No, the OiNK real time read through hasn’t merged into Buster already. Instead, on this day back in 1988 another of OiNK’s sister publications ran a special promotional crossover strip featuring one of our favourite characters. Two weeks previous Tom Thugappeared in Whizzer and Chips trying to force himself into the gangs of either Sid or Shiner to no success. The story continued into OiNKs #54 to #56 and now, while that was still ongoing, another of Lew Stringer’s creations was meeting Buster.
Pete Throb of Pete and his Pimple fame ‘popped’ in to help push OiNK to younger readers. Again, I never knew about this strip at the time. In fact, the first Buster I ever read was the issue when OiNK merged into it, taking Pete, Tom and Weedy Willy with it. That was also the last issue I read until all these years later when writing the blog, so this is rather exciting because for me it’s my first brand new Pete strip after 35 years!
On his own blog, Lew seems surprised he was asked to contribute. “Not only did they let a then-relative-newcomer like me loose in the pages of this fine, well-established comic,” he says. “But I even got to co-star Buster himself in the story – although as you can see, I didn’t show him a lot of respect!” Of course by this stage our piggy publication was no longer called ‘OiNK Weekly’, having fully settled into its new frequency. Also, I think Pete saying he partakes in lots of pimply pranks sounds like he enjoys having the huge zit to cause chaos with, which as we know isn’t the case. But it’s a fun little strip nevertheless.
I’ve had it confirmed by OiNK co-editor Patrick Gallagher that the comic was by no means failing at this stage. Yes, sales had declined since it went weekly and had to change a lot of what made it ‘OiNK’ first place (as well as lose eight pages per issue) but sales were down across the industry. These crossover strips were a well-meaning promotion by Fleetway Publications, who could easily have cancelled OiNK before now but decided to keep it running.
As I’ve explained before, when Fleetway bought IPC Magazines’ comics they organised them into different sales groups, for example Buster and Whizzer and Chips were in one, OiNK was in another alongside Nipper and others. If the combined sales of a group didn’t perform as well as Fleetway wanted then all of the comics in it would be canned. All of OiNK’s group were cancelled except OiNK itself, showing they knew it was already performing better than the others and had real potential. So instead they turned into a weekly to try to increase sales. Perhaps if it had remained in its fortnightly guise with more pages, its themes and all of its characters present (things that really set it apart), perhaps sales wouldn’t have fallen as much and these promotions could’ve helped more. We’ll never know.
This isn’t the first time Buster has featured on the blog. While the edition which contained the free preview issue of our own comic didn’t exactly promote OiNK within its pages (unlike Whizzer and Chips), the week before it did contain this advert for the craziness to come and a little promo for it on the cover.
Interestingly, that Ricky Rainbow character on the cover of the comic containing Pete’s strip is from Nipper comic, one of OiNK’s group mates who had already merged into Buster. Apparently Ricky could change colour at will, as well as being prone to changing colour based on his mood. I’d like to read more about him in particular but am unable to read the issue at the moment; these images have very kindly been donated to the OiNK Blog by Lew as I don’t have this issue myself yet. (Hopefully I’ll rectify that soon. Two weeks ago the Whizzer and Chips post used Lew’s images, but then a very kind pig pal was able to send me a double they owned of that issue, so the post has now been updated with my own images).
With the latest issue of OiNK comes the return of Hieronymous Van Hellsong in a prequel mini-series by Jeremy Banx. We’d been introduced to the character in the first half dozen weeklies as he tracked down his ultimate target, Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith. It all ended in tragedy as our hero was made into sausage links and used by the butcher to escape the pig police. (Jeremy is nothing if not original.) This prequel tale is the last story for Hellsong, introduced by a sobbing Uncle Pigg on the Grunts page.
I remember part of this story revolving around him being in the nude, but it doesn’t happen this week so the cover is rather confusing. But nevertheless it’s good to have him back. The same can also be said of The Kingdom of Trump, a name which conjures different images today. At the time it referred to a family with a name that meant nothing more than flatulence. Hmm, maybe some things haven’t changed.
As good as this is, the characters only appeared three times in OiNK, back here for the first time since #43 and as a full-colour page instead of a mini strip. As ever with his pages Davey Jones gives himself a silly name in the credits and fills the strip with lots of funny little details, like the doctor’s tools hidden behind his desk and what looks like a cameo by Smiffy of Bash Street Kids at the public flogging. It wouldn’t be a Davey strip without some awful puns too, and this has one of his best in that final panel.
