What’s this, a price rise? It had to happen eventually, but it’s crazy to look back and think about our comics costing only 35p for all of that hard work that went into them. OiNK was already more expensive than its peers and as the likes of Buster and Whizzer and Chips went up 2p each to 26p, our piggy publication went up by 5p to the grand sum of 35p. OiNK was independently produced and printed on lovely large, glossy paper, both of which made it more expensive to produce but they also made it worth every extra penny.
This is the Toys and Hobbies Issue and it’s full of interactive elements for the young readers. By that I mean things to cut out and make. In fact, there’s so much here the comic would be nothing but a pile of twisted paper if the reader did them all! I’ll show you one further down the review. To kick things off, apparently for Hadrian Vile and his artist Ian Jackson the theme has conjured up an image of voodoo experiments. As you do. The surprises continue inside with a memorable strip involving killer playthings and the insane artwork of Jon Langford in The Terrible Toys.
Written by Mark Rodgers, this should conclusively show that even such a safe topic could be completely turned on its head by OiNK. Jon’s art always made an impression and this is no exception, especially the fang-toothed Santa Claus at the end. (This wouldn’t be the scariest Santa we’d see in OiNK.) His use of thick, heavy lines, as if he’s leaning furiously on the page as he draws, and a lovely loose freehand style bring complete chaos to anything he crafted. You can also just about see a couple of edits around copyright names, the most obvious being “Borbie Dolls” where the ‘O’ has been changed. I’m not sure what Hasbro would’ve said!
Back in #20 Lew Stringer introduced us to a new character called Specky Hector, the Comics Collector by way of a funny three panel strip. I was delighted to see his return in this issue with a full page all to himself, in which he shares his tips for what he sees as the correct way to collect and store comics, complete with ink stains and finger prints which are very unbecoming of someone who prides themselves on their mint collection. After this I looked forward to future instalments from Hector in whatever form they would take but unfortunately the character never returned to this comic. However, for pig pals who followed some of the characters to the pages of Buster after OiNK folded he would pop up on occasion and you can even read this previous blog post to find out how he’s doing today.
There are a lot of great gags here and I particularly like the front cover of The Beany. Look closely and you’ll see the strip has someone ask for credits and the star of the strip says, “Jings! We don’t run credits!” This was a dig at the comics which never credited their writers and cartoonists; something else which set OiNK apart from the very beginning. This was a specific point of difference for its creators Mark Rodgers, Tony Husband and Patrick Gallagher, that everyone should receive on-page credit for their work and it was a hot topic in the UK industry at the time. So I particularly liked this joke.
“I’m even giving up my old hobby of collecting squashed hedgehogs!”Tom Thug
Just as a point of interest, I don’t personally protect the comics I collect and read for this blog in carded plastic bags or store them away out of sight. Mine are all proudly displayed on shelves around the small office in my house (I say office, it’s the spare bedroom with a desk instead of a bed) and can be picked up and instantly flicked through. I remember a friend years back would go to painstaking lengths to keep his comics and novels pristine and the way he’d hold them while reading looked so uncomfortable. To me, a bookshelf full of novels with cracked spines shows they’ve been loved. The same goes for my comics. Don’t get me wrong, I look after them, but comics are for consumption, to be read over and over, and most importantly loved. I don’t think Hector would really disagree with that sentiment.
Also in this issue is the second part of that Tom Thug story which began last issue. To recap, Wayne Brayne tricked Tom (not a difficult thing to do) into thinking he was seeing his older self as a decrepit pensioner spending his last days in prison, and it terrified him. Determined not to end up that way we saw him reformed, prancing down the road barefoot with bunches of flowers and a shiny halo above his head. Originally I’d thought it was just a funny ending for that issue and things would be back to normal this time. But that’s not the case and the strip kicks off with his dad getting the shock of his life.
This is a great strip, from the question mark beside the title, to his idiotic attempts at being nice and his eventual return to form. There’s even a quick reference to a hobby for the theme. I particularly like the panel where he swings at Wayne and punches the tree, the exaggerated punch and the pain in his eyes are perfect. In the end he hasn’t even returned to his normal thuggish ways out of his own choice. Instead he’s once again been manipulated by Wayne, this time at the encouragement of the locals and even Tom’s own dad. It’s a great end to a very funny two-parter.
In the pages of OiNK Wayne always reminds me of a younger version of Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye and team captain on Have I Got News For You. Interestingly however, when Tom’s strips became regular full-colour pages in Buster we found out Wayne is actually black, which was sadly a rare thing in our comics at the time. Speaking to Lew, he tells me he imagined Wayne as being black at some stage before the colour strips, however at one point OiNK gave him pink skin when someone at the office did the colouring.
