Today is the last day of our epic (by our workshy standards) Spitting Image giveaway. Providing you’re reading this before 11:59pm Sunday November 15th 2009, there’s still time to enter our competition in association with VoucherCodes.co.uk. Details on how to enter are at the bottom of this update. Go there now and take part, on the proviso you come straight back to this point of the article immediately afterwards. DO IT NOW.
Welcome back from the bottom of the article. As you may well have deduced from your scroll down then back up the page, this final Spitting Image update looks at some of the printed offerings put out under the Spitting Image brand. In short, it’s our
TOP 5 SPITTING IMAGE BOOKS OF ALL TIME
A title arrived at only partly because we own a grand total of five different Spitting Image books. Sadly, the Lee & Herring penned booklet that came with some-or-other Spitting Image VHS isn’t one of them, so don’t be holding your breath for that. For each title, we’ve taken a number of spine-damagingly illustrative scans, each of which can be viewed in huge-o-vision by clicking on the thumbnails. In time-honoured Top Of The Pops tradition, we’ll go through them in ascending order of quality, starting with:
5. SPITTING IMAGE: THE GIANT KOMIC BOOK
100 pages / 1988 Pyramid Books / Various authors / ISBN 1-871307-48-1
For the most part, this book actually has very little to do with Spitting Image. Save for the inclusion of a few spoof photo-love stories featuring Spitting Image puppets, this could just as easily have been called The Big Bumper Book Of Topical Cartoons Probably Not Quite Right For Viz. In fact, featuring strips from the pens of Banx, Ian Jackson, David Haldane and Graham Thompson, large parts of the book could just as easily have been taken from late-period Oink! comic. In fact, for all we know, they were – Oink! folded a few months before SI:TGKB was published. That’s not to say there wasn’t an impressive roster of non-Oink! contributors. The book also contains strips written by Spit regulars Geoff Atkinson, John (aka Jack) Docherty, Moray Hunter, Ian Hislop, Guy Jenkin, John O’Farrell, Nick Newman, Geoffrey Perkins and Harry Thompson, and artwork from (amongst many others) Steve Bell and Gerald Scarfe.
Being slightly cynical, we could claim this book only really exists because Viz was starting to become huge around the time of publication, and the publishers fancied cashing in on something similar with a recognised satirical brand on the cover – even considering the contributors, it could just as easily have been Private Eye: The Giant Komic Book were it not for the puppet photo stories. That’s not to say the content isn’t worthwhile, and there’s even a dig at Viz in there (“Johnny Onejoke”). Here are some sample pages.
Some have a bigger point to make. In the case of The Adventures Of God, on organised religion. Eagle-eyed comic spods might note that the above strip makes much the same point as many of Ruben Bolling’s God-Man strips from the marvellous Tom The Dancing Bug, only eight years earlier. And they’d be right.
A page containing Gerald Scarfe’s “Mister Gillray’s Deadliest Sins”, featuring those old-world lower-case esses that we’ll wager a good 60% of the UK population saw used for the first time in the closing credits for Blackadder The Third.
4. THE APALLINGLY DISRESPECTIVE SPITTING IMAGE BOOK
100 pages / 1985 Faber and Raber / Various authors / ISBN 0-571-13670-2
At least, we think there are 100 pages in this. The book is taken up almost entirely by spoof sections culled from other publications such as What Sausage Weekly, Police Information Gazette, The Daily Turd, Campain (not a typo,obv) and Which Home Personal Computer Micro Boring Dull Yawn Magazine, each page of which comes with contradictory page numbers. Hey, all part of the fun.
This offering has much more to do with the show itself, with most pages containing those lovable latex rogues, including many shots of specially created models – some made especially for the book, others made for other publications years earlier. Again, many of the better Spitting Image writers worked on the book, including Fluck, Law, John Lloyd, Rob Grant, Doug Naylor, Ian Hislop, Nick Newman, Geoff Atkinson, Docherty/Hunter and (it says here) Lord Lucan. The contents are as acerbic as you’d expect given the people involved, but we especially like the way the layouts of each section are laid out accurately. While sadly different types of paper stock weren’t used (unlike in, say, The Rutland Naughty Weekend Book or The Goodies Disaster Movie), you can tell at a glance which pages are meant to represent The Face, The Sunday Times Magazine or the Yellow Pages. Clue for the last one: the page is yellow. Here are some scans. See if you can guess which ones we’ve included because the page had already become detached from the rest of the book, so we’ve done both sides of it.
