On this day 35 years ago in 1988 this comic appeared in shops across the land but little was I to know, as I went into my local newsagent’s to collect OiNK, that a special additional Tom Thug strip by Lew Stringer was hiding inside Whizzer and Chips just a little way down the shelf. Back when OiNK was fortnightly and it had just started to open my eyes to the world of comics, if the family were going anywhere and an OiNK wasn’t due Whizzer and Chips would usually be my second choice. The set up, pretending to be two separate comics (16 pages of Chips in the middle pages), seemed different enough to appeal to me.
I’ll admit it wouldn’t have had me laughing out loud like the piggy publication that introduced me to the medium, but it did make me smile and I’d have the occasional chortle to myself. It felt like it had tried something different years previous but without rocking the boat too much, whereas OiNK was tipping the boat upside down and daring the waves to crash into it. This particular Whizzer and Chips came with a free gift, always enticing for new readers, and inside they’d be met with a special crossover strip as a promotion for its sister title, itself having recently turned into a weekly.
The stars you see here are Sid of Sid’s Snake fame from the Whizzer half and in the stripped top is Shiner, a classic character from Chips (which was my favourite half by the way), plus Odd-Ball of course. Found on page 30 of the issue, this was in the Whizzer half of the comic. Interestingly, the end of this strip led directly into a mini-series for Tom which began in OiNK #54 the following Thursday. #53 had gone on sale one day before this, so the “on sale now” is actually incorrect, but I’m guessing this was more of an error on the part of editorial planning rather than Lew’s.
Tom was one of the few OiNK characters that could be mistaken for a more traditional comic star, although obviously the humour was much more original; the fact a bully was the star of the strip for example, although he was never the hero and always got his comeuppance. Indeed, Tom was one of three OiNK stars to transfer to Buster comic when OiNK folded and would continue to appear in that title until it ended over a decade later!
The intention with this strip (and a Pete and his Pimple one to come in Buster in a couple of weeks) was to increase OiNK’s sales. IPC Magazines had been very happy with its average of 100,000 copies sold every fortnight, but when Fleetway Publications took over they forced it to go weekly to increase its numbers. As a result ,the OiNK team had to reduce the amount of pages to keep up and the winning formula of every issue’s contents being themed had to be dropped, as were some regular characters. All of this resulted in sales dropping rather than increasing (slow clap for Fleetway there), hence these promotions.
The Tom Thug crossover was Lew’s sole contribution to this legendary comic (a title which itself would fold into Buster a few years later) and you can read about his being asked to contribute to it in a post on his Lew Stringer Comics blog. Of course, this wasn’t actually the first time an OiNK character featured in Whizzer and Chips. Sort of. I say “sort of” because I think it’s safe to say Uncle Pigg didn’t really co-star on the cover to the issue published on 26th April 1986, making Tom’s the first true crossover as far as I’m concerned.
The issue above came in a piggy pink bag also containing the full-sized preview issue of Mark Rodgers’, Tony Husband’s and Patrick Gallagher’s masterpiece. Buster also came in the same bag but didn’t mention OiNK in any way on its cover, once again proving to me Whizzer and Chips and OiNK were kindred spirits of a kind, the former having tried something different but unfortunately had failed to move with the times. It’s still a fondly remembered comic to this day though and rightly so.
As mentioned above Pete Throb would also get the chance to promote OiNK in Buster which you’ll see on Sunday 19th March 2023. With these two Lew Stringer creations chosen it’s already clear which characters Fleetway would deem most suitable for the merger to come, although of course at this time no one knew OiNK would no longer be a regular comic by the end of the year. How sad, but there’s plenty to enjoy before then!