Tag Archives: Jeremy Banx

OiNK! #31: BIG! BOLD! BRASH! AMERICA!

This issue of OiNK sits on my shelves as a loose collection of pages, although you wouldn’t know it until you picked it up. But if you’re not careful all its pages would flap out and become strewn all over the floor. Why have I taken one of my precious comics apart like this? There’s a very good reason and we’ll get to that later in the review, but for now you’ll just have to trust me when I say I had no choice. Hopefully that’s got you suitably intrigued to stick around for the remainder of this post all about the Star-Spangled USA Issue, as if you couldn’t tell from that logo.

Andy Roper’s cover art makes just as big an impression, his King Pong strip the star of the inner pages. The recreation of the famous New York finale makes the perfect cover and the strip itself is written by Mark Rodgers. Rather than ape (sorry) a human character by putting a pig snout on them, Mark has taken another animal and pig-ified them, creating the “giant ape-like pig”, which is a bit of a stretch. But ridiculous scenarios are par for the course with OiNK, and the more ludicrous the better so we’re off to a swinging (sorry again) start.

Cutting the plot of the epic film down to a couple of pages we do without the love story so instead when King Pong’s smell gets too much for the city his captor turns into that favourite villain of OiNK’s, a butcher. Taking him captive in return it’s up the Empire State Building we go and just when you think it can’t get any more silly the sad ending is swapped out for a really, really stupid heroic getaway. Wrap it all up in one of the comic’s trademark pun-riddled morals and it’s another classic.

The amount of tiny details Andy squeezes in over the two pages is fantastic, with plenty to keep the eyes occupied and the reader chortling along. From one iconic American character to another, new OiNK writer Vaughan Brunt makes his debut with The American Super-Hero, drawn by Mike Green. I remember telling my friends in school about this one. I took every chance I could to highlight OiNK’s jokes, especially when it was a parodying something they enjoyed. I was always trying to make pig pals out of them.

Vaughan would contribute to 17 issues of OiNK altogether before moving on. While he was solely a write (a very funny writer) away from the sty he’s a very accomplished artist. While he doesn’t have his own online presence, a fan site for classic television series The Prisoner includes an art gallery of his paintings of Portmeirion, Wales where the show was set. You can check out his work here. Remembering those gorgeous painted OiNK spoofs (such as Watery Down and Simon Thorp’s movie posters) it’s such a shame Vaughan didn’t draw for the comic in his gorgeous painted style.

Hadrian Vile’s strip returns to its diary format with some big news for him and his family. Writer Mark Rodgers and artist Ian Jackson’s creation is about to have a baby sibling. As I’ve pointed out before Hadrian’s age increased in OiNK’s birthday issue and now we’d see his mum’s pregnancy for a number of months in real time, from the moment Hadrian notices her belly and her rather strange appetite (to say the least). What we have here is a typically funny Hadrian strip with a surprisingly sweet ending.

Hadrian would continue to make his mark on his mum’s pregnancy and in the end we’d see the big day arrive in a family-orientated issue of the comic with a special three-page strip. That’ll be in the latter part of this year. I do remember the strip didn’t go down the well-trodden route of the rebellious boy not having any interest with a cutesy baby in his life or disliking  his younger sibling. Instead, Hadrian was instantly besotted and took them under his wing as his potential protégé! The regular strip was already a favourite, but with its real-time aspects it became an even more unique and original OiNK highlight.

OiNK had an eclectic style, drawing in established artists from the world of children’s comics, adult newspapers and magazines, as well as a range of younger contributors whose career was only beginning. While other comics may given the established cartoonists the larger pieces of work and the newcomers the smaller strips, in OiNK they were all treated as equals. For example, alongside those new to the world of kids’ comics were the likes of Mike Higgs, this issue contributing a simple half-page strip about the Statue of Liberty taking a hygiene break.

