Friday, 1 March 2013

Duck Soup - The beginning of a large thing.

In the year of 2005, a mister Graham Kibble-White put out a book, called The Ultimate Book of British Comics. It's a good read, detailing the histories and contents of most British comics one could care to think of. There's a few dozen exceptions, obviously - neither the Bog Paper or Zig and Zag's Zogozine are mentioned, along with piles and piles of early story papers. Fair enough, it'd be a massive book if it included EVERYTHING, so by aiming the book at the 30 to 40-something market, it keeps things easier... 

There's one fairly massive area of UK comic history that's left out entirely, that being the towering mounds of "alternative" comics that sprung up in the wake of the success of Viz. Graham passes them off with one paragraph in his book:

"Although they were everywhere for about two minutes in the mid-Nineties, they weren't ever intended for kids, nor did they grow out of the lineage of children's publications. Besides, all bar Johnny Fartpants' rag were bloody awful."

Well, yes - a LOT of them were terrible, but not "all" of them. And seeing as there's no big compendium of these adult titles out there ("Viz-A-Likes" is what I call them sometimes), why shouldn't I have a stab at doing a little bit about as many of them as I can? At a push (on a somewhat pretentious level), it could be argued that they're almost as important to the history of UK comics and the underground "comix" are to US comic history (although probably not). They're definitely an acquired taste, and reading too many of them in one day is a depressing jaunt, but I'm going for it anyway.

And here's the one we're starting with:

Here we go, it's called Duck Soup and it's from 1978 (pre-dating Viz by a year). I'm sure I read somewhere that Chris Donald cited Duck Soup as an influence on Viz, but no amount of Googling can currently bring me that information again. Ah well.

As can be seen from the opening page, it's a bit of a home-made affair, with no computer-aided type of any sort to be seen:

Some recognisable names in that list of credits - get excited!

This is the format that the comic mostly takes throughout - pages full of single panel cartoons following a particular theme. This issue's theme as a whole is "the media", with pages based around television, newspapers and the radio.

There's a few full-page strips as well, such as this one from Bryan Lawrence Reading:

This one from Ed McHenry:

And this one from Steve Bell:

Plus a page of short "strips", the three-panel variety, free to break away from the issue's theme, apparently:

And just to add to the whole "DIY" charm of the thing, the adverts are all hand-drawn as well:

Looking at the addresses in the adverts, this was obviously a London-based publication - and considering I found this issue in a used book shop in London, it hasn't travelled much over the last thirty-five years (until now!). 

That's one of the most interesting things I find about these "alternative" titles - they're all so LOCAL. Cheaply made, which obviously means not much would be spent on distribution, so you'd be finding different titles in different parts of the country. That's Duck Soup anyway, incredibly tame when compared to what's to come - consider that a fair warning!


  1. I could never really get into such publications (not that I saw many of them) - I've always preferred the mainstream. If I won millions on the lottery, I'd probably waste them trying to revive Whizzer & Chips and the like.

    1. A noble mission indeed - I'd be happy enough bringing back BVC or Classics From The Comics, or even Whizzer & Chips Comic Library.

  2. That left me distinctly underwhelmed. One of the reasons Viz took off in such a big way was that it dealt in 'street' humour - or, in many cases, 'behind the bike sheds' humour - and nobody, aside from the American undergrounds of the late 60s / early 70s - had ever thought to put that stuff in print before. Sure, there were the 'gags and girls' titles of the seventies like Funny Half Hour and Sexy Laughs, but most of them featured cartoons reprinted from American publications anyway. Private Eye and Punch were aimed at a more cultured, bohemian readership, and whilst NME and Sounds may have had a couple of good comic strips, there was nothing funny for young people to read until Viz came along. I'm glad you've decided to cover the Viz knock-offs, it'll save me a job!

    1. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it!

      I've got maybe 20-something different titles, but I know I'm currently definitely missing any examples of the following:

      The Daily Head
      C'mon Ref!
      Bugs & Drugs

      Just have to be patient and see what eBay and my other "sources" can bring up. Most of the fun's about finding ones that you'd never even heard of!

    2. Gutted = VERY poor attempt at 'surrealism' from the makers of Zit and Gutter. As an artist friend of mine said at the time "I didn't know it was possible to staple wank together".
      Adroit = Hell's teeth, I only ever saw this once, when I was on holiday in Lowestoft! I always used to check out local newsagent's shops when I went on holiday and the only thing I remember about this was its title, so the contents couldn't have been that memorable.
      Igor = I had the first issue. I doubt there were many more. Sample characters - 'the Three Dickies' (three homosexual bouncers).
      The Daily Head = Very, very poor Private Eye knockoff. Still thought calling Eric Clapton "Eric Claptout" and Pete Townshend "Pete Deadend" was funny.
      C'mon Ref! = Much the same as Spit! but with a heavier emphasis on football. I had a couple of jokes published in there, and I know zilch about football!
      Bugs and Drugs = Student humour. Nuff said!

    3. Cheers for those - guessing I need to start looking around the 2nd-hand bookshops of Suffolk if I want to see anything of Adroit then.

      "The Blob" is another one I've found out about recently, advertised within DoodleBug. Seems to be another one having a go at surrealism.

      Wonder why there's so many bouncers in these comics?

    4. Part of eighties / nineties nightlife, I guess.

  3. Interesting, I look forward to seeing more of those. As for Graham Kibble-White’s book, it also leaves out the entire family of Power comics such as Wham!, Smash! and Pow!

    1. Good point, how'd I miss that out?

      In the introduction he does mention omitting Marvel reprints, so maybe he got confused somewhere along the way...

    2. To be rigorously fair, Kibble-White did say in the foreword that he was concentrating on the "pop culture" era, meaning comics that were released (or were still going strong) in the seventies and eighties.

  4. You should save all this material for a book. It's a book that needs to be written and your thesis (or "angle") could be that these things WERE as vital as the American underground.

    1. Nah... That'd involve getting rights and publishers and what-not, and there's probably only around six people on the planet who'd consider paying for a book about this sort of stuff.

  5. Recognise a few names from Oink! in there....very interesting stuff indeed! Never really been one for alternative comics other than Uncle Pigg's effort, so will be good to see what else was out there...

    1. There's a LOT more than you'd think! Lots of weird/confusing "cross-over" stuff too, including some with Oink...

  6. David Austin and I were two cartoonists scrapping around for work, in the 70s. We started Duck Soup to publish cartoons that had been rejected by other publications, because they were considered offensive. There were no computers that could help us back then so David and I used to spend days pasting the magazine up. At the same time our solo cartoon careers were taking off and we had to stop the magazine because we were so busy. But, we missed it and started it up again in the 80s for a while. The magazine sold mostly in London but we did get it out to other big cities. It was actually quite successful and when we stopped it, we had about £40,000 in the bank, a lot of money in those days. When we finally finished we took nothing for ourselves and divided the money among everyone who'd contributed. I've got a big box of the magazines in my loft.