Tag Archives: Les Barton (Lezz)


With the large “Not just for kids!” and the “Powerful Parody and Stinging Satire” captions it’s clear the OiNK team was really leaning into publisher Fleetway’s findings that the comic’s audience was a bit older than the original target audience two years previous. There’s been a slow but steady shift in tone recently with more references to the kind of pop culture young kids may not have been clued in on, but older teenage kids would’ve appreciated.

The late Les ‘Lezz’ Barton’s cover of The Slugs fronts an issue with no strip for the characters inside, although they do get a middle-page poster spread. Surprisingly, despite being the cover stars the next issue would contain their last regular appearance. After that they’ll disappear from the comic until the second annual and that’s it. Another casualty of the comic’s shift to a new look in just a few weeks’ time. However, there was one character who would only go from strength-to-strength over the remaining months (and beyond.)

Only when reading this for the review did I pick up on the more adult humour in the fourth panel and what that frog is actually referring to. But it’s the panel at the end of that row I wanted to mention in particular. Originally, Lew Stringer had the word “Parp!” in large letters exploding from Tom’s backside; this accidental noise being what the woman on the street is actually reacting to. But when the comic was published it had been removed, a casualty of Fleetway’s censors. But their tinkering just makes this look so much worse!

On one of those rare occasions Fleetway’s scissors were used it had the opposite end result to their intentions.

Lew discusses this on his own blog too and I agree with what he says there, how removing the fart gag makes it look like Tom is mooning the passerby instead. It was very rare for anything to be changed by OiNK’s publishers, both IPC Magazines and Fleetway understood the humour of the comic and the “precocious” (see the original newspaper marketing leaflets) youngsters who lapped it up. It just so happens on one of those rare occasions their scissors (or rather, patch paper) were used it had the opposite end result to their intentions.

Other details in that panel, such as Tom’s reaction and the woman’s hat blowing off also make more sense, and are much funnier, when you see the original panel (again, see Lew’s blog post). A strange incident this one, but it wouldn’t be the last time the publishers would edit one of Lew’s strips before OiNK’s finale. You’ll see what I mean in a few months. From one of OiNK’s most prolific artists to another who contributes only her third (and final) piece here, it’s co-editor Patrick Gallagher’s neighbour, the wonderfully talented illustrator Ann Martin.

Alongside a cheeky little poem Ann’s illustration is both daft and yet gorgeous. It’s such a shame she never returned, or contributed more frequently to OiNK, but then again Ann’s work wasn’t usually seen in comics so we should feel very special indeed, because we pig pals were very lucky to have had her work as part of our silly little periodical. Go and check out my favourite piece of Ann’s, the brilliant Watery Down from way back in #6. Yes, very lucky indeed.

A quick look at some bite-sized highlights from #60 before we move on. On the Grunts page we find out the survey results are being counted. Little did we know what that would mean soon! Also, despite Mad magazine being a key influence for OiNK’s creators/editors, they can’t help having a dig. Then Jeremy Banx’s superbly dark humour of Hieronymous Van Hellsong ends this issue, never to be seen again. Van Hellsong may only have appeared in 12 issues but he remains a fan favourite to this day.

Charlie Brooker’s Transmogrifying Tracey, who could transform into anything, turns into lots of different household objects for her unlucky friend before drawing a line and our Wonder Pig (named Lappie this time) and his owner have a surprise happy ending. His owner doesn’t even fall down a pit! Instead, they enter a sheep herding competition and win trotters down. Have you ever seen a pig so happy with themselves?

While there’s a lot of fun to be had throughout each issue of OiNK, there’s been a definite trend in recent weeks of the biggest laughs coming from the final few pages and their collections of mini-strips. Here you’ll find the likes of Ed McHenry, Marc Riley and David Haldane taking up residence with quick one-gag strips that always hit the spot and the latter’s Zootown isn’t about to break that streak anytime soon.

Thankfully Zootown won’t be a casualty of the changes to come and will continue, missing only the occasional issue before popping back up again in specials released after the cancellation. The same can’t be said for Davy FrancisCowpat County, which after this issue would only appear in the first two monthlies and that’s it. Thankfully though, Davy himself would be a permanent fixture, contributing a handful of strips to each issue in the months ahead.

