Thursday, 31 July 2014

A Different Class

Something's happening - I seem to be losing the ability to dislike things, mostly. Well, at least in regard to this kind of thing. Back in February of last year, I highlighted some Beano parodies from a comic called Pulp, a publication I summed up thusly:

...of all the Viz-style "alternative" comics I've seen, Pulp's definitely one of the worst in terms of "Getting it completely wrong". No cleverness or satire or anything here, just bad drawings and rude words.

Humble pie from the oven of shame and all that, but I must've either had a short memory or, as feared, I've lost the ability to criticise. Reading over the two issues of Pulp I have for the purposes of this article, it's suddenly one of my favourites. At least top ten. Whoops. So here we go, a re-assessment of sorts of Pulp.

Launched in 1991 by Big Mags Ltd, and edited by the same Stuart Blair, as the sister title to Ziggy, which if you remember, was a fairly outrageous title (as an understatement) that thrived on speculative libel. Suggesting Simon Bates has an incestuous relationship with his mother, stating that Roy Hattersley threw up on live TV and there was a baby's arm in the sick, that sort of thing. It was mostly those kind of articles and strange doctored photographs on most of its pages, with a few comics here and there. Pulp, on the other hand, flipped that ratio to be more of a comic-based publication, with a smattering of the articles too. So now we know what kind of thing we're in for here, shall we begin?

I'll be clear once again that I've only been able to find two issues of Pulp - the second one and the fourteenth one - but they're both far enough apart to get a good idea of the whole "scope" of things here. Just so you know. We'll start with a focus on who appear to be the "main" contributors, as always - It's a working formula! Andy Dodd's first - any cartoonist who employs the use of background jokes is a hero in my book, so he's off to a good start with Pulp's resident superhero, Captain Shitehawk:

And, as the complete opposite to a superhero, we have what seems to be Pulp's longest-running character (in that he's the only one who's in both of the issues I have) - it's Boy Hitler:

One last bit of Andy Dodd, and it's the inevitable Jeremy Beadle piss-take. If anyone can tell me why Mr. Beadle's such a consistent target in these kind of comics, please inform me, as my memories of him are nothing but amusing ones (okay, apart from Win Beadle's Money, which was just absurd). Anyway, here's Pulp's take on the tiny-handed one:

Next up is Rob Filth (or Rob Yuppies as he was going by in the early 1990s), who's on nearly every other page of the earlier issue, along with many of the characters that had earlier appeared in his own Filth comic, such as Terry Bullpuns (I like this one a lot):

Arthur Peases and his Facial Diseases:

Rupert Rockitt and Baby Bastard:

Rob did a bit of writing for Pulp too, and this is where thing's get a tiny bit confusing. Here's Winnet the Pooh:

Says there that it's illustrated by "The Steve". Have a look at the bottom of that Baby Bastard page again, at the small print, and there's two Steves listed as cartoonists - Steve Harrison and Steve Hindmarch. Both of them sign their work without their surname, so I'm a bit clueless as to which one did Winnet the Pooh and which one did Religious Ron:

I'm not going to lose sleep over it, but it'd still be nice to know.

Jackie Smith, who did Camille Hump for Ziggy, is the next contributor here (is that a male or female Jackie?). High quality stuff here, wouldn't look out of place in a Fleetway title and all that, save for the subject matter - it's Ivor the Incontinent:

Smith also brings us the adventures of Tony Tater, in a nice bit of satire that could still be applied today if he lost the beard (steady now):

And my favourite thing from the whole of Pulp, something that wouldn't appear out of place within the pages of Fortean Times should Hunt Emerson ever miss a deadline...

