Thursday 1 August 2013

Pus-filled unwelcome blemish

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 Chris 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 four "collected" books:

A third one, titled The Big Floppy One (contrasting with Viz's Big Hard One), and a fourth, A Kipper Full Of Zit, will be shown here when I get around to scanning the covers in.

As well as a tape:

And even a video! 

You can watch the whole dreadful thing below... I managed about eight minutes before giving up and trying to pretend I hadn't seen it:

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:

Or this:

Andy Willard drew that one there, and he 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, by Dave Iddon, 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.


  1. That man who's always alone - a vision of hell, surely?

    Shame about the rather desperate "will this do?" dig at the NHS.

  2. I laughed out Loud at the Harry Enfield Scouser, even had the typical Kevin Keegan perm.. Never be aloud today!! The art in the serial killer one was really good as I find the Viz/adult comic art quite poor..

    I saw a kid in work reading that Mary Lamb comic, the nurse's must have put it in with the children's comic book just because it was animated.. Probably some traumatised kid after reading that

  3. I think the guy who did the "weird little fat-headed people" was Paul Kelly. Don't quote me on that though. I can see why it's taken you a long time to get around to covering Zit, I'd imagine going through even one issue would be enough to make you lose the will to live.

    1. Almost, almost... It's not NEARLY as bad as Smut, and at least SOME of it's okay (Mick Austin's stuff mostly).

      Just did a quick Google thing for Paul Kelly (not the most "unique" of names) and all I can find is some pin-up stuff... Who knows, eh?

    2. I forgot to mention, Gavin St.James was a really off-centre and misfiring parody of 1990s London yuppies - wealthy young dickheads who dressed like Miami Vice characters and flaunted their wealth. The docklands area had been redeveloped into luxury apartments for the Filofax-toting "okay yah" brigade, which explains that reference. Sadly, Zit's strip misses its satirical targets by miles and that's why it just ends up as a mess of confused clichés.

    3. Andy Willard is the artist responsible for the "weird little fat-headed people"

    4. Cheers for that, Nik - I'll amend things accordingly :)

    5. I went and looked him up, and it absolutely is! Not that I didn't believe you, Nik. He mentions on his site something about being a contributing editor to a naming-no-names publication. I'll guess that A - it's Zit, B - he'd rather people didn't know that, and C - THAT'S why towards the end so many of the strips were desperate stretched-out things all done by him. Like poor Graham Hey, left to doing everything himself to save money.

      Poor Andy now is doing spot illustrations, and one of those awful "team-building" courses involving teaching people to draw cartoons. There's no longer the work for comic artists there was back in the day, even tho he's quite a good one.

      Good to hear downthread that Russell Church is getting his for a change, I hate it when chancers and buttholes do well in life out of conning people. It's probably him that's sending all those bleedin' PPI calls to my mobile, the twat. Hasn't he had enough of my money?

  4. It needs mentioning, and you did, that later Zit was a completely different comic. Most sites that mention it seem to only mention the early issues, often just one issue. Almost as if they never bought another copy, for some reason.

    But I, proudly!, used to give each Viz and Zit an airing round the place I was studying, towards the latter days. I was a bit young for the 1990-ish explosion, I remember the comics but never read any (except one Brain Damage which I really didn't understand).

    But yep I read latter Zit from about the time they absorbed Gutted (and I'd LOVE to see even one mention of it on the Internet) to the final issue. Which was, as you said, almost entirely done by the one bloke who must've churned out those fat-headed people at a right rate.

    Paul Kelly isn't his name. His style is similar to Dave Iddon who also drew a lot of Zit, but it isn't him either. If you gave me a list of names of contributors I'd know it when I saw it.

    Anyway looking forward to Gutted. A site called Mindless Ones has a tribute / where is article on Barry M Freeman. And did you know Jackie Scaloogie (and his smoking in bed antics) is completely absent from Google? Scan in as many as you like! I have none! And a dearth of comic shops round here! You know about .cbr comics right? Well, look it up!

  5. BTW if you look about the web, Leon Horton, Dave Iddon, and a couple of other chaps, generally still freelance artists, who did stuff for Zit and Gutted, have web pages. It'd be great if someone did an interview, possibly with a few of them at once? You'd need a few of the old comics for research, though.

    The later Zits were good! Keep that in mind and go for the people who did those!

