Three or four weeks ago, I got a book - Roger Sabin's Adult Comics - An Introduction (ridiculously expensive on Amazon so I won't bother providing a link). In the customary three paragraphs he took to dismiss the various Viz clones, there was something I'd never heard of:
"Winebibber was another anomaly, and was published by a fundamentalist group within the Church of England. It included strips like the dismal 'Barry Belf - He Evangelises Himself'."
I mentioned it in conversation with Adam Smith, who promptly found a compilation/"Best Of" kind of thing on Amazon. For two pounds, why not? Now that it's here, I'm sort of wishing I didn't bother...
Read on, read on, for the worst thing to happen to comics since Jockstrap.
We'll just clear something up first - I'm not a religious type, not in the slightest. I'm also not one of those militant atheists - if folk want to believe in something, who am I to stop them? What I DO have a problem with are fundamentalists, missionaries, extremists, whatever... As in, the type that force their beliefs upon anyone in their line of sight.
What we have here, in the form of Winebibber, is Mike Brooks (writer) and Mike Stonelake (artist) using the beloved medium of the comic as their tool of conversion, or to show that Christianity can be "fun", or whatever. It's all definitely shite, every last bit of it, but that's just MY view. Have a judge yourself on this lot:
As can be seen here, there's no jokes, the drawings are terrible, and Bible quotes are often used as punchlines.
That one with the body bits gave me a laugh just for how absurd the whole setup is - small praise!
It still has a few things in common with the other Viz-ish comics, as in, "traditional" comic characters with rhyming names, and parodies of things that are currently popular, but they all get given a relentlessly tiresome "God's great" angle:
Thou shalt not take Raymond Briggs' name in vain!
Oh, and there's the not-at-all-copying-off-Viz-in-design Letterbox page:
Potentially Jihad-inducing small ads:
And even an appearance from Roger Mellie:
When I saw this page, I started to wonder if maybe it was all one big piss-take:
Until two pages later, and I realised that no, it really is attempting to "reach out" to potential Christians in 1991:
Mike Stonelake's art DOES improve as the book goes on, so there's that I suppose.
It's not often I have NOTHING good to say about something - I know I'll never want to read Winebibber again, ever, and will be keeping it only as a curiosity. The most amusing thing about it isn't contained within its pages, but rather on Amazon, in which both Mike Brooks and Mike Stonelake review their own book, with their tongues in their cheeks (I'm assuming). Just going to go ahead and copy/paste both of those reviews here, to save you the hassle of finding it yourselves (and no doubt having your Amazon recommendations flooded with all sorts of theological hoo-hah)...
They can defend it or call it "subversive" all they like, I'm looking at it as a comic-lover and nothing more.
All in all, it could be said that Winebibber is "testament" to the popularity of Viz in the late Eighties and early Nineties (joke © Adam Smith). See also The Twilight Clone for an example of someone using the "rude comic" medium to convince people of how great The Twilight Zone is.
Also, because I've gone out of my comfort zone to look at a comic based on something I have no interest in whatsoever, this also means I'm going to have to go ahead and investigate those terrible-sounding football-based Viz clones that I keep getting told about, bah.
Moving in mysterious ways and all that, spooky!