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I feel I should start this review by apologising to those who are easily offended and indeed, it may be best for you not to read on but it is a review of Viz so vulgarity is pretty much integral and lets face it : Swearing, its not big, its not clever but it is fucking funny. After all how many inoffensive jokes do you know? (I mean good ones). I don’t know why we find offensive, crude and sick jokes funny, maybe we feel better in ourselves by putting down others, maybe it excites us to be a little naughty but fuck it, we do and I don’t care why, which is why I love Viz.
Viz was started in 1979 by a 19 year old lad called Chris Donald with his friends Jim and Simon Brownlow in – no shocks here – the cultural elite that is Newcastle. One can only imagine what nasty foul mouthed little bitches they must have been to produce work such as this, but then I suppose for them to start some kind of career would have made them the pick of the bunch from that fair city. The first few issues were really shit but then they were very low profile selling about 40 copies in the local pub. The comic gradually grew and with more and more people joining the magazine better characters were developed to the extent that when the magazine peaked around 10 to 15 years later it was selling over a million copies and had created some of the greatest characters ever committed to paper.
The comic is based on some disgustingly vulgar low brow humour that is often pretty shocking and always controversial. Though much of the humour comes from crude gags and vulgar language there is undeniable genius throughout. To make the same basic characters with the same basic jokes funny over and over again does take some talent and a lot of the strips really are hysterical. The format of the comic is basically a letters page at the front and then a whole load of Beano – esque cartoon strips with various fake adverts and humorous features spread throughout.
----The Key characters:
Roger Mellie- The undoubted hero of viz and possibly the greatest cartoon character of all time. Based on someone called Rod Griffin – I have no idea- he swears like a trooper, is an absolute cunt and is possibly the most un p.c. character ever created. Roger is a T.V presenter, a character inspired by all of the dodgy on screen entertainers around today who display such a calm persona on screen but act so crudely off. The character gets into all kinds of trouble through sexism, alcoholism and profanity by the bucket load while there is so much opportunity for the cartoon to rip into your Michael Barrymores, your Jim Davidsons and your Gary Bushells meaning the jokes pretty much keep generating themselves. Roger Mellie is so popular he is now a brand of his own with his own set of Roger’s Profanisaurus books with updates in magazines. Such creative use of colourful language is just fantastic to read.
A typical extract from said publication:
Chef’s special sauce n, spunk - ‘Here is your steak, Mr Winner, and chef wants you to know that he enjoys your Esure adverts so much, he’s put you an extra helping of his special sauce on there’.
The basis of a movie that’s just come out –a pretty crap one by the looks of things- its maybe best not to take that as a fair reflection on the characters. Although they are by no means my favourite they are among the stars of the comic and it was with their introduction that the magazine peaked, they remain its most controversial and marketable commodity. Basically all the fat slags do is go round screwing providing the perfect opportunity for innumerable sex, fanny, fat and slut jokes which are usually extremely well executed
Created to resemble the lovechild of Mike Reid and Bob Hoskins with a lot of Del boy Cockney Wanker is one of those characters which is funny as fuck the first few times you see him but he gets a bit repetitive. He is your basic Londoner – and that is the basis for all the jokes surrounding the character – he is a sexist, wheeler-dealer wife beater who speaks every word in cockney rhyming slang. All his jokes are based on his London ethics and the city itself, the cockney rhyming slang may become tiresome after a while but as Only Fools and Horses has shown the basic London character and culture – Chas and Dave, dodgy deals black cabs etc etc can go on forever.
Sid the Sexist
Another of Viz’s most marketable strips and one of many of the inevitable Newcastle inspired characters. Sid enables the writers to really take the piss out of laddish culture in general as well as poking fun at the Newcastle accent and culture. With a big front and a small cock, always trying and failing to get laid Sid does manage to last the span of time and they do continue to create good story lines for him.
Another of my favourite characters – pretty much all Terry’s cartoons are very one dimensional – just him getting confused in ridiculous situations and then he’d just say how he’s got shit for brains. The basic premise and drawings are so funny though that he manages to crack me up every time. The use of drawings tricks is great and its just that you always know, if given the choice between £10 million pounds and a big shovel of shit, he’s going to make the wrong decision.
