Yes, I’m taking a pair of scissors to a treasured issue of OiNK! No, I’m not still upset (35 years after the fact) with the 5p price rise this issue brought, #25 was the Toys and Hobbies issue and inside was a trove of activities for readers to cut out and make, one of which was Frank Sidebottom’s “zeo-trope”, as he misspelled it. Back as a kid I never cut anything out of my precious comics, but I’m an adult now and can just go and buy a replacement on eBay, so I’m giving this a shot.
The correct spelling is ‘zoetrope’ and it’s a device which the dictionary describes as, “a 19th-century optical toy consisting of a cylinder with a series of pictures on the inner surface that, when viewed through slits with the cylinder rotating, give an impression of continuous motion”. This was a revelation in the days before film and something fun for viewers of various children’s art shows in the 80s to make.
Franks’ alter ego, Chris Sievey decided to try his hand at creating one so let’s see how good it is, shall we? We begin by gluing it to a piece of flexible card. I used a cereal box and the very second I glued it to the blank interior I realised I’d already made a mistake. With the brightly coloured cereal design on the side I’d be looking through to see the animation it would be too distracting when spun. I should’ve made sure the blank side of the cardboard was on the outside. So I glued it on to another piece of the box, blank side out, meaning it was rather more stiff than it should’ve been. Oh well.
Of course, this made cutting out the slits all the more difficult, what with having to slice through two layers of card and glue, and with 12 slots to cut out as neatly as possible this did result in some sore fingers with indents from the ridges of the knife, but that was my fault, not Frank’s. Only as I was doing this did I realise he’d actually numbered all of the slots too. Chris’ work in OiNK was always so intricate, beautifully coloured with felt tip pens and colouring pencils. Co-editor Patrick Gallagher told me he was always amazed at the amount of time and work Chris would put into his pages and the dedication he had for his OiNK work.
Carefully bending it every couple of centimetres I was able to finally get it into a circular shape. (Again, if I’d used one sheet of card this wouldn’t have been so fiddly.) Once glued together a little final squeezing and stretching to get it into as perfect a circle as possible was all that was needed. As instructed by Frank a record player is needed at this stage and luckily enough I have one of those. So it’s now time to see if this works. After all, some people who tried it out as a kid have told me it was pretty rubbish or didn’t work at all! Time to find out.
You have to focus your eye on one of the Franks but I think it works a treat, especially for a cut-out freebie in an old comic.
I remember as a kid those art shows would show zoetropes and we’d only see one of the images animating, making it look like an old-fashioned cartoon animation from the early days of film. Maybe if the device had different dimensions (larger device with smaller holes? I have no idea) it would look more professional but I still think the effect is great, with a group of Franks all strumming away and tapping their feet. I did try to play the OiNK flexidisk while it spun but due to it being only slightly larger than the zoetrope the player’s head hit it and kept skipping after a few seconds. So your ears have been spared!
If you want to give this a try for yourself you can usually pick up #25 of OiNK for no more than a few quid on eBay and this really is easy to put together. This isn’t like the impossible-to-build Road Hogg from #11 (although that didn’t stop one pig pal as you’ll see in that issue’s review). The zoetrope now sits alongside my OiNK collection on my comic shelves, looking like the most unusual little piece of merchandise you ever did see!
(Special thanks to my mate Kevin O’Prey for his help with YouTube. Kevin runs an ASMR channel called TheWhisperCorner which you can find here.)
Usually with comics the special anniversary issues would mark the beginning of the next year of publication, on sale over the date of the first issue. OiNK decided to mark the end of the first year instead with their celebratory issue actually due to come off the shelves two days before the date of #1‘s release the previous year. Instead, #26 celebrated the launch of the comic’s preview issue which was bundled inside other IPC comics on 26th April one year previous. That free issue gets several mentions inside.
Tony Husband‘sUncle Pigg and that shiny golden logo welcome us to the celebrations and inside it’s party time! If memory serves the second anniversary would be marked by nothing more than a passing mention on the letters page and unfortunately there wouldn’t be a third, so I intended to enjoy this one. Thankfully it wasn’t to let me down, starting off with this brilliant Pete and his Pimple from Lew Stringer in which he’s been invited to sign copies at a newsagent for the anniversary.
