OiNK! #24: TiME FOR LAUGHS

As both an OiNK and a Doctor Who fan, seeing our editor Uncle Pigg dressed as the Doctor, swirling about through time being chased by angry butchers and all drawn by Ian Jackson is an absolute treat for my eyes. What a way to start an issue! As a kid I only began watching Doctor Who the following year and by then Sylvester McCoy was already in the role, but I was fully aware of who this parody was based on. At the time of its publication Colin Baker had finished his final series but had yet to be replaced, his character’s horrid dress sense perfectly captured here by Ian.

As we had with the first Christmas issue, this Time-Travel Special sees Uncle Pigg leave the OiNK office and set out on a multi-page strip throughout the issue, courtesy of writer Mark Rodgers. Running late, he stumbles upon butchers unloading livestock and makes a run for it, mistakenly assumed to be one of their escaped pigs. He dives into a rather familiar looking police phone box to hide and the adventure begins.

I love the fact the disguise he’s grabbed in a haphazard hurry from the local fancy dress shop is a dead ringer for the Sixth Doctor‘s eyesore of a costume and the fact it’s his trotter that gives the game away and not his piggy face! He rematerialises three more times on separate pages in the issue, the first set in prehistoric times where cavemen with butcher aprons and hats are chasing down wild boars.

He quickly sets course for home. He wants to stay because the hogs looked underfed and miserable, but he can’t change the past, it would be too dangerous. Unbeknownst to him, his sudden appearance scared the butchers so much they now worship the very animals they were trying to eat! Then it’s off to 2987AD, exactly one thousand years into the future, and suitably enough for how he got there he bumps into familiar-looking future versions of butchers, the most terrifying of all! Have a look.

I love this theme of simply adding an apron and hat, and in the case of the Daleks actual weapons (or rather, butcher’s tools) instead of their 80s sink plungers. It’s such a simple idea but absolutely hilarious. Uncle Pigg gets out of this tight spot by sharing copies of OiNK, its humour overloading their circuits and freeing the people from their tyranny. As he leaves he tells them if they need more copies for the fight they should place a regular order at their newsagents. We then see the people later worshipping a statue of him while asking, “What’s a ‘newsagent’?”

Uncle Pigg’s TARDIS pops up at various points in the issue

It’s imaginative, original and genuinely very funny throughout. Mark is nothing short of a comics writing genius and Ian’s artwork brings these ideas to life in a way that completely matches their crazy nature. It’s such a shame this would be the last time they’d create a long strip like this for the character. It’s definitely the highlight of the issue and indeed one of my favourite moments from the whole run, not least because he’s not just confined to the pages of his own story.

Much like Star Truck in #3 (and the forthcoming OiNK! Book 1988) which saw our heroes appear among the stars of other strips, so Uncle Pigg (or his TARDIS at least) pops up at various points in the issue and it was fun to spot these as a child. Heck, let’s face it, it’s fun to see it pop up now as an adult, whether it’s in the background or in a way that actually affects the plot of another story.

We can see the TARDIS floating about in Lew Stringer’s Pete and his Pimple strip after Pete accidentally fell into a time warp and also ended up in prehistoric times, then in Dick Tater, Dictator of Time written by Tim Quinn (his one contribution to OiNK) and drawn by Ed McHenry he causes a pile-up in between time zones and in Spotticus the Slave he saves the title character from being eaten by a lion. This last strip was (and I quote), “Writed and drawed bi Davey Jonsey, Pillock-of-the-Year 1981“.

The conclusion is right at the back of the comic and the solution is a simple one; just land on the butchers’ heads and free all the captured piggies. A happy ending all round! We even get a little cameo from the Doctor and this isn’t the first time Colin Baker has been immortalised in an Ian Jackson drawing. Check out #3‘s review for his earlier appearance. What a fantastic strip this has been!

The rest of the issue is just as good, with the vast majority sticking to the theme either by including time travel or being set in the distant past or future. But my first highlight is neither, it was just too funny and too memorable to leave out. It’s the first time I’ve shown an entry from this series on the blog and it might surprise pig pals to know there weren’t that many overall.

In my head the Rotten Rhymes series was in nearly every issue, particularly during the later fortnightlies but in reality there were only 13 of these funny takes on nursery rhymes, and mainly during the monthly issues towards the end of OiNK’s run. Taking a traditional nursery rhyme and changing the last line, often throwing away the need to rhyme at all, they’d be written and drawn by a variety of contributors and Humpty Dumpty by Davy Francis is one of the very best.

My memory may have let me down insofar as how many Rotten Rhymes there were, but I can actually remember reciting this in school to several of my friends. It’s strange the little random memories this blog has brought back to the surface. There are others in this series I loved but this always remained the most memorable, simply because of how brazenly it dealt with the main character! But that’s not all from Davy I want to show you from this issue.

