WiLDCAT #4: TREE-RIFIC FUN

I love this Ian Kennedy cover based on the Wildcat Complete tale inside. We’ve had deaths in pretty much every part of the anthology series so far, but this shows us there’s a ferocious animal-like killer on board, running rampant amongst the last several hundred humans in existence. The claustrophobic horror of being in that situation is perfectly captured here with this work of art by the incredible talent that is Ian.

This issue we’ve got man vs dinosaur, alien vs murderous plants, woman vs robotic tribesmen, man vs crazed newt and spacecraft vs Mr Hyde. So a busy issue of editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s creation then. We start off as always with Turbo Jones and the first page is no less thrilling than that cover. Turbo has decided he’s going to tame the untameable Terrosauron and over the course of the first couple of pages the huge beast underestimates the tiny opponent time and again. Using his small weapons in clever ways, Turbo manages to outsmart his opponent and soon he has his steed of choice.

The ‘Next Issue’ promo last time was just an image of The Great Ark, leader of the Arglons. It appears they were just one of a handful of animated corpses. A row of skeletal beings led by The Ark itself bark orders at their minions, killing one of their top military leaders for their apparent failure. Some close up angles of this council (like the one used for the promo a fortnight ago) show what look like mechanics behind their jaws. Could it be they’re all dead? Is this all going to lead to a Wizard of Oz moment later in the series? That’s my guess at the moment although I’ve no recollection of the story beyond this point.

From here the story cleverly flips back and forth between Turbo training the Burroid army and the Arglons using giant mantis-like creatures to dig a tunnel right underneath their enemy, straight to their capital city. There are no captions to explain the back and forth between the two scenes, which to be honest I’d have expected in any comic of mine from back then. But writer Barrie and artist Vanyo credit the kids reading with the intelligence to not need their hands held.

The cliffhanger sees giant cracks appear in the roads of the city and it feels like it’s all building up to an epic climax. It isn’t though. Each character’s story is one ongoing saga rather than being split up into smaller individual tales. So if they’d spent a year on this planet each character would’ve had a 26-part epic, which was an original way to go about things! The tension is building however and by the end of these five pages it’s palpable.

The tree is an alien being that plucked him off the ground and is now holding him hostage.

Our pinup jumps from the back cover to page seven and this issue it’s my favourite character, Loner and his new found friends the little fuzzballs. Reading the black and white strip I (for some reason) made the assumption these little balls of fur were a sandy colour but here David Pugh has decided that’s not the case. More from Loner in a bit.

On to Joe Alien now, who we last saw stuck up a tree. Well, it’s a lot more dramatic than that. The tree is an alien being that plucked him off the ground and is now holding him hostage. Joe’s dislodged brain pack is in the hands of his teammates so he’s completely incapable of helping himself. But what about that rather horrific cliffhanger? It’s washed away with a quick douse in a nearby pool of water which luckily (as stated by one of the team) seems pretty normal for once. That is, until some form of seaweed starts to crawl out of the water and wrap itself around their limbs. It seems danger really is lurking everywhere.

Easily able to break free, they’re still at a loss over how to rescue Joe, precariously help high up in the air. To me, it looks like this tree could be planning on using Joe to communicate but maybe that’s the wrong assumption on my part, because his team obviously don’t agree. Their solution? Blow it up, of course.

As you can see it makes a piercing scream as it comes crashing down, so the silent killers from previous issues aren’t quite so silent after all. With his brain pack clicked back into place, Joe has had enough and orders them all to quickly retreat back to their shuttle and return to the Wildcat. This is no place for them to plant their feet (boom) and put roots down (boom, boom) but on their way back they hear another cry, this time a cry for help from deep within a hole in the ground.

What they see down the pit is a two-headed alien covered in bright blue feathers. Speaking our language (able to translate other tongues quickly explained as an ability of his race), Joe and his team set about freeing him from the roots that appear to have trapped him. I’ll admit alarm bells went off for me the second I saw this and it slowly dawns on the team all is not as it seems.

A line of huge trees marches up to surround them, seemingly to make a final stand but suddenly stop. Forming a wide circle around the landing party they just stand there, unmoving. The final panel shows our team looking out at the killer jungle, knowing something is wrong but they can’t quite put their fingers on it, while we the readers see the alien is but a suit and it’s being quietly ripped open. Inside are a few plants playing the part!

