Category Archives: OiNK Comic Reviews

OiNK! #7: SUMMER COOL

Be forewarned, if you’re reading this in the heatwave we’re experiencing at the time of writing you may be a tad jealous of the people on the cover that we’re actually meant to be laughing at.

While comics would normally have a separate Summer Special OiNK had only just begun so we’d have to wait for ours. But something else made it extra special, at least for readers of other IPC Magazine comics such as 2000AD. As with the preview they received this issue for free as a promotional push, hence the subtle “NOT FOR SALE!” over one of the covers above.

By coincidence the issue receiving extra visibility also contained the strip that would be famously investigated by the Press Council. But, just like the ‘Viz’ myth surrounding OiNK, this chapter in the comic’s life has become distorted in the intervening years. Two (yes, only two) complaints were received and no it did not contribute to the comic’s eventual cancellation. After all, that was over two years and 61 issues later. So what’s the truth?

Well first, here’s the story itself which co-editor Patrick Gallagher believes was written by Mark Rodgers. Every pig pal remembers Janice and John and the Parachute Jump, which was illustrated by Trevor Johnson, a friend of Patrick’s and a renowned Manchester graphic designer who did a lot of work for Factory Records and the famous The Hacienda.

The complaint accused the story of disregarding mother-family relationships, but the Press Council rightly saw it as the deliberate parody of the traditional stories found in old fashioned children’s publications that it was. They ruled that it was meant to be a tasteless spoof and was not improper in any way, rejecting the complaint. Brilliantly, OiNK would publish this in a future issue.

IPC loved the attention things like this brought.

OiNK was aimed at children, not their parents, and we found it hilarious. My own parents thought it was stupid but harmless. However, while only two people complained, WHSmith still placed OiNK on their top shelves as a result. A ridiculous situation. But a year later in an interview Tony, Mark and Patrick would be all too happy to confirm sales of 100,000 per issue so never underestimate Pig Power. Tony also recently told me IPC loved the attention things like this brought.

Janice and John would indeed return in the sequel Janice and John and the Thermonuclear Reactor, although it didn’t appear until much later in the run, possibly held back until the outcome of the complaint was known. I’ll definitely include that and OiNK’s response to the complaint when we get to those issues. But now, for our next highlight let’s enjoy a different form of crazy.

What else can be said about this strip? Nothing really. Simple, straight to the point and laugh out loud funny, that’s Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental, written by Graham Exton and drawn by his regular artist Ian Knox. To this day I can remember reading certain entries in his series of tiny, one-joke strips as a kid and just losing it with the sheer, unintended anarchy of it all.

At the beginning of OiNK’s run there was a competitor to Snatcher Sam‘s crown as the most idiotic thief to appear in a photo story. His name was Swindler Sid. Played by a good friend of Patrick’s called Nick Bell, the strips were photographed by Patrick’s brother James who we saw as a Typical OiNK Reader back in #5. Despite the consequences of Sid’s actions here I think we’d all risk it at the moment given the weather outside.

Patrick and James would rope in other friends to play the roles of whoever the scripts called for. In this case the first customer is Billy Gregg (a welder in real life), the second is Paul McGarty (a labourer) and P.C. Porker is Pat Healy (a bricklayer) who would appear more than once as the same character.

Sid has now reformed himself and given up his swindling career, “Though he still dabbles in ‘finance’ occasionally” says Patrick. Nick has had an amazing and varied career, working in the NHS for more than 30 years in positions such as Lead Auditor and Benchmarking Analysis, as well as a Business Analyst at Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust. Sid’s certainly come a long way from swiping ice lollies.

Swindler Sid (Nick Bell) – Photo credit: Patrick Gallagher

Let’s have a quick look at some other highlights from this summery edition, starting with an early character called New Wave Dave who was a bit too keen to be part of that 80s scene. Dave was drawn by Viz founder Chris Donald. Tom Thug went on an ‘oliday to Blackpool with a regular selection of British folk (we’ll see how he gets on next time). There was a comics crossover of gigantic hippopotamus proportions when Hugo the Hungry Hippo popped up to save the day in Rubbish Man, Tom Paterson‘s hilarious Wet Blanket will see publication again later this year and roles were reversed in Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins.

