OiNK! #34: PIG PALS, HO!

This latest issue of OiNK marks the end of an era and a particular milestone in the comic’s run, neither of which we were aware of when we first bought it back in 1987. First up, this would be the final issue published by IPC Magazines, the company which took that initial chance on the whole concept and it had paid off for them! IPC were very happy with OiNK’s sales of roughly 100,000 per issue, the press coverage and the celebrity endorsements it had inspired. But now changes were coming, as you’ll see soon.

As for the milestone, it couldn’t have been foretold at the time. OiNK would run to 68 issues altogether so after reading this edition I’m now officially at the halfway point of the regular issues (just 18 days before this issue, 21st July was the halfway point date-wise too). Where has the time gone? I’m particularly looking forward to the remaining issues from this year because they include some of my very favourites and of course there’s also the first book, but I’ll go into that in more depth in a future post.

‘Butch-arr the Ever-Cleaving’ on Ed McHenry’s cover is just hilarious

The Next Issue promo in #33 starred Weedy Willy so it’s rather strange to see a distinct lack of him in this issue. The adventure theme isn’t as prevalent as previous subjects, in fact most of the regulars ignore it or just tangentially relate to it. Thunderpigs is the main themed strip but unfortunately it’s not the best. There have definitely been (and will be) better spoofs, many of the jokes here are rehashes of previous ideas (the main gag is a saturation of overpriced merchandise) but it did produce Butch-arr the Ever-Cleaving on Ed McHenry’s cover which is just hilarious.

I think OiNK’s three-panel strips would make a great digital collection of quick-fire, random, spontaneous gags, guaranteed to have plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Probably my favourite strip amongst all of these mini marvels was Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental. Written by a variety of people throughout the run but always drawn by Ian Knox, Roger’s entry for this issue was written by Howard Osborn whose work I haven’t featured on the blog yet.

A prolific writer for the comic, his scripts would appear in 19 issues altogether, although he’d often contribute a few strips to each one. First appearing in #23 and staying with OiNK through to its conclusion, Howard’s name would be attached to many of the mini-strips from here on.

From a writer’s first blog appearance to a punk band’s.

OiNK has been described by co-creator/co-editor Tony Husband as the punk band of comics. With him being a fan of the music genre, I can see where Tony is coming from. OiNK came out around the same time as the MADchester music scene and was seen by many as an integral part of it thanks to the likes of Frank Sidebottom, Marc Riley and the music superstars often photographed reading it. Even when OiNK was cancelled after two-and-a-half years Tony said it was better for it to burn out than fade away, that punk attitude at the forefront right to the very end.

With this attitude it was only natural that a strip starring a punk band would eventually make its way onto the pages. Their first appearance was actually last issue, when a straight laced local band were subjected to punk music and made a startling transformation into The Slugs. Always written by Tony and drawn by Les ‘Lezz’ Barton, The Slugs would be regulars in 24 OiNKs, only missing the occasional issue until the end of the weeklies, never making the shift into the monthlies for some reason. They’d quickly become a fan favourite and this sophomore strip shows why.

For me, rather than Thundercats, the main highlight of this issue has to be the following.

While it may not be linked to the theme either, Tom Thug Meets Pete and his Pimple is a hilarious addition and something of a surprise because until I read OiNK a few years back for the original blog I’d no recollection of this happening. We’ve already seen Zeta in a Tom strip before in #13 when he crossed over with Weedy Willy, but only now do we find out she’s actually Pete Throb’s sister. (How could we not know!) Between Tom’s attempts to appear spotty, to the very satisfying ending for both characters, this was surely a hit amongst pig pals at the time!

Lew tells me he simply approached co-editor Mark Rodgers with the idea of having Tom and Pete finally meet and was given the green light. He didn’t want to do it in a typical Beano style though, where one would simply guest star in the other’s strip. Instead, Lew wanted it to be more of an event, giving them equal billing in a larger than normal strip. “I liked the flexibility of OiNK allowing things like this,” Lew told me. “Readers never knew what to expect and anything could happen in each issue.” How true. We loved it!


“Slurp! Slurp! That’s nectar, that is – slurp!”

Burp’s bath tap

As always, here’s a quick glance at some individual panel highlights from the issue, beginning with Burp’s plumbing problem, The Amazin’ Spider-Guy has some very authentic special skills and in The Street-Hogs our not-very-well-disguised baddie finally reveals himself. Thought to have drowned in a vat of his own apple sauce back in #11, instead Don Poloney just ate his way out, hence his somewhat different shape. There are some absolute treats in this issue.

Interestingly, in the 2000s Lew would go on to draw the real Spider-Man in Marvel Rampage and (after its cancellation) Spectacular Spider-Man with his Mini Marvel humour strips, following in the tradition of Marvel comics such as Transformers, Action Force and The Real Ghostbusters to include funnies from Lew. If only Panini would include such extra treats in their monthly Spider-Man and Batman comics we get today. To see some examples of Lew’s Mini Marvel strips you can check out this post on his personal blog.

As mentioned on the previous Grunts page, this issue includes the latest Butcher Watch update from Jeremy Banx, although now it’s been renamed Cleaver Flash! This is in response to how the young readership had taken to the terrifying villain, Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith who’d originally been just another butcher when he first popped up in #14. This character and his attempts to cull the pig population of our newly porcine-friendly UK had really captured the imagination.

When you think about how pigs were depicted as citizens of the world in OiNK it was a bold move by Jeremy to depict Jimmy as so relentless, the black blood on these pages (Jimmy was always standing in pools of the stuff) all the more shocking and as a young pig pal these strips were the perfect mix of thrills and laughs. The victim’s ridiculous story while his face is constantly obscured by the microphone raises the giggles, followed by the slaughter of the piggy police, then the final reveal and the ending has us almost hearing that blood-curdling scream.

No comic character is as creepy as Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith and I think it’s clear Jeremy had great fun pushing the envelope as much as he could in a kid’s comic with him. It’s all rounded off with that famous tagline under the final panels. With this, the Lewniverse crossover and The Street-Hogs we’ve obviously had our fill of fantastic double-page spreads for a fortnight, right? Wrong. This issue we were spoiled with larger strips and on the middle pages was yet another treat, The Styeux Tapestry, led into with this introduction.

If you remember your history, you’ll know the Bayeux Tapestry depicted the events that led up to the Norman Conquest of England, with the Duke of Normandy challenging King Harold which of course led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. While the introduction sets the historical scene, containing as many name puns as you could hope for, the main event is something else! Written by Tony Husband and so brilliantly brought to life by Eric ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson, this is just a wonderful middle-page spread indeed.

Historical satire isn’t something you’d expect to see in your average humour comic, but just to complete the cliché OiNK was not your average comic. (If you haven’t caught on to this by now there’s not much hope for you.) To this day I think this would look superb in a fancy frame, something to give the illusion of a serious piece of art until whichever visitor to your home takes a closer look. If anyone asks you to describe OiNK and you’re struggling to summarise its uniqueness, I say just show them this. The Styeux Tapestry perfectly sums up the sense of humour we grew up with.

We come to the end of yet another review and I’m excited for what’s ahead. Most of my memories of OiNK from the 80s come from the second half of the run and my favourites are from the latter half of 1987, the very year I’m covering right now in this real time read through. The issues to come over the next five months have stuck with me all these years and I’ll be going into more depth about that in an extra post soon. As for #35, the Terrific Travel Issue review will be here on the blog from Monday 22nd August 2022.

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