Category Archives: Annuals


How many of you can remember coming downstairs on Christmas morning and seeing this cheery face staring back at you? I’d been giddy at getting my hands on this ever since I saw it in my local newsagents a few months previous. It really stood out with its glossy soft cover in the sea of cardboard hardbacks. Inside, all 80 interior pages are made of a thick, high quality stock, giving the book a heavy, expensive feel. Co-editor Patrick Gallagher tells me, “The higher-quality paper stock of the book was the idea of Bob Paynter at Fleetway. Bob was completely on our wavelength and knew it would appeal. The floppy glossy cover and back also seemed to really suit the enlarged shots of the plasticine pig face and bottom models Ian Jackson made by capturing the detail so well.”

Before this I’d read some of my brother’s Beano annuals but to my young mind they felt just like regular stories but with bigger panels to make them last longer. But The OiNK! Book 1988 was, as ever, different. This first book packed in as much as it possibly could to every single page. As a result, it may have had roughly 30 pages less than its contemporaries but it had so much more to read and enjoy. It all began with that famous cover, especially when you flipped it over but we’ll get to that later. While it didn’t really sink in as a kid, that claim on the bottom right is bold and of course completely correct. Inside, a special bookend of Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse introduced that team to readers.

This was innovative for a time when signatures in humour comics were rare, but OiNK’s young readers knew the names of their favourite cartoonists thanks to its creators Patrick Gallagher, Mark Rodgers and Tony Husband and their wish to shakes things up. As an adult I can’t help but look at this page in wonderment at the list of talent involved! It really was a selection of Britain’s best and it was all for us kids. We were spoiled. I also love how the chiselled words work their way around the characters and speech balloons, which makes zero sense to the chiseler!

It’s a wonderfully varied read, containing strips from our favourite regulars, some returning stars of early issues, spoofs of those other annuals I mentioned, puzzles (not filler here but typical OiNK-style funnies) and even letters and drawings from readers, something annuals just never included. So how on Earth am I going to choose a few highlights? There’s just too much brilliance on offer. It’s been painstaking but I hope I can do it justice with this selection.

This is one of my most memorable pages, with Marc Riley as the not-at-all inconspicuous burglar, Snatcher Sam in GBH’s Book Club, a take on those book and video clubs that were so popular in the 80s and 90s. Magazines and comics were filled with them, promising cheap titles to begin with as you sign yourself up to buying a certain amount at full price over a year. I was a member of the Britannia Video Club, remember them? That’s why I loved this so much, along with the usual over-the-top nature of the GBH madverts and just look at all those book covers they’ve created for the photograph. Now, 35 years later it’s the effort put into these daft pages that I really appreciate.

Released for Christmas 1987, this was the year I was hearing a lot of rumours in the playground about Santa Claus. Thankfully I soon found out they were just rumours when he left my book under my parents’ wardrobe before Christmas because demand for it was so high and he didn’t want to disappoint me. The rumours of his existence were soon to be put to bed conclusively with a script by Lew Stringer that’s spectacularly brought to the page by 2000AD stalwart Kevin O’Neill, who we sadly said goodbye to earlier this year. But there’s more to The Truth About Santa than we probably wanted to know as 10-year-olds.

There’s an image that’ll stay with you. Or haunt you. I remember this being the strip any friends who read this book at the time seemed to laugh at the most. I may have been the only one of my closest friends who collected OiNK but they all enjoyed reading my issues and in particular this book. In fact, in the year 2000 when I decided to return to college at the age of 23 the book ended up shared around that class too. I can’t remember how it came up in conversation originally, but I dug it out from my cupboard and it made its way around most of my fellow media students, each one of which raved about different aspects of it.

To this day it’s still one of my favourite books (of any type) of all time and my favourite from childhood, and in fact this is my original copy from back then, only one of three OiNKs that survived various clear-outs (by my dad) and moving out years later. Its timeless comedy is a testament to that talent it boasted about on the cover. Just like the regular comic it sets itself apart from the other annuals. While they’d have had huge multi-page versions of their regular strips, here for the most part OiNK kept them to the size they’d normally be, meaning there was a hell of a lot more of them than other books.

Annuals are created far in advance of their release dates so when this one was being put together the ever fantastic Tom Paterson was still a contributor to the comic. Written by the pun-tastic Graham Exton, Eric Knicker the Whacky Vicar may only have been a tiny quarter-page strip but it left a lasting impression on little me during Christmas 1987 as I tittered and giggled and shared the joke with friends and family. A lot better than any cracker joke.

So yes, the annual kept to the format of the comic, only more so. It’s a delight to see the creative team took the opportunity to simply cram much more in of what made OiNK so great in the first place. For a child of ten there was just so much to enjoy. We even got a short Ham Dare strip. Normally a character of multi-issue serials, here his two-page story is a hoot and is followed by this wonderful cutaway of his and Pigby’s ship.

