Category Archives: Christmas


It’s probably the most unique cover you’re ever likely to see on this blog, that’s for sure! I originally thought it was by Ian Kennedy but he’s informed me it wasn’t, so at the moment I’m at a loss to who drew the giant pud. Even more unbelievably the cover represents an actual story inside this latest issue of creator/editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s Wildcat, and that story is one of the best so far. You’ll have to wait until further down the review before I show you that particular Christmas miracle. After this cover image the next thing that grabs the attention is the paper.

Specifically, the paper quality. Half of the comic is made up of the kind of paper Rebellion‘s modern day 2000AD is printed on (at the time of writing). This issue goes back and forth between this and the regular, thinner gloss paper but basically any sheet that has colour somewhere over its four pages will be of this thicker, heavier, higher grade. It feels wonderful in the hand and gives the comic a sense of high production values.

Moving on to the content and our four main strips obviously aren’t festive tales, what with being ongoing serials (although that didn’t stop Super Naturals, another of Barrie’s). Turbo Jones has a wonderful monster movie feel to it, like the Japanese kind I’d have watched late at night on TV back when I was a child. It’s not just dinosaurs anymore, there are giant mantises and other insects, as well as original creations such as Turbo’s Terrosauron. The imagination on show is wonderful.

The Arglons are attacking the Burroids‘ city from underground and by the time Turbo and his army make it back a lot of it has already been destroyed. The Ark and his cronies are in charge of the enemy army and here we can again see the mechanics within their skeletal mouths. The frequently used alien terms add a nice touch too. Normally a strip might contain one or two such made up words but Barrie hasn’t held back when writing this script and I love that. Where does he get all this terminology from? It adds to the absurdity of the situation, the alienness of this planet and the originality of the story.

There’s a nice little touch there with Turbo tying up his flying beast like a pet, but it’s not long before he’s taking to the skies for more thrilling battles. This particular episode really does have it all. The action is truly thrilling, Vanyo‘s artwork sizzles in the action scenes, conveying real scale in the destruction of the city, creepiness in the council and lots of little background details to pour over again and again. While the action builds so do the questions for this reader, with details about The Ark and the history of this war being drip fed to us. Wonderful stuff indeed.

Joe Alien has had enough in the next chapter of David Robinson‘s story. After falling for a trap set by the trees(!) he draws the logical conclusion this continent they’ve landed upon is not hospitable for human life. It’s simply too dangerous; the killer vegetation can’t be communicated or reasoned with, despite finding out they can understand our language. Resistance is futile, so he orders a hasty retreat for his team but the plant life won’t let them leave. However, they’re not trying to kill them anymore either.

This is where a surprising turn of events takes place. We knew the trees were intelligent, able to uproot themselves and walk, they could communicate with each other and they appeared to be attempting to do so with us. Their murderous instincts were always front and centre but as Joe points out, while he has lost some team members, if the plants wanted them all dead they would be.

A vehicle made of rock glides in over a body of water and from within it steps out a man. A human man from Earth! Our heroes have been corralled, now trapped on an outcrop surrounded by this body of water full of man-eating plants ready to chomp the legs off anyone who attempts to escape. But for this man they spread out their lily pad-like leaves and let him cross to within talking distance of Joe and his men.

I didn’t expect this! I have no recollection of this twist at all. A nice touch is the fact his speech is broken and slow because it’s been so many years since he last needed to do so. The plants treat him reverently, he’s quite clearly in charge and yet very frail, at least upon first glance. It ends with him promising to tell a surprising story. I bet! I have so many questions. But that’s the whole point of the story. It’s layering mystery upon mystery, and just when you think you’ve got one or two bits sussed out it pulls the rug from under you.

Yes, that last sentence was a bit clichéd but there’s nothing unoriginal about this story. Ron Smith‘s artwork really comes into its own too, like he’s had a couple of issues to settle in and is now confidently in charge of the world originally created by Massimo Belardinelli. The rock vehicle feels suitably solid, the old man is an intriguing character even just to look at and the uprooted killers remind me of the tree that came in through the window in Poltergeist. Genuinely threatening. Two for two, the strips this issue have depth, character and intrigue. Shall it continue?

Just before the Kitten Magee strip here’s artist José Ortiz‘s pin up of one of her teammates Casandra Cardeti. While I do really enjoy José’s work and it’s nice to see some colour work from him, I always had an issue with how female characters would be dressed in our sci-fi comics. While Turbo, Joe and Loner are properly equipped for whatever is thrown at them, women always seemed to go up against the same dangers with a lot less clothing. It’s a sign of the times of course but it was always a niggle I had, not just with Wildcat so I’m not singling it (or José) out.