This must mean they’re able to communicate properly (beyond painful screams) as they were able to impersonate this fictional alien creature and, maybe more importantly, decipher our language. Does this mean I was right when I guessed it looked like the tree earlier was attempting to use Joe to communicate? Out of all the strips so far this feels the most alien (suitably enough given its name) and this is in no small part thanks to the highly original artwork of Ron Smith.

I don’t quite know what to make of the Kitten Magee strip this issue. It begins with Kitten receiving the life dust from her robotic pet Crud via something beneath her collar. Whether it’s a device, an injection or an opening in her skin isn’t clear in the shadowy forest and I’m guessing it’s been left deliberately ambiguous by artist José Ortiz at this point, so hopefully a future issue will clarify.

So the tribes from previous episodes to whom Kitten proved herself by fighting their leader are now attacking her team, and to begin with we think it’s some form of mind control by the fat men hovering above. But when Kitten returns to rescue her teammates one of the aliens is blasted open and it’s revealed they are actually robots. At this point I had to remind myself this was the 80s, because having fully organic beings revealed as being robots on the inside is a cliché I’ve grown very tired of over the years. But this was written a few decades ago so I have to remember that context. But why would the fat men (one of whom gets the name ‘Hobos‘ this issue) go to all the bother of creating them?

When the innards are revealed all of the other machines stop, as if awaiting instructions. At this point Hobos is spotted and Bonnie tries to take out his hovercraft device with her sniper rifle. Fleeing, he flicks a switch and the tribesmen take to the air, their laser eyes firing upon the women while others take suicidal bombing runs! Where on Earth (well, not-Earth) did all of this come from?

At the time I can imagine I would’ve been thrilled with this sudden change to the situation, but now I found it a bit clunky. But that’s more the fault of the passing of time rather than the comic itself. So who is Hobos? Did his race create these robots? Or maybe they are sentient machines that have been hacked, which would be more original. Perhaps there’ll be some answers next time, although I’ve a feeling I’ll be left waiting for a while longer.


“I still have to go back upstairs and finish off that overgrown newt!”

Loner

There are a couple of interesting nuggets of story information in the Wildcat Time-Warp Data Link pages in response to readers’ letters. One asks how many people are on board since the terms “hundreds” and “over a thousand” have both been used by now and in reply we’re told that it was meant to be around 500 (in the preview it was over 700) but it became clear after leaving Earth an enormous amount of stowaways got on board. No wonder Barrie isn’t concerned about killing so many people off, there are more than we thought! Interestingly, we’re told that, coupled with the animal and plant life, these stowaways have given Wildcat a total weight load far in excess of its original specifications. Will this be a plot point we’ll return to?

Begging for the hallucinations inside his mind to stop, Loner agrees to the terms of the villainous lizard to track down the beast that poses a threat to him. Making his way into the depths of the caverns with the furry little ball creatures in tow, Loner wonders inwardly how he’s going to be successful when all he has is his six-shooter. A voice echoes in his mind, “We can help you” and he’s surprised to find that outside of the overgrown newt’s telepathic range these little critters can talk to him, and are intelligent.

Their backstory is that they were the pets of the people who once lived on the continent, content and happy with their existence and loved by their owners. But the people soon became obsessed with creating bigger and more destructive weaponry, their wars became deadlier and soon they had wiped themselves off the face of the planet, their pets hiding out in this underground world. What’s more, underneath the fur their flesh is poisonous, sending anybody stupid enough to eat them completely crazy, hence our giant lizard friend’s state of mind. (This is a much better development than the humanoid robots.)

They lead Loner to a cave full of the weaponry they gathered and hid away from any visitors after the last war. More than enough to see off the beast and free them all from the lizard but there’s a catch. The people of this continent had built weapons controlled by mental power alone, so in order to stand a chance Loner will have to undergo a transformation or the weapons will destroy his mind. As you can read above he isn’t keen but the furballs don’t give him any choice in the matter.

We’re left with this image of him screaming in agony as a warning rings out, “At the end, you will consider yourself quite monstrous!” I couldn’t remember anything about this but one look at the Next Issue promo at the back of this issue (further below) brought it all back. What I’ve particularly liked is see a slight softening of Loner as he begins to bond with the little creatures.