Written by Lew Stringer and drawn by the incredible talent that was J.T. Dogg (Malcolm Douglas) it’s chock full of little details that my young eyes really enjoyed pouring over; kind of like the book itself encapsulated into two pages really. My favourite parts here are the comfy chair and its very dangerous sidestool, and the middle of the spacecraft showing the difference between our heroes, with Ham’s gym next door to Pigby’s very full pantry.

A quick note about the title box at the top of the spread. It makes a great point! My Transformers and Real Ghostbusters annuals would have had “pin-ups” and “mini posters” and I always wondered if anyone actually cut up their fantastic annuals, losing whatever was on the backs of those pages to the walls of their room. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one at the time who thought this was a ridiculous idea.

Hadrian Vile’s usual diary entries take a back seat to a selection of pages chronicling his Interleckshual guide toe Nacheral Histry

A quick glance over some other highlights now. Ron Dibney’s Dumb Ol’ Duck reveals another side to himself, Police Vet makes his debut (he’d return in the monthlies the following year) many years before Jim Carrey took on a similar role and Star Truck makes a very welcome return. Just as in #3 the crew make their presence felt throughout the book in between chapters of their own strip. Here, Mark Rodgers literally pops up as Captain Slog in one of Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins‘ pages.

Pigswilla only appeared in seven issues of OiNK altogether but he was still a firm fan favourite, so naturally he had to appear in the annual, with Specky Hector Comics Collector (with added surname) making a funny cameo I’d forgotten all about. Early in the book Frank Sidebottom found out Little Frank had used up all his felt tips and gave him until page 69 to fix the situation, which he does, sort of. So young me lent them both a hand, or at least started to it would appear.

Hadrian Vile’s usual diary entries take a back seat to a selection of pages chronicling his Interleckshual guide toe Nacheral Histry, although he does take some short cuts to get from the evolution of life to the 1980s. His usual know-it-all persona is, as always, hilariously wrong in almost every way. In his fortnightly diary he was the most intelligent person in any room, in his own mind anyway and here his guide to everything from dinosaurs (the hilarious looking Tyrannosaurus rex above is a highlight) to Ford Sierras.

In fact, after spending the first two parts of his guide covering prehistoric Earth he only has one page left to finish up and so this third page makes the leap from the ice age to the aforementioned car in the blink of an eye, clearly skipping millions of years as completely uninteresting. It’s all hilarious, as you’d expect from Mark Rodgers, made all the more special with full colour Ian Jackson art. In fact, so good is it that when the weekly comic itself gets going the diary will eventually be replaced with a series of similar guides.

1987 also saw the 50th anniversary of The Dandy (with Beano’s to come in 1988) hence why OiNK took aim at DC Thomson’s comics with regular digs about how old the characters would really be, such as #38’s Deano. In fact, I received the commemorative 50th anniversary book alongside my OiNK! Book (and The Big Comic Book 1988), although in hindsight I think it was originally for my brother but he stopped reading comics not long before Christmas. Oh well, his loss was my gain.

Returning to that spoof comic name, here the OiNK team take it to even greater heights (although this was probably created first) with a mini-comic inside the annual featuring such characters as Dennis the Pensioner and his dog Flasher, Desperate Old Man and the The Lash St. Old People. All are very funny and then we get a double-page spread of no less than five spoof strips which as a kid were funny, but as an adult are hugely surprising because four are drawn by none other than John Geering!

John was a regular artist for DC Thomson, in fact that’s the publisher he’s most closely associated with, most famously for Bananaman and Puss’n’Boots. To see him take on some of DCT’s characters in OiNK just makes these even funnier than they already were in my opinion. I do remember showing these to my friends who were huge fans of The Beano at the time, in fact I may have gloated a little! Can you blame me?

Unfortunately, I simply don’t know who ‘Philip’ is at the time of writing. His work only appeared in two OiNKs (this and #9), here with Boffo the Bore and two other like-minded strips called Georgie & Zip’s Party and Postman Fat and his Slightly Flat Cat. He’s not mentioned on the intro page either, but needless to say I’m always on the hunt for more information on OiNK’s creation so when I find out I’ll let you know. After The Deano and a ‘Fun-Hour’ pre-school comic we get another special section for adventure fans.

Eagle-eyed blog readers may recognise the brilliant caricature of Roger Moore on the first page from a previous issue (although I didn’t spot this first time around). If you go and take a look at the TV listings page in OiNK #17 you’ll see a tiny part of this image was used the previous Christmas. In it you can even see the OiNK logo behind Roger’s face so it just goes to show how far in advance this was created. This is something that continues to this day. If you follow the likes of Lew Stringer on social media or his own blog he’ll often show us snippets of annuals he’s working on over a year before their release.

