Tag Archives: Ed McHenry

OiNK! #16: POP PiGGiES

A superstar takes pride of place on the cover of the pop music special of OiNK… sitting alongside a hammed up parody of George Michael. That’s right, this issue pig pals got to meet Frank Sidebottom! We’ll get to the famous papier-mâché headed contributor later on but first up we’ve got the second part of our giant calendar poster drawn by the incredibly talented and at the time very young Ian Jackson.

Burp and Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins make up this segment with more and more random people running across their faces. Where could they be going and why? We’ll find out next time. Quite suitably, since my decorations have gone up a little bit earlier this year, there’s Santa in the midst of the parodies of celebrities, aliens, monsters, religious leaders and basically anyone Ian could think of by the looks of it.

I can remember this issue of the comic itself being met with rather mixed feelings when I had my first quick glimpse through it as a kid. I wasn’t really into music at the time so the theme didn’t seem to appeal. I also didn’t initially like the fact there were quite a few text features spoofing teenage music magazines of the day. But I soon realised I couldn’t have been more wrong once I started reading. It may have only been my third issue but I shouldn’t have doubted the team.

As a kid I’d heard of John Peel through appearances on Top of the Pops which my older siblings watched every week or through the radio when I heard it coming from their rooms. While I wasn’t a radio listener at that young age I still found his A Day in the Life of a DJ quite funny. I’m including it here because co-editor Patrick Gallagher was able to confirm it really was written by John.

One rather unique addition to the line up this time is a competition to “Win a pop concert in your own home“. No, this isn’t a spoof (or GBH threatening to come round if you don’t pay up) this is an honest-to-gosh competition with the prize being a pop group performing in your house. The band in question were Le Lu Lus (or ‘Lelu Lu’s’, their name seems to have several spellings) who were all about “robots, computers, dance and song” apparently.

You can check out one of their songs, ‘Africa’ on YouTube and they’re not half bad. Since growing up I’ve become somewhat obsessed with 80s music so this is right up my street. It would seem one lucky reader was in for a treat.

According to Tony Husband, “They contacted us as fans l think. We chose a home fairly convenient to us all l think, so we didn’t have to pay a lot for travel. Anyone from Aberdeen or Southampton never stood a chance. We chose a family from Prestwich.” So even if I had been enjoying their music at the time there wasn’t a hope in hell of me winning, what with that pesky Irish Sea between me and the OiNK offices.


“I love burp, he’s so smelly and disgusting and Mr Big Nose ’cause he’s so daft.”

Ian Astbury, The Cult

She Sells Sanctuary by The Cult is a song most of us will remember from the 80s and in a surprising turn of events lead vocalist Ian Astbury is interviewed in this issue of OiNK by piggy pop presenter Janice Pong (Tony again). It’s really quite the scoop for a kid’s comic and as it turns out Ian and his bandmates were fans. This wasn’t unusual in the Manchester (or MADchester) scene of the day, with numerous bands buying the comic on a regular basis. OiNK’s offices in the city were just upstairs from the office of the Happy Mondays‘ manager, Haçienda DJ Dave Haslam was next door and former The Fall band member Marc Riley was already working on the comic drawing Harry the Head and being Snatcher Sam.

The interview with Ian happened over the phone after Tony got in touch through his agent.  For Tony it was quite the thrill, as he was a fan of the group and their lead singer was a fan of his work! Ian was game for a laugh in being interviewed by the fictional Janice (a spoof of radio DJ Janice Long) and Tony told me he has nothing but fond memories of the experience.

While he can’t quite remember how he found out Ian was a pig pal, Tony says he’ll never forget what happened after the interview was over. At the end of the call Ian, this huge rock star, told Tony he’d ordered two OiNK mugs and two t-shirts but had only received one of each and asked if he could look into it! It was a surreal moment for Tony and sure enough he got it sorted for him.

So let’s move away from the more magazine-style pages of this unique issue and have a look at some of the other highlights, such as an uncanny celebrity lookalike, a perfectly named talent agent and a quick homage to From Russia With Love. Then Lew Stringer brought us some cutout badges of 80s pop stars, the Huey Lewis and the News one being my fave, and then gave us a little history lesson into the origins of rock’n’roll (and check out the Phil Collins drawing underneath).