Taking a bit of a break now in order to show that obviously not EVERYTHING in Pulp is worth being preserved for future generations and whatnot. Whoever drew this one was wise not to sign it:

And here's a few things that I've already featured before, but for the sake of consistency it's the obvious pseudonym that is Billy Whizz and his many terrible wastes of ink, paper, time and oxygen:

Oh, and just like every one of these titles has several items of pure terribleness, each and every one of them has a range of T-shirts on offer as well. Here's the choice presented to the dedicated Pulp fan:

Alright, back to the good stuff. Here's current Viz and sometime Beano man Paul Palmer (who you may also remember from Gutter and Spit), here giving us a TV show parody:

Another TV show parody appears in another issue - no idea who it's by, but it's a good one. Could ALMOST pass for something by David Alexander. ALMOST. Here it is:

Another regular contributor now - it's Nigel Maughan (obviously), with more of his high quality bits, including the somewhat horrifying Leper Man:

The depressingly accurate Los Angeles Police Story:

Rita's Rubbers and Robert McAmley (He Thinks He's a Member of the Royal Family):

One last cartoonist before we start summing things up around here... It's Joe Matthews, who we'll be seeing a lot more of in future articles. For his work in Pulp, presented here is Hambo:

And something that Viz obviously did better, but it still looks nice:

So, what became of Pulp? Well, from what I've been told, two months before it was cancelled it joined up with Ziggy for the sixteenth issue - by this point both titles were selling less than a thousand copies each, so they seemingly took the route so often taken by comics over the years (see the all-consuming Buster, which ate up just about every other Fleetway title over its lifetime). Here's an example of what the combined title looked like:

Thanks to Nigel Maughan for the scan.

Bit of a bugger, eh? Still, looking over them now, Pulp's certainly one of the better examples of the genre out there, and certainly an example of the weird little adage that it's the worst titles that last longest, and vice-versa. Also, I think another look at Ziggy may be warranted for the future.

I'll leave you with some more Pulp covers that Mr. Maughan was nice enough to send me:

Read the comments below for some extensive "behind-the-scenes" information from Rob Filth. Interesting stuff, certainly.


  1. Another brilliant post. I only ever bought one copy myself and wasn't very impressed at the time, but it isn't bad at all. The trouble with me is I expected every title to be as good as Viz. The secret is - read these comics as if Viz never existed.

    1. Thanks for that, and that's some good advice there - I may just apply it to everything I do from now on (would any of these comics even exist if it weren't for Viz? Now there's an interesting question!).

  2. I'm sure I've told you this before but when I briefly lived in the glorious little town of Lowestoft, there was a newsagent's across the road from me owned by two sweet old ladies who seemed to stock every Viz clone under the sun, and a few more besides. That's where I bought a couple of issues of Pulp, and neither of them were as good as any of the stuff you've scanned up here! Well, those are the breaks...
    I must say I love Rob Filth's stuff and I'm not just saying that because I'm friends with him on Facebook. It really does have an 'IPC goes punk' feeling about it, which might be a bad thing (see Billy the Whizz's strips, above) but not when there's an artist and writer at work who has an obvious affection for old British humour comics and seems to instinctively know what's funny and what's not.

    1. Don't think you've told me that before, but it DOES make me wish I was of an age/height more appropriate at the time that these were around - as it is I've got vague memories of seeing several Viz clones on newspaper stands. Think I may've even asked my dad if I could get Gutted once, as it had (sort of) Desperate Dan on the cover, but obviously it didn't work.

      Agreed about Rob Filth's stuff too - have you seen his version of Dennis the Menace??

    2. Also, by what you've said about Pulp there, seems I was lucky with the two issues I was able to find!

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    4. Apparently someone on ebay sold a copy of Pulp Issue 1 for £500 last year which fooled a lot of people in thinking it was somehow rare or collectible.

      I wouldn't be at all surprised if it hadn't been someone under two accounts behind it in an attempt to make a quick buck.

      I still have the dummy copy of Pulp Issue 1 tucked away somewhere which was printed on xerox-type heavy white paper which made it look quite chunky and substantial and then when it finally came out I remember being disappointed with the crappy cheap bog paper the thing was finally printed on...

    5. I remember that auction, found it slightly disheartening thinking I'd never get to see what Pulp was like - those fears were ended once I got the two issues I have for 99p each. DEFINITELY something sinister/weird going on with that £500 one.

    6. There is absolutely NO way Pulp Issue 1 is worth £500 or even the "knock down price of £50" as they were later going for, someone was definitely pulling a fast one.

      In fact, I think you'd be lucky to get 50p for it in all honesty.