I’m a sucker for comical sharks, as evidenced already with my favourite OiNK page of all in #4, so if any more pop up you can be sure I’ll show them off.

On the middle pages we’re treated to eight lovely, rough around the edges postcards to cut out and take on holiday from the pen of Ian Jackson. I wonder if anyone actually used them? There’s a small competition along the bottom and I’ll keep an eye out for any results as we continue the read through. The best thing about this is Ian interpreting other artists’ characters. Some of the postcards themselves are just priceless too.

Some time next year you’ll see the actual postcards the comic gave away with a few issues. I’ve a foggy memory of wanting to take them on holiday but not sure if I ever did, and they were separate from the comic. So I doubt I would’ve cut up my OiNK to use any of these if I’d been collecting the comic at this point. Why would you want to send away these pieces of art?

Snatcher Sam might be missing in action at the moment but his alter ego Marc Riley‘s strip creations are continuing to bring the laughs. Alongside Harry the Head sat a little quarter-page strip which took us back to the Jurassic, at least in theory. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth may have had ancient creatures as the stars but the settings and stories were very 1980s.

Popping up in 25 issues altogether they, like Roger Rental, disappeared during the weekly issues as a casualty of the reduced page count. We’d see situations ranging from package holidays to skateboarding, basically everything except anything to do with the correct time period and we loved them.

But for now the sun is setting on another issue of the world’s greatest comic.

One final sight gag from Tony Husband there to round things off. The comic itself would end with Uncle Pigg and his staff heading off on a bus to go on a well deserved vacation of their own, but not before promising to leave the comic in the hands of his “dedicated skeleton staff”. Prophetic words indeed as you’ll find out next time. (There’s a hint under one of the strips above.)

Join me in two weeks for an issue that’s even more unique than those we’ve seen already. That’ll be on Monday 9th August.

OiNK! #6: ANiMAL CRACKERS

As with any comic review I’m limited to showing you a few select highlights of each issue of OiNK. Rebellion own the rights and I’m always hopeful they’ll publish reprint volumes at some point through their Treasury of British Comics label. Also, I just don’t agree with putting whole comics online, regardless of their age or unavailability to purchase. All of this adds up to a difficult review to write.

That’s because this issue is superb. Every strip hits. Every joke lands. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been enjoying the issues so far but everything just seems to come together here with complete confidence. As such, it’s been less about which strips to choose as highlights and more about selecting which ones to leave out! Thankfully the cover is a necessity and must be included and it’s one of my very favourites. An Ian Jackson classic, the best so far and perfectly encapsulating the anarchic feel of OiNK. We’re off to a great start then.

Ian’s interpretation of each animal is genuinely funny, but put them all together and it’s a cover that commands attention and time spent pouring over all the details. It even gets its own backstory, again drawn by Ian and written by Tony Husband. The theme this fortnight is perfect fodder for the team behind the comic, already used to pork-ifying anything and everything in sight. However, there’s not a pig in sight in the biggest highlight of these 32 pages, Twee Tales present The Wonderful Wildlife of Watery Down.

Co-editor Patrick Gallagher‘s neighbour, Ann Martin brought her gorgeous artwork to a spoof of Richard Adam‘s classic novel Watership Down. The script is one big set up for a good old pun so marrying it with such beautiful illustrations, which wouldn’t look out of place in a children’s book of the time, is a wonderful move. The first page puts the reader at ease with its gentle fields and cute critters before we turn over to the second half.

Ann would only contribute to three issues in total (returning for #30’s Hamadonna and #60’s Pigasus) but the terrible puns would return with a vengeance in the final strip of this very issue, which we’ll get to below. Watery Down was definitely seen as a highlight of the series, evidenced by the fact it was one of only a handful of stories to be reprinted in the final editions of OiNK.

Another one-off I wanted to include is written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Weedy Willy‘s artist, Mike Green. A Shaggy Bird Story is the sweet tale of an injured animal being taken in and looked after by a young boy, who nurses it back to health before releasing it back into the wild. It all starts off innocently enough with the boy’s “unspeakably miffed” pet cat setting things in motion.

