Tag Archives: James Gallagher

OiNK! #17: HO(G), HO(G), HO(G)!

It’s great to finally be reading the issues I enjoyed so much as a kid and this is one I’ve really been looking forward to, what with me being such a fan of the season. As a child I remember the TV Times magazine being a staple part of my television viewing, even though it only had ITV and Channel Four listed, and the Christmas issue was a bit of an event when it arrived. Today the only time I’ll buy a TV listings magazine is Christmas; there’s something wonderfully nostalgic about it nowadays . Back in 1986 OiNK‘s TV Tips sat proudly alongside the family’s TV Times in the magazine rack for the whole school holiday. I insisted upon it.

What a present the free gift turned out to be too. The third and final section of the calendar for 1987 came with this issue and when linked to the separate parts from #15 and #16 it dominated my bedroom for the whole of the next year. It was subject to many pen marks when crossing off dates and highlighting birthdays, but it was treasured. Below are photos of the final part and the finished calendar I’ve been able to acquire again, proudly taking centre stage on the wall of my office, impatiently waiting for a year the dates will match up.

The issue is packed with Christmassy strips, spoof toy adverts, cards and decorations to make, Christmas stories and more. I know it’s only going to get harder from here on to pick out a few highlights, this issue is proof of that but after long deliberations here’s the selection box of piggy perfection. To set the mood for the festive frivolities is Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental drawn as ever by Ian Knox.

I think that sets things up for us rightly.

So a cover with a comical take on TV listings magazines just has to follow that up on the inside and we weren’t to be disappointed. Blog readers who were alive in the 80s will find this next page particularly funny with references to a lot of the shows we’d have enjoyed ourselves back then, as well as those during which we’d have retreated to our bedrooms to play with our toys but which were favourites of our parents.

So what was on offer for us on TV?  Some aspects really weren’t that much different than today.  Cartoon movies, The Snowman, as well as the inhabitants of Albert Square refusing to have a merry one even back then. We may have had a festive special of Knight Rider instead of Doctor Who but the clichés about the television schedules at this time of the year aren’t a new thing, as OiNK proves here.

To be fair I’m actually a fan of Christmas telly and I think no matter the amount of cracker (no pun intended) specials and film premieres are broadcast people will carry on with the same old complaints. Interestingly, that Roger Moore James Bond illustration by Tin Thackeray was drawn for the first OiNK annual, which wouldn’t be released until the next year! (You can just about make out the OiNK logo above Roger’s head.) Just goes to show how far in advance those books were created.

Let’s not forget about the true meaning of Christmas. I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination but I’m a big kid for this time of year. To me, it’s all about those nearest and dearest to me and thanking them for being in my life for another year. It’s about presents of course but I get just as much of a thrill out of giving to those I love as I do in receiving from them. It’s a time to be grateful, to be happy, to feel loved and to share that love.

In other words, the true meaning of Christmas is ripe for OiNK to tear it to shreds.

Written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Davy Francis, Blue Xmas takes the foundations of any good Christmas story and builds upon them with plenty of laughs along the way, before it’s all flipped on its head in the final panels. A poor boy who won’t be receiving any gifts for Christmas tries to raise some money so he can buy his mum a present and through it all he finds that the joy of giving is better than receiving, only for him to be punished for his goodwill!

You can also get a real sense of the amount of work Davy (Francis) put in.

From memory I could’ve sworn this was in one of the annuals but here it is in the regular comic. A good few years back now I had the pleasure of meeting Davy for a chat and had the chance of purchasing some of his original OiNK artwork. One of the pieces was the first page of Blue Xmas which is now up on my wall. At a future point on the blog I’ll show the other pages he gave me and go into more depth on them all but I thought I’d show you a few highlights of this strip now.

In the comic the strip featured two-tone colour, all the faces being quite aptly blue, but on the original drawing you can see it was a black and white piece. You can also get a real sense of the amount of work Davy put in; in the title box you can actually see the pressure put on the page by Davy’s colouring-in of this solid black first panel. Those groups of lines he always used for backgrounds look even more time consuming in full-scale (this is about twice the size of the pages of the comic) and you can also see some of the correction fluid used to change a speech balloon to one with frosty icicles.

