I’m not a sports fan, never have been. As a kid when OiNK was published my dad and brother were football mad but I simply had no interest. The Olympics were always the exception though and that remains true today, I’ll be glued to the TV day and night for two weeks solid (I’ve even booked time off work before for them) but then for four years normal service resumes. So it was with trepidation that I approached the latest issue of OiNK, which upon first glance I had no recollection of from childhood.
But now I’ve finished the issue I needn’t have worried. Beginning with that cover by Steve McGarry whose work we haven’t seen since #4, and this would be the last cover (and accompanying strip) he’d draw for the comic, his contribution to The OiNK! Book 1988 already completed even if we wouldn’t see it for a while yet. But it’s the panels down the left that really had me laughing, in particular the one about sports commentators! A funny start and inside the first laugh out loud moments come courtesy of Jeremy Banx’s smelly alien, Burp.
At this point Burp’s attempts at ingratiating himself with his human neighbours seem to be entering a rather gory phase, beginning with the malfunctioning fast food machine in #30 and in a strip I didn’t feature last issue he sliced off the top of Ronald Reagan’s head to have a chat with his brain. Bringing this little girl’s teddy bear to life might be the thing of fairy tales but as you can see Jeremy took it a step further to show the repercussions of such an act bedtime stories never would.
As well as the blackness of the blood adding to the funny horror and the bear’s protestations, there are a lot of moments here I found myself chuckling away to, not least of all Burp’s long explanation of what he did to the bear while never catching on that this was previously a toy. Also the fact it’s all done with ‘Bupa’ rays. Adverts for Bupa were on the telly all the time back then so even as a child I’d have found this funny. This issue wouldn’t be the last time we’d see this teddy either. It was, however, the first time we saw two other individuals.
One of my most fondly remembered strips, David Haldane’s Torture Twins was a regular staple of the comic from here on in, appearing in every regular issue except the penultimate monthly. It was a tale of twin brothers who really enjoyed their work. Their work just happened to be medieval torturers. In such a dark profession I guess it helps to have a good sense of humour! From gags and puns based on the style of torture they were using, to more ridiculous forms of torture, they were a highlight and a fan favourite! It’s good to finally see them here.
While this issue as a whole didn’t seem to jog the memory cells as much as others there’s one definite highlight that takes me right back to the first time I read it. In fact, it was the first time I’d come across these characters (my first issue was #14) who had made such a huge impact with pig pals who’d been with the comic from the start. Written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by J.T. Dogg, the second epic adventure for The Street-Hogs began here. The Day of the Triffics would be a lot shorter than their original story but it made a huge impact on me.
For young readers at the time already familiar with them it must’ve felt like an age since their last appearance in #11. The hype of their return began in #27 and was further added to last time with a large poster, but now the moment was finally here. I was completely won over by the potential of the strip by two things, namely the return of Dogg as the artist after I’d loved his work on Ham Dare, and the reason behind the plants being called Triffics!
It’s been too long since we’ve had a series of one preposterous cliffhanger after another, with equally ridiculous escapes the following issue. I knew of the Day of the Triffids from watching the movie late one night with my mum not long before this, so it was the perfect material to parody as far as I was concerned. The mysterious baddie really isn’t mysterious at all for those who’d read the first adventure, but that was all part of the fun, that our heroes who were so daring and gung-ho couldn’t even figure that out! I’m really looking forward to the next few issues.
So far out of the highlights I’ve shown only one has stuck to the theme, so here’s a selection of panels taken from throughout the issue. Pete and his Pimple finally work together to show it’s not all a bum deal for the spotty teen, there are some exercise ideas even I could get behind, a very funny spoof tabloid The Bumb is more believable than the real thing (and stars radio DJ Mark Radcliffe!), and then the final panel is about as close as we’d get to a friendship between Hector Vector and his Talking T-Shirt.
DJ and TV presenter, and close friend of editor Patrick Gallagher and writer/artist (and fellow radio DJ) Marc Riley, Mark Radcliffe worked alongside both on The Mark Radcliffe Show on BBC Radio One after OiNK and Round the Bend came to an end. The three also performed as The Shirehorses, a parody band that came off the back of the radio show. Also, Patrick and Mark performed with Chris Sievey aka Frank Sidebottom in his Oh Blimey Big Band, a photo of which you can see in #16‘s review. Of course, you’ll also know Marc and Mark as Mark and Lard!
Do you remember spot-the-ball competitions? They could still be around for all I know, but in case they’re not they’d run in newspapers and magazines back in the 80s and would involve a photograph taken during some action in a football game, with the ball itself removed from the picture. This would always be very cleverly disguised and given the technology of the day was quite the feat because there’d be no trace of it in the photo.
Competition entrants would need to look at the positions of each individual player, their actions, where they’re looking etc. and try to figure out where best to place their ‘X’ to highlight where they think the ball was in that precise moment. The team behind OiNK decided to run a similar competition in this sports issue and went to the same painstaking levels of professionalism to ensure it was as difficult to work out as possible. Well, difficult if you’re a cretin apparently.
I was so happy to see the return of Tom’s Toe in this issue! Originally appearing back in #12 he then popped up in the first Holiday Special before disappearing again until #30. Given the nature of the strip, that it would parody clichés from OiNK’s own sister publications, it worked best as a special character who’d just pop up now and again. If Tom had been a regular I think the joke could’ve worn thin and he could’ve strayed into cliché himself.
Thankfully that never happened and here his return is marked with a brilliant strip which really highlights the differences between OiNK and other comics of the day. Of course, it’s all helped along by the fact it’s drawn by John Geering whose usual work was among that which Tom was parodying! So, this time Tom and his friends are playing a game of footie when the ball bursts. What to do? Well, we have a boy whose toe can take on any form so naturally he grows it to resemble a football.
This halfway point of the page feels like the end gag for a traditional strip in another comic; “Haha, oh he made it into a football this week, I wonder what he’ll do next time haha?” But this is OiNK. OiNK was different, it went further. In this case, it takes the scenario further to see what would actually happen next, turning the second half of the strip into something else completely, into classic OiNK! The whole page is kind of like a metaphor for the difference between traditional comics and this one.
Unfortunately, this would be the last time we’d ever see Tom. His four appearances were brief but memorable and the perfect antidote to the safer humour OiNK was created to counter in the first place. John would return in the first OiNK Book, drawing more jokes aimed at other comics he worked on. As a child I’d no idea this was the case because OiNK was the only humour comic I collected for a while, but now I can appreciate his contributions even more than I originally did.
The final page I’d like to highlight is once again Frank Sidebottom’s. Chris Sievey was a creative genius, let’s make no bones about it, and since he joined the ranks of OiNK he’s designed a cut-out zoetrope, his own Time magazine cover and even created working programs for young ZX Spectrum computer users! The page he’s brought us this time once again shows the insane amount of work he’d put into OiNK. We appreciated it every single time.
No other character had such a variety of content from issue to issue. We just never knew what would be next with Frank! He particularly seemed to enjoy giving us an excuse to cut up our precious comics, giving us even more value for (our parents’) money. He certainly didn’t let us down with his (deep breath) Frank “Windy” Sidebottom vs Elton John All-Star Cut-Out Snooker Game. The rules alone were surely a feat to create. At one stage he even suggests throwing them out, they’re that intricate!
A simply wonderful page for us to finish on this time. The next OiNK comic review will be up from Monday 25th July 2022, the theme of which really puzzled me back in 1987, then made me very happy indeed to be living in Northern Ireland and not another part of the UK as a child. You’ll have to come back in a fortnight to find out what that’s all about.