Tag Archives: Ian Knox

OiNK! #44: END OF AN ERA

Happy New Year to one and all! Wait, what? That can’t be right, it’s still Boxing Day! Actually, this second Hogmanay issue of OiNK was released even earlier, before Santa came to visit all of us pig pals. Boxing Day was the official date on the cover but with publishers closed for the holidays (and the shops themselves closing their doors for more than one day back then) comics and magazines are released earlier than normal over the festive period. I received my subscriber copy of Edge’s January issue weeks ago!

As such, this OiNK came out during the week before Christmas. I’ve no way of telling which day I received it in 1987 and I’m just going to stick with the cover date on this occasion, so while you recover from a day of eating and prepare for another, put your feet up, pop the paper hat back on your head and have a giggle with some highlights from OiNK #44, our last fortnightly issue!

I personally didn’t read this until Boxing Day as a child, although The Slugs finally making the cover (drawn as ever chaotically by Les ‘Lezz’ Barton) was very tempting. But even back then I wanted to wait until I’d read my OiNK! Book 1988 first. In fact, Boxing Day that year brings back many happy memories of sitting down and reading the annual cover-to-cover after dipping in and out over the course of Christmas Day, then in bed that night finally grabbing this issue.

For young me the highlight wasn’t the theme, the festivities and the crazy parties our characters got involved in, instead it was all about the future of the comic. This was the big change I eluded to in #39’s review after Nipper, the last comic in OiNK’s sales group was cancelled. Given publisher Fleetway’s rule that if a whole group’s sales weren’t up to par then every title in it would be cancelled, would OiNK’s own impressive sales possibly save it from cancellation? Uncle Pigg had some news for Mary Lighthouse (critic) on this front, as written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ian Jackson.

So while the other titles had been canned, and OiNK’s own sales may not have been in the same league as Buster or Whizzer and Chips, as an independently produced comic fortnightly sales of 100,000 weren’t to be sniffed at. But Fleetway (and retailers) wanted more. Doubling the amount of issues equals doubling the sales, right? Much hype had been made of the comic’s transition to a weekly in recent issues and I’ve included a couple of examples in the posts for #41 and #43.

I can remember the excitement of this moment after enjoying the Christmas issue and the book, the fact it was now going to come out every single week was almost too much for my young mind to handle! The price decreasing by 5p softened the blow for parents somewhat too. We were unaware of certain changes to be made to the physical comic and its contents but for now let’s enjoy the final issue in my own Golden Age of OiNK, and the return of the increasingly shocking Butcher Watch!

Given what would come from Jeremy Banx in a new mini-series in the weekly OiNK, this dark strip acts almost like a precursor, reminding us just how twisted the evil butcher Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith really was. Have to give him points for imagination though. This would come to the fore with Jimmy as a regular character for at least some of the weekly issues. I was engrossed as a kid and now as an adult I find it all deliciously funny in a most ridiculous way.

Let’s take a look at some other highlights of our last 32-page issue, shall we? After joining OiNK in #15 Psycho Gran has racked up quite the list of examples of being a sweet but naughty (to say the least) old dear. Surely she couldn’t have been that bad? David Leach sets the record straight this issue. The Tale of Wee Jimmy Riddle tells us a horror story about a phantom haggis and on the Grunts page an old random line in a Diary ov Hadrian Vile from #12 gets picked up on by a reader following recent events.

Tom Thug and Pete and his Pimple were two of the comic’s strips that would make their way into the pages of Buster by the end of 1988 and when OiNK goes weekly they’d permanently be full-page stories rather than surprising us every issue with strips of various lengths, which I have to say I preferred. With the more random nature we were sometimes treated to lengthy stories with a great pay off, sometimes a quick gag. This next one falls somewhere in between.

So long Mr Big Nose, it’s been funny, surreal, confusing and memorable in equal measure

Now that I’ve read this I have clear memories of giggling away at it on at least one of the many occasions I read and reread my OiNKs back then. Lew Stringer always said the whole point of Tom was for there to be a strip where the bully (and the usual intelligence level of a bully) was the butt of the joke every single issue. I don’t think there’s any better example than this one right here.