A quick look at some of the other highlights of the issue next, starting with Harry the Head‘s big adventure taking him into space, The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile sees the school pantomime descend into chaos and this particular panel had me laughing aloud, and the Christmas Quiz has a real head scratcher for you. Then in Ham Dare, Pig of the Future there’s more parodying of the all-British adventure comics of the day and that image of Ham looks so much like Dan Dare I think artist J.T. Dogg could easily have taken over the strip in Eagle!

I admit that well into my adult life I’d always assumed Mrs. Claus’ name was Mary! I know this was mentioned in a Charlie Brown Christmas Special (thanks to Wikipedia) but I wonder if OiNK was where I got that idea from originally. Anyway, moving on.

The commercial breaks during those Christmas programmes are usually filled with Boxing Day and New Year sales adverts for all those people not happy with what their loved ones gave them the day before. Getting in on this racket is none other than OiNK’s in-house catalogue company, GBH with their very own Christmas Catalogue for the following Christmas! This is definitely the best so far, complete with photographs of children enjoying (well, in theory) the dodgy toys and that background image by Mike Taylor, complete with a very unhappy snowman and a very smug fox.

This particular madvertisement was written by both Mark Rodgers and Patrick Gallagher and this is Mike’s first contribution to OiNK. A renowned ‘zine illustrator, Mike would go on to provide more lovingly crafted work for 13 issues altogether, being most prolific during the comic’s weekly phase.

Patrick directed the photo session which must’ve been hilarious to be a part of. His brother James was the actual photographer and the Barbie toys belonged to his sister Bernie. The two children featured are Patrick’s cousins, Erin Claffey and her brother Patrick, the rest of the toys belonging to them. On a side note I remember having that Castle Greyskull toy myself and many years later being told by my parents they had to make the trip all the way from Belfast to Dublin in order to get it that particular Christmas!

A few issues previous to this Lew Stringer had introduced us to Tom Thug‘s mum. When it was announced she’d be appearing both Tom and his father were terrified. Who on Earth could do that to the two biggest wannabe bullies in OiNKtown? What kind of bully was the mum to make these men shake in their bovver boots? As it turns out Mrs Thug was the kindest, sweetest and most affectionate woman you could imagine and that’s what put the fear of god into them! It was a funny twist and here she’s putting Tom to sleep on Christmas Eve, the morning after which she’d end up very happy with what can only be described as a Christmas miracle.

One thing I always like about Christmassy comics is seeing favourite characters within that setting. We all have our own Christmas traditions for the big day itself and sometimes it feels like we’re getting an insight into the cartoonists’ traditions, maybe from their own childhood, or at the very least maybe what they think our traditions are. These were always extra special strips and one cartoonist who never disappoints with a snowy logo is Lew.

A few issues before this we’d been introduced to Tom’s mother. Her arrival was announced and both Tom and his father panicked at the idea. It made us think what kind of ferocious bully could have these two so scared, only for her to end up being the most loving and affectionate woman you could imagine. Overly so, in fact. It was this aspect of her character the two wannabe hard nuts feared. A little extra note, according to Lew he originally had Tom actually shoot Santa but Mark Rodgers said it should be a dream so as not to upset kids. Lew says, “Mark was 100% right and it worked out far better”.

While it only ever snowed once for December 25th when I was a child we expected all of our strips to be covered in the white stuff and Lew always seemed to go that extra mile in this regard. Whether it was Tom and Pete in OiNK, or Combat Colin and Robo Capers in Transformers, you could be assured of a white Christmas in the pages of your comics. Nice to see Satan the Cat back in his own little mini-strip too and to have it all finished off with crackers and holly, and that little man at the top keeping the pages clear is a very funny touch.


“I normally manage to cadge a free, slap-up meal at Christmas time!”

Mr. Big Nose

This issue is really making my Christmas all over again 35 years after it did the first time, and now it’s the main event, a wonderful multi-page Uncle Pigg strip, one of only two times this would happen in the whole of OiNK’s run. Written by Mark Rodgers and of course drawn by Ian Jackson this four-page story is spread throughout the comic, even appearing as a subplot in Rubbish Man.

