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1. vern and lettuce launch party!!!

Last night my new book Vern and Lettuce was well and truly LAUNCHED! Yay!!!!



This is the first published book I've both written and illustrated myself (in the past I've illustrated books), so for me it was a very big deal! I realised Vern and Lettuce go to several parties in the story, so I've included some footage among the other photos:


I know just what Lettuce felt like, my dress was a bit hitchy, too. Thanks, Philipa Dickinson, the very enthusiastic MD of Random House for coming along to show your support of the DFC Library series! It's great to know Random House is going nuts about comics. Hurrah!

Yours truly and Random House MD Philippa Dickinson

A big thanks to the book's editor (and editor of Morris the Mankiest Monster) Hannah Featherstone. (My other two comics editors, while the strip ran weekly in the DFC magazine, were Ben Sharpe and Will Fickling). And thanks to best-ever publisher David Fickling!

Editor Hannah Featherstone and publisher David Fickling

My super-talented, super-organised studio mate Lauren O'Farrell co-hosted the evening with me, as it was part book launch, part Stitch London craft event. So people sat down to tables full of craft supplies and MADE SHEEP! Best thing ever. Thanks, Stitch London people, for all your goodwill and support! Here's the DFC Library's Spider Moon creator Kate Brown, and her husband Paul Duffield (who also makes comics).


Kate Brown, Paul Duffield and Sarah (GingerKnits on Twitter) from The Bothered Owl crafts team

In that photo, you can also glimpse a menu of the Stamford Arms, who not only do excellent food and drink, but they were incredibly helpful and generous hosts. The manager, Conor, is the loveliest guy you'll ever meet and the two illustration students who worked the bar really looked after us. If you're ever in need of a party venue that's warm, comfortable and conveniently near Waterloo Station, the Stamford Arms is your best bet. (The knitters have known this for a long time already.)

Here's the poster image I made (which I never actually got around to printing up, so here it is!)


And look! Lots of lovely handmade sheep! I didn't manage to get any photos during the award ceremony, but Lauren took some, so I'll post those later. Congratulations to everyone who came away with their own sheep! They were great.

Stitch a Sheep results (one h

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2. vern and lettuce: ricky renard



Hmm, I wonder if I'll get time to colour this one. Could be fun making him have a very loud suit and tie, tasteful or otherwise.
(Find out about the first three books of the DFC Library here.)

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3. vern and lettuce: the moles

For a daily warm-up, I thought I'd try to draw all the different characters in Pickle Rye, the home of Vern and Lettuce (my comic book coming out on Sept 30th). I present to you... the moles! Feel free to colour them in, if you like!

Find out about the first three books in the DFC Library here.

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4. six 'til death: prehistorical partying

See that little cube that Ben Haggarty's holding? It's a special mineral that naturally occurs in huge silver cube shapes, and when Ben found it, he wondered what people would have thought if they'd come across it 10,000 years ago... and then the stories of Mezolith began to uncoil in his storyteller's brain. (I've forgotten the exact name of the crystal, I'll get back to you about that one!)

Hurrah for Ben and one of Britain's most remarkable artists, Adam Brockbank, the authors of the second installation in the DFC Library. And man, Mezolith a corker. Adam's mostly been working in film (he created a lot of the Harry Potter monsters) but I'm so glad he put himself on pages this time.



Our DFC publisher, David Fickling, gave one of his trademark rousing speeches, and made everyone laugh when he said people ask him what ages these books are suitable for. His reply: six... 'til death!

I was excited to see a whole bunch of the DFC Team! You can see what we've been getting up to and visit websites over at the Super Comics Adventure Squad.


Adam Brockbank and Ben Haggarty (Mezolith), back row from left: Lorenzo Etherington (Monkey Nuts), Dave Morris (Mirabilis), Sarah McIntyre (Vern and Lettuce), Emma Vieceli (Violet), David Fickling (publisher), Patrice Aggs (The Boss), James Turner (Super Animal Adventure Squad, John Aggs (John Blake, The Boss), Robin Etherington (Monkey Nuts)

Some wondefully atmospheric pages from the book. My favourite story is the one about the swan maidens. Gary and I were laughing at how much some of the characters look just like Adam. (Which makes sense, he modelled the main character, Poika, on his son.)





