Monday, 23 June 2014

42 MP's, 5 hod carriers, 3 pimps, 12 students and a tramp.

Here we go again, with a title that doesn't really stand out at all, in any way whatsoever... But I set out to cover ALL of these things, and ALL of them I shall! There's a fair few more of the atypical variety to go, but there's also several more "interesting" ones on the way too. For now, let's get Top Banana looked at, including its inspiringly literal covers...

Important information first - this one was published by Parkmace Ltd. of Blackpool, and edited by a Mr. Mike Rowlands, just so you know. The first issue was out in 1994, and the latest issue I have access to is #9, from Xmas of 1995, so we'll estimate a run of about two years there, yes? And the content is all that anyone really cares about, so let's get to it, beginning with Top Banana's titular mascot, brought to you by Paul Dyson:

The talented Mr. Dyson seems to've been Top Banana's "main" artist, contributing no less than EIGHT strips to the first issue, and around that amount to all the other issues too, with the exception of the ninth one, due to him having a cold (according to the editorial). Dyson's strips run the full gamut of good-ness, from the crudeness of Wayne's Worms and Greta Head: the overheard-pub-joke-turned-into-a-comic-strip Silas Stamp:

...and from the could've-been-funnier-with-a-better-writer Dicky Lipsync: the 1990s-dinosaur-bandwagon-jumping Vera Silaptor:

And just to be nice, here's that banana mascot thing again, only this time in colour:

Whereas Paul's work there is perfectly suited to the comic format (as in, funny to look at and easy to tell what's going on) the same can't be said for Top Banana's OTHER main contributor, Lee Johnson. His first page in the first issue is interesting enough - odd to look at and an amusing concept:

It's all downhill from there though... Witness the cathartic mess that is Malcolm Farnham:

The just-bloody-typical-of-this-sort-of-comic The Lads:

The same-old "drawing-the-same-face-over-and-over" style is further employed in Housewife Hit Squad:

Whilst Ponk wouldn't appear out-of-place on the wall of a toilet cubicle:

Once you've finished scrubbing your eyeballs, we'll move on to something less miserable... Well, not really. Because Phil Neill does a lot of stuff in Top Banana as well, with his own brand of everything-phobia. In Phil's hateful little world, arthritis turns folk to domestic murder:

...All homosexuals are rapists:

...Incest is fine providing your daughter's breasts are big enough:

...And if you're ever at a loss for a punchline, just have your characters shout obscenities until you've run out of space on the page:

Hmmm, positivity, positivity... When reading these titles, it's best to judge them on their own terms rather than in comparison with other, better things, so I'll always try and find SOMETHING to enjoy about them. Most of Top Banana's worst stuff is out of the way now, with the rest being more readable, some of it even enjoyable! By way of example, here's two adventures starring the demented Bertha Twill, by Rob Yuppies (otherwise known as Rob Filth):

And here's something interesting - a Viz imitator using a Viz character in a satirical sort of way. It's Terry 'Fuck' Waites by Dave Gough:

For something else in Dave Gough's somewhat appealing scribbly style, here's Bert, Your Dirty Coal Man - either editor Mike Rowlands REALLY liked this strip or he's crap at his job, as this exact same strip appears twice within issue three of Top Banana:

And now, from Kim Outram, a thing that could only ever be funny in the 1990s - it's Mr. Nobby:

Sticking to the theme of over-sized appendages, here's Lee "still-getting-work-nowadays" Healey with David Ember and his Monster Member:

Lee's as prolific for Top Banana as he is for any other title he's appeared in (he was more or less doing Acne single-handed at one point). Also appearing within these pages he has Stupid Gameshow:

...The subtly-monikered Orgasm:

...And that familiar comic trope of "tyrannical judge" - Judge Mental:

In a further example of Mike Rowlands' expert editorial skills, the same issue that contains Judge Mental has ANOTHER "judge" character, just a few pages beforehand - this one's Judge Rabies, by Nick "also-still-getting-work-today" Brennan:

Nice punchline there, Nick.