I did laugh when Pete felt he needed to elaborate on his comment about how it was a good thing he didn’t put the cream anywhere else. Lew’s background characters are as eclectic a bunch as you would expect and is that Wilfrid visiting from Bash Street in the doorway? Well no, that’s just a coincidence, but in asking Lew he pointed out what I did miss. Standing in the doorway just behind him is none other than Lew’s spoof superhero character Brickman who, after the end of his strip in 1986, made disguised cameos (without mask, coat on top of his costume) in other strips in the Lewniverse. I can’t be the only fan who’ll find this surprising and funny in equal measure. At the time one young reader did spot him and sent Lew all of the panels she’d spotted him in!
At this point in the review I must issue a Reader Advisory before you scroll on down to the next strip. Those with a nervous disposition or a tricky tummy right now may want to skip past this next section. Don’t blame me, blame David Leach. What’s a party without a cake, and what could be better than a surprise cake? Well it all depends on who baked it I guess.
While David’s modern day Psycho Gran comics are much more adult than her antics in the pages of OiNK it’s very much the same sense of humour. In fact, this strip wouldn’t look out of place in one of her new comics, even if David might push the cringe factor more in that final panel. She had made her debut in #15 before disappearing again until half a dozen issues later (David was told very last minute they’d like her to be a regular character) and by this stage she was appearing in almost every issue, quickly becoming one of my favourites.
“I’ve picked some prime porky pranks from my readers to help celebrate a year of OiNKin’ good fun!”
OiNK was a lot more interactive with its audience than most comics of the day. Marvel UK had those fantastic, fondly remembered letters pages and IPC Magazines would feature something similar in their humour comics, with reader jokes and sketches thrown in. Closest to OiNK would’ve been editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s comics which were always known for their highly original ways in which readers could take part (see Wildcat, Ring Raiders and Super Naturals for example).
OiNK’s Grunts page could contain rude jokes for Nasty Laffs and Specs, celebrities given a piggy makeover, photographs of readers with their homemade OiNK cakes and models, pig-related newspaper clippings (and those relating to the comic itself), messy bedroom competition entries in the early days, readers updating us on the latest sightings of terrifying butchers from Jeremy Banx‘s Butcher Watch series, drawings and even a personal problems column in which Uncle Pigg‘s answers were of no help whatsoever. For the birthday issue we got a double helping, so twice the amount of pig pals would receive “a piggy prize”.
I had no idea who the StreetHogs were when I read this originally but I’d soon be finding out. Above was also the first mention of the book to come, now that was exciting! I never did write in and I’m not sure why. I had drawings published in Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and Barrie’s Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles Adventures, then when I moved on to computer games magazines I was always writing into them. But for some reason I never took the time to contact Uncle Pigg or the other characters. The comic was always asking readers to get in touch one way or another, the most memorable example being when Lew Stringer‘sPete asked readers to send in pimple busting cures later in the run.
For this birthday issue, three readers got the ultimate piggy prize when they appeared in a photo strip alongside Snatcher Sam (Marc Riley) and Frank Sidebottom (Chris Sievey). This had been the star prize in a competition run on Radio Manchester in conjunction with Casio Electronics (hence the product placement) and the three lucky winners got to star in their favourite comic and also went away with their own keyboards. Not too shabby at all. The pig pals we were very jealous of were Ruth Salts, Paul Pike and Paul Rafferty.
I love how they’ve touched up the photographs with these garish colours, making it feel more like a comic strip, adding to the ridiculousness of it. Obviously the Casino keyboards are the central plot device here but it works perfectly, with Frank struggling to think of new lyrics for a song. The inspiration in the end is brilliant, or “fantastic” as he might say, and I genuinely did laugh out loud when what Sam starts yelling just happens to be the lyrics to a famous song. It’s completely daft and so uniquely ‘OiNK’. Great stuff.
Time for a quick glance at some of the other highlights of the issue. Dead Fred gets a full page to himself for his Happy Death Day, it’s a happy ending for Hector Vector and his Talking T-shirt much to the annoyance of said garment, there’s that stance and glare again from Hadrian Vile‘s mum (see theHoliday Special for more on that) and Frank Sidebottom‘s own strip has one of the best captions in comics history. Finally, GBH got in on the birthday action with some highly collectible memorabilia.