      Now, Viz comic issue 1 on the other hand is whole different kettle of fish...

  3. Wow, flattered by the comments regarding my own shite on this rag, thanks.

    Both Jackie Smith and Andy Dodd's art in Pulp was pretty damn good and quite a few steps more competent than the doodles often found in the other Viz-Clones, Stuart Blair used to write quite a lot of the storylines, and unlike some actually could be pretty funny more cases than not as referenced by his work in Ziggy.

    Most of the strips I contributed to the first 5 or so issues I scripted myself apart from "Arthur Peases and his Facial Diseases" and (if memory serves me right) ,"Doris Smokes" and "Jane Phipps and her Talking Fanny Lips" which Stuart Blair did the storylines for.

    "Winnet The Pooh" I was going to originally draw, however The Steve took this script on when I too busy drawing other scripts, he also drew "Religious Ron" which was Stuart Blairs script and is the one and the same Steve, he also wrote and drew the infamous "Dennis The Menace" script in Filth which I think was reprinted in Pulp, so I'm afraid I can't take the blame for that one.

    Although quite good scriptwriter, Stuart Blairs stuff did suffer at times purely because of the bulk of his output, he drew the poorly copied stuff referenced in this article, (I must admit I am kind of fond of the "Bosh Street Pups" however because of it's simplistic crudity), Blair knew he couldn't draw very well and that's why he confined himself to copying from pages of The Beano and couldn't be arsed to sign the work.

    I think Pulp started off like Ziggy with a print run of around 25,000 - unfortunately after issue 2 the payments started drying up when (apparently) a distributor ripped off Big Mags Ltd and ran off with all of the money, or so Blair reckoned.
    By Issue 4 or 5 it seemed obvious that I wasn't going to get any more payment for first serial rights from my characters on the comic and was getting headhunted by Zit by that time, so downed tools on Pulp. Unfortunately, unknown to myself until Pulp Issue 8, Blair had been reprinting all of my material from Filth Comic behind my back and although I wouldn't have minded this had payments been a bit more forthcoming, I was a bit pissed off with this when it was material I could've been selling to a publisher willing to pay instead.

    "Pulp" WAS a good comic to work on though however, the contributors were mostly strong on it and by only having a "once every 2 months" frequency it allowed the material to be more distilled and better thought out than what was to follow with the many other titles afterwards. In my view, the main thing which fucked Pulp up was lack of a decent distribution, it was distributed well in the North but could rarely be seen in the South. Menzies/WHSmiths didn't seem to want to touch it with a bargepole and neither did the Forbidden Planet chain, which was a damn shame when compared to the likes of "Gas" and "Smut" which they didn't seem to have such a problem with.

    Quite a lot of Pulp and Ziggy used to be scripted on the phone, Blair would phone me up and we would both grab our notebooks and rattle through the first draft ideas we had to see what could be improvised further in to scripts. Believe it or not, most storylines were usually typed up first before being illustrated.

    The merchandise page(with tshirts) was I'm led to believe was a big con, I had several ex-Filth readers writing to me because they hadn't received their Baby Bastard t-shirt or back issues of Pulp which they'd sent money for and the frustrating thing was that I couldn't really do a damn thing about it, so if anyone actually obtained any of this merchandise I'd be keen to hear, especially when I didn't receive a single penny of payment for any of it!

    I think had Nigel Maughan not bailed out Pulp when he did with his huge backlog of work the title would have probably gone under about 6 issues earlier than when it eventually did.

    1. Thanks again for the insights, Rob - always appreciated.

      So, this "Billy the Whizz" was Stuart Blair all along? And I'm assuming he also did that Northern Comic thing? Fair play to him for not even pretending to be a good artist, ha!

      And if both of those strips are by the same "Steve", which one was it? Just so I can give some credit up there, not so keen on Religious Ron but Winnet the Pooh's a good piece of work.

      Any idea at all who did Berk and Hair? And your account of the merchandise page is worrying, as I've seen T-shirts and the like advertised in nearly every single one of these comics, but have never seen any physical evidence of them ever actually existing (apart from Poot's cuddly toys). What if it was the same story with all of them?

