Tag Archives: Charlie Brooker

OiNK! #47: iT’S WHAT’S ON THE iNSIDE THAT COUNTS

So I told you this issue’s cover was the ugliest of the whole run. I didn’t mean I didn’t like it! This is OiNK, of course that wouldn’t be the case, instead what we have below is Tony Husband’s Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins and another yellow background cover. After the first two great weekly covers by Ian Jackson and Lew Stringer, the next three (of which this is the first) are rather basic, possibly a symptom of the increased schedule.

They all feature fan favourite characters which is always a good thing for already established pig pals but I’m not sure how well they’d do at bringing in new readers. Fortunately, the covers return to more complex pieces of funny art in a few weeks and the artists (with the team no longer rushing to get them finished) once again have time to turn out covers the likes of which we’ve been used to since OiNK began.

At the time of OiNK, there was a certain teatime telly show which captivated everyone who watched it, despite it being a basic question and answer quiz. At ten-years-of-age I can’t remember knowing many of the answers the university students were asked but that didn’t matter, Bob Holness and that electronic Blockbusters game board made it, the whole family sitting together for half an hour. It appears Charlie Brooker was also a bit of a fan as he wrote a script for Lew Stringer’s Pete and his Pimple strip, the only time someone other than Lew wrote for the character.

I particularly like the little signs held up to excuse the caricature of Bob and the “convenient” way of not having to draw him at the end of the story. The only thing missing is that silly dance everyone did in their seats at the end of the Friday episodes. Uncle Pigg pops up to remind readers to send in their suggestions but that’s not because there was a lack of any coming in. There’d be shedloads of them and they’ll start to be used very soon and, apart from the occasional issue, all the way through to the end of OiNK.


“Naughty terrorists had taken some important top nobs hostage…”

Storm Farce, Mark Rodgers

In the 80s action figures became more complex as rival companies battled against each other and videogames for kids’ attention. They’d boast about everything from the level of articulation to the fact they had an elastic band inside to make them ‘punch’ when twisted. One of the most popular was G.I. Joe (or Action Force as it was called here until the end of the 80s) and I was a big fan of the comics as they ran as backups in my Transformers comics. When Hasbro took over the Action Force name in the UK in the early 80s and decided to rebrand it with their G.I. Joe line IPC Magazines also lost the licence to Marvel UK.

IPC needed a replacement and Storm Force was co-created by legendary comics editor Barrie Tomlinson with Richard Burton (not that one) for the pages of Battle. In fact, you can check out early design sketches in the review of Barrie’s book. Barrie often said they’d have made a good toy range themselves and they were definitely designed to resemble such a line with a never-ending array of characters and their unique weaponry and add-ons. As such, they were perfect for a Mark Rodgers spoof in the sister comic.

As kids we’d obviously never think of the impracticalities of such attachments and that’s what made this so hilarious at the time, it was pointing out something ludicrous right in front of our young eyes. If you think about observational comedians who point out normal things to us that are actually ludicrous, it felt like that when I read this for the review. Eric ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson‘s art is always gorgeous too, especially when he gets the chance to have a full-colour page.

The story is on the same page as the previous Disney parodies and has the same banner title at the top. Again, I think this may have been for new readers so they wouldn’t be expecting more of the same spoof each week. Seasoned pig pals didn’t need such explanations. It’s a brilliant spoof though and one I’m sure Barrie would approve of.

As if being eaten alive wasn’t bad enough, this is no ordinary body

A quick look at some highlights from other pages in the issue now, starting with Hadrian Vile beginning to teach his new baby sister the important things in life, like crawling without being clumsy. The lengths he goes to are classic Hadrian and he gets up to the usual mischief, but it also shows that as far as his baby sister goes his heart is in the right place, which is sweet. Haldane’s Incredible Amazing Bizarre World is particularly funny for this fan of everything Ancient Egyptian and Frank Sidebottom meets Edwina Currie as she tagged along with the Smokebusters.

