Tag Archives: Lew Stringer

OiNK! #36: CHANGES ARE A-TROTTER!

Percy Plop isn’t wrong, although while the comic would present the changes as a result of a temporarily crazed editor, in reality they were permanent. With Fleetway Publications now having bought IPC Magazine’s comics they decided to publish all titles on the same paper stock, which meant a good upgrade for the others but a downgrade for OiNK. I didn’t complain though, which I’ll get to soon, and the theme for this issue was a stroke of genius.

A bit like when the skeleton staff made a hash of #8, this issue sees some strips printed upside down, others drawn by the wrong artist, Doctor Mooney is the wrong colour and other such randomness occurs. Some strips, even if they don’t have something deliberately ‘wrong’ with them, seem more zany than usual, which is saying something for this comic. John Langford’s cover may not be the best the comic ever had but this is one of the very best issues as a whole.

So what did the team think of the physical changes and did Fleetway enforce any other alterations? “We were all disappointed initially with the changes but, fortunately, it didn’t dampen our spirit so it was ‘business as usual’ producing the best content within our means,” co-creator/co-editor Patrick Gallagher told me. “Though the publisher changed from IPC to Fleetway, Bob Paynter still held his position as Group Editor and it was him we were answerable to, with the same amount of creative freedom as before. It was still fun to produce.”

Maybe to soften the blow for fans of the glossy paper (now on thicker matt stock, slightly thinner in width) or maybe to publicise it for new readers as the publisher pushed their new purchases, this and the next two issues would have these fun stickers which ended up all over my house as a kid (and on my fridge and home office door as a 40+ year-old). The logo shifted up into the corner in a colourful banner and this too would be kept, although shifted about and resized from issue-to-issue, emphasising the random nature of OiNK.

“The logo change,” continues Patrick. “We were running short of pink ink so we decided to reduce the size of the pink logo to economise.” Typical Patrick response, that. “Only joking. I think we just wanted to experiment and give more room to the cover illustration, knowing we could always change back to the bigger logo, which we ultimately did.” That would happen when OiNK went weekly in the new year. I really enjoyed the way it looked over these issues though and it did indeed give more space to some fantastic covers, as you’ll see soon.

So what was the comic’s reasoning behind the sudden changes we readers found in our hands?

Written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ian Jackson, as you can see Uncle Pigg introduces himself to new readers the way he did in the soft relaunch issue, #15 (which also gave away the first of three free gifts). This normally happened when a comic got a new look, something I enjoyed every time it happened with Transformers, for example. It’s understandable and didn’t detract from the strip for established pig pals. As Percy says in that final panel anything could happen, and everything did! On the very next page is an upside down strip, along with the image of Percy I showed at the top of the review, commentating on the new paper.

We’ll get to possibly the craziest strip OiNK had produced up to this stage in a minute but first comes something of a spiritual successor to last issue’s Arctic Adventure, although I’m sure it’s more of a coincidence. Either way, Tarzham the Apeman is a fantastic, funny strip I just had to include. Written by Tony Husband and drawn by Chas Sinclair, the same winning partnership behind semi-regular Lashie the Wonder Pig, it’s another tale taking shots (no pun intended) at cowardly animal hunters.

Tony is a huge supporter of animal rights and conservation, often sharing his opinions on hunters on social media in his inimitable style, using funny cartoons to make his point. I think the first speech balloon on the second page sums up those sorts of people, and the solution to the problem not only highlights the stupidity and greed of hunters but it’s a genuinely made me laugh out loud. The ending is similar to Simon Thorp’s last time but both strips work so well I’m glad we got both.

Contributing to 40 issues of OiNK altogether, Ed McHenry would become best known for two particular things, his regular strip Wally of the West, a character I thought was in OiNK a lot more than he actually was (in reality only appearing in 12 and not until #53) and OiNK’s quiz pages, examples of which I’ve shown in the reviews for #6 and #12. However, we also enjoyed a selection of one-off characters from Ed, such as The Loon Ranger and his horse Radish.