Remember the cutout Road-Hogg from #11? It was meant to be impossible to actually build but pig pal Sue M. Hall did anyway and the end result was great! In this issue a rather more straightforward bit of DIY comes in the shape of cassette covers for readers’ music collections. In the 90s I was handed down a lot of my siblings’ music cassettes, so while my school friends were rocking out to the latest charts my ears were buried in the older Now That’s What I Call Music collections from the 80s. This could explain why I’m still obsessed with music from that decade today.

I remember making up my own compilations from the cassettes I then owned, sometimes even making ‘soundtrack’ albums for my comics, filled with the songs I thought best suited certain storylines and I’d create my own covers for them. In this issue Uncle Pigg brought us some cutout covers, all suitably OiNK-ified of course. Fellow fan Steve Fitch (who kindly supplied photos of an OiNK promotional folder for a previous post) not only cut out the covers and placed them into cassette boxes, he went a step further and created little stickers for the tapes to match.

Now on to our main event. A musician, a stand up comedian, a TV personality, an all-round entertainer extraordinaire, Chris Sievey donned a papier-mâché head, put on a squeaky, nasally voice and truly became Frank Sidebottom. My parents weren’t fans I seem to recall, but I most certainly was, especially from Saturday morning show No.73. To have him popping up in OiNK was a wonderful surprise and he suited the music theme. The fact he wasn’t a one-off and would come back in the next issue (and the next, and the next etc.) was even better.

Back in 2021 the sad news broke of Chris’ passing and, upon finding out, all those lovely memories of his strips in OiNK came flooding back. I dug out the three editions I still owned and read them for the first time in decades. I bought a few more, discovered they were just as funny as they’d ever been and I set about collecting them. Chris had led me right back to OiNK, so it’s because of him that I’m even here talking about the comic at all.

I asked Patrick about how Frank’s contributions came about.

“I dragged Chris on board at OiNK, having been a fan of Frank and also of Chris Sievey and the Freshies – the Manchester pop band,” says Patrick. “Frank fitted brilliantly into the comic and was a regular face in the OiNK office as well as in its pages. We gave Chris quite an open brief, which was pretty much determined by the themes of the issues. Shortly after joining OiNK, Chris invited me to play guitar in Frank’s Oh Blimey Big Band, alongside Mark Radcliffe on drums (pre-Marc and Lard days on BBC Radio One with fellow OiNK star Marc Riley).”

It’s great to see Frank on board at last, it’s like being reunited with an old friend.

“Frank was a great ambassador for OiNK and promoted the comic at gigs etc.”, Patrick continues. “So we were more than happy to keep him with us as long as he was happy to continue working for us! I became great friends with Chris and when both our marriages ended 10 years later, Chris lived at my house for 6 months where we drowned our sorrows and lived the high-life in equal measure.”

So here we go, Frank’s very first OiNK page. I think as a kid I might have assumed one of the comic’s artists drew the pages for him, or at least had a hand in them. But as they progressed it was clear this was all his own work. Tony and Patrick have both told me in the past how long Chris would spend over his pages. Remember, he wasn’t a professional cartoonist, yet here he was creating colourful works of art and comic strips for every issue of a hit comic. Everything was coloured with felt tip pens and he would apparently anguish over the details. I’m sure you’ll agree the end results were, as Frank himself would say, fantastic!

Since Chris’ passing a statue of Frank has been erected in his home town of Timperley and we’ve had not one but two movies based around him. One is the feature-length documentary Being Frank and the other starred Michael Fassbender as a Frank-like celebrity forever encased in his own papier-mâché head. Both of these will be covered on the blog in the future. For now, it’s great to see Frank on board at last, it’s like being reunited with an old friend.

It’s time to wrap up this musical feast and who better to do so than Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental. OiNK writer Graham Exton told me if the writing on one of Roger’s strips is uncredited then most likely it was co-editor Mark Rodgers who scripted it. He wrote so much of OiNK that apparently he’d often forget to credit himself! This particular instalment made me roar and it’s brought to life as ever by Ian Knox. Enjoy.

