Tag Archives: Marc Riley

ZZAP! 64: PiG PLAY PREViEW

Back in 1991 I received one of the greatest Christmas gifts of all, a Commodore 64 home computer. I adored that machine and I adored the magazine I collected alongside it, namely Commodore Format. Through that computer I met a chap named Colin who would go on to be one of my closest friends. He was a long-time reader of Format’s rival, Zzap! 64 and we’d take plenty of well-meaning jabs at each other’s favourite magazine over the next few years. (Actually, this continues to this day.) For the blog I now find myself buying my first copy of Zzap.

In the summer of 1987 the OiNK computer game would be released on the three main 8-bit computer systems of the day, the Commodore 64, the Spectrum range and Amstrad CPCs. I must’ve seen the adverts for it in the comic but having no interest in computer games at that stage it slipped my mind by the time I was loading up cassettes and disks at the beginning of the next decade. Over these next few months on the blog I’ll be covering this unique piece of piggy merchandise, showing you previews, interviews, a review and more. It’ll even include a special issue of OiNK!

The first mention of the game came in issue 26 of Zzap! 64, released on this day 35 years ago. Inside the June 1987 issue the preview followed an interview with none other than Douglas Adams, which was a bit of a scoop! But I digress. The article contained a look at the origins of the comic itself and, unlike modern day press mentions of OiNK, it’s an accurate depiction of those events (in other words there’s no mention of Viz). There are also some interesting nuggets of information for seasoned pig pals and a cameo by Marc Riley in his Snatcher Sam guise.

There’s a mention of the original idea for the comic being that of a fanzine, so unsure were Patrick Gallagher, Tony Husband and Mark Rodgers of whether a publisher would pick it up, which is new information to me. However, when the dummy issue was produced (a lot of which made its way into the preview issue) it went down a storm with IPC Magazines and our favourite publication was born. Also here is the first mention of the forthcoming OiNK record and a quick mention of the original flexidisc being played on a local radio station (we already knew John Peel played it on his BBC show).

Here’s the article in full, the opening paragraphs of which do beg the question how many times can you mention Whizzer and Chips!

As OiNK fans who played the game will attest, the finished product had little-to-nothing to do with the individual characters it was meant to represent. There were some comic panels in it written by Tony Husband to try to bring a bit of the comic’s humour to the game, but that was really about it. As such the general consensus seems to be that the game sucked because of its lack of OiNK content, but is this actually an unfair conclusion? You’ll find out in a couple of months when Zzap! 64 reviews it!

Already on the blog you can checkout a Retro Gamer article featuring an interview with the game’s coder Jon Williams. There’s more to come, including a special issue of OiNK inside Crash magazine, which also had a special article and an extra page from none other than Frank Sidebottom, so look out for that on Saturday 25th June 2022. Then just a few weeks later I’ll show you the Zzap! 64 review of the game to see how it was received at the time, on Saturday 9th July. Later in the year I’ll tell you how I was finally able to play the game decades later when it was released under a completely different name! Plus there’ll be a full guide to beating the game. These both relate to Commodore Format and in keeping with the real time nature of the blog I’ll be covering those issues on Thursday 13th October and Thursday 10th November.

OiNK! #26: AGED BACON

Usually with comics the special anniversary issues would mark the beginning of the next year of publication, on sale over the date of the first issue. OiNK decided to mark the end of the first year instead with their celebratory issue actually due to come off the shelves two days before the date of #1‘s release the previous year. Instead, #26 celebrated the launch of the comic’s preview issue which was bundled inside other IPC comics on 26th April one year previous. That free issue gets several mentions inside.

Tony Husband‘s Uncle Pigg and that shiny golden logo welcome us to the celebrations and inside it’s party time! If memory serves the second anniversary would be marked by nothing more than a passing mention on the letters page and unfortunately there wouldn’t be a third, so I intended to enjoy this one. Thankfully it wasn’t to let me down, starting off with this brilliant Pete and his Pimple from Lew Stringer in which he’s been invited to sign copies at a newsagent for the anniversary.

I did laugh when Pete felt he needed to elaborate on his comment about how it was a good thing he didn’t put the cream anywhere else. Lew’s background characters are as eclectic a bunch as you would expect and is that Wilfrid visiting from Bash Street in the doorway? Well no, that’s just a coincidence, but in asking Lew he pointed out what I did miss. Standing in the doorway just behind him is none other than Lew’s spoof superhero character Brickman who, after the end of his strip in 1986, made disguised cameos (without mask, coat on top of his costume) in other strips in the Lewniverse. I can’t be the only fan who’ll find this surprising and funny in equal measure. At the time one young reader did spot him and sent Lew all of the panels she’d spotted him in!