Not a favourite of mine but again it is a strip that Viz is well known for. Its centred on the lead character – Biffa Bacon and has evolved to include all his family, now featuring mainly his violent prankster dad and ridiculously butch mum. Created by Chris Donald the inspiration came from ‘just watching people’, that’ll be the strong Newcastle influence shining through again then. The whole strip is basically just slapstick violence from these stereotypically Newcastle speaking characters which I just don’t find particularly funny, though I do appreciate its place in Viz.
How many times can you repeat the same joke and get away with it? Quite a few actually in this case. Octavius Tinworth Ace is an alcoholic fuckwit who always lets down his wife and kids leading to him living in the shed. Every episode follows his battle to give up the 8 Ace lager he is addicted to. But every time he finds a way to the £1.49 needed for the pack of 8 and he always ends up absolutely twatted. It provides an excellent opportunity for extreme drunken behaviour, funny talking and piss jokes that constantly entertain.
I should mention Some of the best strips in Viz don’t though come from the main characters, there are some outstanding cartoons in there, though you may have to wade through a whole shower of shit to find them. It’s the clever one offs such as ‘Christ on a bike’- the adventures of a young Jesus Christ and his brand new chopper, Sick-O-Phant the perverse African elephant or Dr Poolittle that are amoung the best. My favourite strip ever has to be Bob Hopes last words strip, at the time in very bad taste but you know he would have loved it all the same.
-----The other stuff
Viz isn’t all about the cartoons, indeed when the cartoons start becoming a little repetitive the main pull of the comic becomes the special features, top tips, jokes and letterbox sections.
Each copy of Viz will have various obscure news stories, fake adverts and assorted stupid picture pages. These are sometimes amusing but tend to take one joke and stretch it out as far as possible. The picture jokes and top tips are usually more amusing. The jokes being one off picture jokes similar to the crap ones in the sun but a whole lot funnier and they provide an excellent book sold separately. The top tips section have also become an entity of their own spawning separate publications and Imitations. I find them often hit and miss but you occasionally have a few good ones e.g:
Convicts, avoid unwanted shower room intimacy by choosing instead to have a bath.
Fathers, if you have a newborn baby, never make a derogatory comment on your wifes skills as a mother.
Undoubtedly my favourite part of Viz nowadays is the letterbocks section. Its just a stupid selection of comments, some sent in, some probably made up by the writers that are all formatted like a basic letters page. There are always a few that really crack me up and there is often a funny sub section within the page such as Viz’s failed attempt to replace Cilla Blacks (then) recently stolen jewellery. Some examples of letters:
I could barely maintain my excitement when I saw that one of the events in this years Olympics was the woman’s snatch competition. Imagine my disappointment when I sat down to watch the competition and it turned out to be a bunch of muscley east European boilers lifting weights. Still, a wanks a wank.
‘Let me entertain you’ sang monkey faced crooner Robbie Williams. Okay Robbie, in your own time.
So HMV consider Andy Williams and Dean Martin to be ‘easy listening’ do they? Try telling that to my mate Andy. He’s been deaf for 20 years.
According to a recent survey, most women are too embarrassed to get undressed in front of their husbands with the light on. I wish mine was.
-----What I think
I would have, without doubt given this magazine 5 stars the 6 or 7 years ago I started to read it. Nowadays I’m not sure if it is because I’m finding the cartoons a little stale and repetitive – something Viz carefully pokes fun at itself for – or maybe because the quality of gags is no longer there but I think the monthly edition of the comic has become a bit stale. There are always some funny bits but I just don’t laugh as much as I used to, and there are too much fillers.
I would recommend the comic to any people who have never heard of before but at the same time I would favour buying one of the collection annuals. They do miss out the superb letterbox sections but at the same time cut out of lot of the crap you get in the comics. There are four of them on sale at £9.99 and the comprise the best bits of 10 comics (which are £2.20 each), the most recent being the Hangman’s Noose and my favourite being the bear trappers hat. On top of the albums there is all kind of Viz offspring on the shelves at your local book shop – jokes, top tips, bad hair cuts all of them worth a look but hey, you can do that in the shop, you don’t need to buy them.