The teeny, tiny small strips were always a joy in OiNK and pretty much guaranteed to raise a laugh, as well as breaking up the larger contributions to each issue. Another character who would pop up in strips of various length was Barrington Bosh, He’s Incredibly Posh who was always drawn by Ian Knox and scripted by a variety of writers. This time it’s Keith Forrest who uses Barrington’s posh accent to great effect here. Small, simple but brilliantly crafted.

He’s entertained us ever since #3, introduced us to surreal humour, was never predictable and of course brought us the dolphin named Keith. Jeremy Banx’s Mr Big Nose was about as unique as you could ever get in a children’s comic and is one of the most fondly remembered characters from OiNK as a whole. I’ve always said a collection of his strips would make for one of the funniest books you could read, even now 35 years later. Which makes the fact this is his final issue all the more sad.

He wouldn’t even pop up in any special or annual, this is it, the final Mr Big Nose! The weekly comic would have fewer pages and Jeremy would continue with Burp and that aforementioned mini-series featuring Jimmy. I originally thought perhaps the weekly comic was aiming at a younger audience (there’d be promotional crossover strips in Buster and Whizzer and Chips) and the surreal humour of Mr Big Nose wouldn’t be a good fit, but that Cleaver series is very dark indeed so it can have been that. 

But at least he goes out in style.

Explain that one! Of course, the best of his strips defied explanation and while I’m saddened to know I won’t be reading any more of his wonderful half-pages, this is the perfect example to end on. That final line could almost be taken as a little sign off. With space at a premium in the weekly and Jeremy already committed to two full pages it could just boil down to something having to give and unfortunately Mr Big Nose stepping aside to make way for other cartoonists and their creations. So long dear friend, it’s been funny, surreal, confusing and memorable in equal measure.

To end on, a little nursery rhyme. Innocent little stories for kids. Nothing could possibly be twisted with these, surely? The Rotten Rhymes series periodically popped up throughout OiNK’s run and proved nothing was sacred. Many of these quick little rhymes (often ending by tossing away the need to rhyme at all) have proven surprisingly memorable. How many have pig pals recited in the years since? Here’s the latest in the series and the first one to be written and drawn by Charlie Brooker.

Well that’s it. Not only is this the end of the issue, it’s also the end of the only year in which we had regular OiNKs from beginning to end, it’s the end of it in its original form and it’s the end of what I called OiNK’s Golden Age. That’s not to say what’s to come isn’t great of course! It takes a while for the comic to settle into the new weekly version  of itself (same when it turns monthly later next year) but when it did it was easily the best weekly out there.

It’s just that this period of time, between #36 and this one and including The OiNK! Book 1988, were just so good they could each be listed as examples of the very best OiNK had to offer. If all issues were ranked I think these would all be at the top of that list, and we got to enjoy them in one glorious chunk, one after the other. I’ve had a fantastic time reliving these and, while there are changes ahead, we’re still going to be getting weekly OiNK reviews for the first five months of the new year.

More OiNK is always good! Right?

The review of OiNK! Weekly #45 will be up on the blog on Saturday (yes, a change of day) 7th January 2023, just 12 days from now!

OiNK! #42: FASHiONABLY FUNNY

The always brilliant J.T. Dogg kicks off the latest issue of OiNK, issue 42 the Fantastic Fashion Issue. This was one of the most memorable covers for me as a kid. While I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about Michael Jackson my siblings were, but I did love Weird Al Jankovic’s parody and OiNK’s tribute was right up there in my opinion, as you’ll see in just a little bit. Just a couple of quick notes about the issue first though.

OiNK seems to have settled into a set title banner, making it more visible on the newsagent shelves and inside on page three there’s a slight mistake in the copyright banner, the bit where it says OiNK was devised by OiNK! Publishing Ltd and published by Fleetway, can’t be sold for more than the cover price etc., that sort of thing. Instead of the usual “Published every fortnight” it says “every Friday”, which I remember spotting as a kid and getting so excited for the new year and the promise of twice as much OiNK!

Let’s get straight to the headline act then and Mark Rodgers’ rewording of one of Michael Jackson’s earliest hits, Bad. Change Jackson to Jaxham and ‘Bad’ to ‘Mad’ and you’ve got a sure-fire hit on your trotters. To enjoy this fully is to read it to the original tune, so make sure you have that firmly in your head before you start. The lyrics are just as mad as the titular character and to go alongside them is his new hit music video, drawn just like the cover by J.T. Dogg.

