Tag Archives: Frank Sidebottom

CRASH #42: A SPECTRUM OF PiGGY PiNK

In 1987 Sinclair ZX Spectrum computing magazine Crash (which ran for 98 issues between 1984 and 1992) approached IPC Magazines about interviewing the OiNK editors regarding the comic for a special preview of the forthcoming computer game. During these conversations the idea of producing a special edition of the comic to give away inside Crash came up. Co-creator/co-editor Patrick Gallagher told me the magazine’s publishers Newsfield were receptive to the idea, very open-minded about what it could contain and paid the OiNK team to produce it. That issue of Crash went on sale today 35 years ago.

So, with a special feature and an extra edition of my favourite comic of all time I just had to track this down on eBay. This is the only issue of Crash I’ve ever read. I found myself reading more than just the OiNK related pages too and have included some highlights I found particularly interesting below. First up though is the interview and a special page from Frank Sidebottom. The comic itself I’ll keep for a review post of its own, which you’ll be able to read from next week. So what exactly would an issue of Crash involve? Here’s the contents page, with a little guest appearance from a certain explosive personality.

What it means by “it’s not really page 59″ is the fact the free comic was in the centre of the issue so if you opened at page 59 it would plop out. The title of the interview is another reference to George Orwell‘s Animal Farm, which OiNK itself already parodied in #30, on sale at the same time coincidentally enough. In the editorial Roger Kean kicks things off by pointing out the free comic and the article, noting this is the first time they’ve ever teamed up with another publication.

Graeme Kidd‘s article is longer and more in-depth than the one featured in Zzap!64 the month before. While the Zzap preview had told the origin story of OiNK, Crash spoke with Tony Husband directly and there’s some wonderful pieces of information for pig pals. Zzap mentioned the initial idea had been for a fanzine, here Tony is able to elaborate on the reasons behind that. The initial chance meeting in a local library between Patrick and Mark Rodgers (both working on Whizzer and Chips without knowing each other) is also mentioned, a tale I’ve heard before briefly but again there’s more detail here.


“It’s a success story the comic’s creators hardly dreamed of.”

Graeme Kidd, Four Legs Good

There are some little factoids for fans such as OiNK’s sales, the dummy issue being met with a divided opinion at IPC Magazines but ultimately championed by the people who would make the call (Youth Group Managing Director John Sanders and ‘John Painter’ is an error, that should be Bob Paynter Group Editor of Humour Comics), the original strategy in its creation and how the idea of putting together a small, weekly comic was changed to a larger, fortnightly one. Of course, that weekly format is the one OiNK would eventually turn into, much to the annoyance of some, including the editors but we’ll get to that at a later date.

There’s a funny moment when we find out a certain comics publisher wasn’t too happy with OiNK spoofs of their characters (one example mentioned can be seen in #18‘s review) and a horrific episode for a young reader whose mum showed just how hypocritical those who think they’re morally superior to others can really be (think readers of certain scaremongering tabloids). At the end there’s a very quick preview of the game which, after painting a fascinating picture of the comic, shows us probably the most uninspired screenshot possible!

To see the original Janice & John strip Tony mentions check out #7‘s review, and for OiNK’s response to the complaint make sure to read #28‘s!

Over the page from this piggy pink spread we get a little something extra from Frank Sidebottom in the shape of a guide to computers, which is really a competition page with rather wonderful prizes. If I’d known Crash had a free issue of OiNK and the chance to win original artwork, t-shirts, mugs etc I’d have been all over this as a child, even if I wouldn’t own my own computer for another four years.

I must add a little caveat here. This doesn’t look like Frank’s usual handwriting and it’s been signed “Topbottom”. I initially thought he’d been in a rush to complete it for Crash’s deadline and that was the reason for the change in style slightly, but some fans believed it wasn’t his work when I initially shared this post on social media. I checked with Patrick who can’t remember if that was the case, but he’s certain Chris (Sievey, the man behind the mask) wouldn’t have knowingly let anyone else do it, especially if it meant copying his OiNK work. So I’m going to say it was him.

