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October 8th, 2009

the whole fleece station's in the beano!



Well, sort of... heh heh. Thanks, Gary! Everyone go buy this week's Beano 'cause Derek the Sheep's looking especially nice, in an epic three-page story! There's been a bit of crossover stuff happening here at the studio. If you look in the book I'm doing with OUP right now, you might spot a dinosaur that looks suspiciously like Derek. I was having a really bad day, couldn't draw a dinosaur, and Gary did it in two seconds on a post-it note and it was totally perfect. So you'll get to meet Derek the Dinosaur, he totally rocks.


(Look, that's us in the corner!)

My little neighbour friend came over for last night for the dinner of her choice (spag bol and ice cream) and we did some mucking around with aquarelle pastels. Here are my doodles:



It must look like I'm having a huge love-in with the FPI blog. (Thanks for today's write-up, you lovely guys!) The main reason is because I laid on some stuff for kids and parents at the comics show. I think it can be tough for kids at conventions; their dads, mostly, are really into comics and they want to share the experience with their kids. But when the kids get to the con, they're not tall enough to see what's happening on the tables, they're not supposed to mess up comics they're not buying, and almost all the comics are aimed at the older crowd.

Just from what I've seen so far, I think there's a huge hole in children's publishing in comics for young children. The DFC was getting there, with comics by people like Simone Lia and Jim Medway, but even the DFC was aiming roughly at the 8-12 age group, and a lot of people said it was more popular with kids at the upper end of that range (and, unsurprisingly, middle-aged men). I'm thinking, if someone's really good at making comics for younger children, say, starting at age 3, there is a huge potential market to be had. And that's saying a lot, because there aren't a lot of wide-open niches in the children's book market. It's not as easy at it sounds, they can't be dumbed-down versions of adult comics. Writers really need to cut to the essence of stories to simplify them and find their heart, then work with that core to create truly engaging characters and worlds. If they're done really well and work on several levels, they will appeal to adults as well as children.

Viviane and I were talking yesterday about Polly Dunbar's book, Penguin. It looks deceptively simple, but it's very funny and sad at the same time, and cuts to the heart of a child's sense of loneliness and sense of being ignored. This kid really, really wants his toy penguin to talk to him, but it won't, no matter what he does to it, until finally, in sheer frustration, he tries to feed it to a passing lion, who isn't interested. The ending is clever and beautiful (and, interestingly, involves the use of a comics speech bubble). The illustrations use lots of 'vignettes' instead of comics panels, but in a way, the vignettes fulfill exactly the same function. (I wrote a review of Penguin over at Write Away.) Mo Willems is another one to look at; his Pigeon series (Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, etc) could easily be mini comics, and perfectly tap into the funny, clever ploys of manipulative kids. And they are SELLING. LOTS.



There are great comics out there for kids (I'm currently reading The Secret Science Alliance by the brilliant Eleanor Davis (squinkyelo). But they're aimed at older kids. I'd love to see British creators pioneering comics for young children and bringing them to the conventions in a kid-friendly way... what do you say, people?

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jabberworks
Sarah McIntyre

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