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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 13:49 GMT
Anger at Shipman cartoon
Screen grab
Viz's editor: 'People that are offended by it don't buy it'
Adult comic Viz has come under fire for a sketch featuring characters based on British serial killers Harold Shipman and Fred West.

The cartoon, called Harold and Fred, shows two male neighbours conspiring to murder a new female resident.


This cartoon simply is not funny and should be treated with the contempt it deserves

Jayne Ashton-Hibbert, Shipman victim's relative

Jayne Ashton-Hibbert, whose grandmother was murdered by Shipman, told BBC News Online:

"We're still grieving but are never out of the public arena and this sort of thing just makes the pain worse.

"It's easy to joke about these things when they do not affect you but this cartoon simply is not funny and should be treated with the contempt it deserves."

Harold and Fred has the tagline: "They make ladies dead." The strip shows Fred brandishing a drill.

He and Harold are then pictured racing to be first to reach the home of the woman who has just moved in over the road.

Context

Viz editor Simon Donald defended the use of the cartoon, adding that no one had contacted him to complain.

He told BBC News Online: "The funny thing about Fred and Harold is not the murders or murderers themselves but the clash between the comic format and the darkness of the subject.

"It's the same as a lot of Mel Brooks's humour which puts the Nazis into a funny context.

"The cover of Viz gives you a pretty good idea of what the content is going to be like and people that are offended by it don't buy it."

Viz magazine has been running for more than 20 years, amusing fans by turning the conventions of the comic book on their head.

Other characters featured regularly in the comic include The Fat Slags, Biffa Bacon and T Bunn.

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See also:

05 Jan 01 | Health
Shipman 'may have killed 236'
18 Oct 99 | UK
Viz puts on a show
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