I had a particularly pleasant time reading this issue of OiNK. It’s always a positive experience but blue skies, a beer and a furry feline friend for company heightened it even further. It was a different reading experience for what is a very different issue, kicking off with co-editor Patrick Gallagher‘s anarchic front cover.
As mentioned last time, after what must’ve been an exhaustive summer special Uncle Pigg and his staff were off on holidays, leaving issue eight in the capable hands of his skeleton staff. While their hands would be anything but capable, the second part of his description was more accurate. That’s right, actual skeletons make up the skeleton staff (of course they do) and the front cover pretty much sums up what’s to come with its slapdash approach and apparent mistakes.
Inside we meet Boss Bones and some of the hilarious substitutes for the humans that normally put the comic together. Brilliantly, the artists’ signatures have even been changed throughout to match these pseudonyms; some have clearly been edited after the fact but some have been changed by the artists themselves.
Throughout we’re treated to the skeletons printing whole pages upside down, spilling jam and bursting their fountain pens as they make a general hash of putting an issue of OiNK together. Here are two such examples from the Grunts letters page and Marc Riley‘s Harry the Head.
Two of the artists who really embraced the chaos were Jeremy Banx and Davy Francis, or rather their substitutes ‘Bonex’ and ‘Bony Hart’, the latter named after Tony Hart, the famous 80s children’s TV artist. Mr Big Nose‘s strip is made up of completely random panels with no correlation to each other, the star telling us it would’ve all made sense if the skeletons had remembered to include speech balloons. Jeremy later brings us three comic-invading butchers, a one off surprise that evolves into the ongoing Butcherwatch series, which in turn will introduce us to the comic’s arch nemesis, Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith.
I’m reminded of a stand up comedian (I want to say Lee Evans) who noticed how everyone loves their local butcher, they comment on how friendly and trustworthy they are, they chat away while ordering their food, and this all happens despite the fact the butcher’s apron will invariably be covered in blood from the carcasses of dead animals they sawed into little bits just moments before. I remember laughing at this and I’ve never forgotten it to this day when I visit my local shop and see that play out in front of me.
This just reminded me of that.
Davy’s alter ego wasn’t in the same league as his namesake, as evidenced with his How to Draw page written by Mark Rodgers, or rather ‘Jolly Rodgers’. Bony’s advice was to cheat at every possible opportunity. This could include only showing the backs of heads because there are less features to draw, only having buildings very far away so they are nothing more than dots on the horizon, and never showing still figures. He claims this final tip is because they’re boring for the reader, but the real reason is so he can draw them running out of frame, their body replaced with nothing but zoom lines.
The OiNK Superstar Posters make a welcome return this issue, or rather a generic ‘OiNK Poster’ is included. The reason a word is missing from the title is the subject matter. In the previous issue Ian Jackson (who had taken over poster duties from J.T. Dogg) drew Uncle Pigg as the subject of the only OiNK MEGAstar Poster, so with it being the turn of Mary Lighthouse (critic) the bland title this time is a joke in itself.
Mary’s a surprising pick so naturally before any of us would’ve pinned her up on our bedroom walls she had to be the butt of a joke. This is brilliantly explained in a full page strip by Mark and Ian in which the skeleton crew try their best, which of course means the worst possible outcome will inevitably happen.
Moving on, the gorgeous lady below played the role of Terry Wogham in an early photo story series, one of which I’ve already shown in issue five‘s review. This would be her final appearance, shot all out of focus after the skeletons handed the role of photographer to Weedy Willy. Tony Husband told me he went on all of the photoshoots for this particular series including the last one, during which the farmer told them they’d completed their story just in time because she was due to go to the slaughterhouse the next day!
Having gotten to know her over a few years the team’s hearts were broken and they even considered buying her and renting a field in which she could live out the rest of her life, but unfortunately they weren’t able to in the end. Terry lives on though in the hearts and minds of pig pals everywhere.
Towards the back of the comic Uncle Pigg’s loyal assistant Percy Plop (named for the first time) telephones his boss to inform him of how the issue is panning out and the response is so loud it flings Percy across the room where he sticks to the wall! We get a brilliant strip showing our editor’s return to the office which acts as a full page Next Issue promo. You’ll see it on Friday 20th August, a few days before issue nine’s review. With the comic back in his capable trotters it was time for a more traditional ending to the issue.
“We really got the drop on him, didn’t we?”Eustace the Underpants
Do you remember Jimbo & the Jet Set? Were you a fan? Are you singing the theme tune now? Oh dear, sorry. Premiering on BBC One in the early weeks of 1986 the show was at its height when OiNK came along, making it perfect fodder for the team’s own spin on the idea of anthropomorphic objects. If you watched the cartoon you’ll know Jimbo was joined by various talking trucks, helicopters and even a set of airplane steps, all chattering away on the tarmac. Patrick Gallagher decided to run with that idea.
This wouldn’t be the last time a popular talking form of transport would get the OiNK treatment. If you think back to the 1980s I’m sure if you try to guess who I’m talking about you’ll be on the right track. It’s a favourite of mine so I’ll definitely be including that one too.
Let’s finish this issue with the back cover, where we find Tom Thug and his dad have made it to Blackpool after setting off last issue. It’s not only the first time we get to see a colour strip from Lew Stringer in OiNK, it was the first one he’d produced to ever see print. Readers of The Transformers would’ve seen coloured Robo-Capers by Lew before now but those were coloured in-house at Marvel UK using overlays for flat colours.
IPC Magazines printed OiNK on high grade paper and everything was hand coloured for more depth. To be fair, the early editions of Transformers contained hand coloured artwork on the main strip and cover too. In the case of this Tom Thug strip Lew used water colour inks and the result is lovely. Even that final panel.
Speaking of which, according to Lew the final panel had some dialogue edited by one of the comic’s editors; the word “sink” was originally meant to be “bog”. It was rare for something like that to be changed in OiNK.
Having a full colour back page surely shows how well regarded Tom was with the editors. He was certainly appreciated by the fans, including this one. To this day Tom is my favourite comics character of all time and I’ll be looking forward to each of his instalments in this read through.
So that’s us for another issue. OiNK may be safely back in the trotters of Uncle Pigg but I don’t think Mary Lighthouse will be as safe, not with the next issue’s theme being that of revenge. You can check back in two weeks to see exactly how that’s enacted, the next review is published on Monday 23rd August. Ta-ra for now.