OiNK! #42: FASHiONABLY FUNNY

The always brilliant J.T. Dogg kicks off the latest issue of OiNK, issue 42 the Fantastic Fashion Issue. This was one of the most memorable covers for me as a kid. While I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about Michael Jackson my siblings were, but I did love Weird Al Jankovic’s parody and OiNK’s tribute was right up there in my opinion, as you’ll see in just a little bit. Just a couple of quick notes about the issue first though.

OiNK seems to have settled into a set title banner, making it more visible on the newsagent shelves and inside on page three there’s a slight mistake in the copyright banner, the bit where it says OiNK was devised by OiNK! Publishing Ltd and published by Fleetway, can’t be sold for more than the cover price etc., that sort of thing. Instead of the usual “Published every fortnight” it says “every Friday”, which I remember spotting as a kid and getting so excited for the new year and the promise of twice as much OiNK!

Let’s get straight to the headline act then and Mark Rodgers’ rewording of one of Michael Jackson’s earliest hits, Bad. Change Jackson to Jaxham and ‘Bad’ to ‘Mad’ and you’ve got a sure-fire hit on your trotters. To enjoy this fully is to read it to the original tune, so make sure you have that firmly in your head before you start. The lyrics are just as mad as the titular character and to go alongside them is his new hit music video, drawn just like the cover by J.T. Dogg.

As you read, the daftest parts of the song are hilariously brought to life by Malcolm’s beautiful, colourful art and I remember showing this off to lots of my friends at school at the time, due to many being huge fans of the real singer. As a child I thought it was brilliant that OiNK was taking on a real worldwide megastar and he wouldn’t be the last, especially when the comic became a monthly aimed at an older audience later in the run. For now though, this is a perfectly judged piece loved by everyone in that original (and best) target audience.

Never underestimate OiNK’s ability to pull the rug out from under the reader.

Despite being the cover star, Michael Jaxham isn’t the biggest thing to appear in this issue, not by a long shot actually. That honour goes to the spectacular five-page(!) conclusion to The Spectacles of Doom vs The Monocle of Mayhem, Tony Husband’s take on all those hugely enjoyable but completely ridiculous 80s fantasy films, drawn in exquisite detail by Andy Roper. After two pages of black and white strip we’re treated to this simply stunning, and of course very funny, spread of the battle we’ve been promised for weeks.

There’s so much going on here it benefits from taking your time to really look at the small details. The tiny, sweet looking bird with the flame breath, the tickly hand creature, the jet being stopped by a giant cactus and in turn its flame engines taking out one of its colleagues. There’s even a plop in the midst of it all. I love the way Endor seems to have called upon his friends from other pages of the issue including Mr Big Nose and the two Franks, little and large.

According to co-editor Patrick Gallagher the person on the right with the glasses is most likely one of Andy’s colleagues from Cosgrove Hall called Clint Priest (also an animator on the OiNK team’s Round the Bend series). Clint is just gingerly waving hello to the reader and not getting directly involved. Smart move. The strip carries on for another colour page but how could they top that to finish? With something you’d never have seen coming (much like our hero doesn’t). Never underestimate OiNK’s ability to pull the rug out from under the reader.

Despite the ending Endor would be back once more in The OiNK! Book 1989 in an even more impressive spectacle (no pun intended, honest). I can’t remember how they brought him back, or even if they addressed how, but I’ll find out eventually in just over a year. Beginning in January the weekly OiNKs are quite partial to ongoing serials so watch out for a selection of them starting in #45’s review.

Both of the above highlights are in the first handful of pages of this issue. Talk about a strong start. But how can the rest hope to follow? Well, how about the promise of a new prize for Grunts page contributions in the shape of a piggy pink OiNK binder for your precious comics, Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins making the goal that would win over reluctant footy fans, Harry the Head realising he’s not cut out for going for a dip and Roger Rental he’s Completely Mental giving himself a ‘pat on the head in the fashion stakes.

As you can see this issue of OiNK is chock full of what we’ve all come to expect by now and it continues with one of the most popular characters, Pete Throb whose strip gets renamed this issue to Pete and That Trendy ol’ Pimple of His! Lew Stringer takes aim at the ridiculousness of ever-changing fashions and, let’s face it, the 80s kind of deserved it. From the very first panel I was laughing at the shoulder pads, the dress sense and the “easier to draw” new hairdo.

This is the perfect example of this issue’s subject. Really, do kids care about fashion? So Lew swipes at the way people can jump on bandwagons so easily and yet be so fickle as to jump to the next shiny thing that comes along, no matter how dedicated they were to what had come before. It reminds me not only of my own older siblings at the time but also an episode of Knight Rider when K.I.T.T. got rather confused at the idea of new fashion seasons. (“Did last year’s clothes not perform their function?”)