As you read, the daftest parts of the song are hilariously brought to life by Malcolm’s beautiful, colourful art and I remember showing this off to lots of my friends at school at the time, due to many being huge fans of the real singer. As a child I thought it was brilliant that OiNK was taking on a real worldwide megastar and he wouldn’t be the last, especially when the comic became a monthly aimed at an older audience later in the run. For now though, this is a perfectly judged piece loved by everyone in that original (and best) target audience.

Never underestimate OiNK’s ability to pull the rug out from under the reader.

Despite being the cover star, Michael Jaxham isn’t the biggest thing to appear in this issue, not by a long shot actually. That honour goes to the spectacular five-page(!) conclusion to The Spectacles of Doom vs The Monocle of Mayhem, Tony Husband’s take on all those hugely enjoyable but completely ridiculous 80s fantasy films, drawn in exquisite detail by Andy Roper. After two pages of black and white strip we’re treated to this simply stunning, and of course very funny, spread of the battle we’ve been promised for weeks.

There’s so much going on here it benefits from taking your time to really look at the small details. The tiny, sweet looking bird with the flame breath, the tickly hand creature, the jet being stopped by a giant cactus and in turn its flame engines taking out one of its colleagues. There’s even a plop in the midst of it all. I love the way Endor seems to have called upon his friends from other pages of the issue including Mr Big Nose and the two Franks, little and large.

According to co-editor Patrick Gallagher the person on the right with the glasses is most likely one of Andy’s colleagues from Cosgrove Hall called Clint Priest (also an animator on the OiNK team’s Round the Bend series). Clint is just gingerly waving hello to the reader and not getting directly involved. Smart move. The strip carries on for another colour page but how could they top that to finish? With something you’d never have seen coming (much like our hero doesn’t). Never underestimate OiNK’s ability to pull the rug out from under the reader.

Despite the ending Endor would be back once more in The OiNK! Book 1989 in an even more impressive spectacle (no pun intended, honest). I can’t remember how they brought him back, or even if they addressed how, but I’ll find out eventually in just over a year. Beginning in January the weekly OiNKs are quite partial to ongoing serials so watch out for a selection of them starting in #45’s review.

Both of the above highlights are in the first handful of pages of this issue. Talk about a strong start. But how can the rest hope to follow? Well, how about the promise of a new prize for Grunts page contributions in the shape of a piggy pink OiNK binder for your precious comics, Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins making the goal that would win over reluctant footy fans, Harry the Head realising he’s not cut out for going for a dip and Roger Rental he’s Completely Mental giving himself a ‘pat on the head in the fashion stakes.

As you can see this issue of OiNK is chock full of what we’ve all come to expect by now and it continues with one of the most popular characters, Pete Throb whose strip gets renamed this issue to Pete and That Trendy ol’ Pimple of His! Lew Stringer takes aim at the ridiculousness of ever-changing fashions and, let’s face it, the 80s kind of deserved it. From the very first panel I was laughing at the shoulder pads, the dress sense and the “easier to draw” new hairdo.

This is the perfect example of this issue’s subject. Really, do kids care about fashion? So Lew swipes at the way people can jump on bandwagons so easily and yet be so fickle as to jump to the next shiny thing that comes along, no matter how dedicated they were to what had come before. It reminds me not only of my own older siblings at the time but also an episode of Knight Rider when K.I.T.T. got rather confused at the idea of new fashion seasons. (“Did last year’s clothes not perform their function?”)

It’s this that I found particularly funny as a kid because Lew, and the issue as a whole, was a way for us readers to have a good laugh at the older kids, as well as our own brothers and sisters and the way they’d act and dress. Of course, later in all our teen years we were just as guilty. Also, it’s always fun to see an example of an OiNK cartoonist drawing another’s character for their own strips. Little cameos like Rubbish Man’s here always felt a bit special, no matter how fleeting.

Surely no one screams stardom, sets trends or could be accused of being a fashionista quite like Frank Sidebottom. A hip and happening photographer couldn’t ask for a better model (is this Chris Sievey’s depiction of his own official photographer John Barry?), although it appears Frank’s most defining features aren’t the reason he was hired. Even in black and white Chris’s work is lovely, the pencil work on the fabric of his shirt textured just right.