The plot has our editor declaring he’ll take his staff out for a Christmas treat, but the free gifts and competition prizes have drained the piggy bank. But as luck would have it, at that exact moment a flyer pops up offering a £10,000 reward from Santa Claus if anyone can find Rudolph who has gone missing. Donning his best Sherlock Holmes-esque getup Uncle Pigg leads his team into the snow and immediately stumbles upon a clue. But not all is as it seems.

I can remember reading this back then and loving every panel of it, wondering why we didn’t get at least a full-page like this every issue. I don’t know how many times I read it, but it was so witty and the art so funny it was definitely more than a few! I even remember lying in bed on Christmas Eve reading it yet again (even though the next issue had already arrived by that point, see the bottom of this review for more on that) just before going to sleep, or at least trying to fall asleep with the excitement of the night, which this only added to.

As the story continues there’s one madcap mishap after another, such as above when Percy Plop makes a welcome guest appearance. It reads funny but Ian’s style heightens every piece of slapstick such as the policeman skidding on Percy, forcing him deep into the snow. In the end our heroes follow the trail right back to the OiNK offices which Mary Lighthouse (critic) and none other than Santa Claus himself have commandeered. Why is Santa working with Mary? Read on.

In hindsight it’s a bit strange to have Santa team up with Mary, but when you think about it he isn’t meant to bring toys to the naughty children, is he? Children who like rude jokes, bare bums on their comic covers, puns about plops and stuff like that. But in the end Uncle Pigg and the OiNK crew won through and showed him we were all just as deserving. The present he refers to is the cut-out mobile on the back cover “for people who hate Xmas”, which is a very strange thing to put in a children’s comic. It’s more revenge on Santa for the story, but still, I remember thinking even at the time it was a little weird. Surely no one in OiNK’s target audience would hate it!

So that’s us at the end of a superb issue, a very special Christmas treat and a great stocking filler in itself if you can throw a hint at any loved one to search for it on eBay in time. With everything wrapped up (again, no pun intended) in time for the holidays there’s just one last thing I wanted to show you and that’s Jeremy Banx‘s Mr. Big Nose, another highlight of this issue that has stayed in my memory for decades and it’s a joy to see it again.

The next issue of OiNK had an on-sale date of 27th December but as per usual with Christmas comics and magazines it was released earlier than normal, what with the comics publishers shutting for the holidays, distributors working limited hours and back then our shops actually shut for days at a time! So our New Years editions would always arrive before Christmas, but I’ve no way of knowing exactly when so I’m just going to stick to the on-sale date.

That means the Hogmanay (appropriately enough) issue of OiNK will be reviewed right here on Monday 27th December 2021. I hope to see you then!

OiNK! #7: SUMMER COOL

Be forewarned, if you’re reading this in the heatwave we’re experiencing at the time of writing you may be a tad jealous of the people on the cover that we’re actually meant to be laughing at.

While comics would normally have a separate Summer Special OiNK had only just begun so we’d have to wait for ours. But something else made it extra special, at least for readers of other IPC Magazine comics such as 2000AD. As with the preview they received this issue for free as a promotional push, hence the subtle “NOT FOR SALE!” over one of the covers above.

By coincidence the issue receiving extra visibility also contained the strip that would be famously investigated by the Press Council. But, just like the ‘Viz’ myth surrounding OiNK, this chapter in the comic’s life has become distorted in the intervening years. Two (yes, only two) complaints were received and no it did not contribute to the comic’s eventual cancellation. After all, that was over two years and 61 issues later. So what’s the truth?

Well first, here’s the story itself which co-editor Patrick Gallagher believes was written by Mark Rodgers. Every pig pal remembers Janice and John and the Parachute Jump, which was illustrated by Trevor Johnson, a friend of Patrick’s and a renowned Manchester graphic designer who did a lot of work for Factory Records and the famous The Hacienda.

The complaint accused the story of disregarding mother-family relationships, but the Press Council rightly saw it as the deliberate parody of the traditional stories found in old fashioned children’s publications that it was. They ruled that it was meant to be a tasteless spoof and was not improper in any way, rejecting the complaint. Brilliantly, OiNK would publish this in a future issue.

IPC loved the attention things like this brought.

OiNK was aimed at children, not their parents, and we found it hilarious. My own parents thought it was stupid but harmless. However, while only two people complained, WHSmith still placed OiNK on their top shelves as a result. A ridiculous situation. But a year later in an interview Tony, Mark and Patrick would be all too happy to confirm sales of 100,000 per issue so never underestimate Pig Power. Tony also recently told me IPC loved the attention things like this brought.

