Tag Archives: Davy Francis

OiNK! #8: SKELE-TON OF FUN

I had a particularly pleasant time reading this issue of OiNK. It’s always a positive experience but blue skies, a beer and a furry feline friend for company heightened it even further. It was a different reading experience for what is a very different issue, kicking off with co-editor Patrick Gallagher‘s anarchic front cover.

As mentioned last time, after what must’ve been an exhaustive summer special Uncle Pigg and his staff were off on holidays, leaving issue eight in the capable hands of his skeleton staff. While their hands would be anything but capable, the second part of his description was more accurate. That’s right, actual skeletons make up the skeleton staff (of course they do) and the front cover pretty much sums up what’s to come with its slapdash approach and apparent mistakes.

Inside we meet Boss Bones and some of the hilarious substitutes for the humans that normally put the comic together. Brilliantly, the artists’ signatures have even been changed throughout to match these pseudonyms; some have clearly been edited after the fact but some have been changed by the artists themselves.

Throughout we’re treated to the skeletons printing whole pages upside down, spilling jam and bursting their fountain pens as they make a general hash of putting an issue of OiNK together. Here are two such examples from the Grunts letters page and Marc Riley‘s Harry the Head.

Two of the artists who really embraced the chaos were Jeremy Banx and Davy Francis, or rather their substitutes ‘Bonex’ and ‘Bony Hart’, the latter named after Tony Hart, the famous 80s children’s TV artist. Mr Big Nose‘s strip is made up of completely random panels with no correlation to each other, the star telling us it would’ve all made sense if the skeletons had remembered to include speech balloons. Jeremy later brings us three comic-invading butchers, a one off surprise that evolves into the ongoing Butcherwatch series, which in turn will introduce us to the comic’s arch nemesis, Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith.

I’m reminded of a stand up comedian (I want to say Lee Evans) who noticed how everyone loves their local butcher, they comment on how friendly and trustworthy they are, they chat away while ordering their food, and this all happens despite the fact the butcher’s apron will invariably be covered in blood from the carcasses of dead animals they sawed into little bits just moments before. I remember laughing at this and I’ve never forgotten it to this day when I visit my local shop and see that play out in front of me.

This just reminded me of that.

Davy’s alter ego wasn’t in the same league as his namesake, as evidenced with his How to Draw page written by Mark Rodgers, or rather ‘Jolly Rodgers’. Bony’s advice was to cheat at every possible opportunity. This could include only showing the backs of heads because there are less features to draw, only having buildings very far away so they are nothing more than dots on the horizon, and never showing still figures. He claims this final tip is because they’re boring for the reader, but the real reason is so he can draw them running out of frame, their body replaced with nothing but zoom lines.

Naturally before any of us would’ve pinned her up on our bedroom walls she had to be the butt of a joke.

The OiNK Superstar Posters make a welcome return this issue, or rather a generic ‘OiNK Poster’ is included. The reason a word is missing from the title is the subject matter. In the previous issue Ian Jackson (who had taken over poster duties from J.T. Dogg) drew Uncle Pigg as the subject of the only OiNK MEGAstar Poster, so with it being the turn of Mary Lighthouse (critic) the bland title this time is a joke in itself.

Mary’s a surprising pick so naturally before any of us would’ve pinned her up on our bedroom walls she had to be the butt of a joke. This is brilliantly explained in a full page strip by Mark and Ian in which the skeleton crew try their best, which of course means the worst possible outcome will inevitably happen.

Moving on, the gorgeous lady below played the role of Terry Wogham in an early photo story series, one of which I’ve already shown in issue five‘s review. This would be her final appearance, shot all out of focus after the skeletons handed the role of photographer to Weedy Willy. Tony Husband told me he went on all of the photoshoots for this particular series including the last one, during which the farmer told them they’d completed their story just in time because she was due to go to the slaughterhouse the next day!

Having gotten to know her over a few years the team’s hearts were broken and they even considered buying her and renting a field in which she could live out the rest of her life, but unfortunately they weren’t able to in the end. Terry lives on though in the hearts and minds of pig pals everywhere.

Towards the back of the comic Uncle Pigg’s loyal assistant Percy Plop (named for the first time) telephones his boss to inform him of how the issue is panning out and the response is so loud it flings Percy across the room where he sticks to the wall! We get a brilliant strip showing our editor’s return to the office which acts as a full page Next Issue promo. You’ll see it on Friday 20th August, a few days before issue nine’s review. With the comic back in his capable trotters it was time for a more traditional ending to the issue.


