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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?


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 8th, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Yay, Penguin's so brilliant! :-D

Yeah, I think I'd go through her publisher, I'm sure they'd give it to her. (And it's good for publishers to know their authors are getting fan mail, better chance of seeing more Polly Dunbar books!)
Oct. 8th, 2009 12:50 pm (UTC)
I've not had the time to go to the bookshop yet due to work hours. Hopefully I can get to one this weekend. I want Morris!
Oct. 8th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks, Gina!!
Oct. 8th, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
Hi Sarah, nice to meet you briefly (I'm 'Astrodog' guy), will be colouring in you pics once me and my daughter have finished making a 'Cat in the Hat' hat.
All 3 books are great, Secret Science Alliance is wonderful, and I love Mo Willems.
A friend of mine desperately wats to get his little girl into comics (he's a writer) but it's so hard to find comics for 5 year olds..... especially with no DFC:( Having kid's books/comics at a convention is a brilliant idea and I'm glad it worked well for you, I hope other's pick up the idea and run with it.
Oct. 8th, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
Nice to meet you, too! It was great seeing your Astrodog work on the DFC blog, so lovely! Yes, fingers crossed we'll get more kid-friendly comics. :-)
Oct. 8th, 2009 04:11 pm (UTC)
Oh man, I haven't seen Beano since I left South Africa. Nice blast from the past there.
Oct. 8th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
Oct. 8th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
They're still doing the Beano? And Dennis the Menace is still in it? THERE'LL ALWAYS BE AN ENGLAND
Oct. 8th, 2009 04:34 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah! They just revamped Dennis and there's a big TV series now... he's really big! Beano's going strong!
Oct. 8th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
...And it's still being published from Dundee in Scotland ;)
Oct. 8th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
It's kind of funny seeing you mention all the comics around for 8-12-14 year-old kids and none for 3 or 4 year olds. In the late 90s I was very tired of trying to find comics that just concentrated on a darn good story without the huge guns, huge boobies, and lots of violence, darkness, introspective narration boxes and gore. They probably (?) existed, but weren't easy to find. That's why I started The Rainbow Orchid - I didn't do it for kids specifically, but I wanted it to be 'safe' for kids (though I mainly did it for meeee!). Now the book has eventually been published, there is more of that stuff around, but I still feel it's in a relative minority (going by much of the stuff at BICS where every other comic had a zombie on it (I exaggerate!)). I'm afraid you probably now see me as one of the 'old middle-aged boys' comic-brigade', Sarah - and you're partially right, but actually my comic doesn't easily fit into the current comics scene either - there's hardly anything else like I'm doing, in the format I'm doing it. - and that's not necessarily a good thing, as it may mean there isn't really an audience for it after all (let's see).

Having said all that, I'm in agreement with your ideas about comics for younger kids (I presume you've heard of Cartoon Books by the way? 'Course you have!). I wouldn't do it myself, because it's not my specific interest, and I can only work on something I truly love, not something for the sake of filling a demographic - but if the right people start doing it, then it means more good comics in a wider range of availability, and that equals a big "hooray!"

One nice chap from Toxic! came over to say hello, slightly disappointed at the lack of kids at the show. I thought the same until I saw your photo slide-show - there were kids, but they were all drawing monsters at your table! I did look with some envy at the 'artists' room' - I think it got a lot more attention than the dealers hall environment that I was in.

New audiences... that's what we need to find, and there are a number of avenues to do so. Ye gads - sorry for the ramble - and not too well-reasoned either. You're forcing me to think and I haven't sorted out quite what I think yet! :-)
Oct. 8th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
Oh you're so right about comics for younger children! That's one the reasons I started doing the Hetty Grubb comics, for my 7 year old daughter, as aside from when the DFC was about, there is very little out there for her, let alone for even younger children. It's long been an ambition of mine to do a self published mini comic aimed directly at younger kids, lots of different fun characters e.t.c. kind of a mini mini comic. I like the conventions idea and presenting them in a way they'd appreciate. Definitely something worth thinking about...hmmm!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah McIntyre

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