Unfortunately, out of all the strips in this issue Kitten Magee’s has the least development plot-wise. Basically a fight to the death between them and the robotic tribe, there’s plenty of action and a few close shaves until right at the end one of the robot heads pops off and explodes, leaving a crater where Kitten and Aurora were standing. But even within a basic plot this time around there are some really nice little nuggets by writer James Tomlinson to sink our teeth into. Have a look at these two panels by way of example.

The robots have suddenly become rather interesting. Their techniques for dispatching foes get more and more creative, my particular favourite being this ground drilling monster that pops up just when the battle seems over. Then there’s a gaffe Kitten herself makes. In saving Casandra from a dropped explosive by expertly kicking it into the hole from the previous panel, she mentions how keenly she played football as a kid. The thing is, the sport was deemed too violent and banned more than one hundred years ago. Add this to how old she looked in #3 and we’re beginning to get a glimpse into just how much of a lie she’s living. An interesting plot point which I’ve a feeling will become the main thread in issues to come. I certainly hope so anyway.

Just before Loner there’s another double-page spread of letters although none from the readers. Instead, every contribution has been signed off by an alien being from some distant world. The letters page had been hacked! I asked Barrie if this was due to a lack of letters but he assured me it was probably just for a bit of fun for the Christmas issue. He says he’s a big kid at this time of year (just like myself) so I can believe it.

“The creature is preserving their bodies… so it can eat them when it pleases.”

One of the little furballs

Barrie Tomlinson‘s Loner gets a bit of a new look but whether I’d call it an upgrade is something else. The furry little pets of the extinct alien race told him the weapons he’d found could only be controlled by his mind and thus he was made to sit in a chair to prepare himself for using them. The end result makes for a rather startling image and he’s not best pleased with the finished result.

It’s a bit of an anti-climax when one of the furballs casually says they can change him back afterwards, what with the transformation being part of the cliffhanger last time. But it does mean he’s all set to take to the caverns and hunt down the creature the lizard demanded he kill. There are also some nice humorous touches in the dialogue and you get a sense of the beginnings of a friendship between the former mercenary and these cute little beings.

This episode is all about stalking through the underworld and it contains some wonderful imagery from David Pugh, especially within the lair of the beast.

The detail here is stunning. I love the webs, the rock formations and the skeletal remains of the critters, which is a bit sad with rotting corpses and imprisoned furries strung up everywhere. It’s quite the panel!

As he tracks down the beast we’re treated to a suspenseful atmosphere. Take your time reading this, taking in all the fine details of the art and the fact the lettering of the homing beep gets slightly bigger and smaller as Loner attempts to find it, and it gives off a tense Aliens vibe. As for the beast itself, well I remembered it being a hideous snake-like creature with huge black eyes and long, pointed teeth. An image in a previous issue confirmed my grey cells hadn’t let me down, but I’d assumed it was about the size of a large Earth anaconda. How wrong was I.

In #2 I was under the impression the crazed lizard was a giant beast in itself, only to find out in the next issue he was about twice the size of our hero. With the predator Loner has been sent to dispatch, I’m very glad to say I was wrong in a completely different way. Just look at that final page! What an image to leave in the minds of young readers. This is the best cliffhanger in all of Wildcat’s run so far.

They’re tracking the huge dessert making its way towards them through the darkness outside

How on Earth (or wherever they are) can Loner hope to take on this thing, even with the advanced weaponry? We know it has no brain patterns to speak of, that it operates purely on survival instinct (this is why the telepathic lizard can’t kill it). Is that information in itself a clue? I can’t see how. But isn’t that the best kind of cliffhanger? One where you can’t think of any possible way beyond it, but you know the answer has probably already been hinted at, that it’ll be an organic and ultimately satisfying resolution. Wildcat has proven itself in this respect many times over already. A tense chapter with a stunning final scene.

Our last strip takes us back to that giant Christmas pudding on the cover. It’s the festive season for the last human beings in existence and there’s some nice scene setting, including mention of the fact there’s been no communication with the landing parties, a running theme throughout all the stories and a nice reminder each one is part of a larger whole. We also get to see the bridge and the captain in charge of Turbo’s ship when he’s not around, while they track the huge dessert making its way towards them through the darkness outside.

For such a ludicrous thing to see they take it very seriously. Some crew members joke but they’re soon put in their place. It could’ve been so easy to reduce the whole story to a farce but I’m glad to say the characters treat it very seriously. Various attempts are made to communicate, they see it as an imminent threat, sounding the alarms and even opening fire, but their laser beams go straight through it. As does the Wildcat when the pudding surrounds them. “It’s like being wrapped in cotton wool”, one engineer scanning the impact (or lack thereof) states. Stranger and stranger.

