Hot on the heels of the news Rebellion is to reprint some of Tom Paterson‘s OiNK strips later this year in The Tom Paterson Collection, comes the news of a Kevin O’Neill strip from one of the OiNK Books seeing publication again! The strip in question is the brilliant The Truth About Santa, written by Tom Thug and Pete and his Pimple cartoonist, Lew Stringer.
Kevin is probably best known for his 2000AD work, most notably Nemesis the Warlock, as well as Marshall Law and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. For OiNK, he contributed to two issues.
First up was a fantastic four-page The Price is Right parody in the 1987 Holiday Special and later that year came the first annual and the highly memorable strip above. Anyone familiar with Kevin’s work and his very unique style might wonder what kind of Christmassy strip this could be. All I’ll say is that you will not be disappointed! Kevin really is one of Britain’s Best.
So anyway, a second edition of Kevin’s Cosmic Comics book has been released by Hibernia Comics in association with Rebellion’s Treasury of British Comics and Gosh. The first version went down a storm but this is more than just a simple rerelease, it contains a lot of extra content too. There are 28 more pages (making 96 in total) and what’s in this new section falls under the banner ‘Kev’s own’, compiled by the man himself.
Lew announced the news on his Lew Stringer Comics blog with the following details:
“[‘Kev’s Own’] is a collection of Kevin O’Neill’s early covers, samples and unpublished work for magazines like Interplanetary News and Legend Horror Classics, as well as Titan books cover designs and the never-before-reprinted 7 Wonders of the Galaxy series from 2000AD and more! Also included in ‘Kev’s Own’ is commentary by Kevin on the art included and his early career.”
Chronicling Kevin’s career and the development of his art over the years this is a must-have for fans, of which there are plenty so if you are one I suggest you get clicking over to the Hibernia shop now and get this ordered, because this is a very limited print run. Priced at £10.49 plus postage it’s also unmissable for any OiNK fans who’d like to support any reprint releases.
I had a particularly pleasant time reading this issue of OiNK. It’s always a positive experience but blue skies, a beer and a furry feline friend for company heightened it even further. It was a different reading experience for what is a very different issue, kicking off with co-editor Patrick Gallagher‘s anarchic front cover.
As mentioned last time, after what must’ve been an exhaustive summer special UnclePigg and his staff were off on holidays, leaving issue eight in the capable hands of his skeleton staff. While their hands would be anything but capable, the second part of his description was more accurate. That’s right, actual skeletons make up the skeleton staff (of course they do) and the front cover pretty much sums up what’s to come with its slapdash approach and apparent mistakes.
Inside we meet Boss Bones and some of the hilarious substitutes for the humans that normally put the comic together. Brilliantly, the artists’ signatures have even been changed throughout to match these pseudonyms; some have clearly been edited after the fact but some have been changed by the artists themselves.
Throughout we’re treated to the skeletons printing whole pages upside down, spilling jam and bursting their fountain pens as they make a general hash of putting an issue of OiNK together. Here are two such examples from the Grunts letters page and Marc Riley‘s Harry the Head.
Two of the artists who really embraced the chaos were Jeremy Banx and Davy Francis, or rather their substitutes ‘Bonex’ and ‘Bony Hart’, the latter named after Tony Hart, the famous 80s children’s TV artist. Mr Big Nose‘s strip is made up of completely random panels with no correlation to each other, the star telling us it would’ve all made sense if the skeletons had remembered to include speech balloons. Jeremy later brings us three comic-invading butchers, a one off surprise that evolves into the ongoing Butcherwatch series, which in turn will introduce us to the comic’s arch nemesis, Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith.
I’m reminded of a stand up comedian (I want to say Lee Evans) who noticed how everyone loves their local butcher, they comment on how friendly and trustworthy they are, they chat away while ordering their food, and this all happens despite the fact the butcher’s apron will invariably be covered in blood from the carcasses of dead animals they sawed into little bits just moments before. I remember laughing at this and I’ve never forgotten it to this day when I visit my local shop and see that play out in front of me.
This just reminded me of that.
Davy’s alter ego wasn’t in the same league as his namesake, as evidenced with his How to Draw page written by Mark Rodgers, or rather ‘Jolly Rodgers’. Bony’s advice was to cheat at every possible opportunity. This could include only showing the backs of heads because there are less features to draw, only having buildings very far away so they are nothing more than dots on the horizon, and never showing still figures. He claims this final tip is because they’re boring for the reader, but the real reason is so he can draw them running out of frame, their body replaced with nothing but zoom lines.
The OiNK Superstar Posters make a welcome return this issue, or rather a generic ‘OiNK Poster’ is included. The reason a word is missing from the title is the subject matter. In the previous issue Ian Jackson (who had taken over poster duties from J.T. Dogg) drew Uncle Pigg as the subject of the only OiNK MEGAstar Poster, so with it being the turn of Mary Lighthouse (critic) the bland title this time is a joke in itself.