One little change happened with one of the above strips this issue, namely The Secret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 8 5/8 (yearƨ). Eagle-eyed readers would’ve spotted he’d jumped from 7 5/8 in the past fortnight. A nice little touch and he’d remain this age for the rest of the year. As the comic continued we’d see his mum become pregnant, eventually giving birth to a new baby sister for Hadrian, who he then took under his wing! Seeing him and his family develop in real time was subtle but a unique point of interest. If OiNK had continued longer than the two-and-a-half years it was published for would Hadrian’s age have continued to increase? Who knows. But it’s interesting to imagine.
There’s a special poster in the middle of the issue which I’m going to sign off with below, but first I can’t let this issue go by without showing you a very special strip indeed. This issue’s Tom Thug stands out for a few different reasons. First up, I always enjoy it when characters break the fourth wall, to coin a phrase. Basically, when they refer to being in a comic. Tom does this here to great effect when explaining to Wayne Brayne why he’s trying to duff him up when his bullying ways are brought into question (the panel is completed with an automatically-appearing sticking plaster). However, the main highlight happens when he trips over his untied shoelace. Obviously he never did learn to do that properly.
“How do you get nostalgic about a comic that’s only a year old?”
Tom is becoming worried about his constant failures as a bully. It’s his whole reason for being and yet he hasn’t yet managed to do it successfully for even one issue. Of course, we loved his strip because of his constant failures and that was the whole point of the strip, for the bully to fail. But Tom thinks Uncle Pigg is going to toss him on the comics scrapheap if he can’t manage to successfully cause some bovver. It’s this scrapheap he imagines which is the highlight here, as he places himself next to all of the forgotten comics characters of yesteryear, each drawn by Lew very much in their original artists’ styles.
I think this was a wonderful idea. As Lew asked on his own blog when discussing this strip, “How do you get nostalgic about a comic that’s only a year old?” They’re all classic IPC characters, then several years later some were sold off to Egmont while others were kept by IPC, meaning they could no longer appear together, making this an even more unique strip than it already was. Nowadays, Rebellion owns them all and I think it’s time for a reunion, including Tom. The strip ends with Uncle Pigg demoting him to half a page. With so many regular characters now the editors had decided to do this, and this was an original and clever way of actually working the decision into the strip (although due to his popularity he’d return to full strength very quickly). It kept him in every issue when others had to skip some, so it was for a good reason in the end.
One final note about that strip. In the second panel a little plop is holding up a sign saying hello to a reader by the name of Ben Gibbons. This is actually the son of comics artist Dave Gibbons. Ben was a regular reader of OiNK and Dave himself would contribute to an issue with the very funny artwork for The Superhero’s Day Off written by Lew. We’ll get to that eventually. It’s worth the wait!
We’re at the end of another review and it’s crazy to think I’ve been at this for a year already. The blog itself relaunched before this time last year, when Visionaries was the first comic to begin its real time read through (I didn’t want to wait another year for the sake of a few weeks before the blog’s namesake began). It’s been a blast and the best is still to come as far as I’m concerned. The latter months of this year especially.
This has been a great celebration of the first year of what is still my favourite comic of all time. The next issue of OiNK will be themed around the world of pets and you’ll be able to read the review from Monday 2nd May 2022. But first there’s one more thing I want to show you and that’s the lovely poster from this issue, the OiNK Anniversary Portrait. Drawn by Ed McHenry it’s full of all of the main characters including those no longer in the comic. I was happy to see Sally Scowl received an invite to the party after her funny strips were unceremoniously dropped after only two issues! (I’m still hurting about that.)
What’s this, a price rise? It had to happen eventually, but it’s crazy to look back and think about our comics costing only 35p for all of that hard work that went into them. OiNK was already more expensive than its peers and as the likes of Buster and Whizzer and Chips went up 2p each to 26p, our piggy publication went up by 5p to the grand sum of 35p. OiNK was independently produced and printed on lovely large, glossy paper, both of which made it more expensive to produce but they also made it worth every extra penny.
This is the Toys and Hobbies Issue and it’s full of interactive elements for the young readers. By that I mean things to cut out and make. In fact, there’s so much here the comic would be nothing but a pile of twisted paper if the reader did them all! I’ll show you one further down the review. To kick things off, apparently for Hadrian Vile and his artist Ian Jackson the theme has conjured up an image of voodoo experiments. As you do. The surprises continue inside with a memorable strip involving killer playthings and the insane artwork of Jon Langford in The Terrible Toys.