Every time I see that cat sitting on the windowsill in December it makes me laugh! I think this may have been one of the back issues my cousin gave me because I distinctly remember this strip despite the fact I hadn’t discovered OiNK yet. It’s testimony to the comic that its one-off strips are as well remembered as the regular characters and this is one which has stood the test of time and the old grey memory cells.

If you track this issue down on eBay (and you really should) you’ll find Jim Needle‘s Pete’s Pup continuing to terrorise his family with his monstrous appetite, there’s another spoof of a children’s favourite in the shape of Rupert the Pear, the Grunts page admits it had to get creative in the early issues and Uncle Pigg’s Amazing Facts About Animals showed OiNK could be an educational read.

In the early days of the comic our esteemed editor ran a regular competition in which he’d judge readers’ messy bedrooms. It was a case of the messier the better because those chosen to feature would win a piggy prize. This time around pig pal Simon Sarfas showed us how it was done and the result was probably not a million miles away from my own childhood bedroom, although these days it makes me cringe thinking about a mess like this! I’m just showing my age now.

I always thought these were a mainstay, at least in the first year of the comic so it surprised me to find out it only appeared four times, including the original promotion in the preview issue. It did receive criticism from some parental groups who saw it as encouraging children to be even more messy than they already were but we were kids, that was our job.

One look at that dog in the pilot’s seat and how could this not be one of the selected highlights?

At least Simon has his television close by so he can somehow make it across his room without damaging his feet in time for the afternoon film, Laffie. The next instalment in the Golden Trough Awards series is my favourite. Taking the ‘Wonder Dog’ concept of Lassie and really running with it, it puts the canine hero aboard a plane when the captain finds himself stuck in the toilet tens of thousands of feet in the air. So a typical Lassie-type plot then.

Brought to you by the same partnership as the first strip in this issue, Tony Husband has written a hilarious script full of daring dos and funny eyewitnesses, all brought to the page with Ian Jackson‘s unique style. What we end up with is a frantic, madcap yarn that starts off at full speed and doesn’t let up.

One look at that dog in the pilot’s seat and how could this not be one of the selected highlights?

I remember I could spend so long just looking at Jackson’s artwork and roaring with excited laughter as a kid. That feeling hasn’t dissipated as an adult. The feeling of excitement returns later too with a tiny two-panel strip hidden away underneath Tom Thug‘s. If you’re new to OiNK you’ll probably be wondering why this unassuming little section of the page could be anything more than a funny space filler. But for pig pals everywhere this is just the first appearance of a comic icon.

Of course at the time readers couldn’t have known how big a part in the future of OiNK Pete and his Pimple were going to play. Lew Stringer‘s creation would eventually return in #15, becoming one of the main strips in each and every issue, even continuing into the pages of Buster for a period after OiNK came to an end.

Over the course of his OiNK career Pete would be the only character to get his own pull-out comic, he’d be the star of free gifts, a board game, appear in crossovers with Tom or a gigantic robotic pig and eventually Lew ran a weekly competition in which Pete tried out various pimple busting solutions sent in by readers.

Lew would actually end up having to tone down Pete’s strip in order for it to appear in Buster. What was there about the character above that would need toned down? Just you wait and see! We’ll get to the reason behind that when he reappears again later this year.

Every single panel contains at least one pun, with well over a dozen altogether in just the one strip.

You should prepare yourself for this final highlight, especially if you groaned at the conclusion to Watery Down. While that had two pages to build up to one gag, Fish Theatre starring Noel Pilchard does the opposite and squeezes in an absurd amount of puns into its one page.

Written by Graham Exton and drawn by Ed McHenry, Graham told me how he’d often use up several scripts worth of puns all at once, robbing himself of the chance to use his vast array of jokes over many stories. In the end he just ended up giving himself more work, having to think up new puns after using so many here! But the end result of this is so funny I think it was worth all of that extra effort.

Every single panel contains at least one pun here (sometimes more), with well over a dozen altogether in just the one strip. Don’t think it’s possible? You have been warned.

I really didn’t want this issue to end but what an ending it gave us. It’s been a blast revisiting this particular OiNK and to have such a faultless issue this early in its life proves the strength of its concept and of the team assembled to bring it to life. It just keeps on getting better and better and with over 60 issues plus specials and books to come, there’s a lot of laughing yet to do.