So that’s us. The fact that Roger’s is the only strip I’ve shown in full just shows how different this issue actually is. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of hilarious strips in here, I just wanted to show you the different kinds of content this issue had and how enjoyable it was as a result. With lots of new characters introduced last time and now with Frank in the fray at last I’m really pumped for the next issue, especially since it’s the first Christmas Special!

From the TV Times cover to the Christmas TV listings and a multi-page Uncle Pigg story I have very fond memories of #17, so make sure you’re back here on Monday 13th December for the review!

OiNK! #12: MOViE MAGiC & MiRTH

We’re already a dozen issues (and a preview) in to the real time read through of the funniest comic ever produced. Where has the time gone? I suppose it just goes to prove it does fly when you’re laughing at one ridiculous gag after another. This issue we’re off to the movies in proper OiNK fashion, which is quite apt seeing as how I had my first trip to the cinema in about two years this weekend thanks to the pandemic.

One of the biggest events in 80s cinema was Steven Spielberg‘s E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and I remember having to wait a while for the home video release to see it, which was delayed by five years! So this OiNK parody was created before we even got to see it at home. Featuring Nick Bell again as Swindler Sid, this would be his last appearance in the comic but he got quite the send off in the double-page spread spectacular that is E.T. (Extremely Thick).

I contacted Patrick Gallagher to ask about the making of this particular photo story and the people involved. From what Patrick can remember the costume was hired from a local fancy dress shop in Manchester called The Stage Door, run by 70s comedian Jackie Carlton. The “lucky youngster” who found themselves inside it was James O’Malley who starred in human form as Jelly-Belly Johnson in #10, Professor Potts was actually Patrick’s younger sister, Bernie Gallagher (below left), their family dog Dandy played Jimbo the Jabbering Jack Russell and friend Richard Cobey (below right) played the “ugly little squirt”, to quote E.T.!

Swindler Sid may be gone now but we’ve still got Marc Riley as Snatcher Sam who would continue to pop up in various photo strips and GBH Madvertisements during the fortnightly portion of OiNK’s run, so you won’t be short of mischievous, yet somehow loveable thievery as the read through continues.

Billy’s Boots may have been a strip in a sister title to OiNK but that didn’t mean it wasn’t ripe for sending up.

Billy’s Boots was a classic adventure serial strip which appeared in Scorcher comic in 1970, moving to Tiger in 1974 when the comics merged, then Eagle in 1985 and in the year OiNK appeared he transferred to the pages of Roy of the Rovers. He definitely had staying power. It starred Billy Dane who inherited an old pair of football boots which once belonged to ‘Dead-Shot’ Kean and somehow enabled Billy to play in the style of the soccer superstar.

It may have been a strip in a sister title to OiNK, also published by IPC Magazines but that didn’t mean it wasn’t ripe for sending up.

Apart from the character names, the captions in the first two panels are nearly word-for-word how the original strip was introduced in the pages of Roy’s weekly. This just makes what comes after even funnier of course. Just like in that strip, here there’s no reason given as to how the boots have these powers. I doubt they laughed at Billy Dane’s expense either! A brilliant spoof that just gets more and more ludicrous as it goes along and it wouldn’t be the last time OiNK would take aim at its stablemates, as you’ll see further below.

Bobby’s Boots was drawn by Chas Sinclair, a prolific OiNK cartoonist who’d contribute to 37 issues altogether. Before he was hired by Uncle Pigg his work included Basil Brush for TV Comic and Crazy Horse in Plug, the Bash Street Kids spin-off comic. I was delighted to find out he’s still drawing and regularly updates his Instagram account with doodles, illustrations and full strips. It was written by Lew Stringer and according to Lew it was one of the first scripts he’d written for someone else to draw, and he was thrilled Chas was selected because he’d read those Basil Brush strips himself and been a fan. (Watch out for a sensational Lew script drawn by the equally sensational J.T. Dogg starting in #15.)

