Our second new look OiNK sees the logo enlarged a little, sitting proud in its new position and, as promised by co-creator/co-editor Patrick Gallagher in the previous review, it lets us see more of the superb cover image by Mike Higgs. There’s a confidence about this issue and it’s new format that takes me right back to those days of running to the newsagent for my latest issue every fortnight, knowing I was going to get another 32 pages of perfect pork!
Another set of free stickers are wrapped around the cover, that Tom Thug ‘Book of Grammar’ one being my particular favourite. I think I used the Hadrian Vile sticker on a school book of some description back in 1987 (I would’ve been in primary six at the time of this issue) and the missing one on the back was the same as the one I showed you was on my fridge. This issue’s has been added to the comics shelves in my new home office.
The ‘Hilarious Happy Families Issue’ lives up to its name from the very first page with that brilliant cover complete with a couple of strategically placed OiNKs, portraying an elderly relative dying from the shock of reading an issue. The Christmas Club, the note on the bottom of the casket and a couple of plops for good measure, I can remember visiting my mum’s friend’s house with this issue and sitting absorbed by it while they gossiped.
In fact, I remember they were talking about Santa Claus and wondering if I knew the truth (that he most definitely existed, obviously) and I caught part of the conversation between strips. I can recall May asking the question and my mum saying at my age my friends would’ve been talking about it, so she assumed I knew. I kept quiet, I still wanted all my toys (and my OiNK Book!). That’s something which always comes back to me whenever I see this cover. May (or Aunty May as we called her, even though she wasn’t related) is no longer with us so it’s a happy memory that I’ll never forget thanks to OiNK.
Inside, one of the first strips is an old favourite, Davy Francis’ Cowpat County. Davy has two trademarks when it comes to his funniest strips, background gags and brilliant puns. This next page is easily my favourite featuring Farmer Giles. It is quite simply the perfect comic script. It all leads up to the final joke, expertly laying in the little bits of information along the way that’ll make it work, the reader unaware this is happening until the end.
Davy is a real comedic genius and it ran in the family. His father Stanley Francis was a comedian, performing in the old club circuits in Northern Ireland with Frank “it’s a cracker” Carson. Stanley also played piano and once accompanied Little Richard at Belfast’s Boom Boom Rooms! He’d often tell jokes at home to try them out (which Davy now uses on his bus tours) and the joke at the centre of this Cowpat County was one of Stanley’s.
“She’s luvly!!”Hadrian Vile
Just one final note about this strip. I have the original artwork, one of a few pieces of Davy’s I own. I’m going to hold that back for a future post and show them all off at once. It also couldn’t have escaped your notice that something is going on with Snatcher Sam and Frank Sidebottom. Anyone who grew up on OiNK should instantly know what this refers to. Yes, it was finally available. Exciting! I’ll get back to that later in the review.
Next up is what I’d easily describe as the main event of this family themed issue. In fact it’s probably the main event in the whole life of Hadrian Vile thus far, something I’ve alluded to ever since the character first appeared on the blog back in #4’s review. To mark the occasion he gets three pages written by Mark Rodgers in glorious Ian Jackson full colour. This story more than any other plays to Ian’s strength of perfectly capturing a character’s thoughts in their face and body language. For example, his exasperated dad when they’re pulled over and in the next panel when he’s trying to explain things to the police officer.
We saw Hadrian’s age increase in the birthday issue and his reaction when his parents explained he was going to be a big brother. Now, after months of him torturing his poor pregnant mum the big moment has arrived and while the laughs are still plentiful, what we have here is a surprisingly sweet strip. After all those previous issues full of Hadrian getting into trouble thanks to his ridiculous schemes, he actually comes up with a helpful idea when the situation calls for it. It’s still daft and funny of course, especially his dad trying to run along holding that pillow.
After wearing down the carpet in the waiting room the family are called in to see their latest addition, even Bowser gets a mask so he can join them. We turn over to see the following full-page image with a simple, sweet (yet still incorrectly spelt) diary entry. This was certainly a memorable moment in humour comics. When did a character live their life in an almost real time manner like this? When was something like this properly built up to instead of just being a sudden change? OiNK was always unique and this is all the proof you need.
Don’t be thinking Hadrian is going to go all slushy on us though. Instead, he sees his new baby sister as a potential protégé, someone to teach the ways of the world to, someone to train and we get to see him ingratiate himself over the following months from what I can remember. She also makes an appearance in the card game in this very issue.
This takes up the middle pages and the back cover, with another half page for the instructions, which are the same for the regular Happy Families game.
So as per the typical rules each family is made up of four individuals, with Hadrian’s not including Bowser as would’ve been expected up to this point, instead the newest addition gets a little cameo of sorts. Altogether there are 36 cards for the reader to stick on to cardboard and cut out, split into nine families. Parents and siblings could also easily take part because each group has a simple numbering system so non-OiNK fans (yes, they exist!) wouldn’t get lost amongst the silly names.
