So we may as well do this "year in review" thing that everyone else started doing in September. Let's see now...
On a purely cultural level, it's been a bit of a bugger. We've lost Bob Godfrey, Ray Harryhausen, Lou Reed, Richard Briers, Mel Smith, Charles Grigg, Marcia Wallace, Patti Page, James Gandolfini, Richard Griffiths, Felix Dexter - more or less everyone that anyone's ever cared about is now dead. It's not that nice, really.
What with all the death and disaster, there hasn't been much good "new" stuff around either (at least not that I've noticed). The fact that my favourite album of the year is a compilation of forgotten indie bands from the Nineties that Ben Baker put together could be considered "evidence" of this, but it's more likely I'm just not paying enough attention.
But just like last year, at least there's been that one constant to hold onto and laugh at/with. Viz is what I'm talking about, and it's never going to go away and that makes me and several other people GLAD. Here's the twenty-seven best bits of Viz from 2013, in roughly descending order. How happy we shall be!
27 - Cover of the Year - Lichtenstein Fartpants
Ooh, look at that etc. I'm thinking I should get a bigger scanner soon, it'd be easier than trying to convince Dennis Publishing to reduce the width of Viz slightly. The problems this brings to freeloading folk such as myself shall become evident as this list progresses...
26 - Jasper the Gasper
A big surprise in the Christmas issue (out now, go and buy it and hang the calendar on your wall in a couple of weeks) is the Fulchester debut of TOM PATERSON! That's just a few panels from the two-page extravaganza there, to whet the appetites and whatnot. Admittedly it's not the best thing ever - the story doesn't make a lot of sense and it's easy to tell that Mr. Paterson's been waiting his entire career to say "fuck" in a comic, but it LOOKS fantastic as always, and if it means that Tom'll be a regular fixture in future issues, I'll keep on saying that this is the best IPC character parody that Viz has ever done.
25 - Ski Cunt Magazine
A magazine parody proving that I can still get belly laughs from seeing swear words used in such a blasé way. Secret Beekeeper was another funny fake advert from this year, but this one topped it, just about.
24 - Hen Cabin/Horse Box
The stuff that Barney Farmer and Lee Healey do for Viz is one of the world's great dividing issues. I'm of the side that loves it, although it's hard to say why. Use that clichéd analogy of trying to explain the taste of Marmite to someone who doesn't like it, why not. Anyway, this episode of Hen Cabin relates to that hilarious horse meat "scandal" from the first half of 2013. I got a lot of free food out of that one, let's hope it's an annual event, eh?
23 - Cockney Wanker's Terrible Accident
Oh, such drama! Had this one been published a few months later (maybe during the week that had nine cyclists getting killed on the roads of London) there could've been a bit of good old fashioned comics controversy in the news.
22 - Terry Fuckwitt's Christmas Adventure
Another one from the current issue (click on it!), but it's only seven panels long so you can have the whole thing. Terry's increasingly surreal existence has effects as far reaching as two thousand years into the past, evidently.
21 - Get Married In Maplin
"Maplin - It's safe in here"
20 - The most depressing strip of the decade
More from Farmer and Healey (sorry), this one taking their fatalistic approach to comics to new highs/lows.
19 - The Exorcism of Biffa Bacon
A bit of the good old ultra-violence to cheer everyone up again. The possession's getting WORSE! Bring out the holy cricket bats!
18 - The Apprentice: Fulchester United
The Apprentice is the funniest thing on telly every year. Combine the thick-headed egotisms of its contestants with the ridiculous nature of the adventures of Billy the Fish and we have something fairly funny indeed.
17 - Fru T. Bunn's Amsterdam Adventure
Not the best thing Frubert's ever done, but I went to Amsterdam this year and had an enjoyable time, so this one's here as a "tribute" to it all. Nice to see that visiting the "Bread" Light District (little joke there) is a common thing for ALL bakers.
16 - Beddley Wettington
Just like there are people who can't stand Farmer and Healey's stuff, there's also folk who don't like Cat Sullivan's stuff (me, for example). This one, however, proved to be an exception to the rule. Which is actually true!