Boredom and the vast emptiness that surrounds them can, and will, have an effect on the human psyche.

Every five-page chapter of this strip takes a big step forward in developing the story and when something this fun to read is all wrapped up in superlative David Pugh artwork it’s no wonder this was my favourite part of the comic. It’s hard to believe we’re only 20 pages in! I think of that thick trade paperback graphic novel collecting the entire Loner saga together and I can only imagine what will happen in all of those pages! I’ll be finding out the slow way.

I mentioned a fortnight ago how 11 people had already died in the pages of the comic and, although we now know there are more on board than originally thought, the Wildcat Complete on which the cover is based is called Death on Wildcat so I’m assuming the trend is going to continue. But first things first, has that picture of the Wildcat craft been pasted on top of the scene? It certainly looks that way. It could be because it looks like a special technique was used to draw the planet and its rings. It’s a lovely effect and then the spacecraft could have been drawn separately and placed on top. Works for me!

The artist hasn’t been confirmed but I believe it to be Enrique Alcatena‘s work, returning for the first time since the premiere issue’s ghosty story, this time with a Dr Jekyll and Mr Vampire Werewolf tale. The Duty Commander, John Anderson is getting a bit cocky with the fact no crime has been reported on board for weeks. (Obviously some time has passed since the last issue.) Now convinced Wildcat is a safe ship with a complete lack of lawlessness, his statement is predictably followed by an alarm.

The Chief of Security barely has a moment to explain how boredom and the vast emptiness that surrounds them can, and will, have an effect on the human psyche before they’re alerted to a murder on board. It’s a simple tale with obvious clues for the chief to follow and soon enough he’s tracked it down to Dr Timothy Lee who had been conducting experiments on animals back on Earth with the hope of creating an army of controllable killers. With Earth evacuated and all the animals accounted for he had continued his experiments on himself.

The most interesting bits for me are the emphasis on just how fragile the peace is on the ship and the fact there are aliens already on board. They work alongside us, are part of the crew and are helping us navigate the galaxy in search of a new home. With the comic set in 2250 it’s not beyond the realm of believability that we’d have made contact with some races, although this is the first we’ve seen anything of them, when they’re the target of a crazed, bigoted killer.

Wildcat death toll: 14

That’s us for the first of three issues this festive season. The next is the Christmas one itself with a strange cover I clearly remember from the 80s. When you see it you’ll understand why it’s so memorable. How about a Christmas pudding wrapped around a spaceship? Think I’m joking? You’ll see.

Just to finish off this issue is the advertisement on the back page. Sharing these contemporary adverts is part of the fun of this site. This is the first time Wildcat has included one in its pages and it’s for a favourite childhood cereal (which I admit is still bought from time to time today).

The special Christmas edition of Wildcat will be reviewed right here on Friday 17th December 2021.

JURASSiC PARK #6: THE LOST WORLDS

By 1993 I’d moved on from comics into the world of computer games magazines, but when I saw that ‘Jurassic Park‘ title with that tagline peering over the other comics on the shelves I was quick to grab it! Previously put off by the movie adaptation, here was the first official continuation of the movie’s storyline. But there was more! As I flicked through to get an idea of what it was about I noticed back up strips too. On first sight it felt like the Transformers comic I’d loved so much. I was sold and bought my first comic in over a year.

Of course this wasn’t to remain the official sequel for long. Just a few years later Michael Crichton would release his novel The Lost World and the subsequent film was based upon that. But the American Topps Comics was the first to do so and Dark Horse International published it here in a typical UK comic format, meaning they were chopped up into smaller parts and backed up with other strips following the central theme. To the uninitiated it might sound like this would drag a story out unnecessarily but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

UK readers were used to monthly stories from across the pond being split up in weekly or fortnightly comics out of necessity. This may have been a monthly too but it still felt completely normal, it was just how things worked over here. Also, the Topps stories were split into mini-series with an unspecified gap between each so editor Dick Hansom‘s decision also made sense. If the comic had kept to this format a four-issue mini-series in the States could’ve lasted a full year over here. If the publishers themselves hadn’t gone bankrupt we could’ve had multiple years of these.