Any book taking the piss out of 1980s computer magazines is sure to get a thumbs up from us. We loved them at the time, but dipping into them now (which you can do here) shows them for what they were. Your Sinclair not included, obv. Speaking of Mr Sinclair, a lovely spoof ad for Sinclair Research, too.
Luckily, ten year old us wouldn’t have understood this page.
Let alone this one. Note the spoof ad for the FT. The series proper did a similar parody, only replacing the Financial Times with The Beano. A move which surely would have delighted us at the time, had we been allowed to stay up late enough to see it.
3. TOOTH & CLAW: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPITTING IMAGE
146 pages / 1986 Faber and Raber / Lewis Chester / ISBN 0-571-14557-4
Not much we can do by way of scans here, as it’s a proper paperback book looking at “the remarkable story of the men and women behind the mocking puppet masks”. Now, admittedly, we’ve only had this book in our possession for a few days now, and as such haven’t had time to read much of it yet. This isn’t too surprising in itself, as we’re exactly the type of person to buy a load of cheap paperback books purely for the purpose of having full bookcases in our front room, so that visitors think we’re dead clever. They don’t know we’re too busy playing GTA4 and posting our every mundane thought on Twitter to actually read any of them.
From what we’ve been told about it (from people who actually know what they’re talking about), it’s a brilliant read, including as it does detailed information on Clive Sinclair’s investment in the pilot show, the recording of that pilot show, and Central’s insistence on the show containing canned laughter. The book also takes a look at much of the tabloid furore over the early episodes, normally involving them making puppets of various royals. Tabloids desperate to manufacture outrage? How times have remained exactly the same.
2. SPITTING IMAGES
66 pages / 1987 Century Hutchinson / Various Authors / ISBN 0-7126-1758-2
Only 66 pages, and it’s in second place? Half of the book is taken up with full-page photographs? And they’ve got the name wrong? Even everyone’s mum stopped calling it “Spitting Images” by the end of series three! Well, the lofty position can be explained in part by the list of writers credited on the back cover. Alongside a few of the usual suspects from the other books (the ever-prolific Hunter, Docherty and Lloyd), this book includes work from Julie Birchill, Richard Curtis, Ian Dury, Ben Elton, Harry Enfield, Stephen Fry, Germaine Greer, Barry Humphries, Sue Townsend, John Wells and Gore Vidal. Admit it, even the ones you don’t much like from that little list were still really good in 1987.
It doesn’t end there, either. The “Images” part of the book title comes from the fact that each full-page photo contains a specially taken shot of each puppet model. All the puppets had been refined for the special photoshoot at the studios of John Lawrence Jones, with some even being completely rebuilt for the shoot. The results are, by and large, brilliant. The photos hark back to Fluck and Law’s pre-telly practice of constructing one-off caricatures for a single photo shoot, meaning for the most part they’re positively dripping with venom. When you combine that with the fun way the articles are uncredited – as the back cover has it “figuring out who is savaging who is just one of the many delights of this brilliantly illustrated book” – you’ve got a lovely printed snapshot of mid-80s satire. Well, lots of snapshots. Anyway, scans:
P.W. Botha. “Worse still they objected to being half-starved and beaten by the police just for being black.” Our guess of writer: John Wells? (Legal note to the legal representatives of J. Wells, the piece is quite clearly being sarcastic.)
Rupert Murdoch. The dirty digger has never looked so much at home. “Rupe is an old Melbourne pal of mine from way back; I first learnt to read about the Big Wide World in one of his father’s wonderful newspapers. Let’s face it possums…” Our guess: Ooh, wouldn’t be Barry Humphries, would it? Clearly it would, yes.
Ron and Nancy. Given the accompanying piece for this is a nicely entertaining apology letter stating how he’ll pass on taking part in this project, signed by Gore Vidal, we’ll guess that the writer for this one is… erm, Gore Vidal. We’re two for three!
Mrs Thatch. “I would rather spend the night with Guy the Gorilla (Yes, I know he’s dead) than climb aboard one of those vile rattling contraptions and visit you all up there in slag heap land.” Our guess: Not Ben Elton. Too restrained to be him.
