I have so many happy memories associated with OiNK, none more so than in and around Christmas 1987 when the comic was at its height. First up was this superb second festive issue, followed 13 days later on Christmas Day with The OiNK! Book 1988. The double whammy of these two editions can’t be understated as far as I’m concerned. This issue ended up being my favourite regular issue of the comic and the book my very favourite edition of all! Do they live up to the memories? Let’s start with #43.
Just like all the best issues it begins with an Ian Jackson cover, possibly my favourite of his, with apparently obscene words for us kiddies to guess at the time. I always looked forward to the festive issues of my comics and seeing the snow covered logos always made them feel extra special. There may be no multi-page Uncle Pigg strip like last year’s (by this point he and Mary Lighthouse seemed to be limited to the Grunts page and promotions) but it still manages to outdo even that issue with its plethora of Christmassy contents.
Let’s begin with The Night Before Christmas, a Yuletide Tale from David Haldane. Sounds nice and traditional, doesn’t it? It does and it’s right there at the very beginning of the comic, setting the anarchic tone for all that follows. OiNK was always great at taking traditional comic elements and turning them on their head. Surely nothing could be more traditional than Christmas comics, and upon reading this issue the feeling you come away with is one of the whole team having a blast at poking fun the season and everything we loved about it.
Haldane’s naughty child was the epitome of an OiNK reader wrapped up in one quick half-page strip. No, we didn’t really steal all the other children’s gifts from Santa but this cheeky, irreverent nature of the comic was what we lapped up, encapsulated here in the first strip of the issue. Things are looking good. A few pages later Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins gave readers a chance to appear as themselves and show just how irreverent they could be with letters to his headmaster.
After being banned from playing for Melchester United, Horace asked readers to send in letters begging his headmaster to change his mind. Well, the word “begging” was replaced with “telling” by those who wrote in, including one Stu Perrins, an OiNK fan who in recent years has written comics series such as Megatomic Battle Rabbit and Chrono-Cat. All of these readers won a Horace t-shirt which is something I’ve yet to see.
Way back in the mists of time when I reviewed #3 of OiNK I loved a particular spoof of favourite comic and movie stars of mine, the Transformers. Named The Transformoids and drawn by Ralph Shephard, the go-to guy for such stories at the time, it made fun of the characters and their abilities. This issue the target is the Hasbro toy line itself, in the very capable hands of Dave Huxley. This reminds me of my parents’ attempts at following the instructions of my Transformers toys when I got into them about a year later.
I remember my dad in particular treating my Head Master Slapdash like some kind of elaborate Rubik’s Cube puzzle on Christmas Day, following the instructions step-by-step and still not being completely sure he’d got it right in the end. Similarly, the above was based on Dave’s own struggles with his sons Alan’s and John’s Transformers toys which he described as “near lethal” in an article in Crickey! magazine some years later. He even drew his sons into the madvertisement, although apparently they weren’t too impressed.
Dave’s work would only appear in three issues altogether and he went on to become Dr. David Huxley at the Manchester School of Art and for a while had a page of his work, including one or two OiNK pieces, on their website. Unfortunately he no longer appears on there so must have moved on. However, look out for a post about that Crickey! article at a future date on the blog.
After that hilarious cover, thankfully the OiNK team weren’t done with spicing up our favourite Christmas Carols and who better to write some than Charlie Brooker? As we all know he was still at school at the time of contributing to the comic but this next page is so clearly the work of the mind behind Screen Wipe and Black Mirror. These are great fun and next to the carols is a Christmas pop song, the Jackson 5 version of which I have on my Christmas playlist every year, but now I can’t help but replace the words in my head when it comes on!
Alongside Charlie’s words are some crazy illustrations by Steve Gibson, whose tiny drawings always added so much to the text-based pages of OiNK. If social media is anything to go by these carols are fondly remembered and recited to this day by many pig pals. Oh, and in case you’re wondering ‘James Lost’ is a reference to the ‘happy music’ of James Last, who wasn’t a stranger to releasing some top-selling Christmas ditties.
If like me you make a bit of an occasion out of wrapping your Christmas presents, you might have a TV show (usually Channel Five) counting down favourite Christmas songs and music videos on in the background while you wrap. At some point during it you’re very likely to hear the inspiration behind our next strip, just as you’re guaranteed to see the animation itself on Channel Four. Every. Single. Year. Raymond Briggs’ name is easily changed into a piggy pun and Davy Francis doesn’t disappoint with that and the quick gag of his The Snowbloke.