Adam in conversation with children's book legend Shirley Hughes, still a great regular on the party circuit. I had a big grin on my face listening to Paul Gravett and Ian Rakoff trying to convince her to make more comics after being so impressed by Bye Bye Birdie, Hughes' first graphic novel for adults.


David's wife, Caro Fickling, and Adam and Ben's agent, Suresh Ariaratnam, examining the mysterious crytal.


The Etherington Brothers and John Aggs. Look out for the Etherington's Monkey Nuts, which comes out a month before my Vern and Lettuce!


Shirley Hughes talking with John's mum Patrice Aggs. (The mother-son team wrote and drew The Boss together.)


Random House team, editor Helen McKenzie-Smith, publicist Lauren Bennett and new publicist Random Rosie. (Right, Rosie, I really AM going to

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5. space princess & king cupcake land on planet inverness!

And the inhabitants were friendly! Stuart and I headed up to Scotland for our first-ever visit to the Highlands International Comics Expo or Hi-Ex. It was also Stuart's first experience of running a festival table, and I think he's still decompressing from the strange voyage.

Photo thanks to Joe Gordon (whom I met in person for the first time, yay!) at Forbidden Planet International

Here's a comics jam I did with DFC crewmates Jim Medway, Dave Shelton and Gary Northfield.
(Click on pic to embiggen)



Hi-Ex had some great photo ops, here's Dave, Jim and Gary:



And after months of only managing to grab a few rushed words in passing with Asia Alfasi, I finally got to have a long chat with her in Jimmy Chung's Chinese restaurant, hurrah! She'd been drawing portraits all day, but I talked her into doing one more with me and we swapped.


Gary and I led a workshop called Stupidmonsters & Aliens: comics from outer space. (Stupidmonsters is a mini comic Gary did awhile back.)

(Click to enlarge)

Here's a picture from the workshop and another book of comic strips a guy brought in that he'd made:



Here are Ishara and Freya with their alien pictures; these gals spent 18 hours on a coach to get from Bath to Hi-Ex. that's dedication!


Gary, Jim, Dave and I did several comics jams right at our table with some of the visitors. This one's by Jim, me and a girl named Amy.

Here's a fab example of four people making three panels: Amy did the first, Jim did the second, I inked the third and Fiona coloured it in. The other one has panel borders by Jim and comics by the beautifully face-painted visitor.



Jim Medway's table and his alien:

Here's an amazing cat picture I got from Jim, which reminds me of some very old Russian woodcut pictures. I'm totally going to treasure this one.

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6. the dfc library takes off!

Congratulations to Dave Shelton on the launch today of Good Dog, Bad Dog! You may remember the comic strip running in the Guardian newspaper and in the DFC... now it's a book! It's the very first in the DFC Library series, and you can read a preview of it here.



Thanks to Forbidden Planet International for their wonderful support for the DFC Library! Let's all support this series, we need to see some growth in British comics and this is a fresh new start. Random House will be watching sales like a hawk to see if it's worth their while to keep publishing new comics, and I hope they get very, very excited when they see how these fly off the shelves and see reviews appearing blogs all over the world. Thanks for giving us a brilliant start, Dave!

(Look for Good Dog, Bad Dog in your local comics shop, or you can buy it on Amazon here.)

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7. comics sushi session

The other day I went for sushi in Soho with the marvellous Emma Vieceli and magnificent John Aggs. Our DFC characters, John's Robot Girl, Emma's Violet and my buddies Vern and Lettuce came along, too. (We didn't invite the bunnies, they just showed up.) Robot Girl was a right pain in the backside.



Here's Emma showing off her first cheque from Marvel Comics (with Spiderman on the envelope!) and a peek at John's sketchbook:



Speaking of the DFC, did you know that the first book in the DFC Library series is coming out... NEXT WEEK?!!!!!!! It's Good Dog, Bad Dog by the unimitable Dave Shelton (the only person I've seen with sketchbooks to rival John's, they should totally have a sketchbook battle) and it's going to be FABULOUS!!! And guess what, you can even preview pages here!



