Lew Stringer brings us what would ultimately be his final OiNK cover, not that anyone knew this at the time of course. Tom Thug’s threat has the shine taken away by the good dog on the page with him, all of which could take our attention away from the fact the comic had gone back up to its pre-weekly (and pre-page-reduction) price of 35p. This made OiNK 7p more expensive than its Fleetway Publication peers, who also had 8 more pages. Today, I know this all sounds like it shouldn’t matter but back when most of us received 50p-£1 pocket money a week, this could make all the difference.
But inside OiNK still had plenty of content and to me it still truly felt like better value for money. There’s a wealth of reading material in this issue, including the conclusion to Tom’s Crude Crew story which began in Whizzer and Chips and carried into the two previous issues of OiNK, a superb middle page spread for Dibney World by Simon Thorp, a gorgeous Dead Fred strip (no really) and the return of a favourite character, albeit not in the form I was expecting. First up though, Hieronymous Van Hellsong’s prequel by Jeremy Banx steps up a gear.
As always with this character it’s deliciously dark humour at it finest. Beginning with the nameless executive for who death is just a hurdle to overcome, and then to see Van Hellsong kill himself in order to go to hell to chase down his contract is a bit of a shock. However, all of this dark, twisted humour is perfectly offset by that last panel and his silly realisation, taking us from the dark to the daft in an instant. It’s classic Banx.
“Dibney characters act out historical highlights of US history [such as] The Slave Trade, The Bay of Pigs Crisis [and] Watergate!”Ron Dibney World, Simon Thorp
Dark humour was something we weren’t normally exposed to as kids and OiNK revelled in it. In fact, Jeremy Banx in particular did, with some hilarious moments in his Burp strips that involved over-the-top gore that was just so ridiculous we never saw it as gore in the first place. His first Van Hellsong mini-series finished with our hero being killed by a notorious butcher villain and turned into a string of linked sausages and used to swing away from the authorities. These were the perfect introduction to black humour for me and many pig pals.
Back in #53 future Viz editor Simon Thorp wrote and drew Outlet-by-the-Sea, a GBH Madvertisement of a shockingly poor holiday destination that poked fun at English seaside resorts. Now he’s back for another, this time a collaboration between GBH and Thomas Crook and it’s bigger and better. Not only is it a double-page spread in the middle of the issue, Simon is taking aim at the biggest and grandest of holiday resorts, Walt Disney World.
The rickety British Rail train is back from Outlet-by-the-Sea too. It must’ve been a favourite of Simon’s. I love the way the ‘Animation Complex’ is the smallest, least impressive building in the whole park which is a dig at Disney World’s priorities. Then we have the large golf ball-like Epcot spoof called ‘Mom’s Apple Pie World’ apparently made in Taiwan, which could either be a silly joke or could very well be making a statement for the older readers, take your pick.
It’s what’s inside this building that I find the funniest and most cutting. We live in the modern world of 2023 where American politicians of a certain type are trying to whitewash (literally) the teaching of American history, so to have something with such a wholesome name as ‘Mom’s Apple Pie World Heritage Trail’ have that list of attractions feels like a particularly contemporary joke. You can clearly see Simon’s later Viz work in its early stages here. I just love it.
Now it’s time to conclude one of our mini-series.
Of course Tom’s scheme had to backfire in spectacular fashion, he’s a bully and bullies always lose after all. So we begin this final episode of Tom Thug and his Crude Crew with the gang all assembled and ready for bovver for the very first time, but by the end of the page it’s already fallen apart and Tom ends up in a very familiar state. The key joke here, played out more than once, is how bullies are all essentially cowards and will always ensure they’re picking on those they believe are less capable of fighting back.
This backfires throughout and each time shows us why everyone loved Tom’s strip, especially when you’re a kid and may have had to deal with bullies yourself. From Braddock trying to steal some grub while Tom and Daisy panic because he hasn’t picked a “wimp” (guest starring Mauler Morrison again from #54), to the crew deciding an infant school is the perfect target, the message is clear. Finally, it’s probably a coincidence but that verbal noise “OWK!” Tom makes when he’s trampled on caught my eye because I see it alternatively as ‘OWK!’ and ‘OINK’!
