Comics have gone through a period of transformation in Britain in recent years. Circulation of mainstream titles fell after the 1960s and many folded altogether or merged with others. Despite the new fan-shop market, there was a steady decline in newsagent comic sales. Under hippie counterculture (see hippies), there were underground comics or ‘comix’, which remained so because of their anarchism and drug associations. However, they influenced and eventually were superseded by the mainstream. The latter borrowed their anti-authoritarianism, added a punk note of confrontation and aimed at an older audience.
   In terms of quality, the industry produced three outstanding newsstand comics in the post-1960s period: 2000AD (IPC/Fleetway, 1977), Deadline (Tom Astor, 1988) and Viz (House of Viz, 1979). Each of these comics was designed for a readership older than that for children’s comics like the Dandy and Beano. Readers related to the punk movement with its distrust of authority, stress on working-class street credibility and fetishization of violence for its own sake.
   2000AD was science-fiction based and designed to replace Action, which had fallen foul of censors nominally because of its violent bent, but also because of its anti-authoritarain stance borrowed from underground comics. 2000AD’s best known character was Judge Dredd, an updated Dan Dare figure from the Eagle of the 1950s. Judge Dredd Magazine appeared in 1990, based on this character. The comic’s layout was innovative— borrowing large eye-catching splash panels from US models— and its contributors particularly admired American Marvel comics. Deadline, with its emphasis on humour over adventure and its pop music features, was a cross between an adult humour comic and a music/style magazine. Its most successful character was Tank Girl, by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett. She was a shaven-headed outlaw in biker boots who became a mascot for feminist groups and later ‘riot grrl’ bands. A film based on Tank Girl did not do as well as was hoped.
   Viz has been the most successful of all. Founded in Newcastle upon Tyne by brothers Chris and Simon Donald, its numerous controversial characters— Sid the Sexist, Fat Slags, Millie Tant—and its schoolboy humour were just what its target audience wanted. Its circulation at 3.3 million (1995) dwarfed that of its rivals.
   See also: comics culture
   Further reading
    Sabin, R. (1993) Adult Comics, London: Routledge.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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