Thursday, 10 January 2013

Acne - Britain's Funniest Kids' Comic? Well...(revised January 2014)

A spot of history to begin with. Acne was created by Tamas 'Tom' Fulep and Clive Ward, the duo behind the long-running Smut - the Alternative Comic in late 1991. It was published by a Morecambe-based company and aimed, as did the short-lived Oink! comic, at the (largely theoretical) group of readers who were too old for the Beano (you're never too old for the Beano!) but too young for Viz. Unlike Oink!, it contained mild-ish swearing (sod, bloody, bleedin', crap, and later the occasional 'shit'), which can't have endeared it to many parents. It ran for thirty-one issues between 1991 and 1993 and I contributed to most of them. It's strange to think that I must have been a part of a lot of people's childhoods, however indirectly. My 'main' character was Nicky Hunt, the Lying Person. Nicky started life as 'Nicky Gobshite' and was intended for Smut - Clive Ward redrafted it as Nicky Hunt, the Lying Cunt - until wiser heads prevailed and the character found his way into Acne. Apparently he was very popular with readers.

There were Nicky Hunt t-shirts...

...and a Nicky Hunt phone line! No idea who actually did the voice but he sounded like Zippy from Rainbow. (Don't bother trying to call this number, will you!)

I'm not sure to this day what went on behind the scenes, but Fulep and Ward stopped editing and contributing to Acne after the first dozen or so issues, and some of their characters were taken over by 'Tone', who I believe started his career on a work experience placement in the Smut offices. For a while, Acne's editor was Dean Wilkinson, who went on to write scripts for Ant and Dec. Other people involved with Acne were Charlie sodding Brooker (don't ask me to scan any of his work because I'm fucked if I will), former Oink! co-editor Tony Husband, Zit and Gutter cartoonist Phil Neill, Whoopee! cartoonist Dicky Howett, future 'Drunken Bakers' creator Lee Healy and plenty of others who came and went. There was also an ongoing 'Ban the Banana' feature credited to someone called Alan Moore - but I've no idea if it was that Alan Moore. 

History lesson over, let's take a look back at some of my contributions to this publication...

Nicky Hunt in issue six, written by me and drawn by Clive Ward, who managed to mis-spell Hendrix. I can't remember how, but Nicky did survive electric shock therapy!

Nicky Hunt in issue eight, art and script by me. To be honest, this early stuff of mine (I would have been seventeen at the time) is a bit embarrassing to look at. I don't think I even bothered to pencil anything, I just wrote and drew it all straight out, first time lucky - and doesn't it show? Terrible cross-hatching and proportions. Just a series of talking heads, really. Oh well, too late to change it now.

Crater Face in issue thirteen, written and drawn by me. A Clive Ward character which I occasionally 'ghosted'. 'Hut' obviously changed to 'Den' to avoid legal repercussions.

 M.C. Crapper (originally called Melvin Q. Tapper) from issue thirteen, written by me and drawn by Terry Castellani, who was the 'third man' in the Smut / Acne team for a while. I believe he went on to work in animation. I think some of the rhymes here are pretty good for a white Jewish / Scottish / Italian / Russian! (Yes, folks, those are my roots. Not a scrap of English blood in me!)

Nicky Hunt from issue 13, written and drawn by me. I remember Clive Ward ringing me and telling me that he thought this strip was "shit hot". (Or did I imagine the 'hot' part?)

Nicky Hunt from issue 14. Two pages! Gratuitous mention of Jodie Foster!

A lot of men in the early 90s had stupid hair. A less than subtle strip from issue 14.

Tone took over as the Nicky Hunt artist in issue 15. I held on to the writing duties. I've scanned the second page of this adventure as a colour image because of the letratone in the final frame. (God, as if you care!) Interesting sidenote - Nicky with a Grease quiff was how I originally designed the character, it was Clive Ward who gave him the unruly curly hair. Oh yeah, another Jodie Foster mention! 


Nicky gets an unwanted admirer in issue 16. 

