Tag Archives: Eric Wilkinson (Wilkie)

OiNK! #20: BAY OF PiGS

As with the crime theme in OiNK #14 (my first ever issue), having a humour comic based around war may seem odd at first. But pig pals and regular readers of this blog will know we had nothing to fear because as per usual the team grabbed the subject with both hands, and actually have created one of the best issues yet. It kicks off with Eric (Wilkie) Wilkinson‘s brilliant front cover featuring parachuting pigs sneaking up on enemy trenches during World War One. I always liked Wilkie’s art style, it was unique and had a real texture to it.

He continues the story inside with a double-page spread as soon as we open the issue. The Forgotten Heroes tells the tale of a British regiment in their last desperate days before being overrun by the enemy. A cunning plan is developed to fly hundreds of soldiers over the enemy and parachute down for a successful surprise attack. But not just any soldiers, the army were going to use pigs! This is a brilliant spoof of the kind of strips we’d have seen in Battle or today in Commando comic, but beware the horrifying twist in the tale (tail).

I definitely didn’t see that coming, not in the pages of this comic that’s for sure. While clearly as pig pals we should feel sorry for how it all ended it’s a very funny picture to see the pile of sausages with the posthumous medal on top. Although, it could be argued the strip was also making a point about the pointlessness of war, something Mr Big Nose certainly shouts about later in the issue, as you’ll see below. Wilkie only joined OiNK last time and he’s already making a name for himself with original, clever and most importantly very funny strips.

In recent years to be a geek has become very chic. It wasn’t always the case of course. I was fortunately never bullied for reading comics back in my later years in grammar school, there was just some good natured ribbing. That’s not to say others didn’t have to put up with narrow-minded kids trying to have a laugh at their expense. For all those comics fans Lew Stringer created Specky Hector, the Comics Collector, a stereotypical comics fan who in this case gets the upper hand over the bully in typical Lew fashion.

Hector would only appear one more time in the pages of OiNK in a special guide to collecting comics but he would pop up occasionally in the pages of Buster after OiNK folded. As recent as 2020 he also appeared in the Battle special from Rebellion when this strip was reprinted in colour. Then, just last year Lew brought us a little update on Hector in a special piece of art commissioned to raise money for the War Child charity, and you can check it out for yourself by reading the blog post.

There isn’t a single panel here without a genuine laugh-out-loud moment

Davey Jones is synonymous with Viz comic and his contributions to OiNK were always manic, packed to the page edges with jokes, sight gags and the zaniest plots imaginable. There are three of his larger strips in particular which from memory are not only clear highlights of the issues they were published in, but of the entire OiNK series. The first of which in here. Called Bridge Over the River Septic it’s the (nearly) true story of a British army camp in Africa during the Second World War and their brave plan to capture a Nazi base positioned across the dangerously named river.

Of course, in the end the river is a quaint little jungle stream, complete with a delicately decorated bridge. There isn’t a single panel here without a genuine laugh-out-loud moment, whether it’s the looney plotting, the stark-raving mad general of the British troops, the caricatures of the enemy, or the multitude of background gags that surely must be a tip of the hat to the legendary Tom Paterson. (Keep an eye out for the factory in the background.)

My two favourite bits here (there are many) is that aforementioned factory and the brilliantly named General Von Manwenttomow! When signing his larger strips Davey would often label himself in soft daft way, sometimes even making a joke of his allegedly terrible writing talents. But his genius can’t be mocked. Starting off pretty insane, somehow Bridge Over the River Septic keeps building on this, getting zanier with each scene. It may only be a page-and-a-half but it’s so full of jokes it feels far longer. I mean that in a good way of course; there’s just so much packed into this space.

Other highlights include regular characters being inspired by the events of war, like Tom Thug building himself a wooden tank and Hadrian Vile assembling his own army against the local school bully. There’s a poster depicting a Wild West battle between pigs and butchers and The Golden Trough Awards parodies The Great Escape which you can see a couple of panels of below, next to part of a spread called Famous Last Words!

