When I was a kid growing up in the North East of England, the literature was limited, but there was one item of essential reading: Viz Comic. This crudely produced and photocopied newsheet used to worm its way from brothers Chris and Simon Donald’s bedroom to our school with its vulgar, laugh out loud humour and top tips. LetterBox was key to its success providing, as does any modern blog, a conduit through which readers could vent their spleen, offer advice, and generally answer the preceding question in the very same issue as if by magic.
Why am I discussing Viz? Well, in recent issues they have taken to satirizing various prominent figures from the world of science. The current issue provides a scatalogical skit of the biggest name in amateur astronomy this side of the Pond – Sir Patrick Moore – while the last issue picked up on Richard Dawkins’ vehement atheism and apparent anti-religious stance. In the story, Dawkins creates a giant artificial cardiac organ and then finds it impossible to prevent a tiny “Jesus Christ” from gaining access. Thus having allowed “Jesus to enter his heart”, Dawkins is forcefully ejected from the Royal Science Organisation by a group of bearded gents in stove-pipe hats and tail coats. Did I say Viz was not only crude but can also be incredibly offensive?
If memory serves correctly, at least one of the original Viz team studied microbiology at University, although that could be a blatant lie as Chris Donald failed his A-levels and there is scant information on brother Simon that mentions any science connection either. However, there have been, despite appearance and the presence of Rude Kid, Roger’s Profanisaurus (NSFW), Johnny Fartpants, and Black Bag, several instances of rather technologically and scientifically insightful parodies and spoofs in the Comic over the years (it began life in 1979, when I was still at school, by the way).
One fellow science writer, who shall remain anonymous here, has gone so far as to suggest that Viz should, on the basis of recent activity viz. Prof Dawkins and Sir Patrick, should enter the ABSW science writing awards. The competition is tight, but you never know, they may stand a chance in the “science in society” section. I just wonder whether society is ready to accept Viz as a pillar of the scientific literature.