At this point in the review I must issue a Reader Advisory before you scroll on down to the next strip. Those with a nervous disposition or a tricky tummy right now may want to skip past this next section. Don’t blame me, blame David Leach. What’s a party without a cake, and what could be better than a surprise cake? Well it all depends on who baked it I guess.

While David’s modern day Psycho Gran comics are much more adult than her antics in the pages of OiNK it’s very much the same sense of humour. In fact, this strip wouldn’t look out of place in one of her new comics, even if David might push the cringe factor more in that final panel. She had made her debut in #15 before disappearing again until half a dozen issues later (David was told very last minute they’d like her to be a regular character) and by this stage she was appearing in almost every issue, quickly becoming one of my favourites.


“I’ve picked some prime porky pranks from my readers to help celebrate a year of OiNKin’ good fun!”

Uncle Pigg

OiNK was a lot more interactive with its audience than most comics of the day. Marvel UK had those fantastic, fondly remembered letters pages and IPC Magazines would feature something similar in their humour comics, with reader jokes and sketches thrown in. Closest to OiNK would’ve been editor Barrie Tomlinson‘s comics which were always known for their highly original ways in which readers could take part (see Wildcat, Ring Raiders and Super Naturals for example).

OiNK’s Grunts page could contain rude jokes for Nasty Laffs and Specs, celebrities given a piggy makeover, photographs of readers with their homemade OiNK cakes and models, pig-related newspaper clippings (and those relating to the comic itself), messy bedroom competition entries in the early days, readers updating us on the latest sightings of terrifying butchers from Jeremy Banx‘s Butcher Watch series, drawings and even a personal problems column in which Uncle Pigg‘s answers were of no help whatsoever. For the birthday issue we got a double helping, so twice the amount of pig pals would receive “a piggy prize”.

I had no idea who the StreetHogs were when I read this originally but I’d soon be finding out. Above was also the first mention of the book to come, now that was exciting! I never did write in and I’m not sure why. I had drawings published in Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and Barrie’s Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles Adventures, then when I moved on to computer games magazines I was always writing into them. But for some reason I never took the time to contact Uncle Pigg or the other characters. The comic was always asking readers to get in touch one way or another, the most memorable example being when Lew Stringer‘s Pete asked readers to send in pimple busting cures later in the run.

For this birthday issue, three readers got the ultimate piggy prize when they appeared in a photo strip alongside Snatcher Sam (Marc Riley) and Frank Sidebottom (Chris Sievey). This had been the star prize in a competition run on Radio Manchester in conjunction with Casio Electronics (hence the product placement) and the three lucky winners got to star in their favourite comic and also went away with their own keyboards. Not too shabby at all. The pig pals we were very jealous of were Ruth Salts, Paul Pike and Paul Rafferty.

I love how they’ve touched up the photographs with these garish colours, making it feel more like a comic strip, adding to the ridiculousness of it. Obviously the Casino keyboards are the central plot device here but it works perfectly, with Frank struggling to think of new lyrics for a song. The inspiration in the end is brilliant, or “fantastic” as he might say, and I genuinely did laugh out loud when what Sam starts yelling just happens to be the lyrics to a famous song. It’s completely daft and so uniquely ‘OiNK’. Great stuff.

Time for a quick glance at some of the other highlights of the issue. Dead Fred gets a full page to himself for his Happy Death Day, it’s a happy ending for Hector Vector and his Talking T-shirt much to the annoyance of said garment, there’s that stance and glare again from Hadrian Vile‘s mum (see the Holiday Special for more on that) and Frank Sidebottom‘s own strip has one of the best captions in comics history. Finally, GBH got in on the birthday action with some highly collectible memorabilia.

One little change happened with one of the above strips this issue, namely The Secret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 8 5/8 (yearƨ). Eagle-eyed readers would’ve spotted he’d jumped from 7 5/8 in the past fortnight. A nice little touch and he’d remain this age for the rest of the year. As the comic continued we’d see his mum become pregnant, eventually giving birth to a new baby sister for Hadrian, who he then took under his wing! Seeing him and his family develop in real time was subtle but a unique point of interest. If OiNK had continued longer than the two-and-a-half years it was published for would Hadrian’s age have continued to increase? Who knows. But it’s interesting to imagine.

