Tag Archives: Howard Osborn

OiNK! #35: TRAVELLiNG HALFWAY

With Ian Jackson back on cover duties off we go with the second half of OiNK’s run. Of course, we didn’t know this was the case at the time. As far as the (much) younger version of me was concerned the comic was going to run and run just like Beano or The Dandy; with OiNK being my first comic I had yet to experience any kind of cancellation. There’s so much great stuff to come over the remainder of this year in particular (1987 in old money) but first I want to touch upon something, a change which seemed so small and insignificant but which would ultimately decide OiNK’s fate.

By coincidence Fleetway Publications took over from IPC Magazines at the exact halfway point in the comic’s eventual 68-issue run and it’s only with hindsight that I can say it was an incredibly important moment. Looking at #35 you’d not notice it unless you read the copyright blurb at the bottom of the Grunts letters page so you may be wondering why I’m giving it such prominence right at the beginning of this review.

A wonderful selection of input from the readers which co-editor Patrick Gallagher tailored to the theme of the issue, that of travel. You could almost see this issue as a mini holiday special or as a follow up to last year’s summery #7. You’ll see the change in the blurb at the bottom of the page too.

Fleetway was originally created by newspaper group chairman Cecil Harmsworth King and when he later purchased Odhams and Newnes the IPC holding company was formed to oversee them all. Eventually it was all rebranded, OiNK falling under IPC Magazines alongside all the other comics. However, in 1987 IPC sold off its comics by placing them into a separate ‘Fleetway Publications‘ company and selling the whole caboodle to Robert Maxwell‘s Pergamon Holdings Ltd. Maxwell’s company now owned the independently crafted OiNK.

OiNK was a hit for IPC Magazines with average sales of 100,000 per issue

OiNK was a hit for IPC Magazines with average sales of around 100,000 per issue and they certainly treated it as such. They were also very happy with the buzz one of their titles was generating in the press and the celebrity endorsements it attracted. This didn’t stop it being victim to some reorganisation under the new company though, but we’ll get to that in a future post and I’ll touch upon the importance of the next issue (and the immediate physical changes to the comic in particular) in its review. But for now let’s get back to the comedy with my favourite Greedy Gorb strip.

Greedy was usually written by his creator and artist Davy Francis and I dare say most (if not all) of the background jokes here were also added by Davy. The main set up and joke were written by Howard Osborn this time though, who actually has no less than five strips to his name in this one issue alone. Howard worked in law in some administrative capacity according to co-editor Patrick Gallagher. He would actually write his OiNK material after work whilst having a pint in a pub!

There can’t have been many pig pals who wouldn’t have had Pete Throb as one of their favourite characters

In any other comic Gorb could’ve become very repetitive but in OiNK that was never a concern and his mini strips were highlights of every issue he was in, especially when there were so many gags squeezed into such a small space. The main pun would’ve been enough anywhere else but Davy always liked to give us plenty of value. My personal favourite there (although it’s hard to choose) would be the teeny tiny wings on the Flying Scotsman.

Elsewhere, a one-off character appears in two separate strips, both written by Howard. This is the best of the two and it appears Howard is trying to give pun masters Davy and Graham Exton a run for their money with Tommy Tyre (He Gets Around), drawn by Mike Green.

I know I’ve already described Greedy Gorb as one of my regular highlights but there can’t have been many pig pals who wouldn’t have had Pete Throb as one of their favourites. Lew Stringer’s Pete and his Pimple was one of the most popular strips and featured in crossovers with Lew’s other creations Tom Thug and Pigswilla, later in the run the strip would include a weekly competition asking readers to send in their outlandish pimple cures, he’d make the cover in an image that required the OiNK logo to be altered for the issue and he’d even get his own pull-out comic! Phew.

Following on from his collaboration (of sorts) with Tom just a fortnight ago, this issue brings us a full board game, Around the World With 80 Zits. As well as taking up the middle pages with the game there’s a strip introducing the scenario behind it, complete with cut out figures to use as player pieces, a bit like Frank Sidebottom’s in the first Holiday Special. This certainly wouldn’t be the last time we’d get a cut out game either.