A couple of highlights from Steve Gibson’s contributions are next. At this point in the run Steve’s style was being used mainly to illustrate quizzes and fact sheet pages, such as the Coast-to-Coast Quiz where we see his version of Snatcher Sam aka Marc Riley, and then Hogathan King brings us Entertainments USA and a recently released cinema flop was squarely in Steve’s sights.

The next highlight was an easy choice to include. Jeremy Banx’s Mr Big Nose has done many things, such as playing Rambo in Little Bo Beep, having Christmas dinner with a turkey and hoovering with a dolphin (named Keith), but here in just half a page he succinctly sums up the US of A like no one else could. A publication like Private Eye could run this strip today and it’d be met with just as many laughs.

If any part of this issue could summarise the attitude OiNK had towards America it was that.

So why is my copy of #31 of my favourite comic of all time falling apart at the seams? Because it doesn’t have its staples anymore but it’s not my fault they had to be removed. In the centre of this issue is a superb J.T. Dogg Street-Hogs poster showing Dirty Harry trailing Hoggy Bare reluctantly into action. But this is only one half of a double-sized gift from our ever-so-generous Uncle Pigg.

My personal favourite is the Sinclaire C500 Electrodustbin.

The top half featuring Emma Pig and Hi-Fat can be found on the inside front and back covers, so to put the whole thing together kids were instructed to carefully undo the staples (don’t just pull!) and remove the middle poster, then pull the staples out from the rest of the comic, put the cover pages to the side and then somehow push the staples back in through the remaining pages. Unless you have one of those really long office staplers this is impossible, it certainly was for me at this ripe old age never mind back then (I never put it apart as a child).

But in order to show you this as intended I couldn’t just hold up the middle of the comic and try to get a photo of the inside covers, so just for you lot my copy shall forever fall apart. See what I do for this site? Anyway, it really is a thing of beauty, just like all J.T. Dogg art really. I also love the names of the bikes which I don’t think have been mentioned before; the Hogley-Davison Porkchopper 222, the Yakawaki Trikey-Wikey 5000 and my personal favourite the Sinclaire C500 Electrodustbin, a little dig at the Sinclair C5 personal electric cycle from the 80s.

The ‘Hogs would be back in the next issue with the start of their brand new adventure, The Day of the Triffics which was first name checked way back in #11! This, along with the back page of #27 acted as a way of hyping up the readership for their long-awaited return, although it was kind of lost on me because I hadn’t read their earlier strip, what with my first issue being #14. The artwork looked wonderful though and very funny, but nothing could prepare me for how much I’d fall in love with the characters just two weeks after these posters.

This issue has a “fantastic” back page too. When you turn to it initially you might think there’s been a printing error because it’s upside down but in reality it’s just another clever gag on the part of Chris Sievey aka Frank Sidebottom. Frank’s showbiz career and (probably more importantly) lifestyle was his main running gag, with strips featuring him mingling with celebrities who in reality were cut-out photos glued to the page. Flip over this issue of OiNK however and you’ll see he’s taken it to the next level as a cover star of Time magazine.

Having this printed upside down means the comic opens on the correct side of this faux cover, which in itself is a little bit of genius. As ever, his attempts to convince us of his worldwide fame are hilariously portrayed. For example, one very quick glance at the background of the supposed Yellowstone National Park photograph will give the game away. Chris’ creations, showing his character’s poor attempts at creating a fictional reality around his ego, were always a highlight and actually, as fun as the strips were, I think I preferred it when he did stuff like this.

I’ve (carefully) flipped the comic over again and placed it back on to the shelf as we’ve come to the end of yet another review. The next issue of OiNK is themed around sport which is not my favourite topic (Olympics aside) so it’ll be interesting to see how it tickles my funny bone. Remember, just the day before this review was published there was an in-depth look at Crash magazine #42 which featured an interview with OiNK’s three human editors and a lot more besides. The special free issue of OiNK given away with that magazine will also have its own review, which you’ll be able to read from Saturday 2nd July 2020. Then #32 of the regular comic will be here from Monday 11th July. Phew! See you soon I hope.

