Usually with comics the special anniversary issues would mark the beginning of the next year of publication, on sale over the date of the first issue. OiNK decided to mark the end of the first year instead with their celebratory issue actually due to come off the shelves two days before the date of #1‘s release the previous year. Instead, #26 celebrated the launch of the preview issue, bundled inside other IPC comics on 26th April 986. That free issue gets several mentions inside.
Patrick Gallagher‘s Uncle Pigg and that shiny golden logo welcome us to the celebrations and inside it’s party time. If memory serves the second anniversary would be marked by nothing more than a passing mention on the letters page and unfortunately there wouldn’t be a third, so I intended to enjoy this one. Thankfully it wasn’t to let me down, starting off with this brilliant Pete and his Pimple from Lew Stringer in which he’s been invited to sign copies at a newsagent for the anniversary.
I did laugh when Pete felt he needed to elaborate on his comment about how it was a good thing he didn’t put the cream anywhere else. Lew’s background characters are as eclectic a bunch as you would expect and is that Wilfrid visiting from Bash Street in the doorway? Well no, that’s just a coincidence, but in asking Lew he pointed out someone I did miss. Standing in the doorway just behind him is none other than Lew’s spoof superhero character Brickman who, after the end of his strip in 1986, made disguised cameos (without mask, coat on top of his costume) in other strips in the Lewniverse. I can’t be the only fan who’ll find this surprising and funny in equal measure. (At the time one young reader did spot him and sent Lew all of the panels she’d spotted him in!)
At this point in the review I must issue a Reader Advisory before you scroll on down to the next strip. Those with a nervous disposition or a tricky tummy right now may want to skip past this next section. Don’t blame me, blame David Leach. What’s a party without a cake, and what could be better than a surprise cake? Well it all depends on who baked it I guess.
While David’s modern day Psycho Gran comics are much more adult than her antics in the pages of OiNK it’s very much the same sense of humour. In fact, this strip wouldn’t look out of place in one of her new comics, even if David might push the cringe factor more in that final panel. She had made her debut in #15 before disappearing again until half a dozen issues later (David was told very last minute they’d like her to be a regular character) and by this stage she was appearing in almost every issue, quickly becoming one of my favourites.
“I’ve picked some prime porky pranks from my readers to help celebrate a year of OiNKin’ good fun!”Uncle Pigg
OiNK was a lot more interactive with its audience than most comics of the day. Marvel UK had those fantastic, fondly remembered letters pages and IPC Magazines would feature something similar in their humour comics, with reader jokes and sketches thrown in. Closest to OiNK would’ve been editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s comics which were always known for their highly original ways in which readers could take part (see Wildcat, Ring Raiders and Super Naturals for example).
OiNK’s Grunts page could contain rude jokes for Nasty Laffs and Specs, celebrities given a piggy makeover, photographs of readers with their homemade OiNK cakes and models, pig-related newspaper clippings (and those relating to the comic itself), messy bedroom competition entries in the early days, readers updating us on the latest sightings of terrifying butchers from Jeremy Banx‘s Butcher Watch series, drawings and even a personal problems column in which Uncle Pigg‘s answers were of no help whatsoever. For the birthday issue we got a double helping so that twice the amount of pig pals could receive “a piggy prize”.
I had no idea who the StreetHogs were when I read this originally but I’d soon be finding out. Above was also the first mention of the book to come. Now that was exciting! I never did write in and I’m not sure why. I had drawings published in Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and Barrie’s Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles Adventures, then when I moved on to computer games magazines I was always writing into them. But for some reason I never took the time to contact Uncle Pigg or the other OiNK characters. The comic was always asking readers to get in touch one way or another, the most memorable example being when Lew Stringer‘s Pete asked readers to send in pimple busting cures.
For the birthday issue, three readers got the ultimate piggy prize when they appeared in a photo strip alongside Snatcher Sam (Marc Riley) and Frank Sidebottom (Chris Sievey). This had been the star prize in a competition run on Radio Manchester in conjunction with Casio Electronics (hence the product placement) and the three lucky winners got to star in their favourite comic and also went away with their own keyboards. Not too shabby at all. The pig pals we were very jealous of were Ruth Salts, Paul Pike and Paul Rafferty.
