Before Catherine Tate was “Bovvered” and before Little Britain’s Vicki Pollard terrorised the screen with her Chav antics, Britain’s “third or fourth (possibly fifth) favourite” humour magazine was showcasing the likes of “Tasha Slappa” and “Ratboy”. The magazine was Viz and the artist was Alex Collier.
But long before that, the Geordie comic started by brothers Chris and Simon Donald had enjoyed earlier success with familiar characters such as the swearing tv legend “Roger Mellie” the cock and chip guzzling antics of “The Fat Slags” and Tom and Jerry style domestic abuse chuckles with “Biffa Bacon”. Historically the comic’s translation to the television screens in the 1990s had been a little hit and miss. And although it featured the likes of Harry Enfield, Kathy Burke and the late great Peter Cook, the tone had not been struck as successfully as it had been in the comic.
Step forward to today and Alex Collier has left his Viz comic editing days behind him, learned animation and teamed up with Tim Searle and BabyCow to bring the Viz back to the screen with Channel 4’s “Blaps” project, that acts as “Channel 4’s new vehicle to deliver fresh comedy talent in morish, bite-sized chunks”. By far the best thing about this incarnation of the popular comic characters is the closeness to the original material. Writers and artists Graham Dury, Simon Thorpe and Davey Jones allowed some of their work to be given the animation treatment as well as writing brand new sequences for the animation. The look of the film even goes so far as to emulate the look of the printed page by using a ben-day dots technique as a style. In short this is possibly the most faithful comic adaptation ever translated from page to screen.
The shorts are voiced by Steve Coogan (Alan Partidge, Paul and Pauline Calf) Sarah Millican (Chatterbox, Loose Women) Simon Greenall (The Meercat from those Meercat adverts) and northern stand up Gavin Webster. Steve Coogan’s take on Roger Mellie and Simon Greenalls version of his long suffering director Tom stand up quite easily to the performances previously delivered by Peter Cook and Harry Enfield back in 1990, and Gavin Webster’s fantastic version of Tyneside’s silver tongued cavalier Sid the Sexist and The Bacons really hit the nail right on the head. A live action performance of “Profanasaurus;” the comic’s long running swearing dictionary, adds a bit of extra variety to the fast paced episodes. Other Viz features that make it to the screen include “Letterbocks”, “Crap Jokes” and the ever popular “Top Tips”.
We tried contacting Alex Collier to tell us about the shorts, but he wasn’t available. Fortunately Roger Mellie got back to us to discuss the shorts.
“As regular Viz readers know, over the years I’ve come up with many great television shows, such as ‘Topless Question Time’, ‘Britain’s Got Piles’ and my personal favourite ‘Who the Fuck Do You Think You Are?’ – which brought together two of my own passions; genealogy and cage fighting. However, it’s fair to say that my ideas have met with limited success at best, so it’s great to be working with Baby Cow on a project that actually stands a chance of getting onto the screen.” – Roger Mellie OBE
Alex Collier recently did two talks, one at the first Newcastle comics convention the “Canny Comic Con” and one in Barnsley as part of Animated Yorkshire at the Digital Media Centre in the town showing slides, animatics and generally swearing a lot in the Viz tradition! The Animated Yorkshire talk is part of an animation line up of talks that they have planned for the new year. The three episodes, released throughout December and are available to enjoy on the Channel Four website, YouTube and here: