Monday, 30 March 2015
What with Russell Church hitting the headlines again for all the wrong reasons, I found myself thinking back to the early nineties, when the first issue of Zit hit the shelves. If you want to read more about Zit, here's something to get you started.
The first issue of Zit came out in February 1991. At the time, there were already lots of Viz clones on the market, but this one stood out as the worst of the lot. In Chris Donald's autobiography Rude Kids, there are some interesting details on Church (who Donald pithily describes as 'a fucking arsehole'), who apparently thought crude cartoons plus swearing equalled enormous profit, recruited contributors with the promise of being part of 'the publishing success story of the nineties', and even sent a team of dolly birds to Newcastle city centre to hand out free copies of Zit - by the end of the day, the high street was littered with them. The expected sales phenomenon resolutely refused to happen, and Zit went bankrupt - only to rise again from the ashes in time for the next issue - several times over its decade-long run. But back to that first issue.
To say it was 'bad' would be an understatement. You know the baffling sensation you get when you read something that's clearly meant to be funny and entertaining, but misses by absolutely miles? If not, imagine reading Fred Basset for the very first time. Zit gave me that feeling, over and over again. It was hard to believe that someone, somewhere, had actually put time and money into producing something that so completely missed the point, that was so devoid of humour and originality, and which was so desperate to be the next Viz - despite having no understanding of what made Viz great in the first place. I actually wrote to the comic, giving them some hints on how to improve (little things like getting some original ideas, getting some decent artists, thinking up their own jokes and so on), and I got a sarcastic letter back which claimed that 'we are not a rip-off of Zit, we are an adult humour comic of which there are a few around, so there is bound to be some crossover at some point'. They also sent me a free copy of the latest issue. That makes sense - sending out free copies to people who hated the first one.
Zit was in the habit of publishing work by artists and writers and then not paying them - a pattern that continued throughout its life, and was taken up by Church's other ventures, including a short-lived lad's mag called Sorted (which contained articles on shoplifting and taking ecstasy). Church also took over the publishing of the official Boyzone fan magazine, only for the thing to fold after one issue - and after several fans had paid a £30 subscription fee.
Now, though, it looks as if Church really is up Zit creek, and I can't help feeling his comeuppance is long overdue.
Posted by Mr Straightman at 08:17
Sunday, 8 February 2015
As a mark of respect for the passing of Mr Millington, here's one of the funniest instalments of his long-running Whizzer and Chips strip, Happy Families - which even manages to make domestic violence hilarious. Rest easy, DM, you've earned it.
Posted by Mr Straightman at 06:24
Friday, 30 January 2015
Thursday, 8 January 2015
Doing some research on the suddenly world-famous Charlie Hebdo magazine has brought forward some interesting facts and comparisons from my fellow cartoonists. Not least the fact that Charlie Hebdo was named after Charlie Brown of Peanuts fame, and the 'Hebdo' translates as 'weekly', or that the magazine has its origins in a decidely outrageous sixties title called Hara-Kiri which defiantly set out its stall with eye-catching covers like this one...
(A rough translation - 'for a more humane form of execution, the chainsaw'.)
I also found out that there was a similar (but more family friendly) publication in Italy called Linus, so there's that.
Then I got to thinking... how come we haven't got a similar magazine in England? Fine, we've got Private Eye, and I'm eternally grateful for that, but it doesn't have the same lunatic scale of don't-give-a-shit rudeness and insanity as its French counterpart. I mean, look at this...
(A rough translation - "But do we want the English in Europe?")
It's fucking amazing. You can walk into a newsagent's in France and buy this stuff. Fucking great. Here in England you have to turn a newsagent's upside down in a futile search for anything that even slightly resembles a comic.
I'm not making light of a horrible tragedy whose ramifications are terrifying to say the least, but I would like to point out that it is absolutely fucking AWESOME that France has such a thing as a tabloid-sized satirical periodical with big, bold, eye-catching cartoons on the front and a refreshingly non-PC take-no-prisoners attitude.
Can you imagine such a publication lasting above six months in England? No, because this country is full of people who just don't read very much (fact), and - of course, I'm bound to say this given my recent problems - bitter, whining, humourless tits who don't appreciate a fucking JOKE because they're too busy taking offence on behalf of some other prick who blatantly couldn't care less. I am envious of the French and their commitment to cartoonists, satire and humour in general.
Here's That'll Be the Day!, the closest I can find to a British equivalent of Charlie Hebdo. This is the first issue from 1975. Trying to find out anything about this magazine is a sod and a half, but the cover features a strip from Carry On title sequence maestro 'Larry' and it billed itself as Britain's first all-picture political paper. If anyone has any more information about this publication, please e-mail me as I'd love to do a feature about it sometime.
Meanwhile, back in the early nineties, a Viz clone called Ziggy had its own problems with the censorious, and was the subject of a News of the World 'expose' after it carried an article poking fun at the cot death of TV presenter Anne Diamond's son. It also featured the kind of covers that Charlie Hebdo would have been proud of...
In this post-modern, post-laddism, post-politically correct, post-bloody-everything world, we should be able to laugh at outrageous, disgusting, objectionable, cruel and stupid humour - as well as racist and sexist humour - as much as we damn well like. In fact, now we're supposedly safe in the knowledge that we're 'laughing because it's wrong', that kind of stuff should make us laugh all the more. Yet the media feels the need to relentlessly point out that as those of us who do enjoy that kind of thing are idiots who need re-educating, creating a pernicious nothing-goes atmosphere of pervasive blandness, bolstered by the usual cultural commentators and third-rate comedians being wheeled out on Channel Four to tut-tut self-righteously at clips of the Benny Hill Show and Love Thy Neighbour.
Posted by Mr Straightman at 09:24