Tag Archives: J.T. Dogg

THE OiNK! BOOK 1988: PiGGiN’ PERFECTiON!

How many of you can remember coming downstairs on Christmas morning and seeing this cheery face staring back at you? I’d been giddy at getting my hands on this ever since I saw it in my local newsagents a few months previous. It really stood out with its glossy soft cover in the sea of cardboard hardbacks. Inside, all 80 interior pages are made of a thick, high quality stock, giving the book a heavy, expensive feel. Co-editor Patrick Gallagher tells me, “The higher-quality paper stock of the book was the idea of Bob Paynter at Fleetway. Bob was completely on our wavelength and knew it would appeal. The floppy glossy cover and back also seemed to really suit the enlarged shots of the plasticine pig face and bottom models Ian Jackson made by capturing the detail so well.”

Before this I’d read some of my brother’s Beano annuals but to my young mind they felt just like regular stories but with bigger panels to make them last longer. But The OiNK! Book 1988 was, as ever, different. This first book packed in as much as it possibly could to every single page. As a result, it may have had roughly 30 pages less than its contemporaries but it had so much more to read and enjoy. It all began with that famous cover, especially when you flipped it over but we’ll get to that later. While it didn’t really sink in as a kid, that claim on the bottom right is bold and of course completely correct. Inside, a special bookend of Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse introduced that team to readers.

This was innovative for a time when signatures in humour comics were rare, but OiNK’s young readers knew the names of their favourite cartoonists thanks to its creators Patrick Gallagher, Mark Rodgers and Tony Husband and their wish to shakes things up. As an adult I can’t help but look at this page in wonderment at the list of talent involved! It really was a selection of Britain’s best and it was all for us kids. We were spoiled. I also love how the chiselled words work their way around the characters and speech balloons, which makes zero sense to the chiseler!

It’s a wonderfully varied read, containing strips from our favourite regulars, some returning stars of early issues, spoofs of those other annuals I mentioned, puzzles (not filler here but typical OiNK-style funnies) and even letters and drawings from readers, something annuals just never included. So how on Earth am I going to choose a few highlights? There’s just too much brilliance on offer. It’s been painstaking but I hope I can do it justice with this selection.

This is one of my most memorable pages, with Marc Riley as the not-at-all inconspicuous burglar, Snatcher Sam in GBH’s Book Club, a take on those book and video clubs that were so popular in the 80s and 90s. Magazines and comics were filled with them, promising cheap titles to begin with as you sign yourself up to buying a certain amount at full price over a year. I was a member of the Britannia Video Club, remember them? That’s why I loved this so much, along with the usual over-the-top nature of the GBH madverts and just look at all those book covers they’ve created for the photograph. Now, 35 years later it’s the effort put into these daft pages that I really appreciate.

Released for Christmas 1987, this was the year I was hearing a lot of rumours in the playground about Santa Claus. Thankfully I soon found out they were just rumours when he left my book under my parents’ wardrobe before Christmas because demand for it was so high and he didn’t want to disappoint me. The rumours of his existence were soon to be put to bed conclusively with a script by Lew Stringer that’s spectacularly brought to the page by 2000AD stalwart Kevin O’Neill, who we sadly said goodbye to earlier this year. But there’s more to The Truth About Santa than we probably wanted to know as 10-year-olds.

There’s an image that’ll stay with you. Or haunt you. I remember this being the strip any friends who read this book at the time seemed to laugh at the most. I may have been the only one of my closest friends who collected OiNK but they all enjoyed reading my issues and in particular this book. In fact, in the year 2000 when I decided to return to college at the age of 23 the book ended up shared around that class too. I can’t remember how it came up in conversation originally, but I dug it out from my cupboard and it made its way around most of my fellow media students, each one of which raved about different aspects of it.

To this day it’s still one of my favourite books (of any type) of all time and my favourite from childhood, and in fact this is my original copy from back then, only one of three OiNKs that survived various clear-outs (by my dad) and moving out years later. Its timeless comedy is a testament to that talent it boasted about on the cover. Just like the regular comic it sets itself apart from the other annuals. While they’d have had huge multi-page versions of their regular strips, here for the most part OiNK kept them to the size they’d normally be, meaning there was a hell of a lot more of them than other books.

Annuals are created far in advance of their release dates so when this one was being put together the ever fantastic Tom Paterson was still a contributor to the comic. Written by the pun-tastic Graham Exton, Eric Knicker the Whacky Vicar may only have been a tiny quarter-page strip but it left a lasting impression on little me during Christmas 1987 as I tittered and giggled and shared the joke with friends and family. A lot better than any cracker joke.