Here's another one of several Brennan bits appearing in Top Banana, this one being... a spoof of It's A Nice Life perhaps?

Another Nick also does stuff for Top Banana, this one's called Nick Miller. He did a LOT of stuff for various titles in the 1990s, such as Acne, Fizog and It's Wicked. Within these pages, Miller's contributions are many - there's "students-in-a-flat-sitcom" Nuts:

Tony Husband-scripted The Lovers:

And Carry On-esque, copyright-baiting You Can Never See Enough of Dick & Fanny:

Let's see, what else have we got here... Oh, here's something. A "regular feature" sort of thing, set up thusly:

Yeah, you (as "the reader") nominate someone, and then Dave Iddon (who we've met previously in Zit and Gutted) then draws the nominee getting twatted by a big banana. This results in wonderful pieces of slander such as this:

And in an age where you can get arrested for calling someone names on Twitter, this seems "refreshing" in a nostalgic sort of way. Dave Iddon does a few other things here too, such as the ho-hum Eccentric Eric:

And Mickey Mouth, possibly my favourite single page out of the whole of Top Banana:

Just a few more "highlights" now before we get to the finale, as in, here's some other things that are in Top Banana. There's Neil Bradley's "clever satire" Ad Land:

Various bits by Ash Garrard:

Toby's Troll by Mike Gibbie:

Jean Harlot by someone called "Pie", perhaps? I've narrowed this down to being the possible pseudonym of either Mark Coley, Peter Booth, Mick Harrison or Wayne Dawber, but no amount of Googling has helped me out there. I like it though, whoever it's by:

And a couple of bits by Andy Fraser. He's a good artist, and the intention's clear here, but the script just isn't "there". It takes a skilled writer to come up with something like Viz's Vibrating Bum-Faced Goats or any of Jack Black's various fascist adventures, something that just doesn't exist here:

In Andy's defence, at least he made the covers look nice. Whilst Top Banana's first festive issue looked like this:

The next year's one looked like this:

So, "good on him" for what it's worth.

Now for that "finale" I mentioned before, as in, the ONE THING that makes Top Banana stand out from the drivel. It's a character called The Drink Demon, nothing remarkable in itself (an imp is tasked with driving people to the drink), BUT, in each issue, a different artist gets to have a go at drawing it. Observe, in chronological order...

Issue one - Dave Iddon:

Issue three - Dave Gough:

Issue four - Kim Outram:

Issue eight - Nick Miller:

Issue nine - Mike Gibbie:

Well, it impressed me anyway...

STOP PRESS! Really! Well, in a sense. I thought I was finished here but just noticed something odd about Top Banana. Look again at that bit where you nominate someone to get twatted...

Now compare it with this excerpt from one of Paul Dyson's strips:

See what I'm seeing? It's the same bloke! That pointy nose, the weird little sort-of ponytail that seemed so prevalent in the 1990s which Dave Iddon included on his caricature... Plus, the letter's signed by "Paul". What can be figured from this? No-one nominated anyone, so one of the artists nominated himself to show how it's done, in the hopes of getting readers to "properly" nominate someone.

Still, a fun idea in theory.

Oh, before we finish... The title of this particular posting? The reasoning behind that is hidden in one of the many scans featured in this article. Anyone sharp/bored enough to figure out what it's on about will get a prize or something. Most probably consisting of a few issues of Smut.


  1. A few of my friends at the time kept asking if I was drawing for Top Banana, which I found absolutely baffling as I'd never actually seen a copy. Judging from these scans, the cheeky sods assumed I was Lee Johnson working under a pseudonym!
    Again, not too bad of a comic, all things considered, and I'm glad they eventually found someone with at least some idea of how to design an attractive cover.

    1. Have to admit to joining those cheeky sods, I had to compare those ones with some Nicky Hunt strips before concluding that they obviously weren't yours, ha!

      There's only so many people called Lee in the world, and if it's not Lee Healey, obviously it MUST be you (joke).

  2. Interesting that one of the Bertha Twills has credited, "with some help from Graham Hey" on it. He didn't contribute to it at all, and I've got a feeling I wrote this on as a joke.