This issue’s Cowpat County is one of my favourites, which is all the more surprising when you realise it doesn’t include Farmer Giles or the familiar farm setting. Instead we’re off to the countryside’s palladium for a spot of culture and Harry Keiths and Norbert. For you youngsters out there this is a reference to children’s TV faves Keith Harris and Orville, staples of television and variety shows across the country in the 80s. They’re not the butt of the joke here though, as always that’s the simpler folk of Cowpat County.

That made me chuckle. We’re already at the end of our sixtieth issue’s review and this one really has flown by! I have to say, even after 16 weekly editions of OiNK, I’m still very aware that they have eight less pages than all of those that came before. I thought I’d have gotten used to that aspect of them by now. I do love how much better they read compared to those (admittedly still good) early weeklies, but they still feel like very quick reading experiences.

Yes, I’ve only seven days to wait for the each chunk of piggy goodness but I still think I preferred the two-week wait for a meatier read. In that regard I’m looking forward to the big porkers that are the monthly issues, but will I also enjoy the other changes the new format brings with it? We’ll find out soon. In fact, exactly one month from now, because the first monthly (#63) went on sale on 21st May. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there are still another two weeklies to go, so you’d best place your order with your local shop, hadn’t you?

Tellingly (albeit only with hindsight) co-editor Patrick Gallagher’s reservation coupon has dropped “every week” for the first time here, replacing it simply with “regular order”. Don’t fret pig pals, your OiNK reviews may be going monthly but to plug the gaps there’s another comic joining the blog in the same month that happens, then another title during the summer, plus a smorgasbord of extra OiNK content to come! Don’t miss out, follow along by subscribing via the ‘Follow’ button along the bottom of the screen or get notifications of each new post on the blog’s Instagram or Facebook accounts.

The next OiNK review will be here from Friday 28th April 2023.


There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it announcement on the cover of the latest OiNK from 35 years ago, and a rather big announcement at that. The art is by Marc Riley and despite his strips being loved his style is rather simplistic for a cover image. As a fan it doesn’t matter to me, but would it have been too simple for any new readers the now-weekly OiNK was trying to attract? The little box on the right may have had more of the desired effect but I’m not sure if anyone would’ve noticed it on the shelves.

The news of course is that Dave Gibbons (Batman: Black & White, Judge Dredd and of course Watchmen) had drawn a brand new superhero strip for this issue. Watchmen had been released the previous year and been a phenomenal success, hence the design of that box, so to have him contributing to OiNK was huge. As such I think the news of his inclusion really should’ve been sung from the rooftops, or at least with a banner above the logo which could’ve been seen on the shelves above the other comics. We’ll get to him in a minute but first up, as usual in these early weeklies, are The Slugs.

Last week their page was taken up with the results of a lyrics writing competition and now we’re still sans strip but what we’ve got instead is just as enjoyable. This was thanks to pig pal Jane Streathfield’s incredible work for the LP Sleeve Design Competition. A very worthy winner I’m sure you’ll agree! The runners-up aren’t to be sniffed at either. These entries, along with the promotion of Watchmen’s artist on the cover show how OiNK’s actual audience was shifting somewhat from its original 8-13-year-olds target audience, something Uncle Pigg would confirm in a later issue.

Page five of each weekly so far has been a quick one-off gag strip by co-editor Tony Husband. They take up the full page yet are only a few panels in length, almost like a giant version of a mini-strip. A Grave Joke is my favourite of the series and the perfect example of Tony’s sense of humour and his easily identifiable art. It may seem simplistic at first glance but Tony’s style was always so full of character and wit, up alongside the likes of Ian Jackson and J.T. Dogg is synonymous with OiNK.

Speaking of Tony, pig pals weren’t the only ones to appreciate his talent as the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain can attest. In 1987 Tony won their prestigious ‘Cartoonist of the Year’ award. He would also go on to win the Pont Award for “depicting the British way of life” according to his website. In the case of the 1987 Awards for Cartooning Excellence Tony wasn’t alone from the page of OiNK.

We all know how modest Uncle Pigg was, he would never boast about his fine publication. No, not at all. Well, given his penchant for proving to the world he was editing the greatest comic that ever existed I think it’s just right that OiNK decided to blow its own trumpet, giving over half a page to the news of the awards. Sitting proudly alongside Tony were Clive Collins (Maggie Pie) and Pete Dredge (Master T), all of whom received this (cow)pat on the back.