It’s this that I found particularly funny as a kid because Lew, and the issue as a whole, was a way for us readers to have a good laugh at the older kids, as well as our own brothers and sisters and the way they’d act and dress. Of course, later in all our teen years we were just as guilty. Also, it’s always fun to see an example of an OiNK cartoonist drawing another’s character for their own strips. Little cameos like Rubbish Man’s here always felt a bit special, no matter how fleeting.

Surely no one screams stardom, sets trends or could be accused of being a fashionista quite like Frank Sidebottom. A hip and happening photographer couldn’t ask for a better model (is this Chris Sievey’s depiction of his own official photographer John Barry?), although it appears Frank’s most defining features aren’t the reason he was hired. Even in black and white Chris’s work is lovely, the pencil work on the fabric of his shirt textured just right.

When I was young there were certain things I didn’t like to do, just like any other child and the more I was told to do them properly the more I wanted to skip around them somehow. Brushing my teeth was one of those things. I don’t know why, I think it may have bored me, but it was just something I hated doing back then. In the mornings before school I had no choice, but I always did them as quickly as possible and never brushed them before bed if I could get away with it. (This is obviously not something any young readers of this blog should copy, or course!)

That all changed with this issue of OiNK and this next strip, Trendy Wendy. Written by the master of comic lyrics, Lew Stringer and drawn by fellow Northern Ireland resident Ian Knox I can remember clear as a bell reading this in my Aunt May’s house (who I’ve mentioned before during these issues making up OiNK’s Golden Age). I was casually enjoying it, giggling away to myself as I had done for the previous 21 pages until the final panel.

This might sound silly to you, that a silly strip like this could hit me quite hard but it certainly did. Getting a point across with comedy is a tried and tested formula in many things I’ve read and watched as an adult, but it was a surprise a month before my tenth birthday. I can’t remember the exact thought process that went through my head but from that moment on I brushed my teeth at least twice a day, every day.

OiNK taught its young readers a thing or two along the way, things which we actually listened to thanks to the method of its messages

What I do distinctly remember is once in my early 20s coming home from a night out, a little worse for wear and just wanting to collapse into bed and hope the room didn’t start to spin. But Wendy popped up in my head and I found myself trying (and possibly failing) to drunkenly brush my teeth before retiring, even though it had been years since I’d read any of these comics! I’ve said before OiNK helped form my sense of humour but it also taught its young readers a thing or two along the way, things which we actually listened to thanks to the method of its messages.

Before we move on you’ll want to warm up your printer. We’ve had some cut out figures before in OiNK but this is by far the best of the bunch. David Leach’s Psycho Gran appearance in the fashion issue had a little bit of crafting for the young readers to attempt. Of course, these are very intricate drawings for youngsters to cut around so I wonder if anyone actually did? I particularly like the Judge Dredd option which seems to suit her perfectly, given the form of justice she’d dish out.

In 2018 David would reprint this page in his Psycho Gran Versus #2 comic. The whole issue was dedicated to Charlotte as this page above was. Charlotte was David’s sister, Charlotte Claire Gurtler (Leach) who sadly passed away in 2018. Preferring to go by the name Dot, David said she would’ve made a great Psycho Gran herself. Maybe there’s a little of Charlotte in Psycho’s new comics to this day.

Just before we finish off, this issue saw the introduction of what has possibly gone on to be the most sought after piece of OiNK merchandise today. It’s rather fitting it would be announced in the fashion issue, given that it was a super trendy sweatshirt with the OiNK logo emblazoned on the front. The slogan down the left side of the hip hog (drawn by Mike Taylor) is just as well remembered as the sweatshirt itself.

Unfortunately I never ordered it and to this day I’ve yet to see so much as a photo of it. After finally being able to get a hold of my beloved OiNK mug and a mint condition OiNK 45 record (the only two pieces of merch I owned originally) this is surely the one I have to get next! However, the chances of finding one are next to none, never mind one in wearable condition. But a pig pal can dream. Are you listening, Santa?

Speaking of the jolly red-suited man with a bag the next issue of OiNK is our second (and final) Christmas issue. It has a lot to live up to because from memory this is my very favourite (definitely my most memorable) regular issue of OiNK. From its classic Ian Jackson cover to its Tom Thug Christmas Angel it’s a festive treat not to be missed. Speaking of Tom, watch out for a special Christmas preview post in a couple of days.

The jolliest issue of the funniest comic ever will be up for review right here on Monday 12th December 2022.

COMiNG UP: OiNK! #42

I was at school in the 80s so wasn’t exactly clued in to the world of fashion but I did have four older siblings so I was a witness to sports jackets, rainbow leggings, jumpsuits and enormous hair. Amongst the geometric shapes and bright-as-the-sun colours was a sense of humour about it all. Fashion wasn’t taken as seriously as it had previous, or since, and OiNK was right there in the thick of things.

On the cover of #42 is a memorable image of a certain late pop sensation and a hilarious rewording of one of his earliest hits inside, a cut-out doll for you to dress up an old lady as Judge Dredd, a greasy new fashion trend ‘pops’ up everywhere and a strip about dental care had a profound impact on me as a kid! Plus, OiNK went all sty-lish itself with a new piece of merchandise that’s probably the most sought after (and rarest) to this day! The next review will be all dressed up and ready for you on Monday 28th November 2022.