OiNK! #29: MUSiC TO MY EARS

Okay, so full disclosure before we kick off this review: I bloody love 80s music! During that decade, as the youngest of five children I heard a constant stream of music coming from the bedrooms of my siblings. Sunday afternoons would find them all in one bedroom listening to the radio chart show, and Top of the Pops gathered the family together every week (usually with complaints from the parents). One-by-one as my brother and sisters moved out in the 90s they’d leave their cassettes behind and I began to discover my own musical tastes. Decades later songs from the 1980s fills up the majority of my Apple Music library.

So with that in mind I’m very happy to introduce you to #29 of OiNK, the Nasty, Noisy Music Issue which kicks off with another fun Ian Jackson cover and more free postcards. Having Ian’s jagged, colourful Uncle Pigg serenading critic Mary Lighthouse promises much hilarity inside and it’s not a spoiler to say that promise is well kept. Prolific OiNK cartoonist Lew Stringer brings his two famous creations Pete and his Pimple and Tom Thug to the pieces of card tucked away in the centre of the comic, and thus began pimples and bird droppings zooming around the world’s postal services in the summer of ’87.

Upon opening the comic the first thing I saw on the Grunts page was an apology to a Madonna fan club for a cheeky reference to the pop star back in #16, the previous musically-theme Pop Music Issue. You can see the original ‘Celebrity Lookalike’ they ran with the so-called apology underneath. Of course, the club members should’ve known better, or perhaps they would’ve fully expected Uncle Pigg to make a joke of it somehow. But they definitely should’ve provided their address, that bit of ridicule was completely their own fault.

I always loved the variety of input from readers on the Grunts pages and this is a great example. If you ever featured in the pages of OiNK do drop me a line in the comments here or on the blog’s social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook). I’ve a list of every contribution made by readers so I’ll happily dig yours out. I have to say I do particularly like the ‘Set of LPs’ promo here too.

Just a few turns of the page later there’s the latest photo story but this one has some very special guest stars. Post-punk band The Mekons were headlined by Jon Langford, a musician and artist who had already contributed some brilliantly anarchic art to OiNK. He and Marc Riley are good mates and at the time were putting together a tribute album to Johnny Cash, an album that’s even been attributed to reviving Cash’s career! (The cover of which was drawn by Jon with help from Mike Taylor, an editorial assistant and artist on OiNK.)

For this issue Jon wasn’t just going to draw a strip, he was going to star in it and he brought his bandmates with him. Going by the name The Mekoneros it took place in the Wild West (filmed in Yorkshire) and was set to a song about ‘The Devil’s Herd of Pigs’. Jon himself stars as Bad Jake and looks to be having the best time gurning to the camera and, as with all OiNK photo strips, exaggerating every movement and story beat.

This wouldn’t be the last time we’d see The Mekons in a photo story either, they’d come back to fight off dinosaurs (well, cheap dinosaur toys) in a trip to the distant past in that typical OiNK fashion of not being convincing whatsoever. From memory it’s a good ‘un so I’ll most likely be including it here when the time comes. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.

Jimmy (The Cleaver) Smith’s look was perfect, a fantastically creepy design that thrilled the young pig-loving readers

Next up Tony Husband pens a ghost story which is brought to the page by artist Les ‘Lezz’ Barton. It keeps all of the usual trappings of a ghost story while weaving in the theme of the issue and having a genuinely laugh-out-loud ending. A staple of ghost stories are the lone figures found to return time and again to one particular place, often performing a particular action from their life or accompanied by a horrible, terrifying noise, perhaps related to the moment of their death or a past traumatic event. 

I love Tony’s take on this idea with it’s fresh twist, while also answering the question of how exactly would you describe the noice bagpipes make?! Tony expertly plays up to traditional ghost stories and stereotypes with affection and gentle digs, from the initial set up to the overuse of the phrase “the noo”, with that ending providing the biggest laugh of course. 

