This review was due on 21st February, click here to find out about the delay. More catch-ups to come this week.
After all our characters became so loved up in the Valentine’s issue it’s time for them to face adventure, danger, fantasy quests and newly discovered Egyptian tombs in back gardens in Timperley. The 22nd issue of OiNK is the Magic and Fantasy Issue and kicks off with a gorgeous Andy Roper cover that ties in (sort of) to the first episode of The Spectacles of Doom inside. Not only that though, but this is that staple of 80s and 90s UK comics, a wraparound cover poster! Have a look.
So how does it only sort of tie in with the strip? Well, that figure on the front is clearly modelled on main character Prince Endor but he’s actually the dimwitted hero of the tale, whereas above he’s portrayed as a vicious butcher, complete with apron and sausages wrapped around his neck. That’s certainly not who he is, so I’m not at all sure why he’s been drawn as the baddie here. Maybe it’s just an example of another 80s thing we all knew very well, the evil twin! Yes, that’ll do, I’ll go with that.
The strip itself is the first of a short two-part mini-series written by one of OiNK’s creators/editors Tony Husband and drawn by Andy. Taking a shot at the fantasy adventure movies of the 80s which all seemed to involve epic journeys across dangerous, impossibly-named lands with very specific ways of dying around every corner, Tony’s script is full of originality and wit. I particularly like the solution to crossing the Valley of a Million jokes.
The Spectacles of Doom proved popular and returned for a longer five-part serial later and then again in a spectacle-arly illustrated final episode in the second (and last) OiNK Book. Both of these would be in colour and were just as much a treat for the eyes as they were for the funny bone. You can see an example of the art from the annual story in the obituary for the late and very, very great Andy Roper.
Under a Weedy Willy strip a few pages later in the comic the remainder of the page is seemingly filled up with a few advertisements. There are the usual ones for stamp collecting and practical jokes which I’m sure readers of basically any comic from the mid-80s will remember, but something stuck out about the one next to them.
Oh, that tin can! I can still remember seeing that tin can for the first time. I’m sure it took all of five minutes to put together but I found it so funny as a kid that I haven’t forgotten it. It’s strange the things that left a lasting impression on us from this comic! Sometimes the simplest ideas really are the best.
Over the past several years I’ve had the pleasure of chatting away with fellow pig pals across social media, sharing memories as we reminisce about our OiNK comics collections which were lost to house moves or decluttering parents over the years. Thinking about those conversations there’s one line from a particular strip which has been quoted more often than any other. That line is in the following Mr. Big Nose strip by the incredibly talented and original Jeremy Banx. I’m sure you’ll be able to work out which line it is.
Every now and again in a string of comments an OiNK fan will randomly proclaim, “And the dolphin’s name was Keith” and everyone will know exactly what they’re referring to. I do remember laughing hysterically at the caption when I first read it way back in 1986 and even now as an adult, knowing it’s coming, it elicits childish giggles in me every single time. I also love how Jeremy has drawn the dolphin! One of my very favourite strips from all of OiNK’s issues and a fan favourite with many others it would seem. A lovely little random gem.
Elsewhere in this issue Pete and his Pimple visits a witch who concocts a rather dodgy solution to his problem, then perhaps a relative of her’s in one-off strip The Magic Forest second-guesses her own recipe list, and Nigel and Skrat the Two-Headed Rat makes a surprise reappearance to con some magic fans into handing over their money so they can chow down on their favourite food stuff.
Now, back at school a few friends became obsessed with fantasy role-playing games, playing with nothing more than dice and their imagination. I always wondered how they kept track of everything and what stopped them from cheating, but a few years later the board game HeroQuest came along and I saw first-hand how it all worked, albeit with a game board and actual player pieces. (Actually, now that I’m thinking about it I remember the Space Crusade board game in the 90s and coming up with a version of that which utilised the Barcode Battler! Do you remember that thing? Whoa, sorry, that just came back to me.)
