Tag Archives: Graham Exton

OiNK! #7: SUMMER COOL

Be forewarned, if you’re reading this in the heatwave we’re experiencing at the time of writing you may be a tad jealous of the people on the cover that we’re actually meant to be laughing at.

While comics would normally have a separate Summer Special OiNK had only just begun so we’d have to wait for ours. But something else made it extra special, at least for readers of other IPC Magazine comics such as 2000AD. As with the preview they received this issue for free as a promotional push, hence the subtle “NOT FOR SALE!” over one of the covers above.

By coincidence the issue receiving extra visibility also contained the strip that would be famously investigated by the Press Council. But, just like the ‘Viz’ myth surrounding OiNK, this chapter in the comic’s life has become distorted in the intervening years. Two (yes, only two) complaints were received and no it did not contribute to the comic’s eventual cancellation. After all, that was over two years and 61 issues later. So what’s the truth?

Well first, here’s the story itself which co-editor Patrick Gallagher believes was written by Mark Rodgers. Every pig pal remembers Janice and John and the Parachute Jump, which was illustrated by Trevor Johnson, a friend of Patrick’s and a renowned Manchester graphic designer who did a lot of work for Factory Records and the famous The Hacienda.

The complaint accused the story of disregarding mother-family relationships, but the Press Council rightly saw it as the deliberate parody of the traditional stories found in old fashioned children’s publications that it was. They ruled that it was meant to be a tasteless spoof and was not improper in any way, rejecting the complaint. Brilliantly, OiNK would publish this in a future issue.

IPC loved the attention things like this brought.

OiNK was aimed at children, not their parents, and we found it hilarious. My own parents thought it was stupid but harmless. However, while only two people complained, WHSmith still placed OiNK on their top shelves as a result. A ridiculous situation. But a year later in an interview Tony, Mark and Patrick would be all too happy to confirm sales of 100,000 per issue so never underestimate Pig Power. Tony also recently told me IPC loved the attention things like this brought.

Janice and John would indeed return in the sequel Janice and John and the Thermonuclear Reactor, although it didn’t appear until much later in the run, possibly held back until the outcome of the complaint was known. I’ll definitely include that and OiNK’s response to the complaint when we get to those issues. But now, for our next highlight let’s enjoy a different form of crazy.

What else can be said about this strip? Nothing really. Simple, straight to the point and laugh out loud funny, that’s Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental, written by Graham Exton and drawn by his regular artist Ian Knox. To this day I can remember reading certain entries in his series of tiny, one-joke strips as a kid and just losing it with the sheer, unintended anarchy of it all.

At the beginning of OiNK’s run there was a competitor to Snatcher Sam‘s crown as the most idiotic thief to appear in a photo story. His name was Swindler Sid. Played by a good friend of Patrick’s called Nick Bell, the strips were photographed by Patrick’s brother James who we saw as a Typical OiNK Reader back in #5. Despite the consequences of Sid’s actions here I think we’d all risk it at the moment given the weather outside.

Patrick and James would rope in other friends to play the roles of whoever the scripts called for. In this case the first customer is Billy Gregg (a welder in real life), the second is Paul McGarty (a labourer) and P.C. Porker is Pat Healy (a bricklayer) who would appear more than once as the same character.

Sid has now reformed himself and given up his swindling career, “Though he still dabbles in ‘finance’ occasionally” says Patrick. Nick has had an amazing and varied career, working in the NHS for more than 30 years in positions such as Lead Auditor and Benchmarking Analysis, as well as a Business Analyst at Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust. Sid’s certainly come a long way from swiping ice lollies.

Swindler Sid (Nick Bell) – Photo credit: Patrick Gallagher

Let’s have a quick look at some other highlights from this summery edition, starting with an early character called New Wave Dave who was a bit too keen to be part of that 80s scene. Dave was drawn by Viz founder Chris Donald. Tom Thug went on an ‘oliday to Blackpool with a regular selection of British folk (we’ll see how he gets on next time). There was a comics crossover of gigantic hippopotamus proportions when Hugo the Hungry Hippo popped up to save the day in Rubbish Man, Tom Paterson‘s hilarious Wet Blanket will see publication again later this year and roles were reversed in Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins.

