This cover really takes me back and I’m not just talking abut OiNK itself. I’m clearly referencing the classic puppet satire show Spitting Image, whose characters were used in this edition. I was also a big fan of the series even if at that age a lot of the jokes went over my head. But there were always enough to keep me giggling for half an hour on a Sunday night. For our 30th issue they’ve collaborated with Uncle Pigg for the results of the OiNK Awards as voted for by pig pals.
We’ll get to that in a bit, although you can see from the front cover who won The World’s Biggest Wally. We kick off with our final set of free postcards, plonked in the middle of the award ceremony itself. Following up on Jeremy Banx and Lew Stringer is Ian Jackson with these brilliant Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse (critic) cards. I think both of these would’ve been great advertisements in other comics for OiNK, or made for very funny postcards to drop through the letterbox of unsuspecting family members waiting for a picturesque beach or mountaintop.
The issue itself begins with Mary’s own strip welcoming us to the subject of celebrities. Written as ever by Mark Rodgers and again drawn by Ian, she’s disgusted that respected famous people would be getting the OiNK treatment like this, but thinks the inclusion of herself on one of the postcards will send the right message. Naturally, it doesn’t quite work out as she planned and my favourite funny moment here comes right at the end with that poor policeman.
There’s another very important award to hand out this issue, the ‘Most Helpful Superhero Award’ so surely that means our resident high-flying, highly smelly Rubbish Man by David Haldane is up for a gong. Well no, apparently his whiffy antics aren’t award material. While he can make a hash of things, most times he does end up saving the day, but with that comes the pong and the mess left behind; not of destroyed buildings and terrified citizens but of mouldy mashed potatoes and cold spaghetti bolognese left everywhere. However, now he’s on a mission to prove he deserves recognition as a true hero.
This is one of my favourite Rubbish Man strips and contains nearly all of the elements that made David’s creation so enjoyable. We’ve got a ridiculous situation to begin with, an introduction of another completely random enemy character, an unsurpassed level of ever-increasing daftness in every single panel, our hero trying his best but failing epically and an ending you won’t see coming. In fact, the only thing missing is those aforementioned rotting foodstuffs he’d secrete from various parts of his body, with only his stench in the first panels reminding us of his unwelcome powers.
Even an old armchair can be a superhero in Haldane’s world, and even an old armchair that’s in the right spot by pure chance is a more welcome hero for the populace it would seem. Poor Rubbish Man. But Jimmy Bung (his alter-ego) isn’t the only character whose attempts at helping others regularly backfires, as equally (if not, more so) smelly alien Burp can attest. In this issue his latest invention teleports fast food straight into people’s stomachs so they don’t have to taste it but as always it doesn’t go quite as planned, as you can see in one of this issue’s many highlights. Also, check out Steve Gibson’s fruity version of Dustin Hoffman on the celebrity news page and our Wonder Pig gets yet another new name.
It’s time for the main event. With categories such as Worst Pop Group, Worst Dressed Person, Unfunniest Comedian and even Worst Comic, the readers of OiNK didn’t hold back in sharing what they thought of celebrities and 80s culture. There are quite a few on the shortlist, and even some I was a huge fan of at the time but it was all in good jest, giving the young readers the chance to take their own pot shots at the likes of those OiNK had targeted since the very beginning.
Taking up four pages in the middle of the issue we first get a chance to see each of the ten categories and the top three contenders in each, assembled by co-editor Patrick Gallagher. This opens out into the spread in the middle of the comic with those glorious Spitting Image Workshop puppets accepting the awards (a printed piece of card on a lanyard), although there was a particular recipient who looked incredibly lifelike as you’ll see. Tony Husband organised the photoshoot with the programme and Ian Tilton was the photographer (as an aside, Ian’s brother Mark was in the band The Creepers with OiNK’s Marc Riley), with radio DJ John Peel presenting the Most Annoying DJ Award. John had already contributed to #16 and had even played the flexidisc on air.