I’m a huge James Bond fan, although this only happened when all the Goldeneye hype hooked me in the mid-90s and I started renting out whatever films I could from the local video shop. It was discovering Timothy Dalton as Bond that sold me, whose first film was only released the same year as this book, so the previous 007 (and his type of films) was still the target of this fun, frantic strip written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Tim Thackery.

This was Tim’s sole contribution to OiNK. An illustrator and graphic designer he actually went on to work on CBBC animated series Minuscule Milton with Ian Jackson. Tim told me how he sees this James Bong strip now looking back: “A long time ago, but yes, that was me. Not my best work , but I was a bit pushed for time on it and had to knock it out at a fairly rough level.” Personally I love the art style here as it matches the nature of the strip and brings a real sense of pacing and chaos to the proceedings. You can check out Tim’s official website here.

“She eats pickled herrings in bed and I saw her kissing the window cleaner!”

Keith Disease

The Adventure Section also contains that Police Vet strip I mentioned above, a GBH madvertisement for their ‘Personal Hand-Glider’ capable of speeds of up to 100mph (downwards) and another strip, Ena Blighty’s Five Go Adventuring Yet Again. An annual will never have a theme in the same way as the regular comic did at the time, although the festive season does come up a lot obviously. These dedicated sections feel like mini themes, three for the price of one in fact, and are some of the best pages in the whole book.

One character, or rather two, I always found incredibly funny were Hector Vector and his Talking T-shirt. Unfortunately, Jeremy Banx’s strip made its last appearance in #35, disappearing when the comic changed publishers and gave itself a bit of a face lift. With new characters and cartoonists and the very best issues the team ever produced I hadn’t even noticed these two weren’t in amongst the madness, until they popped up here in this brilliant, larger strip.

As pig pals knew, this wasn’t a strip where the brat got his comeuppance at the end of each story; we never knew who’d come out on top between the pair. For their very final appearance I have to admit I was happy to see it was Keith Disease (the t-shirt) who had the last laugh as they were always the best examples of Jeremy’s creation. There were plenty of laughs to be had in this particular strip but it was always that very final panel that had me in creases. It still does.

It’s with a heavy heart but a smile on my face that we come to the end (almost) of the review of the very best edition of OiNK the team produced. This has been both the most fun and yet hardest thing to write so far on this whole blog. It’s been great fun to finally get the chance to reread this book and to tell you all about it, but incredibly difficult to pluck out just a few highlights to try and sum it up. I hope I’ve been able to do it justice. Two more chuckles to go though. First up, the opposite page to that great opener drawn by Ian Jackson.

A couple of puns, funny art and a grinning Uncle Pigg reminding us (and telling those who were introduced to OiNK with the book) of his fortnightly comic, even if it wouldn’t be fortnightly for much longer. It’s a perfect end to a perfect book. It’s such a treasured item for me these days that it came with me to a comic con where Lew Stringer and Davy Francis signed it for me, and when Patrick Gallagher visited me at my home a few years back he added his. I intend to get the inside covers covered with as many squiggles as possible.

With that, I’m going to close the back page over now and here’s why ten-year-old me pestered my parents, my siblings and any visitors to our house over the holidays that year.

The plasticine cover was a step up from Ian’s for the first OiNK! Holiday Special and is probably the most iconic OiNK cover of all, with a story to tell. “When we sent in the transparencies of the pig face and bottom with the artwork for the printer to process, Bob Paynter didn’t spot that the pig’s star-shaped bum was partly exposed and not completely hidden by the pig’s curly tail,” explains Patrick. “It was only when the proofs came back from the printer that Bob spotted it and deemed it too rude to be published. So we had to get photographer Ian Tilton to retake the shot with the pig’s tail completely obscuring the star-shaped bottom.”

It’s still a cheeky cover and perfectly encapsulates OiNK’s unique, naughty yet innocent sense of humour.

From showing off its covers and hearing the raucous laughter of anyone I could grab over that festive season, to rereading it in my 20s, 30s and now 40s, lending it to friends many years after OiNK was a distant memory… this book will never, ever get old. It’s OiNK in its purest, most concentrated form. Every page feels fresh and new, like it was written this year, not 35 of them ago. Receiving my favourite issue of the regular comic, the Christmassy #43 and this back-to-back made my Christmas in 1987, and reliving them has done it again in 2022. If you’re reading this post on the day of publication I hope you have a wonderful day and a very Merry Christmas!


“No matter what’s going on in the world or in my life, putting an episode on can bring a huge smile to my face.  Don’t we all have something in our lives that does that?  This is mine.”