So the set up is simple and the race for the miracle cure is on. The game is a wonderful, full-colour spread complete with so many ways to force the players around the board you could get dizzy playing! Just look at square number eight and follow its instructions to see what I mean. The only thing more cruel than that one is square 44! I never did play it as a kid because I didn’t like to cut up my OiNKs but I can imagine the laughs to be had for those that did.

To be fair the instructions contain the first clue that this isn’t going to be your normal board game, not when they include the words, “tough luck”. I love all the little details around the route, containing everything from palm trees to the South Pole, a kangaroo to a yeti. There’s even a drawing of Blackpool Tower, a trademark holiday destination for many of Lew’s comics characters over the years. That’s understandable when you find out it’s a favourite place for Lew himself to visit in the real world.

After the game we get a bonus mini-strip as a conclusion to the race, with the winning character’s face conveniently obscured so no matter who wins they can pretend it’s their fate being portrayed.

Of course it had to have a twist ending, have you not been paying attention to these comic reviews so far? Definitely the best game the comic has produced so far, although it would have stiff competition in just a couple of issues from now. Still, with taking in so many random locations it’s the perfect main event to this travel special. Other characters were out and about too, as you’ll see in this selection of highlights from elsewhere in the issue.

On the back cover Frank Sidebottom had left his holiday snaps on the train so was forced to draw them for memory, Rubbishman and Boy Blunder discovered the truth on their terrifying ‘Hunt the Yeti’ trip, Hector Vector and his Talking T-shirt visited a brilliantly named drinking establishment, the Grim Reaper made his first appearance in The Adventures of Death while buying a helicopter for his “reclaiming work” and Hadrian Vile’s life was about to change forever, a situation which he handled in his usual inimitable style.

After a break for a few issues David Leach’s fantastic Psycho Gran is back and she’s making up for lost time with a full page of her own and it’s almost a silent comedy. Usually taking up no more than half a page, it’s great to have a larger strip and it really is chock full of fun. David squeezes in as many panels as he can, each one intricately detailed as the little old dear goes through a situation many of us may find familiar.

Okay, so her solution isn’t exactly conventional or familiar, but I do love the panel where she lifts the weapon out of her tiny bag after searching through it in the previous one. The lack of background, the angel of its composition and her tongue sticking out as she concentrates are all brilliant, all of these little things combining to make this moment stand out. Genius.

I remembered her taking up the back page of a Christmas issue of OiNK with a funny image of her waiting for Santa Claus (reminiscent of David’s Psycho Gran Versus series in recent years) and a large section of the second annual was devoted to her too, so it was a nice surprise to find her given a full page strip in the regular comic. Here’s hoping for more.

After the wonderful Sownd of Music spoof movie poster in #29, Simon Thorp returns to bring us a strip this time, entitled Arctic Adventure in which a narrator tells a captive audience the fantastical tale of the world’s greatest fur hunter. Now, if this sounds a bit off to you and if you’re asking why OiNK would tell such a tale in a comic which lampooned butchers and hyped piggies up as heroes, you wouldn’t be alone. Obviously there’s more to it and reading Simon’s story I was just waiting for the twist, which was hugely satisfying.

Two particular moments (asides from the obvious one) stand out for me here. The first is panel four, where the caption tells us of how he’d track so many beautiful and exotic creatures down… and shoot them. The other is when he “bravely” loads his machine gun, a weapon the polar bear would have no chance against, and then his terror when it won’t fire. I think this strip perfectly sums up how cowardly sports hunters are.

In recent years I’ve seen countless images going viral on social media of big game hunters with smug grins next to the carcasses of beautiful animals who they’ve slaughtered with their high-powered weaponry, posing like they were so brave to shoot a defenceless creature, like it took so much effort beyond simply twisting their cowardly finger around a trigger. I think Simon’s Arctic Adventure perfectly sums up these sorts of people.

The next issue will surprise you but some of the changes weren’t liked by everyone

Finally, as we say goodbye to the glossy paper for now (more on that next time) it’s fitting that the technicolour Street-Hogs: Day of the Triffics gets to have its finale first. As stated before this was my first exposure to the ‘Hogs as a kid, their previous adventure having already ended by the time I discovered OiNK, so to me this had felt epic. However, readers of the original 12-part story may have felt somewhat disappointed that things were coming to an end already, the story lasting only a quarter of the time.