It’s what the Wildcat crew don’t see that elevates the story into being the best Wildcat Complete yet

The lights go out and a mysterious glow signals someone or something beaming aboard. It’s Santa and an elf! With presents for everyone they explain they disguised their ship as something they thought couldn’t possibly be seen as a threat and they apologise. The image of the Wildcat within the actual ship itself is a striking one too and provides an “ahh” moment for the reader after that cover. The captain takes some convincing and they don’t immediately win everyone over. Even after they’ve gone no one is sure it wasn’t some form of mass hallucination.

It’s a fun little story but then the final page makes everything click into place. The large Death Star-esque vehicle morphs into a sleigh and reindeer, another illusion. But it’s what the Wildcat crew don’t see that elevates the story into being the best Wildcat Complete yet. I’m left with just one question. Were they impersonating someone we humans associate with gift giving (apparently what they love to do as a species) or is this Santa’s true form?

It’s left without an answer of course, like all good Twilight Zone twists, leaving the readers much to discuss with their friends. I know I’ve mentioned that show before in reviewing these anthology stories, but to me that’s just the vibe I’m getting. I’m all for it, and even though the stories can be so different from the rest of the comic they manage to fit perfectly. While it can’t be officially confirmed at this time, we believe the artist is Manuel Carmona Ruiz (2000AD, James Bond). The way they so effortlessly blend the hard sci fi with a very traditional way of illustrating Santa Claus in his close up, in a completely different artistic style, is extraordinary.

A wonderful Christmas feast of a story to end another fantastic issue. The way the dates fell in December 1988 there was another issue in the festive period, in fact it’s dated New Year’s Eve. It was probably released early like most comics scheduled around that time but I’ll be reviewing it on the last day of the year. If it’s anything like this issue it’ll give 2021 one hell of a send off. Join me then.

OiNK! #17: HO(G), HO(G), HO(G)!

It’s great to finally be reading the issues I enjoyed so much as a kid and this is one I’ve really been really looking forward to, what with me being such a fan of the season. As a child I remember the TV Times magazine being a staple part of my television viewing, even though it only had ITV and Channel Four inside it, and the Christmas issue was a bit of an event when it arrived. Today the only time I’ll buy a TV listings magazine is Christmas, there’s something wonderfully nostalgic about it nowadays. Back in 1986 OiNK‘s TV Tips sat proudly alongside the family’s TV Times in the magazine rack for the whole of the school holiday. I insisted upon it.

What a present the free gift turned out to be too. The third and final section of the calendar for 1987 came with this issue and when linked to the separate parts from #15 and #16 it dominated my bedroom for the whole of the next year. It was subject to many pen marks when crossing off dates and highlighting birthdays, but it was treasured. Below are photos of the final part and the finished calendar I’ve been able to acquire again, proudly taking centre stage on the wall of my office, impatiently waiting for a year the dates will match up.

The issue is packed with Christmassy strips, spoof toy adverts, cards and decorations to make, Christmas stories and more. I know it’s only going to get harder from here on to pick out a few highlights, this issue is proof of that but after long deliberations here’s the selection box of piggy perfection. To set the mood for the festive frivolities is Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental drawn as ever by Ian Knox.

I think that sets things up for us rightly.

So a comic with a comical take on TV listings magazines on the cover just has to follow that up on the inside and we weren’t to be disappointed. Blog readers who were alive in the 80s will find this next page particularly funny with references to a lot of the shows we’d have enjoyed ourselves back then, as well as those during which we’d have retreated to our bedrooms to play with our toys but which were favourites of our parents.

So what was on offer for us on TV?  Some aspects really weren’t that much different than today.  Cartoon movies, The Snowman, as well as the inhabitants of Albert Square refusing to have a merry one even back then. We may have had a festive special of Knight Rider instead of Doctor Who but the clichés about the television schedules at this time of the year aren’t a new thing, as OiNK proves here.

To be fair I’m actually a fan of Christmas telly and I think no matter the amount of cracker (no pun intended) specials and film premieres are broadcast people will carry on with the same old complaints. Interestingly, that Roger Moore James Bond illustration by Tim Thackeray was drawn for the first OiNK annual, which wouldn’t be released until the next year! (You can just about make out the OiNK logo above Roger’s head.) Just goes to show how far in advance those books were created.