When I was young there were certain things I didn’t like to do, just like any other child and the more I was told to do them properly the more I wanted to skip around them somehow. Brushing my teeth was one of those things. I don’t know why, I think it may have bored me, but it was just something I hated doing back then. In the mornings before school I had no choice, but I always did them as quickly as possible and never brushed them before bed if I could get away with it. (This is obviously not something any young readers of this blog should copy, or course!)

That all changed with this issue of OiNK and this next strip, Trendy Wendy. Written by the master of comic lyrics, Lew Stringer and drawn by fellow Northern Ireland resident Ian Knox I can remember clear as a bell reading this in my Aunt May’s house (who I’ve mentioned before during these issues making up OiNK’s Golden Age). I was casually enjoying it, giggling away to myself as I had done for the previous 21 pages until the final panel.

This might sound silly to you, that a silly strip like this could hit me quite hard but it certainly did. Getting a point across with comedy is a tried and tested formula in many things I’ve read and watched as an adult, but it was a surprise a month before my tenth birthday. I can’t remember the exact thought process that went through my head but from that moment on I brushed my teeth at least twice a day, every day.

OiNK taught its young readers a thing or two along the way, things which we actually listened to thanks to the method of its messages

What I do distinctly remember is once in my early 20s coming home from a night out, a little worse for wear and just wanting to collapse into bed and hope the room didn’t start to spin. But Wendy popped up in my head and I found myself trying (and possibly failing) to drunkenly brush my teeth before retiring, even though it had been years since I’d read any of these comics! I’ve said before OiNK helped form my sense of humour but it also taught its young readers a thing or two along the way, things which we actually listened to thanks to the method of its messages.

Before we move on you’ll want to warm up your printer. We’ve had some cut out figures before in OiNK but this is by far the best of the bunch. David Leach’s Psycho Gran appearance in the fashion issue had a little bit of crafting for the young readers to attempt. Of course, these are very intricate drawings for youngsters to cut around so I wonder if anyone actually did? I particularly like the Judge Dredd option which seems to suit her perfectly, given the form of justice she’d dish out.

In 2018 David would reprint this page in his Psycho Gran Versus #2 comic. The whole issue was dedicated to Charlotte as this page above was. Charlotte was David’s sister, Charlotte Claire Gurtler (Leach) who sadly passed away in 2018. Preferring to go by the name Dot, David said she would’ve made a great Psycho Gran herself. Maybe there’s a little of Charlotte in Psycho’s new comics to this day.

Just before we finish off, this issue saw the introduction of what has possibly gone on to be the most sought after piece of OiNK merchandise today. It’s rather fitting it would be announced in the fashion issue, given that it was a super trendy sweatshirt with the OiNK logo emblazoned on the front. The slogan down the left side of the hip hog (drawn by Mike Taylor) is just as well remembered as the sweatshirt itself.

Unfortunately I never ordered it and to this day I’ve yet to see so much as a photo of it. After finally being able to get a hold of my beloved OiNK mug and a mint condition OiNK 45 record (the only two pieces of merch I owned originally) this is surely the one I have to get next! However, the chances of finding one are next to none, never mind one in wearable condition. But a pig pal can dream. Are you listening, Santa?

Speaking of the jolly red-suited man with a bag the next issue of OiNK is our second (and final) Christmas issue. It has a lot to live up to because from memory this is my very favourite (definitely my most memorable) regular issue of OiNK. From its classic Ian Jackson cover to its Tom Thug Christmas Angel it’s a festive treat not to be missed. Speaking of Tom, watch out for a special Christmas preview post in a couple of days.

The jolliest issue of the funniest comic ever will be up for review right here on Monday 12th December 2022.

OiNK! #40: HAM-MER HORROR

In 1986 OiNK’s timing was impeccable when it came to the spooky season and the relevant issue ended up being #13. A year later another happy coincidence saw the release date of the 40th issue as Saturday 31st October, perfect for their second Hallowe’en special. Kicking things off is the triumphant return of Ralph Shephard (not seen since #23 and who wouldn’t be again until the second annual), an artist who drew so many great spoofs of childhood favourites in the early days of the comic. What an incredible cover this is!