If you’d like to know more about the Smokebusters you can check out the previous issue for more on Frank’s trip, and the special free edition of OiNK given away to schools in parts of England was also reviewed just a few days ago on the blog! That’s right, there was an extra issue of OiNK you may not have seen before. I didn’t know about it at the time either and only got my hands on it not long ago for the review. So go check that out.

I’m not a fussy eater (stay with me here). I eat almost anything and try almost anything too. Except one thing. That one thing is oysters, I just can’t fathom how it can be pleasant swallowing a live slimy, salty little bit of sludge (you can tell I’ve never tried them) down my throat. I mean, the poor thing is still alive! Burp is a fan though and in this week’s strip we get to follow that aforementioned poor little oyster down his gullet. But as if being eaten alive wasn’t bad enough, this is no ordinary body.

I think the phrase is, “Well that escalated quickly”. I find the expression on the oyster in the large panel on the left just hilarious, as is the stomach’s horrible realisation in the next. It seems stomach and myself share a similar view on the matter. My favourite Burp strips always involve his organs or gratuitous, over-the-top cartoon violence and this strip manages to have both. Although, I do wonder where his pet specimen from Uranus has got to, we haven’t seen them in months.

Something I’ve noticed in recent issues is how Marc Riley’s strips such as Harry the Head and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth are no longer being written by him. He may still be drawing them but a range of different talent has been scripting his creations including Doctor Mooney He’s Completely Looney, written here by Mike Taylor, one of OiNK’s contributing artists who has drawn everything from a GBH Christmas Catalogue to Ye Ballad of Snatcher Sam and the advert for the OiNK sweatshirt.

An endless stream of visual “Doctor, Doctor” jokes, the gags in this strip remained fresh throughout and perhaps this was thanks to the now ever-changing scripting roster. Apart from the occasional absence the good doctor would be a regular in OiNK all the way to the end and I can’t remember if Marc would ever write any more. His Harry the Head strip, once a full-page main character would remain as a mini-strip from now on so perhaps Marc’s music and DJ work was taking up more of his time.

The back page calendar of this issue caused some controversy at the time, although not on the scale of the Janice and John strip from #7 which resulted in a complaint to the Press Council. I can’t even remember where I read that this next page caused a bit of backlash from certain quarters, it could be from a press clipping in a later issue so I’ll look out for it. But what could Tony Husband’s piggy-themed sports calendar do to upset people? I really don’t know, it’s only pigs playing football with a butcher’s head after all.

As I’ve mentioned before I never cut up my OiNKs. The Tom Thug Christmas Angel was finally made when I was in my 30s and the Frank Sidebottom zoetrope just last year for the blog, so I definitely never cut out an entire page to put these calendars up on the wall. I never even cut out the coupon to give to the newsagent, I just asked my shop to reserve my comics for me. However, those coupons did give co-editor Patrick Gallagher a chance to give some old drawings from an old book of Victorian drawings (previously ransacked for #23) a new lease of life and they became a series of cartoons in their own right.

That’s us for another issue and so far I’m enjoying reading OiNK and writing about it every single week, even if the comic hasn’t quite settled into its new format yet. This’ll come over the next few weeks and I’m really looking forward to that. So should you. In the meantime remember to come back next Saturday 27th January 2023 for #48 of the world’s funniest comic.

OiNK! #44: END OF AN ERA

Happy New Year to one and all! Wait, what? That can’t be right, it’s still Boxing Day! Actually, this second Hogmanay issue of OiNK was released even earlier, before Santa came to visit all of us pig pals. Boxing Day was the official date on the cover but with publishers closed for the holidays (and the shops themselves closing their doors for more than one day back then) comics and magazines are released earlier than normal over the festive period. I received my subscriber copy of Edge’s January issue weeks ago!

As such, this OiNK came out during the week before Christmas. I’ve no way of telling which day I received it in 1987 and I’m just going to stick with the cover date on this occasion, so while you recover from a day of eating and prepare for another, put your feet up, pop the paper hat back on your head and have a giggle with some highlights from OiNK #44, our last fortnightly issue!

