Viz Comics

Viz is a popular British comic magazine which has been running since 1979.

The comic's style parodies the strait-laced British comics of the post-war period, notably The Beano and The Dandy, but with incongruous language, crude toilet humour, black comedy, surreal humour and either sexual or violent storylines. It also sends up tabloid newspapers, with mockeries of articles and letters pages. It features competitions and advertisements for overpriced 'limited edition' tat, such as a cat which "shits its own weight in gold", as well as obsessions with half-forgotten celebrities from the 1970s and 1980s such as Shakin' Stevens and Rodney Bewes. Occasionally, it satirises current events and politicians, but has no particular political standpoint. Its success has led to the appearance of numerous rivals crudely copying the format Viz pioneered; none of them has managed seriously to challenge its popularity. It once enjoyed being the fourth most popular magazine in the UK, but ABC-audited sales have since dropped to an average of 76,408 per issue in 2009 (from 1.2 million). This is mainly because its comic remit has become broader and its format more commonplace, but also partly due to the fact that price has increased sharply to £3 (as of issue 178) and it is now published 'monthly' ten times a year.The falling circulation and rising cover price are often referenced in the comic itself, often by disgruntled contributors to the letters page.

Some of its comedic devices, for example, generating the illusion of an entire comic-strip "universe" with a "one-off" strip, often based on a surrealistic pun, were widely employed in the earlier and now-defunct American humour magazine National Lampoon, which was itself more or less a sophisticated version of Mad Magazine.

In a recently released coffee table book celebrating 25 years of Viz, cartoonist Graham Dury is quoted as saying: "We pride ourselves on the fact that you're no cleverer when you've read Viz. You might have had a few laughs, but you've not learnt anything".

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Viz Annual 2014: The Camel's Toe
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Roger's Profanisaurus: Das Krapital
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History
The comic was started in Newcastle upon Tyne in December 1979 by Chris Donald, who produced the comic from his bedroom in his parents' Jesmond home with help from his brother Simon and friend Jim Brownlow. Editor Chris Donald himself cannot remember exactly where the name of the magazine comes from. The most he can remember is: at the time, he needed to come up with a proper name for it, and he considered the word "Viz" a very easy word to write/remember, as it consisted of three letters which are easily made with straight lines. The word Viz itself comes from the Latin words vide licet, which is usually abbreviated to "viz", meaning "more appropriately or accurately; namely", and is often used interchangeably with "i.e."; for example: "He was a minor Duke in the House of Lords, viz. the Duke of Rochester". The name "Viz Comic" is also close to the Latin phrase "Vis Comica", which means "Sense of Humour".

It came about at around the time, and in the spirit of, the punk fanzines, and used alternative methods of distribution, such as the prominent DIY record label and shop Falling A Records, which was an early champion of the comic. The first 12-page issue went on sale for 20p (30p to students) in a local pub which hosted punk gigs, and the run of 150 copies had sold out within hours. What had begun as a few pages, photocopied and sold to friends, became a publishing phenomenon. To meet the demand, and to make up for Brownlow's diminishing interest in contributing, freelance artist Graham Dury was hired and worked alongside Chris Donald.

After a few years of steady sales, mostly in the North East of England, circulation had grown to around 5,000. As the magazine's popularity grew, the bedroom became too small and production moved to a nearby Jesmond office. Donald also hired another freelance artist, Simon Thorp, whose work had impressed him. For over a decade, these four would be the nucleus of Viz. In 1985, a deal was signed with Virgin Books to publish the comic nationally every two months. In 1987, the Virgin director responsible for Viz, John Brown, set up his own publishing company, John Brown Publishing, to handle Viz. Sales exceeded a million by the end of 1989, making Viz for a time one of the biggest-selling magazines in the country. Inevitably, a number of imitations of Viz were launched, but these never matched the original in popularity, and rarely in quality.

Sales steadily declined from the mid-1990s to around 200,000 in 2001, by which time Chris Donald had resigned as editor and passed control to an "editorial cabinet" comprising his brother, Simon, Dury, Thorp and new recruits Davey Jones and Alex Collier. In June 2001, the comic was acquired as part of a £6.4 million deal by I Feel Good (IFG), a company belonging to ex-Loaded editor James Brown, and increased in frequency to ten times a year. In 2003, it changed hands again when IFG were bought out by Dennis Publishing. Soon after, Simon Donald quit his role as co-editor, in an attempt to develop a career in television.

Much of the non-cartoon material such as the newspaper spoofs are written by the editorial team with contributions from Robin Halstead, Jason Hazeley, Joel Morris and Alex Morris, the authors of The Framley Examiner, and by James MacDougall and Christina Martin.

Posted under: Comic USA,UK Comics Thursday, May 20th, 2010

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