Comic timing

If Farmer Palmer, The Fat Slags and ‘Hello, good evening and bollocks!’ mean nothing to you, the fact that Viz turns 30 this year will leave you cold. But for those who grew up sniggering at the jaw-droppingly rude, yet side-splitting hilarity of the magazine and its cartoon population, the anniversary offers license to snigger once more. An anniversary issue and an exhibition at London’s Cartoon Museum will celebrate the history of Roger Mellie et al next month. Originally produced by Chris Donald, his brother Simon and friend Jim Brownlow in Chris’s bedroom in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the first issues were drawn, hand-stapled and sold for 20p, with a humble initial print run of 150 copies. Viz became one of the biggest-selling magazines in the UK in the 1990s and now has a dedicated readership of around 400 000, but despite the success the team remains small. It includes Simon Thorp, Graham Dury, Davey Jones and Wayne Gamble, who is in charge of ‘Magazinal Designification’. Thirty years’ worth of original artwork shows a certain maturing of drawing style – a growing confidence and refinement – but the magazine is put together in much the same way as it was in 1979. ‘We’re not set up to our eyeballs in style sheets,’ says Gamble. ‘The pages are whittled and crafted and, in many cases, literally glued together. I think we’re at the lower end of what our printers deem acceptable. But more often than not there’s an outcome that’s satiscraptory.’

30 Years of Viz is at the Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London WC1 from 3 November to 24 January 2010 and the 30th anniversary edition is on sale today

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