  6. Thanks for the various tidbits there, all appreciated! I'll scan in some Jackie Scaloogies for you after Xmas, no worries there. CBR comics are all well and good, but I'm not sure about how to go about hosting a big load of files. It's (sort of) hard work scanning stuff as it is without doing whole issues (erk!).

    Gutted's certainly an interesting one - at the moment it's fifth on the list of the "to-do" pile, so expect it... February maybe? Even January?

    As for interviews - what a terrifying prospect! It'd be fun, mind, although a fair few of the former artists for these comics have been popping up commenting on THIS site, so circle of life and all that.

  7. Oh okay, well gives me something to look forward to in February then. How many Gutteds were you thinking of scanning?

    CBR should be no problems to store, just use the many many pira -cough- file storage sites that all the other pirat - cough cough - comic archivists use! Megaupload or whatever, Filestube links to most of them.

    It's just nice to see stuff from my much-abused memory turn back up on the Internet later, some lovely soul scanned in most issues of Oink, it'd be nice to have one of the 4 blokes who ever bought Gutted scan it in for us. It's boring work but your reward's in Heaven! The gay nightclub I mean. I'll buy you a drink there one day.

    1. Drinks are nice! Vimto and rum for me, ta.

      I have... Four issues of Gutted, plus the "preview" issue, somehow. It's not all that big, so why not? Might make it easier for getting things on here too (as in, freeing up storage space? Who knows?).

      It IS nice to see stuff you vaguely remember turning up years later - I saw my destiny when I couldn't find any of these comics anywhere online, and that's my (enjoyable) burden.

  8. I didn't know there was a preview issue... OTOH maybe that's what started me off reading it, any idea what it was given away with?

    I've just remembered another one, "Young Steven", the adventures of Morrissey in his pre-Smiths days. Typically young Moz would be out for a stroll when he'd meet a nice young man, who was completely nude! The man explained he'd like to go out tonight, to the National Front Disco, but quite literally didn't have a stitch to wear!

    So a kind Steven would pull out some hair from his characteristic enormous quiff, and made the man a hair-suit. He'd be a hit down the disco now!

    Anyway every issue was some silly Smiths-lyrics-involving trauma, usually 2 or 3 if there was room, to be solved by Young Steven kindly donating quiff-hair. Which he never ran out of, though the quiff was slightly exagerrated from his actual quiff in real life.

    Anyway, loved that one. I've got little photo-snaps of it memorised, I'd remember the art style if I saw the guy's other work. I think he may have worked more on Gutted. Anyway, happy memories! Ta for the oncoming scans.

    Shame you seem to live somewhere near Manchester (well, not for you it's not, and great for shops full of old comics) and I for some reason exiled myself to Kent, having previously grown up in the secular heaven of West Yorkshire. Means that drink might take a while to happen, yet. Still look forward to it!


  9. Not sure how I got hold of the preview issue, but it's essentially just issue 1 but half the length, with PREVIEW stamped across the cover. I'll have to refresh my memory of Young Steven, he doesn't sound familiar... But I think I remember something similar in Oink?

    Really should get around to re-reading all of my Oink comics as well!

    1. Young Steven was definitely Gutted. The thing in Oink you're thinking of might be the episode of Weedy Willy, where he walks the streets without ease, decrying to the air how terrible and horrible it is being a big wet wimp. As he's mysteriously followed from the shadows by a be-quiffed stranger with a notebook.

  10. One other thing I remembered... "Judge Branston" is a reference, presumably, to "controversial" senile old bastard Judge Pickles, who made a game of getting his name in the papers through committing outrageous injustices. See, it wasn't all 0901 numbers in the old days, to be a "nasty judge" you had to ruin the lower orders' lives. Wasn't enough just to be snidey about their singing.

    1. Well THAT's an interesting nugget, cheers for that. A bit of "proper" satire there then!

    2. Think he also had a column in the Sun or News of the Screws or some other quality rag like that. Dispensing his controversial common sense wisdom. Played himself into being a bit of a "character" in the media, which must have been wonderful for all the people tried under him.

    3. Just done a bit of reading on him, he sounds like a proper tit. One of the "jokes" from Judge Branston up there seems to be lifted directly from his records!

      Well, at least he's dead now - I'll have to try and find his appearance on Have I Got News For You, see what Mr. Hislop makes of him.

  11. I must apologise for my ubiquitustroughy lol. Happy to talk about all this stuff. Loved reading the blog.

    1. Hi Nigel, pleased to "meet" you - it's a welcome ubiquity, so that's one thing. Glad you've enjoyed reading it, there's (at least) twenty more comics to cover as well!