Some other highlights from this issue include The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 7 5/8 (yearƨ) in which we find out Hadrian had a sister, even though she’d only be born in the comic some time next year. Maybe this one had enough of her little brat of a brother and scarpered. On the Grunts letters page we did actually get a winner to the afterthought of a competition written below #7‘s postcards and in Tom Thug a little sign signals a tiny one-off strip from #6 is returning as a serial. Excited yet?

Back at the beginning of the comic, David Haldane‘s Billy’s Brain strip saw a kid inherit his genius Uncle Vincent’s brain which could think for itself and move of its own accord. Every issue a pair on inept thieves would try to steal the brain from Billy but in the last handful of issues this concept has been changed somewhat. Dropping the thieves completely the strip now focusses almost entirely on Vincent’s brain going off on solo adventures, and it’s a lot more enjoyable as a result.

I can remember Billy’s Brain from childhood so I was surprised to find out my first issue back then (#14) would be his last regular appearance. He’d pop up in a special, an annual and two issues further down the line but that would be it. I was sure he was a regular when I read the comic back in the 80s but with so many strips coming and going from OiNK, perhaps the fact I did see him a few times tricked my old brain when thinking back.

I do love an 80s movie, especially if it contains a good soundtrack, but I don’t think Mary Lighthouse (critic) was as appreciative at the time. Up next is her top ten movie list, although these are films she insists you do not see! Given her appearances so far you’d expect her to hate anything with a smidgen of violence, but wait until you read her reasons for wanting to ban E.T., Cinderella and even The Sound of Music!

Her comments about Cinderella in particular had me roaring! In a later interview with editors Patrick Gallagher, Tony Husband and Mark Rodgers in computer magazine Crash! we’d find out the real Mary Whitehouse’s people were constantly checking the pages of OiNK for libel, though I know of no point when they actually complained about this character. The thing is, to check for libel they had to buy the comic!

Ed McHenry was the go-to guy for OiNK’s little puzzle sections and in this issue he brings us Barry Norham’s Movie Quiz. It contains the usual seemingly easy questions with silly, bizarre answers (upside-down at the bottom of the page). For example, “In which film does The Invisible Man appear?” Easy, right? The answer is, “He never appears, he’s invisible.” See what I mean?

With that in mind, do you think you can complete the answer to this brain teaser?

The answer is at the bottom of the review.

Moving on now to our final highlight for this issue. OiNK was my first comic and before I started discovering adventure comics and the like I would sometimes pick up other humour titles to try them out. This would normally be when I had to go somewhere with my parents on the train and I can remember a few journeys with a copy of Whizzer and Chips. It felt a little different to the others, none of which really made me laugh, probably due to my being used to OiNK’s humour!


“Take that, you stereotype Whizzer-and-Chips bully!”

Tom in Tom’s Toe


While it was still more of a traditional comic, Whizzer and Chips felt like two in one (Whizzer for the outer 16 pages, Chips for the inner 16) and while it wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny it certainly raised a smile. OiNK was anything but traditional and would often poke fun at more established comics, labelling them as boring and predictable. I remember The Dandy and Beano being particular favourite targets, though in reality Mark Rodgers was a huge fan of both. You see, there’s a difference between parody, which is what these were, and satire. I’ll go into that in more depth in a later review.

Here, editor and writer of this strip Tony Husband teams up with legendary cartoonist John Geering to poke fun directly at the aforementioned comic. Even the strapline is hilariously generic!

Jonn should surely need no introduction, having created Bananaman and worked on many traditional DC Thomson comics such as the two mentioned above, alongside some of IPC’s own titles like Cheeky Weekly and Knockout. I think it was a genius idea to have him come on with his signature artwork to do Tom’s Toe and send up the kind of strips he’d normally contribute to other comics! However, unlike his other work he was given full credit on the page for this strip.

“John Geering was an acquaintance of Tony’s from pre-OiNK days whom I was introduced to later when OiNK first started,” Patrick told me. “John was working for Cosgrove Hall at the time on Danger Mouse and Count Duckula, alongside Andy Roper – they were both frequent visitors to the OiNK studio and John was delighted at the suggestion that he should parody his own style. And Bob Paynter thought it was a great idea, too (albeit, to bite the hand that fed him!)” Brilliant stuff!

