Saturday, September 20, 2008
The new Viz Annual
The latest Viz annual (sub-titled The Last Turkey in the Shop) is out now, featuring 160 pages packed with comic strips from issues 152 to 161 of the ongoing monthly. Priced at £10.99, the large hardback includes characters such as The Fat Slags, Sid the Sexist, The Real Ale Twats, Elton John's Bandit Beater, Roger Mellie, and many more. Artists include Paul Palmer, Cat Sullivan, Davey Jones, Simon Thorp, Alex Collier, and myself. (My contribution is Suicidal Syd on page 139 if anyone's interested.)
Viz often receives a strange reception from comic fans. Hard core aficionados of British comics tend to ignore it, despite it being the closest thing in style to their beloved "traditional" comics. Likewise, it's also usually ignored by champions of "adult comics", even though Viz is the most successful British adult comic ever. (Then again, Viz is a humour comic, - something the po-faced stalwarts of "graphic novels" tend to dismiss in their quest to have comics accepted as serious literature.)
You're unlikely to find much (if any) mention of Viz at UK comic conventions. (Apart from the people who mistakenly think you're talking about the Manga company Viz Media.) It's "too cartoony" for the tastes of most fanboys who drool over Alex Ross artwork, believing all comics should be photo-realistic or dark and grim. There have been Viz panels and events in the past admittedly; most successfully the Simon Donald / Alex Collier stage roadshow "Swearing is both Big and Clever" at the Bristol Comic Expo a few years ago. Overall though, the worlds of Viz and comic fandom don't interact. Viz is a comic that the general public is familiar with, - something that some graphic novels can only aspire to. (At its peak several years ago, Viz was selling over a million copies an issue.)
There's also the "vulgar" aspect that puts some gentle souls off Viz of course. They wrongly believe the comic to be solely about swearing and dirty jokes. In truth, much of Viz's humour comes from social satire and complete daftness. It was the legion of Viz clones (Zit, Smut, Poot, etc) which were heavy on filth and vulgarity, but none of those have survived.
The format of Viz: The Last Turkey in the Shop is akin to a Fleetway annual of the 1970s: 160 pages, hardback. Inside, the art style is mostly a parody of 1950s British comics, 22 panels to a page and hand-lettered strips. Yet although its readers will be unfamiliar with those aspects, the humour itself is sharp and modern.
The book is currently available to order from Amazon for £6.59