Tag Archives: Dave Follows

OiNK! SMOKEBUSTER SPECiAL!: RARE FUN

Not many pig pals will have seen the OiNK Smokebuster Special before and until last year neither had I, apart from the occasional photo of the cover as part of a heavily overpriced eBay auction. Then last year someone finally listed it at a sensible amount and I was able to snap it up. It’s been sitting in my OiNK collection between #46 and #47 ever since and now, after 35 years, I’ve been able to read it at last. I can’t tell you how excited I’ve been at the thought of reading a brand new OiNK all these years later! Was it worth the wait?

A little background first. Co-editors Patrick Gallagher, Tony Husband and Mark Rodgers teamed up with Project Smoke Free to produce this special 16-page edition to give away to school kids in the north western region of England. It’s good to have the logo on glossy paper again I have to say and inside we get mostly all new strips which don’t hold back in their messaging. In fact, I’m quite surprised at just how hard-hitting some of the humour actually is, such as with the very first strip called A Tale of Two Sisters by Tony.

In fact, all three of OiNK’s editors, as well as Chris Sievey aka Frank Sidebottom, smoked at the time but they still wanted to try stopping the children who looked up to their characters from making the mistake of starting themselves. One cartoonist who never started the habit and was more than happy to contribute was Lew Stringer and his Tom Thug seemed the perfect fit. Tom was someone who liked to present himself a certain way and would be stupid enough to think being seen smoking cigarettes would help with his image.

“I remember being commissioned to do an anti-smoking story for Tom Thug,” Lew told me. “I’ve never been a smoker and hate the damage it does to people so I didn’t hold back. I enjoyed doing my page and hopefully the comic had the desired effect on kids. Comics shy away from such things now but anti-smoking strips were commonplace in the comics I grew up with.” This strip is also notable for featuring a girl who actually likes Tom… for a whole three panels!

In Lew’s own blog post about such strips from the 60s he mentions one which featured a character telling the reader what they could afford to buy if they weren’t paying for cigarettes. That’s exactly what Frank does with his page in this and between him and Tom they cover the lighter end of the spectrum of content. Much more of it deals with the ultimate consequence of smoking. In fact about half of the comic drills home the fact that smoking leads to death. Like I said, it really doesn’t hold back.

Jeremy Banx certainly doesn’t either with his double-page Burp strip, particularly on the first page. Starting off with a silly little panel of him hoovering the lawn it soon gets very serious indeed. Yes, he’s talking to his lungs who are having a crafty smoke behind the outside loo, but the actual words Jeremy puts into Burp’s mouth are very serious indeed. They’re even accompanied by factual captions giving more context, something you don’t expect in a children’s comic.

Then again, this was an OiNK created to be supplied to schools, so ideally it needed to educate the kids on the dangers of smoking, alongside the laughs, and Jeremy really went to town on teaching the pig pals (and potential pig pals) about the background to the nasty habit. Of course, the second half of the strip sees it descend into more typical chaos and we get yet another weapon creation of Burp’s (remember the tractor beam?), this time it produces a somewhat accurate result, at least until they set themselves on fire.

Finishing off with the internal struggle (literally in his case) that comes with being an alien with sentient organs this is the main highlight of the special edition for me. Not that it’s lacking in others of course. Mike Peek brings his unique art style to a quiz, overseen by an equally unique version of Uncle Pigg that I just love and a smoking taxi driver gets a shock when he asks his passenger why they think smoking is unhealthy.

Even though this issue never made it into the hands of the larger OiNK audience there’s still a Grunts page with reader contributions and there are a couple of reprinted strips from the regular comic which fit in perfectly. The first is Plopeye the Sailor from #9 in which he ends up wheezing and exhausted trying to look after a baby because of the pipe he’s forever smoking. The second is a Pigg Tale from #15 called Up In Smoke, written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Dave Follows.