Strips like these from Ed would become more regular during this period, yet another reason why this is my very favourite period in OiNK’s run. Below this is a quick three-panel Hadrian Vile which is a bit strange for one of the comic’s main characters. The excuse given is that the crazed Uncle Pigg ate Hadrian’s diary but in reality the next chapter in his story would perfectly fit the next issue’s theme instead, so for this issue a quick stop gap was needed so they could postpose his strip until next time. There’s also a tiny Frank Sidebottom strip about the end of the school term, apparently printed ten months too early according to the note underneath.

If all that sounds crazy you haven’t seen anything yet. Jeremy Banx’s strips are known for their surreal humour and random daftness. He’s always able to take a ludicrous idea that really shouldn’t work and turn it into pure comedy gold. Already peculiar on a regular basis, how could a Burp strip stand out in an issue themed around being peculiar? How about a story involving him wanting a Cary Grant tattoo on his meters-long tongue? This includes a panel that I never forgot after seeing it. I’m sure you’ll be able to tell which one.

Funniest moment? Oh that’s far too difficult to narrow down. How about a tattoo parlour having a free trial offer? Or the tattooist’s blank eyes and small balloon text as he reacts to what he’s just been told? The way he straddles Burp’s tongue, or even shouts after him for his tip? Already hilarious, already weird, already daft, somehow Jeremy is able to ramp it up even more in those final panels, cramming in so many insane moments you feel like you need to catch your breath while reading it.

I do like the seal of approval on Pete’s strip, a little dig at W.H. Smith

Both of Jeremy’s regular strips, this and Mr Big Nose had a knack of surprising us with endings that just came out of nowhere, and while completely random, out-of-nowhere end gags can sometimes fall flat in other comics this was never a problem for Jeremy. Every single time he nailed it. This next handful of fortnightly OiNKs would see Burp’s strip regularly expand to two pages with some of the best strips the comic as a whole ever produced! I can’t wait to see them again.

A quick look at some other highlights before we move on. On the Grunts letters page there’s a quick glance at a new piece of merchandise coming very soon indeed and the results of #27’s Pop-Star Lookalike Contest with Frank Sidebottom had a particularly fantastic entry from reader Graham Fenton. Elsewhere, both Rubbish Man and Pete and his Pimple are victims of the issue’s peculiarities, although I think Rubbish Man came off worse. I do like the seal of approval on Pete’s strip, a little dig at W.H.Smith moving OiNK to the top shelves due to just two complaints.

Our smelly alien isn’t the only person to get two pages this issue. Lew Stringer’s Tom Thug gets to enjoy a bit more space to cause bovver in. I’ve mentioned before how OiNK’s high quality, glossy paper stock not only allowed gorgeous painted artwork, the black and white strips could also benefit from intricate shading, Lew in particular applying grey washes to his. While the paper from this issue onwards was a downgrade, it was still a cut above the newsprint OiNK’s contemporaries had been using up to this point.

“The quality of print on the matt stock paper was pretty good,” Patrick told me. “In my view it gave it more of a retro comic feel and warmth, which I liked.” I concur. While the gloss was lovely, and the plan was always to have the Holiday Specials use it, I really liked this paper but was struggling to articulate why until Patrick described it like that. This high grade matt was capable of the same techniques Lew had been using, but you’ll notice its conspicuously absent from Tom’s strip.

“Yes, I think I expected it to be like newsprint so I avoided doing a grey wash on the strips until I saw that it was a better grade of paper than I thought it would be,” Lew explained too me. “I thought it was a shame the paper was downgraded from glossy but that wasn’t the first time budget cuts had affected a comic so it was inevitable I guess.” Lew would return to his usual style pretty quickly and we’d see OiNK’s most popular character shaded once more.

But what about the rest of that story? Well, Banx’s strips were great when he’d pull a conclusion seemingly out of nowhere but it appears crazy Uncle Pigg giving the cartoonist a holiday, forcing him to rush the ending of Tom’s strip, has had the opposite effect. Our editor’s assistants The Plops have no choice but to allow Tom to finish his strip himself. Well that’s just inviting disaster, isn’t it?

