A brilliant headline pun welcomes us to the Hallowe’en issue of OiNK and what a great piece of coincidental timing, having the thirteenth issue out for the spooky season. At a time when most other humour comics had a strip on the cover OiNK’s bold, colourful covers really stood out and I think you’ll agree that’s certainly the case here with Ben Turner‘s one and only contribution to the comic and co-editor Patrick Gallagher‘s shivering version of his classic logo.
Ben is a seriously talented artist who at the time worked for Cosgrove Hall Productions (Danger Mouse, Count Duckula) alongside other OiNK artists Andy Roper and John Geering. He was also involved in producing and directing and from 1997 to 2006 was Creative Director at Cosgrove Hall Films where one of his projects was The BFG. Now working independently as a freelance director and designer in animation he was Art Director on CBBC’s Chuggington, a show which Patrick actually wrote some episodes for.
In addition to all the themed laughs inside there are two event strips, both of which involve Lew Stringer. The first is a character crossover between Lew’s Tom Thug and Mike Green‘s Weedy Willy, who was created by Graham Exton and written either by him or co-editor Mark Rodgers. It kicks off with their individual strips. Tom was drawn by a 27-and-three-quarters-years-old Lew (according to his signature) and also includes future star Pete and his Pimple‘s sister Zeta.
Embarrassed in front of a girl by his own ineptness he’s jokingly compared to Willy and, Tom being the dim-witted bully he is, naturally decides to go and beat up Willy as revenge for this slight. At the same time Willy is yet again falling foul of his own attempts to woo Dishy Mandy who compares his intelligence to Tom’s. Everything is now set for a Clash of the Titans! We even get to see Tom angrily cutting across a field to get to his nemesis in Davy Francis‘ Cowpat County.
The idea for the strip was suggested by Graham as a battle “between the two cowards, Tom and Willy.” Mark then scripted and in the days before the internet the artwork was shared via post. Lew pencilled and inked his bits first, loosely indicating in pencil where Weedy Willy should be. According to Lew, Mike was free to change these of course and it was all achieved quite easily in the end, as he doesn’t recall any back and forth being necessary.
I love how in the end these two complete opposites are more alike than they’ll ever realise. Everything they say out loud is said by the other at exactly the same time. Lew’s and Mike’s different styles come together flawlessly so it’s unfortunate it’d be the only time something like this would be created for the comic. There would be crossovers between Lew’s characters and different artists would draw one another’s for guest appearances, but this is a truly unique strip and one of the classics of the whole run.
Moving on to the Hallowe’en hilarity and one of our favourite characters finds himself up against an unspeakable terror. So what do you think happens when Ian Knox‘s Roger Rental Meets the Slithering Horror?
The next two strips are perfect examples of the little one-offs which made up so much of our fortnightly dose of OiNK, the first of which is also the debut of Davey Jones to its pages (and his first published comics work). Davey is best known for his work on Viz, which he was freelancing for at the time before joining their staff in 1990. Some of his most famous creations are The Real Ale Twats, Gilbert Ratchet and Major Misunderstanding.
Here he puts a new spin on an old dog trick in Henry the Wonder Dog. Davey would contribute to 17 issues of OiNK altogether but as for Henry he’d only reappear once in #29. Strangely, so would the joke in a different strip later in the run.
The second strip is another by Lew Stringer. (This issue’s review is turning into a Lew special!) Doctor Jeckyll’s Experiment could’ve been told over half as many panels, but with the extra space here Lew’s expert comedic timing really pays off with some hilarious facial expressions, especially from the newly furry Jeckyll.
Do you remember the Care Bears, the saccharin Sunday morning cartoon with garishly coloured teddy bears? Based on the toys of the same name they were everywhere in the 1980s and even had their own comic from Marvel UK. But this is OiNK, so take that name and think of an appropriately ghoulish (and piggy) take on sweet and cuddly soft toys and what do you come up with? The Scare Boars of course. I noticed there’s a little copyright line from IPC Magazines below this Madvertisement, so jokingly thought the publisher had considered they’d make for good merchandise.
As it turns out this wasn’t so far-fetched after all. Patrick tells me, “I think IPC recognised that the characters (mocked up to a finished standard) could be highly marketable and might draw the attention of potential investors, and therefore deemed it necessary to state ownership (which, incidentally, they’d already stated in the full imprint earlier on). Though, whether they own as much as they claim is another matter!”