It begins with young Pete learning what a conscience is, imagining it as a little elf character who lives inside his head telling him what’s the right things to do in life are, and the things which are wrong and he should never do. As he grows up the elf becomes more to him though, developing into an imaginary friend who’d continue to represent his inner thought processes whether he liked it or not. The stage is now set and we see Peter as a teenager and under a bit of peer pressure.

Yep, like all good lengthy OiNK one-offs it was a set up for perfectly atrocious pun. I have to say when I was a teenager I didn’t see any of this sort of peer pressure. None of my closest friends smoked and I must’ve lived in some form of personal bubble because only when meeting up years later with many of those friends did I find out it was more common than I’d thought. Even though this was a reprint its setting means it could easily have been created just for this schools special.

Towards the back of the comic is a madvertisement for a spoof cigarette brand with a skeleton as their mascot and in Addict!! a young woman tells us all the reasons why she smokes, showing us how contradictory her reasons are; smoking to relax but also when she’s stressed, when she was happy and when she became ill she smoked more because she was worried. She ends up at the pearly gates begging St. Peter for a fag. Just before this is a quick Health Warning drawn by Les Barton (Lezz).

There’s a little copyright notice on page two which states this issue of OiNK was published by Project Smoke Free at the North Western Regional Health Authority. In fact, it was printed by the OiNK editors themselves and thousands were handed out to schools free of charge. Patrick told me it was such a success that the school boards wanted it to go national and requested up to 1,000,000 copies for distribution! There was no way the OiNK guys could handle that amount so they approached OiNK’s publisher, Fleetway.

The press were on hand that day and even Junior Health Minister Edwina Currie showed up

Fleetway told them to leave it with them and then nothing happened. The reasons are unclear. But what a wasted opportunity! Imagine the publicity a million free copies throughout schools in England would’ve brought to the regular comic. Imagine the sales spikes. But nope, the success of the Smokebuster Special ended with this one unique edition. If it had gone nationwide imagine the shock of those in the press, not to mention the pressure groups, who criticised OiNK as being a bad influence on children.

A funny story is linked to this issue. In #46 of OiNK we saw Frank Sidebottom with a bunch of pig pals promoting their anti-smoking message. The press were on hand that day and even Junior Health Minister Edwina Currie showed up, as shown in #47. However, once the kids were on their trains home the OiNK editors and Chris Sievey (Frank) all lit up! The press was still there to catch the moment too. I don’t think Uncle Pigg would’ve been too happy with that funny moment, do you?

This Ian Jackson image makes up the back cover and rounds things off nicely with a nice, subtle message from our editor. It’s been great to finally get my hands on this 35 years after the fact and to have some new OiNK material to read. I didn’t expect that in 2023! Check out #46 and #47 (the review of the latter will be up three days after this post is published) for more on this and if you’d like to see another special free edition of the comic there’s also the Crash magazine edition from 1987 to check out.

OiNK! #15: NEW PiGLETS

It appears I jumped on to the OiNK train at the right moment back in 1986. Last time I shared the memories of my first issue and just one week later came a kind of soft relaunch as the theme. OiNK had established itself, publishers IPC Magazines were happy, the readers were happy and it was proving to be a success, so the team decided to celebrate by bringing in a whole bunch of brand new regular characters.

Let’s not forget the fantastic free gift, the first of three Ian Jackson posters which combined into one giant calendar for 1987 featuring The 8th Wonder of the World: Mount Rushboar. I can remember pouring over all the little details in the swarm of people running across Harry the Head and Burp the Smelly Alien carved into the rock face and even the little bits of rubbish left behind on this apparently reverential site. How typical of us humans and a funny swipe at British tourists in particular.

On page two we find out how this glossy comic could afford such extravagances, with staff reduced to working naked, cartoonists and accountants alike shivering in the cold as Uncle Pigg looks on, wearing his Hawaiian shirt to boot. Christmas was coming early for him with all the money OiNK was raking in, and it was coming early for us too because the calendar poster freebies would continue up to the first festive issue.