My favourite bit is the fact the re-use of a panel from #17 (the previous Christmas issue no less) is an actual reprinting and not just Lew drawing it again. Go and check out that previous issue’s review to compare them if you don’t believe me. An ingenious strip and giving Tom two pages in an issue set up to attract new readers was also a great idea, seeing as how popular he was and would be in Buster for years to come.

Underneath Lew’s Pete and his Pimple strip were a couple of plops drawn by Ian Jackson who, along with some bad (as in groan-inducing) spotty puns, commented on everything that was going wrong with the strip. They appear throughout the comic, getting increasingly worried about what’s happening right up until we get the delight of seeing Harry the Head drawn by J.T. Dogg!

Normally drawn by his creator Marc Riley, we’ve become used to Harry being drawn in Marc’s simplistic but energetic fashion, so to see him rendered by Malcolm Douglas (J.T.’s real name) like this is a sight to behold. There’s no writing credit but I think it’s safe to assume Marc would’ve still been responsible for the script. Oh, and that little image at the bottom leads to Uncle Pigg exploding on the next page!

Well, sort of. When he blows up screws and metal bits and bobs come flying out and the real Uncle Pigg soon reappears to explain with some “handy plot explanation”.

What an issue! It’s been an absolute delight to read this one again, it’s more than held up to the fond memories I had of it from 35 years ago. In fact, I can remember walking back from the newsagent with it in hand in 1987. Walking very fast actually, because I was thrilled with these exciting changes to my comic and couldn’t wait to see what this would mean on the inside. (The stickers helped quicken my pace too!)


“Fat! Floppy! Fun! The biggest news ever for pig pals!”


A fabulous start to OiNK’s Golden Age (my own term, see here for more on that) and one of the best all round issues so far. It feels brand new again, like a fresh start in the same way #15 did. Also, all the best issues are the ones with a strip continuing through the comic in fun and original ways, such as #3‘s Star Truck and our editor again in the festive #17. The next edition is the Happy Families issue and I remember the fun Mike Higgs cover, the cut-out game and most of all the three-page Hadrian Vile strip!

You’re going to get sick of me saying this over the next few months, but I can’t wait for the next issue. Speaking of looking forward to things, the inside back cover finally revealed what had been hinted at for months. So that’s me looking forward to Christmas now too!

The review of OiNK #37, the Happy Families issue will be published on Monday 19th September 2022.

OiNK! #35: TRAVELLiNG HALFWAY

With Ian Jackson back on cover duties off we go with the second half of OiNK’s run. Of course, we didn’t know this was the case at the time. As far as the (much) younger version of me was concerned the comic was going to run and run just like Beano or The Dandy; with OiNK being my first comic I had yet to experience any kind of cancellation. There’s so much great stuff to come over the remainder of this year in particular (1987 in old money) but first I want to touch upon something, a change which seemed so small and insignificant but which would ultimately decide OiNK’s fate.

By coincidence Fleetway Publications took over from IPC Magazines at the exact halfway point in the comic’s eventual 68-issue run and it’s only with hindsight that I can say it was an incredibly important moment. Looking at #35 you’d not notice it unless you read the copyright blurb at the bottom of the Grunts letters page so you may be wondering why I’m giving it such prominence right at the beginning of this review.

A wonderful selection of input from the readers which co-editor Patrick Gallagher tailored to the theme of the issue, that of travel. You could almost see this issue as a mini holiday special or as a follow up to last year’s summery #7. You’ll see the change in the blurb at the bottom of the page too.

Fleetway was originally created by newspaper group chairman Cecil Harmsworth King and when he later purchased Odhams and Newnes the IPC holding company was formed to oversee them all. Eventually it was all rebranded, OiNK falling under IPC Magazines alongside all the other comics. However, in 1987 IPC sold off its comics by placing them into a separate ‘Fleetway Publications‘ company and selling the whole caboodle to Robert Maxwell‘s Pergamon Holdings Ltd. Maxwell’s company now owned the independently crafted OiNK.

OiNK was a hit for IPC Magazines with average sales of 100,000 per issue

OiNK was a hit for IPC Magazines with average sales of around 100,000 per issue and they certainly treated it as such. They were also very happy with the buzz one of their titles was generating in the press and the celebrity endorsements it attracted. This didn’t stop it being victim to some reorganisation under the new company though, but we’ll get to that in a future post and I’ll touch upon the importance of the next issue (and the immediate physical changes to the comic in particular) in its review. But for now let’s get back to the comedy with my favourite Greedy Gorb strip.