I’m sure most of you will at least have heard about the story King Solomon’s Mines or its central character, Allan Quartermain, seeing as how the classic book by H. Rider Haggard has been adapted into several movies, comics, television shows and radio plays. The movie I remember enjoying on Saturday afternoon TV was the tongue-in-cheek adaptation starring Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone and the ever-brilliant John Rhys-Davies. It was released in 1985 and a year later OiNK saw it as the perfect target for the next multi-issue epic.

Written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ron Tiner, King Solomon’s Swines is a five-part serial and the first such strip to be drawn by someone other than J.T. Dogg. Ron’s style suits the story perfectly and to me brings a certain Tintin feel, which of course is exactly right for this story of a lost temple. The lead character is renamed Sir Herbert Quarterbrain and he takes his niece and nephew with him, who end up victim to all of the traps as the explorer himself remains unscathed. Here’s chapter one, called The Temple of Gloom, an obvious spoof on a similar style of movie series.

Funny names, clumsy sidekicks, pig-themed relics and the ignoring of all the danger signs as heroes in these stories often do, it’s a good start. It also stands out in this issue for another reason. I’ve mentioned before how most, but not necessarily all of the contents of each OiNK would follow the theme, some issues more than others. The obvious Christmas issue aside, this war theme seems to be the one that’s really got the creative juices flowing because King Solomon’s Swines is the only strip in the whole issue that breaks from the subject (the serials always did, for obvious reasons).

It’s one of those pages you could show to someone by way of describing exactly what OiNK was

Continuing right to the very last page, the back cover has a little moral tale for the young readers. The year after this in 1987 I received the 50th anniversary book for The Dandy and Beano. A large portion of it was dedicated to the comics during wartime and it was a fascinating read to see how they not only survived those years, but how they kept the children company. They contained rousing little tales of heroism among children which would connect with the readers of the 1940s, relating the ongoing war to them in ways they could understand.

OiNK decided to have a go at one of these. The result is Jim and Joe, A moving tale of War and Friendship. Drawn by Chas Sinclair it’s sung to the tune of ‘Two Little Boys’, but even if you can’t place that tune in your head it’s still a great laugh and a perfect end to the issue. In fact, it’s one of those pages you could show to someone by way of describing exactly what OiNK was, and why it was so adored by so many of us in the 80s.

That may be the final page but it’s not the last word on this issue. Before we get to that, I just have to say this has been a brilliant issue. With all but one of the strips keeping to the subject, while being so completely different to each other, it really shows the dynamic range of talent OiNK’s editors Mark Rodgers, Tony Husband and Patrick Gallagher had been able to assemble. It feels like the most confident issue to date and with some of the best themes yet to come it bodes very well indeed for some hilarious reading throughout 2022.

The next review will be of the Valentine’s Special and that’ll be here on Monday 7th February, but I’ll just dip back inside this issue for that last word I mentioned, in fact the last word on war in general, and it’s from Jeremy Banx and his Mr Big Nose.

OiNK! #19: SiX-PACK PORK BELLY

As sure as the sun sets at the end of each day, every January the great general public invest their hard earned cash in gym memberships, magazines with their promise of beach bodies, and so-called ‘detox’ juices. By February everything will be back to normal, the weight loss and fitness resolutions will be long forgotten and they’ll have come to the realisation that our livers will do for free what those juices proclaim to do for extortionate amounts of money. It’s oh-so predictable, but that can not be said of this issue of OiNK when they decided to take aim at this tradition.

The Keep Fit Special kicks off with this Jeremy Banx cover of Arnold Schwarzenhogger, who would “be back” in the first monthly issue over a year later. Look closely at Jeremy’s colouring and you can see the individual strokes, even where he’s leaned heavier at the beginning or end of each. When you look at the picture as a whole they merge together into a lovely shaded image. I enjoy seeing these old covers and the individual elements like this, much like the felt tip pens used by Chris Sievey on his Frank Sidebottom pages.