I’m a sucker for comical sharks, as evidenced already with my favourite OiNK page of all in #4, so if any more pop up you can be sure I’ll show them off.

On the middle pages we’re treated to eight lovely, rough around the edges postcards to cut out and take on holiday from the pen of Ian Jackson. I wonder if anyone actually used them? There’s a small competition along the bottom and I’ll keep an eye out for any results as we continue the read through. The best thing about this is Ian interpreting other artists’ characters. Some of the postcards themselves are just priceless too.

Some time next year you’ll see the actual postcards the comic gave away with a few issues. I’ve a foggy memory of wanting to take them on holiday but not sure if I ever did, and they were separate from the comic. So I doubt I would’ve cut up my OiNK to use any of these if I’d been collecting the comic at this point. Why would you want to send away these pieces of art?

Snatcher Sam might be missing in action at the moment but his alter ego Marc Riley‘s strip creations are continuing to bring the laughs. Alongside Harry the Head sat a little quarter-page strip which took us back to the Jurassic, at least in theory. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth may have had ancient creatures as the stars but the settings and stories were very 1980s.

Popping up in 25 issues altogether they, like Roger Rental, disappeared during the weekly issues as a casualty of the reduced page count. We’d see situations ranging from package holidays to skateboarding, basically everything except anything to do with the correct time period and we loved them.

But for now the sun is setting on another issue of the world’s greatest comic.

One final sight gag from Tony Husband there to round things off. The comic itself would end with Uncle Pigg and his staff heading off on a bus to go on a well deserved vacation of their own, but not before promising to leave the comic in the hands of his “dedicated skeleton staff”. Prophetic words indeed as you’ll find out next time. (There’s a hint under one of the strips above.)

Join me in two weeks for an issue that’s even more unique than those we’ve seen already. That’ll be on Monday 9th August.

OiNK! #6: ANiMAL CRACKERS

As with any comic review I’m limited to showing you a few select highlights of each issue of OiNK. Rebellion own the rights and I’m always hopeful they’ll publish reprint volumes at some point through their Treasury of British Comics label. Also, I just don’t agree with putting whole comics online, regardless of their age or unavailability to purchase. All of this adds up to a difficult review to write.

That’s because this issue is superb. Every strip hits. Every joke lands. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been enjoying the issues so far but everything just seems to come together here with complete confidence. As such, it’s been less about which strips to choose as highlights and more about selecting which ones to leave out! Thankfully the cover is a necessity and must be included and it’s one of my very favourites. An Ian Jackson classic, the best so far and perfectly encapsulating the anarchic feel of OiNK. We’re off to a great start then.

Ian’s interpretation of each animal is genuinely funny, but put them all together and it’s a cover that commands attention and time spent pouring over all the details. It even gets its own backstory, again drawn by Ian and written by Tony Husband. The theme this fortnight is perfect fodder for the team behind the comic, already used to pork-ifying anything and everything in sight. However, there’s not a pig in sight in the biggest highlight of these 32 pages, Twee Tales present The Wonderful Wildlife of Watery Down.

Co-editor Patrick Gallagher‘s neighbour, Ann Martin brought her gorgeous artwork to a spoof of Richard Adam‘s classic novel Watership Down. The script is one big set up for a good old pun so marrying it with such beautiful illustrations, which wouldn’t look out of place in a children’s book of the time, is a wonderful move. The first page puts the reader at ease with its gentle fields and cute critters before we turn over to the second half.

Ann would only contribute to three issues in total (returning for #30’s Hamadonna and #60’s Pigasus) but the terrible puns would return with a vengeance in the final strip of this very issue, which we’ll get to below. Watery Down was definitely seen as a highlight of the series, evidenced by the fact it was one of only a handful of stories to be reprinted in the final editions of OiNK.

Another one-off I wanted to include is written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Weedy Willy‘s artist, Mike Green. A Shaggy Bird Story is the sweet tale of an injured animal being taken in and looked after by a young boy, who nurses it back to health before releasing it back into the wild. It all starts off innocently enough with the boy’s “unspeakably miffed” pet cat setting things in motion.

