Thursday, 3 July 2014

Robbery with violence

Thus runs the tagline for Blag, and it's a fairly accurate one too - this could possibly be one of the most pen-crunchingly, ridiculously violent Viz-type comics that there is! All seems well on the cover, if not slightly odd, in a "we-are-here-for-you" kind of way:

Your basic information here is that Blag lasted for about a year from August of 1990, it was edited by Craig McDonald, published by Sceptre Marketing, and features several familiar faces we've already met.

And with that... Let the catharsis begin?

As with most of these comics, Blag has its "main man", as in, the one who does the most pages, and in this case even the covers. Ty Dalby is his name, and he's also the assistant editor - we previously met Mr. Dalby in the pages of Gutted. For Blag, he gives us, amongst other things, the standard "psychotic skinhead" character in the form of Knacker Knutt:

Along with odd little one-off bad jokes like this pair here:

Italian stereotype and DC Thomson-baiting The Firm is a funny one, if you try and do the voices while you're reading it. If you don't know what an Italian accent is like, just think like the puppets in the Dolmio adverts:

Whilst this parody piece here just might've been a favourite of the Blag staff, seeing as he appears in every issue (or at least every issue that I have). His name is Dr. Pugh, and this particular timelord tends to vomit, frequently. This particular adventure here, I SHOULD be saving, but it's just too bloody bizarre to wait until Christmas to show this one, so here you go:

Ah, for the days when you could get something sold in WH Smith's and not have copyright lawyers banging down your doors...

While we're being all festive here, it's worth showing the cover to Blag's festive edition, in which they really did go all-out, with EVERY strip having a seasonal theme:

One last bit of Dalby's stuff before moving on - he drew rhinos on the back of each issue. Here's two of them:

And now, we meet the rest of the Blag staff, using this page here, which is highly useful...

Self-portraits! If ALL of these comics did this kind of thing, there'd be a lot less pondering involved as to who did what when confronted with an unsigned strip. The more observant reader might recognise a few faces there from previous rude comics, and naturally we'll be getting to them. First, a few folk who only seemed to appear in one issue a piece, at least two of whom appear to be operating under a pseudonym.

First up, presenting the "thick character" and drawing in a somewhat unsettling manner, is John Dakin's Benny Fik:

There's some more of that wonderful violence! Keeping with the theme is, I THINK, Jacqueline East, with Tommy Two Tabs:

If that really is by "Jacqueline", then she's the first female contributor to these comics I've happened across so far. So hey, benchmarks and all that.

By someone going simply by "Jason" is this odd little number:

And continuing with the phallic dismemberment is "Tom Sawyer II" with this cautionary tale:

As you can probably tell by now, there's a consistent "feel" running through Blag, something that's missing from a lot of these comics. However you feel about the theme here, at least it gives less of the impression that the whole thing was just thrown together to make some quick money. What Blag DOES have in common with a lot of the other ones, however, is the offer of T-shirts from the outset. The second issue offers this lot:

Whilst by the sixth issue, the designs seem to've improved somewhat:

Right, let's meet some more characters, firstly courtesy of a Mr. Michael Salter. Salter's drawings are BIG, and he likes his violence of an equal size, as evidenced here by "pathological liar" character Bertie Bullshit:

And here, with superhero serial Bogieman - of which this is the third episode:

And that leads us tentatively on to another caped-type, and the first of several by the next "featured artist", and personal favourite of mine, Phil Baber. It's Catman:

Phil Baber, then. We've previously seen him here within the pages of Gutter, Gutted, the never-published Oh No!! and the soon-to-be-covered-fully UT, along with many other titles (not limited to Gas, Talking Turkey and Gag, to name three off the top of my head). It was within the pages of Blag that Phil's signature Funny Bunnies made their debut - and here are two of their adventures:

He likes drawing animals, does Mr. Baber:

Indeed, Blag as a whole seems to be friendly towards the plight of the animals. We've already seen Baber's rabbits and Dalby's rhinos, and now here's a "political piece" courtesy of Guy Denning:

Also in residence within Blag is Bill Greenhead (or StiK, to go by his preferred name), who has also appeared in Gutter. Here's one of his Blag pages, a Rapunzel variation for all ages:

Oh, StiK got to draw a cover as well, so that they're not ALL done by Ty Dalby:

Notice that every one of these covers has a Swastika on it? They all belong to Knacker Knutt, but it's still an "interesting observation", no?

There's also Dave Colton, another Gutter guy and later on, a frequent contributor to Acne. He's got stuff in Poot as well, but I didn't think to scan any of his stuff at the time. Ah well, hindsight and all that. This is one of the pages he did for Blag:

Along with Anthony Smith, again, here with another character that could be any of his many other creations:

Fun fact: Just this week I realised that Anthony Smith is the one who does those terrible Learn to Speak Cat things that are in the Metro every day. Well, at least he's still working.

And finally, there's the ever reliable Kev Sutherland, who does LOADS of stuff in Blag, almost as much as Ty Dalby. By way of example, he does his usual tricky wordplay gags:

A violent one, so that he can fit in with the rest of Blag's characters:

And... This one. Remember that one good thing that was in the otherwise terrible Smut? As in, the "ironically" self-mocking mock-up of a Viz mockery? I'll post it again here, just as a refresher:

Well, Mr. Sutherland does a similar thing here, sort of, only in a more "clever" way - in that rather than backfiring and highlighting how terrible the comic actually is, it's more of a "satire" of the obvious thought process that goes into the creation of these many, many Viz-type comics. Here it is:

Good, eh?