1. A NASTY PIECE OF WORK: THE ART AND GRAFT OF SPITTING IMAGE
226 pages / 1992 Booth-Clibborn Editions / Roger Law / ISBN 1-873968-31-0
Brilliant. This is the pick of the bunch, even if the title itself isn’t wholly accurate. A Nasty Piece Of Work is largely an autobiography of Spitting Image co-creator Roger Law, and doesn’t even get around to mentioning Spitting Image properly until chapter nine (or page 163, in case you’re assuming all the chapters are really small). This is a good thing, as up to that point the book looks at Roger Law’s earlier work, both on his own and alongside Peter Fluck.
Even back in the early days, Law’s work made for interesting reading; his first nationally published work (in 1962) was a weekly collaboration with Peter Cook for The Observer. From there he moved on to providing illustrations for The Sunday Times Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, National Lampoon, Magnet News (Britain’s first black newspaper, despite Law not being black), album covers for Hendrix and The Who, as well as selling eggcups in the shape of royalty.
Once the topic shifts to Spitting Image (as it does from page 163 onwards), there’s still a lot of interesting ground covered. The non-broadcast pilot of Spitting Image was hampered by the team spending ages on trying to get a robotic parrot (due to be perched on the shoulder of the Reagan puppet) working properly. Progress was only made once the android psittacine was scrapped for parts. Of further interest is the huge amount of behind the scenes information on offer, even going as far to include the storyboard for the title sequence of The Mary Whitehouse Experience (a Spitting Image production, you’ll remember), rough sketches for puppets and pieces on the largely unheralded artists who’d worked on the design of Spitting Image.
In short, it’s brilliant. Here are some scans from the book.
From one horrible arsehole to another. From the pre-Spitting Image days, this had been the first time Fluck and Law had made a fully upholstered body, ordered to illustrate a Sunday Times article on unfunny racist comedian Bernard Manning. After all that effort, the Sunday Times eventually chose not to use it, but the illustration finally saw publication after being used in the TVTimes parody section of The Appallingly Disrespectful Spitting Image Book.
Our eyes! A photo used for a 1979 Men Only article on the UK’s new Tory government, alongside several nude shots of the Tory cabinet, which we don’t include here. Interesting aside: our scanner actually made a worrying squeaking noise when we scanned the above image. Don’t forget lads, click the thumbnail for the full-sized version.
An illustration of the newly-elected Ronald Reagan at nuclear loggerheads with Leonid Brezhnev, created in 1980 for the CND’s own magazine.
Finally, the cover of Thatcha!, the cover artwork for a never-finished, never-published Spitting Image book set to mark The Iron Lady’s tenth year in power. (Reader’s voice: “well, of course it was never published if it was never finished. Idiot.”)
So, that’s that. If you’re now interested in picking up a copy of any of the books we’ve mentioned here, they tend to crop up with different degrees of regularity on eBay, and quite affordable prices. If you’re very lucky, you might stumble over one at a car boot sale. With the possible exception of Komic Book, we’d say that if you don’t already own them, and you’ve read this far through this blog update, snap them up.
* You must be a UK resident aged 18 and over.* Entries to be made via comment or email (as detailed above).* The competition starts 5th November 2009, and the closing date is 23.59:59 on Sunday 15th November 2009.* Only entries received before the specified closing date and time will be submitted into the Competition. eConversions Ltd. accepts no responsibility for lateness, loss or misdirection of entries.* No purchase is necessary to enter this competition, largely because we don’t sell anything. Maybe we should start selling stuff. If we ever do start selling stuff, you don’t need to pre-order it to enter this competition.* It is a requirement of the Competition that the entrant has access to the Internet to submit their entry. Bit unfair on the Amish, but there you go. * Anonymous entries to the Competition will not be accepted. * The prize will consist of a Spitting Image: Series 1 – 7 Boxset* No cash alternative is available for the prize. What you can do is just put it on eBay once you’ve won it, or just give it away as a Christmas present.* The promoter of the competition is: eConversions Ltd., 9 Dallington Street, London, EC1V 0BQ, UK* Entries are limited to one per person. We’ve got super secret IP address reading powers, you know. And a cricket bat. (Legal notice: we’re joking about the cricket bat.)* The winner will be selected at random on 16th November and notified by the email within 96 hours. * The winner's name will be published within 15 days of the Competition’s closing date at: www.vouchercodes.co.uk/competitions. * Employees (and their relatives) of eConversions Ltd. and other companies associated with the competition are excluded from entry.
“What if I don’t win? How am I supposed to get hold of a box set then? Come on fatty, bet you haven’t thought about that.”
“Look, I don’t even like Spitting Image. When are you going to do a proper update?”We’re working on another Spotify Top 100, Stay tuned for it.