Written by Mark Rodgers, this should conclusively show that even such a safe topic could be completely turned on its head by OiNK. Jon’s art always made an impression and this is no exception, especially the fang-toothed Santa Claus at the end. (This wouldn’t be the scariest Santa we’d see in OiNK.) His use of thick, heavy lines, as if he’s leaning furiously on the page as he draws, and a lovely loose freehand style bring complete chaos to anything he crafted. You can also just about see a couple of edits around copyright names, the most obvious being “Borbie Dolls” where the ‘O’ has been changed. I’m not sure what Hasbro would’ve said!
Back in #20Lew Stringer introduced us to a new character called Specky Hector, the Comics Collector by way of a funny three panel strip. I was delighted to see his return in this issue with a full page all to himself, in which he shares his tips for what he sees as the correct way to collect and store comics, complete with ink stains and finger prints which are very unbecoming of someone who prides themselves on their mint collection. After this I looked forward to future instalments from Hector in whatever form they would take but unfortunately the character never returned to this comic. However, for pig pals who followed some of the characters to the pages of Buster after OiNK folded he would pop up on occasion and you can even read this previous blog post to find out how he’s doing today.
There are a lot of great gags here and I particularly like the front cover of The Beany. Look closely and you’ll see the strip has someone ask for credits and the star of the strip says, “Jings! We don’t run credits!” This was a dig at the comics which never credited their writers and cartoonists; something else which set OiNK apart from the very beginning. This was a specific point of difference for its creators Mark Rodgers, Tony Husband and Patrick Gallagher, that everyone should receive on-page credit for their work and it was a hot topic in the UK industry at the time. So I particularly liked this joke.
“I’m even giving up my old hobby of collecting squashed hedgehogs!”
Just as a point of interest, I don’t personally protect the comics I collect and read for this blog in carded plastic bags or store them away out of sight. Mine are all proudly displayed on shelves around the small office in my house (I say office, it’s the spare bedroom with a desk instead of a bed) and can be picked up and instantly flicked through. I remember a friend years back would go to painstaking lengths to keep his comics and novels pristine and the way he’d hold them while reading looked so uncomfortable. To me, a bookshelf full of novels with cracked spines shows they’ve been loved. The same goes for my comics. Don’t get me wrong, I look after them, but comics are for consumption, to be read over and over, and most importantly loved. I don’t think Hector would really disagree with that sentiment.
Also in this issue is the second part of that Tom Thug story which began last issue. To recap, Wayne Brayne tricked Tom (not a difficult thing to do) into thinking he was seeing his older self as a decrepit pensioner spending his last days in prison, and it terrified him. Determined not to end up that way we saw him reformed, prancing down the road barefoot with bunches of flowers and a shiny halo above his head. Originally I’d thought it was just a funny ending for that issue and things would be back to normal this time. But that’s not the case and the strip kicks off with his dad getting the shock of his life.
This is a great strip, from the question mark beside the title, to his idiotic attempts at being nice and his eventual return to form. There’s even a quick reference to a hobby for the theme. I particularly like the panel where he swings at Wayne and punches the tree, the exaggerated punch and the pain in his eyes are perfect. In the end he hasn’t even returned to his normal thuggish ways out of his own choice. Instead he’s once again been manipulated by Wayne, this time at the encouragement of the locals and even Tom’s own dad. It’s a great end to a very funny two-parter.
In the pages of OiNK Wayne always reminds me of a younger version of Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye and team captain on Have I Got News For You. Interestingly however, when Tom’s strips became regular full-colour pages in Buster we found out Wayne is actually black, which was sadly a rare thing in our comics at the time. Speaking to Lew, he tells me he imagined Wayne as being black at some stage before the colour strips, however at one point OiNK gave him pink skin when someone at the office did the colouring.
Here are some of the other highlights of the issue, with Dead Fred taking on a handy new hobby, in The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile the young lad’s completely normal pastimes get him into trouble, Rubbish Man uses some of his memorable superpowers to great effect and in the strangely named Blow Peter co-editor Tony Husband takes aim at the very random things the programme would’ve built and encouraged their young viewers to copy.