Anyway, it would appear OiNK decided to have a little stab at its own version of one of these games with The Sword of Blatterlee. Played over two pages, it all kicks off with a quick scenario containing more strange names and a map of the castle you’re going to raid, one room of which is now much more sinister than it would’ve been at the time. Below that are the instructions for playing with dice and they’re just as straight forward and as easy to follow as I remember when my friends were trying to describe their Dungeons and Dragons game in the playground. Then it’s on to page two and the conclusion of your quest, so enjoy.
Of course it all has to end with a good (bad?) old pun, doesn’t it? I feel a bit guilty setting you up for that. But just a little. I asked editor Patrick Gallagher who created this when I spotted a tiny little “AW” behind our hero character, the initials unfamiliar to me. He’s not sure who the artist was (possibly a junior artist from Cosgrove Hall) but he’s almost certain Mark Rodgers wrote it. With that pun right at the end I’d have to agree.
From spoofing the games we now move on to having a giggle at the fans themselves, all in an affectionate way of course and a strip I’m sure my friends would’ve appreciated and found just as funny. Dice Maniac was created by Lew Stringer and only appeared in two issues of OiNK, but both were winners. The name (specifically the logo) was a parody of a short-lived 2000AD spin-off comic which only ran for five issues and had already been cancelled by this time.
Lew’s take focussed more on the fans of the dice-based role-playing games and young Frodo Johnson (funny use of the fantasy and the mundane) has taken his obsession of rolling dice to battle beasts and find treasures and brought it into his real life. No decision is made without a roll and every person or thing he encounters, no matter how ordinary, is transformed by his imagination into a quest to be undertaken or an enemy to defeat. Of course, every time he decides to use the dice it ends in disaster, but he’s never phased and I love that about him. Such a shame he would only appear in one later edition.
A double dose of David Haldane now, beginning with a quick trip to Zootown. The best episodes of these mini-strips were always the ones where the animals were dressed as we would be, with jobs or personal events taken straight from the human world, but with their animal traits providing the laughs. This is the perfect example and another classic funny strip.
David’s other contribution I want to highlight is one of the best pages of the whole issue. Conan the Barbarian as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger had been a massive hit in 1982, but between then and OiNK’s creation its sequel and attempted spin-off Red Sonja both flopped at the box office. Spoof movie sequels were some of the very best one-off strips in OiNK (my favourite strip of all is one of these, check out #6 for that one) and David’s take on the genre is no exception.
Perhaps due to the original’s success and Arnie’s role still very much being in the public consciousness, or maybe inspired by the unsuccessful campy sequels, David has created the origin story for his own muscle-bound fantasy hero, Konan the Accountant. Action, adventure, thrills, spills and a twist ending. What’s not to love?
That final panel is just brilliant. All of that build up, all of that gorgeous grey-shaded extravagances of the story, all brushed aside for a plainly drawn office job and the whole narrative completely forgotten about with one hilariously written caption. Brilliant stuff.
We’re almost done for another issue of the world’s greatest comic and one lovely treat awaits. As someone who is fascinated with Ancient Egypt, last Halloween (#13) Banx’s The Curse of the Mummy really was a special one for me. Now it’s the turn of OiNK’s superstar in residence, Frank Sidebottom (aka Chris Sievey) to bring us a page of Pharaohs, pyramids and ancient tombs, all in his unique style. There’s a lot to love here, both in the fun and imagination on show and also for me personally.
Frank wearing a burial mask had me sold from the start, but also the way it’s laid out, the writing and the colouring reminds me so much of the homemade comics my best friend and I back in primary school would’ve created for each other. (He created School Busters and The Battle-Oids, mine were called The Real Smokebusters and War-Bots. I wonder what inspired us.) Frank’s pages were unlike anything you’d find in any other comic. Period. Perfect for OiNK. My particular favourite moment here is how the name King Maurice Karmen reads just like another random name until we find out his brother’s first name.
“And the dolphin’s name was Keith.”Mr. Big Nose (Jeremy Banx)
That just about wraps up our trip into dangerous lands, ancient curses and medieval quests. OiNK comes bang up to date* with the All-Electric Issue, the review of which will be here from Monday 7th March 2022. So that gives you time to recharge, before you lead yourself back here to power through more of the same shockingly good humour.
*for the 80s