Every time I see that cat sitting on the windowsill in December it makes me laugh! I think this may have been one of the back issues my cousin gave me because I distinctly remember this strip despite the fact I hadn’t discovered OiNK yet. It’s testimony to the comic that its one-off strips are as well remembered as the regular characters and this is one which has stood the test of time and the old grey memory cells.

If you track this issue down on eBay (and you really should) you’ll find Jim Needle‘s Pete’s Pup continuing to terrorise his family with his monstrous appetite, there’s another spoof of a children’s favourite in the shape of Rupert the Pear, the Grunts page admits it had to get creative in the early issues and Uncle Pigg’s Amazing Facts About Animals showed OiNK could be an educational read.

In the early days of the comic our esteemed editor ran a regular competition in which he’d judge readers’ messy bedrooms. It was a case of the messier the better because those chosen to feature would win a piggy prize. This time around pig pal Simon Sarfas showed us how it was done and the result was probably not a million miles away from my own childhood bedroom, although these days it makes me cringe thinking about a mess like this! I’m just showing my age now.

I always thought these were a mainstay, at least in the first year of the comic so it surprised me to find out it only appeared four times, including the original promotion in the preview issue. It did receive criticism from some parental groups who saw it as encouraging children to be even more messy than they already were but we were kids, that was our job.

One look at that dog in the pilot’s seat and how could this not be one of the selected highlights?

At least Simon has his television close by so he can somehow make it across his room without damaging his feet in time for the afternoon film, Laffie. The next instalment in the Golden Trough Awards series is my favourite. Taking the ‘Wonder Dog’ concept of Lassie and really running with it, it puts the canine hero aboard a plane when the captain finds himself stuck in the toilet tens of thousands of feet in the air. So a typical Lassie-type plot then.

Brought to you by the same partnership as the first strip in this issue, Tony Husband has written a hilarious script full of daring dos and funny eyewitnesses, all brought to the page with Ian Jackson‘s unique style. What we end up with is a frantic, madcap yarn that starts off at full speed and doesn’t let up.

One look at that dog in the pilot’s seat and how could this not be one of the selected highlights?

I remember I could spend so long just looking at Jackson’s artwork and roaring with excited laughter as a kid. That feeling hasn’t dissipated as an adult. The feeling of excitement returns later too with a tiny two-panel strip hidden away underneath Tom Thug‘s. If you’re new to OiNK you’ll probably be wondering why this unassuming little section of the page could be anything more than a funny space filler. But for pig pals everywhere this is just the first appearance of a comic icon.

Of course at the time readers couldn’t have known how big a part in the future of OiNK Pete and his Pimple were going to play. Lew Stringer‘s creation would eventually return in #15, becoming one of the main strips in each and every issue, even continuing into the pages of Buster for a period after OiNK came to an end.

Over the course of his OiNK career Pete would be the only character to get his own pull-out comic, he’d be the star of free gifts, a board game, appear in crossovers with Tom or a gigantic robotic pig and eventually Lew ran a weekly competition in which Pete tried out various pimple busting solutions sent in by readers.

Lew would actually end up having to tone down Pete’s strip in order for it to appear in Buster. What was there about the character above that would need toned down? Just you wait and see! We’ll get to the reason behind that when he reappears again later this year.

Every single panel contains at least one pun, with well over a dozen altogether in just the one strip.

You should prepare yourself for this final highlight, especially if you groaned at the conclusion to Watery Down. While that had two pages to build up to one gag, Fish Theatre starring Noel Pilchard does the opposite and squeezes in an absurd amount of puns into its one page.

Written by Graham Exton and drawn by Ed McHenry, Graham told me how he’d often use up several scripts worth of puns all at once, robbing himself of the chance to use his vast array of jokes over many stories. In the end he just ended up giving himself more work, having to think up new puns after using so many here! But the end result of this is so funny I think it was worth all of that extra effort.

Every single panel contains at least one pun here (sometimes more), with well over a dozen altogether in just the one strip. Don’t think it’s possible? You have been warned.

