This gorgeous cover by renowned illustrator Paul Sample is sadly his only contribution to OiNK but what a contribution it is. There are a lot of intricate details my young eyes loved pouring over when this came with me on an Easter family trip to the Scottish highlands in 1988, whiling away the long train journey from the Stranraer ferry. Among the sea and adoring OiNK fans look harder and there’s a ‘Porkman’ instead of a Walkman, Crackling Oil and a rather dark strip on the OiNK Uncle Pigg is reading. It looks extra gorgeous on the large, glossy paper after the comic moved to matt with #36 last autumn.
This is also a wraparound cover poster and I’ll show you rest of it, complete with another comical shark, Icarus and even the sun itself getting in on the OiNK sensation, at the end of the review. The way the crowds are swarming the comic’s logo adds to the feeling of a Holiday Special crammed full to bursting. Inside, the first half in particular is stuffed full of reading material, really giving us superb value for money for a measly 70p. This would actually be the last special of any type with no reprints, so let’s enjoy it!
We get introduced to the comic with a big Uncle Pigg panel written by co-editor Mark Rodgers and drawn as ever by Ian Jackson. While it’s nice to see such an introduction again I can’t help but be disappointed that there’s no strip featuring him and Mary Lighthouse (critic) like we had last year, but then again they stopped a while back in the regular comic. Beneath this is a funny little one-off strip written by Howard Osborn and drawn by Mike Green and thus the tone is set for the special.
I’m going to dedicate a full post to one of the main highlights of this issue soon. There are lots of little artists’ profiles, each taking up a quarter of a page. They’re all created by each individual cartoonist and the information in them isn’t exactly reliable, let’s just put it that way and it’s also fun to see how they draw themselves. There are ten altogether and I simply couldn’t have choosen which ones to leave out if I was going to select some for this review, so watch out for that additional post containing them all.
In the previous regular OiNK review (#56) I lamented the fact Hadrian Vile’s diary had more or less come to an end by this point in the comic’s lifetime so I was very happy to see his Hollydaye Albumm here. It’s not a full diary, however it’s a special version for the holiday issue and a fun read. His long suffering dad is front and centre and again is Hadrian’s unintended victim over and over as they set off on their trip to France. A trip we end up seeing nothing of in the whole strip. As always he’s written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ian Jackson.
The best thing about this is there’ll be aspects of it that’ll feel familiar to most readers, even if it’s exaggerated somewhat. Although I’m not sure how many families would’ve taken photos of these incidents back in the 1980s. Not when we had a limited number of photographs we could take on our cameras, paying to get them developed. Today though, it’d be much more likely, with the photos likely ending up on social media. Maybe Hadrian was just a trailblazer.
Weedy Willy began life in OiNK as a regular character in the earliest issues, however after several months he would only pop up every few issues or so and even then as mini-strips most of the time. You wouldn’t know he’d been reduced to semi-regular status in this Holiday Special though, with two strips only a few pages apart. The first is a full page while the second, funnier one is this half-page, the winning joke coming from a cowpat!
Written by Keith Forrest and drawn by the master of the thin ink nib, Mike Green, this issue really brings Willy back to his former glory. In the first strip (written by Vaughan Brunt) we even find out Mandy and Willy are now a couple! In that first story he gets the upper hand thanks to his weediness while above the joke is on him, but just in a silly way, not a cruel way. That cowpat being so particularly chuffed in the third panel genuinely made me laugh out loud too.
The biggest highlight of this issue has to be Frank Sidebottom’s board game, Frank’s Timperley Bike Racing Game. The board takes up the centre pages but several pages earlier up pops two pages rammed with rules, player pieces and cut out cards. As always Chris Sievey has clearly put a lot of thought and work into his latest creation. The game is well thought out, unlike a lot of comics games which usually feel like filler. This one feels suitably special.
I actually like the sound of the game, with the players speeding back and forth across the board trying to hit a specific selection of squares given to them by the random shuffling of the shopping list cards. There’s a good bit of strategy to go along with the luck of the dice rolls, with players choosing the order in which they’ll attend to your list and the routes they’ll take. Chris’ attention to detail even stretches to telling the kids plain card backs should be used to ensure there can be no cheating.