Beginning in Whizzer and Chips of all places and then continuing into last week’s OiNK, Lew Stringer’s Tom Thug and his Crude Crew reaches its midway point, starting with Tom and a baby, finishing with the complete gang. Surely everyone in OiNKtown will now be quaking in their shoes? Well, not quite. From Tom’s misogyny backfiring (as it should) and the cliché of needing a punk compared to what he ends up with, to a mention of one of my favourite TV shows at the time of OiNK (I can remember laughing at that bit in particular), this one had it all.
I always like it when a character acknowledges they’re living in the pages of a comic, so ending with Tom not only looking directly at us but also acknowledging that his pathetic little gang won’t be able to cause bovver for a whole week, I find particularly funny. That juxtaposition between the panel of the completed gang which catches your eye as soon as you turn the page, and the penultimate one where they all have their excuses is brilliant. It emphasises the difference between how bullies present themselves and how they really are. Classic stuff.
Last week saw a rare thing occur in the history of OiNK when a whole issue went by without a trip to David Haldane’s Zootown. A staple from the very beginning, skipping only occasional issues, I’m very glad to see the loveable, human-esque animals haven’t become a casualty of the page count since going weekly, returning with another quick gag in mini-strip form. Just the one panel this week actually, but that’s all David needed to deliver a good laugh.
Such a shame their continued inclusion can’t be said of some of David’s other creations. In #52 we were told Rubbish Man would be back in a mini series soon (which ends up contained in one of the bigger monthlies) but sadly Hugo the Hungry Hippo seems to have had his fill of chowing down on cities around the world, Godzilla-style. Last seen in The OiNK! Book 1988, his last appearance in the regular comic was way back in #35! We’ll eventually get one more laugh from his insatiable appetite in the third Holiday Special next year, but for now it would seem he’s taking a much earned rest between meals.
Back to the issue at trotter and Hieronymous Van Hellsong’s prequel begins with a few Beatles gags during the assassination that starts his adventure, and then in Burp’s strip is surely one of the best names created for a funny comic! Lew decided to end his Pete and his Pimple strip with a random little image that, as you can see, had nothing at all to do with the page. However, according to Lew, OiNK’s editors decided to have a little joke themselves and added that cheeky little arrow to it before publication!
The final panel below is from the end of the Billy the Pig serial which comes to a conclusion this week. I haven’t included any of it before now because sadly I just didn’t like it, which is a shock when I think of all those hilarious Laffie the Wonder Pig strips Tony and Chas brought us. But unfortunately Billy reads like any other children’s western adventure story but with pigs in the lead roles, with only the occasional joke added in, rather than being a humour strip.
Thankfully there are a handful of Laffie (or whatever they’ll be called) strips coming up on a weekly basis very soon to redeem this wonderful pairing of writer and artist.
For a strip that would be one of only three to survive beyond the final issue (becoming part of the merge with Buster) recently Weedy Willy has only been popping up occasionally and even then as a mini-strip. Back at the beginning he was mainly seen in full pages and, because of his move into Buster, my memory thought this was how it always was. Written by a variety of talent over the past couple of years, new writer Keith Forrest and regular Willy artist Mike Green have brought him back to full strength again.
Well, as full strength as the character could ever possibly be.
Only appearing in roughy half of the issues in total, Weedy Willy wouldn’t even be part of the final one before the merge, strangely enough. But when he did pop up he was always a highlight. Yes, he could be the butt of the jokes but it was never in a cruel way, it was just exaggerated silliness. Willy had accepted his lack of any form of strength, and the things he’d do to compensate (such as above) were always very funny. Sometimes he’d even get the upper hand over bullies thanks to not being able to do certain things and having to think his way out of situations. He was simply a brilliant character.
In the middle pages is the first poster we’ve seen in quite a while (Simon Thorp’s spoof movie posters were only ever one page in size, meant to be read rather than put on our walls). This is Dave Huxley’s third and final contribution to OiNK, the first being a poster of the Mona Li-sow, then he returned with The Hamformers in the previous Christmas issue. His final piece takes an icon of liberty, of the end of slavery and of welcoming immigrants… and turns her into a cheeky-faced butcher-cooking colossus.
