Tag Archives: Frank Sidebottom

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! #46: BACK SO SOON?

Lew Stringer brings us his second OiNK cover (#33‘s was the first cover of his career) which perfectly sums up the very different and eclectic range of characters the comic had compared to its peers, even if Roger Rental He’s Completely Mental on the bottom row isn’t inside and wouldn’t actually return until #63! The first of three covers with a yellow background and a banner coaxing in new readers to the now-weekly OiNK, it’s by far the best of the three.

Inside there’s a definite feeling of a more traditional comic creeping in. Not only are strips of different lengths all corralled together like last time, but all of the returning characters are on the same pages. This isn’t very OiNK-like at all, so thankfully it’s only a temporary situation as far as I can remember, perhaps because of the sudden increase in workload for the editorial team. Thankfully, after a handful of weekly issues OiNK does return to its much more randomly generated feel.

For these handful of issues The Slugs would be the first strip readers would come across after Grunts. The punk band, written by co-editor Tony Husband and drawn by Les Barton (‘Lezz’) were the perfect introduction for new readers, with the scratchy art and the punk mentality behind OiNK itself on the page for all to see. However this story is a little different, while still perfectly compatible with the characters and the set up.

Tony Husband was making a clear point to young minds through anarchy and comedy

OiNK had its fair share of critics at the time who said it was a bad influence on kids, but they clearly never actually read the comic because it often got serious messages across using humour children would appreciate. Tony is an absolute gent in real life, a man whose passion for fairness to all creatures, human and otherwise is clear on social media posts. With this Slugs strip back in 1988 he was making a clear point to young minds through anarchy and comedy. Brilliant stuff.

There’s another specific message OiNK liked to get across to its pig pals on occasion, one which resulted in an extra edition outside of the regular comic and you’ll be able to check that out in just a few days, but I’ll get to that in a bit. First up, one of the very best Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 8 5/8 (yearƨ) strips out of the whole run. For the most part the family are pushed into the background and we get to focus on Hadrian himself innocently playing in the snow.

Another little reference to Stinky Exton there after OiNK contributing writer Graham Exton who was great friends with writer (and co-editor) Mark Rodgers. Never has a creation married writer and artist together as perfectly as Hadrian Vile, with Ian Jackson’s unique style capturing the spirit of the character and humour so sublimely. I can also sympathise with being wrapped up like a burrito by parents at that age, although thankfully it never produced this end result.

The anonymous backside on the cover wasn’t the only bare bum to be brandished by Lew Stringer as none other than Pete Throb would bare all in his strip too. With only hours until the school disco Pete finds himself at a loss as to what to do with his enormous pimple in such a short period of time. He can’t exactly dance with anyone with this third wheel of a zit! One daft idea lands him in trouble, as per usual, but this leads on to an even more unexpected outcome.

It’s all innocent enough, yet OiNK was the only kid’s comic you’d have seen anything like this in, never mind on the cover! I also like the colouring used here, just the flesh colours which highlights the pimple and a yellow for the balloons, which I originally thought was to match the colour of the pus, but this turns out to be a sickly, gross brown colour. Nice. Also, that second subtle pun surprised me, I thought using the word “shower” to describe a group of people (usually daft people) was a Northern Ireland thing!

Lew also writes the continuing adventure of Sherlock Hams in The Hog of the Baskervilles, jam-packed with groan-worthy puns and gags. Other highlights include Uncle Pigg finally answering the query I myself had when I read #39’s Hadrian Vile strip, but thankfully Ian wasn’t fired for getting into a jam (sorry). David Haldane had occasionally given us some strange factoids from around the world (also in #39 as chance would have it) and it’s now a regular feature. Also, Horace (Ugly Face) Watkin’s ongoing soap-like strip ends on a cliffhanger that would make even Emmerdale jealous.

Back in #32’s review one of the stand out moments was when Jeremy Banx’s smelly alien Burp, forever trying to befriend humans on his strange new home, gave life to a child’s teddy bear believing he was saving its life rather than creating a new one. Of course it didn’t have a happy ending, not when there was opportunity to have a hilarious and horrific one as the girl proceeded to play with the newly sentient bear in the most childlike of ways.

This resulted in the strip finishing with the bear screaming as limbs were torn off, blood spurted everywhere and threats of burying him in the garden were made. I mentioned back then it wasn’t the last we’d see of this character. I’m delighted to say the time has come for him to contact Burp again in a desperate attempt to save himself from the torture of being treated like any other toy. Can Burp come to the rescue in time?