  12. Hi there, interesting read and glad to see some of my old work!i still have none of my artwork from Zit...I had to sue Russell Church periodically to get payment. In my defence, I tried on numerous occasions to get Viz to publish my cartoons...but unfortunately they where a closed shop...unless you lived north of Newcastle.

    Will kevans

    1. Hi Will, nice to "meet" you (sort of). Periodically, you say? As in, more than once? The man sounds like a complete charlatan!

      Wonder what he's up to nowadays?

  13. Zit was ALWAYS owned by Russell Church, just under his wife's name, then in the editor's name etc etc. And they all (Zit, Gutted, Bitch etc etc) went bust as part of a scam. And no one got paid! Surprise surprise! I once went to their office as they wanted me to be their new editor (despite owing me thousands of pounds) and all they had was one room and one desk. The original artwork was all thrown on the floor and in a dustbin in the corner of the room. They never paid me, so I left and set up my own comic!

    1. As I was saying in response to your response to my response to Spit - new things are learnt with every comment!

      And this happens a lot as well - I think I'm at least AWARE of all of the comics that were around back then, then another one's mentioned in passing and the "hunt" begins all over again. Bitch is news to me, is what I'm saying.

  14. Many years ago I wrote for 'Bitch' magazine and didn't get paid, like so many people who Russell Church used to buy himself a property worth over a million pounds. As I couldn't pay my mortgage and had to fight like hell to avoid repossession I was immensely cheered to read that right now he is being investigated for yet another dodgy company - this time using automatic dialling to make four million unwanted calls a day. That's a lot of misery. The Sunday Times broke the story. Oh, how I hope he gets his comeuppance.

    1. Who's up for a "Let's kick Russell Church's Fucking Head In Awayday"? While I've never worked for him, or in comics at all, I'd enjoy the nostalgia, from reading the comics in my youth.

      Although REALLY you should've been more wary. All people called Russell are abominable bell-ends. Give me one counter-example, of a Russell that you could stand 5 minutes with. You can't, can you? Hubris is thy middle name, Russells of the world.

      So there's that, as well. I'm thinking autumn, far enough in the future, and before Xmas takes over everyone's time. Anyone? I'll ring National Express about bulk bookings.

    2. I've got a Russell Hobbs sandwich toaster, it's fairly decent and doesn't make any false promises.

    3. Avril, nice to meet you! Haven't managed to find any issues of Bitch yet, but I'm actively seeking it... Did you do anything for any other titles? I'm equally pleased to learn of Russell's imminent downfall :D

  15. Russell Church appears to be up Zit Creek these days!

  16. Hi
    I have been searching for ages for a strip that appeared in Zit circa 1999 called "Tattoine Green". It was a Star Wars piss take.
    Does anyone else remember this strip or better still have a copy?
    Many thanks

    1. It's not in any of the issues I have - I'll put a "shout" on the Facebook group (that's what they call it, right?), see if anyone else remembers it...

  17. Hello. I'm Martin Langston. I found this page quite by accident. I used to draw and self publish my own comic called The Roxy toward the end of the 80's, early 90's. I used to send copies of it around to try and get work as a cartoonist ( I did get the odd thing in Viz ). Someone from Zit saw a copy of the Roxy and called me up and they published some of my work in there. The Desperate Dan one was mine. I did Clive and his C5, Eve Stropper, Speechless Sam and other odd bits and bobs. I'm pretty sure they did return my work along with a copy of the comic it was published in. A friend of mine, Steve Rhodes, also had work in my publication and some of his stuff found it's way into Zit too.

    1. Hi Martin, thanks for commenting - it really seems that Zit was "the great divider" when it comes to the way it treated its contributors.
      Do you still have any copies of The Roxy by any chance? I'd be interested to see it!

  18. I only really know Mick Austin from Peter Davison-era Doctor Who comics. This is a long way from 4-Dimensional Vistas.

  19. Mary Lamb was drawn by Erasmus, who did Home Front in Brain Damage (about Doris, the fat mumsy single mother to mild mannered teenager Roland... And also a homicidal maniac).
    Acid Head Arnie appeared in the first issue of Brain Damage.
    Stephen Shaw drew a lot in the latter Zits; at one time his characters all looked the same, but his artwork has greatly improved since then.