Right, here we go again! A trite observation about all these sub-Viz comics is that the bad ones seem to do a lot better than the good ones. Titles like Smut can carry on for almost two decades, whereas something like Adroit might disappear after two or three issues. On a similar merciful level, utter garbage like Jockstrap seem to've been wiped from the memory of all but a handful of people, so at least there's that.
Which brings us to Zit, a comic that seems to fall somewhere in between the "good" and the "awful" definitions - mostly to do with what was going on behind the scenes. Yes, we're looking at Zit today!
A product of 1991 published by Humour Publications - owned by a mister Russell Church who, judging by what I've read about him, could almost be seen as a comic character himself. More on that later, but for now let's have a look at what was inside Zit - the content ranges from "actually quite good", to "bloody rubbish", "so ridiculously rude it's funny", "how did they get away with that?" and even "absolute hatstand", so we'll get the crap stuff out of the way first.
Terry the Twat is the amusingly-named Dennis the Menace parody, and he's a right one, he is:
Another "naughty child"-type character is Mary Lamb and her Acts of Wanton Cruelty, who takes delight in torturing/mutilating/murdering anyone she sees fit:
Gavin St. James, the Docklands Don Juan is something I just plain don't "get" - maybe this was a recognisable stereotype at some point, but seeing as I wasn't even ten in 1991, and don't live in London, it just escapes me. All talk, oblivious to all? Who knows. He was in almost every bloody issue though, so here he is:
From the same artist (going by the name of Burke 'n' Hare, probably a pseudonym) is this (sadly all-too-accurate) courtroom drama:
Here's a name that was in a LOT of these comics - Anthony Smith. He's prolific, yes, but it's REALLY difficult to tell any of his characters apart from one another. Compare The Milltown Boys...
...with Acid Head Arnie:
Likewise, compare those two to Barry and his Magic Bag and Ghostly Gilbert, both from Poot! - He's obviously got a winning formula there, particularly with Acid Head Arnie, who would go on to appear on T-shirts and so on. He IS the most amusing of Smith's "characters" though, if only for the attempts by the police officers to "blend in".
Another somehow prolific entity of the "scene" is Graham Hey, who did LOADS of characters for several crap comics, none of which are amusing and all of which are identical. Here's Reggie Carlton (He's Got a Bobby Charlton), indiscernible from any of his other characters (be they The Twats Next Door, Dad and Son or Teenage Mum):
Oh go on then, for the sake of comparison here's Deep Sea Derek:
Oh, that bit underneath with the toilet wall? That's another regular feature of Zit - people sent in their "jokes" and they were stuck on the wall of fame there.
Carrying on with the familiar tropes, we have Angus McBastard, the stereotypical drunken, violent Scotsman:
The stereotypical rampant homosexual Raging Kneivel:
The badly behaved animal, simply titled Dog:
The psychotic murderer Psycho Derek:
The "crap superhero" Glassman:
And the Eastern dictator piss-take Madass Hussain (it was 1991, everyone was at it):
Also in the "sign of the times" category we have Salman Rushdie, the Master of Disguise:
Here's another old stereotype, that of the Harry Enfield Scouser - at least this one acknowledges the ridiculous nature of it all:
That's about enough of the bad stuff - here's the "funny if you're in the right frame of mind" Lamb Brusco, the Alcoholic Bad Attitude Sheep:
And with that, we'll move onto some of the more "interesting" parts of Zit, starting with the ever-present Nigel Maughan who did billions of strips for trillions of comics. Zit highlights include Bastard Binmen:
Henry Malone, He's Always Alone:
Granny Sooker's Talking Verruca:
And Those Pricks in Cycle Shorts:
Timothy Christopher - Country Vet is an odd one - he's actually good at his job, and doesn't end up killing his patients (like you'd expect with a vet character in a comic of this sort). It's fun enough, but I don't know who drew it - does anyone?
Equally odd is Champion the Chunder Horse - obviously it's a horse that vomits a lot, but at least it looks interesting... Almost in an S. Clay Wilson sort of way. Only it's by Will Kevans:
Also of an "interesting" persuasion is this stack of Oscar Wilde quotes framing a strip titled Oscar Milde - Theatrical Twat. Written by that previously-mentioned Graham Hey, so he's not all bad:
And forming something that's halfway between John Fardell's Modern Parents and Wilbur Dawbarn's Mr Meecher the Uncool Teacher is Maxwell Beecher, the Trendy Teacher by Reg Whitehead:
Oh look, Kev Sutherland's got stuff in Zit as well!
One thing that Zit seems to have in abundance is NEARLY straight rip-offs of other popular comic characters, with the odd additional characteristic thrown in (sometimes). Hence we have Billy Bunt (He's Just a Fat... Fool):
Poparse the Sailor Man:
Rob Filth's Roy of the Red Lion:
And how these next two escaped the notice of DC Thomson's legal team I'll never know:
My personal favourite "thing" from Zit would be Mick Austin's Tales from the Riverbank - here's three of them, the last of which may give you nightmares:
Unlike most of the other comics that were jumping on the Viz bandwagon, Zit had a fairly wide range of extracurricular products available. Besides the already-mentioned T-shirts (almost every character got one!), there's at least three "collected" books:
A third one, titled The Big Floppy One (contrasting with Viz's Big Hard One) is currently in the post.
As well as a tape:
And even a video! This has recently been found on eBay, if I ever get around to getting one of those VHS transfer cables you can expect the contents of the Zit video to be finding its way to YouTube eventually:
And that's... almost it for Zit.
But not quite! Some fairly interesting "behind-the-scenes" stuff went on at Zit, mostly in relation to its owner/creator, Russell Church. Apparently, Russell thought there was some sort of rivalry between his own comic and Viz, which Chris Donald (aka. Mr. Viz) has cleared up in his autobiography thusly:
"Church's magazine was so bad he couldn't give the thing away."
Perhaps looking to pick a fight he thought he could win, Russell's next target was Spit!, a really terrible comic that'll be covered on this blog soon enough. He took Spit! to the High Court, accusing it of trying to pass itself off as Zit. Fair enough by my reckoning, a LOT of Graham Hey's stuff is also in Spit!, as is that trendy teacher character. Anyway, the judge couldn't see the similarities - so he made Russell pay Spit!'s legal fees. And then Zit went and made a joke about Ann Diamond's cot death incident, prompting further legal payouts. Russell and his company, Humour Publications, were sank, and you'd think that would be the end of things...
Until another publisher, The Mag Factory, decided to carry on with Zit - and apart from the title the "new" Zit was like a completely different comic:
Inside it's more like Smut than Viz, with a lot of the more surreal aspects replaced with shite like this:
Whoever drew that one there seems to've drawn around 75% of the latter-day Zit - the comics are FILLED with his weird little fat-headed people, and they go on and on and on forever:
One of the "survivors" of Humour Publications was The Man Who Collects Eyeballs, a regular character in Gutted (a somewhat feeble comic from the makers of Zit that, of course, will be covered here at some point in the future). Here's one of his Zit appearances:
This final incarnation of Zit eventually ceased to exist sometime around 2002, but there's still two more interesting bits to it. Firstly, Viz readers will recognise the work of Cat Sullivan - here's something from before he joined the Fulchester crew:
And Lee Healey of Drunken Bakers fame also made somewhat regular contributions to Zit - by way of example here's One Man and his Maggots:
And finally, also from Mr. Healey, are two things which eventually became "regular fixtures" of Viz.
So, Zit then. I think it's alright. Better than a lot of other examples of this sort of thing, but also a lot worse than many others too. Not much of a conclusion after such a long article, but there we go. Make what you will of that.