So now on to what has to be the main event. Was the news on the cover exciting to me at the time? No, but only because I’d no idea who Dave Gibbons was. I do now of course! At ten-years-old I’d only collected two comics. My first was OiNK and then I added Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends so you can forgive me for not being aware of Watchmen or any of Dave’s mountain of incredible work. Now though, I can see this for what it would’ve meant to the teen and older readers OiNK had been attracting (especially potential new readers) and it’s amazing to me that he contributed to OiNK!

“All credit to Lew’s brilliant writing talent for providing Dave with a killer script.”

Patrick Gallagher, co-editor

From the very first issue of 2000AD to Watchmen, Dave is a giant in the industry and this was certainly the case back in the 80s, so how did this come about? We have Lew Stringer to thank. The two men had been friends for several years by this point and Dave’s son was a regular OiNK reader (Transformers too apparently, he obviously had taste) and after they discussed the possibility Lew approached co-editor Mark Rodgers about the idea, who understandably jumped at the chance.

Lew wrote the script and Dave produced this incredible page below, adding in little flourishes according to Lew, such as the kid reading OiNK, the newspaper headline and the dog’s face turning blue in the depths of space. As a child I loved this page and having been a fan of Christopher Reeve’s Superman films at the time I got all the little jokes (my personal favourite being him signalling the bus) even if I didn’t appreciate the significance of its inclusion in the first place.

I asked co-editor Patrick Gallagher what it was like to have Dave working on their comic. “Yes, when Mark told Tony and me Lew’s idea to collaborate on a page with his friend Dave Gibbons, we were thrilled and all gave it the big OiNK thumbs up with our trotters! And all credit to Lew’s brilliant writing talent for providing Dave with a killer script that matched the super-heroic credibility of his drawing talent. Lew did the same thing with the late great Kev O’Neill when they collaborated on Lew’s brilliant Truth About Santa script. So, hats off to the super-talented OiNK icon Lew for bringing in the super-talented Dave Gibbons and Kev O’Neill.”

You can read more about the creation of The Superhero’s Day Off on Lew’s Blimey! It’s Another Blog About Comics. The site is no longer updated but it’s a trove of comics information and you can still follow Lew’s career on his Lew Stringer Comics blog. Alongside Dave, as Patrick mentioned OiNK also had Kevin O’Neill contributing to the first Holiday Special and The OiNK! Book 1988, and later on this year you’ll see the result of Davy Francis bringing in John McCrea for a Lost in Space spoof!

Time for a quick glance at some other highlights from this issue.

After succumbing to plastic surgery last issue, Burp’s leftover gastric juices grow a clone of himself and see off the shiny new him so we can get things back to normal (or as normal as this strip could be), the cliffhanger from Frank Sidebottom‘s page gets wrapped up in one ludicrous panel, Sherlock Hams finally confronts The Beast in the concluding chapter of his story and when Tom Thug thinks ‘gel’ is spelled ‘jel’ even readers didn’t think he’d be that thick!

Jeremy Banx’s Hieronymous Van Hellsong mini-series doesn’t conclude until next week but this issue sees an ending of another kind, despite the fact the character would return in a new mini-series in the not-too-distant future. Previous chapters have relished in some very dark humour. While that continues, it’s more about the ludicrous nature of the battle between our hero and Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith rather than laugh-out-loud moments, beginning with what seemed impossible in OiNK up to this point.

Let’s ignore the fact Hellsong seems to have regrown his arm in the bottom-left panel and concentrate on the ridiculous fact that this over-the-top maniacal villain is actually just a shop butcher, seemingly representing those on the street corners of every town in the UK, able to chop speeding bullets with his cleaver while fighting a human-sized pig to the death. It also continues Jeremy’s comically exaggerated gore he brought to previous Burp and Butcher Watch strips. How did they get away with this is a children’s comic? Well, Hellsong isn’t a human.

Similarly, Marvel UK’s Transformers didn’t show any humans dying, if they did it happened out of sight or in an explosion for example. The poor Transformers however could be decapitated, ripped limb from limb, cut into hundreds of pieces or even violently tortured or melted alive. But they were robots, so in the conventional sense weren’t ‘real people’ to those who would normally complain about such things. Pigs being cut up by a butcher (or a young girl pulling apart a sentient teddy bear) is all so ludicrous we kids just laughed at it all.