Jeremy Banx brings us a Butcher Watch Re-update (after all a simple ‘Update’ or ‘Part Two’ is just too normal) on the whereabouts of notorious butcher (and the comic’s in-house nemesis) Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith. Now established as a firm fan favourite, Jimmy would appear randomly for the rest of the comic’s run, even in a regular strip in the weekly issues as the villain of a piece about a famous butcher hunting pig. Jimmy’s look was perfect, a fantastically creepy design that thrilled the young pig-loving readers.

That panel with the caption about the possibility of him being in the reader’s house, while he silently clambers in through an open window at night is especially unsettling. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a criticism about unsettling images in a kid’s comic, not at all, we lapped this up! We loved the shudder up our spines that strips like this gave us and the more horrific Jimmy’s antics were the better! Of course, there was never anything actually unsuitable, he was more like our version of a good Doctor Who villain for the kids; someone to thrill us from the safety of our comic’s pages.

Just before we move on I had to include another of Jeremy’s classic characters, Mr Big Nose. Co-editor Tony Husband once told me he loved Jeremy’s work so much because he would just let his mind go wherever it led, and that’s just the best way of describing his OiNK work. Here, Mr Big Nose is putting on a sold-out concert where he hums popular songs, because of course he would.

The joke is right there in the first panel of the strip and it’s just played out again and again over the next four. But it doesn’t get stale. In fact that’s what I find so funny about it, how we get example after example of the ridiculous set up. Genius. As always.

Other highlights this issue include educating the young ‘uns about classic music with Beethoven, in The Golden Trough Awards piano lessons bite back, there’s a special (and I quote) “Psy-Psy-ss-Psycho-o Gr-Gr-an-Gran Rap’ and Helen Jones and Graham Exton make cameos (whether they like it or not!) in Hadrian Vile.

Madonna’s face isn’t the only link back to #16’s pop music theme. That issue also had the most unique competition I’ve ever seen in a comic, to win a pop concert in your own home. Le Lu Lus were fans of OiNK and contacted the team about collaborating. This ultimately resulted in Martin Benster from Pretwich and his friends (as well as his poor mum) watching a performance of the band in the comfort of their own house. Best of all this wasn’t just announced on the Grunts page, instead a full strip was created so Martin could actually appear in the comic, with his mum as part of the punchline at the end.

On the back cover is a glorious colour pin up from Simon Thorp and it’s just the first in a line of spoof movie posters that would become fan favourites over the next several months. From RoboChop to Butcherbusters, Simon’s brilliant take on popular movies with a piggy twist are some of the most requested pages for inclusion in this blog. He kicks off his semi-regular series with The Sownd of Music.

Simon even includes credits, with everything reworded into piggy puns and ploppy parodies, right down to the little production company name beside the title and his take on Cinemascope. Back when movie posters were all hand-painted rather than photographs these really felt close to the original designs. However, even with all that hard work Simon has put into creating that brilliant image I laughed the most at the simplest little joke, the movie’s certificate; adding just one lower case ‘i’ ends the issue with one of its best gags.

That’s us for another two weeks. The next issue of OiNK is very special indeed. Do you remember those silly award categories readers were asked to send in nominations for back in the Hogmanay issue at the start of the year? It’s nearly time to find out how they all voted. It’s a who’s-who of 80s celebrities and culture, all brought to life by none other than Spitting Image! It’s an absolute hoot and the highlights will be here in the next review from Monday 13th June 2022.

OiNK! #28: WHEN PiGS FLY

There are a lot of exciting and funny things on this cover, beginning with the main event of Superham as drawn by Ron Tiner. Look closer at the accompanying details for more laughs, such as the “Trouser Press” approval spoof of the Comics Code Authority, and OiNK‘s own version of DC Comics‘ logo from the time tucked away in the top corner. We’ll get to the Ham of Steel in a little bit, but there’s an announcement on the cover for the latest free gifts!

