OiNK! #7: SUMMER COOL

Be forewarned, if you’re reading this in the heatwave we’re experiencing at the time of writing you may be a tad jealous of the people on the cover that we’re actually meant to be laughing at.

While comics would normally have a separate Summer Special OiNK had only just begun so we’d have to wait for ours. But something else made it extra special, at least for readers of other IPC Magazine comics such as 2000AD. As with the preview they received this issue for free as a promotional push, hence the subtle “NOT FOR SALE!” over one of the covers above.

By coincidence the issue receiving extra visibility also contained the strip that would be famously investigated by the Press Council. But, just like the ‘Viz’ myth surrounding OiNK, this chapter in the comic’s life has become distorted in the intervening years. Two (yes, only two) complaints were received and no it did not contribute to the comic’s eventual cancellation. After all, that was over two years and 61 issues later. So what’s the truth?

Well first, here’s the story itself which co-editor Patrick Gallagher believes was written by Mark Rodgers. Every pig pal remembers Janice and John and the Parachute Jump, which was illustrated by Trevor Johnson, a friend of Patrick’s and a renowned Manchester graphic designer who did a lot of work for Factory Records and the famous The Hacienda.

The complaint accused the story of disregarding mother-family relationships, but the Press Council rightly saw it as the deliberate parody of the traditional stories found in old fashioned children’s publications that it was. They ruled that it was meant to be a tasteless spoof and was not improper in any way, rejecting the complaint. Brilliantly, OiNK would publish this in a future issue.

IPC loved the attention things like this brought.

OiNK was aimed at children, not their parents, and we found it hilarious. My own parents thought it was stupid but harmless. However, while only two people complained, WHSmith still placed OiNK on their top shelves as a result. A ridiculous situation. But a year later in an interview Tony, Mark and Patrick would be all too happy to confirm sales of 100,000 per issue so never underestimate Pig Power. Tony also recently told me IPC loved the attention things like this brought.

Janice and John would indeed return in the sequel Janice and John and the Thermonuclear Reactor, although it didn’t appear until much later in the run, possibly held back until the outcome of the complaint was known. I’ll definitely include that and OiNK’s response to the complaint when we get to those issues. But now, for our next highlight let’s enjoy a different form of crazy.

What else can be said about this strip? Nothing really. Simple, straight to the point and laugh out loud funny, that’s Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental, written by Graham Exton and drawn by his regular artist Ian Knox. To this day I can remember reading certain entries in his series of tiny, one-joke strips as a kid and just losing it with the sheer, unintended anarchy of it all.

At the beginning of OiNK’s run there was a competitor to Snatcher Sam‘s crown as the most idiotic thief to appear in a photo story. His name was Swindler Sid. Played by a good friend of Patrick’s called Nick Bell, the strips were photographed by Patrick’s brother James who we saw as a Typical OiNK Reader back in #5. Despite the consequences of Sid’s actions here I think we’d all risk it at the moment given the weather outside.

Patrick and James would rope in other friends to play the roles of whoever the scripts called for. In this case the first customer is Billy Gregg (a welder in real life), the second is Paul McGarty (a labourer) and P.C. Porker is Pat Healy (a bricklayer) who would appear more than once as the same character.

Sid has now reformed himself and given up his swindling career, “Though he still dabbles in ‘finance’ occasionally” says Patrick. Nick has had an amazing and varied career, working in the NHS for more than 30 years in positions such as Lead Auditor and Benchmarking Analysis, as well as a Business Analyst at Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust. Sid’s certainly come a long way from swiping ice lollies.

Swindler Sid (Nick Bell) – Photo credit: Patrick Gallagher

Let’s have a quick look at some other highlights from this summery edition, starting with an early character called New Wave Dave who was a bit too keen to be part of that 80s scene. Dave was drawn by Viz founder Chris Donald. Tom Thug went on an ‘oliday to Blackpool with a regular selection of British folk (we’ll see how he gets on next time). There was a comics crossover of gigantic hippopotamus proportions when Hugo the Hungry Hippo popped up to save the day in Rubbish Man, Tom Paterson‘s hilarious Wet Blanket will see publication again later this year and roles were reversed in Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins.

I’m a sucker for comical sharks, as evidenced already with my favourite OiNK page of all in #4, so if any more pop up you can be sure I’ll show them off.

On the middle pages we’re treated to eight lovely, rough around the edges postcards to cut out and take on holiday from the pen of Ian Jackson. I wonder if anyone actually used them? There’s a small competition along the bottom and I’ll keep an eye out for any results as we continue the read through. The best thing about this is Ian interpreting other artists’ characters. Some of the postcards themselves are just priceless too.

Some time next year you’ll see the actual postcards the comic gave away with a few issues. I’ve a foggy memory of wanting to take them on holiday but not sure if I ever did, and they were separate from the comic. So I doubt I would’ve cut up my OiNK to use any of these if I’d been collecting the comic at this point. Why would you want to send away these pieces of art?