Each strip was its own entity, linked by Kev’s easily identifiable art and his great sense of humour

After making his debut appearance back in #38 Kev F Sutherland finally returns to the pages of OiNK with the first of his Meanwhile… strips. In fact he has two in this issue but I just had to choose this one because I found it so funny. Each Meanwhile… strip was its own entity, not linked in any way to the rest. They could vary from being mini-strips to full pages, linked by Kev’s easily identifiable art and his great sense of humour. He’d end up producing a huge variety of scenarios, each guaranteed to raise a hearty chuckle.

These would appear in nine issues altogether, including every monthly, but often there’d be more than one in each. As mentioned before, Kev was so prolific in his OiNK work he’d produce about a sixth of the final issue himself! The Meanwhile… strips contain some of my most fondly remembered jokes so it’s great to see them finally join us on the blog and I can’t wait to relive them all over again this coming year.

Before I sign off for this week there’s just time to take a look at this week’s newsagent reservation coupon put together by Patrick Gallagher. As ever he’s trawled the pages of his book of Victorian illustrations (first used back in #23’s How Radio Sound Effects Are Produced!), this time for a Great Moment in Art instead of a great moment in history. More specifically, he’s used it to give us an insight into one of his fellow co-editors.

Next week is something of a celebration as OiNK reaches the 50th issue milestone and we get a glorious cover photograph of Frank Sidebottom receiving his honours from the Queen herself. The comic also really begins to settle into the new weekly schedule and 24-page format so there’s plenty to be looking forward to. Make sure you check back here on Saturday 11th February 2023 for the big party!


Lew Stringer brings us his second OiNK cover (#33‘s was the first cover of his career) which perfectly sums up the very different and eclectic range of characters the comic had compared to its peers, even if Roger Rental He’s Completely Mental on the bottom row isn’t inside and wouldn’t actually return until #63! The first of three covers with a yellow background and a banner coaxing in new readers to the now-weekly OiNK, it’s by far the best of the three.

Inside there’s a definite feeling of a more traditional comic creeping in. Not only are strips of different lengths all corralled together like last time, but all of the returning characters are on the same pages. This isn’t very OiNK-like at all, so thankfully it’s only a temporary situation as far as I can remember, perhaps because of the sudden increase in workload for the editorial team. Thankfully, after a handful of weekly issues OiNK does return to its much more randomly generated feel.

For these handful of issues The Slugs would be the first strip readers would come across after Grunts. The punk band, written by co-editor Tony Husband and drawn by Les Barton (‘Lezz’) were the perfect introduction for new readers, with the scratchy art and the punk mentality behind OiNK itself on the page for all to see. However this story is a little different, while still perfectly compatible with the characters and the set up.

Tony Husband was making a clear point to young minds through anarchy and comedy

OiNK had its fair share of critics at the time who said it was a bad influence on kids, but they clearly never actually read the comic because it often got serious messages across using humour children would appreciate. Tony is an absolute gent in real life, a man whose passion for fairness to all creatures, human and otherwise is clear on social media posts. With this Slugs strip back in 1988 he was making a clear point to young minds through anarchy and comedy. Brilliant stuff.

There’s another specific message OiNK liked to get across to its pig pals on occasion, one which resulted in an extra edition outside of the regular comic and you’ll be able to check that out in just a few days, but I’ll get to that in a bit. First up, one of the very best Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 8 5/8 (yearƨ) strips out of the whole run. For the most part the family are pushed into the background and we get to focus on Hadrian himself innocently playing in the snow.

Another little reference to Stinky Exton there after OiNK contributing writer Graham Exton who was great friends with writer (and co-editor) Mark Rodgers. Never has a creation married writer and artist together as perfectly as Hadrian Vile, with Ian Jackson’s unique style capturing the spirit of the character and humour so sublimely. I can also sympathise with being wrapped up like a burrito by parents at that age, although thankfully it never produced this end result.

The anonymous backside on the cover wasn’t the only bare bum to be brandished by Lew Stringer as none other than Pete Throb would bare all in his strip too. With only hours until the school disco Pete finds himself at a loss as to what to do with his enormous pimple in such a short period of time. He can’t exactly dance with anyone with this third wheel of a zit! One daft idea lands him in trouble, as per usual, but this leads on to an even more unexpected outcome.

It’s all innocent enough, yet OiNK was the only kid’s comic you’d have seen anything like this in, never mind on the cover! I also like the colouring used here, just the flesh colours which highlights the pimple and a yellow for the balloons, which I originally thought was to match the colour of the pus, but this turns out to be a sickly, gross brown colour. Nice. Also, that second subtle pun surprised me, I thought using the word “shower” to describe a group of people (usually daft people) was a Northern Ireland thing!