Go ahead and join the DFC Library on Twitter and pre-order your copy of Good Dog, Bad Dog here!

The rest of us DFC people are really, really hoping you'll support the first six books in the series because Random House will be watching sales like a hawk to see if this whole comics series thing's worth doing. And that's a no-brainer, YES, it is!!! Spread the word, comics lovers, librarians, teachers, anyone who likes brilliant stories!

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8. sheep swap!

Gary and I were whinging across the studio how we've fallen behind on coming up with new stuff for our blogs. So we decided to herd Derek the Sheep and Vern into one ongoing comics jam. We'll move Derek to Vern's cosy block of flats, and thrust Vern out into the wild of Derek's field. (Vern was getting a bit chubby from Christmas, he could use some fresh air.) Here's the cover for our mini comic:



Good news! I just got a date for the publication of Vern and Lettuce in book form... September 30th!

I've finished almost everything and sent it off to Laurence Beck, who's putting together all the last bits of layout stuff in his studio on the other side of London. I even got a little peek at the cover-in-progress for Mo-Bot High, another DFC Library book coming out about then, by Neill Cameron ... it's looking fabulous!!!

Exciting, I can't wait to see Vern and Lettuce running around in a book! John Aggs was plugging for Neill's robots and Vern and Lettuce to meet at some point, or make Vern and Lettuce robotic... (We'll have to talk, Neill.)

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9. great news for comics in the uk!

Yesterday a bunch of us from The DFC gang met up in David Fickling's Oxford office to find out what's happening with some of the amazing comics that appeared during the DFC's 43-week appearance. And the news is good! While The DFC as a weekly magazine has been shelved for the time being, readers are going to be able to read whole collections of their favourite strips, in individual books. The first three to appear will be Dave Shelton's Good Dog, Bad Dog (which ran in The Guardian), Kate Brown's Spider Moon (which ran as a play by Playbox Theatre company, photos here), and artist Adam Brockbank (who designed many of the beasts in the Harry Potter films) and storyteller Ben Haggarty's Mezolith.



David Fickling was hugely excited at the meeting, saying he was gearing up to become the lead comic book publisher in the UK, and wants David Fickling Books to take on the huge comics industry in France and elsewhere. So here's the deal: He says it's going to be a struggle, because as of yet with the top retailers, no real comics market yet exists in the UK, so we're really going to have to push to create one. He's going to print 5,000 hardback copies of each of the three books, and we really need to sell all of them so we can afford to go on and bring out more books. So if you want a Vern and Lettuce book in the second round (and boy, oh boy, do I!), please get ready to support these three books and convince everyone you know to buy them, and get everywhere you can think of to stock them! We'll have an overarching DFC Library launch, and then fab events at the launch of each, with Good Dog, Bad Dog being the first to come out in March, then Mezolith and Spider Moon in April and May. (You can even pre-order them on Amazon here!)

Just as we were all meeting, Tilda the office manager, came in with a letter than had just arrived in the post, from a DFC reader named Samira who, even after all these months, was still dead set on seeing her favourite comics in print, whatever it took (Thanks, Samira!):




Here's a few photos from the DFB headquarters yesterday:


David and Will Fickling; editor Hannah Featherstone, Adam Brockbank and Will



Lauren Bennett (the fab publicist I've been working with on Morris the Mankiest Monster) and me; Ben Haggarty


Clare Hall-Craggs, publicity director at Random House Children's Books, and the very messy table at th

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10. crystal palace mayhem



I'll keep you posted on this event, it should be a doozy of a weekend! Alex Milway has been doing a storm of work to put it together and Garen Ewing designed the (early-days, as yet unofficial) poster. Everyone's getting excited and jumping in. If you're anywhere near London, put this one in your diary! Workshops on writing, illustration and comics; book readings and signings; an illustration exhibition and more.