I personally didn’t read this until Boxing Day as a child, although The Slugs finally making the cover (drawn as ever chaotically by Les ‘Lezz’ Barton) was very tempting. But even back then I wanted to wait until I’d read my OiNK! Book 1988 first. In fact, Boxing Day that year brings back many happy memories of sitting down and reading the annual cover-to-cover after dipping in and out over the course of Christmas Day, then in bed that night finally grabbing this issue.

For young me the highlight wasn’t the theme, the festivities and the crazy parties our characters got involved in, instead it was all about the future of the comic. This was the big change I eluded to in #39’s review after Nipper, the last comic in OiNK’s sales group was cancelled. Given publisher Fleetway’s rule that if a whole group’s sales weren’t up to par then every title in it would be cancelled, would OiNK’s own impressive sales possibly save it from cancellation? Uncle Pigg had some news for Mary Lighthouse (critic) on this front, as written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ian Jackson.

So while the other titles had been canned, and OiNK’s own sales may not have been in the same league as Buster or Whizzer and Chips, as an independently produced comic fortnightly sales of 100,000 weren’t to be sniffed at. But Fleetway (and retailers) wanted more. Doubling the amount of issues equals doubling the sales, right? Much hype had been made of the comic’s transition to a weekly in recent issues and I’ve included a couple of examples in the posts for #41 and #43.

I can remember the excitement of this moment after enjoying the Christmas issue and the book, the fact it was now going to come out every single week was almost too much for my young mind to handle! The price decreasing by 5p softened the blow for parents somewhat too. We were unaware of certain changes to be made to the physical comic and its contents but for now let’s enjoy the final issue in my own Golden Age of OiNK, and the return of the increasingly shocking Butcher Watch!

Given what would come from Jeremy Banx in a new mini-series in the weekly OiNK, this dark strip acts almost like a precursor, reminding us just how twisted the evil butcher Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith really was. Have to give him points for imagination though. This would come to the fore with Jimmy as a regular character for at least some of the weekly issues. I was engrossed as a kid and now as an adult I find it all deliciously funny in a most ridiculous way.

Let’s take a look at some other highlights of our last 32-page issue, shall we? After joining OiNK in #15 Psycho Gran has racked up quite the list of examples of being a sweet but naughty (to say the least) old dear. Surely she couldn’t have been that bad? David Leach sets the record straight this issue. The Tale of Wee Jimmy Riddle tells us a horror story about a phantom haggis and on the Grunts page an old random line in a Diary ov Hadrian Vile from #12 gets picked up on by a reader following recent events.

Tom Thug and Pete and his Pimple were two of the comic’s strips that would make their way into the pages of Buster by the end of 1988 and when OiNK goes weekly they’d permanently be full-page stories rather than surprising us every issue with strips of various lengths, which I have to say I preferred. With the more random nature we were sometimes treated to lengthy stories with a great pay off, sometimes a quick gag. This next one falls somewhere in between.

So long Mr Big Nose, it’s been funny, surreal, confusing and memorable in equal measure

Now that I’ve read this I have clear memories of giggling away at it on at least one of the many occasions I read and reread my OiNKs back then. Lew Stringer always said the whole point of Tom was for there to be a strip where the bully (and the usual intelligence level of a bully) was the butt of the joke every single issue. I don’t think there’s any better example than this one right here.

The teeny, tiny small strips were always a joy in OiNK and pretty much guaranteed to raise a laugh, as well as breaking up the larger contributions to each issue. Another character who would pop up in strips of various length was Barrington Bosh, He’s Incredibly Posh who was always drawn by Ian Knox and scripted by a variety of writers. This time it’s Keith Forrest who uses Barrington’s posh accent to great effect here. Small, simple but brilliantly crafted.