I always liked seeing favourite characters drawn by different artists. Ed McHenry is the artist here and his depictions of Ian Jackson’s Hadrian and his family, David Haldane’s Rubbish Man, J.T. Dogg’s Street-Hogs heroes and villains, and Jeremy Banx’s alien innards are my particular favourites. Did any blog readers cut out and play this game when they were but a piglet? I never cut up any of my OiNKs back at the time. (I did begin to colour in something in the first annual but that was about it.) However, these days the angel on top of my Christmas tree is from a page of the comic, and for the blog I’ve already constructed an old-fashioned Frank Sidebottom toy.
There’s a certain phrase I remember my dad using whenever my siblings or I did anything that our mum would’ve found particularly bad and one of the little quarter-page strips in this issue takes that exact phrase and ridicules it, albeit swapping the parents’ roles over in the process. From that moment on I could never take it seriously when it was used. I still can’t. Mad Dad is written by Vaughan Brunt and drawn by Ian Knox. This is followed up by Grate Expectations, a memorable little one-off from the insane mind of Simon Thorp who, I’m very happy to say, was turning up more regularly by this point.
There were so many potential highlights in this issue I really struggled in deciding which ones to include. This could be a regular problem these next few months, but it’s a nice problem to have, isn’t it? The Grunts page features press clippings about OiNK itself, although I’ll save them for their own post at a future date. Just mentioned recently on the blog’s Twitter feed by a fellow pig pal was Burp’s tractor beam and it pops up here, so I just had to include that in this little selection of panels.
There was also a unique competition in which readers could win a trip to Timperley, the home of megastar Frank Sidebottom and meet their hero, and to get readers excited to enter he tells us all about his post office having two letterboxes! I’ll keep an eye out for the results and winners. There’s a full-page Uncle Pigg strip describing the special versions of OiNK he publishes around the world and it’s nice to see he and Santa have made up since #17.
For the first time we see Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins playing football, something which would lead to a huge multi-issue story for the character in future issues, a little plop drawn by Patrick Gallagher invaded a handful of pages throughout the issue such as Rubbish Man’s, and in the latest Butcher Watch a pig by the name of Stig the Pig thinks he’s finally won the battle with Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith, with wonderfully Banx’y captions.
Of course, Jimmy has to live to see another day and terrorise the world in which the characters of OiNK reside. As it turns out that shadowy figure wasn’t Jimmy at all but rather a selection of pork sausages tied up and dressed to resemble him. We see this reveal just before Jimmy strangles Stig to death with another string of sausages. This might sound a bit brutal for a kid’s humour comic but it’s so ludicrous and over-the-top it was a hoot to read every time and we’d just laugh at the absurdity of the pretend horror.
So, Frank has just set a new competition and this issue announces the runner-up of a previous one, but not one we’d seen in the comic. Instead, in much the same way as OiNK had run a competition in conjunction with Radio Manchester (the results were in #26), they teamed up with Granada TV’s Scramble programme. Ian Marshall from Bramhall has not one, but two small strips in this issue starring his own creation, Professor Foible.
If this is the level of quality the runner-up produced I can honestly say I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what the young winner came up with! We’ll have to wait to find out though because they’re holding that back until #38.
So for the uninitiated, what were Frank Sidebottom aka Chris Sievey and Snatcher Sam aka Marc Riley up to earlier in the issue? Why, they were recording a new song for the OiNK 45 of course! Way back in the mists of time the premiere issue of our favourite comic gave away a fun flexidisc record with two songs created specifically to annoy adults as much as for the kids to enjoy. The OiNK Song and The OiNK Rap are often quoted by fans to this day and on this new proper record they were getting another outing alongside a new song.
When the original songs were produced by Marc, Chris was yet to join the comic (#16) so the new track, called The OiNK Get Together Song was a chance for the pop music sensation to get in on the action and team up with the former member of The Fall. Along with the other two songs (the rap now renamed The OiNK Psycho Rap) this was a proper, solid record the size of a single, in its own sleeze for just £1.70 and I for one jumped at the chance to own it, especially since all three songs were new to me (having missed the flexidisc first time around). In fact, this and the mug were the only pieces of OiNK merchandise I originally owned.
I recall the song contained impressions of various characters and it irritated my family just as much as the other two. My record met with an early demise when it warped under the hot sun from a skylight window only a couple of weeks after it had arrived in the post. I hadn’t even had a chance to tape it yet so I could listen to it on my Walkman. Now if only I could listen to it again after all these decades to see how my adult brain would react to these songs.
Well would you look at that. Yep, in a moment of perfect timing just a couple of months ago this appeared on eBay and the record is in mint condition. I could not be happier. But then again, I haven’t listened to it yet! Nope, I haven’t stuck it on the ol’ record player yet, I’ll do that when it comes to writing the accompanying blog post. So look out for that just after 17th October. Why am I making you wait so long? Well, we had to wait 28 days for delivery after all and this is all in real time.
That brings us to the end of another fantastic issue. As a child I’d loved the changes and was so happy they weren’t a one-off (the previous issue‘s theme explaining them away for that edition), the book was in the shops and I was eagerly anticipating it for Christmas and I’d just ordered an exciting new piece of merchandise, my first piece of OiNK merchandise in fact. I’d been a fan of OiNK since I’d first discovered it, but by now I was completely obsessed. The next issue is the Food and Drink Special with yet another memorable cover, a full-page photograph of (who else) Frank and Sam. The next review will be here on Monday 3rd October 2022.