And with that, that's Blag. Mostly well-drawn, mostly amusing, different enough to be distinguishable from the rest of them... Certainly an appropriately convincing enough title.


  1. One of the things about these type of comics is that sub-standard lettering often seems to dominate the page - something that The Dandy shared in its final years. I find myself not inclined to read them because of it.

    1. True, but they were all one-man-shows, as in no specialist letterers were used. In the case of some of them (Phil Baber's stuff especially) I couldn't imagine any other style of lettering working for them.

  2. Well, some of it works, some of it doesn't, but as ever, it's nice to know that at least one person in cyberspace is covering these comics in the manner they deserve. Given that the explosion of Viz clones really was the nearest England ever had to the underground comics scene that took America by storm between 1968 and 1973, it's sad how little is remembered of them - Graham Kibble White's assertion that "they were all awful except Viz" is pretty wide of the mark, and there is ample evidence to prove this.
    Also, they were popular. HUGELY popular. Although my early 90s Viz clone 'Klam' had a print run of a mere 100 copies, each issue sold out and newsagents all over town were happy to take a big pile of copies, and I never had any problems with returns. Of course, that was in the days before big bastard juggernauts like T*sc* and WH Smug's ruined everything...

    1. One of the trickiest things, I'm finding, is how to differentiate the Viz-clones from the "other" slightly-underground stuff... Things like Knockabout, Street Komix, Dope Fiend Funnies, Plain Rapper Comix, that sort of thing. There's a few here in my collection where it takes a LOT of scrutiny to figure out whether it's the kind of thing I'm covering here or not.

      As for Klam, I still haven't managed to find any of them! It's one of my "saved searches" on eBay, so I suppose it's just a waiting game on that one.

      And don't get me started on that shop that begins with "T"...

    2. I've just done a long piece on Klam on my blog.

    3. Smashing, just read it - another one ticked off the box, I'll stick a link to it here shortly enough.

  3. Really enjoying all these features on the adult humour comics, T-HB. Going to have to go through all of your archives now!
    Any idea where I can get a scan of The Daily Head and Twisted example covers from, as I can't find any on Google?
    Cheers, JP

    1. Cheers, John!

      Afraid I can't help you with Daily Head or Twisted just yet, as I don't have any of those... Might be the first time I've ever heard of Twisted, to be honest. I'm learning just as much as everyone else by going through these comics, it's a lot of fun!

  4. Twisted was Smut, rebranded. Lasted a few more issues then gave up the ghost.

    1. Ah, thanks for clearing that up. Think I remember reading that somewhere now, but I've been trying my hardest to wipe Smut from memory.

  5. Thanks T-HB / Lee. Good luck getting a Klam. Never heard of that one, so I'll look forward to seeing it. If you're still after a Bugs & Drugs I saw one on eBay yesterday.
    I'd really like to see your underground comix on posts if you fancy it?

    1. Yeah, I've seen it pop up on eBay a few times, but it always seems to be the same seller trying to get £9 for it, a price I'm not willing to pay for one comic!

      Underground stuff, yep, I'll be getting to that, you can be sure! I've got, at the last count, seventeen more different Viz-ish titles to cover (although three of those could really be done in one thing), then I was thinking of moving on to small press stuff after that - but why not mix it up a bit and do small press at the same time as underground stuff?

    2. I won't be reviewing the Truth, couple of reasons... not really enough comics content to fit into my remit, and despite some interesting contributors (Kim Newman!) it's just not that great.

  6. PS there was also a C'mon ref! last week, but don't know if it's still there.

    1. Ha ha! That's the one adult comic I don't feel any enthusiasm towards "acquiring". Football's boring enough at the best of times, and football "humour" just doesn't bear thinking about. Heard some tales about it though, just one of those unfortunate necessities it seems.

  7. Actually, the more I look at Ty Dalby's stuff, the more I like it. He's definitely got his own style nailed down and he'd have made a pretty good animator for children's films and television, even if he only designed the characters. Anthony Smith's stuff reminds me a bit too much of eighties Garfield, when Jim Davis effectively stopped giving a fuck and handed the day-to-day production of the strip over to a team of assistants while he (allegedly) sat in a swimming pool full of hundred dollar bills all day.

    1. Interesting opinion on Dalby's stuff there - I could SORT OF see his characters resembling those found in the likes of Jimbo & The Jet-Set (if you remember that?) or the Family Ness.

    2. Jimbo and the Jet Set, the Family Ness and Penny Crayon were all drawn by Peter Maddocks, who also did more than his fair share of 'funny arab' cartoons for 1970s Private Eye and had the not-very-enviable job of illustrating a Jim Davidson joke book. And yes, Ty Dalby's stuff is reminiscent of his.

    3. Gah, Penny Crayon, what a nightmare that show was! It was probably Su Pollard's voice that put me off the most about it...

      And I remain dismayed to learn that the man responsible for one-third of my childhood TV consumption was roped into doing foul deeds for Mr. Davidson, bah.

    4. Su Pollard gets a free pass from me simply because she was in Hi-De-Hi!, one of a handful of programmes (among them Spitting Image and Open All Hours) that made Sundays in the eighties that bit more bearable.

    5. Hi-De-Hi! is one of many, many things that I've simply never seen... So for now at least, Su Pollard's voice will just always be the annoying Penny Crayon thing.

      On the subject of Su though... Sue Perkins, always had a thing for her, if only I was born a woman and all that.