He’s entertained us ever since #3, introduced us to surreal humour, was never predictable and of course brought us the dolphin named Keith. Jeremy Banx’s Mr Big Nose was about as unique as you could ever get in a children’s comic and is one of the most fondly remembered characters from OiNK as a whole. I’ve always said a collection of his strips would make for one of the funniest books you could read, even now 35 years later. Which makes the fact this is his final issue all the more sad.

He wouldn’t even pop up in any special or annual, this is it, the final Mr Big Nose! The weekly comic would have fewer pages and Jeremy would continue with Burp and that aforementioned mini-series featuring Jimmy. I originally thought perhaps the weekly comic was aiming at a younger audience (there’d be promotional crossover strips in Buster and Whizzer and Chips) and the surreal humour of Mr Big Nose wouldn’t be a good fit, but that Cleaver series is very dark indeed so it can have been that. 

But at least he goes out in style.

Explain that one! Of course, the best of his strips defied explanation and while I’m saddened to know I won’t be reading any more of his wonderful half-pages, this is the perfect example to end on. That final line could almost be taken as a little sign off. With space at a premium in the weekly and Jeremy already committed to two full pages it could just boil down to something having to give and unfortunately Mr Big Nose stepping aside to make way for other cartoonists and their creations. So long dear friend, it’s been funny, surreal, confusing and memorable in equal measure.

To end on, a little nursery rhyme. Innocent little stories for kids. Nothing could possibly be twisted with these, surely? The Rotten Rhymes series periodically popped up throughout OiNK’s run and proved nothing was sacred. Many of these quick little rhymes (often ending by tossing away the need to rhyme at all) have proven surprisingly memorable. How many have pig pals recited in the years since? Here’s the latest in the series and the first one to be written and drawn by Charlie Brooker.

Well that’s it. Not only is this the end of the issue, it’s also the end of the only year in which we had regular OiNKs from beginning to end, it’s the end of it in its original form and it’s the end of what I called OiNK’s Golden Age. That’s not to say what’s to come isn’t great of course! It takes a while for the comic to settle into the new weekly version  of itself (same when it turns monthly later next year) but when it did it was easily the best weekly out there.

It’s just that this period of time, between #36 and this one and including The OiNK! Book 1988, were just so good they could each be listed as examples of the very best OiNK had to offer. If all issues were ranked I think these would all be at the top of that list, and we got to enjoy them in one glorious chunk, one after the other. I’ve had a fantastic time reliving these and, while there are changes ahead, we’re still going to be getting weekly OiNK reviews for the first five months of the new year.

More OiNK is always good! Right?

The review of OiNK! Weekly #45 will be up on the blog on Saturday (yes, a change of day) 7th January 2023, just 12 days from now!

OiNK! #43: CHRiSTMAS, STUFFED!

I have so many happy memories associated with OiNK, none more so than in and around Christmas 1987 when the comic was at its height. First up was this superb second festive issue, followed 13 days later on Christmas Day with The OiNK! Book 1988. The double whammy of these two editions can’t be understated as far as I’m concerned. This issue ended up being my favourite regular issue of the comic and the book my very favourite edition of all! Do they live up to the memories? Let’s start with #43.

Just like all the best issues it begins with an Ian Jackson cover, possibly my favourite of his, with apparently obscene words for us kiddies to guess at the time. I always looked forward to the festive issues of my comics and seeing the snow covered logos always made them feel extra special. There may be no multi-page Uncle Pigg strip like last year’s (by this point he and Mary Lighthouse seemed to be limited to the Grunts page and promotions) but it still manages to outdo even that issue with its plethora of Christmassy contents.

Let’s begin with The Night Before Christmas, a Yuletide Tale from David Haldane. Sounds nice and traditional, doesn’t it? It does and it’s right there at the very beginning of the comic, setting the anarchic tone for all that follows. OiNK was always great at taking traditional comic elements and turning them on their head. Surely nothing could be more traditional than Christmas comics, and upon reading this issue the feeling you come away with is one of the whole team having a blast at poking fun the season and everything we loved about it.

