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!