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11. DFC with love

Hooray, my DFC just popped through the letterbox, and boy, is it looking fine! Lovely cover by Kate Brown and the exciting return of Spider Moon and Gary Northfield's Little Cutie. Have a look on the website for snippets of every comic in this week's episode!



Since undoubtedly you are all living in blind terror as you await Vern and Lettuce's impending doom in the bowels of an abandoned Underground station, I wanted to let you know that they and the bunnies wish you a very happy Valentine's Day weekend and hope you eat more chocolates than are good for you.



Speaking of which, last year Lettuce had to get her stomach pumped and it was not a pretty sight. If you're a rabbit, probably best stick to carrots and things like that.

Ooo, and something else to make your heart go thump-thump: a big fat interview with Garen Ewing on the Forbidden Planet blog!

Edit:: And hooray, fresh in from [info]nedroidcomics: I am Reginald's one true chick this Valentine's Day! That is not diminished by the fact that we will have four other blokes along on the date, or that one of the blokes was the romantic grand winner, but I am still over the moon.

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12. sad day for the DFC

I don't know if you've heard the news yet, but with the recession and all, Random House had to pull the plug on the DFC.


Press release: Children’s Comic, the DFC, Up For Sale

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.

Enquiries:
Maureen Corish
Group Communications Director
The Random House Group
0207 840 8878


It's been a hard couple days for everyone involved. E-mails have been flying and phones have been ringing, mostly contributors expressing how sad they are about it, but also saying what a wonderful thing the DFC has been, how we made some amazing comics, some great friends, and that we will always be proud of it.

I'm not looking forward to the inevitable flock of British naysayers, those guys who sit around on internet blog sites and say 'I told you so'. Yes, David Fickling took a huge risk with this comic. But he also started up a lot of careers in comics that are going to go far and got us really excited with his enthusiasm and dedication. And I respect him so, so much for that, and want to say that I am proud of him and fond of him and I hope the rest of the comics community will be supportive to all the people who put so much of themselves into this project. Thanks so much to my editors, Ben Sharpe and Will Fickling, who helped me along from my first comic, when I wasn't sure what I was doing. Everyone on the DFC team were lovely, I would say I'll miss them but I think many of us are going to stay in touch.

All this doesn't mean it's completely over! Just that the DFC, as it is now, will only run to Issue 43. But that doesn't mean you won't be seeing your favourite characters again, we'll just have to wait and see.

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13. vern and lettuce: time to go home

There's something particularly gut-wrenching and beautiful at the same time to me about this spread arriving in the post just after the announcement about the DFC coming to a close.



I've been going since Issue 1 with Vern and Lettuce and I'd been planning to take a break to do some concentrated work on picture books. But I had every intention to do more V&L strips, at least the next eleven I'd signed up to do (a year's worth of strips in total). So I asked if I could make this one a big hurrah, letting V&L go out in a blaze of glory until reappearing in the anniversary issue, which now won't appear. I'm glad their road trip story could draw to a close before the DFC ended, not cut-off mid-story, as has happened to several distraught contributors. (Although there may be a way that those stories will finish online, we'll see.)

I originally drew this view as a scene in the Airship comics jam I did with David O'Connell:


But Dave and I only allowed ourselves an hour per panel for that, so I was frustrated I didn't have time to do more detail, and I got to play more with the DFC spread. Its view isn't quite London, it's still the parallel Pickle Rye universe, where the Thames seems to have a few less bridges and some of the buildings take on slightly animal-like forms. I spoke with Woodrow Phoenix this morning, and he thought it was really funny we both had sweeping views of the Thames and Tower Bridge in the same issue (his more graphic take on the scene in Donny Digits). It's a classic DFC moment: we often seem to have themes appear unintentionally in an issue, the most memorable being the eerily similar 'drowning girl scenes' in Issue 2 (John Blake and Spider Moon).

So Vern and Lettuce have had their run in the DFC, but they will make a little appearance in the last issue. Woodrow and I have been putting together a good cover and one other collaborative item, hopefully bringing together everyone who's contributed so far to this amazing project. Should be good.