My late grandad Ted came to my house one Sunday morning when I was a child and asked my parents if I’d seen the film on TV the night before about the fantastic car that was filled with computers, could talk, drive itself and even jump in the air. My mum hadn’t known about it but luckily enough my grandad knew it was going to be a TV series starting the next week and he thought I might like it. He wasn’t wrong. Thus began a lifelong obsession with Knight Rider.

I may have grown out of it temporarily by the late 80s but when repeats began airing in the mid-90s my love for Michael and K.I.T.T. returned and has never gone away. Every decade since may have brought its own obsession, from Babylon 5 to Stargate SG-1, from Doctor Who to NCIS, but Knight Rider has a special place in my heart and, no matter what’s going on in the world or in my life, putting an episode on can bring a huge smile to my face.  Don’t we all have something in our lives that does that?  This is mine.

There wasn’t a Knight Rider comic because the trend at that time was to feature popular series in strip format inside our magazines such as Look-In, a young person’s TV guide which featured the series alongside the likes of The A-Team and Airwolf. But between 1983 and 1987 Grandreams released five Knight Rider annuals filled with strips, prose stories, puzzles, pin-ups and behind-the-scenes features and interviews. I think I only ever owned this one from 1983 though.

The series debuted this side of the Atlantic in February 1983, with the first annual released the end of the summer and my eager young hands got a hold of it that Christmas, hence why I’m reviewing it now as part of the blog’s festivities. I remember reading the two-page Look-In strips in my sister’s magazine, with their weekly cliffhangers similar to the 60s Thunderbirds comics but they were line drawings, not the gorgeous greyscale wash we get here.

Upon picking this annual up for the blog I wasn’t sure what to expect. I really hoped for something entertaining but over the years I’ve seen some horrible annuals quickly thrown together in order to cash in, without much love nor care for the property. As long as this wasn’t like that I’d be happy. What I didn’t expect was something of such high calibre, with an excellent creative team behind great stories illustrated with gorgeous art, alongside some fun articles. I couldn’t be happier Knight Rider received this treatment.

When I opened the book and saw the two-page introductory strip above which recaps the set up for the series not only was I in awe of the art, I was instantly transported back to that Christmas. Quickly telling the tale of Michael Knight’s original identify, being double-crossed, shot in the face and left to die, and the reconstructive surgery which resulted in his new identity and his new life, we’re instantly up to speed and ready to get stuck in to what promises to be a much better book than I thought it was going to be.

The intro strip is followed by a feature explaining the background to the characters, the Foundation for Law and Government and the story behind the series. Some of the details here didn’t even make it into the show and were pulled from the series bible, put together by Glen A. Larson when the show was created. For the uninitiated, Wilton Knight’s Knight Industries set up F.L.A.G. as a non-profit arm of his company to help ordinary citizens fight those untouchable criminals who operate above the law.

Court battles and legal wrangling make up the majority of their work (though for obvious reasons we only heard about these happening off camera) but sometimes “direct intervention” is called for and that’s where the Knight 2000 project came in; one man in one car, that car offering him all the funding and resources of the Foundation to make a real difference in the lives of people the justice system has let down. Sounds like a good set up for a show, doesn’t it? Well, it sure was.

Of course, that one car was K.I.T.T., or rather the Knight Industries Two Thousand artificial intelligence inside the Knight 2000 car. That’s something the show (and I’m glad to say this annual) made perfectly clear; K.I.T.T. wasn’t the car, he was the A.I. inside the car; a car that could jump, drive on two wheels, create fog and oil slicks and so much more, all inside the near-indestructible molecular bonded shell capable of 300+ kph. Add in K.I.T.T. who could control all of this, drive it, remotely hack computers (a big deal back then) and give Michael computerised, forensic and scientific resources that’d make NCIS envious.

There’s even information which was new to me today. It’s full of wonderful little details fans will lap up.

Knight Rider was that rare thing, a television show my whole family gathered around to watch together. It was unlike anything anyone had seen before. My sisters may have had David Hasselhoff posters on their walls, but mine were adorned with K.I.T.T., shelves packed with models of the car, books, electric toys… you name it, I had it. I remember when ITV repeated the show in the 90s and my mum, dad and a then-teenage me would still watch it together. Today, the remastered HD Blu Ray collection takes pride of place in my own home. My love for this show will never wane.

So, intros out of the way and my obsession detailed, I can happily declare this opening feature is anything but a basic round up. Michael’s boss Devon Miles (played by the excellent Edward Mulhare) may be misspelled ‘Deven’ but there are details here from the series bible the show didn’t elaborate on until later seasons, so it must’ve been fascinating reading it in 1983. There’s even information which was new to me today. I never knew Devon originally met Wilton on a mission in France for the British S.O.E., or that his parents were killed in the blitz. Technician Bonnie Barstow’s father was a pilot who worked for Wilton and she has a Masters in Computer Science and a Doctorate in Robotics. It’s full of wonderful little details fans will lap up.

