Tag Archives: Helen Jones

OiNK! #21: LOVE-LY COMEDY

Let me think back to Valentine’s Day 1987.  Nope, nothing too embarrassing to think of, just posting a card through a girl’s door then running away, then worrying she wouldn’t see it, running back and ringing the doorbell before running away again, this time getting noticed by said girl as I made my escape. The next day in school was dreaded. At least I had the Valentine’s themed issue of OiNK to cheer me up and love was most certainly in the air, beginning with this Tony Husband cover depicting Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins and his beloved Mandy.

The cover was drawn by Tony and airbrushed by John Moorhouse, an artist on The Express at the time who had also worked on some of Tony’s Playboy cartoons.  Things are nice and rosy here on the cover for the couple but inside Mandy’s family were emigrating and taking her with them, leaving Horace alone in the hospital recovering after a recent BMX jousting accident. (It’s a long story!)  Thankfully things are happier for other characters in this issue and we begin with an introduction to the power of love for the young target audience, featuring an alien attack. Naturally.

The Lesson of Love was written by Mark Rodgers who plays Bloonik in the strip and the young lady of the happy couple is Helen Jones, Mark’s partner in real life and future wife. Her character’s boyfriend is actually played by her brother Andy Jones and as for the other alien, well that would be none other than OiNK cartoonist extraordinaire Ian Jackson. This was the closest I got to seeing what he looks like until just last year! The strip is genuinely funny of course, but what I always found particularly hilarious in the photo stories was the imagination on show.

Ingenious and properly laugh-out-loud funny, imagine the fun they had putting it together

They spent next to no money on these and it always showed, with cheap sets, drawn-on special effects and in the case of this story a photograph of a toy spacecraft glued on. This was always the point, to spoof the cheap photo stories found in women’s magazines. The alien faces are paint or marker pen, with big rubber ears and some form of cut-out eye shapes, possibly egg cartons. Add some circles to their clothes and we have ourselves some silly aliens and their spacecraft interior set is the boiler in Mark’s house. Ingenious and properly laugh-out-loud funny, so I can only imagine the amount of fun they all had putting it together.

What kind of Valentine’s issue would it be without a tale of forbidden passion? Something possibly inspired by Romeo and Juliet. A love-conquers-all story. A happy-ever-after for two star-crossed lovers who just so happen to be a liver and a spleen. You know, real classic stuff. Obviously I could only be talking about a Burp strip and in this case Jeremy Banx outdoes himself with the surreal tale of two of the smelly alien’s internal organs and their undying feelings for one another.

There’s a lot to love here. I particularly like the throwaway lines such as Burp not even realising they knew each other, giving the impression of his body being full of sentient organs, each with their own set of friends and neighbours. I also burst out laughing with the mention of “dirty stop-outs”, a phrase my young, innocent self wouldn’t know the meaning of for quite a few years. A perfect example of how OiNK worked on many levels.

Very funny stuff indeed but what else have we come to expect from Jeremy? This wouldn’t be the last time we’d see these two either. Next up is another way in which OiNK parodied the romantic stories found in stereotypical supermarket weeklies of the day. In years past on holiday with my other half at the time she’d bring a random selection of said magazines for when we were relaxing by the pool. I’d have a glance at them on occasion and always thought they were truly terrible.


“I thought it was indigestion, but now I realise that I am in love with you.”

Lord Wigfall

With their unbelievable romantic text stories, horrific “true” stories sold for a quick profit and umpteen celebrity ‘news’ (term used loosely) articles, I always thought how shallow and silly they were as I relaxed in the sun with my Marvel Secret Wars and Transformers. She thought they were silly too, but there was clearly a market for them. The far-fetched love stories would be aimed at the singletons in the readership with dreams of meeting the perfect partner (think Channel Five afternoon TV movies) and Patrick Gallagher decided he’d write his own version.

I recognise one or two of the facial features used in those photofit-like images. They also perfectly sum up those prose stories; an amalgamation of every reader’s ideal romance, mish-mashed into one truly unbelievable story. Think of how Bridget Jones fantasised about meeting the perfect man, how unrealistic her expectations of the world were because she read/watched stories like those. OiNK just took the ingredients and ran with them, taking it to the extreme.