I love how they’ve touched up the photographs with these garish colours, making it feel more like a comic strip, adding to the ridiculousness of it all. Obviously the Casio keyboards are the central plot device here and it works, with Frank struggling to think of new lyrics for a song. The inspiration in the end is brilliant, or “fantastic” as he might say and I genuinely did laugh out loud when what Sam starts yelling just happens to be the lyrics to a famous song. It’s completely daft and so uniquely ‘OiNK’. Great stuff.
Time for a quick glance at some of the other highlights of the issue. Dead Fred gets a full page to himself for his Happy Death Day, it’s a happy ending for Hector Vector and his Talking T-shirt much to the annoyance of said garment, GBH got in on the birthday action with some highly collectible memorabilia, Frank Sidebottom‘s own strip has one of the best captions in comics history and there’s that stance and glare again from Hadrian Vile‘s mum (see the Holiday Special for more on that).
A little change happened with one of the above strips this issue, namely The Secret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 8 5/8 (yearƨ). Eagle-eyed readers would’ve spotted he’d jumped from 7 5/8 in the past fortnight. A nice little touch and he’d remain this age for the rest of the year. As the comic continued we’d see his mum become pregnant, eventually giving birth to a new baby sister for Hadrian, who he then took under his wing! Seeing him and his family develop in real time was subtle but a unique point of interest. If OiNK had continued longer than the two-and-a-half years it was published for would Hadrian’s age have continued to increase? Who knows. But it’s interesting to imagine.
There’s a special poster in the middle of the issue which I’m going to sign off with, but first I can’t let this issue go by without showing you a very special strip indeed. This issue’s Tom Thug stands out for a few different reasons. First up, I always enjoy it when characters break the fourth wall, to coin a phrase. Basically, when they refer to being in a comic. Tom does this here to great effect when explaining to Wayne Brayne why he’s trying to duff him up when his bullying ways are brought into question (the panel is completed with an automatically-appearing sticking plaster). However, the main highlight happens when he trips over his untied shoelace. Obviously he never did learn to do that properly.
“How do you get nostalgic about a comic that’s only a year old?”Lew Stringer
Tom is becoming worried about his constant failures as a bully. It’s his whole reason for being and yet he hasn’t yet managed to do it successfully. Of course, we loved his strip because of his constant failures and that was the whole point of it, for the bully to fail. But Tom thinks Uncle Pigg is going to toss him on the comics scrapheap if he can’t manage to successfully cause some bovver. It’s this scrapheap he imagines which is the main highlight, as he places himself next to all of the forgotten comics characters of yesteryear, each drawn by Lew very much in their original artists’ styles.
I think this was a wonderful idea. As Lew asked on his own blog when discussing this anniversary story, “How do you get nostalgic about a comic that’s only a year old?” They’re all classic IPC characters, then several years later some were sold off to Egmont while others were kept by IPC, meaning they could no longer appear together, making this an even more unique page than it already was. Nowadays, Rebellion owns them all and I think it’s time for a reunion, including Tom. The strip ends with Uncle Pigg demoting him to half a page. With so many regular characters now the editors had decided to do this, and this was an original and clever way of actually working the decision into the strip (although due to his popularity he’d return to full strength very quickly). It kept him in every issue when others had to skip some, so it was for a good reason in the end.
One final note about that strip. In the second panel a little plop is holding up a sign saying hello to a reader by the name of Ben Gibbons. This is actually the son of comics artist Dave Gibbons. Ben was a regular reader of OiNK and Dave himself would contribute to an issue with the very funny artwork for The Superhero’s Day Off written by Lew. We’ll get to that eventually. It’s worth the wait!
We’re at the end of another review and it’s crazy to think I’ve been at this for a year already. The blog itself relaunched before this time last year, when Visionaries was the first comic to begin its real time read through (I didn’t want to wait another year for the sake of a few weeks before the blog’s namesake began). It’s been a blast and the best is still to come as far as I’m concerned. The latter months of this year especially.
This has been a great celebration of the first year of what is still my favourite comic of all time. The next issue of OiNK will be themed around the world of pets and you’ll be able to read the review from Monday 2nd May 2022. But first there’s one more thing I want to show you and that’s the OiNK Anniversary Portrait. Drawn by Ed McHenry it’s full of all of the main characters including those no longer in the comic. I was happy to see Sally Scowl received an invite to the party after her funny strips were unceremoniously dropped after only two issues! (I’m still hurting about that.)
Happy (36th!) Birthday OiNK.