I really didn’t want this issue to end but what an ending it gave us. It’s been a blast revisiting this particular OiNK and to have such a faultless issue this early in its life proves the strength of its concept and of the team assembled to bring it to life. It just keeps on getting better and better and with over 60 issues plus specials and books to come, there’s a lot of laughing yet to do.

With the comic still fresh out of the gates it wouldn’t have a dedicated Holiday Special until the following year, but #7 makes up for that with its summery theme and ice cold cover. Confused? The next issue’s review will be here from Monday 26th July and all will be revealed.

OiNK! #3: ACE SPACE ISSUE

I have a little personal story about this issue I’d like to share. I started collecting OiNK at issue 14, but some time after this I was at my cousin’s house when he gave me a couple of his back issues. One of these was the one I’m reviewing now. I remember coming back downstairs from his bedroom and sitting next to my late nanny, who looked at the cover. I didn’t know how she would react and was delightfully surprised when she started giggling like a little schoolgirl and gave me a little wink.

It’s just one very happy memory I associate with this comic and I’ll share more as we go along. My nanny’s giggle was completely justified with Tony Husband‘s cover and its bare piggy bottoms, which actually wraps around to the back page and its explanation for the image. I always loved a good wraparound cover on a comic. Marvel UK were very good at them and while this one isn’t advertised as such (the poster mentioned on the cover refers to a Star Wars spoof inside) it would make for a funny addition to the wall.

This is the first of the themed editions, which over the course of the majority of the fortnightly issues would include everything from traditional Hallowe’en and Christmas themes to music, health, families, war, revenge, love… the list goes on. It added another original element to OiNK itself and made each individual issue a unique experience. In the early issues editor Uncle Pigg and critic Mary Lighthouse would often introduce the theme, mostly written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ian Jackson.

I wonder if Colin Baker ever saw himself drawn in Ian’s style?  This wouldn’t be the last time The Sixth Doctor would influence Uncle Pigg but that’s a story for a future issue so you’ll just have to be patient. Mary’s TARDIS pops up on the Grunts page as she desperately tries to phone the operator and then she reappears in her own strip near the end of the comic. But she wasn’t the only character to materialise throughout.

Next up is undoubtedly the star strip of the issue. Boldly going where no photo story had gone before, the OiNK team were really pushing the boundaries of what they could achieve with the format, the characters literally bursting out of the panels and running amok throughout the issue. My original exposure to Star Truck was with the sequel tale in the first OiNK Book, which was even more chaotic! Here, in only the third issue, is the imagination of the OiNK team on full display.

Our cast is made up of Mark Rodgers as Captain Slog, Patrick Gallagher as Sock, Marc Riley as Jock and Tony Husband under the chicken mask as the alien, Jerm. Can you imagine the fun these guys had creating this? Imagine this being part of your job! Jerm would make his escape and pop up in various other strips, a few examples of which I’ve included below.

First though, prolific IPC Magazines comics writer Graham Exton was also part of the creative team behind OiNK and contributed many stories and countless amounts of puns to the comic. The first full strip of his I’m showing here is the first appearance of regular nutball, Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental, as drawn by local Northern Ireland artist Ian Knox.

Roger was always a favourite of mine. Most of the time he’d appear in quarter-page strips like this one, each with an innocuous beginning, only for Roger to take the meaning of something completely the wrong way. Roger would appear in most of the fortnightly issues before disappearing when the comic turned weekly. But that’s still a lot of short, sharp gags and he would never disappoint.

Turning the page and discovering an OiNK version of your favourite cartoon or toy was always a thrill

There are so many highlights within the pages of this issue it’s been difficult to select just a few for review purposes. They include Billy’s Brain, a story about a young boy who inherits his genius Uncle Vincent’s sentient brain and together they outwit the thieves wishing to use his knowledge for their own nefarious needs. Burp the Smelly Alien‘s page makes a bold impact with its use of one colour (and check out that final panel gag), the Star Truck crew pop up in Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins, Ian Jackson‘s depiction of penguins is a highlight of The Golden Trough Awards and Maggie Pie, Collector of Weird Things goes on a wig collecting spree.

