After 21 years, the Fat Slags come down from the top shelf

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The Independent Online

Has Viz, the adult comic renowned for its distinctive brand of bad-taste humour, finally gone soft on its readers? After 21 years among the sexually explicit top-shelf titles it is joining the mainstream men's magazine market.

Has Viz, the adult comic renowned for its distinctive brand of bad-taste humour, finally gone soft on its readers? After 21 years among the sexually explicit top-shelf titles it is joining the mainstream men's magazine market.

From now on, WH Smith, one of the most cautious high street newsagents, will stock the comic on its middle-level shelves alongside titles such as GQ, FHM and Loaded.

While the 18-and-over age constraint will remain, younger teenagers will now be able to browse through its pages, soaking up the tales of characters such as "Harold and Fred" who "make ladies dead".

Ed Axon, the publisher of Viz, said: "We will work hard with WH Smith to make sure they don't regret their decision. We won't be going out of our way to antagonise anyone. We've realised that if we are going to continue to be successful we have to be careful.

"But we think it's unfair to the Viz reader to have to look to the top shelf, which carries an embarrassment factor, for their periodical digest of humour."

In recent years the comic has faced pressure from advertisers who have been reluctant to spend money on a title that is displayed next to pornographic material.

Mr Axon said the company's campaign to have Viz moved to the middle shelves was not intended to attract readers outside its usual audience but an attempt to win back those that had deserted it in favour of glossy men's titles.

"It will still carry a warning that it is not to be sold to children but it will be up to the individual newsagents to enforce that rule," said Mr Axon.

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