Mary Lighthouse is back with her strip on page three. Normally this would be a way of introducing the subject matter of the issue but here it’s quite clear it has a bigger job to do. It’s introducing new readers to the character and the overall cheekiness and irreverence of the comic. Don’t get me wrong, Mark Rodgers and Ian Jackson still deliver the goods for the regulars too, it’s genuinely funny but it also reinforces the way the comic is reintroducing itself now that its readership is growing.

Coming on board just before this issue is probably the reason why I always assumed certain characters were in OiNK right from the beginning, when in reality this was their first appearance. Two such examples are Davy FrancisGreedy Gorb (He’d Eat Anything) and Jeremy Banx‘s wonderfully surreal and often very rude Hector Vector and his Talking T-shirt. The latter actually gets a proper origin story when a magical genie appears from Keith Disease‘s (I never remembered him having an actual name!) packet of crisps, but Keith is rude to him because his snack is gone. Poor Hector happens to be passing and Keith is forever confined to be a “tasteless print” on his t-shirt.

I remember his strip being one of my favourites so expect to see them soon. The only reason I’m not including them here is because there’s just too much I could include that I had to leave some real classics out. But I was always going to show you the beginning of OiNK’s second spoof epic. Hot on the trotters of The Street-Hogs comes Ham Dare: Pig of the Future, also stunningly illustrated by J.T. Dogg and this time the multi-part serial is written by Lew Stringer. IPC’s very own Eagle and 2000AD hero Dan Dare was the subject of OiNK’s style of parody, complete with sidekick Pigby and arch nemesis The Weakun‘!

This was my first exposure to J.T.’s artwork and it looked like nothing I’d ever seen before. Possibly because of this, as much as I love The Street-Hogs now, Ham Dare remains my favourite of all the OiNK serials. Lew’s script is fast-paced and packed full of gags, both for fans of the original space adventurer or those like me who learned of him through this. I especially love how Sir Hogbert has to show our heroes such a basic drawing to describe Earth being pulled out of orbit. Ham Dare may not be the sharpest pork scratching in the packet but he looked dashing as the hero and that’s what was important to him (and we loved him for it).

Elsewhere this issue Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins‘ own serial continues and a lot of the humour comes from the narrative by Tony Husband. Fan favourite Pete and his Pimple makes his debut after being the footer gag to a Tom Thug strip in #6. Hyperactive Harriet is the fastest girl in the world and a not-so-subtle take on The Beano‘s Billy Whizz. Then Billy Buzz gets the same ‘New Character’ treatment as the rest, but his saccharine personality annoys Uncle Pigg so much he swats him by the end of the strip and that’s the last we’d ever see of him!

Billy might not have made the grade but the next new addition certainly did. She quickly became a childhood favourite, so much so that I was certain she appeared in almost every issue I had as a kid. But surprisingly Psycho Gran was only in 20 editions of OiNK altogether including specials and annuals. Despite this, she became a true OiNK legend.

Created by David Leach (Brain Damage, Toxic Crusaders, Spongebob Squarepants) she was originally submitted as a one-off strip, so when OiNK’s editors introduced her as a new regular character in this issue it was a bit of a surprise for David. This explains why she doesn’t reappear until #21 because he hadn’t made any more! David tells me the guys would send him a list of upcoming issue subjects and he’d submit Psycho Gran strips for whichever ones he had an idea for. He never had a Psycho strip turned down and as a fan I can see why.

This strip might look familiar to anyone who has purchased the new comic series from David in recent years because he reproduced this as a gorgeous, heavily detailed, full colour strip. In fact, between contributions to Aces Weekly and Psycho’s own digital and print comics, David has now produced more work for the little old dear in the years since OiNK than during her time in her debut comic.

There are certain Psycho Gran strips, as well as individual jokes and images that stayed with me long after childhood was a distant memory. Whether she’s randomly throwing people into the ocean, making military preparations to pick her pension up at the Post Office or adorning a Wild West Wanted poster, she could terrify many in her little world but she was adored by pig pals.