That poor bear. But it wouldn’t have been the same if he’d been rescued and it makes for a brilliantly funny and (clearly) final appearance. The ‘Little Obedient Woman About the House Play Set’ is also a nice dig at the clichéd stereotyping of boys’ and girls’ toys which was so prevalent back then, something that’s thankfully improved since. Just this past Christmas my friend’s four-year-old boy was ecstatic when Santa Claus brought him the toy kitchen he’d asked for, so things have definitely improved.

OiNK’s three co-editors (and Chris Sievey inside Frank Sidebottom) all smoked in the 80s but they were keen to ensure the young readers didn’t make the same mistake

Something else that’s improved since the 80s is the abundance of smoke we’re subjected to. At the time my parents both smoked (they stopped about twenty years ago now) and secretly so did all of my siblings. I always hated it and never started, but growing up with it I guess I got used to it whether I liked it or not. Thinking back it really was everywhere and even as a child I remember being in restaurants or family bars on special occasions and the air was thick with it. I couldn’t cope with that these days!

Thankfully, when I was in my 20s the introduction of the smoking ban across Europe soon made its way here and overnight things improved dramatically. So much so that it’s quite rare for me to see anyone smoking these days (because of this I can definitely smell them before I see them). Despite the fact that OiNK’s three co-editors (and Chris Sievey inside Frank Sidebottom) all smoked in the 80s they were keen to ensure the young readers didn’t make the same mistake.

These photos were taken at the end of a day meeting some pig pals to promote their anti-smoking message, something they’d done with the release of a very special free edition of the comic, the OiNK Smokebuster Special. This was given away to schools in the north of England but unfortunately was never distributed further afield despite its success (although this was Fleetway’s fault, not OiNK’s, read the review to find out more). As such, this is obviously a rare issue and was incredibly difficult to get a hold of.

I say “was” because I finally got my trotters on it last year. I wasn’t even aware of it until a handful of years ago and have yet to read it, saving it for the review. That time has finally come and with this page above as my cue I’ll be reading the special 16-page OiNK before the next regular weekly issue, so watch out for it on the blog in a few days. But first up, with the themes gone so too were the enjoyable Next Issue promos, but in their place came a series of brilliant newsagent coupons under the banner of ‘Great Moments in History’.

I don’t know of anyone who actually had to use these, we simply asked for our reservations. While other comics I collected such as Marvel UK’s Transformers and The Real Ghostbusters would just reprint the same coupon every issue, OiNK used it as a chance to get one more laugh out of us. There are some brilliant ones to come so I intend to show them all.

Right, well there we go, our second weekly OiNK done and dusted. The next couple of issues would keep to the yellow theme on the cover as mentioned above but next week’s is horrible. I must warn you, it really is one of the ugliest comics covers you’re ever likely to see! You’ll have to wait until Saturday 21st January 2023 (oh pipe down, it’s only seven days away) to see what I mean, but before then check back here on Wednesday 18th January 2023 for the review of the OiNK Smokebuster Special!

THE OiNK! 45: THE VINYL FRONTIER

Back in 1987 a unique piece of merchandise for a comic was announced in the pages of OiNK. In issue #37 we were treated to this full page advertisement featuring Marc Riley as petty thief Snatcher Sam and Chris Sievey in his role as celebrity superstar Frank Sidebottom. They’d come together to record The OiNK 45, a single-sized vinyl record available only through mail order in the comic.

Back in the premiere issue OiNK had launched itself on to the unsuspecting public with a free flexidisc, a floppy piece of pink see-through plastic containing two songs, namely the imaginatively titled The OiNK Song and The OiNK Rap. Marc produced and performed both and they proved a hit with the kids and an annoyance to the parents of said kids, which I’m pretty sure was the idea. Now they’d been rerecorded at Drone Studios by Marc and Frank with engineer Paul Roberts alongside a brand new song.

When I saw the advert for the first time I immediately begged my parents to write a cheque for the record. I remember the agonisingly long wait for it to arrive and then my mum and dad wished it hadn’t. I played it almost non-stop for a few days, being told several times to turn it down. Let’s just say it wasn’t to everyone’s taste. As I said, annoying readers’ parents may have been the idea behind the songs in the first place.

I’d missed out on the original flexidisc first time around so had no idea two of these were new versions of previous songs. I remember loving The OiNK Psycho Rap (as it was now called) as a kid on The OiNK 45, written by Tony Husband and Marc, and when I finally got my hands on #1 decades later for the blog with a mint condition flexidisc I’ll admit I was confused as to why I’d liked it so much! The answer is that the version here is completely different and a whole lotta fun. The words are almost the same but it’s more professionally put together. While I’m still not going to blast it at get togethers with friends, it may find its way on to my HomePod.