The last gifts given away by OiNK were the three parts of the gigantic poster calendar from the end of the previous year (check out #17 for the full product) and again we have three issues in a row with something extra tucked away inside. Unlike the cut-out postcards in #7 these are actual cards which can be easily removed and sent by readers. Each pair would be drawn by a different artist, beginning with Jeremy Banx.

I can remember taking a couple of these on holiday with me back in 1987 and definitely the Burp one. I can’t remember using them though, whether through forgetfulness or changing my mind and not wanting to send them away. Are postcards even a thing anymore when people can just check in on social media or send photos instantaneously back home? I’m not sure, but in the 80s these were a great idea and each one is a brilliant little gift in its own right. The next two issues will contain postcards by Lew Stringer and Ian Jackson, so make sure you check them out.

Back in the Valentine’s issue the Peanuts gang, namely Charlie Brown, Snoopy etc got renamed the Peabrains in a one-off (I assumed) strip complete with some spoof merchandise advertising. As I said at the time I was never a fan of the cartoon or newspaper strips but I still enjoyed OiNK’s version which was created by Patrick Gallagher. Surprisingly, the strip returns but this time Snooby is drawn by David Leach who was best known for Psycho Gran. Here, the little dog is daydreaming, something he was known for in the cartoon and which we’d see brought to life by his imagination. Sitting on top of his kennel he imagines being a heroic fighter pilot. But this is a strip by David Leach so expect the unexpected.

Well I did say that’s who David was known for, didn’t I? I’d forgotten all about this ending, although as soon as Snooby metaphorically took to the air it all came back to me. I’d like to think as a child I didn’t spot Psycho in the final panel until I’d read the full strip because the reveal of the jet itself is so brilliantly drawn and her grin at the end just hilarious.

Alongside the captions the images tell a different, highly exaggerated version of the same events

In 1987 Superman IV: The Quest For Peace had just been released in cinemas and, while not the most successful of the franchise, its marketing was surely everywhere, making him a big, timely target for OiNK. Mark Rodgers took on writing duties for Superham and cover artist Ron Tiner returns for the three-page strip itself. It all kicks off on familiar territory, the narrative captions keeping surprisingly true to the tale of the lone refugee from an alien world movie goers were all too familiar with.

However, alongside those captions the images tell a different, highly exaggerated version of the same events and this is where the laughs come from. The story continues with highlights of Superham’s fight against evil, including a brilliant panel depicting him flying faster than the speed of light. So fast in fact he breaks through time itself and comes upon a spectacular sight. I won’t ruin the surprise because it’s on that third page we get the big punchline.

This is classic Mark, with a very funny twist in the tale and the ever-perpetuating series of events brought on by the “stupid rhinoceros” of a superhero. I’ll admit the recent movies did little to endear me to the inspiration behind this spoof, but with a much more entertaining version of the character taking pride of place on BBC One’s Saturday teatime schedule again this feels like another timely read for this funny take on the original superhero. Great stuff.

I say well done to the OiNK team for printing this page and standing up to the bullies!

The next page is as unique as you’ll find in any of our childhood comics. Back in #7 a strip called Janice and John and the Parachute Jump appeared which has (incorrectly) gone down in history as making a bigger furore than it did; it’s even been written that it was the reason behind OiNK’s cancellation 61 issues later, which is just ridiculous. Yes, an official complaint was made with The Press Council who looked into the story in question. The complaint was dismissed in the end but OiNK wasn’t about to just let this moment pass, as you can see with the following page.

I can’t remember reading this as a child so I haven’t a clue what I made of it, but nowadays it reminds me of working in BBC Complaints and the amount of people who’d want an entire series cancelled because they personally didn’t want their licence fee paying for it (never mind the millions who watched it and were also paying their licence fee), or the myriad of Daily Mail comments Dave Gorman would use to great effect in his Modern Life is Goodish TV show. Even today in the UK and America we have books and comics being banned all in the name of “freedom” without a hint of irony.