As a child I remember sitting with my siblings and watching Charlie Brown and the Peanuts. It really wasn’t for me. Charlie himself grated on me. This was just my personal opinion of course, we’re all different and many adored him on the telly and in his original comic strip form. I did love Snoopy though and have heard wonderful things about his new Apple TV+ shows. However, this Peabrains strip below (also by Patrick) was much more entertaining to me as a kid than the original source material.

In fact, I think that last panel perfectly summed up how I felt about the cartoons back then, when I enjoyed everything about the Charlie Brown show except Charlie Brown! Of course, it wouldn’t be an OiNK spoof of a popular franchise without a dig at the merchandise. I remember the Disney watches, the Simpsons clock radios and the overpriced Thomas greetings cards of my own youth, all perfectly summed up here. Although I don’t think mine were quite so overpriced (it just felt like it to my parents).

There are a couple of small highlights that stood out this issue I wanted to share. The first is on the Grunts letters page where the theme includes some fan mail for Mary Lighthouse (critic). However, one of these in particular caught my eye. Now I’m sure it’s just coincidence, after all the former TV presenter and tabloid journalist would’ve been 21 at the time, but it does sound like the kind of thing someone who complains about name changes in Beano would say, does it not? Then there’s the quiz, Are You A Fool For Love? and its rather to-the-point multiple choice options!

Turning over a page the comic suddenly breaks from its loved up contents to hit us with an urgent Butcher Watch update from Jeremy Banx. This semi-regular series of news bulletins warned readers about the country’s nastiest meat vendors and began in #8 while Uncle Pigg was on holiday, then in #14 one of three featured faces belonged to a creation of Jeremy’s called Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith.

That was his first appearance but he immediately struck a chord with readers, who sent in pictures of him and updated fellow pig pals on where he’d been spotted. As OiNK continued he’d feature more and more; the Butcher Watch Updates would become more elaborate, evolving into full comic strips and he’d have the starring role, and he’d even go on to star in two serials in the weekly comic and pop up on an iconic cover. Here marks the first occasion Jeremy singled him out.

Remembering back to my original time with OiNK, it felt like Jimmy was always there, lurking about. We’d never know when he’d make a sudden appearance. Reading through OiNK now, it’s interesting to see he was just another random butcher before the readers took to him, their feedback bringing him to the fore. Jeremy then made him a semi-regular and that craggy face would return to haunt us again and again in some genuinely creepy moments, some that really surprised me!

Back in #6 the excellent Watery Down was a big, two-page build up to one great joke. I’m very happy to say Tony Husband has written a strip for this issue which takes over two pages with a similar idea. This time the subject of the parody is Emily Brontë‘s classic 1847 novel Wuthering Heights. How often can you get to mention that in a review of a children’s comic? Even if you have only a passing bit of knowledge about the book or the movies, you’ll recognise the scene which inspired Tony here. If you don’t know a thing about Catherine and Heathcliff don’t worry, it’s still a wonderfully random piece of silliness.

The sheer daftness of this made it an instant fan favourite, with many OiNK readers remembering it decades later, either from this issue or when it was reprinted in the Winter Special a few years later. Chas Sinclair brings a perfect spoof style to the first page and one of Wuthering Heights’ famous scenes. We’re led to believe it’s going to continue along this path to the final scene, so when it ends with something completely unrelated and out of left field like this, it’s just perfect, brilliant nonsense.

We’ve reached the back page of another issue and I’m very happy to see another full-page, wordless Ian Jackson strip just like we had in #14. Put these side-by-side with my favourite page from all of OiNK’s run in #4, and just imagine if every issue had finished with a full colour masterpiece from Ian such as these! This particular entry in the semi-regular series, Stupid Cupids is actually made up of two individual three-panel strips, each read vertically down the page and written by Mark Rodgers and Tony Husband. As always, take your time with Ian’s artwork and savour each panel as you make your way along, each one is a complete joy.

That’s almost it for this romantic issue of our piggy pink publication but the magic continues in two weeks, quite literally. The twenty-second edition is the Magic and Fantasy Special and contains the first appearance of a certain bespectacled hero in a new mini-series. A real favourite of mine and many others, it’s not to be missed! You can check it out from Monday 21st February 2022.

But before you go I just have to let all you lovely blog readers know how I really feel, to thank you for your continued support. Take it away, Marc Riley‘s Doctor Mooney, He’s Completely Looney.