There’s a special poster in the middle of the issue which I’m going to sign off with below, but first I can’t let this issue go by without showing you a very special strip indeed. This issue’s Tom Thug stands out for a few different reasons. First up, I always enjoy it when characters break the fourth wall, to coin a phrase. Basically, when they refer to being in a comic. Tom does this here to great effect when explaining to Wayne Brayne why he’s trying to duff him up when his bullying ways are brought into question (the panel is completed with an automatically-appearing sticking plaster). However, the main highlight happens when he trips over his untied shoelace. Obviously he never did learn to do that properly.


“How do you get nostalgic about a comic that’s only a year old?”

Lew Stringer

Tom is becoming worried about his constant failures as a bully. It’s his whole reason for being and yet he hasn’t yet managed to do it successfully for even one issue. Of course, we loved his strip because of his constant failures and that was the whole point of the strip, for the bully to fail. But Tom thinks Uncle Pigg is going to toss him on the comics scrapheap if he can’t manage to successfully cause some bovver. It’s this scrapheap he imagines which is the highlight here, as he places himself next to all of the forgotten comics characters of yesteryear, each drawn by Lew very much in their original artists’ styles.

I think this was a wonderful idea. As Lew asked on his own blog when discussing this strip, “How do you get nostalgic about a comic that’s only a year old?” They’re all classic IPC characters, then several years later some were sold off to Egmont while others were kept by IPC, meaning they could no longer appear together, making this an even more unique strip than it already was. Nowadays, Rebellion owns them all and I think it’s time for a reunion, including Tom. The strip ends with Uncle Pigg demoting him to half a page. With so many regular characters now the editors had decided to do this, and this was an original and clever way of actually working the decision into the strip (although due to his popularity he’d return to full strength very quickly). It kept him in every issue when others had to skip some, so it was for a good reason in the end.

One final note about that strip. In the second panel a little plop is holding up a sign saying hello to a reader by the name of Ben Gibbons. This is actually the son of comics artist Dave Gibbons. Ben was a regular reader of OiNK and Dave himself would contribute to an issue with the very funny artwork for The Superhero’s Day Off written by Lew. We’ll get to that eventually. It’s worth the wait!

This has been a great celebration of the first year of what is still my favourite comic of all time.

We’re at the end of another review and it’s crazy to think I’ve been at this for a year already. The blog itself relaunched before this time last year, when Visionaries was the first comic to begin its real time read through (I didn’t want to wait another year for the sake of a few weeks before the blog’s namesake began). It’s been a blast and the best is still to come as far as I’m concerned. The latter months of this year especially.

This has been a great celebration of the first year of what is still my favourite comic of all time. The next issue of OiNK will be themed around the world of pets and you’ll be able to read the review from Monday 2nd May 2022. But first there’s one more thing I want to show you and that’s the lovely poster from this issue, the OiNK Anniversary Portrait. Drawn by Ed McHenry it’s full of all of the main characters including those no longer in the comic. I was happy to see Sally Scowl received an invite to the party after her funny strips were unceremoniously dropped after only two issues! (I’m still hurting about that.)

Happy (36th!) Birthday OiNK.

OiNK! #24: TiME FOR LAUGHS

As both an OiNK and a Doctor Who fan, seeing our editor Uncle Pigg dressed as the Doctor, swirling about through time being chased by angry butchers and all drawn by Ian Jackson is an absolute treat for my eyes. What a way to start an issue! As a kid I only began watching Doctor Who the following year and by then Sylvester McCoy was already in the role, but I was fully aware of who this parody was based on. At the time of its publication Colin Baker had finished his final series but had yet to be replaced, his character’s horrid dress sense perfectly captured here by Ian.

As we had with the first Christmas issue, this Time-Travel Special sees Uncle Pigg leave the OiNK office and set out on a multi-page strip throughout the issue, courtesy of writer Mark Rodgers. Running late, he stumbles upon butchers unloading livestock and makes a run for it, mistakenly assumed to be one of their escaped pigs. He dives into a rather familiar looking police phone box to hide and the adventure begins.