Kudos to Steve Wright for playing along. Tony told me recently Steve was great on the day and had a brilliant sense of humour about the whole thing when he found out. Given who helped with this it’s a surprise to see The Chicken Song take away the World’s Worst Pop Song Award. Although let’s face it, Spitting Image’s song was purposefully written to be very annoying, a parody of the string of summer pop entries that were filling the 80s charts. Bob Geldof and Ronald Reagan get well-deserved titles, although I can’t help but disagree with George Michael‘s and I’ve at least a few female friends who might take issue with the pig pals over that one.
All British comics are eclipsed by Beano, a regular target of OiNK’s for its safe humour and out-of-date characters at the time so it had a good chance of winning the Worst Comic Award. It’s completely reimagined itself over the intervening years and today contains a lot of rebellious, anarchic humour that would make Uncle Pigg proud, not least thanks to some cartoonists who grew up with our piggy publication. It’s a great comic and if you’ve any kids yourselves then you should definitely take advantage of the superb online subscription offers they always run.
The OiNK team would go on to work closely with the Spitting Image Workshop on their Round the Bend TV series, the puppets of which were designed by co-creator/editor Patrick Gallagher, and later in the 90s he’d be a commissioned writer on Spitting Image for six years. What a shame this was the only awards ceremony the comic would do, despite these being labelled as the first. It’s brilliant fun and looked like it was a blast to be a part of. As far as this reader is concerned it remains one of the most memorable highlights of the comic’s whole run. For now, let’s move on to something more “interleckshual”.
Hadrian Vile’s unique perspective perfectly matches the subject matter here. Taking a fresh look at the royals, politicians and more from the viewpoint of a child is a good idea on its own, but Hadrian’s character elevates it. He always thought of himself as being intellectually superior to pretty much everyone around him, so his child’s viewpoint is presented very matter-of-fact, very seriously in his young mind. Of course this means it’s all completely bonkers, just perfect for the 80s in fact.
Written by Mark Rodgers and illustrated by Ian Jackson, it’s always funny to see Ian’s interpretation of famous people, his jagged, exaggerated style perfectly capturing personalities as well as looks. In a way this page seems to go hand-in-hand with all of the television puppets contained in this issue. It’s also not the only time that British Prime Minister popped up in the issue, in fact she gets a starring role in the origin story of a certain critic and nemesis of our editor hog.
Two legs bad. Four legs better.Davey’s Jones’ Prime Monster
Davey Jones brings us Prime Monster (as ever with Davey it’s even signed in a silly way), which takes place a few decades before the 80s when we find two young girls by the names of Margaret and Mary down on the pig farm. The two spoilt brats have reckoned with the wrong set of little piglets to bully because in amongst their number is one teeny tiny pig who has already got the prerequisite pencil behind his ear. Amongst all the chaos Davey has even seen fit to include a couple of very OiNK-like riffs on a famous George Orwell quote. A great strip. Here it is, have fun.
Of course these two women would’ve been the best of childhood friends! At least in OiNKtown anyway. Yes, the characters and their stories were set in ‘OiNKtown’, a basic take on Beanotown. In the earlier issues PORKsmouth was used a couple of times but more as a place to ridicule and, obviously, somewhere Mary Lighthouse loved to visit. Surely Porksmouth would’ve been a better name than OiNKtown though? Anyway, I digress (as I do). For now that’s the end of the review, with just enough space to tell you about what’s coming up next.
The next regular OiNK will be an all-American issue and its review will be here from Monday 13th June 2022 but before that there’s a special extra to watch out for in the shape of Crash magazine #42. Regular readers of the blog will know what this is in reference to, but if you’re not up to speed go and check out the post about Zzap!64 #26 from last month. Crash not only contained an interview with OiNK’s three creators and an original Frank Sidebottom page, there was also the small matter of a special, free, original 16-page edition of our favourite comic! Check out Crash from Saturday 25th June, the free OiNK a few days later. It was an exciting time to be a pig pal in 1987, I hope I can recreate a little of that excitement right here.