I do have one complaint though. Surely buying a copy of that week’s OiNK should’ve been on every list? Oh well, you can always make more or make that part of the rules yourselves. It might just be me, but some of these (rather random) shopping list items also bring back some happy childhood memories! No, I never had to phone Paul McCartney but bike clips, puncture kits and returning videos? Yes. Just remember to rewind those tapes first. The board itself has had just as much attention paid to it.
From the train to the sunbather on the barge, from people hanging their washing up to the roads having drains, Chris has clearly poured over every inch of these pages as he usually does, adding in as many tiny little details to capture the imaginations of the young readers as possible. Also, you just know that lots of things on this board will have been based on actual buildings Chris knew from his real life. You can see why I think this is the ‘fantastic’ headline feature of this OiNK.
Let’s take a quick snack break, shall we? The snacks this next Madvert is aiming its sights at were a childhood favourite, but it’s been proven that our tastebuds change over time and mine appear to have turned against these little pillows of… well, I’ll let this next highlight describe them to you.
Honestly, I don’t know what I ever saw in them! (Nothing apparently, according to Kev F Sutherland.)
Jimmy Flynn (the boy who “Jumps Out of his Skin”), who had a mini-series at one point in the comic, gets an origin story taking up a few separate pages, yet main character Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins only gets one page and it’s a simple three-panel gag strip rather than what we’re used to. Other highlights (below) are better, such as Moth Person in Hijack at 2000 Feet, 13 1/2 Inches taking pot shots at people I’m sure a lot of us really can’t stand on public transport, followed by Tom Thug living up to the clichéd English holiday maker I’m sure we all can’t stand either.
Charlie Brooker brings us the multi-part Sam Mackay Private Eye, the first part of which is full of visual gags based on typical private eye story wordplay, but unfortunately the other chapters don’t match this first page. Billy Bang gets his one and only full-page strip and his one and only in full colour. Finally, David Haldane’s regular look at the strange world we live in takes on Strange, Bizarre Folks Customs of our Funny Old World and it’s some of his funniest yet.
When we went on long family trips there were always puzzle magazines brought along to kill time on various planes, trains and automobiles. At such a young age very few of them kept my attention for long, unlike OiNK. Luckily, OiNK had its own puzzle master in the form of Ed McHenry, who’d contributed many a puzzle to the regular comic by this stage. However, here we get a larger than normal selection with a full double-page spread of impossible conundrums.
As ever, everything looks incredibly easy on the surface. The reality of course is that the actual answers are not what you’d expect. The fun with these became trying to work out what the completely ridiculous correct solution actually was. I don’t think I ever got one of them right. This particular spread starts off strong with The Sea Wall conundrum, while my favourite is number seven because given time you might just be able to work it out, depending on how loony you are I guess!
There have been a few occasions over the past year when Jeremy Banx has taken the random and often surreal nature of his Burp strips and given us more wordy, narrated instalments. These heightened the alienness of his existence and the unpredictability of his pages, while also adding in the vast unknowable universe and the apparently untamed imagination of the OiNK cartoonist! Told solely through elaborate narrative captions rather than speech bubbles and slapstick (along with unique out-there visuals), check out Burp’s vacation planet from #41 as the perfect example.
The strip in this edition gives us the best of both worlds, the first page playing out like a typical Burp strip for the most part. Well, not that there’s anything like a ‘typical Burp strip’ but you know what I mean. Then from the final panel on that page we see it change into something else entirely, somewhat like the creatures at the heart of the tale. Just like the example I gave above, the wonders of the universe are laid out and then suddenly juxtaposed against the silly alien we’ve come to know and love.
While this issue isn’t quite as full of classic strips as the first Holiday Special, this is a very worthy follow-up and I can remember being very entertained by it on that family trip all those years ago. It feels extra special now we’re used to reading the 24-page matt paper weeklies. Although, in a couple of months the regular comic basically becomes a monthly Holiday Special so I wonder if these extra editions would’ve become bigger too if the comic had continued. As it stands, the two Holiday Specials so far are among the best examples of OiNK the comic had to offer.
To round off I just have to show you that wonderful wraparound cover poster by Paul Sample. My copy has curled a little at the spine over the years since it was first printed but you can still get a sense of the lovely image as it continues over the staples and on to the back page, where you can see those extra details I mentioned at the top.
That blurb on the rear perfectly sums things up.