With what had looked like Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith‘s entire toolbox flying through the air towards them at the end of last issue’s strip, I wondered how on Earth they were going to get out of that one with less than a second to spare (apparently). I don’t know why I keep trying to guess. Mark Rodgers’ script would always come up with something so ridiculous and J.T. Dogg’s artwork would portray it so perfectly, the randomness of their insane escapes was the main reason I loved them so much!

It all ends with a ‘Coming Soon’ caption, but their next serial wouldn’t be seen until the last days of the comic, their multipart tale all packed into one of the big, fat monthlies. It’s a very different beast of a tale, but definitely worth the wait. Speaking of waiting, that’s what we’ll have to do for more OiNK highlights as we’ve reached the end of another review. The next issue will surprise you but some of the changes weren’t liked by everyone. Personally, these issues to come are my very favourites so I can not wait! Watch out for a special personal post about them over the next two weeks and then #36’s review will be here from Monday 5th September.

OiNK! #34: PIG PALS, HO!

This latest issue of OiNK marks the end of an era and a particular milestone in the comic’s run, neither of which we were aware of when we first bought it back in 1987. First up, this would be the final issue published by IPC Magazines, the company which took that initial chance on the whole concept and it had paid off for them! IPC were very happy with OiNK’s sales of roughly 100,000 per issue, the press coverage and the celebrity endorsements it had inspired. But now changes were coming, as you’ll see soon.

As for the milestone, it couldn’t have been foretold at the time. OiNK would run to 68 issues altogether so after reading this edition I’m now officially at the halfway point of the regular issues (just 18 days before this issue, 21st July was the halfway point date-wise too). Where has the time gone? I’m particularly looking forward to the remaining issues from this year because they include some of my very favourites and of course there’s also the first book, but I’ll go into that in more depth in a future post.

‘Butch-arr the Ever-Cleaving’ on Ed McHenry’s cover is just hilarious

The Next Issue promo in #33 starred Weedy Willy so it’s rather strange to see a distinct lack of him in this issue. The adventure theme isn’t as prevalent as previous subjects, in fact most of the regulars ignore it or just tangentially relate to it. Thunderpigs is the main themed strip but unfortunately it’s not the best. There have definitely been (and will be) better spoofs, many of the jokes here are rehashes of previous ideas (the main gag is a saturation of overpriced merchandise) but it did produce Butch-arr the Ever-Cleaving on Ed McHenry’s cover which is just hilarious.

I think OiNK’s three-panel strips would make a great digital collection of quick-fire, random, spontaneous gags, guaranteed to have plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Probably my favourite strip amongst all of these mini marvels was Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental. Written by a variety of people throughout the run but always drawn by Ian Knox, Roger’s entry for this issue was written by Howard Osborn whose work I haven’t featured on the blog yet.

A prolific writer for the comic, his scripts would appear in 19 issues altogether, although he’d often contribute a few strips to each one. First appearing in #23 and staying with OiNK through to its conclusion, Howard’s name would be attached to many of the mini-strips from here on.

From a writer’s first blog appearance to a punk band’s.

OiNK has been described by co-creator/co-editor Tony Husband as the punk band of comics. With him being a fan of the music genre, I can see where Tony is coming from. OiNK came out around the same time as the MADchester music scene and was seen by many as an integral part of it thanks to the likes of Frank Sidebottom, Marc Riley and the music superstars often photographed reading it. Even when OiNK was cancelled after two-and-a-half years Tony said it was better for it to burn out than fade away, that punk attitude at the forefront right to the very end.

With this attitude it was only natural that a strip starring a punk band would eventually make its way onto the pages. Their first appearance was actually last issue, when a straight laced local band were subjected to punk music and made a startling transformation into The Slugs. Always written by Tony and drawn by Les ‘Lezz’ Barton, The Slugs would be regulars in 24 OiNKs, only missing the occasional issue until the end of the weeklies, never making the shift into the monthlies for some reason. They’d quickly become a fan favourite and this sophomore strip shows why.

For me, rather than Thundercats, the main highlight of this issue has to be the following.