“We really got the drop on him, didn’t we?”

Eustace the Underpants

Do you remember Jimbo & the Jet Set?  Were you a fan?  Are you singing the theme tune now?  Oh dear, sorry. Premiering on BBC One in the early weeks of 1986 the show was at its height when OiNK came along, making it perfect fodder for the team’s own spin on the idea of anthropomorphic objects. If you watched the cartoon you’ll know Jimbo was joined by various talking trucks, helicopters and even a set of airplane steps, all chattering away on the tarmac. Patrick Gallagher decided to run with that idea.

This wouldn’t be the last time a popular talking form of transport would get the OiNK treatment. If you think back to the 1980s I’m sure if you try to guess who I’m talking about you’ll be on the right track. It’s a favourite of mine so I’ll definitely be including that one too.

Let’s finish this issue with the back cover, where we find Tom Thug and his dad have made it to Blackpool after setting off last issue. It’s not only the first time we get to see a colour strip from Lew Stringer in OiNK, it was the first one he’d produced to ever see print. Readers of The Transformers would’ve seen coloured Robo-Capers by Lew before now but those were coloured in-house at Marvel UK using overlays for flat colours.

IPC Magazines printed OiNK on high grade paper and everything was hand coloured for more depth. To be fair, the early editions of Transformers contained hand coloured artwork on the main strip and cover too. In the case of this Tom Thug strip Lew used water colour inks and the result is lovely. Even that final panel.

Speaking of which, according to Lew the final panel had some dialogue edited by one of the comic’s editors; the word “sink” was originally meant to be “bog”. It was rare for something like that to be changed in OiNK.

Having a full colour back page surely shows how well regarded Tom was with the editors. He was certainly appreciated by the fans, including this one. To this day Tom is my favourite comics character of all time and I’ll be looking forward to each of his instalments in this read through.

So that’s us for another issue. OiNK may be safely back in the trotters of Uncle Pigg but I don’t think Mary Lighthouse will be as safe, not with the next issue’s theme being that of revenge. You can check back in two weeks to see exactly how that’s enacted, the next review is published on Monday 23rd August. Ta-ra for now.

OiNK! #2: STiCKiNG iT TO THE ROYALS

it’s time for the second issue of the world’s funniest comic and the cover sets the ball rolling in typical OiNK fashion. Using the same design as the preview issue, an artist’s illustration framed above Patrick Gallagher‘s Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse, this has proved to be very memorable over the years amongst fans.

Let’s try to forget about how old the image of those two boys makes us feel and instead concentrate on the funny rendering by Steve McGarry. This was all to promote another free gift, a set of blank sticky badges with letters, numbers and images which could be rubbed on to create anything the young readers wanted. They’re a bit like those old pretend tattoo rub-on transfers we had as kids, which never transferred in one piece and would look a right mess on our arms.

Of course there were other cheeky examples of what could be created inside the issue and a request for pig pals to send in their ideas, which we’ll see later. As we open the issue it’s again up to critic Mary Lighthouse and editor Uncle Pigg to introduce the issue, this time by following on directly from Mary’s quite startled discovery on the front page.

It’s not often you’ll see a Royal fart joke. Again, Ian Jackson‘s artwork is the star here and he really does epitomise everything OiNK was about. I’d call it a breath of fresh air but that might not be the case given the subject of Mark Rodgers‘ script. Mary’s face in the final panel brings out a childish grin on my own face every time I see it.

It’s time to meet another regular star of the comic. Weedy Willy was introduced in the preview issue as “So Pathetic It’s Embarrassing”. Cowardly, insanely weak and lacking any kind of social skills, Willy’s continued optimism led to us cheering him on through mishap after mishap. Most of these would also involve his unrequited love of local girl Mandy, who’d often fall foul of his misplaced affections.

While Willy’s weediness (expertly rendered by Mike Green) was the subject of the humour, he was never portrayed as a victim. Yes, we could laugh at his inability to lift the lightest of objects or his fears of the cutest, cuddliest babies, but whenever the strip put him up against a bully he’d always come out on top, even if it was inadvertently. His positivity was infectious and the moral was clear, albeit delivered in an original OiNK fashion.