With the comic still fresh out of the gates it wouldn’t have a dedicated Holiday Special until the following year, but #7 makes up for that with its summery theme and ice cold cover. Confused? The next issue’s review will be here from Monday 26th July and all will be revealed.

OiNK! #5: PERFECT PiG PALS

While the main event of this fifth issue of OiNK is the Unfair Funfair adventure game and there’s no theme as such, there’s an overall feeling of celebration inside, a celebration that the comic was proving to be a hit among its target audience. It contains the first contributions from readers, with a few small jokes and drawings scattered throughout, there’s a photo story showing us the kind of kids who were reading OiNK and reference is made to their letters in some of the strips.

Things begin with Mary Lighthouse on page two as per usual and something stood out in its last panel. The image of Mary and the words Uncle Pigg is shouting were definitely not by strip artist Ian Jackson, so I asked Patrick Gallagher about it. In Mark Rodgers‘ original script the mass of letters was meant to be hate mail for Mary but IPC Magazines didn’t like this reference and asked for it to be toned down. It was changed to reference fan mail for the comic which I think is actually funnier. You can compare the two ideas below.

I love the set up with Mary receiving three complaints and calling it an outcry. It all feels very contemporary. After all, that’s how The Daily Mail still operates today, isn’t it? This strip would coincidentally end up quite prophetic. While it’s obviously a joke, it’s strikingly similar to something the comic’s editors would face after a certain story is published in #7, but we’ll get to that later.

Directly below this on the same page is a character whose name is somewhat direct. In fact you could say it’s a bit on the nose. Mr. Big Nose would introduce surreal humour to the young audience in a way that really shouldn’t work in a children’s comic, but it did. One issue he could be showing us gravity is actually invisible creatures holding everything down, or he’d be ignoring an alien assassin by reading the newspaper, or playing Rambo in a school play of Little Bo-Peep, or having his vacuum cleaner turned into a dolphin.

Mr Big Nose’s strips followed no rules and the more absurd the situation, the more bizarre the juxtapositions, the more they didn’t make sense the funnier they were. With no barriers in his way, Jeremy Banx‘s imagination was on full display and this kind of humour would also start to spill over into his Burp the Smelly Alien strip in later issues too.

Appearing in almost every one of the fortnightly issues of OiNK Mr Big Nose would sadly disappear with #45, the first weekly edition. However, including specials Jeremy would end up crafting 42 completely different tales for us to enjoy, and enjoy them we did. That dolphin’s name often gets quoted by pig pals online to this day!

So as I said at the top of the review this issue brought with it the first contributions by OiNK’s readers. The regular space for these was the Grunts page but it only contains one drawing this time and some made up letters to Uncle Pigg from imaginary readers for a laugh. Soon enough it would be full to bursting with readers’ celebrity spoofs, photos, newspaper clippings of pigs in the news, poems and of course jokes for Nasty Laffs and Specs.

These two little panels aren’t on the letters page, instead popping up right at the beginning of the issue on page three. Rather than simply printing the written letters sent in OiNK would illustrate them too, which would just spur on the young readership more. Who wouldn’t have wanted to see their joke turned into a cartoon strip?


“You smell awful! You must be a City supporter!”

Random human to Burp the Smelly Menace from Outer Space

Interestingly, OiNK also printed input from readers in their holiday specials and annuals, something no other annual I collected as a kid ever did. While my Marvel UK comics had standard letters pages answered in very entertaining ways, IPC (and later Fleetway) would often encourage their readers to send something different. Barrie Tomlinson, editor of many action adventure comics was always asking readers to contribute to a wonderful variety of features on his letters pages. But OiNK went even further and just let them send in whatever they wanted!

So who were these young readers, these so-called “pig pals”? Time for Terry Wogham to investigate.

Terry Wogham was a series of photo stories in the earliest issues where a real pig interviewed a series of top celebrities. Of course, we’d often only see these special guests from his eye level, so the comic could get away with only showing their legs and torso. For this issue though we got to see the faces of those interviewees, a selection of Typical OiNK Readers.

