Tag Archives: Graham Exton

OiNK! #13: FRiGHTFULLY FUNNY

A brilliant headline pun welcomes us to the Hallowe’en issue of OiNK and what a great piece of coincidental timing, having the thirteenth issue out for the spooky season. At a time when most other humour comics had a strip on the cover OiNK’s bold, colourful covers really stood out and I think you’ll agree that’s certainly the case here with Ben Turner‘s one and only contribution to the comic and co-editor Patrick Gallagher‘s shivering version of his classic logo.

Ben is a seriously talented artist who at the time worked for Cosgrove Hall Productions (Danger Mouse, Count Duckula) alongside other OiNK artists Andy Roper and John Geering. He was also involved in producing and directing and from 1997 to 2006 was Creative Director at Cosgrove Hall Films where one of his projects was The BFG. Now working independently as a freelance director and designer in animation he was Art Director on CBBC’s Chuggington, a show which Patrick actually wrote some episodes for.

What do you think happens when Roger Rental meets the Slithering Horror?

In addition to all the themed laughs inside there are two event strips, both of which involve Lew Stringer. The first is a character crossover between Lew’s Tom Thug and Mike Green‘s Weedy Willy, who was created by Graham Exton and written either by him or co-editor Mark Rodgers. It kicks off with their individual strips. Tom was drawn by a 27-and-three-quarters-years-old Lew (according to his signature) and also includes future star Pete and his Pimple‘s sister Zeta.

Embarrassed in front of a girl by his own ineptness he’s jokingly compared to Willy and, Tom being the dim-witted bully he is, naturally decides to go and beat up Willy as revenge for this slight. At the same time Willy is yet again falling foul of his own attempts to woo Dishy Mandy who compares his intelligence to Tom’s. Everything is now set for a Clash of the Titans! We even get to see Tom angrily cutting across a field to get to his nemesis in Davy FrancisCowpat County.

The idea for the strip was suggested by Graham as a battle “between the two cowards, Tom and Willy.” Mark then scripted and in the days before the internet the artwork was shared via post. Lew pencilled and inked his bits first, loosely indicating in pencil where Weedy Willy should be. According to Lew, Mike was free to change these of course and it was all achieved quite easily in the end, as he doesn’t recall any back and forth being necessary.

I love how in the end these two complete opposites are more alike than they’ll ever realise. Everything they say out loud is said by the other at exactly the same time. Lew’s and Mike’s different styles come together flawlessly so it’s unfortunate it’d be the only time something like this would be created for the comic. There would be crossovers between Lew’s characters and different artists would draw one another’s for guest appearances, but this is a truly unique strip and one of the classics of the whole run.

Moving on to the Hallowe’en hilarity and one of our favourite characters finds himself up against an unspeakable terror. So what do you think happens when Ian Knox‘s Roger Rental Meets the Slithering Horror?

Of course.

The next two strips are perfect examples of the little one-offs which made up so much of our fortnightly dose of OiNK, the first of which is also the debut of Davey Jones to its pages (and his first published comics work). Davey is best known for his work on Viz, which he was freelancing for at the time before joining their staff in 1990. Some of his most famous creations are The Real Ale Twats, Gilbert Ratchet and Major Misunderstanding.

Here he puts a new spin on an old dog trick in Henry the Wonder Dog. Davey would contribute to 17 issues of OiNK altogether but as for Henry he’d only reappear once in #29. Strangely, so would the joke in a different strip later in the run.

The second strip is another by Lew Stringer. (This issue’s review is turning into a Lew special!) Doctor Jeckyll’s Experiment could’ve been told over half as many panels, but with the extra space here Lew’s expert comedic timing really pays off with some hilarious facial expressions, especially from the newly furry Jeckyll.

Do you remember the Care Bears, the saccharin Sunday morning cartoon with garishly coloured teddy bears? Based on the toys of the same name they were everywhere in the 1980s and even had their own comic from Marvel UK. But this is OiNK, so take that name and think of an appropriately ghoulish (and piggy) take on sweet and cuddly soft toys and what do you come up with? The Scare Boars of course. I noticed there’s a little copyright line from IPC Magazines below this Madvertisement, so jokingly thought the publisher had considered they’d make for good merchandise.

As it turns out this wasn’t so far-fetched after all. Patrick tells me, “I think IPC recognised that the characters (mocked up to a finished standard) could be highly marketable and might draw the attention of potential investors, and therefore deemed it necessary to state ownership (which, incidentally, they’d already stated in the full imprint earlier on). Though, whether they own as much as they claim is another matter!”

