OiNK! #23: ELECTRiFYiNG COMEDY

So what exactly makes up an “all-electric” comic? Context is key here. This was the 1980s and electronic entertainment of every description was taking a hold in our daily lives. Things we take for granted today were in their infancy and it was an exciting time, especially for kids. I can clearly remember being very young indeed, possibly five or six years-of-age when our family bought our first VHS recorder and an engineer had to come out to instruct us in how to use it. I was fascinated. I ended up being the only one who could operate it after he left!

Video recorders were brand new and completely changed how (and the amount of) television and films we watched, with video shops popping up for the first time. Computer games were fast becoming the biggest form of entertainment for children, something which just hadn’t been predicted. Interactive television in the shape of Teletext and Oracle was revolutionising how we kept ourselves up-to-date on the latest news. 3D movies, portable music, digital watches… everything was brand new. All perfect material for an OiNK subject, and that’s before we’ve even touched upon 80s movies and TV!

So first up here’s a particular fan favourite, Lew Stringer‘s Pete and his Pimple. First appearing in a tiny strip underneath a Tom Thug story in #6, he became a regular character from #15 onwards and Pete and his giant exploding spot were a highlight of every issue he appeared in. Tom and Pete were always (and remain) my very favourite OiNK characters and I’m not alone. Later in the comic’s run during its weekly and monthly phases, Lew asked readers to send in suggestions for cures for Pete’s problem and the pig pals really responded!

However, when OiNK folded into Buster towards the end of 1988 Pete’s strip had to be sanitised somewhat. Panels full of pus, covering everything and everyone, just weren’t something you could show in that comic. After six months the strip disappeared from its pages but while OiNK was being published Pete was a superstar. So much so a Sylvester Stallone-alike was going to play him in a new TV series and even his pimple was going to be played by an actor. This strip contains everything we came to love about a Pete story and I like the little details such as the “advanced technical stuff” which of course now looks lovely and retro, the panel that dramatically reveals Fatty Beltbuckle and the skin and pus holding the strip’s name together.

The first caption almost saw my comic being confiscated by our Latin teacher when my friend, who was reading it, burst!

Moving on and the next strip is one I clearly remember from the time because I had to ask my dad what a TV Licence was. There were a few of these strips in OiNK’s lifetime which acted as a kind of Public Service Announcement (there’s a second one further below), albeit in the comic’s usual style. There would be anti-smoking messages and another one about looking after our teeth which terrified me as a kid (you’ll see it in a later issue’s review). With the way the world of entertainment is evolving these days I can’t see the TV Licence being a thing in the next ten years or so (but the BBC will survive) so this Tony Husband strip will be very much of its day. Another piece of lovely 80s goodness.

Now, there are certain 80s movies which are simply deemed classics.  They don’t necessarily have to be Oscar contenders, I’m talking about the fun films we grew up with and left an indelible impression on us. I think 80s films have a certain feel to them that just screams that decade and one particular film is the next to get the OiNK treatment. I only saw it recently for the first time and, while it didn’t enthral me in the way it would’ve at the time, it still had a lovely mix of 80s stars and big chunky keyboards when a computer game nearly results in thermonuclear war, as only an 80s film could.

I am of course talking about WarGames starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy, which writer Tony Husband has decided to take aim at in a strip drawn by Chas Sinclair. Whereas in the film the kids almost accidentally start a war, here they accidentally stop one and this doesn’t go down well with the world’s leaders who want nothing more than to obliterate all life on the planet so they can feel superior. The message in this strip is clear and it’s hilariously presented, right down to that 80s movie cliché of just how easy it apparently was to hack any computer in the world.

“We’ll find out who did this terrible thing”, says the American, referring to the children who have actually stopped the world’s populace from being annihilated. I laughed at how he and his enemy are on the phone, angry at having been stopped from destroying each other. Some things in the world have not changed and yes, this is a highly exaggerated spoof, but as far as the tensions of the Cold War in the 80s I think it summarises that time perfectly.