[Harry the Head] paid tribute to the Dambusters, believe it or not.

The comic had an anarchic feel to it which I always loved, not only in its humour and artwork but also in how it was organised. Other humour comics would have certain strips on the same pages every issue, always taking up the same amount of space. OiNK mixed it up, placing its regulars on different pages and often giving them varying amounts of space from issue to issue. Co-editor Mark Rodgers said strip length was one of the rules they no longer wished to be confined by.

This variation carried over to the one-off strips, which could be anything from a quick three-panel gag to a detailed multipage story. From this issue, this two-thirds of a page strip is one such example and a definite highlight.

Burp and Mr Big Nose creator Jeremy Banx‘s Kangaroo Kid leaps (sorry, I couldn’t resist) off the bright yellow page, ending with the reader actually taken by surprise with the blatantly obvious fact he hadn’t exited the phone booth yet. A brilliant piece of misdirection and comic timing.

Compared to the newsprint comics of the day, OiNK’s shiny paper was a revelation. While action comics such as Transformers were mostly printed on full colour glossy paper, OiNK’s was much bigger and of a higher grade, meaning even these one-colour pages feel more vibrant when held. Its printing process also meant black and white strips didn’t have to be quite so simple anymore and shades of grey could be used to really bring them to life in a way we hadn’t seen before in humour comics.

But of course, OiNK also had more striking full colour pages than any other funny comic and none would use this to greater effect than J.T. Dogg, so while we’re on the subject here’s his latest Superstar Poster, Frankenswine!

I know I’ve included one of these before but how could I not show off this masterpiece? I hadn’t discovered OiNK at this stage but I remember having these up on my wall back in the late 80s, from a mix of issues given to me by my cousin and reprints from much later in the run. I have a couple up on the walls of my home office now, I’ll let you know which as we go along.

Other highlights of this issue include the pun-tastic pigs The Street-Hogs as they continue to fight Don Poloney, not-so-subtle in-jokes in Cowpat County, a wonderful full colour Burp and a Rocky-inspired Golden Trough Awards, complete with catchy musical monologue. Be warned, you may not get the original tune out of your head after you read this.

One of the main contributors to OiNK had never worked in comics before, but was the lead singer of the band that received a little promo above in Cowpat County. Marc Riley is better known today as a BBC Radio 6 Music presenter, previously of Mark and Lard fame on Radio 1. Just for the record, our Marc was ‘Lard’.


“With Marc all hunched over dressed like this, passers-by and car drivers were stunned and puzzled.”

Tony Husband

An old friend of Patrick’s (still good friends with both him and fellow co-editor Tony Husband to this day) Marc could be heard singing on the free flexidisc from issue one and would star as Snatcher Sam in many photo stories, often appearing alongside Frank Sidebottom. Later stories are set outside or on makeshift sets, but in these early days Marc would be pasted onto hastily drawn backgrounds.

The Bully Who Went Bald is one such story. It also features Tony’s son Paul (previously seen in the preview issue) as Sam’s intended target and Patrick as an innocent airplane pilot who just happens to be passing by. The rough sketches and cut-and-paste nature adds to the amateurish look, which in itself highlights the fact these were spoofs of photo stories found in the likes of Eagle and women’s weeklies.

This behind-the-scenes photo has been shared by Tony, who said that after the shoot Paul walked down the lane holding Marc’s hand. “With Marc all hunched over dressed like this, passers-by and car drivers were stunned and puzzled”, says Tony. Also, according to Paul himself the photographer was none other than Ian Tilton, who has worked with legends such as Iggy Pop, The Stone Roses and whose Kurt Cobain photographs were hailed by Q Magazine as among the best rock photographs ever taken.

We stick with Marc for the back page and our final highlight. Probably Marc’s most fondly remembered creation after Snatcher Sam was Harry the Head, the tale of an ordinary boy who just happened to be a disembodied head. In the preview issue Harry’s parents were also just heads but a later strip would change this to involve a genie, a greedy young boy and a lesson learnt.

Quite a severe lesson to learn! But Harry did just that and ended up kinder and less selfish, earning himself a good friend in Barney (who would diligently carry Harry around by the hair) and decided to live life to the full. Later he would go off on an adventure around the world over multiple issues, but his best strips were the self-contained ones where he’d use his predicament to his advantage, such as in this one which paid tribute to the Dambusters, believe it or not.