“‘Sammy is getting old and worn out! I’ll have to replace him with a new engine!’, said the Controller.

Sammy the Steam Engine

Two new characters are up on the next page together, namely Sally Scowl (Her Temper’s Foul!) and Fatty Farmer (He’s A Whole Lot Calmer). Their titles may have rhymed like so many traditional humour strips of the time but that’s where the similarities end. Both were written by Mark Rodgers (of course) and drawn by Dave Follows and Weedy Willy‘s Mike Green respectively.

Both are enjoyable, even if we do already have a bad tempered youth in the shape of Billy Bang. But unlike Billy, Sally’s temper builds until she uses it to her advantage at just the right moment. She’s a lovable character and after that hilarious first panel I can’t blame her for being in a bad mood all day! She was also that rare occurrence indeed, a black character in one of our childhood comics. So why does Sally disappear after #16, totalling only two appearances? So much for a new regular character! What a shame and a waste of a great idea.

The message was clear, don’t let the bullies get to you.

Fatty Farmer was a larger than life country farmer who’d often come up against bullies and small-minded individuals making fun of his weight. However, he’d remain chilled out and deal with them calmly, often proudly using the very thing they were laughing at to his advantage. The message was clear, don’t let the bullies get to you. He’d go on to be a bit more successful than Sally with 11 strips in total, appearing in every issue for the first few months and then on and off during the rest of the fortnightlies. To have him and Sally on the same page for their first appearances was a great contrast and a great idea.

Back in #3 artist Ralph Shepherd drew OiNK’s brilliant take on The Transformers. As I said at the time, the comic would often take the hand out of things we readers loved and for me there was nothing I loved more than the subject of this next strip. It was so funny to see this as a kid. This was really the first many fans of the show would’ve seen a spoof of it (and it was even several months before the official comic finally launched). Over the course of the two weeks I had to wait for my next OiNK I reread this several times, laughing and loving the fact OiNK had its own version of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.

Looking at this issue as a whole I can see I was clearly spoiled as a kid with this as only the second comic I ever bought. Whether I realised that at the time is another matter. I got to experience the gorgeous work of J.T. Dogg for the first time, got to meet lots of new characters including many who would become lifelong favourites, the subject of my top book series and TV show was given that unique OiNK makeover and then on top of all that was one of only five Tom Paterson OiNK strips!

What a lovely surprise it was to come across this page when reading the issue for this review. Written by Mark Rodgers it’s already a funny script, but when it’s in the hands of Tom you just know there are going to be many more laughs added before he’s done with it. Mister Cheese would unfortunately be Tom’s final full page story for OiNK. After this his work would only pop up once more in a tiny quarter-page strip in The OiNK Book 1988, which I won’t be reviewing for another 13 months! Just as well this is so jam-packed with Tom’s trademark sight gags then isn’t it? Tom was just too busy to be a regular contributor and that’s such a shame because I believe he and OiNK were the perfect fit, perhaps more so than any other comic.

Before we wrap up with the back page, here’s a little bit of news about the next issue. While this edition may have introduced a wealth of new characters, #16 brings with it a true superstar, a megastar, a “fantastic” new addition to OiNK who I remember waking up to every Saturday morning on No.73. His creator sadly died back in 2010 and it was the news of his passing that brought me back into the sty after decades away. Next issue sees the start of his contributions which really have to be seen to be believed.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next issue! For now, I’m going to finish off with this full colour back cover from Lew Stringer. We got a glimpse on the Grunts page (at the top of this review) of what it was like to work in the OiNK offices. Uncle Pigg may have had all the right words to say to the readers but the reality behind them was somewhat different. Here’s Lew’s inside scoop on the real behind-the-scenes of creating the funniest comic ever produced!

For a much younger me these two issues were a strong start. Such a strong start! How could it possibly get any better? Be here on Monday 29th November 2021 to find out.