I love the fact the disguise he’s grabbed in a haphazard hurry from the local fancy dress shop is a dead ringer for the Sixth Doctor‘s eyesore of a costume and the fact it’s his trotter that gives the game away and not his piggy face! He rematerialises three more times on separate pages in the issue, the first set in prehistoric times where cavemen with butcher aprons and hats are chasing down wild boars.

He quickly sets course for home. He wants to stay because the hogs looked underfed and miserable, but he can’t change the past, it would be too dangerous. Unbeknownst to him, his sudden appearance scared the butchers so much they now worship the very animals they were trying to eat! Then it’s off to 2987AD, exactly one thousand years into the future, and suitably enough for how he got there he bumps into familiar-looking future versions of butchers, the most terrifying of all! Have a look.

I love this theme of simply adding an apron and hat, and in the case of the Daleks actual weapons (or rather, butcher’s tools) instead of their 80s sink plungers. It’s such a simple idea but absolutely hilarious. Uncle Pigg gets out of this tight spot by sharing copies of OiNK, its humour overloading their circuits and freeing the people from their tyranny. As he leaves he tells them if they need more copies for the fight they should place a regular order at their newsagents. We then see the people later worshipping a statue of him while asking, “What’s a ‘newsagent’?”

Uncle Pigg’s TARDIS pops up at various points in the issue

It’s imaginative, original and genuinely very funny throughout. Mark is nothing short of a comics writing genius and Ian’s artwork brings these ideas to life in a way that completely matches their crazy nature. It’s such a shame this would be the last time they’d create a long strip like this for the character. It’s definitely the highlight of the issue and indeed one of my favourite moments from the whole run, not least because he’s not just confined to the pages of his own story.

Much like Star Truck in #3 (and the forthcoming OiNK! Book 1988) which saw our heroes appear among the stars of other strips, so Uncle Pigg (or his TARDIS at least) pops up at various points in the issue and it was fun to spot these as a child. Heck, let’s face it, it’s fun to see it pop up now as an adult, whether it’s in the background or in a way that actually affects the plot of another story.

We can see the TARDIS floating about in Lew Stringer’s Pete and his Pimple strip after Pete accidentally fell into a time warp and also ended up in prehistoric times, then in Dick Tater, Dictator of Time written by Tim Quinn (his one contribution to OiNK) and drawn by Ed McHenry he causes a pile-up in between time zones and in Spotticus the Slave he saves the title character from being eaten by a lion. This last strip was (and I quote), “Writed and drawed bi Davey Jonsey, Pillock-of-the-Year 1981“.

The conclusion is right at the back of the comic and the solution is a simple one; just land on the butchers’ heads and free all the captured piggies. A happy ending all round! We even get a little cameo from the Doctor and this isn’t the first time Colin Baker has been immortalised in an Ian Jackson drawing. Check out #3‘s review for his earlier appearance. What a fantastic strip this has been!

The rest of the issue is just as good, with the vast majority sticking to the theme either by including time travel or being set in the distant past or future. But my first highlight is neither, it was just too funny and too memorable to leave out. It’s the first time I’ve shown an entry from this series on the blog and it might surprise pig pals to know there weren’t that many overall.

In my head the Rotten Rhymes series was in nearly every issue, particularly during the later fortnightlies but in reality there were only 13 of these funny takes on nursery rhymes, and mainly during the monthly issues towards the end of OiNK’s run. Taking a traditional nursery rhyme and changing the last line, often throwing away the need to rhyme at all, they’d be written and drawn by a variety of contributors and Humpty Dumpty by Davy Francis is one of the very best.

My memory may have let me down insofar as how many Rotten Rhymes there were, but I can actually remember reciting this in school to several of my friends. It’s strange the little random memories this blog has brought back to the surface. There are others in this series I loved but this always remained the most memorable, simply because of how brazenly it dealt with the main character! But that’s not all from Davy I want to show you from this issue.

Sometimes in humour comics a character could become a one-trick pony, their regular antics basically playing out exactly the same way every issue but perhaps in a slightly different setting. This was certainly the case with some of the other titles I dipped into back then to see if any would interest me in the same way as this one. None of them really did, so I stuck with OiNK for the time being. Some of OiNK’s own characters could appear on the surface to be examples of these repetitive strips, but in reality they were far from that. Take Davy’s Greedy Gorb for instance.

