You may have noticed the weekly OiNK reviews have shifted from Saturdays to Fridays this month. Just in case you were wondering why, this is simply because back in 1988 February had 29 days, one more than we had this year. So the shift to a day earlier is to keep things aligned to the original publication dates, which is the whole point of this site after all.

That’s a lot of praise from some surprising sources on the cover. Towards the end of the fortnightlies some clippings were sent in by readers. It might seem like this took a long time but in the pre-internet days and the way comics and magazine deadlines work, it would take time for the comic to make an impact, be reviewed, have those reviews printed, then clipped, pasted into the comic and in turn published in OiNK. This issue’s cover decided to sum up previous as well as showing off new ones.

I like the fact it includes some not-so-flattering praise, that little “R.I.P.” being a funny little dig too. The Press Council quote is part of their ruling over the famous complaint placed against the comic which I’ve mentioned before and I’ll take a closer look at soon. As for the banner along the top, perhaps it was the Charlie Brooker Prize? Haha. Always nice to see an Ian Jackson cover and I remember the quotes and clippings pleasing me greatly as a kid because it surely meant OiNK was a huge success and would be around forever. It’s hard to comprehend there are only 14 regular issues left.

Unknown to us at the time, a page inside signalled an upcoming change that would ultimately lead to OiNK’s demise.

Reading over the survey there are a lot of silly questions and answers, it wouldn’t be OiNK without them after all, reading almost like a spoof survey, but it’s not. The fact there’s nowhere to write in whether the readers wanted it to change to a monthly or not had me thinking this decision was already made. Perhaps the writing was on the wall and this was an attempt to save the comic, worded in such a way to make it seem like it was the choice of pig pals. But I was wrong, for the most part anyway.

“Accept others as they are”

Lew Stringer, Pete and his Pimple

Co-editor Patrick Gallagher tells me, “Our survey, which you refer to, was genuine and not having a designated space for that final question was an error, though the readers used their noggins and scribbled their answers in any available space! And yes, I think it was Fleetway‘s intention to go monthly as it had been to go weekly, from what I can remember, which I didn’t mind – though I can’t remember at the time thinking the writing was on the wall. I think sales were down across the board but OiNK’s figures weren’t the worst – it was the other comic’s figures that dragged it down. In the meantime [the survey was] checking the audiences’ opinions, which may have had some sway.”

Moving on for now and this issue may have been published in 1988 but this week’s Pete and his Pimple feels rather contemporary. Lew Stringer brings his rhyming strip skills to the fore once again in the tale of Johnny Bigot. It’s a wonderfully funny page with a message of “accept others as they are”; a strong message where we laugh at the bully of course, which is very typically OiNK and Lew. It’s a good life lesson and of course the whole basis of Lew’s Tom Thug character. In a world where people like Johnny seem to have louder voices than ever I find this strip rather cathartic.

If this were printed today, the Johnny Bigots of the world would probably scream and shout that OiNK was indoctrinating their children to hate others (irony isn’t their strong point), or that it was full of political correctness in a children’s comic. Nonsense of course, but I just think of this and laugh when I see such things online now and I heartily recommend it. Let’s all figuratively burst our pimples at them and let them sow the seeds of their own demise. Reading funny comics is much more fun anyway.

(On a separate note, as a good friend once said to me, it’s not about being “politically correct”, it’s just about being the second word in those quotes.)

Speaking of laughing at the bullies let’s take a look at Lew’s other famous creation, Tom. Two days after the previous issue of OiNK our resident thicko appeared in a half-page strip in sister title Whizzer and Chips to promote his own comic to their readers. In that story, after failing to join the gangs of either Shiner or Sid, he threatened to form his own in the pages of OiNK, creating a unique crossover for a humour comic where a story started in a different title. Below is the first of what would actually be a three-part mini-series called Tom Thug and his Crude Crew.

On the one hand you could ask why it’s taken Tom this long to think about having a gang, what with him often ending up in the state he’s in at the start of this strip. But then again he’s a bully so he’s not the brightest. I did laugh at the depiction of the bigger bully and how it takes Tom so long to finish his sentence (not until he’s conscious again in hospital). Then it takes him six months to get out! Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fryer. This story will continue over the next couple of weeks and I’m eager to see who he selects next as my ol’ memory cells have long forgotten.

Elsewhere in this issue we get another Mary Lighthouse strip. That’s two in as many issues, we’re being spoiled. With my fascination with all things Ancient Egypt I just had to include this little highlight below as she regales us with tales of her family tree. Then, the Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins strip continues its football serial, and as you can see co-editor Tony Husband has taken the already ludicrously far-fetched football serials in other comics and newspapers of the day, and spoofed them perfectly with this ridiculous tale.

One page that’s usually guaranteed to be a highlight of each issue is Frank Sidebottom’s. Recently he’s moved away from strips (they’ll return, we never knew what to expect from one issue to the next) and was instead informing us of some very funny showbiz gossip. These pages included intricate background art and lots of text to keep us giggling along for a good few minutes but this issue’s page seems a bit ‘off’, like it feels a bit rushed.

The first thing that struck me was how large his writing is, much bigger than usual so it took no time to read; the two usual non-stories here would’ve normally taken up about half the page, if that. The background isn’t his usual detailed standard either, looking instead like a few squiggles quickly thrown together to give it come colour. What is here is classic Chris Sievey and very funny, but I’m just left wanting more and that hasn’t happened before. Then again, he was an extraordinarily busy man to also be producing a weekly comics page!

The back cover was certainly not rushed. Here we find another spoof movie poster drawn by Simon Thorp from a brilliant script by co-editor Mark Rodgers. In 1987 the Masters of the Universe movie starring Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella had been released and flopped. The 80s saw rules against toys being made into cartoons and the like relaxed, giving birth to mega franchises based on action figures etc. This was one such example. The fact these toys were being created as franchises instead of just playthings wasn’t lost on Mark and Simon.

This definitely went some way to making up for the two hours of my life I wasted watching the film. There are so many piggy puns in there, make sure you read the smaller credits at the bottom under that lavish movie title. The longer you look at this the more little sight gags you can spot as well, such as the GBH ‘Mussel’ to go with the GBH ‘Muscle’ and the fact one of the characters’ legs has fallen off like a cheap action figure. Brilliant, memorable stuff which rounds off the issue perfectly.

One thing that did stick out with this issue was the lack of Hadrian Vile. In fact, he hasn’t been seen since #50. With the weeklies having less pages we’d become somewhat used to characters popping in and out, but missing from three issues in a row, for a strip that’s been in every single edition since #1? A character who was a huge fan favourite and whose diary was a highlight of every single issue he was in? It also meant a lot less from Ian Jackson too, which is always a shame, his work epitomising OiNK.

Clearly Patrick is needing a bit of a rest after another busy week putting together the issue so we’ll leave things there for now. There’s a lot to enjoy in the weeks ahead, even if this issue seems to have left me wanting a little bit, with the obvious lack of a favourite and a rushed page or two. But last week was one of the very best OiNKs of them all and what’s here in #54 is still great, so onwards and upwards. Don’t forget the reviews will be coming at you every Friday from now on, so join me here Friday 17th March 2023 for #55 and a couple of days later for the next crossover comic!

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