Snatcher Sam might be missing in action at the moment but his alter ego Marc Riley‘s strip creations are continuing to bring the laughs. Alongside Harry the Head sat a little quarter-page strip which took us back to the Jurassic, at least in theory. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth may have had ancient creatures as the stars but the settings and stories were very 1980s.

Popping up in 25 issues altogether they, like Roger Rental, disappeared during the weekly issues as a casualty of the reduced page count. We’d see situations ranging from package holidays to skateboarding, basically everything except anything to do with the correct time period and we loved them.

But for now the sun is setting on another issue of the world’s greatest comic.

One final sight gag from Tony Husband there to round things off. The comic itself would end with Uncle Pigg and his staff heading off on a bus to go on a well deserved vacation of their own, but not before promising to leave the comic in the hands of his “dedicated skeleton staff”. Prophetic words indeed as you’ll find out next time. (There’s a hint under one of the strips above.)

Join me in two weeks for an issue that’s even more unique than those we’ve seen already. That’ll be on Monday 9th August.

COMiNG UP: OiNK! #7

I think in the middle of this current heatwave (at the time of writing) it’s quite apt that the next issue of OiNK, up for review this coming Monday 26th July 2021 is the summer edition. In these days of social media influencers and celebrity endorsements, here’ a very 80s superstar to give you her opinion on what’s to come.

So “special” was the next issue it had two promotions inside #6, from which both of these clippings have been taken.

It was also an issue which would end up reaching more readers through a special giveaway, and it would be the one where some exaggerated controversy came from. The next OiNK contains a strip which is the source of another oft-told myth about the comic and I’ll be setting the record straight on Monday. So come back then for one cool comic.

ViSiONARiES #5: SiRENA SONG

If you were to take a quick glance through this latest issue of Marvel UK‘s Visionaries from 1988 you’d think it was business as usual, with another lengthy strip featuring the Knights of the Magical Light and their quest to rebuild their crumbling planet. After last month’s superb story by new head writer Gerry Conway anticipation is also high. But look beyond the brilliant cover by Mark Bagley and we discover some bad news on the editorial page.

There we find a tiny message from editor Steve White announcing the horrible news that this, only the fifth issue, will be the last. He says there are more details to come so we’ll concentrate on the strip first and see what those details are later.

This issue’s story is called Dream Maker and begins with my favourite Visionary from the cartoon, the lightning fast Witterquick atop a cloud covered mountain answering the cries of a beautiful but entombed woman called Sirena. As he attempts a rescue a demon appears, apparently threatening to kill our hero for looking upon the woman’s beauty. It might appear this demon is jealous and has trapped his great love to be with him forever, but as we find out later it’s just a bit of clever writing.

I say clever writing, but with a name like Sirena and a front cover showing her in control of monstrous forces the game has kind of been given away. If there was any doubt left the comic’s editorial made sure to erase all mystery beforehand. It’s still a compelling read though. I get the distinct impression Gerry, co-creator of The Punisher, really enjoyed developing these toys into three-dimensional characters. This issue concentrates almost exclusively on Witterquick and the Darkling Lord Cindarr, who we also see awaken from the same dream, with him in place of the Spectral Knight.

Sirena tells both men she’s a former Queen who has reached out telepathically to the only man able to recover the magical stone that can open her prison. Not convinced the dream is real, Leoric knows there’s no stopping Witterquick’s impetuousness so he wishes him well but offers no help or resources. On the other hand Cindarr has to fight off Reekon and Mortdredd who accuse him of abandoning his post at Darkstorm‘s castle. While you might wonder why a Darkling Lord would care about an imprisoned woman, it’s the first sign of there being more to Cindarr than we initially thought.

Witterquick’s impulse to save the poor villagers is soon overpowered by his desire for Sirena.

The scene shifts to a crumbling mountain road where the giant ‘Bronze Warrior’ statue looks down upon a ramshackle village led by a despot warlord. The statue is a rusting metal ruin of unknown origin from the previous Age of Magic, now a tourist attraction with a gleaming jewel eye. Witterquick’s initial impulse to save the poor villagers from their maniacal leader is soon overpowered by his desire for Sirena, such is her power over him.

Soon he and Cindarr are in a race to claim the key. Both use their magical poems, Cindarr unleashing ground-shattering destruction, Witterquick giving himself incredible speed which he uses to grab the key first. Despite this, Cindarr still saves Witterquick’s life when they’re suddenly attacked by the villager’s warriors.

It’s a gut reaction by Cindarr and a big surprise for the reader. He’s the highlight of this story and showcases the potential for complex character arcs to come between the warring factions. How heartbreaking that this is showcased in the final issue. Offering up a temporary alliance he uses his incantation to shake the very ground upon which the statue stands, scattering the warriors and allowing both of them to escape, the statue left wobbling in the wind.

We also see Witterquick open up about who he really is, flaws and all, through thoughts and the well written (as always) narrative captions. In the comic his magical speed also seems to apply to his heart. He’s quick to fall in love, quick to jump to conclusions, quick to leap into danger, all of which can get him into trouble, all easily avoidable if he just took a step back and thought things through first.

I can empathise.