OiNK! #19: SiX-PACK PORK BELLY

As sure as the sun sets at the end of each day, every January the great general public invest their hard earned cash in gym memberships, magazines with their promise of beach bodies, and so-called ‘detox’ juices. By February everything will be back to normal, the weight loss and fitness resolutions will be long forgotten and they’ll have come to the realisation that our livers will do for free what those juices proclaim to do for extortionate amounts of money. It’s oh-so predictable, but that can not be said of this issue of OiNK when they decided to take aim at this tradition.

The Keep Fit Special kicks off with this Jeremy Banx cover of Arnold Schwarzenhogger, who would “be back” in the first monthly issue over a year later. Look closely at Jeremy’s colouring and you can see the individual strokes, even where he’s leaned heavier at the beginning or end of each. When you look at the picture as a whole they merge together into a lovely shaded image. I enjoy seeing these old covers and the individual elements like this, much like the felt tip pens used by Chris Sievey on his Frank Sidebottom pages.

The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile kicks things off and our pint-sized menace finds himself in the situation of being forced to exercise. Heaven forbid. I loved swimming at school, but much like Hadrian it was less about doing lengths and more about just having fun in the water. His teacher isn’t having it, but soon finds himself in need of saving thanks to Hadrian, though to be fair he wasn’t wearing his glasses. I’d always assumed his eyes were roughly the size of his frames, to see them drawn by Ian Jackson this way is so funny.

But there’s something even funnier here, though it might not be immediately apparent. It certainly wasn’t when I read this as a child. OiNK’s co-creator/editor Mark Rodgers wrote the script as always and the name of one of Hadrian’s friends wasn’t simply plucked out of the air by the hugely talented writer. In real life Mark was Helen Jones‘ other half. In recent years Helen and I have chatted about those days and I even received Mark’s OiNK mug as a Christmas gift! (Helen also sent me some information on a particular event in OiNK’s history which I’ll be sharing later this year.) I asked her about those panels above and she told me, “Can’t say I’m surprised.” It does makes the strip even funnier!

Given the amount of food I’ve put away over the Christmas holidays this really speaks to me

In the 80s exercise routines were a regular part of breakfast television, most famously presented by Lizzie Webb and Mr. Motivator. While we sat bleary-eyed, eating sugary cereal, trying to get the energy for the walk to school, they’d be jumping up and down in their lycra and shouting towards the camera, urging us to do the same. Needless to say we just watched. OiNK’s take was much more accurate.

Given the amount of food I’ve put away over the Christmas holidays (not to mention the amount that’s still to be eaten) this really speaks to me. It’s an on-point spoof of what everyone is really thinking when they tell themselves they’re going to get fit in the new year. It’s also the first contribution from prolific OiNK cartoonist Eric (Wilkie) Wilkinson, whose most famous character was friendly zombie Dead Fred who also makes his debut this issue. Wilkie would go on to contribute to 39 OiNKs altogether, often giving us more than one strip per issue and in #20 you’ll see one of his best.


“Wha-? This isn’t a real pig!”

The Weakun

Alongside the workouts our breakfast television included repeats of the ludicrous 60s Batman series. While it always felt more like a spoof of Batman rather than an actual adaptation of the comic, OiNK took old cliffhanger serials such as it and others and spoofed them further. First we had the Street-Hogs, told over a whopping 12 parts, then in #15 was the first adventure for Ham Dare, Pig of the Future which comes to its conclusion here. It may have been a much shorter story but it was no less enjoyable. In fact, I’d say each episode has been packed with many more gags than the ‘Hogs had.

Last issue the penultimate chapter ended with The Weakun‘s soldiers gunning down our fearless hero, several lasers firing through his body. This scene is repeated in the first panel below. He must be dead. There’s no way even writer Lew Stringer could have him survive that, surely? Actually, no there’s not. He didn’t survive those blasts. The solution to the cliffhanger is even more ludicrous than that would’ve been.

Sight gags, puns, exaggerated British wartime gusto and one silly plot twist after another fill every panel in what is a hilarious conclusion to Ham’s first OiNK outing. (I particularly liked the repeat of the speedy entrance from the first episode.) I’m going to miss Ham and Pigby, but while they do return for three more adventures later this was the only one to be serialised across more than one issue. In fact, they don’t return to the regular comic at all. Instead they pop up in both of the OiNK Books and the third Holiday Special (released several months after OiNK’s cancellation), all of which are multi-page strips with plenty of gorgeous J.T. Dogg artwork to savour. Hurry back Ham!