A couple of issues ago the back page of the Valentine’s OiNK had another of those superb full-colour Ian Jackson contributions, one of which (back in #4) remains to this day as my very favourite page out of all of OiNK’s issues. I remarked in #21 how it would’ve been wonderful to see every issue of the comic end with one of these, a serial of completely unconnected strips, all hilariously illustrated by Ian. Imagine curious kids picking up an issue from the shelves and turning the comic over to see these. How many would’ve been instantly won over? This issue’s isn’t on the back cover, instead it’s tucked away inside but it’s still just as funny.

It almost feels a shame to have it inside the comic but when you see what’s on the back page you’ll understand. So let’s have a quick look at some of the other highlights of the issue. There’s a photo story made up of a series of mini-strips running throughout the issue which combines the best (worst?) of American and British television, in the King Solomon’s Swines serial Sir Herbert Quarterbrain‘s attempt at pleasing the enemy backfires and Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins makes a stand against some new friends. Also, Burp gets to enjoy all those fantastic 80s 3D feature films in the comfort of his own home and The Spectacles of Doom makes a funny reference to a song which at the time was actually banned.

OiNK finished its regular run in 1988 but a couple of years later I was in my second year of grammar school and a new kid had joined our class. Because he hadn’t been taught Latin in the first year of where he came from he had to sit out those lessons, and officially was meant to use the 35 minutes in that classroom to study. On one occasion however, I happened to have the OiNK! Summer Collection with me, the final special released after the comic had finished it was made up almost entirely of reprint material. The next page from this issue was one of those reprints.

How Radio Sound Effects Are Produced was written by co-editor Patrick Gallagher and Marc Riley who put it together from plundering an old book of Victorian illustrations and creating brilliant captions to completely change their meaning. The first caption almost saw my comic being confiscated by our Latin teacher when my friend, who was sat right behind me, burst! A huge “HA!” erupted uncontrollably from him before he was able to stop himself. He quickly hid the comic inside a text book and said he’d seen something outside as the teacher glared him down! Have a read for yourself and see if you can spot the moment which produced this outburst.

Of course, the official meaning of the word you’ve probably spotted is “a tube made of fur or other warm material into which the hands are placed for warmth”, which you can clearly see in the illustration. However, the dictionary also lists the word as ‘vulgar slang’ and, being an immature 12-year-old boy at the time (as we all were) it took him rather by surprise, to say the least. I can remember being physically sore trying to hold my breath to stop myself from laughing after this happened! Just another fantastic OiNK memory.

Before we see that back page I mentioned it’s time for a Public Service Announcement from new OiNK writer Howard Osborne. Howard would contribute to 19 editions of the comic altogether, often writing a few strips per issue. Here he’s partnered with Weedy Willy artist Mike Green to teach the kids about looking after their teeth and it includes a comical shark, so I was always going to include it.

I crease up every time I see that shark sitting on top of the shallow waters with its cheeky grin and crazy eyes. I’ll admit I was a somewhat lazy kid when it came to brushing my teeth and generally looking after myself, but that would all change with a later strip in OiNK which we’ll get to eventually (it’s the one that scared me that I mentioned above). But for now, I do love the moral at the end of this particular strip, with the usual wording flipped on its head.

So it’s Lew Stringer who brings the issue to a close with a full-colour strip on the back page. But it’s not just any strip, it’s all told in rhyme, something Lew seemed to really enjoy as he’d do it quite a few times during OiNK’s lifespan. This particular strip focusses on one of the truly great pieces of 80s technology, the personal stereo (or ‘Walkman’ as most of us called it after Sony’s name became ubiquitous with the devices). So with music playing a central role here the rhyming captions are the perfect way to tell the story.

According to Lew the rhyme at the bottom was an addition co-editor Mark Rodgers asked for (and wrote). The idea behind the strip was to shock children into paying attention when they crossed the road, but he believes Mark may have thought it could be misconstrued as making fun of road deaths, hence the Green Hog Code being added. It’s a great addition and after the ending I think it’s funny to have a pig come in with their stern look and tell us off. The strip itself is brilliant and this wraps it up as if the whole page was spoofing those Green Cross Code videos and leaflets we saw so much of as kids.

It also wraps up the issue. It goes without saying this is another top edition of OiNK. The comic really could do no wrong at this stage and this will continue with #23, the Time Travel Special. Complete with an 80s Doctor Who themed cover and multipage Uncle Pigg strip it’s one of the very best! Its review will be right here on the blog from Monday 7th March 2022.

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