Struggling with his thoughts, Witterquick dreams once more. Today I wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the image below, but in a toy comic of the time I think it shows Visionaries was aimed at a slightly older audience than Transformers, albeit an audience that still played with action figures. We’d have seen the likes of this in Conan comics so I thought it was interesting in the middle of a Hasbro toy licence.

Nudity in dreams is said to represent vulnerability, perfectly summing up Witterquick’s thoughts at this juncture in the story. The bewitching hold Sirena has over him, believing it’s true love, makes him shake off the doubts and carry on. From here on we see both Knights frequently cross paths with each other, more as competitors than enemies, creating an interesting dynamic and lots of fun moments.

They come up against a monstrous beast guarding the caverns underneath the toppled statue, providing us with an example of their back and forth race. Cindarr scoots past in the background (above right) as Witterquick struggles with the beast before transforming into his cheetah totem, biting the beast and escaping, the captions hinting at themes covered in last month’s review.


“But in the end, we fought as allies. Imagine if our leaders could find a way to do the same.

Witterquick to Cindarr

These caves take our Knights back underneath the statue where Witterquick uses his speed spell once again to grab the stone before it collapses. The Darkling Lord is buried under tons of metal but not before changing to his gorilla form for protection. After bursting out, in a moment of revenge he shames and embarrasses the warlord in front of all of his followers, freeing the people from his evil rule.

It’s another surprising Cindarr moment I didn’t see coming for a character so simplistically depicted in the cartoon, and it would appear it surprised him too. Both characters seem to be fighting against where they’ve been placed in this new world, seeking to find their true selves inside all of the magical armour that now defines them.

Attacked and ashamed by Sirena’s demons (below), the truth is laid bare and his heart is broken. About to be set free, she no longer needs him, he’s a complication. I actually felt for Cindarr here; the spell had him genuinely believing he was in love and doing the right thing, something he shouldn’t care about doing.

Now in the area foreshadowed earlier we see the demon attacking Witterquick but it’s holding back, not wishing to kill our hero, claiming he’s there to stop evil from being released. It’s at this point we realise those panels at the top of this review now read very differently.

Witterquick is unable to listen to reason and only the intervention of a vast gorilla (complete with Grimlock-like speech in this form) stops him from unleashing Sirena. Cindarr could have simply walked away. More evil being unleashed into the world and one less Spectral Knight should be a good thing, should it not? But he’s become an unlikely hero, trying to keep the witch imprisoned and saving a warrior he’s come to respect.

But unwittingly they’ve gotten too close and the jewel floats on a magical current right into the lock of Sirena’s tomb. Here her true horrific appearance is revealed as she pushes against the dissolving seal in a scene reminiscent of scenes from popular mini-series V just a few years previous.

His mind set free at last, Witterquick’s horror is clear. This leads to a final desperate bid to not only save their planet but also their dignity, as they use both staff powers together, combining speed and destruction into an unstoppable force and unleashing it directly upon the dissolving force field.

The prison explodes, taking Sirena with it. My favourite part is not this appropriately action-packed finale itself, but rather the immediate aftermath when the two enemies help each other out of the rubble and share this moment.

Gerry’s scripts are just so beautifully written in these quieter character moments. I laughed when I read this. After being at loggerheads through the long quest and intense action these two simple words sum everything up for the men. The next page also reveals a little about their views of the ongoing battle for the planet. I’d have been disappointed if the story hadn’t included this conversation after all they’ve been through.

It’s a nice final page, the second panel summing up a lot of conflicts in our real world, particularly here where I live. The respect and understanding between Cindarr and Witterquick is clear and it’s left very open ended. There can be no other outcome, for now at least. No, they’re not friends but can they truly be enemies again? At least they get to end their adventure with a shared laugh and as far as the comics go I’ve got a new favourite character in Cindarr.

This dynamic is just crying out for further exploration but for now Visionaries bows out. At least it does so in style with another superb story, nicely developed characters and plenty of surprises. As you can see the promised “details” don’t amount to much, just the date on which their remaining stories will be serialised in the weekly Transformers comic.

It’s quite the wait but a new look was coming up in Transformers so a new back up strip (temporarily replacing Action Force/G.I. Joe) would help launch it and bring in Visionaries readers eager for more. There are still a couple of publications to come for our intrepid, magical heroes in the form of an annual at Christmas time and a Spring Special next year. That annual may have been released in August but let’s face it we all got them as Christmas presents. So that’s when it’ll be covered here, following the real time nature of reading these as originally intended.

Speaking of further publications, on the back cover is another gorgeous contemporary advert. Dragon’s Claws was created by the ace Transformers team of Simon Furman and Geoff Senior. Set in the distant future of Britain it was a comic I’d seen advertised as a kid and had always wanted to try but never got around to. This is going to be corrected in 2022. The complete collection is sitting on my comics shelves waiting patiently for their own real time read through on the blog. Watch out for that in the spring of next year.

In the meantime you can expect reviews of the final two Visionaries stories on the dates of their respective conclusions in the pages of Transformers. Each story was split into four parts as was custom for the back ups, so the first story’s review will be on the OiNK Blog on Friday 1st October. Join me then, won’t you?