  13. Mark Turner says:

    Typical! I just get round to subscribing and I realise the comic is up for sale! Someone please buy it. It takes time for awareness to grow and I’ve been waiting for my Son to be old enough to enjoy it… he’s 5 now. Also the new samples in the Guardian Family section caught his imagination and reminded me to get on with subscribing.

  14. Mike says:

    Pathetic that Random House could not even keep it going for a full year. They didn’t give it a chance to form.

    I liked the comic and renewed after 6 months, and never had any problems with subscription. I wasn’t sure about some of the strips (but then I wasn’t the target audience) but recognised the quality, and it really deserved to succeed. Very sad.

  15. Kradlum says:

    I have to say I haven’t had any troubles with my subscription, except today when I tried to resubscribe (my subscription runs out on issue 41 and I wanted to get the (hopefully not) last 2 issues), but the nice man at Random House sorted it out for me.
    It’s a great shame that Random House have decided to give up after not even a year. I’m not sure how well it was marketed. The only marketing I have heard of was in The Guardian (I didn’t see it myself, I only found out about the DFC through word of mouth). Was it advertised at all on kid’s TV or other places?
    The quality of the stories, and the quality of the printing, made it a stand-out comic. I hope the stories find another home, but I can’t see anyone coming up with the same quality of printing and paper in the short term.
    Perhaps some large comic retailer could step in *hint hint*. After all, it’ust getting people interested in comics sooner. Just think of the merchandising err… I mean children!

  16. Jeff says:

    I would consider being a small investor, anyone else intrested?

  17. barnaby says:

    I too would be happy to invest – how about a subscriber takeover?

    save the DFC