Another character who debuted alongside Ham back in #15 was the fondly remembered Greedy Gorb – He’d Eat Anything, a creation of Cowpat County‘s Davy Francis. Food-loving comics characters were nothing new, with some examples that immediately come to mind being Garfield and Bash Street KidsFreddy. But Greedy Gorb took over-eating to new extremes. There were no lasagnes or slap up feeds of sausages and mash anywhere to be seen and that tagline was taken quite literally.

Gorb’s diet would get increasingly bizarre, surrounded by Davy’s trademark puns and background gags. He became a firm favourite of mine and I’d look forward to seeing what he’d eat next. This would mostly be to satisfy his hunger, but at other times he’d choose a specific item to eat for another reason (such as the kitchen clock so his mum loses track of time and he misses the start of school). He would appear in 33 issues altogether and would even give Davy the opportunity to draw his first comics cover.

In the middle of the issue is The OiNK Cross-Country Race, billed as ‘Excitingly Dangerous’ on the cover. OiNK would give us a few various board games over time, some favourites being one with a Pete and his Pimple theme, one drawn by Frank Sidebottom and a version of Happy Families. I’d forgotten all about this one though.

Drawn by John Geering, it’s definitely more rough around the edges than later games but I think that adds to the madcap nature of it all. It includes every excuse under the sun to stop the players or send them back several places. It’d take an awful lot of luck to reach the end of this one in any decent amount of time. It’s fun to see John let loose, unrestricted by the conventional drawing techniques he’d have to apply in the pages of the more traditional comics he worked for at the time.

A couple of other quick highlights from this issue has Weedy Willy doing a very good example of me when I’ve tried new ways of getting fit in Januaries past, and smelly alien Burp takes the start of a new year as an opportunity for a check up with his doctor.

There’s one strip in this issue that I’ve already shown you on the site. Mark Rodgers and Helen Jones wrote the very funny Wanda with the Wooden Leg as their take on the girls’ comics of the day (it’s presented by Bumty comic). The artwork looked like it was taken straight from those titles, so it worked perfectly. It was illustrated by the amazingly talented Les ‘Lezz’ Barton who sadly passed away in 2008. You can read about Lezz and read the full strip in the Remembering Lezz post here.

When Uncle Pigg‘s skeleton crew took over production of the comic for #8 some butchers sneaked their way on to the pages, beginning a new series by Jeremy Banx called Butcher Watch Updates, a spin on the Crimewatch television series. The updates told readers to “watch out for your snout and mind your rind” and soon they were sending in reports of seeing the crazed butchers in their local shops. One in particular was reported more than the others. In #14 Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith had made his first appearance in one of the updates and he immediately struck a chord with readers.

Rounding off this issue is the introduction of another new character. He would only appear sporadically and in eight issues altogether, but his debut is kind of a big deal with the gift of hindsight. That’s because the cartoonist behind him was none other than Charlie Brooker. He’d sent in some strips to Patrick, Tony and Mark and they were so impressed they gave him a regular gig. Not bad for a teenager! The strip below was something of a trial and we wouldn’t see his work again until #32, but after that he was part of nearly every edition, contributing to 37 altogether.

Of course you’ll all know Charlie now from his television work, having created such amazing series as Screen Wipe and Black Mirror. However, he was still at school at the time of OiNK so kudos to him for sending in some samples, and hats off to the team for recognising his talent. Charlie would go on to create such strips as Transmogrifying Tracey, Clint Gritwood the Trigger-Happy Cop and fan favourite The Adventures of Death. But Freddie Flop was his first and a strong debut.

I was always a fan of Charlie’s OiNK strips and as the comic continued he’d contribute more and more to each issue, particularly the monthlies where he’d often write for other artists too. He’d even write a Pete and his Pimple story for Lew Stringer. I always enjoyed his art style and his strips were consistently funny, Death often being a highlight for me. It’s exciting to finally see his work in this read through.

So 1987 was off to a great start and would only get better, culminating in my very favourite OiNK of them all. The next edition is a war special. I’d say this might sound like a strange subject for a kid’s humour comic but I’ve said that before and the team have shown how they can continuously pull these off with aplomb. So be back here on Monday 24th January 2022 for #20.