Lew also writes the continuing adventure of Sherlock Hams in The Hog of the Baskervilles, jam-packed with groan-worthy puns and gags. Other highlights include Uncle Pigg finally answering the query I myself had when I read #39’s Hadrian Vile strip, but thankfully Ian wasn’t fired for getting into a jam (sorry). David Haldane had occasionally given us some strange factoids from around the world (also in #39 as chance would have it) and it’s now a regular feature. Also, Horace (Ugly Face) Watkin’s ongoing soap-like strip ends on a cliffhanger that would make even Emmerdale jealous.

Back in #32’s review one of the stand out moments was when Jeremy Banx’s smelly alien Burp, forever trying to befriend humans on his strange new home, gave life to a child’s teddy bear believing he was saving its life rather than creating a new one. Of course it didn’t have a happy ending, not when there was opportunity to have a hilarious and horrific one as the girl proceeded to play with the newly sentient bear in the most childlike of ways.

This resulted in the strip finishing with the bear screaming as limbs were torn off, blood spurted everywhere and threats of burying him in the garden were made. I mentioned back then it wasn’t the last we’d see of this character. I’m delighted to say the time has come for him to contact Burp again in a desperate attempt to save himself from the torture of being treated like any other toy. Can Burp come to the rescue in time?

That poor bear. But it wouldn’t have been the same if he’d been rescued and it makes for a brilliantly funny and (clearly) final appearance. The ‘Little Obedient Woman About the House Play Set’ is also a nice dig at the clichéd stereotyping of boys’ and girls’ toys which was so prevalent back then, something that’s thankfully improved since. Just this past Christmas my friend’s four-year-old boy was ecstatic when Santa Claus brought him the toy kitchen he’d asked for, so things have definitely improved.

OiNK’s three co-editors (and Chris Sievey inside Frank Sidebottom) all smoked in the 80s but they were keen to ensure the young readers didn’t make the same mistake

Something else that’s improved since the 80s is the abundance of smoke we’re subjected to. At the time my parents both smoked (they stopped about twenty years ago now) and secretly so did all of my siblings. I always hated it and never started, but growing up with it I guess I got used to it whether I liked it or not. Thinking back it really was everywhere and even as a child I remember being in restaurants or family bars on special occasions and the air was thick with it. I couldn’t cope with that these days!

Thankfully, when I was in my 20s the introduction of the smoking ban across Europe soon made its way here and overnight things improved dramatically. So much so that it’s quite rare for me to see anyone smoking these days (because of this I can definitely smell them before I see them). Despite the fact that OiNK’s three co-editors (and Chris Sievey inside Frank Sidebottom) all smoked in the 80s they were keen to ensure the young readers didn’t make the same mistake.

These photos were taken at the end of a day meeting some pig pals to promote their anti-smoking message, something they’d done with the release of a very special free edition of the comic, the OiNK Smokebuster Special. This was given away to schools in the north of England but unfortunately was never distributed further afield despite its success (although this was Fleetway’s fault, not OiNK’s, read the review to find out more). As such, this is obviously a rare issue and was incredibly difficult to get a hold of.

I say “was” because I finally got my trotters on it last year. I wasn’t even aware of it until a handful of years ago and have yet to read it, saving it for the review. That time has finally come and with this page above as my cue I’ll be reading the special 16-page OiNK before the next regular weekly issue, so watch out for it on the blog in a few days. But first up, with the themes gone so too were the enjoyable Next Issue promos, but in their place came a series of brilliant newsagent coupons under the banner of ‘Great Moments in History’.

I don’t know of anyone who actually had to use these, we simply asked for our reservations. While other comics I collected such as Marvel UK’s Transformers and The Real Ghostbusters would just reprint the same coupon every issue, OiNK used it as a chance to get one more laugh out of us. There are some brilliant ones to come so I intend to show them all.

Right, well there we go, our second weekly OiNK done and dusted. The next couple of issues would keep to the yellow theme on the cover as mentioned above but next week’s is horrible. I must warn you, it really is one of the ugliest comics covers you’re ever likely to see! You’ll have to wait until Saturday 21st January 2023 (oh pipe down, it’s only seven days away) to see what I mean, but before then check back here on Wednesday 18th January 2023 for the review of the OiNK Smokebuster Special!