So yes, the annual kept to the format of the comic, only more so. It’s a delight to see the creative team took the opportunity to simply cram much more in of what made OiNK so great in the first place. For a child of ten there was just so much to enjoy. We even got a short Ham Dare strip. Normally a character of multi-issue serials, here his two-page story is a hoot and is followed by this wonderful cutaway of his and Pigby’s ship.

Written by Lew Stringer and drawn by the incredible talent that was J.T. Dogg (Malcolm Douglas) it’s chock full of little details that my young eyes really enjoyed pouring over; kind of like the book itself encapsulated into two pages really. My favourite parts here are the comfy chair and its very dangerous sidestool, and the middle of the spacecraft showing the difference between our heroes, with Ham’s gym next door to Pigby’s very full pantry.

A quick note about the title box at the top of the spread. It makes a great point! My Transformers and Real Ghostbusters annuals would have had “pin-ups” and “mini posters” and I always wondered if anyone actually cut up their fantastic annuals, losing whatever was on the backs of those pages to the walls of their room. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one at the time who thought this was a ridiculous idea.

Hadrian Vile’s usual diary entries take a back seat to a selection of pages chronicling his Interleckshual guide toe Nacheral Histry

A quick glance over some other highlights now. Ron Dibney’s Dumb Ol’ Duck reveals another side to himself, Police Vet makes his debut (he’d return in the monthlies the following year) many years before Jim Carrey took on a similar role and Star Truck makes a very welcome return. Just as in #3 the crew make their presence felt throughout the book in between chapters of their own strip. Here, Mark Rodgers literally pops up as Captain Slog in one of Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins‘ pages.

Pigswilla only appeared in seven issues of OiNK altogether but he was still a firm fan favourite, so naturally he had to appear in the annual, with Specky Hector Comics Collector (with added surname) making a funny cameo I’d forgotten all about. Early in the book Frank Sidebottom found out Little Frank had used up all his felt tips and gave him until page 69 to fix the situation, which he does, sort of. So young me lent them both a hand, or at least started to it would appear.

Hadrian Vile’s usual diary entries take a back seat to a selection of pages chronicling his Interleckshual guide toe Nacheral Histry, although he does take some short cuts to get from the evolution of life to the 1980s. His usual know-it-all persona is, as always, hilariously wrong in almost every way. In his fortnightly diary he was the most intelligent person in any room, in his own mind anyway and here his guide to everything from dinosaurs (the hilarious looking Tyrannosaurus rex above is a highlight) to Ford Sierras.

In fact, after spending the first two parts of his guide covering prehistoric Earth he only has one page left to finish up and so this third page makes the leap from the ice age to the aforementioned car in the blink of an eye, clearly skipping millions of years as completely uninteresting. It’s all hilarious, as you’d expect from Mark Rodgers, made all the more special with full colour Ian Jackson art. In fact, so good is it that when the weekly comic itself gets going the diary will eventually be replaced with a series of similar guides.

1987 also saw the 50th anniversary of The Dandy (with Beano’s to come in 1988) hence why OiNK took aim at DC Thomson’s comics with regular digs about how old the characters would really be, such as #38’s Deano. In fact, I received the commemorative 50th anniversary book alongside my OiNK! Book (and The Big Comic Book 1988), although in hindsight I think it was originally for my brother but he stopped reading comics not long before Christmas. Oh well, his loss was my gain.

Returning to that spoof comic name, here the OiNK team take it to even greater heights (although this was probably created first) with a mini-comic inside the annual featuring such characters as Dennis the Pensioner and his dog Flasher, Desperate Old Man and the The Lash St. Old People. All are very funny and then we get a double-page spread of no less than five spoof strips which as a kid were funny, but as an adult are hugely surprising because four are drawn by none other than John Geering!

John was a regular artist for DC Thomson, in fact that’s the publisher he’s most closely associated with, most famously for Bananaman and Puss’n’Boots. To see him take on some of DCT’s characters in OiNK just makes these even funnier than they already were in my opinion. I do remember showing these to my friends who were huge fans of The Beano at the time, in fact I may have gloated a little! Can you blame me?

Unfortunately, I simply don’t know who ‘Philip’ is at the time of writing. His work only appeared in two OiNKs (this and #9), here with Boffo the Bore and two other like-minded strips called Georgie & Zip’s Party and Postman Fat and his Slightly Flat Cat. He’s not mentioned on the intro page either, but needless to say I’m always on the hunt for more information on OiNK’s creation so when I find out I’ll let you know. After The Deano and a ‘Fun-Hour’ pre-school comic we get another special section for adventure fans.

