There was always an extra bit of excitement that came with an Ian Jackson OiNK cover; it made us feel like we were in for an extra special issue. The oddly-themed Revenge issue kicks off with this brilliant piece which follows on from last issue’s fiasco in the OiNK offices. The Next Issue promo saw Mary Lighthouse in fear of retaliation from editor Uncle Pigg and it would appear she was right to be scared.
A bizarre cover such as this needs a story behind it and on page two we discover it was all a dream after Mary fell asleep watching an old western movie. But unbeknownst to her there’s a new ‘Splat-O-Pult’ with a bucket full of swill awaiting her in her garden. At this point I’m going to flick forward to the middle pages of the comic where the aftermath of this becomes apparent with the Mad Murder Maze!
The strips are as ever drawn by Ian with the maze itself brought to colourful life by Ralph Shephard, known to pig pals for his spoof strips of children’s cartoons and of course the Make-Your-Own-Adventure from issue five. Following on from that is this further piece of interactive fun for the young readers as they try to find a safe way across a monstrous maze for the catty critic. But why would we want to help her? As usual there’s a twist in the tale.
I hope you found your way across before skipping to the conclusion! Unlike the Barry the Butcher strip this one is actually doable. Every issue the back and forth between these two characters always drew me in, like I was part of Uncle Pigg’s club and even today as an adult it still feels like I’m getting access to some secret behind-the-scenes shenanigans of creating an anarchic comic. So a really fun main event.
Originally created by Graham Exton and always drawn by Mike Green, Weedy Willy was an easy strip to adapt to the subject. His regular plans to woo dishy Mandy would often fail, resulting in Mandy being on the receiving end of the failure. She would end up chasing him (not in the way Willy intended) with revenge in her eyes. However, this time it’s his own mother who ends up with that fearsome look, after Willy’s dad tries to encourage him to seek revenge on the constant stream of bullies.
We already knew Willy couldn’t formulate any kind of successful plan, so I love how all of his dad’s resources are just shoved into a bag and thrown out of the window to achieve the desired effect. Willy was deemed to be a regular character even though he only appeared in little over half of all the issues (38 in total). He did cross over into the pages of Buster for a short period of time after OiNK’s cancellation, but his days of full page strips in OiNK would soon be up as he’d become a mini-strip staple not long after this issue.
One of my favourite things about OiNK were the spoof Madvertisements and I’ve shown you some of these already. By the time I purchased my first issue back in 1986 the majority were for the comic’s in-house brand ‘G.B.H.‘ and this is the issue in which they made their first appearance. Later they’d have full colour pages to hawk their wares, sometimes even multi-page catalogues, but here they get a little area at the bottom of one page with four tiny classifieds, the best of which is below.
I can still remember the day I asked my brother what the initials stood for and given the fact it was clearly a company run by mobsters it suited the premise perfectly. Interesting little part of the Grunts letters page there too. That’s OiNK cartoonist Davy Francis pointing out a newspaper clipping to the team. Well, he would notice this kind of story wouldn’t he, what with his lead strip being Cowpat County.
Also this issue we see the saga of Tom Thug and his shoelaces come to its conclusion. If you take a gander at the very top of this review you’ll see Uncle Pigg threatening Tom with a transfer to Whizzer and Chips comic! In complete panic Tom somehow manages to tie his bovver boots, but we later see him in the bath, boots still on his feet because he doesn’t know how to untie them.
“He battled his way past the castle guards – the Noxious Newts of Noona and the Preying Potties of Poohbah!”Nice-Man and the Lords of the Universe (Mark Rodgers)
Not every strip in every issue would stick to the subject at hand, which would give a nice variety to the contents and one of those giving us a break from all of the revenge, monsters, threats and mobsters was David Haldane‘s Rubbish Man. The premise here is a simple one and in fact the story itself only takes half of the space afforded to it. The end gag panel takes up half the page and you can see why. I’ll admit the way his final speech balloon reads in my head has me in giggles every time.
Even at this early stage in the comic’s lifetime Haldane has all but abandoned Jimmy Bung (the secret identity of Rubbish Man) but that’s perfectly fine by me. All we want is his madcap, smelly adventures, we don’t need to see him transform anymore. As much as I enjoyed him as a kid, I do think Rubbish Man is one of the strips I think is even funnier to me now as an adult.
At the time of writing this review, a shiny new sequel series to the original Masters of the Universe cartoon has just been released, alongside what seems to be innumerable documentaries on the original toy craze. I don’t think it can be overestimated just how massive this toy line was in the early 80s. Personally, I can remember being told by my parents (years later for obvious reasons) how they had to travel to Dublin to secure a Castle Greyskull toy for Christmas!
This means of course that an OiNK parody was inevitable and in this issue Ralph Shepherd (I told you he would be known for these) took Mark Rodgers‘ brilliant take on He-Man and Skeletor and turned out this beautiful spread, Nice-Man and the Lords of the Universe. As well as the main characters themselves, also firmly in OiNK’s sights were the seemingly endless array of ridiculous-sounding villain toys and the equally endless war itself.
The only possible negative thing I could say about this is that the first page is in black and white. This isn’t usually an issue for a comic whose ratio would be eight full colour pages, eight one-colour pages and 16 in black and white. But when you see the second page you can’t help but wish the first was the same. This isn’t a case of it being printed that way, you can tell by Ralph’s crosshatch shading the first page was created that way.
Still, it’s a glorious thing indeed. Almost as glorious was my reenactment of this with my Mattel toys. It was reprinted in the third Holiday Special and by that time I’d moved on from He-Man but the toys were still in the bottom of a cupboard somewhere. Digging them out and utilising some Visionaries and The Real Ghostbusters toys (as well as an actual banana) I played out this classic OiNK spoof. Funny the things that stay with us, locked deep in our memories.
We’re almost at the end of another real time review but we’ve got Mary Lighthouse‘s escape from the monsters to clear up. It would seem she’s done so unscathed, at least until page 31 anyway. Making it back to her Dun Complainin’ home (nice touch) her choice of supper and bedtime reading comes back to haunt her in her nightmares, thanks to a particularly bold back page from Jon Langford making his OiNK debut.
A friend of Marc Riley’s, Jon was a founding member of The Mekons, who as a group would also appear in a photo story or two in OiNK. But that’s only one small part of his incredible creative output which includes various other bands, visual art and design, music production, theatre work and political activism. His illustrations would appear in OiNK four times over the course of the fortnightly issues so watch out for more from him over the next couple of years.
Strong central scripts, beautiful one-off special contributions and far too many little strips and gags to talk about here. It would still be a few months before I would discover OiNK just before turning ten-years-of-age and it’s almost criminal to know a quality, laugh-a-minute read like this was sitting right there, just down the road from my house in the newsagent and I wasn’t aware. Thank goodness I never grew up in the intervening years and was able to track them down!
The next of these is the Back to School Special and it’ll be reviewed on Monday 6th September 2021. If I’d known about it at the time it definitely would’ve taken the sting out of returning to school at that age, as you’ll see in two weeks.