Other tidbits...
I took a photo of my good friend Dan Fone this weekend for a new online project called Tweak Today. On the website, there's a daily new challenge, and that particular day's misson was Have yourself photographed standing in front of something the same color as your shirt. So here's our entry. (We got a bit overly excited about the whole parallel lines thing in the composition.)

(Dan's the guy who designed my website, so book him quick if you want some web work, he's good.)

Rick Eades ([info]eadesmust) did another funny Witch Hetty Grubb comic here.

I bought a lovely painterly picture book last year in Brussels by Carll Cneut and just discovered his website.

And don't miss the third episode of Vern and Lettuce in tomorrow's Guardian newspaper! (Look for it in the Family section!)

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14. saturday paper

Hurrah, another Saturday and another Vern and Lettuce, and Super Animal Adventure Squad by [info]eruditebaboon in the Guardian!




Stuart was doing the ironing last night and made some slightly odd mewing noises. I asked him what was wrong and he said,
'You know, the sad thing about the DFC ending is that the animals don't have any more adventures unless you draw them.' He ironed a shirt collar, then said, I can't bear that.' He ironed the sleeves and remarked thoughtfully, 'No wonder people like comics'.



It's interesting to see the ways Vern and Lettuce have changed in shape over 40 episodes. And the paper's so different to that in the DFC; I was having a chat with Woodrow Phoenix and we agreed that the paper makes it almost look like a different comic. So even though his Donny Digits has run in the Guardian, it looks totally fresh in the DFC. (And at least we'll get Donny for another three weeks.)

Hey, I spotted this fab clickable interactive comic over on [info]elio's site; go have a look, it's brilliant.

And the llama print sofa cushion in the top photo was made by Meg Hunt ([info]exitwounds). It is one of my all-time favourite textile prints.

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15. cutest thing ever



Rick Eades in Manchester ([info]eadesmust) just floored me with his clay version of Vern. I love his bug eyes, he looks a bit mad. The adorableness is absolutely killing me!



AAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!

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16. penultimate DFC

Hey, I'm getting some little badges made for the Thing next weekend!



DFC Issue 42 arrived today with its striking Donny Digits cover by Woodrow Phoenix, obviously. I don't want to dash through this one, I am going to savour it tomorrow, since there are only two more DFCs left to read, [sob]. But man, don't it look good! I think the DFC's grown up a whole lot since the first issue. Even the fan art is amazing this week: Moosa Weekly by Cai Dickinson. In fact, Woodrow and I make photocopies of several pages of Moosa Weekly when we were up at DFC Headquarters because we were so impressed with it. Cai sent in pages and pages of comics with amazing layouts and sophisticated colouring, I could learn a few things from it. Right now Cai sells it at school for 40p on Fridays. But keep an eye out for that name!



SCBWI Illustrator Series still has a few places left! I sadly can't go to the masterclass with one of my favourite illustrators and lino cut experts, Chris Wormell because it's on 25 April, the same day as the Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival. But both events will be amazing. Also there's a Portfolio Review masterclass on 20 June and ... this is exciting, Making the Graphic Novel: A masterclass on the practices and principles essential to graphic novels with Kev Hopgood. If there's anyone who knows to to turn making comics into a legitimate, family-supporting business, it's that guy. It's not til 10 October, but best to book it fairly soon so you don't miss out!

Don't forget to check the Family section in the Saturday Guardian for Super Animal Adventure Squad and Vern and Lettuce! Hey, the weather hamster is predicting sun tomorrow! Maybe I can take my super-valuable DFC to Greenwich Park for a read.

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17. hurrah for my sister!



I get a good report from [info]dlasky in Seattle that my sister's show this weekend was great, packed full of people, and that her paintings were selling like hotcakes. Yay! My sister is awesome. (You can see some of her paintings here.) My parents also e-mailed a few photos of them and their friends and Gus, the guy who owns the historic Blue Moon, where my sister works. She's a bit of a roller derby star, and several of her paintings had a roller derby theme.







(My sister just told me that she gave my dad that sweater and now he almost never takes if off.)


