We’re already a dozen issues (and a preview) in to the real time read through of the funniest comic ever produced. Where has the time gone? I suppose it just goes to prove it does fly when you’re laughing at one ridiculous gag after another. This issue we’re off to the movies in proper OiNK fashion, which is quite apt seeing as how I had my first trip to the cinema in about two years this weekend thanks to the pandemic.
One of the biggest events in 80s cinema was Steven Spielberg‘s E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and I remember having to wait a while for the home video release to see it, which was delayed by five years! So this OiNK parody was created before we even got to see it at home. Featuring Nick Bell again as Swindler Sid, this would be his last appearance in the comic but he got quite the send off in the double-page spread spectacular that is E.T. (Extremely Thick).
I contacted co-editor Patrick Gallagher to ask about the making of this particular photo story and the people involved. From what Patrick can remember the costume was hired from a local fancy dress shop in Manchester called The Stage Door, run by 70s comedian Jackie Carlton. The “lucky youngster” who found themselves inside it was James O’Malley who starred in human form as Jelly-Belly Johnson in #10, Professor Potts was actually Patrick’s younger sister, Bernie Gallagher (below left), their family dog Dandy played Jimbo the Jabbering Jack Russell and friend Richard Cobey (below right) played the “ugly little squirt”, to quote E.T.!
Swindler Sid may be gone now but we’ve still got Marc Riley as Snatcher Sam who would continue to pop up in various photo strips and GBH Madvertisements during the fortnightly portion of OiNK’s run, so you won’t be short of mischievous, yet somehow loveable thievery as the read through continues.
Billy’s Boots was a classic adventure serial strip which appeared in Scorcher comic in 1970, moving to Tiger in 1974 when the comics merged, then Eagle in 1985 and in the year OiNK appeared he transferred to the pages of Roy of the Rovers. He definitely had staying power. It starred Billy Dane who inherited an old pair of football boots which once belonged to ‘Dead-Shot’ Kean and somehow enabled Billy to play in the style of the soccer superstar.
It may have been a strip in a sister title to OiNK, also published by IPC Magazines, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t ripe for sending up.
Apart from the character names, the captions in the first two panels are nearly word-for-word how the original strip was introduced in the pages of Roy’s weekly. This just makes what comes after even funnier of course. Just like in that strip, there’s no reason given as to how the boots have these powers. I doubt they laughed at Billy Dane’s expense either! A brilliant spoof that just gets more and more ludicrous as it goes along and it wouldn’t be the last time OiNK would take aim at its stablemates, it does so again in this very issue.
Bobby’s Boots was drawn by Chas Sinclair, a prolific OiNK cartoonist who’d contribute to 37 issues altogether. Before he was hired by Uncle Pigg his work included Basil Brush for TV Comic and Crazy Horse in Plug, the Bash Street Kids spin-off. I was delighted to find out he’s still drawing and regularly updates his Instagram account with doodles, illustrations and full strips. It was written by Lew Stringer and according to Lew it was one of the first scripts he’d written for someone else to draw, and he was thrilled Chas was selected because he’d read those Basil Brush strips himself as a child and been a fan. (Watch out for a sensational Lew script drawn by the equally sensational J.T. Dogg starting in #15.)
Some other highlights from this issue include The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 7 5/8 (yearƨ) in which we find out Hadrian had a sister, even though she’d only be born in the comic some time next year. Maybe this one had enough of her little brat of a brother and scarpered. On the Grunts letters page we did actually get a winner to the afterthought of a competition written below #7‘s postcards and in Tom Thug a little sign signals a tiny one-off strip from #6 is returning as a serial. Excited yet?
Back at the beginning of the comic, David Haldane‘s Billy’s Brain strip saw a kid inherit his genius Uncle Vincent’s brain which could think for itself and move of its own accord. Every issue a pair on inept thieves would try to steal the brain from Billy but in the last handful of issues this concept has been changed somewhat. Dropping the thieves completely the strip now focused almost entirely on Vincent’s brain going off on solo adventures, and it’s a lot more enjoyable as a result.