    "Spit" hadn't paid me for the last 3 pages of commissioned work of mine published and every single time I phoned them to ask them when payment was due Graham mysteriously did a vanishing act from the office and "can't speak to you at the moment", so I figured that I'd test to see if he had his eye on the ball or not.

    Sure enough, about 5 days after the issue of "Top Banana" was published with the Bertha Twill strip in Graham rang me up to ask me "What the fook are you doin?"and ask why I'd credited a strip to him in which he'd had no input or involvement with, which then of course allowed me to chase him up some more over the unpaid work on Spit.

    Although this somewhat devious and underhand stunt achieved the desired reaction in getting him to phone me the fuck up, I still didn't get fucking paid though.

    1. Nice tactics there... The more I hear about Graham Hey, the more conflicting the opinions of him are, which is obviously interesting.

      Maybe one day he'll show up here and put his own side of the story in?

      On another subject, have you got any copies of Filth issue 1 to hand? Turns out I'm missing that one (and also issue 5, if that's "ready").

    2. To be honest, I think it was only myself who had payment problems with Graham which was why I stooped to devious means to get him on the phone because I wasn't sure why he had kind of singled me out. I think he just didn't like me or my art really and I wouldn't have minded so much had they been strips I'd done off my own back for submission but these were pretty tiresome scripts with a pretty crap character which I was doing under commission, I certainly never missed a deadline.

      Although payments weren't exactly great or forthcoming on Top Banana either(I kind of guessed by that time they wouldn't be given the comics low circulation), it was a breath of fresh air to be able to work on my own characters again.

      Unfortunately Filth Issue 1 and 2 sold out a very long time ago and I have no copies at all on hand, although you can read them online here:

      I DO intend to republish the full lot in full colour in a book some day if you want to wait however long that might take...?

      Filth Issue 5 I do still have some copies of, it's not too interesting because bar a few pages is mostly republished a3 material from various other comics(Pulp, Top Banana etc), Filth Issue 4 and half which I'm currently colouring in, is pretty much the reconstruction of what was originally intended to be Filth Issue5 and drawn on a4 like the first 4 issues were and which was almost ready to go to publication back in early 1990 and abandoned at the last hour when work offers came through from Pulp and Ziggy..

    3. I'm willing to wait for a Filthy book, certainly!

      As for the "sort of" Issue 5, still sounds interesting. Free dead fly or something?

  3. Issue 4 and half has a free clip around the ear(paper clip)

    Issue 5 had a free DIY candle-making kit(a cotton bud and a piece of string for the wick)with instruction on making your own candle...

  4. Well that's definitely an improvement with the Christmas covers.

  5. The early front covers were awful for Top Banana, I do remember telling Mike Rowlands that they were the weakest part of the whole comic and undersold it terribly, especially when the inside contents were not too bad, I guess others must've said the same because once he shrunk the logo and emblem and gave the covers over to some of the artists who actually worked on the thing the look of the comic improved by about a million per cent.

    It was a shame Top Banana didn't enjoy a bigger circulation because compared to many of the others(awful front covers aside), it really wasn't too bad at all, but by the time it was released the adult humour market had already passed the point of saturation and Menzies, WHSmiths and many of the main distributors were turning their noses up and refusing to stock or deal with new adult comics any more.

    1. Agreed there - of the five issues I have, three of them have near-identical covers. It's like, it's called Top Banana, so here's a big massive banana. Fine, I get it, you don't have to remind us every issue!

      It's a shame the way the big distributors operate... The size and amount of shelf space those places have, and they hardly ever take chances. Working in a newsagent myself, the distribution system's a shambles as well - your things can even sell the same each issue or not at all. Case in point: The Dandy.

      When that revamp first happened in 2010, we were sent six of them. Two of them sold (one to myself and one to a youngster who lives around the corner). The next week we were only sent two, to reflect the two sales that we had. All it took was for one of those not to be sold that week, and the next week we'd only have one. It's as if it's all automated, and you have to practically beg down the phone if you want any more copies.