So I say well done to the OiNK team for printing this page and standing up to the bullies! It’s refreshing and damned funny in its own right, especially how it can’t help but stir things up a little more with that final gag at the bottom referencing a non-existent next chapter. Janice and John would return in a story about a thermonuclear reactor though, as promised at the end of #7’s story. That wouldn’t be seen until #41, possibly held back until the outcome of the complaint was known and the whole thing was in the past.

I don’t think any other comic would’ve been this brave and I commend the editors for deciding to do this. Recently, Helen Jones very kindly sent me a wonderful package containing the original complaints and responses including those from The Press Council and IPC’s John Sanders. They’re a fascinating read and will be on the blog soon. A famous moment from OiNK’s history but one which very few seem to accurately write about. I hope I can help set the record straight.

Moving on for now and another superstar of the comics world joins the sty as Mike Higgs draws Infamous Failures of Aviation, written by Lew Stringer.

It’s a cracker script by Lew (or ‘Biggles’) and Mike’s work really stands out, his style easily identifiable to anyone familiar with his strips elsewhere. Mike was best known for creating The Cloak in 1967 for Pow!, as well as bringing his unique artwork to Space School and Thundercap for Whizzer and Chips and Buster respectively. He (and The Cloak in particular) was a big influence on Lew when he was creating his Combat Colin character for Action Force comic.

Lew worked as Mike’s assistant in the early 80s for a range of children’s books and they became good friends. When OiNK came along Lew suggested bringing Mike back to comics for the first time in years to co-editor Mark Rodgers. This was his first appearance in the comic and he’d be back another eight times. Even though he’s better known for appearing in more traditional titles, there was never anything traditional about his work. As such, I think he’s a perfect addition to Uncle Pigg’s team and I look forward to seeing what else he brings to future issues.

Writer Graham Exton (whose name I haven’t seen mentioned in the fortnightly in several months) and artist Davey Jones produced another funny little OiNK mini-strip but this one is a little special because Davey has previously shared an original rough sketch by Mark Rodgers as well as his own thoughts on his finished product. I saved this away for future reference and it’s nearly time to share this little insight into the creation of OiNK. I say nearly because it deserves its own post so watch out for that in the days after this review.

Mike Higgs’ son also makes an appearance this issue, sort of, in a scrawled shout out on an office desk in Lew’s Pete and his Pimple as the young Mr Throb dreams of being the high-flying Captain Pimply superhero. Smelly alien Burp isn’t being anywhere near as daring at the beginning of his strip though. More classic highlights to long-running OiNK favourites.

Our heroic Wonder Pig is back again with another name change, another ill-fated attempt at heroism and it all kicks off when his owner falls down another pit. Lashie the Wonder Pig is written by Tony Husband and drawn by Chas Sinclair and it’s this repetition of events which makes it so very funny indeed. In fact, this issue’s strip will be all the funnier if you’ve read the one I included in the highlights to #18. So go read that first and then come back here to read this next strip. Go on then!

This is a great way of parodying the TV series and movies of a certain Border Collie and their own repetitive nature. But just like Lassie‘s fans didn’t mind, our own Lashy (well, that’s the spelling for now anyway) also had fans who craved the same things happening again and again. The more strips that appeared the funnier these got. They wouldn’t appear too regularly, if they had maybe we would’ve grown tired of the formula but as such their semi-regular surprise appearances were always a hit.

Our flying special comes to an end with news the next issue is a ‘Mirthful Musical Issue’. Regular readers may be thinking this is a repeat of the subject from #16 but that issue was all about the world of pop music, our next one takes in the whole of the musical world and nothing is off limits. Think of the difference between #6‘s ‘Animal Crackers Issue’ and #27‘s ‘Big, Soft Pets Issue’. There’s even going to be a very special appearance from a famous post-punk band in a photo story, so it’s definitely not to be missed.

So save your bookmarks, follow on socials or sub to the blog so you’ll get notified on Monday 30th May 2022 of the latest OiNK review!