So on the front cover we’re told there’s a “fantastic cut-out zeo-trope” inside. It’s a name that flew over my head as a kid but when I saw the page I instantly recognised the device used to produce basic animation. The fact it was billed as “fantastic” could only mean one thing, that this was going to be on Frank Sidebottom‘s page. I wasn’t wrong. Chris Sievey‘s imagination and ability to come up with unique ideas for his character’s pages never ceased to surprise.
I remember versions of this on children’s television at the time. The correct spelling is “zoetrope”, originally named when its inventor William E. Lincoln took the Greek words meaning ‘Wheel of Life’ to describe his new toy, which produced animated drawings before the days of film. As Frank explains, once assembled and spun the user looks through the holes, each one flicking by to show the frame on the opposite side, one by one. When spun quickly this gives the illusion of motion and it’s surprising good, as I found out when I built it recently.
With the zoetrope, a cut-out stage and finger puppets depicting Uncle Pigg, Snatcher Sam and Mary Lighthouse, as well as a DIY Harry the Head which involved cutting out his features and gluing them to a pink balloon, there wouldn’t be much left of this issue if we’d actually created everything included! I don’t remember doing any of them, or indeed any of the board games or other models which required cutting my precious OiNKs. I may not have stored them in big plastic tubs away from sunlight, but I didn’t cut any of them up! Well, apart from coupons for the merchandise, of course.
Always a great character with consistently funny strips, Jeremy Banx‘s Burp was hitting a stride about this time in OiNK’s run that would continue without faltering all the way to the end of the weeklies when he’d disappear from the comic. Between now and then he’d even get a few two-page strips and some stories so surreal they could make Jeremy’s other regular character, Mr Big Nose look positively sane (almost). This issue’s strip is a favourite of mine and shows just how out of control things can get in a Burp story.
My favourite part is the large panel showing our planet zooming through the cosmos, the speech balloons at various points in its trajectory conveying the speed at which we’re hurtling about, culminating in Burp’s brilliant line, “You’re brutal, you are!” This broke me. In an issue of OiNK it’s always going to be very difficult to point at a page and say it’s the funniest, but even though it’s a closely run race as always, this had me in stitches. It’s even signed upside down to match the final panel. Simply brilliant stuff.
Written by Tony Husband and drawn by Clive Collins, Maggie Pie Collector of Weird Things had been a semi-regular in the early issues of the comic but her most recent appearance before now was back in #14. She would only appear a few more times (twice more in the comic and once in the first annual) and given how the theme includes hobbies she just had to be present in this one. Not only did she get her usual (well, unusual) story page, she also presented us with this guide to stamp collecting.
I particularly like the Penny White and the Latverian ‘Big Brother’. At ten-years-of-age I wasn’t really aware of any world events and had never been bitten by the stamp collecting bug, but enough of my friends collected them and I’d seen enough episodes of The A-Team freeing villages that I still found them funny.
There’s some special news in the middle of the comic. Throughout its life (and after) OiNK’s team would produce four holiday/summer specials, two annuals, the Smokebusters issue for schools in the north of England and the Crash computer magazine edition. The first of these was the 1987 Holiday Special and it went on sale along with this issue as the advert below by co-editor Patrick Gallagher announced.
This was exciting as a child! I also have some very distinct memories of this particular edition, both from my childhood and from later on in life and I’ll share these with you when I review it in just seven days from now. But this wasn’t the only reason for pig pals to get excited and I’ll explain that right after our final highlight of the issue.
Drawn by Steve Gibson, Watch the Skies takes inspiration from the Highway Code’s road signs to create a symbols guide for airplane spotters everywhere. Reading just the first two had me laughing! This is the final interior contribution to the issue (the back page had a script to go with the finger puppets I mentioned earlier) and was just below the Next Issue promo, which is where the further exciting news could be found.
The next issue of OiNK is the birthday issue! That’s right, can you believe it’s already been almost a full year since this read through of the world’s greatest comic began? The issue marks the end of the comic’s first year rather than the beginning of the second as would be traditional (typical OiNK), and marks a year since the release of the preview issue. This might seem strange at first but remember the preview wasn’t a shrunk down, miniature sneak peek of what was to come, it was a full-sized issue and worthy of celebration.
But wow, a full year has passed already. There’s still plenty to look forward to over the next year-and-a-half of OiNK and next up is that Holiday Special on Monday 11th April 2022, followed swiftly by #26 on Monday 18th April. Extra rashers all round. See you all soon.