Off we go! Happy 35th anniversary to my very favourite comic of all time and what I truly believe is still the funniest to ever grace shop shelves. The preview issue released the week before had prepared some for what was to follow, but the actual premiere issue made quite the impact all by itself with a free record on the cover and a matching cover image to promote it. This could not have failed to catch the eye.
We’ll take a closer look at the free gift in a bit but first let’s start with editor Uncle Pigg taking no nonsense from critic Mary Lighthouse on page two. Written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ian Jackson, these strips were a regular fixture for many of the early issues and starting in #3 would introduce the fortnightly subject of each issue. These would include your traditional Christmas and Hallowe’en editions, but could also be anything from music, computer games or pets, to space, health or war.
There’s no subject this time obviously but there is certainly an edge to the first few pages. Our editor introduces strips such as Ed Banger, the boy with the invincible headbutt and Mike and Spike, the naughty boy with a mohican and his equally naughty pet hedgehog. Both were drawn by Patrick Gallagher, who also put the cover together. Very modern, very 80s characters, both feel like they were intended to be regular fixtures, but Ed would only return once and after appearing in the preview issue this was Mike and Spike’s last.
But that was one of the things we loved about OiNK, the forever changing line up of regular, occasional and one-off characters kept things fresh and exciting rather than formulaic and predictable. In fact, it’s only upon looking back on the series I realise some of my favourite regular characters weren’t regular at all. But one thing we could always count on were spoof advertisements.
The half-page Uncle Pigg’s For Sale Column mimicked the kind of thing we’d see in local newspapers, except here they’re all being sold by one person, or rather pig. A precursor to the infamous GBH catalogue company in later issues, here everything is poor quality for extortionate prices. I particularly like the couple of running jokes, the ‘Barrel of Monkeys’ and ‘Live Shark’ gags rolling over into each subsequent, even funnier advert.
It might seem strange to have the above as one of our first highlights of the premiere issue rather than a strip, but these were ubiquitous with OiNK. However, only a few page turns later would be a strip set to astound the eyes of the young readers used to black and white or one-colour pages in their comics. The Street-Hogs were all set to make their grand entrance.
Written by one of the comic’s three creator-editors Mark Rodgers, who wrote so much of OiNK, it’s a spoof of classic Saturday morning television serials and their constant, increasingly ridiculous cliffhangers and even more ludicrous heroic escapes. However, inspiration could be traced back to everything from the 60s Batman to Starsky & Hutch.
It was all brought to life by the incredible talent of illustrator J.T. Dogg who, while comic artists usually draw their pages at a larger scale which is then shrunk down during publication, drew his pages at the same size as the finished product. Knowing this fact makes his beautiful colour work even more incredible in my eyes.
Dirty Harry, Emma Pig, Hi-Fat and their informant Hoggy Bear would fight against the butcher mafioso and find themselves in one escape-proof scenario after another for the first 11 issues, returning later for further serials. As well as being hilarious, Mark’s scripts also brought a real adventure vibe to things, albeit in suitable OiNK fashion. Is it any wonder they’re so fondly remembered to this day by so many pig pals.
The premiere issue saw some returning characters from the preview such as Burp, Weedy Willy and chat show host Terry Wogham, as well as the second OiNK Superstar Poster. This time it was Bacon Stevens (I’m sure Shaky would’ve approved) and friend of the comic BBC Radio DJ John Peel also got the OiNK treatment. New addition Hadrian Vile would prove to be an instant hit and appear in almost every issue too.
One thing I particularly loved were the takes on children’s story pages. We’d also get lots of cheeky digs at specific cartoons and toys but when OiNK took classic children’s book staples and created their own original tales they were simply magical, and no pun is intended here.
Daz‘s The Wonderful Adventure of Billy Batt and his Magic Hat takes the idea of rhyming children’s stories, told in picture panels and captions and illustrates it in what could be mistaken as a somewhat traditional fashion. That is, until you actually read it.
Daz would contribute quite a few of these to the early issues of OiNK, each one starting off innocently enough, building anticipation in the reader. As I read them, I’m just waiting for that moment in each story when it starts to take a turn for the surreal, the comedic or the horrific. Then of course, they’re all capped off with a killer last line.
So, it’s time we talked about that free gift.
“Poo-poo, tinkle-tinkle, parp-parp, OiNK!”Actual lyrics to The OiNK Song
Over a year later the team would bring us a record called The OiNK 45 which readers could buy through mail order. This is what I did back in 1987. It contained three songs, two of which had originally been on this special floppy flexidisc. Specially tuned to be enjoyed by young ears but excruciating for adults ones, The Oink Song and The Oink Rap were irritatingly catchy and I loved annoying my family with them at a volume they simply shouldn’t have been played at.
Along with silly dance moves (and alternative uses for the disc for those without record players) on a special double page spread were the lyrics. Whenever OiNK is brought up on some random social media chat it’s never too long before someone quotes the chorus of the song on the right!
Both were recorded by former member of The Fall, creator of Harry the Head and BBC Radio 6 Music DJ Marc Riley, The Oink Song’s effect of multiple squeaky pigs being achieved by overdubs. Creator-editor Tony Husband produced some of the electric percussion for the rap song and, according to Tony recently, “that influenced Public Enemy and Run DMC and all those people Dr. Dre talks about as a major influence.”
To hear some of The Oink Rap just check out the OiNK Blog YouTube Channel where it’s used for the opening and ending of each episode. Just remember, I did warn you in advance.
I’m very happy to see Tom Paterson return for this premiere issue after his Revenge Squad in the preview. Drawing another Pigg Tale written by Mark Rodgers, this strip makes the previous one look like a warm up. This is Tom without any of the constraints he had to work under elsewhere. It epitomises silliness and is chock full of his trademark sight gags and background jokes. Take your time in reading this one.
I love all of the little incidental details such as the explanation of where Jonesy’s underwear came from, the sound effects and descriptive words used throughout, even the obligatory bangers and mash. I even like his depiction of Uncle Pigg, even though by this time it was agreed he wouldn’t be a typical smelly pig. If Tom had been able to become a regular contributor his collection of strips by the end would’ve been second-to-none, but at least we can enjoy such brilliance as Testing Time.
One more highlight for this issue and it’s a rare colour outing for OiNK’s very own superhero.
David Haldane contributed quite a few strips to the comic, including Hugo the Hungry Hippo and the dark humour of the Torture Twins. Rubbish Man was his main character, where young hot dog salesman Jimmy Bung would save the world against a crazy array of villains by leaping into the nearest dustbin and becoming the smelly superhero, with everything from cold custard to mouldy mashed potato at his fingertips. Quite literally.
Haldane’s style has changed somewhat from the preview; his outlines are chunkier, the panels are fuller and overall it’s a much bolder look. It’s all very random, like organised chaos, which suits the overall comic perfectly. I love it. From the gorgeous colour work to the handily bleeped out curse words, it’s the final strip of the comic and the perfect way to end things for now.
As first impressions go this has been a great success and a joy to read from beginning to end. The sheer variety in the art styles alone was enough to make it stand out, but put those styles into genuinely hilarious strips, make them all different lengths, squeezing in as much as you possibly can to make use of every available space and print it all on extra large, glossy paper and what do you have? A comic like nothing else on the market. In other words, you have OiNK!