Haldane’s naughty child was the epitome of an OiNK reader wrapped up in one quick half-page strip. No, we didn’t really steal all the other children’s gifts from Santa but this cheeky, irreverent nature of the comic was what we lapped up, encapsulated here in the first strip of the issue. Things are looking good. A few pages later Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins gave readers a chance to appear as themselves and show just how irreverent they could be with letters to his headmaster.

After being banned from playing for Melchester United, Horace asked readers to send in letters begging his headmaster to change his mind. Well, the word “begging” was replaced with “telling” by those who wrote in, including one Stu Perrins, an OiNK fan who in recent years has written comics series such as Megatomic Battle Rabbit and Chrono-Cat. All of these readers won a Horace t-shirt which is something I’ve yet to see.

Way back in the mists of time when I reviewed #3 of OiNK I loved a particular spoof of favourite comic and movie stars of mine, the Transformers. Named The Transformoids and drawn by Ralph Shephard, the go-to guy for such stories at the time, it made fun of the characters and their abilities. This issue the target is the Hasbro toy line itself, in the very capable hands of Dave Huxley. This reminds me of my parents’ attempts at following the instructions of my Transformers toys when I got into them about a year later.

I remember my dad in particular treating my Head Master Slapdash like some kind of elaborate Rubik’s Cube puzzle on Christmas Day, following the instructions step-by-step and still not being completely sure he’d got it right in the end. Similarly, the above was based on Dave’s own struggles with his sons Alan’s and John’s Transformers toys which he described as “near lethal” in an article in Crickey! magazine some years later. He even drew his sons into the madvertisement, although apparently they weren’t too impressed.

This next page is so clearly the work of the mind behind Screen Wipe and Black Mirror

Dave’s work would only appear in three issues altogether and he went on to become Dr. David Huxley at the Manchester School of Art and for a while had a page of his work, including one or two OiNK pieces, on their website. Unfortunately he no longer appears on there so must have moved on. However, look out for a post about that Crickey! article at a future date on the blog.

After that hilarious cover, thankfully the OiNK team weren’t done with spicing up our favourite Christmas Carols and who better to write some than Charlie Brooker? As we all know he was still at school at the time of contributing to the comic but this next page is so clearly the work of the mind behind Screen Wipe and Black Mirror. These are great fun and next to the carols is a Christmas pop song, the Jackson 5 version of which I have on my Christmas playlist every year, but now I can’t help but replace the words in my head when it comes on!

Alongside Charlie’s words are some crazy illustrations by Steve Gibson, whose tiny drawings always added so much to the text-based pages of OiNK. If social media is anything to go by these carols are fondly remembered and recited to this day by many pig pals. Oh, and in case you’re wondering ‘James Lost’ is a reference to the ‘happy music’ of James Last, who wasn’t a stranger to releasing some top-selling Christmas ditties.

If like me you make a bit of an occasion out of wrapping your Christmas presents, you might have a TV show (usually Channel Five) counting down favourite Christmas songs and music videos on in the background while you wrap. At some point during it you’re very likely to hear the inspiration behind our next strip, just as you’re guaranteed to see the animation itself on Channel Four. Every. Single. Year. Raymond Briggs’ name is easily changed into a piggy pun and Davy Francis doesn’t disappoint with that and the quick gag of his The Snowbloke.

Despite only sat down and watched the original The Snowman once when I was a kid, seeing even small parts of it on the TV and hearing that song never fails to make me smile because it reminds me my favourite time of the year is here, and hearing something we hear every year at Christmas reminds me of all the things I like to do every festive season. Even seeing this small spoof brings those same feels. I’m really enjoying this issue.

Other highlights here include Ponsonby Claret, the Know-It-All Parrot taking the pirates he lives with to task, Rubbish Man and Boy Blunder’s Christmas dinner has more hidden surprises than any pack of crackers, the GBH Christmas Catalogue order form has one particular addition I found very funny (the Yes/No part) and Weedy Willy finds something he’s capable to contributing to at Christmas that doesn’t strain/exhaust/scare him.