Who would’ve thought this crazy comic could be educational too. Well okay, I’m pushing it but this strip actually saw publication on the 43rd anniversary of the Dambusters raid, which occurred on the night of 16-17 May back in 1943.

With that we come to the end of our second review (third if you count the preview) of OiNK in this real-time 35th anniversary read through. The next issue is the first of the themed editions. These were another example of how OiNK stood out from the crowd and another reason it was a favourite among so many.

The first subject is space, so watch out for chicken aliens, pigs behind the moon and even a cameo from The Doctor. Issue three takes off on Monday 31st May and you can also check out the promo for it from tis issue.

OiNK! PREViEW iSSUE: CREATiNG PiG PALS

It’s been 35 years to the day of writing this since readers of IPC‘s Whizzer and Chips, Eagle and Tiger and Buster received their usual weekly reads inside a special plastic bag with a piggy pink pig emblazoned on the front. Inside, tucked in behind their newsprint comic was a big, bold, brash and glossy new comic called OiNK!

This was the preview issue of OiNK and, unlike preview issues in the years to come this was a full-sized 32-page comic. It must’ve been quite the revelation to hold these large, bright pages in their hands, especially with that Ian Jackson cover. This was the first time young readers would have been introduced to his unique style; the jagged lines of Uncle Pigg and the gag of a medieval torture rack setting the stage for something truly original.

One of the three co-creators/editors, Patrick Gallagher created the bright pink logo which immediately stood out, introducing this new fortnightly comic, the first issue of which would actually be released just seven days later. The impact of that first page was carried on to page two with Ian showing us the inner workings of our editor’s office, complete with staff and even an embattled accountant who can’t quite fathom how they’re going to pull off such a high quality comic.

Next to this is our very first fully fledged OiNK strip, Cowpat County from fellow Northern Ireland local Davy Francis, written by famed comics writer and another OiNK co-creator/editor Mark Rodgers. This first appearance sees 80s environmental campaigner and television presenter David Bellamy pop up, only to come a cropper in Farmer Giles‘ world. If all this could happen to him when placed into the real, unfettered countryside, what about those used only to city life?

We’d get plenty of chances to find out during OiNK’s run, plus opportunities to see Giles (whose name we wouldn’t know until #14) in their metropolitan world alongside regular guides to what real country living is. All very accurate, of course.

The preview issue throws everything at the reader

The preview was mainly made up of strips from a dummy issue previously put together to sell the concept to IPC. As such, some of our favourite characters may look a little different here because they’re simply earlier versions of themselves, which we’d see evolve and change slightly in the regular comic. Below you’ll see the very first Burp, the Smelly Alien From Outer Space from Jeremy Bank for example, his first strip for a children’s comic.

What a great introduction. Burp would be present in nearly every issue of OiNK and we’d see a constant series of attempts to ingratiate himself to the human race, all failing in spectacular fashion. Later issues we’d see vacations in space, a very surreal and rather dark humour develop and even become acquainted with the lives of his internal organs. It would all cumulate in an epic story that originally came at just the right point in my life to teach me about puberty! No, really. You’ll have to wait until Christmas 2023 for that story review though.

Even simple things like Ian’s and Jeremy’s unruled, freehand panels would’ve set the comic apart. Strips are of varying lengths, some even tucked in beneath (or down the side of) others and in a huge variety of styles. The fresh appeal is very apparent, especially after reading the issues of the established comics it was packaged with. Here’s a quick glance at a selection of what the young readers were suddenly being bombarded with, starting with Patrick and Mark’s partner in laughs Tony Husband‘s iconic hero.

OiNK definitely couldn’t be accused of having any kind of ‘house style’, unlike other comics which expected cartoonists to draw within certain parameters. It’s also chock full of content and the format of cramming as much into each page as possible results in a satisfyingly meaty read by the end. An animal-free meaty ready, obviously.

Showing how the aim was to rip up the rule book, throw out tradition and create a comic that was genuinely very funny, the preview issue throws everything at the reader and a surprisingly high amount sticks. One such idea was the pig-ifying of popular culture. Nothing was safe. From celebrities, television shows and musical artists, to movies, cartoons and literature, if a pig-themed pun could be made of a name you could bet OiNK would take advantage.