Just wait and see Frank’s contribution to the OiNK pullout comic, it’s proof indeed of just how much he’d put into his work for kids.

So that’s OiNK’s contribution to the magazine itself and strangely enough I can’t find evidence of the all-important game review in any following issue. Does this not bode well for the quality of the finished product? No, even if the game had been absolute trash the magazines of the time would’ve reviewed it and given it an appropriate score. But from my extensive research into the rest of that year’s issues (and those from 1988 as well) it just wasn’t reviewed by Crash. However, Zzap!64 did so watch out for that soon.

The debut of the brand new 007,
Timothy Dalton!

Back to Crash and as I said the free comic will be getting its own review post (as well it should) next week but I wanted to highlight two particular features in the magazine that stood out for me personally in this delightfully retro read. I’m a big fan of both James Bond and Nintendo, so first up was news of not only the next Bond computer game but also the brand new movie it was based on, The Living Daylights and the debut of a brand new 007 which is always an exciting occasion.

That actor of course was Timothy Dalton, who is still my favourite in the role to this day. His second movie, Licence To Kill is not only the best Bond film in my opinion it’s also my second favourite movie of all time (behind only Jaws, in case you were wondering). Unfortunately, with MGM going bankrupt a year or so later the movies paused until the mid-90s and by that stage Dalton wanted to move on. But The Living Daylights is a superb film and the magazine’s Curtis Hutchinson took a look at its stunt work. Special mention must also go to that gorgeous Oliver Frey cover above! That would’ve made for an excellent poster but alas it was only ever to be found in A4 size and covered with text.

There’s also an advertisement for the game, which like a lot of our gaming adverts back then didn’t include a single screenshot. The Spy Vs Spy game was also a favourite later on when I got my Commodore 64, based upon characters from Mad Magazine, itself one of the influences behind OiNK’s sense of humour and satirical edge.

I do love a good contemporary retro article about new releases in the things I’m interested in. It’s always fascinating to look back at how they were written about at the time. The second article I want to show you is another such example. As a kid I remember friends getting so incredibly hyped over new Nintendo consoles but I only became a fan later down the road with the Game Boy and GameCube machines. These days I’m fanatical about my Nintendo Switch and so this was a hugely enjoyable read about “Mattel’s Nintendo”. Mattel helped Nintendo with distribution in the UK but it was wrongly labelled as their machine and simply called “a Nintendo” by many at the time.

What’s lovely and quaint here is how the ZX Spectrum range of computers are compared very favourably to the flashy new Japanese console by Crash’s whole team. Of course this is a Spectrum magazine and so it was always going to be that way. I remember later issues of Commodore Format in the mid-90s comparing the ageing machine (which I still adored and used even then) favourably against the latest gaming tech. Bless. This article in particular is like a snapshot of the industry at the time. Oh, and for those Nintendo fans reading, the news pages carried information on a price cut to the system already but it must’ve been too late to edit the article. The two bundles had been chopped down to £99.99 and £155.00, which was fierce competition for the home computers of the day!

This has been a surprisingly magical trip down memory lane, one I’ve enjoyed immensely. Don’t forget about that Zzap!64 preview of the game and a Retro Gamer article from 2021 has also featured on the blog, containing an interview with the man behind the game. But we’ve not quite finished with this edition of Crash, as the free comic is still here waiting to be seen by blog readers. I’d assume for many it’ll probably be the first time you’ll have seen it too. It’s blog review will be here from Saturday 2nd July 2022 and the Zzap!64 review of the OiNK computer game itself will reveal how good/bad it turned out, which you’ll be able to read from Saturday 9th July. After that, Commodore Format will have some articles about OiNK to share later in the year too! Bye for now.

FRANK’S “ZEO-TROPE”: SiDEBOTTOM’S D.i.Y. ZOETROPE

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.)

OiNK! #26: AGED BACON

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‘s Uncle 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!”

Uncle Pigg

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‘s Pete 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 the Holiday 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?”

Lew Stringer

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!

This has been a great celebration of the first year of what is still my favourite comic of all time.

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.)

Happy (36th!) Birthday OiNK.