Like looking in a mirror. The strip contains all three of OiNK’s creators. Mark Rodgers can be seen wearing the bald cap and bandana with a toothless mouth drawn over him, then that’s him at the bottom left of the final panel, with Tony Husband and his son Paul behind him. Patrick Gallagher is in the middle of the back row, with his former wife Ann to the right (his left), then Ann’s brother James who was also an OiNK photographer. In front of James is his wife Alanna and in the middle of the front row is Tony’s wife, Carole.

So who remembers those Make-Your-Own Adventure books? For the uninitiated I’m referring to children’s novels designed to be read in a non-linear fashion, very much like the text adventure games on home computers at the time. At the end of each page you’d be given a choice of where to take the story next and the corresponding page numbers for each choice, the idea being to make it to the end of the adventure alive. For example the character could be faced with a spooky house or a haunted forest and they could decide to turn to page ‘x’ to enter the house, or page ‘y’ to walk towards the forest. 

Whether it was intended or not, I remember Horace teaching me not to judge anyone by how they look.

The format was ripe for an OiNK parody. Bringing the idea of The Unfair Funfair to life was artist Ralph Shephard, fresh off his excellent riff on The Transformers in #3. He would also go on to draw one of my all-time favourite spoofs from the comic, but that’s a tale for another review. His previous colourful style is replaced with black and white for the most part which suits the setting perfectly with its lovely feeling of spooky mischievousness.

Just like the books this was based on, the cover proclaims “You are Barry the butcher”, but surely that’s the last thing an OiNK reader would want? How can a butcher be the hero of the adventure? Read on, try the game and find out for yourself.

After you’ve tried a few of the options I’m sure you can probably guess what the note on the Grunts page said. To quote Uncle Pigg, “You are Barry the butcher … and I am the fairground owner! Whatever choices you make, you’ll still end up in the swill!!! Told you it was an Unfair Funfair! Hurr hurr hurr!!” Well, the clue was in the name after all, but it’s still fun to try out all the options. Even though you know what’s going to happen next, making those different choices just to end up reading the same panel again and again is the whole point and what makes it so funny.

Besides the blockbuster main event, other highlights include Nigel and Skrat the Two-Headed Rat, Noel Ford‘s weird creations who only appeared in half a dozen issues believe it or not. I say that because I’ve very vivid memories of them! New thief on the block Swindler Sid pops up in Snatcher Sam, Uncle Pigg brings readers up to date on Hoggy Bear‘s predicament in The Street-Hogs before heading home, and while trying to make new human friends Burp‘s breath gets him into hot water.

The final highlight I’m pulling out of this issue’s hat is Tony Husband‘s lovable character, Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins. To anyone new to OiNK the title of this strip might give them the impression of a clichéd comics character with one certain feature or ability that would be played for easy laughs. But as always with OiNK, created as a reaction to such tired comics ideas, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Horace’s strip would alternate between funny, contained stories and ongoing serials showing his struggles at simply trying to live his life. The early stories featured funny scenarios centred around his appearance, but never in a cruel way. He could scare off a monster by complete accident and end up the hero for example and he never seemed to lose his upbeat outlook at life. This issue’s strip sees his parents try to hide his looks from his visiting wealthy uncle, only for it backfire on them and their assumptions.

As OiNK continued the strip matured into an ongoing serial involving Horace’s football career. At times he’d get down about his looks, his treatment by others and how cruel the world could be, but he was a strong individual and we’d cheer him on every fortnight. His story even had a proper ending when the comic finished and a very happy one at that.

Whether it was intended or not, I remember Horace teaching me not to judge anyone by how they look, a strong message for anyone but in particular for a child reading it and getting swept up in the laughs and the adventure. I never felt lectured, never thought Tony was even trying to do any of this, but it’s what I took away from it and as such I believe he was an important part of my development as a child.

On that note it’s time to place this fifth issue of OiNK back onto the bookshelves and look forward to the next edition in a fortnight’s time. Issue six is the Animal Crackers issue and it certainly is a cracker! There comes a time in any comic’s early life when it all just seems to click, to gel together and prove its potential and I’ll tell you all about that moment in OiNK’s run on Friday 12th July.