The latest cover from Lew Stringer is one of my most memorable simply because of how inventive it is. Surely OiNK’s was one of the best comic logos ever created, right? Of course I could just be biased, but the logo co-editor Patrick Gallagher created always seemed so bold, so different and so joyful as a kid. It still gives me all the feels today. Tom Thug appearing behind a sea of ‘OiNK’s is a great idea and you can take a look at the original artwork and the overlaying of the logos in a post on Lew’s own blog from 2015 when it was up for sale.
On the Grunts page Uncle Pigg tells us how the audience reading OiNK is rather different from the one it was originally created for, apparently now mainly made up of teenagers and young adults. How he knew this I’m not sure yet but it’s a theme we’ll return to as we inch our way closer to the biggest change in OiNK’s life in the spring. For now let’s concentrate on the issue at hand and inside Tom had a page-and-a-half to cause chaos with and a cut-out mask on the back cover (which you’ll see in a future post) so he’s very much the star this week. His strip has a new guest star too, in the shape of his newly created brother.
Like all the best Tom Thug strips it moves into brilliantly scripted slapstick, only it’s not Tom who’s the main recipient of Lew’s penchant for comic violence this time. Well, apart from the front door, with that funny little detail of the wall going down to the brick from the force of Ernie’s entrance. We’d never see Ernie again but can you blame him for not wanting to return? It’s always fun to see their mum though, what with her being the complete opposite of everyone else in this little dysfunctional family.
“Today’s the day we discover the teddy bear’s graveyard.”Burp, Jeremy Banx
Reading this now in this digital world we find ourselves in I can’t help but think, given Tom’s attitude towards the army and what he thinks his brother actually does, that our resident bully would definitely have a union flag or a football top as his Twitter profile avatar. Lew has said before Tom would definitely be a cowardly internet troll today. Also, is it just me or does Tom’s mum remind anyone else of their own mum in the 80s? It’s uncanny. Just don’t tell her I said that.
Moving on to Jeremy Banx’s Burp and I was delighted to find out I was wrong about having seen the last of a certain character. Back in #32 in a bid to fix a little girl’s broken teddy bear our friendly smelly alien mistakenly created sentient life. Puzzled by the toy’s lack of organs, skeleton, brain or in fact anything he thought this was the cause of the girl’s heartbreak, so he brought Alvin to life, only for us to see his owner tear him limb from limb in a game of doctor and patient. He returned in #46 and ended up sizzled like a well done steak.
It’s always fun to see another ludicrously-named gadget Burp just happens to have either lying around or invented, with appropriately hilarious results. Will Alvin reappear in the remaining issues that include Burp? Well I’m not going to try and answer that since I was so wrong last time, but given how some of his internal organs have become recurring characters I’d love to see the bear and the coffin pottering about in the background of his spaceship!
I showed the punchline from last issue’s Billy Bang and then realised I haven’t showed a full strip of Billy’s since way back in #4’s review when he was drawn by Shiloe (Viz’s Simon Donald). Nowadays Eric ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson has the duty of exploding the bad tempered lad every week and the puns, which had started to become a little repetitive, are now fresh and funny again thanks to a mixture of writers taking on the task. This week it’s the mysterious ‘Griffiths + Kane’. Also watch out for the facial expression of the fish in the water which I just love.
Billy’s original creator, Mike Knowles, even admitted he never thought the character would last because of the limited premise but he did, passed on to other creative teams as the comic evolved over time. This ever-shifting roster of talent defied odds again and again and he’d remain a regular all the way through to the end. Well, when I say “regular”, even before the reduction in pages (with #45) OiNK’s roster of regular characters was too big for any one issue.
While all other humour comics had a set amount of regular strips which would neatly add up to the amount of pages needed each issue, OiNK was (as always) different. It still had those strips which would appear every fortnight/week, but there were a load of characters that were still deemed regulars who didn’t appear all the time. It was always exciting when your favourites popped up and it kept things fresh, and if OiNK had continued for years and years I’m sure we would’ve seen the return of some of those absent from these weeklies so far.
Here’s a perfect example. Two strips we’d all agree were main OiNK strips. Horace Watkins continues with his ever-more-ridiculous spoof football drama, a strip which appeared in all but one issue. Then we have Cowpat County, which appeared in each of the first 14 issues (plus the preview) but as new characters were introduced it began to appear irregularly, sometimes every issue, sometimes there’d be a gap. Its length also became more fluid, appearing as mini-strips as well as full pages.
