Tag Archives: Davy Francis

OiNK! #48: GREEDY FOR LAUGHS

Welcome to the latest weekly edition of OiNK and Davy Francis’ only comics cover of his career. Outlined by Lew Stringer, Davy’s creation Greedy Gorb gets his teeth into the issue and that’s what we’re here for too. Continuing the basic yellow cover theme it’s not the most elaborate in OiNK’s history, although next week’s would be even simpler. But as mentioned before this was a necessary evil to get ahead of the new schedule, doubled from a few issues ago. 

Greedy may be a a mini-strip but that doesn’t stop him from producing one of my biggest belly laughs for quite a while and you’ll see that towards the end of this review. As I promised back in #45’s write-up I’m going to take a look at the more serialised nature of OiNK Weekly, starting off with the very funny Sherlock Hams in The Hog of the Baskervilles. Written by Lew and drawn by Ron Tiner, it’s packed to the rafters with silly characters and even sillier plot twists.

The red herring gag from #46 is still my favourite and here the outraged cook reveals themselves as Meatyarty, based on Sherlock Holmes’ own nemesis Moriarty. As with Ham Dare, Lew’s script plays up to the clichés people associate with these types of story (hamming it up you could say) including Holmes’ love of the violin. His ability to deduce clues where no one else would see any is also spoofed here, his supposed super intelligence revealing what are actually very obvious giveaways.

It concludes next week with part five while Jeremy Banx’s Hieronymous Van Hellsong will continue on until the celebratory #50. In this fourth chapter the atmospheric scene-setting is done and it’s time for the butcher hunter to meet his nemesis, Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith, the Dracula to his Hellsing. The main thrust here is their first battle, with Jimmy spectacularly crashing through a window and swiping at our enigmatic hero with his blade. It’s animatedly realised by Jeremy in some of his best work yet.

There are loads of little details I just love here, such as portraying Jimmy’s residence as a dirty hovel in the first panel, showing the OiNK villain doesn’t have a home as such, instead sleeping rough in dirty, abandoned buildings as he makes his way around the country for his pie fillings. The confrontation itself in the middle panels is all exaggerated limb movements and bloody thirsty stares, and is that even saliva spilling out of Jimmy’s mouth as he edges closer to his prey?

Here is a cartoonist whose imagination and sense of humour know no bounds

Thankfully only the tips of Hellsong’s hat and scarf end up on the chopping board and in the final panels that Dracula inspiration is really brought home with the holding up of the cross. But it’s the reveal of what that cross actually is that made me genuinely laugh out loud. This is about as unique a children’s comic strip as you could ever possibly get and shows how original OiNK still is nearly 50 issues in. Co-editor Tony Husband once told me Jeremy was basically given free rein to do as he pleased. Here is a cartoonist whose imagination and sense of humour know no bounds.

Moving on, from early issues where he’d often be the butt of jokes, to ones where he’d get the upper hand and prove that beauty is only skin deep, Tony’s Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins had already been on quite the journey when his strip was changed to a serialised comedy drama of sorts, chronicling Horace’s new football career. His talent spotted by Melchester United, his headmaster refused to let him attend practice but the readers convinced him otherwise in #43. But a jealous member of his team had been laying traps for him and last issue a mysterious figure had broken into a military facility and stole a nuclear missile! Well that escalated quickly.

There was still plenty of time for humour (and sometimes the strip would revert to a one-off for a good gag or two). I love how William’s mum just casually mentions the weapon in passing, the ‘Ground to Horace missile’ and the fact it’s easily flipped up to avert all of the disaster in a scene which could be right out of a Naked Gun-style spoof. Well, I say it’s been averted but this issue’s cliffhanger has different ideas. From memory the football story would continue for quite a while, dipping in and out until the happy ending in the final issue, the long serialisation making the final strip all the better for it.