Janice and John would indeed return in the sequel Janice and John and the Thermonuclear Reactor, although it didn’t appear until much later in the run, possibly held back until the outcome of the complaint was known. I’ll definitely include that and OiNK’s response to the complaint when we get to those issues. But now, for our next highlight let’s enjoy a different form of crazy.

What else can be said about this strip? Nothing really. Simple, straight to the point and laugh out loud funny, that’s Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental, written by Graham Exton and drawn by his regular artist Ian Knox. To this day I can remember reading certain entries in his series of tiny, one-joke strips as a kid and just losing it with the sheer, unintended anarchy of it all.

At the beginning of OiNK’s run there was a competitor to Snatcher Sam‘s crown as the most idiotic thief to appear in a photo story. His name was Swindler Sid. Played by a good friend of Patrick’s called Nick Bell, the strips were photographed by Patrick’s brother James who we saw as a Typical OiNK Reader back in #5. Despite the consequences of Sid’s actions here I think we’d all risk it at the moment given the weather outside.

Patrick and James would rope in other friends to play the roles of whoever the scripts called for. In this case the first customer is Billy Gregg (a welder in real life), the second is Paul McGarty (a labourer) and P.C. Porker is Pat Healy (a bricklayer) who would appear more than once as the same character.

Sid has now reformed himself and given up his swindling career, “Though he still dabbles in ‘finance’ occasionally” says Patrick. Nick has had an amazing and varied career, working in the NHS for more than 30 years in positions such as Lead Auditor and Benchmarking Analysis, as well as a Business Analyst at Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust. Sid’s certainly come a long way from swiping ice lollies.

Swindler Sid (Nick Bell) – Photo credit: Patrick Gallagher

Let’s have a quick look at some other highlights from this summery edition, starting with an early character called New Wave Dave who was a bit too keen to be part of that 80s scene. Dave was drawn by Viz founder Chris Donald. Tom Thug went on an ‘oliday to Blackpool with a regular selection of British folk (we’ll see how he gets on next time). There was a comics crossover of gigantic hippopotamus proportions when Hugo the Hungry Hippo popped up to save the day in Rubbish Man, Tom Paterson‘s hilarious Wet Blanket will see publication again later this year and roles were reversed in Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins.

I’m a sucker for comical sharks, as evidenced already with my favourite OiNK page of all in #4, so if any more pop up you can be sure I’ll show them off.

On the middle pages we’re treated to eight lovely, rough around the edges postcards to cut out and take on holiday from the pen of Ian Jackson. I wonder if anyone actually used them? There’s a small competition along the bottom and I’ll keep an eye out for any results as we continue the read through. The best thing about this is Ian interpreting other artists’ characters. Some of the postcards themselves are just priceless too.

Some time next year you’ll see the actual postcards the comic gave away with a few issues. I’ve a foggy memory of wanting to take them on holiday but not sure if I ever did, and they were separate from the comic. So I doubt I would’ve cut up my OiNK to use any of these if I’d been collecting the comic at this point. Why would you want to send away these pieces of art?

Snatcher Sam might be missing in action at the moment but his alter ego Marc Riley‘s strip creations are continuing to bring the laughs. Alongside Harry the Head sat a little quarter-page strip which took us back to the Jurassic, at least in theory. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth may have had ancient creatures as the stars but the settings and stories were very 1980s.

Popping up in 25 issues altogether they, like Roger Rental, disappeared during the weekly issues as a casualty of the reduced page count. We’d see situations ranging from package holidays to skateboarding, basically everything except anything to do with the correct time period and we loved them.

But for now the sun is setting on another issue of the world’s greatest comic.

One final sight gag from Tony Husband there to round things off. The comic itself would end with Uncle Pigg and his staff heading off on a bus to go on a well deserved vacation of their own, but not before promising to leave the comic in the hands of his “dedicated skeleton staff”. Prophetic words indeed as you’ll find out next time. (There’s a hint under one of the strips above.)

Join me in two weeks for an issue that’s even more unique than those we’ve seen already. That’ll be on Monday 9th August.