This image is taken from the first strip, Break-Out. There are two strips in the book, both of which act like the final act of an episode, so all of the detective work and build-up is out of the way and the strips can concentrate on some fun action. For example, here we see the results of the supposed damsel in distress trying to double-cross Michael only for K.I.T.T. to quite literally eject that plan. So who was behind these exciting, fun stories and the simply gorgeous, atmospheric art?

I was thrilled to find out my favourite thing in the universe was handed over to none other than David Lloyd, he of V for Vendetta fame (as well as Wasteland, The Territory and Hellblazer). Yes, that David Lloyd! His unmistakable style and that lovely wash suit Knight Rider perfectly. The original pilot movie was rather dark with a lovely atmosphere and David’s art is reminiscent of the direction of that particular episode. With Marvel UK’s Transformers letterer Annie Halfacree bringing her talents to the page the only question left to ask was who wrote these?

While speaking with David recently (more on that at the end of this review) I was finally able to find out it was Steve Moore (Abslom Daak Dalek Killer, Hercules, Warrior) who wrote many of the stories for Grandreams tie-in annuals at the time. Steve nails the characters of Michael and K.I.T.T. and, best of all, their dynamic interplay. This evolved as the series progressed and at this early stage could still be quite antagonistic at times, Michael’s patience sometimes wearing thin with the analytical and logical computer. I’m very happy to say that’s here in spades.

The prose stories, beautifully drawn and coloured by David, are lengthier than any in Marvel UK’s annuals, giving Steve the scope to give us a more detailed adventure for our heroes. Although, I must note Bonnie is conspicuously absent outside of the features. This could be because the stories had to be written so far in advance that the pilot movie was all Steve had to really go on (Bonnie didn’t appear until the first regular episode). But then again the stories take place out on the road already, so by this stage in the episodes it would be all about Michael and K.I.T.T. anyway.

Reign of Terror uses that old 80s staple the bad motorcycle gang, one the show itself used in its first season. In fact, the episode Good Day at White Rock would’ve been broadcast months before this annual hit the shops. Also, K.I.T.T.’s functions are limited to those shown in the pilot movie, so again I think these were written before much of the series was broadcast. Given this, it’s nothing short of incredible how well Steve nails everything from the characterisations to the tone.

The distinction between K.I.T.T. and the car are particularly enjoyable, especially since this was something the series would only really begin to highlight in season two (after it was set up in the pilot). For example, in one paragraph here, “K.I.T.T. brought the car round the buildings and came up behind them.” It’s enthusiastically written and I get the impression Steve was having fun with this. Michael and K.I.T.T. throw everything at the bikers and it’s not just a checklist of the car’s functions, there’s a proper plan here, perfectly thought out and executed with panache, a plan that could only be achieved by this unique partnership.

Reign of Terror’s plot may not have been all that original but it paints an entertaining picture. The other prose story, The Long Chase is a more original idea when the US Customs Department asks F.L.A.G. for help in an art forgery case, where they believe a legit art business is also smuggling stolen works. They’ve tried tracking their trucks but are always met with car accidents, traffic jams, road blocks etc., too many to be a coincidence. Enter Michael and K.I.T.T.

In the end it boils down to a situation where they have a choice of two trucks to follow, each going separate ways on the highway. They deduce which one to tail and are met with the same impediments, but they’re no match for these two and we get a wonderfully written sequence of them barging their way through everything thrown at them, much to the terror of Marshall, the Customs Agent along for the ride.

These images have a lovely retro feel to them that many would pay good money to have painted and framed today.

When it’s clear they’ve followed the truck with the legitimate art, sent on a wild goose chase with the diversions, Marshall is about to quit, what with the other truck now hundreds of miles away. But this is a challenge our pair relish. There are some really nice scenes involving Michael and K.I.T.T.’s burgeoning partnership. It’s intriguing, well-paced and all round a thoroughly entertaining little tale. There are also some brilliant night scenes drawn by David, my favourite being a double-page spread of K.I.T.T. coming head on towards the reader, scanner and headlights cutting through the night. These images have a lovely retro feel to them that many would pay good money to have painted and framed today.

Alongside a brief bio of The Hoff there are two features centred around our other main character. K.I.T.T. – The Car and the Stunts is pretty self explanatory and is apparently based around an interview with one of the producers, although they go unnamed and give inaccurate information, which is odd. I wonder if the book did speak to someone involved with the show or if they got these details from elsewhere and reprinted them.