Frank Sidebottom wasn’t averse to an ongoing story either, although it was rather more ad-hoc. Case in point, back in #46 he brought us 100 Fantastic Show-biz (sic) Moments No.2. But that second list of moments would then be elongated and spread over several issues, so last week we had (and I quote) “Frank Sidebottom’s Part Two ‘Fantastic Showbiz Moments’ Part 2”, but that wasn’t enough for Frank. He decided a previous plot point needed further explanation, so now we have the third part of the two-part story to the second part of his showbiz moments. Phew!

And of course he can’t resist building on this serialisation joke by starting another on the very same page, this time referencing the amount of parts won’t tally properly before he even begins. The diversity of his pages play out brilliantly in these issues; the first was a photo montage of him with his Smokebusters, the second was a photo strip, here we’ve a lovely hand-crafted written page and as it goes on it’d revert to a comic strip again. There was never a predictable moment within his pages.

That newspaper article is hilarious too.

Elsewhere, the creativity of the readers knew no bounds as evidenced with these winning song lyrics by Lyn McNicol for the comic’s resident punk band The Slugs, fellow OiNK cartoonist Marc Riley made an unscheduled (and I’d assume surprising even to Marc) cameo in Lew Stringer’s Pete and his Pimple, and our already perfectly smelly alien from outer space, Burp, was convinced to undergo some rather extreme plastic surgery!

The mini-strips are still collected together in one section of the comic. This will change soon but for now it’s actually quite fun to get a handful of quick gags in succession. However one in particular stands out, so much so that the image in the final panel has stayed rent free in my mind all of these years later, resurfacing every time I see the instrument in question.

This isn’t just the best mini-strip, it’s the biggest laugh of the whole issue and quite possibly the very best Greedy Gorb strip of his 33 in total, drawn by the incredibly funny and unique Davy Francis. Now and again Davy’s characters would be written by other OiNK writers but here it’s all him, complete with the backgrounds that magically change from one panel to the next so he can squeeze in as many extra sight gags as possible. A classic.

As you know I’m showing the newsagent reservation coupons from each of these weekly issues because they’re a series of jokes in their own right, and to accompany them this time is a full-page strip written by co-editor Mark Rodgers and drawn in glorious full colour by Eric ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson. It’s a very unsubtle dig at the likes of W.H. Smith who had been placing OiNK on the top shelves out of the reach of children after a few parents complained, even though you can guarantee their children shared the same sense of humour as the comic.


“OiNK is such a rude, outrageous comic, we like to make it difficult for you to get!”

GBH Newsagent (Mark Rodgers)

A few people trying to ruin everyone else’s fun because they personally don’t like something? Some things never change. There’s no denying this move had to have hurt OiNK’s sales and IPC Magazines for their part did try their best to negotiate with the chain. It also couldn’t have helped they were one of the main distributors. Thankfully they weren’t to be found here in Northern Ireland at the time (the one store that did open in Belfast many years later didn’t last long before going out of business), although DUP leader Ian Paisley did try to get the comic banned at one stage but it fell on deaf ears.

Uncle Pigg had already informed his readers to ask for OiNK if they didn’t see it on the shelves, explaining how some folks who owned the shops thought OiNK was too clever for us kiddies. In fact, this was how he introduced the reservation coupon in the first ever issue I bought, #14. It was a cheeky little joke at the expense of such shops while making the point they wouldn’t stop OiNK from being published. In this latest issue that same message came with a bit more bite to it.

It makes a great point; if OiNK was so bad why not just refuse to stock it? The answer of course is that they were hypocrites, although some WHSmith stores did refuse to have The OiNK Book 1988 on the shelves when it was released. I do love how Wilkie’s art looks on the matt paper. His style always had texture to it, but now on this paper stock this is heightened, creating a gorgeous finished strip that feels like this is the original artwork, drawn directly on to this exact piece of paper by Eric. I love it.

Fittingly, we finish off this review with the latest newsagent coupon put together by co-editor Patrick Gallagher. While the coupon itself is very polite for addressing the shop, the accompanying joke is anything but. It also contains the best description of a dentist I’ve ever come across in my life.