The first thing this issue hits us with isn’t a comic strip but it still takes me right back. I may not have had a Sega Mega-CD (or any wish to own one) but I do remember the onslaught of new gaming consoles at the time, investing in the 3DO myself which I adored. My computer was the Commodore 64 but I loved reading up on the latest tech and the Jurassic Park game for the Mega-CD was completely different than all the others and looked like a proper adventure on the island. The constant hype for all these new machines was so exciting for me back then, like the future was arriving!


“That T-rex saved us from the ‘raptors! By the time we left Jurassic Park, I was almost — hell, I WAS in love with her!”

Dr. Alan Grant

So let’s get started into our three strips. While Dark Horse’s Aliens had various stories within that universe to pull from, joining the eight pages of Aftershocks (our main strip) here is the return of Xenozoic Tales (at ten pages) and new back up Age of Reptiles (at 12 pages). Yes, our main strip is shorter than the others but cliffhangers in all three had to be carefully chosen. With a unique dinosaur theme throughout – movie sequel set in the present, one set in the far future and one set in the actual time of the dinosaurs – I never felt short changed and it never felt like anything other than a proper Jurassic Park title.

The story begins with a narrative caption simply stating, “Three days later” above the body of a furious Tyrannosaurs rex. Writer Steve Englehart (The Avengers, Doctor Strange and creator of Star-Lord) was given free rein to develop the movie story as he saw fit, picking up the story with Dr Alan Grant and Dr Ellie Satler returning to Isla Nublar to supervise InGen‘s military-style cleanup operation. This already contradicts what came later (Hammond told us in The Lost World they’d been left alone) but let’s go with it as an alternative storyline.

We begin with that great double-page spread above, narrated by Alan as he watches the ‘rex destroy jeeps, tanks and anything else thrown at her. She’s furious with her prey but Alan’s inner thoughts are ones of love, of being grateful that she saved all their lives. Her very existence in the modern world is a miracle and , just like in the novel and the film, even though he and Ellie are frightened they’re equally in awe of her.

InGen want to regain control, contain the animals and begin scientific experiments on them in an attempt to make back some of the money they’ve lost. They don’t want to reopen the park. A new character called Dr. Fischer is the face of the corporation. He believes Ian Malcolm‘s predictions were coincidence rather than proof of Chaos Theory and he makes it clear he stands for advancing the scientific community, rather than science itself, putting him at odds with Alan.

It’s a small slice of action but it’s a great start and thought provoking at the same time.

There’s a hint in here too that the Velociraptors had managed to escape their enclosure earlier than we’d thought, because no eggs were found in there and we knew they were able to breed. This ties in with the book but not the film. In Michael Crichton‘s original story the ‘raptors were able to get in and out of their enclosure at will without the humans noticing. In fact, some had made it on to one of the boats for the mainland, which added more tension to Alan and the kids’ return to the Visitor Centre because they had to warn the boat before it docked. But in the film they clearly didn’t get out.

The art style is a world apart from what we had in the adaptation. Armando Gil (The ‘Nam, Savage Sword of Conan, The Punisher) brings a gritty, mature style to the art. His T-rex certainly looks the part, closely resembling the actual dinosaur and he really captures her size and power. Alongside Armando comes letterer John Costanza (Green Lantern, Batman, Ronin) and colourist and story editor Renée Witterstaetter (Silver Surfer, The Sensational She-Hulk, Jason Vs. Leatherface) whose subdued colours suit the wonderfully scratchy artwork perfectly. It’s a small slice of action but it’s a great start and thought provoking at the same time. I like InGen’s desperation and I like the fact Dr. Fischer believes he’s right, that what he’s doing is for the greater good. I hope it develops these threads.

Carrying on the theme of not learning from past mistakes comes the first backup strip, Xenozoic Tales in which our hero Jack Tenrec finds himself at odds with the council and his new friend Hannah Dundee. Both his and Hannah’s tribes want to stop his campaigns against their poaching. But Jack is standing firm, knowing he’s baring witness to humans going back down the very same path that led to the cataclysm in the first place. Creator, writer and artist Mark Schultz has been very clear from the first chapter this is a story about the dangers of human created climate change.