A boy who eats everything, food or otherwise, is a simple idea that could’ve run dry very quickly in lesser hands. But thanks to Davy every episode was fresh and funny, and he never failed to raise a laugh. The brilliantly named mad scientist Doctor Maddstark-Raving would also get spun off into some strips of his own now and again, such was his potential in Davy’s crazy mind.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Snatcher Sam in the comic and this issue puts that right, although not in his usual photo story format. Instead, Mike Taylor does a superb job of drawing Marc Riley as the clueless thief (and I think Pat Healy as the guard, previously seen in #7‘s Swindler Sid story). It suits the Olde English theme of the page a lot better than photographs ever could and I think the style Mike has used here is very inventive, giving it a unique feel.

As if reinventing Marc as an actual comic strip wasn’t good enough, that final pun is just brilliant. All of the ridiculousness, the seemingly random pratfalls and idiocy is all for a reason, all building to the name of this Dick Turpin-inspired highway robber. It’s nothing short of genius, in both Mark’s writing and Mike’s illustrations, hiding behind what on the surface is just plain silliness. Surely that’s the very essence of OiNK?

Chas Sinclair‘s artwork is perfect for stories such as the next one, written by Tony Husband. He has a knack of making a strip look more mature, a little more like something I might have seen in my brother’s Roy of the Rovers or something. For me this works perfectly because given OiNK’s track record so far, the more it looks like a story we’d find in a non-humour comic, the more insane and funny it usually is. Check out Scruff of the Track, Janice and John and Watery Down for instance. I’m very glad to say No News Is Good News keeps to this tradition.

I really thought the strip was going to end with James Fishpond being hit by the bus and it’d be an OiNK version of The Twilight Zone, the prediction in the newspaper actually causing the event. (The later regular strip, The Swinelight Zone would do strips like that.) But not only is it completely ridiculous how he’s able to talk aloud about how the bus is going to kill him and devise a plan to stop it from happening, all before the bus actually does so (when he clearly had time to jump out of the way), but the poor chap who does get hit is even worse! A brilliantly funny strip that uses the subject of the issue in an original way. Great stuff.

Next to this page is the first of a two-part Tom Thug strip. You might think it’d all return to normal by the next issue, but I can remember the final panel here being picked up on in #25. We welcome back Tom’s nemesis, posh clever kid Wayne Brayne who was first introduced in #10 and who would normally outsmart the dimwitted numbskull with ease, but here he’s decided to be proactive in an attempt to stop Tom’s bullying for good. As you’ll see, in a surprise twist the person punished at the end isn’t the one you’d usually expect.

Remember kids, never lower yourself to the level of the bully, even if your intentions are good. I recalled the panel of an elderly Tom but I thought I remembered it being some kind of time travel where an actual older version of himself terrified him. Nope, it’s all a ruse, but it has the same effect. Another incorrect assumption on my part was thinking it’d all simply be back to normal next time, but you’ll see I was wrong about that too.

Of course, the world sadly did lose Mark in the early 1990s, so this little gag of his is a bittersweet moment.

Back in the 80s I can remember one piece of primary school homework when we were asked to imagine what our lives would be like in the year 2000. Cue lots of moving walkways and flying cars. It seemed so far away and it’s scary to think that futuristic date is actually further into the past now than it was into the future when we were imagining it!

We weren’t the only ones to dream of life in the future and here writer Mark Rodgers and artist Ed McHenry have created this brilliant back cover to finish the issue. Using the logo of the famous sci-fi comic, a stablemate of OiNK’s from the same publisher, there’s a lot to love here in the little details. Ed is friends with Davy Francis so check out the little desk inscription next to the Cowpat Planet strip, the name of the robot churning out the art, the huge computer monitor layout still using a fiddly indoor aerial, the piggy bank and even a standard office-like holiday rota but for plops!

One little detail here stands out though. At the bottom you’ll see Mark has written in that his brain is being kept alive in a jar hooked up to a script computer. Of course, the world sadly did lose Mark in the early 1990s, so this little gag of his is a bittersweet moment. However, Mark would still want us to laugh and it is funny to think of how his own creation would still expect him to keep on churning out the story ideas.

That’s all the time we have for this time-travel issue and it’s been a blast from the past from page one to 32. Mark and the entire team pulled out all the stops for this one and the fortnightlies only get better and better from here on. My own favourite point in OiNK‘s lifespan will be towards the end of the year and I simply can’t wait. Next up though is the Toys and Hobbies Issue, the review of which will be here from Monday 4th April 2022.