CREATiNG THE END: BARRiE TOMLiNSON iNTERViEW

I was only one of countless people who grew up on the amazing comics of editor Barrie Tomlinson. Whether you were a football fan and followed Roy of the Rovers, engrossed in science fiction and fantasy and had a regular order for Eagle, or caught up in all the early 90s hype and rushed to the newsagents every fortnight for the next Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles Adventures. These were just three of a huge catalogue of comics Barrie brought to life.

Personally, it was three of Barrie’s shorter-lived titles that hooked me and you can read all about Ring Raiders, Super Naturals and Wildcat on the blog, their respective real time read throughs already completed. I’ve previously asked Barrie questions about Ring Raiders and now he’s kindly agreed to chat with me about the latter of those three terrific comics, the post-apocalyptic Wildcat, the whole premise of which Barrie created.

The very last issue of OiNK contained the free preview issue of Wildcat, like a passing of the baton for me, and I was hooked right away. It’s the year 2492 and Earth has been destroyed. Thankfully, the foresight of Turbo Jones meant several hundred humans were able to escape in search of a new home aboard the massive Wildcat spacecraft. After a long search a planet capable of supporting human life (and the comic’s stories) was found and we followed different teams as they explored the surface, as well as keeping up to date on the happenings back on the surprisingly dangerous living quarters of the ship.

The comic still feels fresh and original today. Barrie’s story is set up to allow five completely different stories every issue while also progressing an overall story arc. I was gutted when it all came to a premature end with #12 and merged into the pages of Barrie’s Eagle. It certainly wasn’t due to a lack of editorial quality, it just unfortunately never found its audience. But I’ve really enjoyed reliving it and to celebrate finally reading the Winter Special for the first time, let’s welcome Barrie back to the blog.

OiNK Blog: Hi Barrie, how did Wildcat first come about? It was marketed as a “younger person’s 2000AD”, but was this the intention? What were the reasons behind the creation of this very different comic?

Barrie Tomlinson: The management asked me to produce a science fiction comic for a younger group than 2000AD. I went away and thought about it and decided to have one storyline running through the whole comic. I thought it would make it a bit different.

OB: Can you tell us anything about the character choices? Wildcat showed true diversity which wasn’t as regular a sight back then as it should’ve been. Were they permanent characters or interchangeable as time went on?

BT: I thought up the characters and wanted to reflect what was happening at the time, which is why I created a black hero and a female warrior. Girls had not been featured very much in boys’ comics so I decided it was time that they were! The characters were intended to be permanent ones.

OB: Is it true Loner was created specifically with David Pugh in mind as the artist? Also, is it true he’s said Loner was his favourite character he’s ever worked on? I hope that’s true!

Barrie: I really wanted David Pugh to be one of the artists and the Loner strip seemed just right for his talents. I hope Loner was his favourite character. He did fabulous artwork on that story and on Dan Dare in Eagle. (David has confirmed Loner is his favourite character and spoke about drawing the strip in the introduction to the Wildcat: Loner graphic novel from Rebellion – Phil)

OB: Did you have an idea of how the story would pan out in the long term? Were they to settle on that planet, keep finding new places to explore on it, or even fly off to discover a new planet every-so-often?

BT: The plan was they would fly off to other planets and there would be a long search for the right one.

OB: Can you give us any insight into who was in the writing team behind the comic and if you wrote any of the strips yourself?

BT: I wrote the script for the preview issue, to set up the storyline and the characters. For the regular comic my son James (under the name James Nicholas) wrote Kitten Magee. I wrote Loner. Joe Alien was by a new writer, David Robinson (Eagle, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Army of Darkness/Xena) who later changed his name and has done a lot of writing since then. I’ve been searching but I can’t find anything [about the name change]. If I do I will let you know.

OB: Do you have any specific memories of your time on the comics covered on the blog you’d like to share with readers today? Anything at all you could tell us to give fans a little personal insight into what it was like to work on them?

BT: It was great fun working on both those titles (Wildcat and Ring Raiders).  Wildcat particularly so, as it was all my idea, they were my characters and my storylines. It was very rewarding when the whole thing came together in a good first issue. I particularly enjoyed designing the free gift, which was a giant poster of The Alien Zoo of Targon-5. Each fortnight, readers could collect stickers which they would stick on the poster. The artwork was by the brilliant Ian Kennedy and featured not only the zoo but also the main characters Turbo Jones, Loner, Kitten Magee and Joe Alien.

It was an absolute delight to be able to ask these questions of Barrie. As always, he was a complete gentleman and very enthusiastic about his comics, which I found wonderful. I’d originally wondered if he would want to talk at all about two comics which ended only a few months after they began, but Barrie was completely open about how proud he was (and still is) of both Wildcat and Ring Raiders, the interview regarding the latter you can also read here.