Benefactor is the seventh story in the series but only our third, something I went into more detail on last time. This could be because only some of the tales were published in colour, here by Christine Courtier. It ends with a cliffhanger for the first time and I remember who these strange creatures ended up being. Hannah had been sent to look for Jack after he had stormed off. Using her tracking skills, unaware the council man who accompanies her is intending to kill Jack, she catches a glimpse of his Cadillac shining in the hot afternoon sun but gets more than she bargained for as she approaches it. The back-stabbing and the politics, wrapped up in an adventure in a land populated by dinosaurs is unique and really fun to read.

When I scanned over this issue in the newsagent’s my eyes lit up when I saw the final strip. I know it’s a cliché and an exaggeration to say “it took my breath away” but you’ll get my point. Set in the Mesozoic period it follows a pack of Deinonycuses and a T-rex family as they do battle after one steals the meal of the other. Created and intricately drawn by Ricardo Delgado and beautifully coloured by James Sinclair it contains no narrative captions at all. Everything is told solidly in pictures only, without even any lettered sound effects.

Ricardo is an artist working in the movie and television industries, whose credits include everything from The Real Ghostbusters and WALL-E to Jurassic Park III, suitably enough. James’ credits have included Legends of The Dark Knight, Hellblazer and The Mask comics. Age of Reptiles was Ricardo’s first book in a series and hadn’t been released here yet when it became serialised in the pages of Jurassic Park, where it’s an even better fit than Xenozoic Tales for obvious reasons.

It tells an absorbing story through great art and wonderfully designed characters. The Deinonycuses kick things off by taking down their dinner, a giant Brontosaurus. Originally I thought these were Velociraptors until I read the catch up on the contents page of the next issue, although to be fair they are very closely related species. I love how each one has particular markings and by paying attention to such things we get to know each one over the next few months. How Ricardo imbued each one with individual personalities through markings, facial expressions and their movements is simply genius.

They begin to feast but are rudely interrupted when a giant T-rex jumps on top of their prize and roars at them to back off. But they aren’t giving up so easily and one leaps in to slice at the bigger beast. The strip was quite gruesome and violent for the time and, while there’s nothing to put off younger readers yet, it will build upon this as the story develops. But as I said it also had its lighter comedic moments, one of my favourites coming up right now. After the smaller dinosaur leaps and slices we turn over to be met with the page on the right below.

This still makes me laugh to this day. As the story develops we’d see an ever-increasing battle of revenge between these characters which would include some ferocious fights, some tender moments and one surprisingly heartbreaking scene. Don’t believe me? You’ll just have to wait and see. It’s not an exaggeration to say it’s a thrill to be reading Age of Reptiles again after so long. The collected books go for silly prices online these days so I’m happy to wait and play the slow game with this serialisation. Worth the price of admission alone!

To finish off here’s a look at the advertisement on the back cover for the Jurassic Park videogame which was being released on a variety of platforms. It’s the tagline I love the most here. This was around the time Street Fighter II was everywhere. (It would even be a comic advertised in these pages soon enough!) But forget that game, because “when the street just ain’t tough enough… go play in the park”. A brilliant piece of competitive marketing for the time!

I remember playing the Nintendo Game Boy version. Even though it didn’t follow the plot of the film at all and had Alan Grant out in the park collecting all the eggs with a gun, firing tranquillisers at all the dinosaurs as if they were all out to eat him, it was still a really fun game to play. Especially at night when I was meant to be asleep for school the next day, having to play it using that heavy, cumbersome light attachment on the supposedly handheld console.

This was a brilliant start to my Jurassic Park comics journey. Surely here was a title that I could collect without fear of it being prematurely cancelled? How could a comic based on the hottest thing on the planet be anything other than a runaway success for years and years? Well, if the comic had kept to this format and continued until the end of the US strips, those 19 American issues would’ve spanned a whopping 57 British editions over nearly five years! The next one is #7 and its review will be up on the blog on Tuesday 28th December 2021.

OiNK! #16: POP PiGGiES

A superstar takes pride of place on the cover of the pop music special of OiNK… sitting alongside a hammed up parody of George Michael. That’s right, this issue pig pals got to meet Frank Sidebottom! We’ll get to the famous papier-mâché headed contributor later on but first up we’ve got the second part of our giant calendar poster drawn by the incredibly talented and at the time very young Ian Jackson.