      Nigel Maughan's contributions possibly delayed the downfall of a LOT of comics - I've seen those same strips in Elephant Parts and Smut, apparently he had a canny system in place which told him which comics had printed what, so that he wouldn't submit things too close together (time-wise).

      Lastly, I've seen that Dennis The Menace strip in Filth - it's fairly shocking what fate befalls poor Gnasher!

    2. Yeah, I'm pretty sure the "Billy Whizz" was Stuart Blair all along, it was pretty much proof that he was a far better writer than artist!

      I've got a feeling both Steve's are one and the same, Steve was always pretty cagey about revealing his surname and he's been through a fair few. He prefers being referred to as just "The Steve", he probably came up with those two names under duress.

      No idea on who was responsible for "Berk and Hair", if the strip was in issue 14 then I'd long gone from Pulp by that point. You could be right in regard to the tshirts advertised in most of these comics, I've no idea when it comes to the others but it's the people who actually sent money off for the tat and who received nothing in return I feel a bit sorry for.

      I think you're probably right in regard to Nigel Maughan delaying the axe on a lot of the comics, but once you saw his reprints start to appear en masse you kind of knew the title was about to bite the dust. I actually envy Nigel for his canny business sense when dealing with a lot of these shark publishers actually, when I was drawing I was pretty green and inexperienced and took too much pride in offering "first serial rights" on original work, when really looking back, these publishers really couldn't have given a shit about any of that anyway, they were just looking for space to fill with literally anything.

      Steve's stuff was great at trying to provoke and he was a good artist too, I first came across his stuff in a punk fanzine and asked him if he'd like to contribute towards Filth, less than a week later two finished strips came through in post in which one of them was the notorious Dennis the Menace one. I think I was extremely lucky that Filths print run was quite low at the time on 1,000 copies and that D. C. Thomson never saw it!

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  5. Spit's t-shirts definitely existed because I got a free one from Graham Hey.

    1. I think he gave me a free Spit Annual once, no tshirt though...

  6. Looking at it again now, that Bash Street Pups spoof reminds me of the kind of thing you used to be able to buy from joke shops in Blackpool, like that t-shirt featuring the Seven Dwarfs all queueing up to bang Snow White with the earth-shatteringly imaginative caption 'Seven Up'. Funny for a few seconds if you're ten years old or pissed out of your napper.

  7. I'm a friend of Andy Dodd's and I remember him inking that Captain Shitehawk strip at his flat. Can't say I remember Pulp clearly though. I mainly recall him drawing for Ziggy. If you're interested in Viz clones you might want to track down Yorkshire Pudding if you haven't seen it already, that is. Probably the worst example of the genre ever. It lasted a year I think. Also Winebibber, a very odd Christian version of an adult comic.

  8. Oh, and by the way, Jackie Smith was female. I met her through Andy Dodd about 1989/90 when a local publisher was looking into the possibility of doing a kids version of Viz. Andy gathered a few would be writers and artists together to discuss it. Jackie was miles in front of the rest of us in technique. No idea what happened to her. Seems like a lifetime ago.

    1. So my suspicions about Jackie were true! Fantastic, she was (is?) certainly a talented cartoonist...

      I'll be on the lookout for Yorkshire Pudding (although with a title like that it'll be a bugger to find) - as for Wine Bibber, I've done that one already. It's a strange one, for sure:

  9. Hi everyone and I, Jackie and Nigel are all doing fine. I just wanted to add to a few things. Big Mags held out and owed many of us money so several of us decided to go. I didn't return to comics for another 20 years and now do many things.Jackie is painting and teaching and Nigel is publishing his backlog, to which he has asked me to colour or draw now and then.

  10. Oh and before I forget, I was given every copy of the magazine. So technically I have all of them, even the ones I didn't work on. A great way of getting disappointed with the comics industry on my first try out and will do better this time, less stress.

    1. Hi Andrew, nice to hear the experience hasn't completely killed it for you (a fair few others have told me it DID kill it for them, sadly). Thanks for clearing up a few loose ends there, myself and Nigel are in regular contact too (got a pile of his self-published stuff right here on the desk in fact).