Sometimes in humour comics a character could become a one-trick pony, their regular antics basically playing out exactly the same way every issue but perhaps in a slightly different setting. This was certainly the case with some of the other titles I dipped into back then to see if any would interest me in the same way as this one. None of them really did, so I stuck with OiNK for the time being. Some of OiNK’s own characters could appear on the surface to be examples of these repetitive strips, but in reality they were far from that. Take Davy’s Greedy Gorb for instance.

A boy who eats everything, food or otherwise, is a simple idea that could’ve run dry very quickly in lesser hands. But thanks to Davy every episode was fresh and funny, and he never failed to raise a laugh. The brilliantly named mad scientist Doctor Maddstark-Raving would also get spun off into some strips of his own now and again, such was his potential in Davy’s crazy mind.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Snatcher Sam in the comic and this issue puts that right, although not in his usual photo story format. Instead, Mike Taylor does a superb job of drawing Marc Riley as the clueless thief (and I think Pat Healy as the guard, previously seen in #7‘s Swindler Sid story). It suits the Olde English theme of the page a lot better than photographs ever could and I think the style Mike has used here is very inventive, giving it a unique feel.

As if reinventing Marc as an actual comic strip wasn’t good enough, that final pun is just brilliant. All of the ridiculousness, the seemingly random pratfalls and idiocy is all for a reason, all building to the name of this Dick Turpin-inspired highway robber. It’s nothing short of genius, in both Mark’s writing and Mike’s illustrations, hiding behind what on the surface is just plain silliness. Surely that’s the very essence of OiNK?

Chas Sinclair‘s artwork is perfect for stories such as the next one, written by Tony Husband. He has a knack of making a strip look more mature, a little more like something I might have seen in my brother’s Roy of the Rovers or something. For me this works perfectly because given OiNK’s track record so far, the more it looks like a story we’d find in a non-humour comic, the more insane and funny it usually is. Check out Scruff of the Track, Janice and John and Watery Down for instance. I’m very glad to say No News Is Good News keeps to this tradition.

I really thought the strip was going to end with James Fishpond being hit by the bus and it’d be an OiNK version of The Twilight Zone, the prediction in the newspaper actually causing the event. (The later regular strip, The Swinelight Zone would do strips like that.) But not only is it completely ridiculous how he’s able to talk aloud about how the bus is going to kill him and devise a plan to stop it from happening, all before the bus actually does so (when he clearly had time to jump out of the way), but the poor chap who does get hit is even worse! A brilliantly funny strip that uses the subject of the issue in an original way. Great stuff.

Next to this page is the first of a two-part Tom Thug strip. You might think it’d all return to normal by the next issue, but I can remember the final panel here being picked up on in #25. We welcome back Tom’s nemesis, posh clever kid Wayne Brayne who was first introduced in #10 and who would normally outsmart the dimwitted numbskull with ease, but here he’s decided to be proactive in an attempt to stop Tom’s bullying for good. As you’ll see, in a surprise twist the person punished at the end isn’t the one you’d usually expect.

Remember kids, never lower yourself to the level of the bully, even if your intentions are good. I recalled the panel of an elderly Tom but I thought I remembered it being some kind of time travel where an actual older version of himself terrified him. Nope, it’s all a ruse, but it has the same effect. Another incorrect assumption on my part was thinking it’d all simply be back to normal next time, but you’ll see I was wrong about that too.

Of course, the world sadly did lose Mark in the early 1990s, so this little gag of his is a bittersweet moment.

Back in the 80s I can remember one piece of primary school homework when we were asked to imagine what our lives would be like in the year 2000. Cue lots of moving walkways and flying cars. It seemed so far away and it’s scary to think that futuristic date is actually further into the past now than it was into the future when we were imagining it!

We weren’t the only ones to dream of life in the future and here writer Mark Rodgers and artist Ed McHenry have created this brilliant back cover to finish the issue. Using the logo of the famous sci-fi comic, a stablemate of OiNK’s from the same publisher, there’s a lot to love here in the little details. Ed is friends with Davy Francis so check out the little desk inscription next to the Cowpat Planet strip, the name of the robot churning out the art, the huge computer monitor layout still using a fiddly indoor aerial, the piggy bank and even a standard office-like holiday rota but for plops!

One little detail here stands out though. At the bottom you’ll see Mark has written in that his brain is being kept alive in a jar hooked up to a script computer. Of course, the world sadly did lose Mark in the early 1990s, so this little gag of his is a bittersweet moment. However, Mark would still want us to laugh and it is funny to think of how his own creation would still expect him to keep on churning out the story ideas.

That’s all the time we have for this time-travel issue and it’s been a blast from the past from page one to 32. Mark and the entire team pulled out all the stops for this one and the fortnightlies only get better and better from here on. My own favourite point in OiNK‘s lifespan will be towards the end of the year and I simply can’t wait. Next up though is the Toys and Hobbies Issue, the review of which will be here from Monday 4th April 2022.

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