Comic covers don’t come much more creative than this. Lew Stringer’s latest OiNK cover is definitely one of my favourites, right up there with those from #6 and #43 by Ian Jackson. The OiNK logo being pushed off the page was all Lew’s idea, who pencilled out a rough of the whole cover for approval by the comic’s editors. After it was approved he then drew the Pete part of the design, leaving the logo for Patrick.
Co-editor Patrick Gallagher was the famous logo’s original creator and told me he thought Lew’s cover was a “swell” idea, pun very obviously intended, and that it was a doddle for him to rejig the letters and complete this eye-catching front page, a highlight of the issue for sure and really makes the issue stand out in the collection. Just as well the inside is as good then. The first interior highlight comes from Davy Francis and Greedy Gorb, along with a special guest star.
Although he goes unnamed, that’s Doctor Madstarkraving (“He’s Bonkers”) who has appeared in his own strip a couple of times (#27 being one example) with more to come later in the run. Showing how uncontrollable Greedy’s appetite is, he shoots himself in the foot by eating the doc’s inventions when they could’ve fed him even more food! I particularly like the name of the shop, a little dig at how other comics seemed to have sweet shops on every street corner, a hang up from their more traditional (read: old-fashioned) days that OiNK liked to rib.
Speaking of old-fashioned tales, James Bond author Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang wasn’t a film I loved as much as my friends seemed to. However, I was certainly knew enough of its story that the following spoof by ‘Ian Phlegming’, with a funny illustration summing it up by Simon Thorp, was very funny indeed. Speaking with Patrick he thinks Simon may have written it too. It starts off silly and quickly escalates, culminating in an over-the-top ending that couldn’t be further away from the original saccharin tale. Then again, that’s the whole idea.
Spoofs were something unique to OiNK in the children’s comic market at the time, yet in the case of Twitty Twitty Bang Bang this wasn’t the only thing that set it apart. While comics such as Beano and Buster did have text adventure serials in their early days, it wasn’t something humour comics had any more, or any children’s comics outside of the nursery and very young children’s market. Later on in this year (1988) other comics such as The Real Ghostbusters and Thundercats would bring back the prose story, but for the time being pages like this really stood out.
Simon’s other contribution to the issue has plenty of panels of text packed with gags, this time as part of a full-page illustration in his usual entertaining style, but with a rather more dreary colour palette than usual that’s all part of the joke. This time of the year family holidays would be planned and paid for; I remember the TV listings magazines being full of them the first few months of the year. These were just ripe for a makeover, selling the Porkshire Riviera’s Outlet-By-The-Sea.
While it’s not a GBH Madvertisement their presence is still very much felt with their Spamtins Holiday Camp and Multi-storey Caravan Park. Growing up in the 80s and 90s I really found the caption for the Top Class Variety Acts very funny, even as a fan of the person at the butt of the joke. In the image itself there are so many funny little details, such as the quick sand, the periscope, a pair of socks that seem to have survived beyond their owner and the rigid man who I don’t think is sunbathing anymore.
This wasn’t the only time Simon would try to entice us away to sunnier climbs. Watch out for his special cruise ship cutaway later in the year. That particular contribution will definitely be featured in the highlights to come. This issue’s highlights are particularly good too, beginning with Invisible Charlie (who appeared in three issues) and Davy Francis’ trademark background gags. (Check out the posters.)
“Baby George! The Beastie Babies! And Paul Extremely Young!Tiny Tots TV, Vaughan Brunt
On the Grunts page a reader must’ve had the fright of their lives on their high street, Tiny Tots TV suggests some more baby based television hits after the success of the 80s’ Muppet Babies, and Frank Sidebottom has two colourful pages this week. One is a competition, the other is his recurring Frank Sidebottom and his Fantastic Showbiz Gossip column which incudes his diary and, while he slips in a couple of joke entries, it’s an interesting look into the busy life of the man behind the mask, Chris Sievey.
The life of a superstar, eh?
There are a ton of mini-strips in here, including two full pages of them. Over these two pages alone we have the return of Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse to strip form, Zootown, Harry the Head, Doctor Mooney He’s Completely Looney, a GBH Madvertisement, a one-off strip by Charlie Brooker called A Day in the Life of a Typical Schoolboy and the first strip of a perennial favourite, Wally of the West. Oh, plus the weekly funny newsagent coupon.
I want to show you a few of these in quick succession and it’s been difficult to decide which ones to pick out from this brilliant selection. I’ll begin with Charlie’s Typical Schoolboy, simply because it’s so daft.
GBH returns with a tiny madvert with big prices. Their special modelling clay promises plenty of “steaming” fun from the offset, so I’m sure you can draw your own correct conclusions as to what the product actually is. There are so many jokes following on from the theme of that ‘clay’, including the variety of colour schemes and even a special free gift and another dig at radio DJ Gary Davies (also see Outlet-By-The-Sea).
I’m not sure who wrote it but the couple of tiny illustrations are by Steve Gibson, so given past examples in the weeklies of his work with Charlie on quizzes and the like I’m going to assume Brooker wrote this one too.
My eyes lit up and I’m sure I had a great big grin across my face when I saw our next mini-strip, the first appearance of Ed McHenry’s Wally of the West. The character would appear in 12 OiNKs altogether, sometimes more than once in an issue and was a main staple during this final year of the comic. Often accompanied by his long-suffering friend Fungus, Wally was a series of short gags about a very dimwitted cowboy set in the American Wild West of the past.
The jokes revolved around his stupidity which might not sound that original, but Wally had two things going for him. The first was the setting, which gave it a unique feel and opened it up to new ideas. The second was the most important though, Ed himself. Creator of many quizzes and one-off strips, Ed was now beginning to move into his own serials having also recently created Igor and the Doctor which was an exciting prospect for any fans of his work so far in OiNK.
Back in 1988 Beano reached its 50th anniversary, after The Dandy had the previous year and the first combined celebratory book had been released in 1987. I actually received that book myself for that Christmas, when I also got the first OiNK! Book, although I do think the Dandy/Beano tome was originally for my brother but he’d grown out of comics by the time Santa came to town (as a lot of us mistakenly do at some point before correcting course again). In fact, at the same time I was reading DC Thomson’s book my other annual was making lots of jokes at its expense!
This wasn’t going to stop anytime soon by the looks of this week’s newsagent reservation coupon by Patrick Gallagher.
I’ve one more little mini-strip I want to show you but I’ll finish with it after I round up this review first. From the brilliant front cover which showed right there on the shelf OiNK didn’t follow any of the traditional comic rules, to its huge array of mini-strips and strong one-offs, this is by far the best of the weekly editions so far! In fact, it could easily be one of the best issues of the whole run up to this point. I remember being very excited at getting OiNK every single week from issue 50 onwards as a child and that remains true today.
Even though I know there are only nine weeklies left until we have to wait much longer between issues, I’m still just as excited at the prospect of those to come as I was 35 years ago. To wrap up this excellent issue we even get a tiny little Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse strip, something we haven’t seen in the regular comic in a long time. They used to introduce every issue, or would pop up in multi-page strips now and again, but for a long time now have been relegated to the Grunts page, so it’s nice to see Ian Jackson bring them to life again. This time, however, it’s not written by Mark Rodgers as usual, but Kev F Sutherland. Thanks for bringing them back, Kev.
OiNK #54’s review will be here on Saturday 11th March 2023.