While it may not be linked to the theme either, Tom Thug Meets Pete and his Pimple is a hilarious addition and something of a surprise because until I read OiNK a few years back for the original blog I’d no recollection of this happening. We’ve already seen Zeta in a Tom strip before in #13 when he crossed over with Weedy Willy, but only now do we find out she’s actually Pete Throb’s sister. (How could we not know!) Between Tom’s attempts to appear spotty, to the very satisfying ending for both characters, this was surely a hit amongst pig pals at the time!

Lew tells me he simply approached co-editor Mark Rodgers with the idea of having Tom and Pete finally meet and was given the green light. He didn’t want to do it in a typical Beano style though, where one would simply guest star in the other’s strip. Instead, Lew wanted it to be more of an event, giving them equal billing in a larger than normal strip. “I liked the flexibility of OiNK allowing things like this,” Lew told me. “Readers never knew what to expect and anything could happen in each issue.” How true. We loved it!


“Slurp! Slurp! That’s nectar, that is – slurp!”

Burp’s bath tap

As always, here’s a quick glance at some individual panel highlights from the issue, beginning with Burp’s plumbing problem, The Amazin’ Spider-Guy has some very authentic special skills and in The Street-Hogs our not-very-well-disguised baddie finally reveals himself. Thought to have drowned in a vat of his own apple sauce back in #11, instead Don Poloney just ate his way out, hence his somewhat different shape. There are some absolute treats in this issue.

Interestingly, in the 2000s Lew would go on to draw the real Spider-Man in Marvel Rampage and (after its cancellation) Spectacular Spider-Man with his Mini Marvel humour strips, following in the tradition of Marvel comics such as Transformers, Action Force and The Real Ghostbusters to include funnies from Lew. If only Panini would include such extra treats in their monthly Spider-Man and Batman comics we get today. To see some examples of Lew’s Mini Marvel strips you can check out this post on his personal blog.

As mentioned on the previous Grunts page, this issue includes the latest Butcher Watch update from Jeremy Banx, although now it’s been renamed Cleaver Flash! This is in response to how the young readership had taken to the terrifying villain, Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith who’d originally been just another butcher when he first popped up in #14. This character and his attempts to cull the pig population of our newly porcine-friendly UK had really captured the imagination.

When you think about how pigs were depicted as citizens of the world in OiNK it was a bold move by Jeremy to depict Jimmy as so relentless, the black blood on these pages (Jimmy was always standing in pools of the stuff) all the more shocking and as a young pig pal these strips were the perfect mix of thrills and laughs. The victim’s ridiculous story while his face is constantly obscured by the microphone raises the giggles, followed by the slaughter of the piggy police, then the final reveal and the ending has us almost hearing that blood-curdling scream.

No comic character is as creepy as Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith and I think it’s clear Jeremy had great fun pushing the envelope as much as he could in a kid’s comic with him. It’s all rounded off with that famous tagline under the final panels. With this, the Lewniverse crossover and The Street-Hogs we’ve obviously had our fill of fantastic double-page spreads for a fortnight, right? Wrong. This issue we were spoiled with larger strips and on the middle pages was yet another treat, The Styeux Tapestry, led into with this introduction.

If you remember your history, you’ll know the Bayeux Tapestry depicted the events that led up to the Norman Conquest of England, with the Duke of Normandy challenging King Harold which of course led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. While the introduction sets the historical scene, containing as many name puns as you could hope for, the main event is something else! Written by Tony Husband and so brilliantly brought to life by Eric ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson, this is just a wonderful middle-page spread indeed.

Historical satire isn’t something you’d expect to see in your average humour comic, but just to complete the cliché OiNK was not your average comic. (If you haven’t caught on to this by now there’s not much hope for you.) To this day I think this would look superb in a fancy frame, something to give the illusion of a serious piece of art until whichever visitor to your home takes a closer look. If anyone asks you to describe OiNK and you’re struggling to summarise its uniqueness, I say just show them this. The Styeux Tapestry perfectly sums up the sense of humour we grew up with.

We come to the end of yet another review and I’m excited for what’s ahead. Most of my memories of OiNK from the 80s come from the second half of the run and my favourites are from the latter half of 1987, the very year I’m covering right now in this real time read through. The issues to come over the next five months have stuck with me all these years and I’ll be going into more depth about that in an extra post soon. As for #35, the Terrific Travel Issue review will be here on the blog from Monday 22nd August 2022.