Greedy was usually written by his creator and artist Davy Francis and I dare say most (if not all) of the background jokes here were also added by Davy. The main set up and joke were written by Howard Osborn this time though, who actually has no less than five strips to his name in this one issue alone. Howard worked in law in some administrative capacity according to co-editor Patrick Gallagher. He would actually write his OiNK material after work whilst having a pint in a pub!

There can’t have been many pig pals who wouldn’t have had Pete Throb as one of their favourite characters

In any other comic Gorb could’ve become very repetitive but in OiNK that was never a concern and his mini strips were highlights of every issue he was in, especially when there were so many gags squeezed into such a small space. The main pun would’ve been enough anywhere else but Davy always liked to give us plenty of value. My personal favourite there (although it’s hard to choose) would be the teeny tiny wings on the Flying Scotsman.

Elsewhere, a one-off character appears in two separate strips, both written by Howard. This is the best of the two and it appears Howard is trying to give pun masters Davy and Graham Exton a run for their money with Tommy Tyre (He Gets Around), drawn by Mike Green.

I know I’ve already described Greedy Gorb as one of my regular highlights but there can’t have been many pig pals who wouldn’t have had Pete Throb as one of their favourites. Lew Stringer’s Pete and his Pimple was one of the most popular strips and featured in crossovers with Lew’s other creations Tom Thug and Pigswilla, later in the run the strip would include a weekly competition asking readers to send in their outlandish pimple cures, he’d make the cover in an image that required the OiNK logo to be altered for the issue and he’d even get his own pull-out comic! Phew.

Following on from his collaboration (of sorts) with Tom just a fortnight ago, this issue brings us a full board game, Around the World With 80 Zits. As well as taking up the middle pages with the game there’s a strip introducing the scenario behind it, complete with cut out figures to use as player pieces, a bit like Frank Sidebottom’s in the first Holiday Special. This certainly wouldn’t be the last time we’d get a cut out game either.

So the set up is simple and the race for the miracle cure is on. The game is a wonderful, full-colour spread complete with so many ways to force the players around the board you could get dizzy playing! Just look at square number eight and follow its instructions to see what I mean. The only thing more cruel than that one is square 44! I never did play it as a kid because I didn’t like to cut up my OiNKs but I can imagine the laughs to be had for those that did.

To be fair the instructions contain the first clue that this isn’t going to be your normal board game, not when they include the words, “tough luck”. I love all the little details around the route, containing everything from palm trees to the South Pole, a kangaroo to a yeti. There’s even a drawing of Blackpool Tower, a trademark holiday destination for many of Lew’s comics characters over the years. That’s understandable when you find out it’s a favourite place for Lew himself to visit in the real world.

After the game we get a bonus mini-strip as a conclusion to the race, with the winning character’s face conveniently obscured so no matter who wins they can pretend it’s their fate being portrayed.

Of course it had to have a twist ending, have you not been paying attention to these comic reviews so far? Definitely the best game the comic has produced so far, although it would have stiff competition in just a couple of issues from now. Still, with taking in so many random locations it’s the perfect main event to this travel special. Other characters were out and about too, as you’ll see in this selection of highlights from elsewhere in the issue.

On the back cover Frank Sidebottom had left his holiday snaps on the train so was forced to draw them for memory, Rubbishman and Boy Blunder discovered the truth on their terrifying ‘Hunt the Yeti’ trip, Hector Vector and his Talking T-shirt visited a brilliantly named drinking establishment, the Grim Reaper made his first appearance in The Adventures of Death while buying a helicopter for his “reclaiming work” and Hadrian Vile’s life was about to change forever, a situation which he handled in his usual inimitable style.

After a break for a few issues David Leach’s fantastic Psycho Gran is back and she’s making up for lost time with a full page of her own and it’s almost a silent comedy. Usually taking up no more than half a page, it’s great to have a larger strip and it really is chock full of fun. David squeezes in as many panels as he can, each one intricately detailed as the little old dear goes through a situation many of us may find familiar.