There’s a reference to turbo boosting onto the back of a truck being done for real, but the scene in question was actually achieved through clever editing and effects.  The ‘producer’ also says the only thing that isn’t done for real is the ejector seat, but in reality this was really installed into one of the cars used on the show. Indeed, since this book there have been numerous interviews with the stunt people on the show which have been very funny, especially the story about when they were trying to calibrate the ejector seat for the first time and the stuntman went flying into the air higher than a palm tree next to the car! Unfortunately, this isn’t referenced here.

But at the time of this book it was just exciting to see photos of K.I.T.T. in action. You have to remember this was way before the internet. Even VHS video recorders were only starting to be installed across the UK. That meant the only way to see your favourite TV show was when it was broadcast or repeated, and the only chance to see photos was in printed publications. There may not have been any photos of him turbo boosting over anything which I remember being disappointed with, but there are explosions, a ski mode (up on two wheels) and a very memorable chase where the stunt performer jumped from a flying helicopter right down into the driver’s seat of the speeding, self-driving (on the screen at least) K.I.T.T., all without wires!

What’s interesting is how the book credits actor William Daniels as K.I.T.T.’s voice when the show didn’t. In fact, Daniels insisted he not be credited so as not to ruin the illusion for the kids, so given who the target audience is for this book it’s strange to include his name. The second car feature, K.I.T.T. – Equipment and Functions deals specifically with the fictional side of the car, meaning its artificial intelligence and futuristic abilities.

There’s a particularly well written introduction to this part of the annual, especially when discussing the different ways he interacts with the human characters.

“Michael and K.I.T.T. are true partners: they bicker, they rib one another, but they are fiercely loyal to each other. K.I.T.T. is a little bit of a know-it-all. He’s pragmatic, sometimes arrogant, often fussy and peevish. And since he’s (yes, he is described as a “he”) completely logical, he has a difficult time understanding this most illogical of humans, Michael Knight.”

Of course he’d soften as his character developed over the series, as he learned from his human companion and their missions together.

“K.I.T.T. has a great sense of humour and he is incessantly interested in human emotions and feelings, things he seems to pick up on as time goes on.”

It’s clear these details were taken from the series bible because when this was written they were the future plans for the character, rather than anything seen yet. Also, maybe an early draft of that document was used because even here there are some inaccuracies, such as claiming K.I.T.T. can’t have independent thought unless put into surveillance mode. This mode is for scanning the area, K.I.T.T. always had independent thought. (Elsewhere in the same article this mode is described correctly.)

It’s rather strange that the publishers obviously had access to information from the show itself yet these errors slipped in. Could it be the series bible was further refined as the original pilot was created? Or perhaps the book elaborated where they thought they could, not thinking they were contradicting anything. Most glaringly are the two oft-cited errors that peeve fans off; no, turbo boost does not enable K.I.T.T. to fly and no, he does not have offensive weapons!

Saying all that, as a child I really didn’t care. We were much more forgiving back then. Books such as this were the only way we could see photos of the super cool car and enjoy new stories away from Saturday evenings in front of the family telly. My own copy of this annual disappeared many, many years ago and I remember it falling apart from being read that many times. It rarely left my side for months after Christmas 1983. I’d even clutch it tightly while watching the latest episode.

To finish this childhood favourite is Devil’s Valley, our second gorgeous strip and it’s even better than the first. It may have been a family show but Knight Rider never shied away from dealing with issues you’d see in more adult dramas, such as murder, kidnap, drug dealing and terrorism. All defeated by one person making a difference of course. Another topic it would touch upon more than once, which this strip also does, was racism.

A variation of the Ku Klux Klan seem to have kidnapped a young lady to make some sort of religious sacrifice. She escapes and runs out in front of a self-piloting K.I.T.T. (Michael is having a sleep). Once again, it plays out like the final scenes of an episode and all of the car’s capabilities are the same as the movie but it’s huge fun. The spread above is an exciting collection of panels and shows the potential a regular Knight Rider strip could have had if coupled with a deeper story.

One thing I have noticed throughout the book is the incessant need to have ‘Knight 2000’ plastered all over the car. It looks like it’s been added later and David confirmed he can’t remember any instruction to do so. (It’s particularly jarring on the cover.) I remember any toy K.I.T.T.s I owned as a kid had stickers of this all over them and I’d always remove them. After all, K.I.T.T. was meant to blend in. It could be a licensing thing, to separate merchandise for Knight Rider from that of car manufacturer Pontiac, but adding it to the strips feels unnecessary.

As you can see this is only the first of five Knight Rider Annuals and if this one is anything to go by I’m glad I’ve finally been able to track them all down (those later ones seem to be somewhat rare) and I’m really looking forward to the next one. When will that be? Why, next Christmas of course! This blog is in real time after all. It’ll be an agonising wait but nope, I won’t be reading ahead, it’ll make the experience all the better for it.

