When I picked up this issue of OiNK from my newsagent back in 1987 the theme confused me somewhat. I live in Northern Ireland and here our school holidays worked a little differently to those in Great Britain. I think it worked out as basically the same amount across the year but our summer hols were a full nine weeks, all of July and August. So waiting until 25th July for a School’s Out theme seemed very strange until my parents explained.
I loved the fact Tom Thug was the cover star at last but unbeknownst to me it was also the first time cartoonist Lew Stringer had produced a cover for a mainstream comic! So you’re looking at a little piece of comics history right there. Eagle-eyed readers will spot a couple of cloud-like lighter patches in the sky but they aren’t clouds. They’re actually the result of water damage when the roof of OiNK’s Manchester offices leaked! Mainly covered up with the log, I never knew this until Lew told me.
You can check out the original artwork to this cover on Lew’s own blog too.
We kick things off this fortnight with a wonderful double-page spread of The Skool Holliday Diary ov Hadrian Vile (Aged 8 5/8) written by Mark Rodgers and as ever drawn by Ian Jackson. Having Hadrian’s strip in colour was always an event and this one in particular is a treat, as Hadrian takes us through all the ways in which these weeks bring so much freedom. He lists all the things we could now do and all those you no longer had to worry about. It’s a heartwarming tale of childhood freedom, until you look at the pictures.
As ever, Hadrian’s view of the world differs greatly from the reality, especially the reality for his long suffering parents. This is definitely one of my favourite Hadrian strips with every single panel containing hilarious sight gags to go along with the already funny, misspelled text. Lots of lovely little details too when you look closer, such as a Burp-like alien costume, the traffic cone atop the trimmed bird hedge and dad’s foot about to step down on a skate right at the top of the stairs, among many others. Classic stuff.
Next up is Jeremy Banx’s Hector Vector and his Talking T-Shirt, otherwise known as former spoilt brat Keith Disease, forever doomed to live his life as a cheap and tasteless t-shirt print after he was cheeky to a genie. It appears poor, innocent Hector himself is rather doomed as well if this issue’s strip is anything to go by, when he realises it’s got to the stage now where the curse has forever fused them together! (It would be like having an internet troll strapped to your chest!) This makes a shopping spree for a summery Hawaiian shirt a bit of a chore.
Nothing annoyed the eternally grumpy Keith more than Hector’s constant joyfulness and positive outlook in even the most dire of circumstances. You’d think having a foul-mouthed t-shirt forever trying to ruin your life so it can have a laugh at your expense would test the patience of even the jolliest of souls. But more often than not Hector would find solutions to his predicaments, which doubly annoyed Keith, both because his scheming didn’t work and because Hector refused to let Keith get to him!
Some other highlights of this issue include Pete and his Pimple reflecting on his life story, making his pimple wilt out of sight (out of sight being the operative phrase), Rubbish Man catching Boy Blunder skipping school (the story ends with him attending summer school for thick super heroes, tying it back into the theme) and Pigswilla returned in Menace of the Headmaster’s Brain which contained some trade secrets about our teachers.
I can remember that line from the Pigswilla prologue, “No more lessons for weeks an’ weeks an’ weeks!” although until now I couldn’t recall which strip, or even issue, it was from. I just remember thinking England didn’t really have that many to shout about, so used was I to our nine weeks. Of course it’s a ridiculous thought, six weeks is still a long time, but I was very young and felt sorry for the English pig pals!
More laughter from Lew comes in the shape of a double dose of Tom Thug this fortnight. He has a half-page strip following on from the cover on page two and towards the rear of the comic he finally returns to his full page allowance (after Uncle Pigg cut him down in #26), with most of it taken up with his wonderful school report card, full of top marks and encouraging comments. I know what you’re thinking, that can’t be right? It is. I just didn’t tell you who wrote it.
In a rare occurrence this particular story of Tom’s is written by Mark Rodgers, the first time this has happened since #4, another issue where Tom had two strips. I particularly love how he just stumbles across a very handy box of blank report cards, an overly convenient plot device that’s perfectly played up to. Not only is Tom our cover star, with two strips inside it’s clear he was a fan favourite and continues to be to this day. As well he should. I always did enjoy the character of his mum, the total antithesis of the rest of her family, but here Tom is able to push even her patience to breaking point.
There are more and more occurrences of jokes from these issues that I’m realising have stayed rent free in my memory over the years. I always loved the Rotten Rhymes series and there was one favourite that stood out above all others. It was a lovely surprise to see it pop up in this issue, and an even lovelier surprise to see it was actually by Davy Francis, an absolute gent who I’ve been able to meet a few times in recent years and who also lives in sunny Northern Ireland (as I do, in case you didn’t know).
Simple. Daft. Funny.
Speaking of jokes that have stayed with me, there’s one on this issue’s Grunts page which, believe it or not, I had to have explained to me back then. This seems so ridiculous now but at the time I didn’t have (nor did any of my friends have) a pet rabbit. Stay with me. Needless to say once I knew what the joke meant it was repeated ad nauseam to everyone I met.
Patrick Gallagher would put these pages together and this is a particularly good example of the material sent in by readers and the cheeky responses they’d get in return from Uncle Pigg. From catching out someone’s porky pies about the annual, to our editor questioning the identity of a letter writer after they say they’re a headmaster, plus news of another Butcher Watch which were always looked forward to.
This is on page 31 and just over the other side, taking up the high profile back cover is our resident smelly, but ever friendly, Burp. Despite something clearly going wrong with the colouring process in the first panel it’s still a wonderful page, even incorporating London’s Alien Registration Office, although repurposing it for actual aliens. This is a perfect example of two things; an OiNK strip that’s just as relevant today as it was at the time (as much as we’d prefer that wasn’t the case), and how important the comic was in my formative years. Have a read and you should see what I mean.
On the surface OiNK was just a cheeky, irreverent comic, full of rude jokes, satire and plops on its staff, but it was so much more to us and not just in the much vaunted (and rightly so) humour, which spoke to us a lot more than traditional comics. Dig a little deeper and you’d find its morals right there on the page, dressed up in comedy and anarchy of course. But whether it was anti-smoking messages, not judging people on their looks (Horace Watkins for example) or even dental care (I’ll show you that one when we get there), they left their indeliable mark on me. The message in this Burp strip is quite obvious and one which I firmly stand behind to this day. I like to think OiNK had a trotter in that.
“Some shops think OiNK is so clever that they won’t display it with the kids’ stuff!”Uncle Pigg
Just before we round things off for this issue do you remember back in #28 how OiNK told its young readers all about the complaint to The Press Council about #7’s Janice and John story, and how the council didn’t uphold the complaint? Well, that didn’t stop WHSmith from placing OiNK on the top shelves with the likes of Viz, far out of reach of the intended audience. My local newsagent didn’t do this and at the time there were none of that chain in Northern Ireland, but it can’t have helped sales in Britain. So Uncle Pigg decided to tell his readers about it next to the order coupon, with what I like to think is the real reason for why pig pals may not see it in the shop.
With that we come to the end of another OiNK review and can you believe it, next time we’ll be halfway through the entire run! That halfway point will be reached with the Amazing Adventure Issue, not to be confused with the Magic and Fantasy Issue back in March. There are some exciting developments coming for the comic over the next couple of months, developments I for one can’t wait for. For now, pop back anytime from Monday 8th August 2022 onwards for the next issue.