Mary’s a surprising pick so naturally before any of us would’ve pinned her up on our bedroom walls she had to be the butt of a joke. This is brilliantly explained in a full page strip by Mark and Ian in which the skeleton crew try their best, which of course means the worst possible outcome will inevitably happen.
Moving on, the gorgeous lady below played the role of Terry Wogham in an early photo story series, one of which I’ve already shown in issue five‘s review. This would be her final appearance, shot all out of focus after the skeletons handed the role of photographer to Weedy Willy. Tony Husband told me he went on all of the photoshoots for this particular series including the last one, during which the farmer told them they’d completed their story just in time because she was due to go to the slaughterhouse the next day!
Having gotten to know her over a few years the team’s hearts were broken and they even considered buying her and renting a field in which she could live out the rest of her life, but unfortunately they weren’t able to in the end. Terry lives on though in the hearts and minds of pig pals everywhere.
Towards the back of the comic Uncle Pigg’s loyal assistant Percy Plop (named for the first time) telephones his boss to inform him of how the issue is panning out and the response is so loud it flings Percy across the room where he sticks to the wall! We get a brilliant strip showing our editor’s return to the office which acts as a full page Next Issue promo. You’ll see it on Friday 20th August, a few days before issue nine’s review. With the comic back in his capable trotters it was time for a more traditional ending to the issue.
“We really got the drop on him, didn’t we?”
Eustace the Underpants
Do you remember Jimbo & the Jet Set? Were you a fan? Are you singing the theme tune now? Oh dear, sorry. Premiering on BBC One in the early weeks of 1986 the show was at its height when OiNK came along, making it perfect fodder for the team’s own spin on the idea of anthropomorphic objects. If you watched the cartoon you’ll know Jimbo was joined by various talking trucks, helicopters and even a set of airplane steps, all chattering away on the tarmac. Patrick Gallagher decided to run with that idea.
This wouldn’t be the last time a popular talking form of transport would get the OiNK treatment. If you think back to the 1980s I’m sure if you try to guess who I’m talking about you’ll be on the right track. It’s a favourite of mine so I’ll definitely be including that one too.
Let’s finish this issue with the back cover, where we find Tom Thug and his dad have made it to Blackpool after setting off last issue. It’s not only the first time we get to see a colour strip from Lew Stringer in OiNK, it was the first one he’d produced to ever see print. Readers of The Transformers would’ve seen coloured Robo-Capers by Lew before now but those were coloured in-house at Marvel UK using overlays for flat colours.
IPC Magazines printed OiNK on high grade paper and everything was hand coloured for more depth. To be fair, the early editions of Transformers contained hand coloured artwork on the main strip and cover too. In the case of this Tom Thug strip Lew used water colour inks and the result is lovely. Even that final panel.
Speaking of which, according to Lew the final panel had some dialogue edited by one of the comic’s editors; the word “sink” was originally meant to be “bog”. It was rare for something like that to be changed in OiNK.
Having a full colour back page surely shows how well regarded Tom was with the editors. He was certainly appreciated by the fans, including this one. To this day Tom is my favourite comics character of all time and I’ll be looking forward to each of his instalments in this read through.
So that’s us for another issue. OiNK may be safely back in the trotters of Uncle Pigg but I don’t think Mary Lighthouse will be as safe, not with the next issue’s theme being that of revenge. You can check back in two weeks to see exactly how that’s enacted, the next review is published on Monday 23rd August. Ta-ra for now.
As with any comic review I’m limited to showing you a few select highlights of each issue of OiNK. Rebellion own the rights and I’m always hopeful they’ll publish reprint volumes at some point through their Treasury of British Comics label. Also, I just don’t agree with putting whole comics online, regardless of their age or unavailability to purchase. All of this adds up to a difficult review to write.
That’s because this issue is superb. Every strip hits. Every joke lands. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been enjoying the issues so far but everything just seems to come together here with complete confidence. As such, it’s been less about which strips to choose as highlights and more about selecting which ones to leave out! Thankfully the cover is a necessity and must be included and it’s one of my very favourites. An Ian Jackson classic, the best so far and perfectly encapsulating the anarchic feel of OiNK. We’re off to a great start then.
Ian’s interpretation of each animal is genuinely funny, but put them all together and it’s a cover that commands attention and time spent pouring over all the details. It even gets its own backstory, again drawn by Ian and written by Tony Husband. The theme this fortnight is perfect fodder for the team behind the comic, already used to pork-ifying anything and everything in sight. However, there’s not a pig in sight in the biggest highlight of these 32 pages, Twee Tales present The Wonderful Wildlife of Watery Down.
Co-editor Patrick Gallagher‘s neighbour, Ann Martin brought her gorgeous artwork to a spoof of Richard Adam‘s classic novel Watership Down. The script is one big set up for a good old pun so marrying it with such beautiful illustrations, which wouldn’t look out of place in a children’s book of the time, is a wonderful move. The first page puts the reader at ease with its gentle fields and cute critters before we turn over to the second half.