The DFC has one more issue coming out this Friday before it packs in, at least for now. It's been amazing how everyone's pulled together since we heard the bad news. I know I've met so many amazing people through the project; the only one I'd ever met previously to doing the DFC was Simone Lia, when we managed to convince my art college tutor to invite her in to give a talk. It sounds like everyone really wants to stay in touch, and a few of us met up for drinks this weekend and had a good chin wag.


Laura Howell (The Mighty M), Laura's partner Tim, James Turner (Super Animal Adventure Squad)


Faz Choudhury (Dead Pets Society, colouring for Good Dog, Bad Dog), John Aggs (John Blake, Robot Girl), Gary Northfield (Little Cutie)

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18. flossie, the ravaging monster



Here's a doodly jobbie for the Dinosaur/Monster challenge going on over at the Super Comics Adventure Squad.
And look, Woodrow Phoenix did a special edition of That's a Horse of a Different Colour, starring my favourite sheep!! (Well, I am also quite fond of Derek.) Go on, have a peek!

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19. doodly doo



Today I was doing character development for a picture book, and since it involved just lots and lots of doodling, I decamped to the big sunny atrium at the National Maritime Museum. About three hours in, one of the doodles started to look distinctly like my friend Dave, which made me giggle, and so I finished it and coloured it in when I got home. (I'm not so sure he's going to like it, he looks downright cross. But I look like a primate, so perhaps we're even.)

And then I found in my Inbox a marvellous Vern and Lettuce picture by the magnificent Warwick Johnson Cadwell! If you haven't seen his work yet, have a look, the guy is insanely talented. Some of the best drawing I've seen in Britain, I'm serious. I met him for the first time at the Thing and had a bit of a fan girl moment.



Don't forget, you can bring your DFC questions to the DFC panel at the Oxford Literary Festival at noon this Saturday! You can book tickets here to see a lively discussion with David Fickling, John Aggs, the Etherington brothers and me.

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20. happy easter, everyone!

Okay, I am going away from the blog for a few days for the holidays, but I thought I would leave you with some fan art for the amazing Simone Lia and her Sausage and Carrots! There is some very fine fan art happening over at Super Comics Adventure Squad.



Hopefully I will have lots of news to tell you before too long. But I am working on a bunch of projects all at once, most of which I'm not allowed to mention (argh!), so that is doing my head in a bit, having to keep quiet. The ones I can talk about are my Morris the Mankiest Monster book (artwork finished, hurrah!) and a last-minute submission that Jamie Smart asked me to do for his Fat Chunk anthology that I haven't finished yet, eeps.
I felt very flattered by the nice mention in a write-up from the Thing by Piley over here. (Thanks for that!)

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21. DFC drinks

Since the DFC stopped printing, we've had more DFC events than ever before... it's like things are just getting started! Thanks to John Aggs for this photo. We had some friends of the DFC come along, including Alex Milway, who's organising the Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival with us for next Saturday. And Stephen Betts, who's coordinating a remarkable comics translation website over on Comix Influx. If you speak a foreign language and think you can help translate comics, or if you'd like to read translations of comics that normally wouldn't be accessible to you, head over to his website.


(DFC group blog here with links to everyone)

Hey, I was over at my friend Dan's house and he showed me some amazing work by a Swedish illustrator named Mattias Adolfsson. Go have a peek!. His work's also featured on a site called Behance (which I feel I ought to know about, so I'm bookmarking this one for myself as much as anything).

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22. lovely type freaks

One of the other speakers called them 'type freaks' (Jonathan Morgan at Four Corners Books), not me. But today I gave a talk with my publisher, David Fickling, at the St Bride Library Conference, and I knew straight away I was really, really out of my depth with all these people who know and and can knowledgeably deride every single font I have installed on my computer. So following David's introduction, I didn't talk about fonts at all, I just talked about making stuff, and they seemed happy enough about that (I say, hopefully.)

Then I got to listen to a talk by Jonny Hannah, one of my favourite illustrators and letter makers, and had a beer with him afterward. Except I got kind of shy and ended up talking more to his friend and fellow Southampton University course leader Peter Jarvis (on the left). Jonny's in the middle and the one on the right is Random House designer Becky Chilcott, who did loads of organising work for the conference.