I always felt the name ‘The Statue of Piggery’ didn’t read quite right. While that is an actual word meaning either “a farm where pigs are bred or kept” or “behaviour seen as characteristic of pigs in greed or unpleasantness” so it might make some sense, this is OiNK and its piggy puns don’t have to make sense. So I always thought ‘Piggerty’ was right there to use and would’ve sounded better, but oh well. Given the look on her face I’m not about to argue the point.
Such a shame Dave wouldn’t contribute to any of the remaining issues. In a later interview with Crikey! magazine he says he thinks he was hoping to make a career out of historical pig parodies, but attributes his lack of further posters or Madvertisements to the comic being cancelled. We’re still a long way off from that though, so I don’t know why this was it for his time with Uncle Pigg, but it’s been a blast anyway.
Elsewhere in this issue is a cut-out mask of our aforementioned esteemed editor, Uncle Pigg. This was actually the last in a series which began on the back pages after the weekly calendar had been completed between #45 and #50. Why have I not shown any of them? I thought I’d wait and show you them all in a post of their own, so watch out for that later in the year when we’ve got some time to fill between the monthly OiNKs.
This has to be one of my favourites of co-editor Patrick Gallagher’s coupons, just because of how stupid it is! Next week there’s much more OiNK to enjoy. Three times as much actually. Alongside the regular 24 pages of the weekly comic pig pals would find the second 48-page Holiday Special on the shelves too. So watch out for the full reviews of both next weekend. First up, #56’s will be here on Friday 24th March 2023, the special on Sunday 25th. See you then!
You may have noticed the weekly OiNK reviews have shifted from Saturdays to Fridays this month. Just in case you were wondering why, this is simply because back in 1988 February had 29 days, one more than we had this year. So the shift to a day earlier is to keep things aligned to the original publication dates, which is the whole point of this site after all.
That’s a lot of praise from some surprising sources on the cover. Towards the end of the fortnightlies some clippings were sent in by readers. It might seem like this took a long time but in the pre-internet days and the way comics and magazine deadlines work, it would take time for the comic to make an impact, be reviewed, have those reviews printed, then clipped, pasted into the comic and in turn published in OiNK. This issue’s cover decided to sum up previous as well as showing off new ones.
I like the fact it includes some not-so-flattering praise, that little “R.I.P.” being a funny little dig too. The Press Council quote is part of their ruling over the famous complaint placed against the comic which I’ve mentioned before and I’ll take a closer look at soon. As for the banner along the top, perhaps it was the Charlie Brooker Prize? Haha. Always nice to see an Ian Jackson cover and I remember the quotes and clippings pleasing me greatly as a kid because it surely meant OiNK was a huge success and would be around forever. It’s hard to comprehend there are only 14 regular issues left.
Unknown to us at the time, a page inside signalled an upcoming change that would ultimately lead to OiNK’s demise.
Reading over the survey there are a lot of silly questions and answers, it wouldn’t be OiNK without them after all, reading almost like a spoof survey, but it’s not. The fact there’s nowhere to write in whether the readers wanted it to change to a monthly or not had me thinking this decision was already made. Perhaps the writing was on the wall and this was an attempt to save the comic, worded in such a way to make it seem like it was the choice of pig pals. But I was wrong, for the most part anyway.
“Accept others as they are”
Lew Stringer, Pete and his Pimple
Co-editor Patrick Gallagher tells me, “Our survey, which you refer to, was genuine and not having a designated space for that final question was an error, though the readers used their noggins and scribbled their answers in any available space! And yes, I think it was Fleetway‘s intention to go monthly as it had been to go weekly, from what I can remember, which I didn’t mind – though I can’t remember at the time thinking the writing was on the wall. I think sales were down across the board but OiNK’s figures weren’t the worst – it was the other comic’s figures that dragged it down. In the meantime [the survey was] checking the audiences’ opinions, which may have had some sway.”
Moving on for now and this issue may have been published in 1988 but this week’s Pete and his Pimple feels rather contemporary. Lew Stringer brings his rhyming strip skills to the fore once again in the tale of Johnny Bigot. It’s a wonderfully funny page with a message of “accept others as they are”; a strong message where we laugh at the bully of course, which is very typically OiNK and Lew. It’s a good life lesson and of course the whole basis of Lew’s Tom Thug character. In a world where people like Johnny seem to have louder voices than ever I find this strip rather cathartic.