Fortunately for my parents, but heartbreakingly for me, just a few weeks after it arrived back in 1987 I ended up playing it for the very last time. I’d taken the record out of the hifi in my room and placed it on my bed without its sleeve while I listened to something else. It ended up being a nice, warm and sunny October day so off I went outside to play with friends for the afternoon. When I came back I found out to my horror what happens when a vinyl record sits under a skylight on a day like that.

It was badly warped, looking like a disused napkin someone had tossed aside. I was crushed. My parents refused to buy me another, telling me it was a lesson to learn (in reality it had brought peace to the house once more) and, having not yet made a cassette recording so I could take the songs outside with me, that was the last I heard it. Only now have I been able to hear these versions (and the third song) for the first time since then.

This past summer I was finally able to track down a copy of the record and I’ve waited until now to listen to it as a special festive treat for pig pads. This should be interesting with my now-adult ears! First up, the cover art was compiled by Marc Riley and the photographs on the back and on the adverts were taken by OiNK’s resident photographer John Barry under co-creator/co-editor and co-designer for the project (alongside Marc) Patrick Gallagher’s direction.

There’s a reference to Mike Gallagher brewing the tea, this was Patrick’s brother who played sax at the studio sessions (he was also in Frank’s Oh Blimey Big Band) as well as making the refreshments. Patrick tells me altogether they recorded roughly 50 takes of each track but ended up using the first of each! All that remains now is to place the vinyl carefully into my record player and crank the volume up. We’ll start with the new versions of The OiNK Psycho Rap and The OiNK Song (written by Mark Rodgers and Marc). You’ll be glad to hear the latter is still sung by high-pitched pigs.

The OiNK! Psycho Rap written by Tony Husband and Marc Riley
The OiNK! Song written by Mark Rodgers and Marc Riley

Unfortunately there were no lyrics sheets with the record so young me had a hell of a time understanding those piggies but the lyrics were printed in the first issue. Only a few words have been changed here and there for the rap, so feel free to use that photo above to follow along.

Apologies that I have no fancy equipment to record the songs in lossless quality (or whatever it’s called), you’ll have to make do with my video recording it with an ever-tiring outstretched arm.


“What the heck you think you’re doing, you?”

Frank Sidebottom, The OiNK Get-Together Song

On the B-side is the brand new song, The OiNK Get-Together Song. Chris sings along with Marc in the previous songs and Frank even makes a small guest appearance in The OiNK Song when he realises he’s on the wrong track and asks the listener to turn the record over. This next song is twice as long and sees him in his usual place as the lead singer, with Little Frank constantly asking when he’ll get to contribute. It’s billed as a song starring characters from the comic, however the reality is much different (and funnier) than you might expect.

The OiNK! Get-Together Song written by Frank Sidebottom (Chris Sievey)

In my head this song had included various impressions of characters but instead we’re introduced to them playing instruments or making lots of loud background noise. Of course it would be this! Highlights include it descending into chaos on more than one occasion, especially when Billy Bang and the Street-Hogs get involved, Frank and Little Frank’s arguments getting more and more aggressive and there are cameos from some long forgotten characters such as Billy’s Brain and ‘Ed Banger.

My own personal favourite moment is when Frank messes up and just readily admits it right there in the song!

It’s a genuinely funny record and I’d heartily recommend splashing out the few quid it costs on eBay when it pops up, but let’s just say I think I can understand where my parents were coming from when they refused to buy a replacement once they’d escaped it. Brilliant stuff and very typically ‘OiNK’. No other comic could’ve done this. If you do decide to buy it for yourself just be warned, the sax in The OiNK Get Together Song will be stuck in your head from now until the end of time, whether you want it in there or not.

Above you’ll see Mike Gallagher as part of Frank’s band in a photo Patrick sent me, alongside an image of the original test pressing of the vinyl shared by Tony Husband on the OiNK Facebook Group. The final photo features the children of the studio owner and a very tanned/rosy/burnt Marc Riley and Patrick Gallagher, who may have just come back from holiday according to Patrick himself.

The OiNK 45 and the mug were the only pieces of merchandise I had as a kid so it’s great to own them both again today. This has genuinely been a whole lot of fun to revisit. It was another contributing factor to what I refer to as the Golden Age of my very favourite comic of all time.