Who wouldn’t have wanted to own one of these? Which one would you have picked? For me it would have been Hampire Boar but it appears he and Skele Boar could be out there terrorising unsuspecting kids if a video posted by Patrick on the OiNK Facebook group is anything to go by. Check this out.
I know from social media and the previous iteration of this blog that this particular Madvertisement is a favourite among many, so to see one of its creators with Hunchback Boar like this is brilliant! So funny. If you’re not already a member of the group you should really join because it’s a great place for pig pals to chat and OiNK’s contributors (in particular Patrick) are always sharing bits and pieces about the creation of our favourite comic. Unmissable.
At this point I’d normally select a few memorable panels from various strips to give you an inkling of the rest of its contents. Instead, for this issue I wanted to show off two little panels from the Golden Trough Awards which were now being drawn by Tony Husband. A Hallowe’en special wouldn’t be complete without a Dracula story and here the terrified villagers have hatched a plan to rid themselves of the Count once and for all, and it involves headphones.
This wouldn’t be the last time Steve Wright would be the butt of a joke in OiNK. In fact, just to show how he could laugh at himself and take it all in good jest he would appear in a later issue and collect an award for Worst DJ as voted for by the readers!
Over the past few issues Jeremy Banx contributed some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments with some very surreal one-off strips, the kind he does so well. If you’ve missed Mrs. Warsaw-Pact or Ian Nasalcavity Visits his Grandparents you can check them out in the reviews for #10 and #11 respectively before we move on to the last of this little series of random extra strips.
In The Curse of the Mummy we’re introduced to more impossibly-named individuals, Barty Pimple-Squeak and Mervin Vermin-St. John-Platt who are searching the tomb of an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh. Not to be outdone, the former ruler is none other that King Sir Alf Rameses III and all of that is just in the opening caption! Just remember this is a Banx strip, so clearly whatever curse is unleashed upon the archaeologists is like nothing you could predict.
Being fascinated with Ancient Egypt myself this was a very welcome surprise addition. In fact, maybe due to my interest in the subject matter and how this perfectly spoofs it (or maybe just because Jeremy is a genius) this had me laughing even more than the previous two I mentioned above. Every single panel has a brilliant gag so good any one of them could be used as the punchline ending in other humour strips! This is right up there with Jaws ’86 for me.
“Through the interaction of vile jellies and mushy peas, the dumped dinners came to life!”Lew Stringer (Monster Mash)
The final highlight is the other event strip and it’s the introduction to a much-loved character who would only appear in a handful of editions, but who left a big impression. A very BIG impression. This was the issue before I originally started buying OiNK as a kid and it’s such a shame because as a child I loved watching those old rubber-suited Godzilla monster movies late at night on Channel Four, so this would’ve been right up my alley. It’s time to welcome Pigswilla.
Co-editor Mark Rodgers had the idea for a strip where a massive collection of discarded school dinners came to life. He wrote the first script and then handed it off to Lew Stringer to develop further before drawing it. Originally called “The School Dinner Monster” Lew changed this to Monster Mash and created “Pigzilla” to combat the sludge. In their collaborative effort Mark changed this to Pigswilla which is of course brilliant. Only appearing in seven editions of the comic (including two of the annuals) made every one of his stories an extra special treat.
Lew wrote about the creation of Pigswilla and this particular strip on his Lew Stringer Comics blog back in 2016 to mark its 30th anniversary where he mentions working with Mark and how the paper used to print OiNK made for some lovely artistic choices.
Lew writes: “As OiNK was printed on quality paper (as opposed to the newsprint of its companion comics Buster, Whizzer and Chips etc.) I knew we could be a bit more adventurous with the rendering of the artwork so I thought a grey wash would give it more depth. I was really pleased with how the strip turned out and it remains one of my favourite pieces 30 years later.” Head on over to Lew’s blog for more.
I hope you all have a horrific Hallowe’en in the best possible way. What a great way to mark the season this issue has been. No wonder it’s Lew’s favourite issue from the first calendar year of OiNK one of Patrick’s favourites from the whole run.
At the time of writing this post it’s a busy time on the blog with more real time read throughs beginning and bringing the current running total to six at once! The review of the first issue of the latest series will actually be up on 31st October, Hallowe’en itself, which is just perfect for that comic as you’ll see. Then just one day later the 14th issue of OiNK, the first I ever owned(!) will be reviewed on Monday 1st November 2021 or as I like to call it, the beginning of Christmas Eve Month.