Here are some of the other highlights of the issue, with Dead Fred taking on a handy new hobby, in The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile the young lad’s completely normal pastimes get him into trouble, Rubbish Man uses some of his memorable superpowers to great effect and in the strangely named Blow Peter co-editor Tony Husband takes aim at the very random things the programme would’ve built and encouraged their young viewers to copy.
So on the front cover we’re told there’s a “fantastic cut-out zeo-trope” inside. It’s a name that flew over my head as a kid but when I saw the page I instantly recognised the device used to produce basic animation. The fact it was billed as “fantastic” could only mean one thing, that this was going to be on Frank Sidebottom‘s page. I wasn’t wrong. Chris Sievey‘s imagination and ability to come up with unique ideas for his character’s pages never ceased to surprise.
I remember versions of this on children’s television at the time. The correct spelling is “zoetrope”, originally named when its inventor William E. Lincoln took the Greek words meaning ‘Wheel of Life’ to describe his new toy, which produced animated drawings before the days of film. As Frank explains, once assembled and spun the user looks through the holes, each one flicking by to show the frame on the opposite side, one by one. When spun quickly this gives the illusion of motion.
With the zoetrope, a cut-out stage and finger puppets depicting Uncle Pigg, Snatcher Sam and Mary Lighthouse, as well as a DIY Harry the Head which involved cutting out his features and gluing them to a pink balloon, there wouldn’t be much left of this issue if we’d actually created everything included! I don’t remember doing any of them, or indeed any of the board games or other models which required cutting my precious OiNKs. I may not have stored them in big plastic tubs away from sunlight, but I didn’t cut any of them up! Well, apart from coupons for the merchandise, of course.
Always a great character with consistently funny strips, Jeremy Banx‘s Burp was hitting a stride about this time in OiNK’s run that would continue without faltering all the way to the end of the weeklies when he’d disappear from the comic. Between now and then he’d even get a few two-page strips and some stories so surreal they could make Jeremy’s other regular character, Mr Big Nose look positively sane (almost). This issue’s strip is a favourite of mine and shows just how out of control things can get in a Burp story.
My favourite part is the large panel showing our planet zooming through the cosmos, the speech balloons at various points in its trajectory conveying the speed at which we’re hurtling about, culminating in Burp’s brilliant line, “You’re brutal, you are!” This broke me. In an issue of OiNK it’s always going to be very difficult to point at a page and say it’s the funniest, but even though it’s a closely run race as always, this had me in stitches. It’s even signed upside down to match the final panel. Simply brilliant stuff.
Written by Tony Husband and drawn by Clive Collins, Maggie Pie Collector of Weird Things had been a semi-regular in the early issues of the comic but her most recent appearance before now was back in #14. She would only appear a few more times (twice more in the comic and once in the first annual) and given how the theme includes hobbies she just had to be present in this one. Not only did she get her usual (well, unusual) story page, she also presented us with this guide to stamp collecting.
I particularly like the Penny White and the Latverian ‘Big Brother’. At ten-years-of-age I wasn’t really aware of any world events and had never been bitten by the stamp collecting bug, but enough of my friends collected them and I’d seen enough episodes of The A-Team freeing villages that I still found them funny.
There’s some special news in the middle of the comic. Throughout its life (and after) OiNK’s team would produce four holiday/summer specials, two annuals, the Smokebusters issue for schools in the north of England and the Crash computer magazine edition. The first of these was the 1987 Holiday Special and it went on sale along with this issue as the advert below by co-editor Patrick Gallagher announced.
This was exciting as a child! I also have some very distinct memories of this particular edition, both from my childhood and from later on in life and I’ll share these with you when I review it in just seven days from now. But this wasn’t the only reason for pig pals to get excited and I’ll explain that right after our final highlight of the issue.
Drawn by Steve Gibson, Watch the Skies takes inspiration from the Highway Code’s road signs to create a symbols guide for airplane spotters everywhere. Reading just the first two had me laughing! This is the final interior contribution to the issue (the back page had a script to go with the finger puppets I mentioned earlier) and was just below the Next Issue promo, which is where the further exciting news could be found.
The next issue of OiNK is the birthday issue! That’s right, can you believe it’s already been almost a full year since this read through of the world’s greatest comic began? The issue marks the end of the comic’s first year rather than the beginning of the second as would be traditional (typical OiNK), and marks a year since the release of the preview issue. This might seem strange at first but remember the preview wasn’t a shrunk down, miniature sneak peek of what was to come, it was a full-sized issue and worthy of celebration.
But wow, a full year has passed already. There’s still plenty to look forward to over the next year-and-a-half of OiNK and next up is that Holiday Special on Monday 11th April 2022, followed swiftly by #26 on Monday 18th April. Extra rashers all round. See you all soon.