Something you’ll see on the TV every year from about October onwards are a plethora of extravagant, clearly very expensive advertisements for various brands of perfume. It always confused me how they’d spend so much on these every year and yet not one of them actually tells us anything about what the product smells like. This might be a blessing for the next piece of fragrance marketing however, because Jeremy Banx’s Burp appears to have released his own to cash in on the gift giving.

This being Burp of course this particular spray (a deodorant) isn’t straight forward. We’ve all seen how Burp interacts with his internal organs, how many of them act independently of their host, even leaving his body to go and live the lives of villains, superheroes and lovers in the outside world. So, after a suitably moral reminder that beauty is not just skin deep the following strip really takes a turn for the bizarre.

I love how Burp is interrupting each of his organs as they go about their daily lives inside his body, reading OiNK, eating dinner or simply having a nice, relaxing glass of wine. Then, just as the stupidity and weirdness ends Burp reminds the reader that all of these fragrances etc are really about inner confidence, not the glamorous models on TV. A wonderful way of poking fun at those advertisements and with a laugh in every panel.

The last page I want to show you is another of those traditions we loved as kids, writing the letter to Santa Claus and who better to type out one in OiNK than Hadrian Vile, as ever written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ian Jackson. I remember writing my letter several months before Christmas, my parents reading it over and over (it was as if they wanted to memorise it for some reason) before it went up the chimney fire to Santa.


“Noeboddy wud bee daft enuff to dress up in a red duffel cote and climb down chimbleys.”

Hadrian Vile

I’m glad Hadrian waited until now to write his though, it makes for a great strip near the back of the issue just as young readers were preparing for their holidays and the arrival of the man with the bag. There may only be three drawn panels to go alongside the pages of the letter but they’re packed with detail and lots of sight gags and cameos from other characters in Hadrian’s regular diary. Watch out for a special mention of Mark’s friend and OiNK writer Graham Exton too!

After this issue it was only 13 days until Christmas Day itself when that gorgeous big, floppy and ultra glossy book would be brought down “ower chimbleys”. I’d seen it on the shelves of my local newsagents for a couple of months now and marvelled at its shine and the big grinning pig face on the cover. It really stood out amongst all the other annuals and I’m so excited to almost be at the point when I’ll be reviewing it for the blog. When can you see it? That’ll be on The Big Day itself of course. While it had been in the shops for a while, we all received our annuals from Santa, didn’t we?

Of course, I’ll be breaking the rules of the real time read through a little bit and reading it a few days in advance simply because it’s Christmas, but it’ll be published first thing Christmas Morning so you’ll have a bit of OiNK to wake up to as we did 35 years ago. One more rule break; the Hogmanay issue’s date is Boxing Day so it appeared early, a few days before Christmas back in 1987. I can’t be sure of the exact date and I didn’t read my issue until Boxing Day because it just didn’t feel right back then to celebrate the New Year before Santa had even been. So I’ll be keeping to the cover date for that one. A double whammy or you, OiNK reviews two days in a row.

With all of this to look forward to back in 1987, the news of the comic turning weekly in January (drawn above by Patrick Gallagher) was just the icing and the marzipan on the cake. Of course, we weren’t to know yet of the changes to come when it went weekly but the excitement at this time was electric for pig pals; the festive season had so much to enjoy and the future looked very bright and very pink indeed. 

For now it’s time to sign off, but watch out for a little extra OiNK-related post on Christmas Eve as Psycho Gran prepares to welcome the jolly man down her chimney and in the meantime I hope you’re all having as good a holiday season as I am. The blog is jam-packed with content this month and it’s nowhere near over yet! Check out this post for more details (including a special make-your-own OiNK Christmas Angel from this issue), then the review for The OiNK! Book 1988 will be here on Christmas Day and #44 on Boxing Day.