This has been a simply brilliant series and I’m sad it’s over but there are plenty of laughs to come from Tom in future issues, particularly in the monthlies if memory serves. Sticking with this issue for now, in The Life and Times of Harry the Head (his first full-page since the weeklies began) we get a little behind-the-scenes look at the making of The OiNK! 45 record and whatever name Charlie Brooker gave his chain-smoking victim of The Swinelight Zone has been changed to a more familiar one.
You can see here that Steve Gibson’s name has been pasted in after the strip was completed. I asked Steve about this and he tells me he used to smoke at the time and fellow cartoonist Marc Riley (Harry the Head‘s creator and star of Snatcher Sam) hated that, so while he was doing some pasting work with the editors he changed this character’s name as a joke. Last week we learned how the OiNK editors played a little joke on Lew too. I love little in-jokes like these and it all adds to that anarchic OiNK feeling!
A humour strip about a zombie and his undead friends isn’t something you’d imagine having gorgeous artwork but Eric ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson really delivers this week with his latest Dead Fred. Written by Ken F Sutherland, like Harry above it’s not often we’d see Fred get so much space. This page shows he really was able to carry the larger format. Unfortunately though, instead of more full-page strips for the character this would actually be his penultimate story! One more in the second monthly issue to come and then he’d finally rest in peace.
Certainly the last thing I expected from a Dead Fred strip was what on the surface looks like a moving war story regarding the Battle of the Somme.
Of course we know all of this wartime storytelling, complete with art that in some panels wouldn’t look out of place in Commando, must be leading to a joke and we’re not let down. In fact, I think the serious nature of the majority of the strip makes the opening and closing panels all the more silly by comparison and, I’ll say it again, I think it’s gorgeous. Just a few pages later we reach the back cover and some more unique art that you would only have seen in OiNK, with the return (at last!) of Hadrian Vile.
We’ve had some special pages from the character before, such as guides to everything from orchestras to babies, holiday photo albums, school magazines, letters to Santa and even a map of Scotland. But for almost all of the first 50 issues we enjoyed his Sekret Diary entries and this was what he was known for. Now, after a five issue hiatus he’s back, with Mark Rodgers is writing and Ian Jackson is drawing Hadrian but the diary has been dropped in favour of a new series, Vidiots – or Hadrian Vile’s Interleckshual guide to Tellyvision (a one-off of which had appeared in #23).
Love those little caricatures of Mark and Ian! It’s great to see Ian back after he also seemed to take a break lately (apart from a couple of mini-strips). But knowing what’s to come it’s sad to know that apart from one monthly entry and another in the second OiNK Book, the diary series was for all intents and purposes finished. If OiNK had remained weekly perhaps we’d see it return as co-editor Patrick Gallagher told us about other characters that had left us.
Unfortunately, Ian seems to move on to pastures new for the most part after this series too, so let’s enjoy his work while we can. It would remain on the back page for six issues altogether, finishing in #61. I did miss the insights into his family life and these were a much quicker read than a full strip, but at the time I figured it was just a temporary series and the diary would return straight after. So I really enjoyed having something different from one of my very favourite comics characters ever to finish off each issue with. I intend to enjoy them all over again and this first one is a very promising start.
Another daft newsagent reservation coupon by Patrick rounds off our review and looking at the most recent weekly OiNKs you can see, even with eight pages less, how much more rammed with content they were compared to others, and just how varied that content could be from page to page, and issue to issue. A recipe for success if ever there was one, surely. We’ll touch upon what led to OiNK’s eventual fate in a future post but for now I’m really enjoying my weekly trip down memory lane.
But we’ve more to come before #57! Regular readers will remember we used to have ‘Coming Up’ posts before each issue, back when OiNK had actual Next Issue promos. Since turning weekly these were dropped (the comic didn’t have themes to promote after all) but in three days on Monday 27th you’ll see their return. Well, for one edition anyway, the second OiNK Holiday Special, the review for which will be up on Wednesday 29th March! After that, #57 will be here on Friday 31st March 2023. A busy week ahead! Great, isn’t it?