Unfortunately John is no longer with us, having passed away in 1999, working on Beano right up to the end. An obituary to this great talent can be found on The Independent website.

So the screen fades to black on another issue of OiNK, the lights have come back on and we’ve got sticky soda-encrusted popcorn stuck to our shoes. In two weeks the gang will all be back with the perfectly timed #13, the Hallowe’en Special, so come back on Monday 18th October 2021.

QUIZ ANSWER: “________ knees and booms-a-daisy.

OiNK! #10: A (SCHOOL) CLASS ACT

This colourful, busy cover by Mike Roberts is just superb and takes me right back to the 1990s. The 90s? Yes, OiNK may have been my first comic but Mike also had a hand in my first magazine, Future‘s Commodore Format, published between 1990 and 1996. Every month he drew the adventures of Roger Frames which sat between the mini-reviews of the ‘Budjit Games’. Mike’s work can be found in four issues of OiNK and the first 31 issues of CF, the latter he returned to for issue sixty-one, the very final edition and drew its cover.

Mike’s cover perfectly sums up issue ten of OiNK; it’s chock full of great content, jam-packed with random humorous moments, there’s plenty of chaos and anarchy, and loads of genuine laugh-out-loud moments. It’s been very difficult to whittle its 32 pages down to a few highlights and I’ve had to leave out some real gems. There were just too many.

To prove my point here’s a quick glimpse of some of that content, beginning with the one character you just knew would relish the theme. This issue’s Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 7 5/8 (yearƨ) sees him trying a variety of excuses to get out of returning to school, only for his mum to admit it doesn’t start until the next day, she just wanted to see what tricks he was going to try. Jelly-Belly Johnson is a one-off photo story featuring Tony Husband‘s son Paul winning a jelly eating contest, the Skiver’s Survival Kit has everything needed to get out of various lessons and in Tom Thug we meet Wayne Brayne for the first time.

Lew has mentioned in the comments to this post that in the original script Wayne asked Tom, “Are you having a fit?” and Mark Rodgers changed it to the line above, because obviously there’s nothing funny about having a fit. Thanks for the info, Lew! Wayne would pop up now and again in Tom’s strips to outwit the thug, not that this was particularly difficult, of course. He’d also appear now and again in Buster after the merge.

After I discovered OiNK I can remember often taking each new issue into school for my friends to read, in a blatant attempt to get them to start buying it themselves instead of what I called their “boring comics”. Ha! I can imagine this particular issue going down particularly well in classrooms across the country.

We haven’t had a comical shark in a few issues but thankfully here’s Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental to fix that, as ever brought to the page by Ian Knox.

One-panel genius. Not Roger, admittedly, I mean the writers and Ian’s perfect style for the character. Throughout his appearances Roger would be written by a variety of talented individuals, notably Graham Exton, Keith Forrest and later Howard Osborne. Graham originally created the character as ‘Barmy Barney’ but, in Graham’s own words, “The Three Wise Men rename him Roger Rental.” While there are no credits here Graham says co-editor Mark Rodgers was always very good at crediting other writers so most likely this was written by Mark himself.

This issue’s Mr. Big Nose turned a work colleague of mine into an OiNK fan.

Jeremy Banx‘s Mr Big Nose steals the show on a regular basis with his uniquely surreal humour and unexpected punchlines. By all means they don’t make an awful lot of sense but that’s what made them so funny to the young (and now the not-so-young) audience, it was just lovable nonsense. This issue’s strip also turned a work colleague of mine into an OiNK fan several years back.

When I was reading the comic for the previous version of ‘The Oink! Blog’ I posted the strip below on Twitter and a woman I worked with, who had previously rolled her eyes at what I was doing in my spare time, admitted she loved it and couldn’t stop laughing when she saw it. Apparently, thinking I was reading something more along the lines of Beano or The Dandy, it had just taken her by complete surprise. Thanks to it and another Banx strip later in this issue I ended up lending her my OiNK Book 1988 and she loved every silly page.