Burp and Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins make up this segment with more and more random people running across their faces. Where could they be going and why? We’ll find out next time. Quite suitably, since my decorations have gone up a little bit earlier this year, there’s Santa in the midst of the parodies of celebrities, aliens, monsters, religious leaders and basically anyone Ian could think of by the looks of it.

I can remember this issue of the comic itself being met with rather mixed feelings when I had my first quick glimpse through it as a kid. I wasn’t really into music at the time so the theme didn’t seem to appeal. I also didn’t initially like the fact there were quite a few text features spoofing teenage music magazines of the day. But I soon realised I couldn’t have been more wrong once I started reading. It may have only been my third issue but I shouldn’t have doubted the team.

As a kid I’d heard of John Peel through appearances on Top of the Pops which my older siblings watched every week or through the radio when I heard it coming from their rooms. While I wasn’t a radio listener at that young age I still found his A Day in the Life of a DJ quite funny. I’m including it here because co-editor Patrick Gallagher was able to confirm it really was written by John.

One rather unique addition to the line up this time is a competition to “Win a pop concert in your own home“. No, this isn’t a spoof (or GBH threatening to come round if you don’t pay up) this is an honest-to-gosh competition with the prize being a pop group performing in your house. The band in question were Le Lu Lus (or ‘Lelu Lu’s’, their name seems to have several spellings) who were all about “robots, computers, dance and song” apparently.

You can check out one of their songs, ‘Africa’ on YouTube and they’re not half bad. Since growing up I’ve become somewhat obsessed with 80s music so this is right up my street. It would seem one lucky reader was in for a treat.

According to Tony Husband, “They contacted us as fans l think. We chose a home fairly convenient to us all l think, so we didn’t have to pay a lot for travel. Anyone from Aberdeen or Southampton never stood a chance. We chose a family from Prestwich.” So even if I had been enjoying their music at the time there wasn’t a hope in hell of me winning, what with that pesky Irish Sea between me and the OiNK offices.


“I love burp, he’s so smelly and disgusting and Mr Big Nose ’cause he’s so daft.”

Ian Astbury, The Cult

She Sells Sanctuary by The Cult is a song most of us will remember from the 80s and in a surprising turn of events lead vocalist Ian Astbury is interviewed in this issue of OiNK by piggy pop presenter Janice Pong (Tony again). It’s really quite the scoop for a kid’s comic and as it turns out Ian and his bandmates were fans. This wasn’t unusual in the Manchester (or MADchester) scene of the day, with numerous bands buying the comic on a regular basis. OiNK’s offices in the city were just upstairs from the office of the Happy Mondays‘ manager, Haçienda DJ Dave Haslam was next door and former The Fall band member Marc Riley was already working on the comic drawing Harry the Head and being Snatcher Sam.

The interview with Ian happened over the phone after Tony got in touch through his agent.  For Tony it was quite the thrill, as he was a fan of the group and their lead singer was a fan of his work! Ian was game for a laugh in being interviewed by the fictional Janice (a spoof of radio DJ Janice Long) and Tony told me he has nothing but fond memories of the experience.

While he can’t quite remember how he found out Ian was a pig pal, Tony says he’ll never forget what happened after the interview was over. At the end of the call Ian, this huge rock star, told Tony he’d ordered two OiNK mugs and two t-shirts but had only received one of each and asked if he could look into it! It was a surreal moment for Tony and sure enough he got it sorted for him.

So let’s move away from the more magazine-style pages of this unique issue and have a look at some of the other highlights, such as an uncanny celebrity lookalike, a perfectly named talent agent and a quick homage to From Russia With Love. Then Lew Stringer brought us some cutout badges of 80s pop stars, the Huey Lewis and the News one being my fave, and then gave us a little history lesson into the origins of rock’n’roll (and check out the Phil Collins drawing underneath).

Remember the cutout Road-Hogg from #11? It was meant to be impossible to actually build but pig pal Sue M. Hall did anyway and the end result was great! In this issue a rather more straightforward bit of DIY comes in the shape of cassette covers for readers’ music collections. In the 90s I was handed down a lot of my siblings’ music cassettes, so while my school friends were rocking out to the latest charts my ears were buried in the older Now That’s What I Call Music collections from the 80s. This could explain why I’m still obsessed with music from that decade today.

