There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it announcement on the cover of the latest OiNK from 35 years ago, and a rather big announcement at that. The art is by Marc Riley and despite his strips being loved his style is rather simplistic for a cover image. As a fan it doesn’t matter to me, but would it have been too simple for any new readers the now-weekly OiNK was trying to attract? The little box on the right may have had more of the desired effect but I’m not sure if anyone would’ve noticed it on the shelves.
The news of course is that Dave Gibbons (Batman: Black & White, Judge Dredd and of course Watchmen) had drawn a brand new superhero strip for this issue. Watchmen had been released the previous year and been a phenomenal success, hence the design of that box, so to have him contributing to OiNK was huge. As such I think the news of his inclusion really should’ve been sung from the rooftops, or at least with a banner above the logo which could’ve been seen on the shelves above the other comics. We’ll get to him in a minute but first up, as usual in these early weeklies, are The Slugs.
Last week their page was taken up with the results of a lyrics writing competition and now we’re still sans strip but what we’ve got instead is just as enjoyable. This was thanks to pig pal Jane Streathfield’s incredible work for the LP Sleeve Design Competition. A very worthy winner I’m sure you’ll agree! The runners-up aren’t to be sniffed at either. These entries, along with the promotion of Watchmen’s artist on the cover show how OiNK’s actual audience was shifting somewhat from its original 8-13-year-olds target audience, something Uncle Pigg would confirm in a later issue.
Page five of each weekly so far has been a quick one-off gag strip by co-editor Tony Husband. They take up the full page yet are only a few panels in length, almost like a giant version of a mini-strip. A Grave Joke is my favourite of the series and the perfect example of Tony’s sense of humour and his easily identifiable art. It may seem simplistic at first glance but Tony’s style was always so full of character and wit, up alongside the likes of Ian Jackson and J.T. Dogg is synonymous with OiNK.
Speaking of Tony, pig pals weren’t the only ones to appreciate his talent as the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain can attest. In 1987 Tony won their prestigious ‘Cartoonist of the Year’ award. He would also go on to win the Pont Award for “depicting the British way of life” according to his website. In the case of the 1987 Awards for Cartooning Excellence Tony wasn’t alone from the page of OiNK.
We all know how modest Uncle Pigg was, he would never boast about his fine publication. No, not at all. Well, given his penchant for proving to the world he was editing the greatest comic that ever existed I think it’s just right that OiNK decided to blow its own trumpet, giving over half a page to the news of the awards. Sitting proudly alongside Tony were Clive Collins (Maggie Pie) and Pete Dredge (Master T), all of whom received this (cow)pat on the back.
So now on to what has to be the main event. Was the news on the cover exciting to me at the time? No, but only because I’d no idea who Dave Gibbons was. I do now of course! At ten-years-old I’d only collected two comics. My first was OiNK and then I added Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends so you can forgive me for not being aware of Watchmen or any of Dave’s mountain of incredible work. Now though, I can see this for what it would’ve meant to the teen and older readers OiNK had been attracting (especially potential new readers) and it’s amazing to me that he contributed to OiNK!
“All credit to Lew’s brilliant writing talent for providing Dave with a killer script.”Patrick Gallagher, co-editor
From the very first issue of 2000AD to Watchmen, Dave is a giant in the industry and this was certainly the case back in the 80s, so how did this come about? We have Lew Stringer to thank. The two men had been friends for several years by this point and Dave’s son was a regular OiNK reader (Transformers too apparently, he obviously had taste) and after they discussed the possibility Lew approached co-editor Mark Rodgers about the idea, who understandably jumped at the chance.
Lew wrote the script and Dave produced this incredible page below, adding in little flourishes according to Lew, such as the kid reading OiNK, the newspaper headline and the dog’s face turning blue in the depths of space. As a child I loved this page and having been a fan of Christopher Reeve’s Superman films at the time I got all the little jokes (my personal favourite being him signalling the bus) even if I didn’t appreciate the significance of its inclusion in the first place.