Despite only sat down and watched the original The Snowman once when I was a kid, seeing even small parts of it on the TV and hearing that song never fails to make me smile because it reminds me my favourite time of the year is here, and hearing something we hear every year at Christmas reminds me of all the things I like to do every festive season. Even seeing this small spoof brings those same feels. I’m really enjoying this issue.
Other highlights here include Ponsonby Claret, the Know-It-All Parrot taking the pirates he lives with to task, Rubbish Man and Boy Blunder’s Christmas dinner has more hidden surprises than any pack of crackers, the GBH Christmas Catalogue order form has one particular addition I found very funny (the Yes/No part) and Weedy Willy finds something he’s capable to contributing to at Christmas that doesn’t strain/exhaust/scare him.
Something you’ll see on the TV every year from about October onwards are a plethora of extravagant, clearly very expensive advertisements for various brands of perfume. It always confused me how they’d spend so much on these every year and yet not one of them actually tells us anything about what the product smells like. This might be a blessing for the next piece of fragrance marketing however, because Jeremy Banx’s Burp appears to have released his own to cash in on the gift giving.
This being Burp of course this particular spray (a deodorant) isn’t straight forward. We’ve all seen how Burp interacts with his internal organs, how many of them act independently of their host, even leaving his body to go and live the lives of villains, superheroes and lovers in the outside world. So, after a suitably moral reminder that beauty is not just skin deep the following strip really takes a turn for the bizarre.
I love how Burp is interrupting each of his organs as they go about their daily lives inside his body, reading OiNK, eating dinner or simply having a nice, relaxing glass of wine. Then, just as the stupidity and weirdness ends Burp reminds the reader that all of these fragrances etc are really about inner confidence, not the glamorous models on TV. A wonderful way of poking fun at those advertisements and with a laugh in every panel.
The last page I want to show you is another of those traditions we loved as kids, writing the letter to Santa Claus and who better to type out one in OiNK than Hadrian Vile, as ever written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ian Jackson. I remember writing my letter several months before Christmas, my parents reading it over and over (it was as if they wanted to memorise it for some reason) before it went up the chimney fire to Santa.
“Noeboddy wud bee daft enuff to dress up in a red duffel cote and climb down chimbleys.”Hadrian Vile
I’m glad Hadrian waited until now to write his though, it makes for a great strip near the back of the issue just as young readers were preparing for their holidays and the arrival of the man with the bag. There may only be three drawn panels to go alongside the pages of the letter but they’re packed with detail and lots of sight gags and cameos from other characters in Hadrian’s regular diary. Watch out for a special mention of Mark’s friend and OiNK writer Graham Exton too!
After this issue it was only 13 days until Christmas Day itself when that gorgeous big, floppy and ultra glossy book would be brought down “ower chimbleys”. I’d seen it on the shelves of my local newsagents for a couple of months now and marvelled at its shine and the big grinning pig face on the cover. It really stood out amongst all the other annuals and I’m so excited to almost be at the point when I’ll be reviewing it for the blog. When can you see it? That’ll be on The Big Day itself of course. While it had been in the shops for a while, we all received our annuals from Santa, didn’t we?
Of course, I’ll be breaking the rules of the real time read through a little bit and reading it a few days in advance simply because it’s Christmas, but it’ll be published first thing Christmas Morning so you’ll have a bit of OiNK to wake up to as we did 35 years ago. One more rule break; the Hogmanay issue’s date is Boxing Day so it appeared early, a few days before Christmas back in 1987. I can’t be sure of the exact date and I didn’t read my issue until Boxing Day because it just didn’t feel right back then to celebrate the New Year before Santa had even been. So I’ll be keeping to the cover date for that one. A double whammy or you, OiNK reviews two days in a row.
With all of this to look forward to back in 1987, the news of the comic turning weekly in January (drawn above by Patrick Gallagher) was just the icing and the marzipan on the cake. Of course, we weren’t to know yet of the changes to come when it went weekly but the excitement at this time was electric for pig pals; the festive season had so much to enjoy and the future looked very bright and very pink indeed.
For now it’s time to sign off, but watch out for a little extra OiNK-related post on Christmas Eve as Psycho Gran prepares to welcome the jolly man down her chimney and in the meantime I hope you’re all having as good a holiday season as I am. The blog is jam-packed with content this month and it’s nowhere near over yet! Check out this post for more details (including a special make-your-own OiNK Christmas Angel from this issue), then the review for The OiNK! Book 1988 will be here on Christmas Day and #44 on Boxing Day.