Okay, so her solution isn’t exactly conventional or familiar, but I do love the panel where she lifts the weapon out of her tiny bag after searching through it in the previous one. The lack of background, the angel of its composition and her tongue sticking out as she concentrates are all brilliant, all of these little things combining to make this moment stand out. Genius.

I remembered her taking up the back page of a Christmas issue of OiNK with a funny image of her waiting for Santa Claus (reminiscent of David’s Psycho Gran Versus series in recent years) and a large section of the second annual was devoted to her too, so it was a nice surprise to find her given a full page strip in the regular comic. Here’s hoping for more.

After the wonderful Sownd of Music spoof movie poster in #29, Simon Thorp returns to bring us a strip this time, entitled Arctic Adventure in which a narrator tells a captive audience the fantastical tale of the world’s greatest fur hunter. Now, if this sounds a bit off to you and if you’re asking why OiNK would tell such a tale in a comic which lampooned butchers and hyped piggies up as heroes, you wouldn’t be alone. Obviously there’s more to it and reading Simon’s story I was just waiting for the twist, which was hugely satisfying.

Two particular moments (asides from the obvious one) stand out for me here. The first is panel four, where the caption tells us of how he’d track so many beautiful and exotic creatures down… and shoot them. The other is when he “bravely” loads his machine gun, a weapon the polar bear would have no chance against, and then his terror when it won’t fire. I think this strip perfectly sums up how cowardly sports hunters are.

In recent years I’ve seen countless images going viral on social media of big game hunters with smug grins next to the carcasses of beautiful animals who they’ve slaughtered with their high-powered weaponry, posing like they were so brave to shoot a defenceless creature, like it took so much effort beyond simply twisting their cowardly finger around a trigger. I think Simon’s Arctic Adventure perfectly sums up these sorts of people.

The next issue will surprise you but some of the changes weren’t liked by everyone

Finally, as we say goodbye to the glossy paper for now (more on that next time) it’s fitting that the technicolour Street-Hogs: Day of the Triffics gets to have its finale first. As stated before this was my first exposure to the ‘Hogs as a kid, their previous adventure having already ended by the time I discovered OiNK, so to me this had felt epic. However, readers of the original 12-part story may have felt somewhat disappointed that things were coming to an end already, the story lasting only a quarter of the time.

With what had looked like Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith‘s entire toolbox flying through the air towards them at the end of last issue’s strip, I wondered how on Earth they were going to get out of that one with less than a second to spare (apparently). I don’t know why I keep trying to guess. Mark Rodgers’ script would always come up with something so ridiculous and J.T. Dogg’s artwork would portray it so perfectly, the randomness of their insane escapes was the main reason I loved them so much!

It all ends with a ‘Coming Soon’ caption, but their next serial wouldn’t be seen until the last days of the comic, their multipart tale all packed into one of the big, fat monthlies. It’s a very different beast of a tale, but definitely worth the wait. Speaking of waiting, that’s what we’ll have to do for more OiNK highlights as we’ve reached the end of another review. The next issue will surprise you but some of the changes weren’t liked by everyone. Personally, these issues to come are my very favourites so I can not wait! Watch out for a special personal post about them over the next two weeks and then #36’s review will be here from Monday 5th September.

COMiNG UP: OiNK! #35

With this next issue of OiNK we officially begin the second half of its run and it’s the first to be published by Fleetway Publications instead of IPC Magazines. Not that you’d know without looking at the tiny copyright notices but big changes were definitely coming. This would be first and last issue from Fleetway to keep OiNK in its glossy format (for now) but it’s certainly not the last time we’d get plenty of big laughs. The main feature in this Travel Issue is a board game by Lew Stringer, which is as good a start for the new publishers as anyone could want!

Alongside the game Psycho Gran finally returned and a young chap by the name of Charlie Brooker became a regular from this issue onwards with a couple of strips, not least of all The Adventures of Death! The finale of The Street-Hogs also saw off the fancy paper in style and there was loads more to enjoy. Full review coming up on Monday 22nd August 2022.