OiNK! #29: MUSiC TO MY EARS

Okay, so full disclosure before we kick off this review: I bloody love 80s music! During that decade, as the youngest of five children I heard a constant stream of music coming from the bedrooms of my siblings. Sunday afternoons would find them all in one bedroom listening to the radio chart show, and Top of the Pops gathered the family together every week (usually with complaints from the parents). One-by-one as my brother and sisters moved out in the 90s they’d leave their cassettes behind and I began to discover my own musical tastes. Decades later songs from the 1980s fills up the majority of my Apple Music library.

So with that in mind I’m very happy to introduce you to #29 of OiNK, the Nasty, Noisy Music Issue which kicks off with another fun Ian Jackson cover and more free postcards. Having Ian’s jagged, colourful Uncle Pigg serenading critic Mary Lighthouse promises much hilarity inside and it’s not a spoiler to say that promise is well kept. Prolific OiNK cartoonist Lew Stringer brings his two famous creations Pete and his Pimple and Tom Thug to the pieces of card tucked away in the centre of the comic, and thus began pimples and bird droppings zooming around the world’s postal services in the summer of ’87.

Upon opening the comic the first thing I saw on the Grunts page was an apology to a Madonna fan club for a cheeky reference to the pop star back in #16, the previous musically-theme Pop Music Issue. You can see the original ‘Celebrity Lookalike’ they ran with the so-called apology underneath. Of course, the club members should’ve known better, or perhaps they would’ve fully expected Uncle Pigg to make a joke of it somehow. But they definitely should’ve provided their address, that bit of ridicule was completely their own fault.

I always loved the variety of input from readers on the Grunts pages and this is a great example. If you ever featured in the pages of OiNK do drop me a line in the comments here or on the blog’s social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook). I’ve a list of every contribution made by readers so I’ll happily dig yours out. I have to say I do particularly like the ‘Set of LPs’ promo here too.

Just a few turns of the page later there’s the latest photo story but this one has some very special guest stars. Post-punk band The Mekons were headlined by Jon Langford, a musician and artist who had already contributed some brilliantly anarchic art to OiNK. He and Marc Riley are good mates and at the time were putting together a tribute album to Johnny Cash, an album that’s even been attributed to reviving Cash’s career! (The cover of which was drawn by Jon with help from Mike Taylor, an editorial assistant and artist on OiNK.)

For this issue Jon wasn’t just going to draw a strip, he was going to star in it and he brought his bandmates with him. Going by the name The Mekoneros it took place in the Wild West (filmed in Yorkshire) and was set to a song about ‘The Devil’s Herd of Pigs’. Jon himself stars as Bad Jake and looks to be having the best time gurning to the camera and, as with all OiNK photo strips, exaggerating every movement and story beat.

This wouldn’t be the last time we’d see The Mekons in a photo story either, they’d come back to fight off dinosaurs (well, cheap dinosaur toys) in a trip to the distant past in that typical OiNK fashion of not being convincing whatsoever. From memory it’s a good ‘un so I’ll most likely be including it here when the time comes. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.

Jimmy (The Cleaver) Smith’s look was perfect, a fantastically creepy design that thrilled the young pig-loving readers

Next up Tony Husband pens a ghost story which is brought to the page by artist Les ‘Lezz’ Barton. It keeps all of the usual trappings of a ghost story while weaving in the theme of the issue and having a genuinely laugh-out-loud ending. A staple of ghost stories are the lone figures found to return time and again to one particular place, often performing a particular action from their life or accompanied by a horrible, terrifying noise, perhaps related to the moment of their death or a past traumatic event. 

I love Tony’s take on this idea with it’s fresh twist, while also answering the question of how exactly would you describe the noice bagpipes make?! Tony expertly plays up to traditional ghost stories and stereotypes with affection and gentle digs, from the initial set up to the overuse of the phrase “the noo”, with that ending providing the biggest laugh of course. 

Jeremy Banx brings us a Butcher Watch Re-update (after all a simple ‘Update’ or ‘Part Two’ is just too normal) on the whereabouts of notorious butcher (and the comic’s in-house nemesis) Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith. Now established as a firm fan favourite, Jimmy would appear randomly for the rest of the comic’s run, even in a regular strip in the weekly issues as the villain of a piece about a famous butcher hunting pig. Jimmy’s look was perfect, a fantastically creepy design that thrilled the young pig-loving readers.

That panel with the caption about the possibility of him being in the reader’s house, while he silently clambers in through an open window at night is especially unsettling. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a criticism about unsettling images in a kid’s comic, not at all, we lapped this up! We loved the shudder up our spines that strips like this gave us and the more horrific Jimmy’s antics were the better! Of course, there was never anything actually unsuitable, he was more like our version of a good Doctor Who villain for the kids; someone to thrill us from the safety of our comic’s pages.

Just before we move on I had to include another of Jeremy’s classic characters, Mr Big Nose. Co-editor Tony Husband once told me he loved Jeremy’s work so much because he would just let his mind go wherever it led, and that’s just the best way of describing his OiNK work. Here, Mr Big Nose is putting on a sold-out concert where he hums popular songs, because of course he would.

The joke is right there in the first panel of the strip and it’s just played out again and again over the next four. But it doesn’t get stale. In fact that’s what I find so funny about it, how we get example after example of the ridiculous set up. Genius. As always.

Other highlights this issue include educating the young ‘uns about classic music with Beethoven, in The Golden Trough Awards piano lessons bite back, there’s a special (and I quote) “Psy-Psy-ss-Psycho-o Gr-Gr-an-Gran Rap’ and Helen Jones and Graham Exton make cameos (whether they like it or not!) in Hadrian Vile.

Madonna’s face isn’t the only link back to #16’s pop music theme. That issue also had the most unique competition I’ve ever seen in a comic, to win a pop concert in your own home. Le Lu Lus were fans of OiNK and contacted the team about collaborating. This ultimately resulted in Martin Benster from Pretwich and his friends (as well as his poor mum) watching a performance of the band in the comfort of their own house. Best of all this wasn’t just announced on the Grunts page, instead a full strip was created so Martin could actually appear in the comic, with his mum as part of the punchline at the end.

On the back cover is a glorious colour pin up from Simon Thorp and it’s just the first in a line of spoof movie posters that would become fan favourites over the next several months. From RoboChop to Butcherbusters, Simon’s brilliant take on popular movies with a piggy twist are some of the most requested pages for inclusion in this blog. He kicks off his semi-regular series with The Sownd of Music.

Simon even includes credits, with everything reworded into piggy puns and ploppy parodies, right down to the little production company name beside the title and his take on Cinemascope. Back when movie posters were all hand-painted rather than photographs these really felt close to the original designs. However, even with all that hard work Simon has put into creating that brilliant image I laughed the most at the simplest little joke, the movie’s certificate; adding just one lower case ‘i’ ends the issue with one of its best gags.

That’s us for another two weeks. The next issue of OiNK is very special indeed. Do you remember those silly award categories readers were asked to send in nominations for back in the Hogmanay issue at the start of the year? It’s nearly time to find out how they all voted. It’s a who’s-who of 80s celebrities and culture, all brought to life by none other than Spitting Image! It’s an absolute hoot and the highlights will be here in the next review from Monday 13th June 2022.

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