Success.

I’ve another personal story about this little one-off from Ed McHenry too. Before collecting the whole run and putting together the original blog back in 2013 I’d bought a handful of issues online to reminisce with. (Little did I know it’d turn back into an obsession again.) When they’d arrived I took a couple down to the house of my girlfriend at the time where I was staying for the weekend.

I hadn’t had a chance to flick through them yet so I was oblivious to their contents. I started to casually scan over them while she was curled up asleep on the sofa next to me after a tough day at work. I should explain that my laugh can be rather loud, especially when I’m caught unawares and I was already doing my best not to laugh at Graham Norton’s show on TV so as not to wake her up.


“Don’t be frightened by bullies, kids! And don’t try to scare anyone yourself!”

Uncle Pigg (Cowardly Custard)

I was doing a very good job of it too until I read Mike Slammer. Well that was it. I erupted into laughter! She jumped awake!  I tried to apologise but I couldn’t stop laughing. When I eventually calmed down and explained I wasn’t actually laughing at scaring her awake, I showed her the culprit. One strange look and a shake of the head later and the status quo returned, albeit it with my attention solely on the TV, just in case.

Moving on, one of the most enjoyable series in these early issues is Pigg Tales, double-page stories introduced by Uncle Pigg and often with a moral at the end (in a typical OiNK fashion). So far on this read through I’ve shown you The Revenge Squad in the preview issue and Testing Time in #1, both of which were hilariously drawn by Tom Paterson. This issue’s school-based tale is Cowardly Custard, illustrated by OiNK-supremo Ian Jackson.

Contrary to critics of the comic at the time, OiNK contained some strong moral messages within its pages, especially of the anti-smoking variety which you’ll see here in due course. (They even created a complete ‘Smokebusters’ comic to give away to schools.) They just didn’t preach at us. Instead they created Madvertisements or funny strips like the one above which is clearly an anti-bullying story but presented in an original way.

I love the different character designs for each of the kids and how the usual comic strip cliché of the victim turning the tide on the bully is then also turned upon. The victim teaches the bully a lesson, but then the other bullies teach the victim a lesson. The message is clear: Don’t become the bully! All told through giving the reader a good laugh. Job done.

Getting a reference to the Warsaw Pact into a kids’ comic could only have come from the mind of Jeremy Banx.

Cowardly Custard is a main highlight of the issue and it’s nice to actually see our editor in a strip, what with him not getting his usual introduction on page two for the first time. While OiNK would have so much variety and so many different art styles it always felt like Uncle Pigg’s appearances throughout tied everything together. In this issue he also pops up on the Grunts letters page and in an advertisement for those ‘Prime Porky Products’ of OiNK merchandise.

Okay, so earlier I showed you the Mr Big Nose strip that sold the whole premise of OiNK to a work colleague. Over the course of a few issues, starting with this one, Jeremy Banx got some extra space to deliver us some dynamite one-off strips. The first one of which is below and was the one I alluded to above.

Getting a reference to the Warsaw Pact into a kids’ comic, and as the name of a character no less, is so out there it could only have come from the mind of Jeremy. But let’s not brush over the fact this character then proceeds to have her child put down! Then stuffed! Innocently slipped into the issue it’s an example of something we just found silly fun as children, then as adults are so surprised by (in the best possible way, of course). Brilliance.

Finally, the issue also contains the penultimate part of the epic Street-Hogs story which started right back in the preview issue (and you can check out a full chapter in #1’s review), ending with yet another cliffhanger they’ll get out of in the most improbable way imaginable in a fortnight’s time. The team are also the focus of the ‘Next Issue’ promotion which you’ll see a few days before the next review.

In two weeks it’s the conclusion of The Street-Hogs’ first adventure, with a general biking and motoring theme to the rest of the issue. But it wouldn’t be long before the next spoof adventure series to be masterfully drawn by J.T. Dogg would appear, and it was the first my younger self clapped eyes on. So watch out for the introduction of Ham Dare: Pig of the Future in a few short months.

That aforementioned next issue will be here for you to peruse on Monday 20th September.