How To Spot the School Geek, a rare editorial piece (which I also illustrated, pretty shoddily - they were only 'guide' sketches I sent along with the article!) from issue 18. Yes, they are based on people I knew at school. I feel a bit mean about the Bridge Over the River Kwai reference - should have replaced it with Delta Force -  but I stand by  my assesment that Who Dares Wins is a pile of donkey scrotes. "On Wednesdays" doesn't make sense - I originally wrote 'mufti days' (the days when you could wear your own clothes to school instead of uniform) - but clearly somebody at Acne didn't know what that meant!

Nicky Hunt from issue 18. The 'demented old lady' wasn't meant to be a seperate character, Nicky was referring to the woman at the box office. "Fwerhey!" is a reference to Jack Douglas. Gerroff! I think I had a soft spot for Geena Davis at the time. Roger Daltrey gets a sly plug because I'd met him earlier that year, and he's a good bloke.

Nicky Hunt in issue 19. Note the caricature of Robert Maxwell that doesn't fit in with the rest of the strip. Oh well. Jennifer Connelly gets a mention because I'd just seen Career Opportunities (One Wild Night, to give it its video title). Crappy film, but come on...


Nicky Hunt goes all Christmassy in issue 20, dated October 1992. I think this was the last strip I contributed because I was fed up with late or non-existent payments.

I actually did get some artwork into issue 20 as well, signing myself Winny as a ruse! Okay, that's a lie. I can't remember why I signed myself Winny. This was redrawn from an old Smut strip, written and drawn by Clive Ward.
Well, that's it. Just a taste of some of the work I did for Acne. I'd forgotten I'd done so much stuff for them! For some reason, it never crossed my mind to buy copies of the comics that featured my work. It seemed a bit self-indulgent, especially as I kept hold of the originals (most of the time, anyway). Now, of course, I feel differently...and isn't that what the internet's for, a vast dumping ground for people like me with back rooms and cupboards full of ephemera that might not reach a wider audience otherwise?

Anyway, the comic that started an avalanche of clones is still going strong, and now seems as good a time as any to plug Viz issue 222 (bloody hell...) which is in the shops now. One of the most reliable aspects of Viz is the cover art, which always looks great and bang on-topic, and this issue sees Roger Mellie, Mr Logic, Raffles and Eight Ace paying a back-handed tribute to the Rolling Stones. One of the highlights of this issue is a somewhat troubling, definitely darker-than-usual outing for schoolboy detective Jack Black, which you really need to be in the right mood for (you have been warned!), and this hilarious strip about a certain veteran rock star's clockweights...

I'm looking forward to 'Ringo Starr and his Reassuring Ringpiece', even if nobody else is!


  1. Well who'd've thought it? I used to get Acne from car boot sales before I was ten, mixed in with Beanos, and got a lot of enjoyment out of them. They all went missing some time ago, but I've been re-buying them since - think I'm about halfway to having the lot of them.

    A few years later I got Fizz on a visit to Kwik Save, and was "reunited" with all those characters again.

    I could honestly rank Acne amongst my Top Ten Comics ever.

    1. It does look as rough as guts now, but it's worth remembering that there was no big, prestigious company behind Acne and no 'big names' working for it, it was just another of several Viz clones shouting from the sidelines for attention. I suppose a few people cut their teeth on the comic, myself included, though I'd be the first to admit that my work from that era looks pure crap!

  2. Oh, too many strips to read at one sitting - I don't want my bum to get numb. I'll come back to them later and grace you with the benefit of ny opinion, for which you will no doubt be truly grateful. I'm now off to cure all known diseases and end poverty.

  3. This was an interesting read. I remember seeing Acne on the magazine shelf in the shops a few times but never got round to having a look inside. It's nice to finally see some of the contents after all this time.

  4. Nicky Hunt? I actually used to know someone who was exactly like this in real life. He didn't seem to have any sense of restraint in the porkies he told, always veering off completely into Jackanory territory. I last spoke to him in 1981, whereupon I decided I wanted nothing more to do with him. He's still lying his @rse off 'though, if his Facebook page is anything to go by. I may do a post about him one day. The truth is stranger than fiction. You should revive this character - he's got loads of potential.

  5. Brilliant. Totally forgot this even existed. I think I was slightly too young for what age it was aimed at, I dunno, I'm 31 now? I bought all of them. I was obsessed with it. Totally forgot about oink as well. Gonna have a look on the web for that now.

  6. Just like yourself and Kid, I too knew a real - life Nicky Hunt!