The comic never shied away from spoofing all the things its readers loved. Ghostbusters, He-Man, James Bond and more would all end up getting the Oink! treatment. Turning the page to an OiNK version of your favourite cartoon or toy was always a thrill, a bit like seeing your favourite celebrities on Spitting Image. One franchise they were quick to latch on to was Hasbro’s Transformers.

Central to this particular take was the simple idea these robots could disguise themselves as anything, and I do mean anything. Everyone remembers the toys transforming into cars and airplanes but there were also guns, stereo systems, cassettes and all manner of original ideas. OiNK took this concept and ran with it.

The Transformoids is gloriously illustrated by Ralph Shephard whose style I distinctly remember, mainly because he’d give the same treatment to Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends which I was a fan of at the time. So it’s surprising to discover he only contributed to nine issues in total. But such was the impact of his work it was still a highlight of the entire run.

The Transformers would be the subject of a Madvertisement much later but this is my favourite take on the Robots in Disguise. The ludicrously giant robots appearing out of the flimsiest of objects reminds me of being puzzled, even as a kid, as to how Decepticon leader Megatron could transform from giant robot into a gun held by his comrades in the cartoon. It never made sense to me, but it ended up giving us this delightful, genuinely hilarious spoof so I’ll forgive it.

Time to take a trip to a town that sounds just lovely but in reality is one you may wish to avoid. First though, just above it on the page is a quick pun from Tony Husband in the ongoing Star Truck chase sequence.

Zootown sounds innocent enough and on the surface this looks like a strip you could find in any other comic; a town where the residents go about their daily lives, who just so happen to be animals. But this is OiNK, so of course there’s going to be a twist in the tale. Here, the animals keep their various instincts, insights and, best of all their appetites.

The creatures were never given names as far as I remember, so every issue we were seeing different random inhabitants, but each species would act in specific ways with each other. The carnivores would often get the upper paw, terrifying the little docile animals, but thankfully I don’t think they were ever on the buffet menu. Of course, I could be wrong but there always seemed to be some kind of strange friendship there.


“We knew you’d come this way, so we took a shortcut through the staples!”

Captain Slog, Star Truck

This first episode I’m showing may not have that particular aspect of the ongoing series but it’s still the perfect example of the daft humour we’d enjoy every time. Zootown felt like such a richly populated place even though we saw so little of it each issue, such was the talent of its creator David Haldane.

Before we finish off with the final part of our space saga we’re joined by Albert Einswine and his fascinating Science Facts for Simpletons.

Any excuse for some more Ian Jackson artwork, right? Well, it’s not just because of the art obviously. It’s a genuinely funny read and sums up how unpredictable the humour in OiNK could be, in particular in these little one-off additions to every issue. Ludicrous stuff.

Speaking of which, we’ve made it to the last page so it’s time to rein in Jerm once and for all as we conclude the first outing for the crew of the Enterpies with Star Truck: The Final Chapter. What I love the most here is the fact they’re all so self-aware of being inside the pages of a comic. From the reference to it being on page 31, to the shortcut through the staples taken by the Captain and his men, the daftness doesn’t let up for one panel. Check out the cardboard tube/tennis racquet gun, elaborated upon with some quick hand drawn lines.

A brilliant, genuinely very funny strip the likes of which you just wouldn’t have seen anywhere else. As the comic continues the photo stories become more elaborate without ever losing their cheap and cheerful feel, never forgetting they’re taking the hand out of those in other comics and magazines which were trying (often failing) to look serious and professional.

Star Truck would return in The Oink! Book 1988 and that’s how I first came to know them. Somehow, the sequel is even funnier, again taking place across several other pages but in the much bigger book format there’s more scope for what they can do with the idea. It’s a definite highlight of that book so you can look forward to it appearing here during Christmas 2022.

That’s us all done for another fortnight, at least as far as OiNK reviews go anyway. There’s always more going on here on the OiNK Blog so make sure you keep up to date on the latest additions by subscribing or by keeping an eye on the social media feeds. OiNK #4, the World Cup ’86 issue will be here Monday 14th June. You can also see its promo from this issue on the blog too.