Ralph’s bewitching front page is a fondly remembered classic, a gorgeous piece which takes advantage of the little bit of extra space the new smaller logo gives, and that background colouring effect is just beautiful, adding plenty of atmosphere and really making it stand out on the shelves. (It’s also the second cover in a row for Harry the Head.) From now on we’d get one banner along the top instead of several, the cover images no longer needing gaps. I think it makes for a bolder, clearer cover for the rest of the fortnightlies.

For me the stars of this issue are the smaller mini-strips; there are just so many of them this time out and every one is a cracker. This does make my job of select only a few choice highlights incredibly difficult of course but it’s a nice problem to have. On the inside front cover is Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental as ever drawn by Ian Knox, now written by new OiNK scribe Vaughan Brunt.

May has passed away in recent years and it’s been nice to relive memories of reading OiNKs at her house

It’s strange to think how tiny little strips like this, with just two panels and two lines of dialogue, can stick in the brain for decades to come. This one certainly went on to do just that. Then again, Roger was such a memorable character. Ever since his first appearance in #3 all his strips have been genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, the premise letting the writers’ imaginations run completely wild. The job of writing Roger’s ability to turn any everyday situation into the complete opposite was in good hands with Vaughan.

This issue is very memorable for me as a whole, I can remember reading it over and over again that Hallowe’en and in particular at my Aunt May’s house, a lovely lady who wasn’t actually related but was my mum’s best friend and so got the honorary title of ‘Aunt’. May has passed away in recent years and it’s been nice to relive memories of reading OiNKs at her house (see also #37). This strip of The Adventures of Death I can remember giggling about while tucking into the plate of biscuits and juice May had brought out while I read.

Charlie Brooker’s Death was a great little character and a firm favourite from the moment he first appeared. Having been the star of the half-page Next Issue promo in the previous issue I was surprised to see he wasn’t given more than a quarter page here, but that’s all the space Charlie needed. Both young me and older me loved this particular entry. I am aware of how it might seem, describing how this particular character brings back a specific memory of a late friend, but I also think there’s some kind of lovely poetry about that.

Not something Charlie would’ve considered about the character when he created these strips I’m sure. The Adventures of Death is the perfect OiNK twist on a traditional comic character. We’d had fun monsters before in other comics but to turn the Grim Reaper himself into a funny little character like this is very much in keeping with the comic’s ethos. We loved him! Unfortunately, unbeknownst to his fans this was his last regular appearance after first appearing in #35. He’d pop back for just six more sporadically over the next year.

Another character perfectly suited for the theme is Dead Fred, the friendly undead zombie created by Eric Wilkinson (Wilkie). He contradicts my previous comments about memory though, because I thought he was a regular in nearly every issue, but instead he only rose up from the grave every now and again. Maybe he was comfy down there. But he couldn’t miss the Hallowe’en issue. I’ve only shown a couple of panels of his before so he’s well overdue for a full strip, one which reminds me of the attendant at the Ghost Train in Barry’s Amusements in Portrush as a child!

Just like Death, Fred would appear in twelve issues altogether although his were spaced apart in the expanse between #19 and #64, which boggles my mind. I know I did reread many of my OiNKs throughout the time it was being published and that must’ve messed up my memories somewhat. I always loved Wilkie’s art in Fred’s strips, his detailed textures conveying rotting flesh, clothes and bones perfectly. Under any other artist I don’t think the jokes would work quite as well, the contradiction between his friendly nature and his rotting corpse are what makes it funny.

What a delight to turn the page and see a J.T.Dogg (Malcolm Douglas) poster. It’s been far too long since we enjoyed those OiNK Superstar Posters of his in the very first issues so it was a lovely surprise to see this ‘Superswine’ poster of an OiNK take on the classic Dracula, complete with his own Hell Hog? The colouring here is as ever stunning. I love the skin tones and cloak which give a lovely gloomy yet somehow colourful finish. But just look at those gravestones and the finish Malcolm has given them. Simply stunning work.

The only negative I can think of for this poster is that it wasn’t the return of the poster series. In fact, it would be the last poster by J.T. Dogg, although the original ones would be reprinted in the first few monthlies which is when I enjoyed them all for the first time as a kid. This Hallowe’en issue isn’t short of other highlights too, Hadrian Vile has me thinking about my friends’ latest addition to their family (and her older brother), and after Burp‘s tractor beam (#37) he has more inventive weaponry to show off. The biggest laugh of the whole issue comes from a background gag in Rubbish Man, and Jimmy Flynn’s strip plays up to an old horror moving staple.