Eagle-eyed blog readers may recognise the brilliant caricature of Roger Moore on the first page from a previous issue (although I didn’t spot this first time around). If you go and take a look at the TV listings page in OiNK #17 you’ll see a tiny part of this image was used the previous Christmas. In it you can even see the OiNK logo behind Roger’s face so it just goes to show how far in advance this was created. This is something that continues to this day. If you follow the likes of Lew Stringer on social media or his own blog he’ll often show us snippets of annuals he’s working on over a year before their release.

I’m a huge James Bond fan, although this only happened when all the Goldeneye hype hooked me in the mid-90s and I started renting out whatever films I could from the local video shop. It was discovering Timothy Dalton as Bond that sold me, whose first film was only released the same year as this book, so the previous 007 (and his type of films) was still the target of this fun, frantic strip written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Tim Thackery.

This was Tim’s sole contribution to OiNK. An illustrator and graphic designer he actually went on to work on CBBC animated series Minuscule Milton with Ian Jackson. Tim told me how he sees this James Bong strip now looking back: “A long time ago, but yes, that was me. Not my best work , but I was a bit pushed for time on it and had to knock it out at a fairly rough level.” Personally I love the art style here as it matches the nature of the strip and brings a real sense of pacing and chaos to the proceedings. You can check out Tim’s official website here.


“She eats pickled herrings in bed and I saw her kissing the window cleaner!”

Keith Disease

The Adventure Section also contains that Police Vet strip I mentioned above, a GBH madvertisement for their ‘Personal Hand-Glider’ capable of speeds of up to 100mph (downwards) and another strip, Ena Blighty’s Five Go Adventuring Yet Again. An annual will never have a theme in the same way as the regular comic did at the time, although the festive season does come up a lot obviously. These dedicated sections feel like mini themes, three for the price of one in fact, and are some of the best pages in the whole book.

One character, or rather two, I always found incredibly funny were Hector Vector and his Talking T-shirt. Unfortunately, Jeremy Banx’s strip made its last appearance in #35, disappearing when the comic changed publishers and gave itself a bit of a face lift. With new characters and cartoonists and the very best issues the team ever produced I hadn’t even noticed these two weren’t in amongst the madness, until they popped up here in this brilliant, larger strip.

As pig pals knew, this wasn’t a strip where the brat got his comeuppance at the end of each story; we never knew who’d come out on top between the pair. For their very final appearance I have to admit I was happy to see it was Keith Disease (the t-shirt) who had the last laugh as they were always the best examples of Jeremy’s creation. There were plenty of laughs to be had in this particular strip but it was always that very final panel that had me in creases. It still does.

It’s with a heavy heart but a smile on my face that we come to the end (almost) of the review of the very best edition of OiNK the team produced. This has been both the most fun and yet hardest thing to write so far on this whole blog. It’s been great fun to finally get the chance to reread this book and to tell you all about it, but incredibly difficult to pluck out just a few highlights to try and sum it up. I hope I’ve been able to do it justice. Two more chuckles to go though. First up, the opposite page to that great opener drawn by Ian Jackson.

A couple of puns, funny art and a grinning Uncle Pigg reminding us (and telling those who were introduced to OiNK with the book) of his fortnightly comic, even if it wouldn’t be fortnightly for much longer. It’s a perfect end to a perfect book. It’s such a treasured item for me these days that it came with me to a comic con where Lew Stringer and Davy Francis signed it for me, and when Patrick Gallagher visited me at my home a few years back he added his. I intend to get the inside covers covered with as many squiggles as possible.

With that, I’m going to close the back page over now and here’s why ten-year-old me pestered my parents, my siblings and any visitors to our house over the holidays that year.

The plasticine cover was a step up from Ian’s for the first OiNK! Holiday Special and is probably the most iconic OiNK cover of all, with a story to tell. “When we sent in the transparencies of the pig face and bottom with the artwork for the printer to process, Bob Paynter didn’t spot that the pig’s star-shaped bum was partly exposed and not completely hidden by the pig’s curly tail,” explains Patrick. “It was only when the proofs came back from the printer that Bob spotted it and deemed it too rude to be published. So we had to get photographer Ian Tilton to retake the shot with the pig’s tail completely obscuring the star-shaped bottom.”

It’s still a cheeky cover and perfectly encapsulates OiNK’s unique, naughty yet innocent sense of humour.

From showing off its covers and hearing the raucous laughter of anyone I could grab over that festive season, to rereading it in my 20s, 30s and now 40s, lending it to friends many years after OiNK was a distant memory… this book will never, ever get old. It’s OiNK in its purest, most concentrated form. Every page feels fresh and new, like it was written this year, not 35 of them ago. Receiving my favourite issue of the regular comic, the Christmassy #43 and this back-to-back made my Christmas in 1987, and reliving them has done it again in 2022. If you’re reading this post on the day of publication I hope you have a wonderful day and a very Merry Christmas!

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.