OiNK! #27: OFF THE LEASH

Last issue aside we’ve had an almost unbroken run of Ian Jackson covers (including the Holiday Special) and his latest introduces us to the Big, Soft Pets Issue. I’ve always loved pets, even though we never really had any when I was a child, but nowadays I look after a late friend’s cat regularly and if I’m out and about and come across one everything stops while I chat to them in the hope of a little pet on their head. With lavatory humour right there on the front page (quite literally) it’s a funny start to the comic’s second year. Unsurprisingly, there are no pet pigs inside, they were on an equal footing with us in the world by now.

Last month in #23‘s review I told you about a time back at school when a friend erupted in the middle of a class and narrowly escaped getting into trouble because of OiNK. Then just a few weeks ago I explained how a similar situation led to a great deal of embarrassment for me as an adult in a hospital waiting room. We’re continuing the trend here because I’d forgotten how the following Vernon the Vet page produced yet another moment like these back in my school days. There’s a theme here, isn’t there? Can you guess which part of this resulted in a friend going into an uncontrollable giggle fit?

Well of course it was the moment Vernon fed medication to the wrong end of a St Bernard! Vernon had appeared in three of the early issues in tiny little entries, sometimes squeezed in next to a strip with advice for pet owners. Obviously his tips were always terrible and very funny, so it was great to see him upgraded to a full page, drawn here by Wilkie (Eric Wilkinson), who wasn’t with the comic when the character originally appeared. Unfortunately, apart from this very page being reprinted in the final edition (the OiNK Summer Collection, released in 1990) this would be the last we’d ever see of Vernon.

The promo for this issue in #26 featured Roger Rental so it’s rather strange to see he’s not actually present. However, his artist Ian Knox certainly is as he puts his talents to use in bringing a Tony Husband script to life. The story features a one-off character called Neville Stockport, otherwise known as superhero The Amazing Crablad. Ian’s work is easily identifiable but in this particular strip there are instances where I felt like he could’ve been subconsciously channelling his inner John Geering, which is never a bad thing obviously!

I love Ian’s work, always have, and I’m not saying this was the case, it just reminds me of the toothless great white shark Gums created for Monster Fun and originally drawn by Roy Davis. I knew the strip from the pages of Big Comic Fortnightly which reprinted later stories which John drew and I get that same energy here. Neville wouldn’t make another appearance in OiNK for obvious reasons.

This would be the last we’d see of these kinds of stories, and Daz himself, until the final issue

It’s been a while since we’ve read a nice, sweet bedtime story illustrated by Daz (Dave Skillin). These were such a common experience last year, the first appearing in the premiere issue. It’s a bit of a recurring theme with Daz for there to be some form of magical item (or this case an animal) and for the protagonist’s surname to rhyme with it, usually by just changing the first letter, resulting in a ridiculous name of course. In #1 we had Billy Bat and his Magic Hat, here we’ve got a magic kangaroo, so naturally Bangaroo is the person we end up with!

As usual it’s all told with rhyming captions and seems like a normal children’s story until about halfway through, when it suddenly takes a turn for the unexpected. To say the least! This would actually be the last we’d see of these kinds of stories, and Daz himself, until the very final issue, #68. So it’s just as well this one is so good and it’s all down to that very final caption where we find the traditional moral of the tale ( and I thought Graham Exton‘s puns were good/bad).

I hope you groaned and/or laughed as much as I did. This issue has so many highlights but I’ve painstakingly chosen a few to give you a sense of the issue as a whole. Frank Sidebottom’s guide to pets is as unique as you’d expect and his depiction of what’s really under the surface of those Loch Ness monster sightings is fantastic. Burp‘s internal organs’ independence takes a bold new leap and I’m not sure what’s funnier, his liver being a supervillain or the fact the disguise actually worked.

A rather strange addition is Daft Dog because it’s exactly the same joke as the Henry the Wonder Dog strip from #13, and there’s a lovely double-page spread for Zootown‘s pet show which contains this funny little gag below. Finally, Lashy the Wonder Pig from #18 makes a welcome return with his first of many name changes to Laffie. While it’s just as ridiculous as last time I adore this panel which brings a lovely little shadowy sunset atmosphere to the hilarity and a little sense of the heroic to the pig in question.