“Gob mechanic”! Haha! Ahem, anyway, that’s us at the end of another review. We’re really getting through them now aren’t we? Enjoy it while you can pig pals, as the comic will change to a different schedule again later in the year. Until then though, we still have another 14 weekly doses of pigs, plops and puns to come, continuing with #49 in just seven days on Saturday 5th January 2023. I’m sure I’ll see you then.

OiNK! #45: SLiMLiNE SOWS

The best time of the year may have ended, the decorations may be back underneath the stairs and it may feel like there’s nothing but cold, dark winter ahead, however in 1988 (and in 2023) there was some light in the form of the now-weekly OiNK. I’ve previously covered how this came about, so now it’s time to concentrate on the comics themselves and it wasn’t clear to ten-year-old me that changes had already been made to the winning formula. We’ll get to them in a bit.

It was so exciting to think I’d be getting a brand new OiNK every single Saturday and I’m sure I wasn’t the only pig pal who was feeling that level of anticipation, so with this being an important issue who else could draw the cover but Ian Jackson and alongside the green logo its eye-catching and memorable. Just to note, it may say ‘Every Friday’ on the cover but Fleetway’s comics would be released the working day before (the date being the Saturday after the day on the cover, I know it’s confusing!) so OiNK Weekly was actually published every Thursday, young me just didn’t realise and continued to collect his comics on Saturdays (my Marvel UK comics were published Saturdays).

There were so many characters I couldn’t wait to see twice as much of and The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 8 5/8 (yearƨ), written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ian, was high on my list. A highlight of every single issue there was so much to enjoy, from Hadrian himself and the way he told his story to the atrocious spelling and the jaggedy art. Given the format of a kid’s diary if anything it suits the weekly schedule even more than before.

A little mini-series here, plenty of one-offs there, the fun, random nature was one of those things that set OiNK apart

Readers across the land had just gone back to school after the excitement of the Christmas break and Hadrian was no exception, but at least his antics while trying to solve a homework question would soften the blow somewhat for us. Indeed it did, although I’m not too sure there was any softening of that landing for Tuby Watson. This fan favourite would also be subject to changes very soon but for now it was great to have a diary entry every week!

Disney cartoon characters had been the subject of OiNK’s spoofing before, most recently in The OiNK! Book 1988 which we’d just got our trotters on Christmas Day. Over the first few weeklies it seemed this was going to become a regular occurrence. Unfortunately it only lasted a few issues but that’s the nature of OiNK, right? A little mini-series here, plenty of one-offs there, the fun, random nature was one of those things that set it apart. That, and how it would treat such beloved, cuddly and wholesome characters as Winnie the Pooh.

Written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Chas Sinclair, Windie the Poo was the best of this short series (the others would be called The Jungle Chapter and Sow White and the Seven Plops) and it was given the banner title of ‘OiNK! Piggy Parodies Present’, possibly to explain its place in the comic for those new readers they hoped would be jumping on here. Much like #15 and #36 this issues feels like it’s designed to welcome in new pig pals.

Sherlock Hams is one of two new multi-part serials beginning this issue, Uncle Pigg introduces us to OiNK on page two with Grunts acting as a contents page for one issue rather than containing letters and some regular characters such as Pete and his Pimple definitely feel like they’re introducing themselves. Lew Stringer also took this chance to set in motion a very fondly remembered ongoing contest.

Readers were asked to send in their ideas to cure Pete’s giant, unsightly pimple once and for all and while some would do so with ideas taken from the real world, as the weeks went on they’d get more and more crazy, really showcasing the minds of the fans! The Slugs, the first strip of the issue, also ended with a competition, although it was in place of an actual punchline unlike Pete’s and Frank Sidebottom made a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo in Ponsonby Claret’s second and sadly final appearance.

Last time we mourned the end of Mr Big Nose’s time in OiNK but Jeremy Banx’s Burp is still going strong and now he also brought us Doctor Hieronymous Van Hellsong, a new six-part mini-series based around the same dark, twisted humour we loved so much in his Butcher Watch updates, such as the one last issue which now feels like a precursor to this new strip. Even the black framing helps give it a creepy feel to begin with, then you continue reading and the ridiculous ways Hellsong dispatches his foes will have you laughing.