I can remember Billy’s Brain from childhood so I was surprised to find out my first issue back then (#14) would be his last regular appearance. He’d pop up in a special, an annual and two issues further down the line though. I was sure he was a regular when I read the comic back in the 80s but with so many strips coming and going from OiNK, perhaps the fact I did see him a few times tricked my old brain when thinking back.
I do love an 80s movie, especially if it contains a good soundtrack, but I don’t think Mary Lighthouse (critic) was as appreciative at the time. Up next is her top ten movie list, although these are films she insists you do not see. Given her appearances so far you’d expect her to hate anything with a smidgen of violence, but wait until you read her reasons for wanting to ban E.T., Cinderella and even The Sound of Music.
Her comments about Cinderella in particular had me roaring! In a later interview with editors Patrick Gallagher, Tony Husband and Mark Rodgers in computer magazine Crash we’d find out the real Mary Whitehouse’s people were constantly checking the pages of OiNK for libel, though I know of no point when they actually complained about this character. The thing is, to check for libel they had to buy the comic!
Ed McHenry was the go-to guy for OiNK’s little puzzle sections and in this issue he brings us Barry Norham’s Movie Quiz. It contains the usual seemingly easy questions with silly, bizarre answers (upside-down at the bottom of the page). For example, “In which film does The Invisible Man appear?” Easy, right? The answer is, “He never appears, he’s invisible.” See what I mean?
With that in mind, do you think you can complete the answer to this brain teaser? Who is this?
The answer is at the bottom of the review.
Moving on now to our final highlight for this issue. OiNK was my first comic and before I started discovering adventure titles and the like I would sometimes pick up other humour comics to try them out. This would normally be when I had to go somewhere with my parents on the train and I can remember a few journeys with a copy of Whizzer and Chips. It felt a little different to the others, none of which really made me laugh, probably due to my being used to OiNK’s humour!
“Take that, you stereotype Whizzer-and-Chips bully!”
Tom in Tom’s Toe
While it was still more of a traditional comic, Whizzer and Chips felt like two in one (Whizzer for the outer 16 pages, Chips for the inner 16) and while it wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny it certainly raised a smile. OiNK was anything but traditional and would often poke fun at more established comics, labelling them as boring and predictable. I remember The Dandy and Beano being particular favourite targets, though in reality Mark Rodgers was a huge fan of both. You see, there’s a difference between parody, which is what these were, and satire. I’ll go into that in more depth in a later review.
Here, co-editor and writer of this strip Tony Husband teams up with legendary cartoonist John Geering to poke fun directly at the aforementioned comic. Even the strapline is hilariously generic!
John should surely need no introduction, having created Bananaman and worked on many traditional DC Thomson comics such as the two mentioned above, alongside some of IPC’s own titles like Cheeky Weekly and Knockout. I think it was a genius idea to have him come on with his signature artwork to do Tom’s Toe and send up the kind of strips he’d normally contribute to other comics! However, unlike his other work he was given full credit on the page for this one.
“John Geering was an acquaintance of Tony’s from pre-OiNK days whom I was introduced to later when OiNK first started,” Patrick told me. “John was working for Cosgrove Hall at the time on Danger Mouse and Count Duckula, alongside Andy Roper – they were both frequent visitors to the OiNK studio and John was delighted at the suggestion that he should parody his own style. And [Group Editor of Humour] Bob Paynter thought it was a great idea, too (albeit, to bite the hand that fed him!)” Brilliant stuff!
Unfortunately John is no longer with us, having passed away in 1999, working on Beano right up to the end. An obituary to this great talent can be found on The Independent website.
So the screen fades to black on another issue of OiNK, the lights have come back on and we’ve got sticky soda-encrusted popcorn stuck to our shoes. In two weeks the gang will all be back with the perfectly timed #13, the Hallowe’en Special, so come back on Monday 18th October 2021.
QUIZ ANSWER: “________ knees and booms-a-daisy.“