For this year however, I have a very special treat in store for both Knight Rider and comics fans in general. Artist David Lloyd very kindly agreed to answer questions about working on the annuals and not only did he supply some fascinating insights, he also sent me some of his original sketches for K.I.T.T. and a Hasselhoff study! You’ll be able to check all of these out in just a couple of days on Saturday 17th December 2022. For now, I’m off to have my yearly viewing of the show’s sole Christmas episode, appropriately enough titled ‘Silent Knight’.

“Straight ahead.”


As a child one of my regular orders at the newsagents was for Fleetway’s Big Comic Fortnightly, which I collected from #1 for a couple of years after receiving a giant book the previous Christmas (the 1988 volume). I didn’t know until deciding to collect the books for the blog that there had actually been another the year before; when it had hit the shelves originally I hadn’t even discovered OiNK (my first comic) yet. Now I’ve been able to complete the collection of eight huge tomes that make up the Big Comic Book series, released between 1986 and 1993.

While they’d have been available since the end of the summer, it was Christmas Day when most of us would’ve received these so I’m going to cover one each festive season. (At least you know the blog will be about for a bit now!) While OiNK was more in tune with my sense of humour than more traditional humour comics, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of smiles and a few chortles to be had here. With 256 pages it’s a cliché to say it but there is something for everyone. Here are a few of my own personal highlights.

I can’t remember these first characters from the fortnightly or books as a kid, but that’s probably more a lack of memory on my part. Happy Families is drawn here by Dick Millington and I’m sure it can resonate with many of us around this time of year. The Happies are made up of Mum, Dad, Grandad, Sharon and the twins Vicki and Dicky and the scenario is much like the rest of the book’s comic strips, a simple but effective one; in Happy Families a small disagreement over something very unimportant would escalate until the whole family was at war with each other.

As with much of the contents in the book this is only one of several Happy Families strips, although most of the others end up so rowdy the police get involved. The stories can vary from them all being at each others’ throats by the end, all of them being punished in some way, or one or two of them getting sweet revenge on the rest of the family. Yet at the start of each new strip they’re back to loving one another again. Families, eh? These strips may even have been somewhat cathartic for some readers’ parents or older siblings on Christmas Day.

Regular blog readers will know I’m a sucker for a comical shark in the pages of OiNK due to my obsession with the creatures. This stemmed from my favourite movie of all time, Jaws which inspired teenage me to read up on the real fish and decades later I’m still fascinated. In fact, my favourite ever page of OiNK was a parody of Jaws in #4 but even the top comic of all time has to take a bow to the following star of Monster Fun.

When I started collecting Big Comic it would still be a couple of years before I’d see the best film ever made but I always loved Gums. I was reading this funny strip very obviously inspired by that movie before I saw it. After I did eventually watch Jaws I just enjoyed this toothless version even more so as a result. Gums was originally created by writer Roy Davis and artist Robert Nixon, the above strip is taken from Buster after Monster Fun folded and is drawn by John Geering (who also contributed to a handful of OiNKs).

To me he was always a Geering character. John gives such fantastic, expressive gestures to Gums who thought he was a terrifying monster of the deep, but the cast of recurring characters who lived with him weren’t exactly quaking in the depths. The best thing was that Gums would sometimes triumph in his schemes which kept things fresh. With quite a few strips in this one book, it’s clear he was a fan favourite. Our next character also originated in Monster Fun.

Kid Kong’s original artist was also Robert Nixon, although this Buster strip is drawn by Rob Lee and alongside Gums he lives on today in Rebellion’s seasonal Monster Fun specials in new stories by new artists. Originally an escapee from a zoo and much larger, he was shrunk down to make it easier to write stories in a family home setting, although still having to stoop down to fit in Granny Smith’s house. Granny was chronically short-sighted and hard of hearing, mistaking Kong as her own.

As enjoyable as these have been so far, not all of the contents hit the spot as much as these examples. Some haven’t aged well, in fact some of those I read at the time hadn’t even aged well by the late 80s. But whether it was the latest book or the fortnightly comic there was enough content to ensure plenty of enjoyment and the odd chortle from a favourite character. It’s a cliché, but the sheer size of Big Comic meant every reader would have some favourites and get a lot from each volume. Just don’t be expecting OiNK levels of guffaws. Unless you’re reading Gums, of course.

In recent years Ken Reid’s Faceache has had something of a resurgence, from a gorgeous hardback collection to new strips alongside the two stars above. Created for Jet comic but (yet again) a later star of Buster, Ken’s style is instantly recognisable and upon first glance may seem very traditional, very DC Thomson-esque to the uninitiated. But you soon realise these are very different to pretty much everything else in this book!

