Viz is a British parody comic book that acts as a more adult, raunchier version of other British comics. It was founded in 1979 by fifteen-year-old Chris Donald (1960), his brother Simon (1964), and a mutual friend, Jim Brownlow. Vizs specifically emulates The Beano and The Dandy with its art and style, albeit with dark comedy, profanity, and sexual humor. Throughout the years, Viz has become widely successful in its own right, and experienced great profitability, especially in the early 1990s. During this time it was one of the top three best-selling comics in the United Kingdom.
Initially Viz started out as a local magazine with a limited audience. However, the material was enjoyable and the comic gained a cult following. Even with the local success, Viz did not make much money until around 1985 when Virgin Books allowed the creative team to reach a national audience by agreeing to publish their work. Chris Donald became the editor of Viz in its inception and remained editor until 1999, when Simon took his place (along with several other co-editors) for four more years until he also retired. Chris Donald still contributes occasional comics and material to Viz, and Simon now does stand-up comedy.
Popular characters from Viz include “”The Fat Slags,”“Sid the Sexist,”and “Roger Mellie the Foul-Mouthed Man on the Telly.” “The Fat Slags” features two different women (San and Tray) inspired by real women from around Britain. Though obviously exaggerated for humorous reasons, the characters still embody a slightly embellished depiction of real issues including frustrations with sex, body issues, and a love of swearing. “The Fat Slags” comic was so successful, a live-action film was produced in 2004 starring Anthony Head and Geri Halliwell. Though panned by critics, it at least granted the Viz characters exposure to a larger audience.
Similar to early British comics, Viz also includes various written sections such as Profanisaurus, and even fake contests with ridiculous prizes and discounts on extremely expensive and fake merchandise. Fake articles and letters are also part of the Viz experience. Though both criticized and enjoyed, Viz thrives in its clever humor and the ability of its writers and illustrators to play with and critique existing comic conventions.
Though Viz’s sales have slightly decreased over time, they are still making comics and releasing new material (such as making the Profanisaurus section an interactive app). The Viz website demonstrates the company’s self-awareness and humor by providing the self-deprecating tagline: “Viz: the magazine that’s better than nothing.”
— Michael Baker