It’s classic Banx. Taking his surreal sense of humour, adding tons of atmosphere and then almost spoofing that very same atmosphere with the hilarious antics of our new hero as he solemnly describes his job. It’s brilliant stuff! My ten-year-old self found this captivating and of course very, very funny. If you’re new to OiNK try to imagine reading this at that age. You can see why I’m insistent that OiNK helped form the sense of humour of many when you have such strong strips as this.

For a new weekly schedule some changes had to be made to the make up of the comic

It all ends with that ominous shadow and the set up is complete, ready for the showdown to come. One of the best strips from OiNK’s whole run and a highlight of the weeklies, Jeremy would bring the character back for a second mini-series after a great reception from readers. In a later review I’ll take a closer look at the more serialised format of the weeklies and this will form a big part of that.

For a new weekly schedule some changes had to be made to the make up of the comic. I wouldn’t notice the biggest one until I finished reading it, another wouldn’t be obvious until next week, but I was very aware that it felt more ‘organised’ for want of a better word. So much planning went into making previous OiNKs feel randomly put together and, while we do have plenty of little one-offs here, most strips are full pages, while half-pages are all kept together in groups and the mini-strips all placed onto one page.

It’s nice to see Harry the Head back to being a simple gag strip again instead of trying to have serialised cliffhangers every issue and the others are all on top of their game too. Always interesting to see how the writing duties would often change for each strip, such as Mark Rodgers writing Marc Riley’s Harry and Davy Francis writing Marc’s Doctor Mooney while his own creation Greedy Gorb is written by Griffiths+Kane. Keeps things fresh.

Nowadays this makes it all feel very much like a more traditional comic, although to be fair when compared to the traditional comics of the time (and their almost exclusively full-page or double-page strips made up of regular characters only) it still stood out as very different. But even back then it just felt a little less ‘OiNK’-like. As the weeklies went on this would change back to more of what we’d been used to, so the team could’ve just been keeping it a bit simpler for now to get ahead of the new weekly schedule. That other change was more of a shock though.

Would potential new readers fork out more for fewer pages if they weren’t aware of how much OiNK crammed in?

Back in 1988 I was surprised I finished the issue so quickly and originally put it down to just enjoying it so much that it flew by. But something made me check the amount of pages when I noticed there were no page numbers anymore. To my dismay OiNK was now 24 pages instead of 32! It’s only from reading the Crash magazine interview with co-editor Tony Husband last year that I realised this had been the original plan for OiNK before it was agreed to do a larger fortnightly.

The price reduction didn’t mean much to us kids but it did appease my parents somewhat and in the end we were getting 48 pages every fortnight. As I’ve discussed previously the idea was to increase sales (we’d be buying twice as many) but OiNK was still more expensive than its stablemates and now had less pages. Originally it had the same amount but was printed on larger, glossy paper when the others were smaller newsprint. Even when the paper changed with #36 it still felt worth the extra cash. OiNK was created independently so was always going to be a few pence more, but would readers fork out more for fewer pages, especially if they were new and weren’t aware of how much OiNK crammed in?

This change had worked before to phenomenal results when Marvel UK’s Transformers comic changed from a 32-page fortnightly to a 24-page weekly at the end of its first year and sales skyrocketed. Although, by the end of those fortnightlies there was so much awful filler material it was a blessing to have a more streamlined (and now full-colour) comic. Weekly OiNK would also get to that stage of just feeling like a more streamlined experience packed with excellent content, rather than a thinner comic. But would it be too late by then for regular readers? Stick around to find out.

The issue wraps up with the first of six calendars for 1988, one of which would prove a bit controversial. For now, we’ve reached the beginning of what is essentially the third of four very different phases of OiNK’s run and I’m looking forward to seeing what positive changes the weekly format brings as it settles in. Join me just seven days from now on Saturday 14th January 2023 (Thursday back in 1988) for the next real time review.

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.