The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile kicks things off and our pint-sized menace finds himself in the situation of being forced to exercise. Heaven forbid. I loved swimming at school, but much like Hadrian it was less about doing lengths and more about just having fun in the water. His teacher isn’t having it, but soon finds himself in need of saving thanks to Hadrian, though to be fair he wasn’t wearing his glasses. I’d always assumed his eyes were roughly the size of his frames, to see them drawn by Ian Jackson this way is so funny.

But there’s something even funnier here, though it might not be immediately apparent. It certainly wasn’t when I read this as a child. OiNK’s co-creator/editor Mark Rodgers wrote the script as always and the name of one of Hadrian’s friends wasn’t simply plucked out of the air by the hugely talented writer. In real life Mark was Helen Jones‘ other half. In recent years Helen and I have chatted about those days and I even received Mark’s OiNK mug as a Christmas gift! (Helen also sent me some information on a particular event in OiNK’s history which I’ll be sharing later this year.) I asked her about those panels above and she told me, “Can’t say I’m surprised.” It does makes the strip even funnier!

Given the amount of food I’ve put away over the Christmas holidays this really speaks to me

In the 80s exercise routines were a regular part of breakfast television, most famously presented by Lizzie Webb and Mr. Motivator. While we sat bleary-eyed, eating sugary cereal, trying to get the energy for the walk to school, they’d be jumping up and down in their lycra and shouting towards the camera, urging us to do the same. Needless to say we just watched. OiNK’s take was much more accurate.

Given the amount of food I’ve put away over the Christmas holidays (not to mention the amount that’s still to be eaten) this really speaks to me. It’s an on-point spoof of what everyone is really thinking when they tell themselves they’re going to get fit in the new year. It’s also the first contribution from prolific OiNK cartoonist Eric (Wilkie) Wilkinson, whose most famous character was friendly zombie Dead Fred who also makes his debut this issue. Wilkie would go on to contribute to 39 OiNKs altogether, often giving us more than one strip per issue and in #20 you’ll see one of his best.


“Wha-? This isn’t a real pig!”

The Weakun

Alongside the workouts our breakfast television included repeats of the ludicrous 60s Batman series. While it always felt more like a spoof of Batman rather than an actual adaptation of the comic, OiNK took old cliffhanger serials such as it and others and spoofed them further. First we had the Street-Hogs, told over a whopping 12 parts, then in #15 was the first adventure for Ham Dare, Pig of the Future which comes to its conclusion here. It may have been a much shorter story but it was no less enjoyable. In fact, I’d say each episode has been packed with many more gags than the ‘Hogs had.

Last issue the penultimate chapter ended with The Weakun‘s soldiers gunning down our fearless hero, several lasers firing through his body. This scene is repeated in the first panel below. He must be dead. There’s no way even writer Lew Stringer could have him survive that, surely? Actually, no there’s not. He didn’t survive those blasts. The solution to the cliffhanger is even more ludicrous than that would’ve been.

Sight gags, puns, exaggerated British wartime gusto and one silly plot twist after another fill every panel in what is a hilarious conclusion to Ham’s first OiNK outing. (I particularly liked the repeat of the speedy entrance from the first episode.) I’m going to miss Ham and Pigby, but while they do return for three more adventures later this was the only one to be serialised across more than one issue. In fact, they don’t return to the regular comic at all. Instead they pop up in both of the OiNK Books and the third Holiday Special (released several months after OiNK’s cancellation), all of which are multi-page strips with plenty of gorgeous J.T. Dogg artwork to savour. Hurry back Ham!

Another character who debuted alongside Ham back in #15 was the fondly remembered Greedy Gorb – He’d Eat Anything, a creation of Cowpat County‘s Davy Francis. Food-loving comics characters were nothing new, with some examples that immediately come to mind being Garfield and Bash Street KidsFreddy. But Greedy Gorb took over-eating to new extremes. There were no lasagnes or slap up feeds of sausages and mash anywhere to be seen and that tagline was taken quite literally.