There’s a treasure trove of smaller strips here. While that could be said of every edition of OiNK, they’re of a particularly high standard this time with many memorable entries that have stood the test of time inside my ageing memory. The fact they’re so tiny and still stand out so much is testament to their quality and the genius of their writers and cartoonists. Out of all of these the largest is (suitably enough) David Haldane’s Hugo the Hungry Hippo. A disaster for all mankind, he takes a break from eating our cities this issue to show us just how lovable he could also be.

The quarter-page mini-strips this issue, those between one and three panels in length and guaranteed to produce a quick laugh, nail it so perfectly. Always a great addition to any OiNK, this issue by design or coincidence they’re all classics. I’ve selected just three of them to show you what I mean and first up is Davy FrancisDerek Blinge.

One panel, one line of dialogue, one funny facial expression and we’re done! Davy’s quick wit on full display

Originally written by Davy to be drawn by Ed McHenry, Ed was ill at the time and waiting for a triple bypass operation. With a few scripts written, when Ed became sick co-editor Mark Rodgers asked Davy to draw them instead. The name was also changed from ‘Plinge’ to the now familiar ‘Blinge’ to keep them separate but as it turned out only two of the scripts would see print, in this issue and the second Holiday Special and both drawn by Davy, so in the end we never did see any ‘Plinge’ strips drawn by Ed. This first appearance is very much classic Davy!

Below that is another Davy creation, Doctor Mad-Starkraving. First appearing in Greedy Gorb three issues ago this was the first time he got his own little corner of the comic. One panel, one line of dialogue, one funny facial expression and we’re done! Davy’s quick wit on full display here. Just brilliant. The doctor would reappear another six times, four of those towards the end of OiNK’s run in the monthlies. Then lastly for these highlights there’s a one-off which will have an air of the familiar for two reasons.

Anyone familiar with Whizzer and Chips (or indeed Big Comic Fortnightly where I knew him from) will remember Sid’s Snake, the regular cover star whose pet snake was a ginormous but friendly snake. For OiNK, Jake’s Snake makes a little fun of the premise, even including a pattern on the snake that’s a riff on the original. The art style may be familiar to some too, those initials in the second panel standing for Simon Thorpe who is best known today for being one of the editorial team behind Viz, which he has worked on since the time of OiNK. He’d contribute to 22 issues of our piggy publication altogether, most fondly remembered for his gorgeous spoof movie posters, so look out for some of them in future reviews.

OiNK writer Graham Exton talked to me once about the inspiration behind the strip, namely Sid’s Snake and how it would often be referred to as “that bloody snake” by writers because it was so difficult to come up with something original and genuinely funny for. As such, few liked working on the strip and so it would be given to new writers as a way of proving themselves, but mainly because no one else wanted to do it!

Steve Gibson returns with another very funny selection of little drawings and captions (see also his Watch the Skies from #25) and this time he brings us a fascinating selection of Amazing But True facts from the world of nature, the first example being my particular favourite. Expecting the cheetah fact to be reflected we instead get more information than we possibly wanted about an elephant “doing a ton”. Surprising, inventive and funny, Steve will return to OiNK more and more regularly I’m very happy to say.

That’s almost your lot from this issue but the back page had one more big surprise in store for pig pals. Finally, 16 issues after they last appeared came news of the next Street-Hogs story, Day of the Triffics (which had actually been referenced way back in #11). As a child I’d missed out on their first adventure so to me originally this may not have been the exiting return it was advertised as, but the artwork and the premise presented here was certainly enough.

Now in 2022 I can’t wait, both from the perspective of a Street-Hogs fan and of someone who has seen more than one version of Day of the Triffids in the intervening years. Take that story and place it into the hands of writer Mark Rodgers and artist J.T. Dogg and this could be the best thing OiNK has produced yet. Time will tell. The wait is sadly a little longer than we’d like though. The ‘Hogs wouldn’t be seen again until #31 with a special poster celebrating their return before the cliffhanging spoof kicks off in #32. I just know it’ll be worth the wait.

Before then we’ve got an ample supply of superb content coming up, with #27‘s (the Flying Issue) review here from Monday 16th May 2022. Watch out for a memorable spoof of a certain high-flying, building-leaping superhero as he hogs the limelight on the cover and in a brilliant strip inside. Don’t miss it, subscribe to the blog (click on the link in the bottom corner as you scroll) or follow along on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to be notified when there are any additions to the blog. See you next time!