15 - Jack Black's Mouse Plague Mystery
Jack's Hitler jigsaw and knowing when to turn a blind eye to a lynch mob being nine-tenths of the law... Simon Ecob's world is a truly horrific Daily Mail wonderland.
14 - Roger Mellie's Science Kitchen
What happens when Roger Mellie is given the opportunity to do an educational kids' show. Go and buy the current issue to see the whole thing, it's worth a chuckle.
13 - Toby's Two Grannies - They Insult Each Other's Fannies
Something else by another member of the "new talent" at Viz - don't know who though, it could be any of this lot: Carl Hollingsworth? Martin Meeks? Joel Morris? Jason Hazely? Tom Ellen? Nick Tolson? Mark Bates? Julian Boffin? Terry Stickney? Lizzie Hoskin? Come on, own up! There's some wonderful insults here... "At least mah manicured muff nay resembles a burst hedgehog or an axe wound in a gorilla's back". Ladies, please!
12 - The Hinted-At Past of the Drunken Bakers
I'll admit it now, I can't get enough of this pair. As the years have gone on, the jovial pair have only gotten more and more tragic, and over the past year or so we've been given hints at how they ended up in the state they are today. Turns out they've been at it for a LONG time now...
11 - Big Vern's C.A.B. Adventure
More comical misunderstandings with the quick-thinking man-about-town. I like how Ernie's surname is revealed to be "Normal".
10 - Roy Lichtenstein's Schooldays
It's always nice to see Lichtenstein's name dragged through the mud, here courtesy of Lew Stringer. In the same week this one was published, Nigel Parkinson did a nice little bit of destructive analysis of the big bloody charlatan over on his blog. Worth a read if you've got a spare two minutes.
9 - Octavius Ace and the Slug Trap Conundrum
You have to compliment 8 Ace on managing to save the ninth can for his wife, at least. And too much of the Ace will make your body react to salt in the same way as a gastropod, so be careful.
8 - Lucky Frank has his chips
Yonk, Yarp, Yirp, Yop and Yoinks! As if Frank's luck couldn't get any better...
7 - Sid the Sexist Wins the Game
A three-page "epic" from Simon Thorp of the silver-tongued cavalier. Poor Sid gets a bit carried away with himself here, with obvious consequences. Seen that clever "saucepan-on-the-head/long-casualty-waiting-times" joke in the last panel? I like that.
6 - Biffa Bacon Vs. The Horse
The ridiculous lengths a parent will go to in order to batter their child, Biffa's often-hinted-at cultural sensibilities and Mutha's masculinity being called into question... Another classic adventure with the Bacons.
5 - Terry Fuckwitt's Big Idea
It clearly runs in the family... Or Terry's just contagious. Either way:
"Honestly! You really are a trio of utter cockwits! It's a lovely day and you're all cooped up inside this enormous revolving wooden box!"
4 - Roger Mellie, Farrier
Roger's fairly professional at times. He knows what he's doing, until he's pushed. His response to being asked if he'd like a go at shoeing a horse? Almost spat my tea out reading that one.
3 - Gilbert Ratchet's Piss Pipes
Only the most absurd things can happen in Gilbert's line of work. Where a programming error can result in a bird feeder spitting out camping equipment instead of seeds, or where a woman whose house is filled with frozen urine can have her problems solved by the Sarah Miles fan club.
2 - Johnny Fartpants and the Adequate Send-Off
In which Alex Collier helps us to celebrate one of 2013's happier moments, with all manner of celebrity guests - including Paul Whicker!
1 - The Real Ale Twats and the New Barmaid
Hmm, one of this trio might be me in twenty years time... For now, I'm always up for a giggle, and no single panel in Viz this year has made me giggle as much as the second-to-last one on this page.
Wonder if Thorp, Dury, Jones, Ecob, Collier et al can top that in 2014? Of course they can! Oh, and go and buy it every month if you don't already. Cheers.
"It's not as funny as it used to be" - Mark E. Smith, 1986