Let’s not forget about the true meaning of Christmas. I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination but I’m a big kid for this time of year. To me, it’s all about those nearest and dearest to me and thanking them for being in my life for another year. It’s about presents of course but I get just as much of a thrill out of giving to those I love as I do in receiving from them. It’s a time to be grateful, to be happy, to feel loved and to share that love.

In other words, the true meaning of Christmas is ripe for OiNK to tear to shreds.

Written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Davy Francis, Blue Xmas takes the foundations of any good Christmas story and builds upon them with plenty of laughs along the way, before it’s all flipped on its head in the final panels. A poor boy who won’t be receiving any gifts for Christmas tries to raise some money so he can buy his mum a present and through it all he finds that the joy of giving is better than receiving, only for him to be punished for his goodwill!

You can also get a real sense of the amount of work Davy (Francis) put in

From memory I could’ve sworn this was in one of the annuals but here it is in the regular comic. A good few years back now I had the pleasure of meeting Davy for a chat and had the chance of purchasing some of his original OiNK artwork. One of the pieces was the first page of Blue Xmas which is now up on my wall. I thought I’d show you a few highlights of this strip now.

In the comic the strip featured two-tone colour, all the faces being quite aptly blue, but on the original drawing you can see it was black and white. You can also get a real sense of the amount of work Davy put in; in the title box you can actually see the pressure put on the page by Davy’s colouring-in of this solid black first panel. Those groups of lines he always used for backgrounds look even more time consuming in full-scale (this is about twice the size of the pages of the comic) and you can also see some of the correction fluid used to change a speech balloon to one with frosty icicles.

A quick look at some of the other highlights of the issue now, starting with Harry the Head‘s big adventure taking him into space, The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile sees the school pantomime descend into chaos and this particular panel had me laughing aloud, and the Christmas Quiz has a real head scratcher for you. Then in Ham Dare, Pig of the Future there’s more parodying of the all-British adventure comics of the day and that image of Ham looks so much like Dan Dare I think artist J.T. Dogg could easily have taken over the strip in Eagle!

I admit that well into my adult life I’d always assumed Mrs. Claus’ name was Mary! I know this was mentioned in a Charlie Brown Christmas Special (thanks to Wikipedia) but I wonder if OiNK was where I originally got that idea. Anyway, moving on.

The commercial breaks during those Christmas programmes are usually filled with Boxing Day and New Year sales adverts for all those people not happy with what their loved ones gave them. Getting in on this racket is none other than OiNK’s in-house catalogue company, GBH with their very own Christmas Catalogue for the following Christmas! This is definitely the best so far, complete with photographs of children enjoying (well, in theory) the dodgy toys and a background image by Mike Taylor complete with a very unhappy snowman and a very smug fox.

This particular madvertisement was written by both Mark Rodgers and Patrick Gallagher and this is Mike’s first contribution to OiNK. A renowned ‘zine illustrator, Mike would go on to provide more lovingly crafted work for 13 issues altogether, being most prolific during the comic’s weekly phase.

Patrick directed the photo session which must’ve been hilarious to be a part of. His brother James was the actual photographer and the Barbie toys belonged to his sister Bernie. The two children featured are Patrick’s cousins, Erin Claffey and her brother Patrick, the rest of the toys belonging to them. On a side note I remember having that Castle Greyskull toy myself and many years later being told by my parents they had to make the trip all the way from Belfast to Dublin in order to get it that particular Christmas!

A few issues previous to this Lew Stringer introduced us to Tom Thug‘s mum. When it was announced she’d be appearing both Tom and his father were terrified. Who on Earth could do that to the two biggest wannabe bullies in OiNKtown? What kind of bully was the mum, to make these men shake in their bovver boots? As it turns out Mrs Thug was the kindest, sweetest and most affectionate woman you could imagine and that’s what put the fear of god into them. It was a funny twist and here she’s putting Tom to sleep on Christmas Eve, the morning after which she’d end up very happy with what can only be described as a Christmas miracle.

One thing I always like about Christmassy comics is seeing favourite characters within that setting. We all have our own Christmas traditions for the big day itself and sometimes it feels like we’re getting an insight into the cartoonists’ traditions, maybe from their own childhood, or at the very least maybe what they think our traditions were. These were always extra special strips and one cartoonist who never disappoints with a snowy logo is Lew.

A little extra note, according to Lew he originally had Tom actually shoot Santa but Mark Rodgers said it should be a dream so as not to upset kids. Lew says, “Mark was 100% right and it worked out far better”.