I don’t think any pig pal could argue this made Cowpat County any less of a regular strip, it was just the OiNK way of doing things. In fact, it’s been a while since we got a full page from Davy’s Farmer Giles and it’s an extra special treat to see one in colour, complete with what has to be described as a ‘classic’ joke, surely? Speaking of regulars though, the absence of The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile Aged 8 5/8 Years is glaringly obvious! This is the first regular issue he hasn’t appeared in. Some good and bad news about that in a few issues’ time.
One of those characters introduced back in #15 which OiNK’s line up got a shake-up was Lew Stringer’s Pete and his Pimple. This issue sees the first of the reader suggestions for a solution to Pete Throb’s massive spot problem. First asked for in #45, these ideas came thick and fast for the rest of OiNK’s run, starting points for the majority of Pete’s strips to come. I’ve included this one here for two reasons. The first is simply because it’s the first one and I wanted to mark the occasion, the other is for its co-star, the trouser press. Read it, enjoy, and when you get to the final panel you’ll understand.
I’m sure we can all agree with the trouser press in this situation. (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.) The colouring might seem a bit odd on first glance but I think it works. There were a few pages which would feature two set colours on this thinner matt paper instead of the various grades we got even in black and white strips on the glossy pages (up to #35). A lot of traditional comics had examples of one colour being used to make certain pages stand out, usually red.
OiNK’s contemporaries like Buster and Whizzer and Chips had a lot less colour than OiNK despite being eight pages longer, and would still use the one colour to set some of those apart, but mainly they were in black and white. Billy Bang and Tom Thug also use just the two tones in this issue to produce the feel of a colour page. I think Wilkie does it best since he has a lot of water in his strip, and in Tom’s look closer and you’ll notice only the small tub of water and the inflatable ring are coloured. But the effect works, cleverly highlighting these items before they became part of the slapstick.
It was rare for Psycho Gran to get a full-colour strip. Fans are used to seeing David Leach’s gorgeous technicolour in her stories today in new digital and physical comics he releases now and again. Well, when I say we’re used to it, his artwork and colours never fail to wow us. In OiNK, her strips would be of varying length but always in black and white so it’s a lovely surprise to see her latest in colour, albeit limited due to the page stock (just wait until you see David’s colouring today). Also, for once, she’s acting in self defence and not inflicting her unique sense of humour upon others.
I’ll be covering the little old lady’s post-OiNK life later this year on the blog but in the meantime it’s a bit of a shock to realise that after this she’ll only appear in one more regular issue before the comic’s cancellation! She’ll also feature in this year’s Holiday Special and then in The OiNK! Book 1989 in which she has a few pages all to herself, some in colour. Apart from her very first appearance back in #15 it’s those pages to come I remember the most. So there may only be a few more times to enjoy her company in this read through, but I’m looking forward to those final ones!
If there was ever an OiNK cartoonist who liked to make sure readers got plenty of value it was Davy Francis. Some of the biggest laughs have come from the backgrounds in Davy’s strips, the incidental moments happening behind the main characters, the little gags squeezed into spaces usually left for scenery by others. While little one-off Mabel the Model doesn’t have as many as some of his previous, this particular one had me giggling with its nod to a favourite TV show.
Davy would of course elaborate upon the script in his art, and Mabel’s script was written by Hilary Robinson (2000AD, Mindbenders, The Worm: the longest comic strip in the world) who you can read all about on her page of the Women in Comics Wiki, including details of her scripts for 2000AD and what ultimately happened to that working relationship. Just like Davy (and myself), Hilary is a resident of Northern Ireland and I assume a friend of Davy’s, asked by him if she’d like to contribute to OiNK. Unfortunately, this would be her only contribution to the comic.
Another newsagent reservation coupon by co-editor Patrick Gallagher rounds off another review. I can confidently say last week’s issue (the celebratory 50th) wasn’t a fluke, OiNK really has settled into its weekly guise; it’s back to its random nature, as evidenced with Tom Thug’s larger than normal strip above most of all, some missing characters have popped back in and best of all, until it changes format again we have another 11 weeks of this to go! The next one of which will be reviewed in seven days on Saturday 25th February 2022. See you then.