I managed to pay a quick visit to the St Bride Library with DFC publicist Louise Stothard, and we were amazed at the collection of books they had. Really lovely, expensive books on design, typography, illustration, bookbinding, printmaking... I could have spent years in there! They only have a small amount of books on display, but there are about 50,000 books in the collection within the building, and the librarian was friendly and happy to help us find things. It's free, and anyone can just walk in off the street to see the books during opening hours. All of a sudden, I have a very good reason to spend large amounts of time hanging out around Fleet Street! What an amazing place.



Here's a doodle I made of one of the speakers, Will Hill, from the Cambridge School of Art. People said things like this.

(When people say 'Baskerville', my first thought is still hound, not font.)

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23. sparkling crystal palace



The Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival went brilliantly, thanks to the marvelous Alex Milway (above) and his partner Katie, who organised up a storm and will probably now need a long holiday to recover! My neighbour friend and I had just been reading and re-reading Viviane Schwartz's There are Cats in This Book, so she made up her own book for Viviane, There are Cats in This Book, Too. (Viv gives it a mention here on her blog.) I took some photos of her adding some last-minute touches on the train:



The DFC's Gary Northfield had a copy of his fab comic, Derek the Sheep in French. (Derek the Sheep is translated as Norbert le Mouton because the editors thought the French wouldn't really connect with the name Derek.) And here's Lilith, one of his best fans (and writer Alexander Gordon Smith in the background):



I made a quick drawing of Lilith in the bookshop, and she sent me this photo of it - already framed! - the very next day. How cool is that! (Thanks, Lilith!)



My neighbour friend had a great browse around the rather remarkable bookshop, Bookseller Crow, and came up with this album of striking photos:




Neighbour friend with Viviane and Sue Eves, puppeteer and author of The Quiet Woman and the Noisy Dog.



We had a great presentation by Guy Bass about his book Dinkin Dings and the Frightening Things. The bits he read were very, very funny, and when I told my neighbour friend she could buy one book, that was the one she chose.



The DFC's Emma Vieceli wonders why Patrick Warren's latest Manga Shakespeare book, Henry VIII is selling at the bookshop when it doesn't come out til next week. Huh?



Paul Duffield with The Tempest he drew, from the same series (Paul's website):



At the Upper Norwood Joint Library, Emma Vieceli ([info]emmav) gave us comics people a great master class in how to do a comics workshop (and possibly the kids learned something, too). She did a cracking first session on designing characters, ending with us all making a list of words and combining them to come up with our own silly versions. Here you can see David O'Connell's astronaut witch and Viviane Schwarz's space dog ninja:


Kate Brown from the DFC was a bit tentative about doing live drawing but got caught up in the excitement and drew despite herself:


Here's a picture of Kate holding her pre-made first panel for the second session's wild comics jam:

Gary Northfield and then David O'Connell were brave enough to draw the second and third panels in front of everyone (the pressure!), and did a smashing job:


Here's my writer friend Candy Gourlay with her kids and neighbours; Candy's posted a write-up and photos over on her blog.



For the comics jam, everyone had five minutes to draw one panel, then passed it to the next person and picked up with the page they'd just been handed. We went for four panels, then had everyone read out the results at the end, and almost died laughing. I didn't get a chance to photograph many of the strips, but here's one example:


A few more shots... Emma and me, trying to look bookish... or something:


Writer Sarwat Chadda modelling with a book which is patently not his:


Some very relevant graffiti we saw while walking through the centre of Crystal Palace from the bookshop to the gallery at Smash Bang Wallop.



Drinks at the Smash Bang Wallop gallery to celebrate the end of a crazy fun day and see our pictures on display in the gallery. There's Garen Ewing (Have you see his latest DFC blog post about his upcoming Rainbow Orchid book?), David O'Connell, Alex Milway and Kate Brown:



You can see more photos from the day over on David's blog.