This Hambo poster from J.T. Dogg (real name Malcolm Douglas) wasn’t even the first such piggy pun. By the time readers got to this stunning centre-page spread they’d have already been treated to the delights of WillyHAM ShakesPIG and Terry WogHAM, along with mentions of Ian BotHAM, Lester PIGGott and PIG Country. But let’s take a moment to appreciate that poster.

J.T. Dogg’s work is simply stunning. As well as this series of OiNK Superstar Posters he’d contribute the artwork for The Street-Hogs and Ham Dare: Pig of the Future amongst others. What’s even more incredible is how he worked. At the time cartoonists would draw their strips at twice the size of the published comic, which would then be reduced at the printing stage. But not Malcolm. He’d complete all of his work at 1:1 scale! Sadly no longer with us, you can check out some more of his amazing work in his obituary on the site.

Now it’s time for a commercial break.

The first of many madvertisements to come, they went big to begin with, didn’t they? I mean, sausages made of minced up butchers isn’t exactly subtle. This is the perfect example of how they could push the boundaries of good taste and we kids loved it. It was just good, cheeky fun. On the top half of the page you can see Tony’s son, Paul Husband who would go on to appear in the occasional photo story from time to time. Nowadays Paul is an amazing professional photographer whose work you can check out on his website and Instagram.


“Rock’n’roll madness!”

Tony Husband describes working on OiNK!

On more than one occasion working on OiNK has been likened to being in a punk band, especially by Tony. He describes those OiNK Manchester offices as “rock’n’roll madness”. Located in the same office building as the Happy Monday’s manager, next door to Haçienda nightclub DJ Dave Haslam and, while the city was at the height of its MADchester musical and cultural scene, the comic team even included former The Fall band member (and future BBC Radio DJ) Marc Riley.

The rock’n’roll madness led to some hilarious scenarios, such as when Tony and Patrick were invited to London to appear on a breakfast TV show. They were given the impression they were appearing to discuss their new comic appealing to a new audience of young readers. However, the true intent was soon clear when the first question referred specifically to the following madvert.

Asked if they felt joking about smashing up friends’ bicycles was the “right message to send”, the presenters spectacularly missed the point of OiNK. But according to Tony it was worth it in the end because his and Patrick’s expenses were all paid for, including travel and a night in a 5-star hotel. Then on the return train Tony brought out a few of the small bottles of booze he’d sneaked out from his hotel room, thinking they’d have a tipple on the way home, only for Patrick to empty out a plastic bag full of every single bottle from his room.  By the time they hit Manchester they could hardly walk off the train.

In among the wealth of talent who had never contributed to children’s comics before were some more familiar names. However, they were now given free rein to produce strips they simply couldn’t elsewhere and let’s face it, if you could’ve given such freedom to anyone, it would’ve been Tom Paterson.

Pigg Tales would be the general name used on and off for some of the bigger one-off stories, written and drawn by a variety of people. The Revenge Squad showed what Tom could bring to OiNK but unfortunately he’d only show up in five editions of the comic throughout the course of its whole run. According to Graham Exton they really wanted him onboard but he was just too busy to be able to contribute more. Such a shame, because he’d have been perfect as a regular.

Finally, right at the back of the comic a certain character is introduced for the very first time. He’d go on to appear in all but two issues and then carry on for many more years in Buster comic after OiNK folded. A school bully may sound like a strange creation for a strip, even for such a wacky new comic, but by the end of his first story it’s clear he may be the star, but he’s certainly never going to be the hero.

Lew Stringer‘s Tom Thug remains one of my very favourite comic creations of all time and I’m really looking forward to reliving his misadventures all over again. It’d take a while before he’d be able to tie those laces, he’d cross over with other characters like Lew’s own Pete and his Pimple and Mike Green‘s Weedy Willy, even leave school and sign on for unemployment which was definitely a first in comics history.

The original designs for Tom and the first draft of this very strip can also be seen in a special blog post.

So there you have it, a little look into how potential new pig pals (as regular readers were referred to by Uncle Pigg) were first introduced to the world of pigs, plops, puns and parody. Then, as if the promise of more of this insanity wasn’t enough there was news of a free flexidisc record with #1, surely a free gift as unique as the comic it would be attached to.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the preview issue. There are also other posts on the site detailing the countdown to the release of the comic, and a look at the promo for #1 to keep you busy until Monday 3rd May and the review of the first issue of OiNK. So off you trot on your trotters and I’ll see you then.