Back in July the free Crash magazine edition of OiNK ran a special competition. The Mutant Space Barbarian Magic Warriors of Doom strip ended with the readers being asked to send in drawings of what they thought had turned hero Macho Mike into a big pile of blancmange. Suitably enough the editorial team have decided to use the Hallowe’en issue to show off the winners, taking over one half of a Grunts spread. There were ten altogether, each of which received an OiNK t-shirt and a copy of the OiNK computer game for their chosen format.

The strip they were drawing the conclusion to was illustrated by J.T. Dogg, so no pressure, right? You can’t deny the pig pals had skills. My favourites are ‘Squirty Bogweazel’ by Glenn Taylor of Gwynedd and ‘Molly Slocombe Intergalactic Mother-in-law’ by Michael Firth of Wolverhampton. Just a shame they’re so small on the page really. Special mention to ‘Uglay’ by Plymouth’s Danial Garside who dare I say is obviously a fan of Tom Paterson. Also, have a look at Noel Watson’s fantastic multi-headed beast on the other page! Quality reader contributions all round.

Lew Stringer’s Pete and his Pimple gets a half-page this issue but just across from him on the opposite page (right beside said strip when the comic is opened out) is Night of the Vampire! written by Lew and drawn by the ever entertaining Steve Gibson. With OiNK’s artists having such a wide range of styles I always like it when they take on each other’s characters, and Steve’s interpretation of one of Lew’s ‘popping’ up here in a particularly Steve-like fashion is great!

Little did I know the very next issue would bring a lot more of this sort of thing as different artists would take on Pete Throb in a special pull-out comic dedicated to the fan favourite, as advertised in the Next Issue promo here. That’s something you won’t want to miss so make sure to follow the blog.

On the same spread is this little treasure from Jeremy Banx. Regular readers of the comic (or of this blog) will know all about the surrealist humour of Jeremy’s strips, in particular Mr Big Nose. From toothpaste squeezing competitions and starring as Rambo in Little Bo-Peep to the famous Keith the dolphin, there’s been a lot of memorable strangeness and he appears to be upping that with each new appearance. (Ploppy puns throughout the comic drawn by Patrick Gallagher.)

Where would you even begin if you attempted to describe this to someone who hadn’t seen it? The poltergeist idea itself is a brilliant one and looks hilarious in that final panel, complete with the one who let go of the globe I bet you didn’t notice was floating. In those first images using Mr Big Nose’s face on the planet and the globe to tell us the story is weird but it works. Brilliantly. It’s heartbreaking to think this character will disappear from the regular comic after the next four issues!

But let’s not think about that yet, let’s enjoy the rest of the year and these simply perfect issues of OiNK we were getting every fortnight. This one ends with a truly classic OiNK back page, the latest spoof movie poster. Written by Charlie Brooker and again drawn so perfectly by Simon Thorp, it’s one which I particularly enjoyed at the time. In fact, while I hadn’t seen the original movie when I first saw this, it would become my favourite of Simon’s mini-posters as a child because the next year I became obsessed with the cartoon and Marvel UK comic. Take a butchers at this.

I can remember re-discovering this many months later after I’d eventually seen the movie and thought this was hilarious. Somehow, Simon has perfectly captured Bill Murray in pig form. It’s just a genius piece of work. Believe it or not, despite how great this is, as an adult it isn’t even my favourite of Simon’s pieces any more. That honour goes to a certain Half Pig, Half Machine hero who I’ll definitely be showing off when we get to that issue.

As we tear ourselves away from page 32 that’s a wrap on the latest OiNK and it’s been a genuine pleasure to relive every single thing this has had to offer. Seriously, if you haven’t read a full issue since the 80s (or perhaps never have) then I’d heartily recommend #40 as the ideal starting point to your inevitable collection. The next issue, complete with pull-out Pete comic, is the Health & Fitness special and its review will be here on Monday 14th November 2022.

Just to finish off this superb Hallowe’en feast here’s a suitably terrifying mini-strip from Mark Rodgers and Ian Jackson. See you next time.