COMiNG UP: OiNK! #27

Did you have any pets as a kid? I vaguely remember there being a budgie in our house when I was very young, but only just. We did try to take in a lovely little dog but my mum and sister ended up allergic. My mum also hated cats, so despite the fact I loved my friend’s kitty we were never allowed one. Of course that’s all changed now, my street is full of cats and I’m trying to befriend every single one, plus I look after Smudge who has appeared on the blog before.

Any excuse to show a photo of the wee man.

My house may have been disappointingly free of animals around the time of OiNK but the Big, Soft Pets Issue made up for that a little with its madcap combination of kangaroos, Loch Ness monsters, crabs, hippos, snakes and more, not to mention the return of a certain idiotic vet. Did you expect regular pets to feature much? Do you even know this comic by now?

Remember to come back in a few days, the review of #27 of OiNK will be here from Monday 2nd May 2022.

FRANK’S “ZEO-TROPE”: SiDEBOTTOM’S D.i.Y. ZOETROPE

Yes, I’m taking a pair of scissors to a treasured issue of OiNK! No, I’m not still upset (35 years after the fact) with the 5p price rise this issue brought, #25 was the Toys and Hobbies issue and inside was a trove of activities for readers to cut out and make, one of which was Frank Sidebottom’s “zeo-trope”, as he misspelled it. Back as a kid I never cut anything out of my precious comics, but I’m an adult now and can just go and buy a replacement on eBay, so I’m giving this a shot.

The correct spelling is ‘zoetrope’ and it’s a device which the dictionary describes as, “a 19th-century optical toy consisting of a cylinder with a series of pictures on the inner surface that, when viewed through slits with the cylinder rotating, give an impression of continuous motion”. This was a revelation in the days before film and something fun for viewers of various children’s art shows in the 80s to make.

Franks’ alter ego, Chris Sievey decided to try his hand at creating one so let’s see how good it is, shall we? We begin by gluing it to a piece of flexible card. I used a cereal box and the very second I glued it to the blank interior I realised I’d already made a mistake. With the brightly coloured cereal design on the side I’d be looking through to see the animation it would be too distracting when spun. I should’ve made sure the blank side of the cardboard was on the outside. So I glued it on to another piece of the box, blank side out, meaning it was rather more stiff than it should’ve been. Oh well.

Of course, this made cutting out the slits all the more difficult, what with having to slice through two layers of card and glue, and with 12 slots to cut out as neatly as possible this did result in some sore fingers with indents from the ridges of the knife, but that was my fault, not Frank’s. Only as I was doing this did I realise he’d actually numbered all of the slots too. Chris’ work in OiNK was always so intricate, beautifully coloured with felt tip pens and colouring pencils. Co-editor Patrick Gallagher told me he was always amazed at the amount of time and work Chris would put into his pages and the dedication he had for his OiNK work.

Carefully bending it every couple of centimetres I was able to finally get it into a circular shape. (Again, if I’d used one sheet of card this wouldn’t have been so fiddly.) Once glued together a little final squeezing and stretching to get it into as perfect a circle as possible was all that was needed. As instructed by Frank a record player is needed at this stage and luckily enough I have one of those. So it’s now time to see if this works. After all, some people who tried it out as a kid have told me it was pretty rubbish or didn’t work at all! Time to find out.

You have to focus your eye on one of the Franks but I think it works a treat, especially for a cut-out freebie in an old comic.

I remember as a kid those art shows would show zoetropes and we’d only see one of the images animating, making it look like an old-fashioned cartoon animation from the early days of film. Maybe if the device had different dimensions (larger device with smaller holes? I have no idea) it would look more professional but I still think the effect is great, with a group of Franks all strumming away and tapping their feet. I did try to play the OiNK flexidisk while it spun but due to it being only slightly larger than the zoetrope the player’s head hit it and kept skipping after a few seconds. So your ears have been spared!

If you want to give this a try for yourself you can usually pick up #25 of OiNK for no more than a few quid on eBay and this really is easy to put together. This isn’t like the impossible-to-build Road Hogg from #11 (although that didn’t stop one pig pal as you’ll see in that issue’s review). The zoetrope now sits alongside my OiNK collection on my comic shelves, looking like the most unusual little piece of merchandise you ever did see!

(Special thanks to my mate Kevin O’Prey for his help with YouTube. Kevin runs an ASMR channel called TheWhisperCorner which you can find here.)