After that, we went for drinks at the White Hart, although my neighbour friend and I didn't stay very late because we found out that kids aren't allowed in the pub past 8pm. Which was probably a good thing, seeing as the trains were messed up and it took us three hours to get back instead of the normal fifteen minutes. The funniest thing was hearing this 7-year-old talking to her dad on the phone, spelling out rather delightedly to him, 'Dad, I'm in the P-U-B!' We comics people are a very bad influence on the younger generation.

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24. free comic book day

Look, a monster by committee! I drew the head, Garen Ewing drew the middle bit and Neill Cameron drew the feet. Hooray! You can see the fun place where all this stuff goes on over at the DFC group's blog, the Super Comics Adventure Squad.



Speaking of which, today Stuart and I went to see the DFC's Emma Vieceli at a comic shop in Richmond called They Walk Among Us. The shop was taking part in the worldwide Free Comic Book Day and happily, Emma was mobbed with fans, so Stuart and I got all the free comics we could and a copy of Emma's Manga Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing. In this terrible photo, you can also see Jamie McKelvie, Andie Tong and Kieron Gillen (who looks worryingly like lifestyle guru Paul McKenna). We also saw Frazer Irving and the DFC's John Aggs. Here's Stuart with some of our loot:


We cycled all the way across south London on our bikes and now I am bone-tired. We were a little overambitious in planning to go to two other exhibitions afterward, which we didn't do, but the weather was too good to hang around indoors. We had a picnic by the river in Putney and the city really was looking its best in the sun. We were consulting our map on one street corner and, I looked over at its sign and realised we were on Mr Benn's road! I'd just been doing a fair amount of research on writer and illustrator David McKee for the interview I did with him in March, so I'd learned that Mr Benn's 'Festive Road' was actually based on this one. (You can watch a Mr Benn animation over there with the interview.)

The street had Mr Benn's park and everything! I forgot the exact number as I was going up the road looking for Mr Benn's house, but I hovered in front of No.60 just as a nice lady was coming out of it. She smiled and told me I'd found it, she lived in Mr Benn's house, and she really ought to get a plaque and start charging admission. So I took a photo of No.60. When I got home and watched a Mr Benn clip, I realised he really lived at No.52! What?! But I looked at the video, and I think maybe he did actually base it on 60 and just call it 52. Maybe No.52 and No.60 fight over it, heh heh.




Another funny thing we saw on our way: There was these few roads (Hillersdon Avenue, Glebe Road and another) that were absolutely filled with stone lions. Really, the lions were everywhere. I'll show you some photos, it is only the tip of the iceberg.



You really have to see it. If anything in the photos remotely looks like it might be a lion, IT IS. It looks like an architect went totally mental.



We stopped to watch the herds of deer in Richmond Park, but my photos came out so badly, I won't show them. (My mother reads this blog and would be so unimpressed. She can't even push the deer out of her garden, they are so determined.) We saw a tree full of Green Woodpeckers and lots of these black and grey birds. Just curious, does anyone know what it is? It doesn't look like a crow (not Stuart, the other one):



One more pic of the lovely view of the river in the Richmond:

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25. ministry of magic, part 2

Ever since I found out Stuart was working at the Ministry of Magic, I had been curious to get a tour. So yesterday evening, when I was coming back from leading a workshop at the Institute of Education, I popped in to visit Stuart at Old Scotland Yard. Except you don't 'pop' in to the Ministry of Magic, you are beamed in. I swear, this is true! If go there and you peek around the door, you can see the human-sized test tubes.



Hey, have a look at this drawing sent to me by Aaron 'Smurf' Murphy ([info]smurf_uk), who drew it while hiding out in an underground Derbyshire bomb shelter:




He writes: Anyway getting to the point I've been working on a promo comic for the Leeds Thought Bubble festival and one of the panels is a pile of Brit comics in all their glory. As you can imagine 2000AD and the Beano are in there aswell as the much missed DFC.

And what did I put on the DFC cover?

V&L, man.

Attached is the panel in question. I figured you might get a kick from my attempt at drawing Pickle Rye's most famous residents.


...You made my day, Mr Smurfman!

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