I asked co-editor Patrick Gallagher what it was like to have Dave working on their comic. “Yes, when Mark told Tony and me Lew’s idea to collaborate on a page with his friend Dave Gibbons, we were thrilled and all gave it the big OiNK thumbs up with our trotters! And all credit to Lew’s brilliant writing talent for providing Dave with a killer script that matched the super-heroic credibility of his drawing talent. Lew did the same thing with the late great Kev O’Neill when they collaborated on Lew’s brilliant Truth About Santa script. So, hats off to the super-talented OiNK icon Lew for bringing in the super-talented Dave Gibbons and Kev O’Neill.”
You can read more about the creation of The Superhero’s Day Off on Lew’s Blimey! It’s Another Blog About Comics. The site is no longer updated but it’s a trove of comics information and you can still follow Lew’s career on his Lew Stringer Comics blog. Alongside Dave, as Patrick mentioned OiNK also had Kevin O’Neill contributing to the first Holiday Special and The OiNK! Book 1988, and later on this year you’ll see the result of Davy Francis bringing in John McCrea for a Lost in Space spoof!
Time for a quick glance at some other highlights from this issue.
After succumbing to plastic surgery last issue, Burp’s leftover gastric juices grow a clone of himself and see off the shiny new him so we can get things back to normal (or as normal as this strip could be), the cliffhanger from Frank Sidebottom‘s page gets wrapped up in one ludicrous panel, Sherlock Hams finally confronts The Beast in the concluding chapter of his story and when Tom Thug thinks ‘gel’ is spelled ‘jel’ even readers didn’t think he’d be that thick!
Jeremy Banx’s Hieronymous Van Hellsong mini-series doesn’t conclude until next week but this issue sees an ending of another kind, despite the fact the character would return in a new mini-series in the not-too-distant future. Previous chapters have relished in some very dark humour. While that continues, it’s more about the ludicrous nature of the battle between our hero and Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith rather than laugh-out-loud moments, beginning with what seemed impossible in OiNK up to this point.
Let’s ignore the fact Hellsong seems to have regrown his arm in the bottom-left panel and concentrate on the ridiculous fact that this over-the-top maniacal villain is actually just a shop butcher, seemingly representing those on the street corners of every town in the UK, able to chop speeding bullets with his cleaver while fighting a human-sized pig to the death. It also continues Jeremy’s comically exaggerated gore he brought to previous Burp and Butcher Watch strips. How did they get away with this is a children’s comic? Well, Hellsong isn’t a human.
Similarly, Marvel UK’s Transformers didn’t show any humans dying, if they did it happened out of sight or in an explosion for example. The poor Transformers however could be decapitated, ripped limb from limb, cut into hundreds of pieces or even violently tortured or melted alive. But they were robots, so in the conventional sense weren’t ‘real people’ to those who would normally complain about such things. Pigs being cut up by a butcher (or a young girl pulling apart a sentient teddy bear) is all so ludicrous we kids just laughed at it all.
After making his debut appearance back in #38 Kev F Sutherland finally returns to the pages of OiNK with the first of his Meanwhile… strips. In fact he has two in this issue but I just had to choose this one because I found it so funny. Each Meanwhile… strip was its own entity, not linked in any way to the rest. They could vary from being mini-strips to full pages, linked by Kev’s easily identifiable art and his great sense of humour. He’d end up producing a huge variety of scenarios, each guaranteed to raise a hearty chuckle.
These would appear in nine issues altogether, including every monthly, but often there’d be more than one in each. As mentioned before, Kev was so prolific in his OiNK work he’d produce about a sixth of the final issue himself! The Meanwhile… strips contain some of my most fondly remembered jokes so it’s great to see them finally join us on the blog and I can’t wait to relive them all over again this coming year.
Before I sign off for this week there’s just time to take a look at this week’s newsagent reservation coupon put together by Patrick Gallagher. As ever he’s trawled the pages of his book of Victorian illustrations (first used back in #23’s How Radio Sound Effects Are Produced!), this time for a Great Moment in Art instead of a great moment in history. More specifically, he’s used it to give us an insight into one of his fellow co-editors.
Next week is something of a celebration as OiNK reaches the 50th issue milestone and we get a glorious cover photograph of Frank Sidebottom receiving his honours from the Queen herself. The comic also really begins to settle into the new weekly schedule and 24-page format so there’s plenty to be looking forward to. Make sure you check back here on Saturday 11th February 2023 for the big party!