Gorb’s diet would get increasingly bizarre, surrounded by Davy’s trademark puns and background gags. He became a firm favourite of mine and I’d look forward to seeing what he’d eat next. This would mostly be to satisfy his hunger, but at other times he’d choose a specific item to eat for another reason (such as the kitchen clock so his mum loses track of time and he misses the start of school). He would appear in 33 issues altogether and would even give Davy the opportunity to draw his first comics cover.

In the middle of the issue is The OiNK Cross-Country Race, billed as ‘Excitingly Dangerous’ on the cover. OiNK would give us a few various board games over time, some favourites being one with a Pete and his Pimple theme, one drawn by Frank Sidebottom and a version of Happy Families. I’d forgotten all about this one though.

Drawn by John Geering, it’s definitely more rough around the edges than later games but I think that adds to the madcap nature of it all. It includes every excuse under the sun to stop the players or send them back several places. It’d take an awful lot of luck to reach the end of this one in any decent amount of time. It’s fun to see John let loose, unrestricted by the conventional drawing techniques he’d have to apply in the pages of the more traditional comics he worked for at the time.

A couple of other quick highlights from this issue has Weedy Willy doing a very good example of me when I’ve tried new ways of getting fit in Januaries past, and smelly alien Burp takes the start of a new year as an opportunity for a check up with his doctor.

There’s one strip in this issue that I’ve already shown you on the site. Mark Rodgers and Helen Jones wrote the very funny Wanda with the Wooden Leg as their take on the girls’ comics of the day (it’s presented by Bumty comic). The artwork looked like it was taken straight from those titles, so it worked perfectly. It was illustrated by the amazingly talented Les ‘Lezz’ Barton who sadly passed away in 2008. You can read about Lezz and read the full strip in the Remembering Lezz post here.

When Uncle Pigg‘s skeleton crew took over production of the comic for #8 some butchers sneaked their way on to the pages, beginning a new series by Jeremy Banx called Butcher Watch Updates, a spin on the Crimewatch television series. The updates told readers to “watch out for your snout and mind your rind” and soon they were sending in reports of seeing the crazed butchers in their local shops. One in particular was reported more than the others. In #14 Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith had made his first appearance in one of the updates and he immediately struck a chord with readers.

Rounding off this issue is the introduction of another new character. He would only appear sporadically and in eight issues altogether, but his debut is kind of a big deal with the gift of hindsight. That’s because the cartoonist behind him was none other than Charlie Brooker. He’d sent in some strips to Patrick, Tony and Mark and they were so impressed they gave him a regular gig. Not bad for a teenager! The strip below was something of a trial and we wouldn’t see his work again until #32, but after that he was part of nearly every edition, contributing to 37 altogether.

Of course you’ll all know Charlie now from his television work, having created such amazing series as Screen Wipe and Black Mirror. However, he was still at school at the time of OiNK so kudos to him for sending in some samples, and hats off to the team for recognising his talent. Charlie would go on to create such strips as Transmogrifying Tracey, Clint Gritwood the Trigger-Happy Cop and fan favourite The Adventures of Death. But Freddie Flop was his first and a strong debut.

I was always a fan of Charlie’s OiNK strips and as the comic continued he’d contribute more and more to each issue, particularly the monthlies where he’d often write for other artists too. He’d even write a Pete and his Pimple story for Lew Stringer. I always enjoyed his art style and his strips were consistently funny, Death often being a highlight for me. It’s exciting to finally see his work in this read through.

So 1987 was off to a great start and would only get better, culminating in my very favourite OiNK of them all. The next edition is a war special. I’d say this might sound like a strange subject for a kid’s humour comic but I’ve said that before and the team have shown how they can continuously pull these off with aplomb. So be back here on Monday 24th January 2022 for #20.