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  Sid the Sexist

viz comic back issues

Sid the Sexist - 'tit's oot!'
Sid the Sexist "oot on the tap"

Viz first appeared in November 1979 when 150 copies of issue one were printed at the Tyneside Free Press Workshop in Newcastle.

They were sold within a matter of days in local pubs, the first selling at the Gosforth Hotel on Gosforth High Street, Newcastle.

The magazine was the brainchild of bored former school pals, Chris Donald and Jim Brownlow, both aged 19. They had started, in the mid-Seventies, with a publication called the Fat Crusader.

This was replaced by two one-offs, the Daily Pie and Arnold The Magazine which they sold at the Punchbowl pub in Jesmond.

Fat Slags
Roger Mellie
Johnny Fartpants



was edited by Chris in his bedroom, and the initial print bill of £60 was subsidised by his day-job as a DHSS clerk. The cover price of 20p resulted in a loss of more than 10p per sale.

Surprised by the success of their first publication, a second issue was hastily thrown together. The print run increased to 500, and circulation extended to Newcastle's Student Union bars and a handful of helpful and willing shops, among them the Kard Bar, Listen Ear and the local Virgin branch.

Over the following months, Viz appeared sporadically, the circulation gradually increasing to the point where sales revenue began to cover the printing costs.

By 1983, a total of ten issues had been produced with sales reaching 5,000, practically all in Newcastle.

Viz was soon to recruit two new cartoonists - in 1984, Graham Dury (then 22) and, in 1985, Simon Thorp (then 20).

In 1985, after interest had been shown by several major publishers, Virgin Books offered to publish Viz six times a year. A deal was signed, and issue 13 (in August 1985) marked a major turning point.

Under Virgin's wing, sales climbed gradually to around 40,000 by the beginning of 1987.

As in the early days of development in Newcastle, no consumer advertising was employed, and the magazine continued to extend its popularity purely by word of mouth, with limited national distribution through Virgin record shops and the news trade.

In 1987, Virgin Books was sold to WH Allen, a large publishing house specialising in paperback books, and Chris elected to part company with them and sign a new publishing agreement with John Brown Publishing, a company set up by the former Virgin Books boss and huge Viz fan, John Brown.

He set about increasing the circulation and it ended the Eighties with an audited bimonthly sales figure of more than a million copies, making it Britain's third best-selling magazine.

Numerous spin-offs followed in the wake of this success. Viz annuals, calendars, videos, fruit machines, and many new book titles all proved successful.

Biffa Bacon


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