Ann would only contribute to three issues in total (returning for #30’s Hamadonna and #60’s Pigasus) but the terrible puns would return with a vengeance in the final strip of this very issue, which we’ll get to below. Watery Down was definitely seen as a highlight of the series, evidenced by the fact it was one of only a handful of stories to be reprinted in the final editions of OiNK.
Another one-off I wanted to include is written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Weedy Willy‘s artist, Mike Green. A Shaggy Bird Story is the sweet tale of an injured animal being taken in and looked after by a young boy, who nurses it back to health before releasing it back into the wild. It all starts off innocently enough with the boy’s “unspeakably miffed” pet cat setting things in motion.
Every time I see that cat sitting on the windowsill in December it makes me laugh! I think this may have been one of the back issues my cousin gave me because I distinctly remember this strip despite the fact I hadn’t discovered OiNK yet. It’s testimony to the comic that its one-off strips are as well remembered as the regular characters and this is one which has stood the test of time and the old grey memory cells.
If you track this issue down on eBay (and you really should) you’ll find Jim Needle‘s Pete’s Pup continuing to terrorise his family with his monstrous appetite, there’s another spoof of a children’s favourite in the shape of Rupert the Pear, the Grunts page admits it had to get creative in the early issues and Uncle Pigg’s Amazing Facts About Animals showed OiNK could be an educational read.
In the early days of the comic our esteemed editor ran a regular competition in which he’d judge readers’ messy bedrooms. It was a case of the messier the better because those chosen to feature would win a piggy prize. This time around pig pal Simon Sarfas showed us how it was done and the result was probably not a million miles away from my own childhood bedroom, although these days it makes me cringe thinking about a mess like this! I’m just showing my age now.
I always thought these were a mainstay, at least in the first year of the comic so it surprised me to find out it only appeared four times, including the original promotion in the preview issue. It did receive criticism from some parental groups who saw it as encouraging children to be even more messy than they already were but we were kids, that was our job.
At least Simon has his television close by so he can somehow make it across his room without damaging his feet in time for the afternoon film, Laffie. The next instalment in the Golden Trough Awards series is my favourite. Taking the ‘Wonder Dog’ concept of Lassie and really running with it, it puts the canine hero aboard a plane when the captain finds himself stuck in the toilet tens of thousands of feet in the air. So a typical Lassie-type plot then.
Brought to you by the same partnership as the first strip in this issue, Tony Husband has written a hilarious script full of daring dos and funny eyewitnesses, all brought to the page with Ian Jackson‘s unique style. What we end up with is a frantic, madcap yarn that starts off at full speed and doesn’t let up.
One look at that dog in the pilot’s seat and how could this not be one of the selected highlights?
I remember I could spend so long just looking at Jackson’s artwork and roaring with excited laughter as a kid. That feeling hasn’t dissipated as an adult. The feeling of excitement returns later too with a tiny two-panel strip hidden away underneath Tom Thug‘s. If you’re new to OiNK you’ll probably be wondering why this unassuming little section of the page could be anything more than a funny space filler. But for pig pals everywhere this is just the first appearance of a comic icon.
Of course at the time readers couldn’t have known how big a part in the future of OiNK Pete and his Pimple were going to play. Lew Stringer‘s creation would eventually return in #15, becoming one of the main strips in each and every issue, even continuing into the pages of Buster for a period after OiNK came to an end.
Over the course of his OiNK career Pete would be the only character to get his own pull-out comic, he’d be the star of free gifts, a board game, appear in crossovers with Tom or a gigantic robotic pig and eventually Lew ran a weekly competition in which Pete tried out various pimple busting solutions sent in by readers.
Lew would actually end up having to tone down Pete’s strip in order for it to appear in Buster. What was there about the character above that would need toned down? Just you wait and see! We’ll get to the reason behind that when he reappears again later this year.
You should prepare yourself for this final highlight, especially if you groaned at the conclusion to Watery Down. While that had two pages to build up to one gag, Fish Theatre starring Noel Pilchard does the opposite and squeezes in an absurd amount of puns into its one page.
Written by Graham Exton and drawn by Ed McHenry, Graham told me how he’d often use up several scripts worth of puns all at once, robbing himself of the chance to use his vast array of jokes over many stories. In the end he just ended up giving himself more work, having to think up new puns after using so many here! But the end result of this is so funny I think it was worth all of that extra effort.
Every single panel contains at least one pun here (sometimes more), with well over a dozen altogether in just the one strip. Don’t think it’s possible? You have been warned.
I really didn’t want this issue to end but what an ending it gave us. It’s been a blast revisiting this particular OiNK and to have such a faultless issue this early in its life proves the strength of its concept and of the team assembled to bring it to life. It just keeps on getting better and better and with over 60 issues plus specials and books to come, there’s a lot of laughing yet to do.
With the comic still fresh out of the gates it wouldn’t have a dedicated Holiday Special until the following year, but #7 makes up for that with its summery theme and ice cold cover. Confused? The next issue’s review will be here from Monday 26th July and all will be revealed.