While it only ever snowed once for December 25th when I was a child we expected all of our strips to be covered in the white stuff and Lew always seemed to go that extra mile in this regard. Whether it was Tom and Pete in OiNK, or Combat Colin and Robo Capers in Transformers, you could be assured of a white Christmas in the pages of your comics. Nice to see Satan the Cat back in his own little mini-strip too and to have it all finished off with crackers and holly, and that little man at the top keeping the pages clear is a funny little touch.

“I normally manage to cadge a free, slap-up meal at Christmas time!”

Mr. Big Nose

This issue is really making my Christmas all over again 35 years after it did the first time, and now it’s time the main event, a wonderful multi-page Uncle Pigg strip, one of only two times this would happen in the whole of OiNK’s run. Written by Mark Rodgers and of course drawn by Ian Jackson this four-page story is spread throughout the comic, even appearing as a subplot in Rubbish Man.

The plot has our editor declaring he’ll take his staff out for a Christmas treat, but the free gifts and competition prizes have drained the piggy bank. But as luck would have it, at that exact moment a flyer pops up offering a £10,000 reward from Santa Claus if anyone can find Rudolph who has gone missing. Donning his best Sherlock Holmes-esque getup Uncle Pigg leads his team into the snow and immediately stumbles upon a clue. But not all is as it seems.

I can remember reading this back then and loving every panel of it, wondering why we didn’t get at least a full-page like this every issue. I don’t know how many times I read it, but it was so witty and the art so funny it was definitely more than a few. I even remember lying in bed on Christmas Eve reading it yet again (even though the next issue had already arrived by that point, see the bottom of this review for more on that) just before going to sleep, or at least trying to fall asleep with the excitement of the night, which this only added to.

As the story continues there’s one madcap mishap after another, such as above when Percy Plop makes a welcome guest appearance. Yes, the script is funny but Ian’s style heightens every piece of slapstick such as the policeman skidding on Percy, forcing Uncle Pigg’s assistant deep into the snow. In the end our heroes follow the trail right back to the OiNK offices which Mary Lighthouse (critic) and none other than Santa Claus himself have commandeered. Why is Santa working with Mary? Read on.

In hindsight it’s a bit strange to have Santa team up with Mary, but when you think about it he isn’t meant to bring toys to the naughty children, is he? Children who like rude jokes, bare bums on their comic covers, puns about plops and stuff like that. But in the end Uncle Pigg and the OiNK crew won through and showed him we were all just as deserving. The present he refers to is Patrick Gallagher‘s cut-out mobile on the back cover “for people who hate Xmas”, which is a very strange thing to put in a children’s comic. It’s more revenge on Santa for the story, but still, I remember thinking even at the time it was a little weird. Surely no one in OiNK’s target audience would hate it!

So that’s us at the end of a superb issue, a very special Christmas treat and a great stocking filler in itself if you can throw a hint at any loved one to search for it on eBay in time. With everything wrapped up (again, no pun intended) in time for the holidays there’s just time to squeeze in Jeremy Banx‘s Mr. Big Nose, another highlight of this issue that has stayed in my memory for decades and it’s a joy to see it again.

The next issue of OiNK had an on-sale date of 27th December but as per usual with Christmas comics and magazines it was released earlier than normal, what with the comics publishers shutting for the holidays, distributors working limited hours and back then our shops actually shut for days at a time to give the staff time off too. So our New Year’s editions would always arrive before Christmas, but I’ve no way of knowing exactly when so I’m just going to stick to the on-sale date.

That means the Hogmanay (appropriately enough) issue of OiNK will be reviewed right here on Monday 27th December 2021. I hope to see you then.

COMiNG UP: OiNK! #17

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and time for the most wonderful free gift in the history of comics (not that I’d hype it up and I might be biased) to finally be completed in time for the end of 1986. Part three of Ian Jackson‘s glorious Mount Rushboar calendar poster was coming in the next issue of OiNK and you’ll be able to see it and the finished product in all its glory in the full review of #17 tomorrow.

But even better than that is the fact it’s the first Christmas Special! I should just get this off my chest now, I absolutely adore Christmas and this next issue of OiNK was my first experience of a festive comic. From the snowy logo on the cover photograph of the Queen making a Christmas dinner out of her corgis, to the spoof TV listings inside making fun of the seasonal telly and a multi-page Uncle Pigg story, it was a hoot from start to finish!

Now, finally, I’m getting to read this issue all over again and I can’t wait! The full review will be here at some point tomorrow, Monday 13th December 2021 so come back then for cheer and goodwill to all* in a review which I’m particularly excited to write.

(* except Mary Lighthouse, butchers and, surprisingly, Santa Claus it would seem! Find out why in the review.)

GO TO iSSUE 17 >>