If this were printed today, the Johnny Bigots of the world would probably scream and shout that OiNK was indoctrinating their children to hate others (irony isn’t their strong point), or that it was full of political correctness in a children’s comic. Nonsense of course, but I just think of this and laugh when I see such things online now and I heartily recommend it. Let’s all figuratively burst our pimples at them and let them sow the seeds of their own demise. Reading funny comics is much more fun anyway.
(On a separate note, as a good friend once said to me, it’s not about being “politically correct”, it’s just about being the second word in those quotes.)
Speaking of laughing at the bullies let’s take a look at Lew’s other famous creation, Tom. Two days after the previous issue of OiNK our resident thicko appeared in a half-page strip in sister title Whizzer and Chipsto promote his own comic to their readers. In that story, after failing to join the gangs of either Shiner or Sid, he threatened to form his own in the pages of OiNK, creating a unique crossover for a humour comic where a story started in a different title. Below is the first of what would actually be a three-part mini-series called Tom Thug and his Crude Crew.
On the one hand you could ask why it’s taken Tom this long to think about having a gang, what with him often ending up in the state he’s in at the start of this strip. But then again he’s a bully so he’s not the brightest. I did laugh at the depiction of the bigger bully and how it takes Tom so long to finish his sentence (not until he’s conscious again in hospital). Then it takes him six months to get out! Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fryer. This story will continue over the next couple of weeks and I’m eager to see who he selects next as my ol’ memory cells have long forgotten.
Elsewhere in this issue we get another Mary Lighthouse strip. That’s two in as many issues, we’re being spoiled. With my fascination with all things Ancient Egypt I just had to include this little highlight below as she regales us with tales of her family tree. Then, the Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins strip continues its football serial, and as you can see co-editor Tony Husband has taken the already ludicrously far-fetched football serials in other comics and newspapers of the day, and spoofed them perfectly with this ridiculous tale.
One page that’s usually guaranteed to be a highlight of each issue is Frank Sidebottom’s. Recently he’s moved away from strips (they’ll return, we never knew what to expect from one issue to the next) and was instead informing us of some very funny showbiz gossip. These pages included intricate background art and lots of text to keep us giggling along for a good few minutes but this issue’s page seems a bit ‘off’, like it feels a bit rushed.
The first thing that struck me was how large his writing is, much bigger than usual so it took no time to read; the two usual non-stories here would’ve normally taken up about half the page, if that. The background isn’t his usual detailed standard either, looking instead like a few squiggles quickly thrown together to give it come colour. What is here is classic Chris Sievey and very funny, but I’m just left wanting more and that hasn’t happened before. Then again, he was an extraordinarily busy man to also be producing a weekly comics page!
The back cover was certainly not rushed. Here we find another spoof movie poster drawn by Simon Thorp from a brilliant script by co-editor Mark Rodgers. In 1987 the Masters of the Universe movie starring Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella had been released and flopped. The 80s saw rules against toys being made into cartoons and the like relaxed, giving birth to mega franchises based on action figures etc. This was one such example. The fact these toys were being created as franchises instead of just playthings wasn’t lost on Mark and Simon.
This definitely went some way to making up for the two hours of my life I wasted watching the film. There are so many piggy puns in there, make sure you read the smaller credits at the bottom under that lavish movie title. The longer you look at this the more little sight gags you can spot as well, such as the GBH ‘Mussel’ to go with the GBH ‘Muscle’ and the fact one of the characters’ legs has fallen off like a cheap action figure. Brilliant, memorable stuff which rounds off the issue perfectly.
One thing that did stick out with this issue was the lack of Hadrian Vile. In fact, he hasn’t been seen since #50. With the weeklies having less pages we’d become somewhat used to characters popping in and out, but missing from three issues in a row, for a strip that’s been in every single edition since #1? A character who was a huge fan favourite and whose diary was a highlight of every single issue he was in? It also meant a lot less from Ian Jackson too, which is always a shame, his work epitomising OiNK.
Clearly Patrick is needing a bit of a rest after another busy week putting together the issue so we’ll leave things there for now. There’s a lot to enjoy in the weeks ahead, even if this issue seems to have left me wanting a little bit, with the obvious lack of a favourite and a rushed page or two. But last week was one of the very best OiNKs of them all and what’s here in #54 is still great, so onwards and upwards. Don’t forget the reviews will be coming at you every Friday from now on, so join me here Friday 17th March 2023 for #55 and a couple of days later for the next crossover comic!