I remember making up my own compilations from the cassettes I then owned, sometimes even making ‘soundtrack’ albums for my comics, filled with the songs I thought best suited certain storylines and I’d create my own covers for them. In this issue Uncle Pigg brought us some cutout covers, all suitably OiNK-ified of course. Fellow fan Steve Fitch (who kindly supplied photos of an OiNK promotional folder for a previous post) not only cut out the covers and placed them into cassette boxes, he went a step further and created little stickers for the tapes to match.

Now on to our main event. A musician, a stand up comedian, a TV personality, an all-round entertainer extraordinaire, Chris Sievey donned a papier-mâché head, put on a squeaky, nasally voice and truly became Frank Sidebottom. My parents weren’t fans I seem to recall, but I most certainly was, especially from Saturday morning show No.73. To have him popping up in OiNK was a wonderful surprise and he suited the music theme. The fact he wasn’t a one-off and would come back in the next issue (and the next, and the next etc.) was even better.

Back in 2021 the sad news broke of Chris’ passing and, upon finding out, all those lovely memories of his strips in OiNK came flooding back. I dug out the three editions I still owned and read them for the first time in decades. I bought a few more, discovered they were just as funny as they’d ever been and I set about collecting them. Chris had led me right back to OiNK, so it’s because of him that I’m even here talking about the comic at all.

I asked Patrick about how Frank’s contributions came about.

“I dragged Chris on board at OiNK, having been a fan of Frank and also of Chris Sievey and the Freshies – the Manchester pop band,” says Patrick. “Frank fitted brilliantly into the comic and was a regular face in the OiNK office as well as in its pages. We gave Chris quite an open brief, which was pretty much determined by the themes of the issues. Shortly after joining OiNK, Chris invited me to play guitar in Frank’s Oh Blimey Big Band, alongside Mark Radcliffe on drums (pre-Marc and Lard days on BBC Radio One with fellow OiNK star Marc Riley).”

It’s great to see Frank on board at last, it’s like being reunited with an old friend.

“Frank was a great ambassador for OiNK and promoted the comic at gigs etc.”, Patrick continues. “So we were more than happy to keep him with us as long as he was happy to continue working for us! I became great friends with Chris and when both our marriages ended 10 years later, Chris lived at my house for 6 months where we drowned our sorrows and lived the high-life in equal measure.”

So here we go, Frank’s very first OiNK page. I think as a kid I might have assumed one of the comic’s artists drew the pages for him, or at least had a hand in them. But as they progressed it was clear this was all his own work. Tony and Patrick have both told me in the past how long Chris would spend over his pages. Remember, he wasn’t a professional cartoonist, yet here he was creating colourful works of art and comic strips for every issue of a hit comic. Everything was coloured with felt tip pens and he would apparently anguish over the details. I’m sure you’ll agree the end results were, as Frank himself would say, fantastic!

Since Chris’ passing a statue of Frank has been erected in his home town of Timperley and we’ve had not one but two movies based around him. One is the feature-length documentary Being Frank and the other starred Michael Fassbender as a Frank-like celebrity forever encased in his own papier-mâché head. Both of these will be covered on the blog in the future. For now, it’s great to see Frank on board at last, it’s like being reunited with an old friend.

It’s time to wrap up this musical feast and who better to do so than Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental. OiNK writer Graham Exton told me if the writing on one of Roger’s strips is uncredited then most likely it was co-editor Mark Rodgers who scripted it. He wrote so much of OiNK that apparently he’d often forget to credit himself! This particular instalment made me roar and it’s brought to life as ever by Ian Knox. Enjoy.

So that’s us. The fact that Roger’s is the only strip I’ve shown in full just shows how different this issue actually is. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of hilarious strips in here, I just wanted to show you the different kinds of content this issue had and how enjoyable it was as a result. With lots of new characters introduced last time and now with Frank in the fray at last I’m really pumped for the next issue, especially since it’s the first Christmas Special!

From the TV Times cover to the Christmas TV listings and a multi-page Uncle Pigg story I have very fond memories of #17, so make sure you’re back here on Monday 13th December for the review!