Who wouldn’t have wanted to own one of these? Which one would you have picked? For me it would have been Hampire Boar but it appears he and Skele Boar could be out there terrorising unsuspecting kids if a video posted by Patrick on the OiNK Facebook group is anything to go by. Check this out.

I know from social media and the previous iteration of this blog that this particular Madvertisement is a favourite among many, so to see one of its creators with Hunchback Boar like this is brilliant! So funny. If you’re not already a member of the group you should really join because it’s a great place for pig pals to chat and OiNK’s contributors (in particular Patrick) are always sharing bits and pieces about the creation of our favourite comic. Unmissable.

At this point I’d normally select a few memorable panels from various strips to give you an inkling of the rest of its contents. Instead, for this issue I wanted to show off two little panels from the Golden Trough Awards which were now being drawn by Tony Husband. A Hallowe’en special wouldn’t be complete without a Dracula story and here the terrified villagers have hatched a plan to rid themselves of the Count once and for all, and it involves headphones.

This wouldn’t be the last time Steve Wright would be the butt of a joke in OiNK. In fact, just to show how he could laugh at himself and take it all in good jest he would appear in a later issue and collect an award for Worst DJ as voted for by the readers!

Over the past few issues Jeremy Banx contributed some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments with some very surreal one-off strips, the kind he does so well. If you’ve missed Mrs. Warsaw-Pact or Ian Nasalcavity Visits his Grandparents you can check them out in the reviews for #10 and #11 respectively before we move on to the last of this little series of random extra strips.

In The Curse of the Mummy we’re introduced to more impossibly-named individuals, Barty Pimple-Squeak and Mervin Vermin-St. John-Platt who are searching the tomb of an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh. Not to be outdone, the former ruler is none other that King Sir Alf Rameses III and all of that is just in the opening caption! Just remember this is a Banx strip, so clearly whatever curse is unleashed upon the archaeologists is like nothing you could predict.

Being fascinated with Ancient Egypt myself this was a very welcome surprise addition. In fact, maybe due to my interest in the subject matter and how this perfectly spoofs it (or maybe just because Jeremy is a genius) this had me laughing even more than the previous two I mentioned above. Every single panel has a brilliant gag so good any one of them could be used as the punchline ending in other humour strips! This is right up there with Jaws ’86 for me.


“Through the interaction of vile jellies and mushy peas, the dumped dinners came to life!”

Lew Stringer (Monster Mash)

The final highlight is the other event strip and it’s the introduction to a much-loved character who would only appear in a handful of editions, but who left a big impression. A very BIG impression. This was the issue before I originally started buying OiNK as a kid and it’s such a shame because as a child I loved watching those old rubber-suited Godzilla monster movies late at night on Channel Four, so this would’ve been right up my alley. It’s time to welcome Pigswilla.

Co-editor Mark Rodgers had the idea for a strip where a massive collection of discarded school dinners came to life. He wrote the first script and then handed it off to Lew Stringer to develop further before drawing it. Originally called “The School Dinner Monster” Lew changed this to Monster Mash and created “Pigzilla” to combat the sludge. In their collaborative effort Mark changed this to Pigswilla which is of course brilliant. Only appearing in seven editions of the comic (including two of the annuals) made every one of his stories an extra special treat.

Lew wrote about the creation of Pigswilla and this particular strip on his Lew Stringer Comics blog back in 2016 to mark its 30th anniversary where he mentions working with Mark and how the paper used to print OiNK made for some lovely artistic choices.

Lew writes: “As OiNK was printed on quality paper (as opposed to the newsprint of its companion comics Buster, Whizzer and Chips etc.) I knew we could be a bit more adventurous with the rendering of the artwork so I thought a grey wash would give it more depth. I was really pleased with how the strip turned out and it remains one of my favourite pieces 30 years later.” Head on over to Lew’s blog for more.

I hope you all have a horrific Hallowe’en in the best possible way. What a great way to mark the season this issue has been. No wonder it’s Lew’s favourite issue from the first calendar year of OiNK one of Patrick’s favourites from the whole run.

At the time of writing this post it’s a busy time on the blog with more real time read throughs beginning and bringing the current running total to six at once! The review of the first issue of the latest series will actually be up on 31st October, Hallowe’en itself, which is just perfect for that comic as you’ll see. Then just one day later the 14th issue of OiNK, the first I ever owned(!) will be reviewed on Monday 1st November 2021 or as I like to call it, the beginning of Christmas Eve Month.

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.