Ken’s work really pops, really stands out, which is no small feat in such a huge book

The humour has a different feel to it, not least thanks to the creative ‘scrunges’ Faceache pulls off. This juxtaposition works, the strips feel fresh even today with a unique art style. Ken’s work really pops, really stands out, which is no small feat in such a huge book where everything is black and white on cheap paper stock. However, if you’re scanning through a Big Comic Book these really do stop you in your tracks.

I’ve happy memories of the following family from my time with the fortnightly comic and they’d often be the first strip I’d read, the endings almost always guaranteed to raise a laugh. The Bumpkin Billionaires originated in Whoopee and told the tale of a family of Beverly Hillbilly types who had won billions of pounds on the pools (the family-friendly weekly sports betting which predated the lottery, kids – Phil) but who hated the lifestyle changes the money brought. Every story would show us another hare-brained scheme of Ma, Pa, Billy and Daisy‘s to get rid of all their cash, much to the disgruntlement of their bank manager.

Mike Lacey brought these loveable rogues to life and the physical comedy of the main characters was always a hoot. Most of the time the family’s plan would fall apart in the final frame or two and they’d somehow end up with even more money than they started with. I’ve included the one above because it was one of those rare occasions when things actually worked out in their favour. Well, I’m assuming these were rare occasions, I certainly can’t remember this happening regularly and I’ve fond memories of trying to work out what was about to go wrong for them.

Do you remember CBBC programme Grange Hill? My siblings watched it but I never did, although the theme tune is still seared into my mind. Whizzer & Chips came along with its own interpretation, Strange Hill which as a name I absolutely love. Teech was the poor sap trying to educate the wee monsters, who in this case actually were little monsters; a class full of spooks, ghouls and tiny versions of famous Hollywood creatures. I thought this particular example would be a good one to include on this blog, can you tell why?

Tom Paterson, who brought us a few ingenious early OiNK strips, is the perfect choice for these manic scripts with such a varied ensemble cast, and his trademark smelly socks, little squigly creatures and descriptive word bombs are all evident by the bucketload. These little extras always made his strips classics for me and his were the only ones I read in my brother’s Beanos.  I’ve always said it’s unfortunate he was too busy to contribute more to OiNK where surely his work was a perfect fit.

Drawn by Sid Burgon, Lolly Pop was an entrepreneur with an endless range of businesses and an equally endless supply of money. However, while his businesses thrived the same couldn’t be said of his relationship with his son Archie, who was a regular kid after a regular life, who just wanted to play and spend time with his dad. With his dad being so preoccupied with his factories, Archie’s unsupervised attempts of leading a normal life and wanting to win his father’s attention would inevitably lead to a variety of disasters.

It also didn’t help that despite being an obvious millionaire Lolly Pop was rather miserly to say the least, preoccupied with saving his wealth, leading to Archie being somewhat neglected. Although to be fair it was only attention that Archie felt starved of. Originally in Whoopee, Lolly Pop is one of the stronger series in this book and there are stories involving Lolly Pop Toffees Ltd, Lolly Pop Movie Studios, Lolly Pop’s Garage, Pop’s Tyres, Lolly Pop Wood Products and Lolly Pop’s Record Company over five 2-page strips.

“Ha! No playpen can hold Sweeny!”

Sweeny Toddler

To finish the review, there’s one perennial favourite that surely everyone loves no matter which generation they’re from. Another character appearing in new strips today, even illustrated by one of his original artists, Sweeney was the tearaway toddler who would cause havoc in not only his own home but all across town, with his ever faithful canine friend Henry by his side. Sweeney Toddler was originally created for Shiver and Shake comic and drawn by Leo Baxendale, then through mergers he’d go on to star in Whoopee, Whizzer and Chips and (of course) Buster.

There’s a reason Sweeney lasted as long as he did. Quite early on the brilliant Tom Paterson took over drawing duties and OiNK’s very own Graham Exton became Sweeney’s writer in the early 80s. They made the perfect team and during that time the strip rose to ever greater heights. The strip below is drawn by Tom but is before Graham. By the time Graham joined Tom’s style had developed to include all those lovely little sight gags he became synonymous with, like those in Strange Hill.

Overall, the first Big Comic Book is a success. Financially it was a huge success! It (and its fortnightly spin-of) cost next to nothing to produce since Fleetway owned the rights to all of the contents (we would never have seen any OiNK material as a result since most of it was creator-owned) and used cheaper paper stock, enabling the books to be much thicker with a retail price similar to a regular annual.

While some of the strips haven’t stood the test of time as well as others, there’s not really any that won’t at least raise a smile, making it a very pleasant reading experience. Needless to say, if you see this on eBay or in a second-hand charity store snap it up. With this amount of silly comics stuffed inside you should find plenty to keep you amused no matter your tastes.