Tag Archives: Mark Rodgers

OiNK! #38: A FEAST OF FUNNiES

A cover that would surely stand out on the shelves, a full-page photograph of Frank Sidebottom (aka Chris Sievey) and Marc Riley as his alter ego Snatcher Sam getting into what appears to be a food fight, with a promise of a full story inside. Frank never seemed to be off our television screens at the time, so having him in OiNK was a major coup for the comic, having him on the cover even more so. Well, it would be if his face wasn’t covered with those wonderful stickers, of course.

Our third and final set includes the same ‘Stick with OiNK’ on the back as previous issues and an array of stars with Burp, Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins, Harry the Head and Frank himself on the good quality, bright yellow stickers. The butcher one in particular I remember, I think it ended up on our fridge back in 1987 but not for very long. We wouldn’t get any more free gifts until the final issue, a gift that would lead me directly to my next comic obsession.

The Story Behind the Cover strip was the first time we’d seen Frank and Sam in a photo story since #26 (something which used to be a regular occurrence for Sam in the early issues) and here it’s split up into three small chunks, with the conclusion on page 31. However, the first two parts are also split up over the opening pages, the bottom half on page two and the second at the top of page three. Why? Comic timing (no pun intended).

Have you ever turned over a page of a comic and something towards the end of the strip catches your eye? Or have you ever been reading a page and your eye happens to wonder just for a split second when something further down comes within eye level, revealing the big gag early? (Just me?) I love how this stops the strip at the point where Frank’s turn of phrase suggests something very different to what actually happens, then the gag lands when we start on the next page.

That pie thrown in the final image would be seen throughout the comic thanks to co-creator/co-editor Patrick Gallagher as it wings its way to the inner back page. The pie isn’t the only addition to some pages, there are little plops here and there with suitable puns, much like we had in the very earliest issues, in particular the preview issue. These were added to the previous two OiNKs too, adding to that feeling of newness I described during #36’s review.

We’ll get back to that at the end of the issue, as intended. As I mentioned in the OiNK’s Golden Age post this was my very favourite time in OiNK’s run, mainly because all of my very favourite characters, writers and cartoonists were present in almost every issue. One character who’d I’d always thought was a regular from the moment she first appeared was Psycho Gran by the insanely talented (and all round decent feller) David Leach.

Old Lady Psycho appeared seemingly randomly from #15 up to this point, partly because David didn’t know she was to be a regular character until that issue was published. Her Maniacal Majesty was at her most prolific in these latter fortnightlies, in fact apart from the next issue she’ll be in every one until OiNK turns weekly, when she unfortunately disappears, only popping up in three of the regular issues after that. Although her appearance in the second annual is not to be missed! So she’s another reason to enjoy the rest of this year’s issues.

A loveable character, often the subject of body shaming his cheery demeanour would see him get one over the bullies

Also introduced in #15 and advertised as a regular was Fatty Farmer, normally written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Mike Green. Farmer appeared in five issues, then this is only his third appearance since and he’d only have three more after this. He was a loveable character, often the subject of body shaming he’d never let it get to him and his cheery demeanour would see him get one over the bullies every time.

Here however, he’s eaten a load of cream cheese just before bedtime and, playing on the old tale of cheese giving you nightmares if you eat it late at night, he drifts into a disturbed sleep in Fatty Farmer’s Nightmare! A Blubbery Bonus. This time the script has been written by new OiNK scribe Vaughan Brunt, with Mike as ever providing the art. Written as a rhyme it starts off silly and just gets sillier.

I’m a sucker for a comical shark and Mike doesn’t disappoint here. For a start trying to strangle a shark is funny enough, never mind the giant, crazy eyes, lack of pectoral fins making it look like a long, silly sausage and the little “Dunslop” sign on the front of its rubber body! This was the only time Fatty Farmer got a full page to himself and I think it’s Mike’s art that really makes it. It could’ve been written for any character but Mike brings such ‘character‘ to the lead it feels like a perfect fit.

Other highlights of this issue include Burp making a perfect political statement three decades early, Death’s hilarious reaction to an unwelcome visitor, our dense-but-buffed Endor and his magical spectacles being woken from their apparently cuddly sleep when the Monocle of Mayhem is stolen by a ghost and Pete giving us a hint as to why he may have that pimple in the first place.

A quick note on those last two panels. This was the first appearance for new serial Jimmy Flynn, a boy who was “bathed in a weird light from a flying saucer” and ever since could make his skeleton jump out of his skin to go and investigate spooky goings-on. Each strip would hype a ‘Special Guest Star’ in the title too, only for that special guest to appear inconsequentially in one panel, as Larry Hogman (Larry Hagman, Dallas) does here.

This issue saw the very first contribution from none other than Kev F Sutherland. A prolific cartoonist in OiNK’s weekly and monthly issues (his work would make up about a sixth of the final issue!) this was the only time his art would be seen in the fortnightlies but it’s great to see him join the fray at last. A small, quarter-page three-panel Madvertisement riffing off the McDonald’s TV adverts of the time, not only is this Kev’s first OiNK strip, it’s his very first published work.

So a little bit of comics history right there. Kev went on to be a cartoonist in titles as diverse as Beano, Toxic, Doctor Who Adventures and Red Dwarf Magazine. Today he also visits schools to teach comics creation, performs with socks puppets as The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre and you can check out his 17-part podcast series Comic Cuts – The Panel Show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

When you’re a heavy, building-sized robotic pig there’s no way you can’t make an impact

I’ve been looking forward to Kev’s time in the comic and forgot all about this little strip. Having proven himself we had to wait until #49 to see him again but it’ll be worth the wait. Some of the very best strips in the monthlies are from Kev; The March of the Killer Breakfasts and a simply brilliant strip about three scientists discovering time travel are stand outs from those final issues. Kev also had a series called simply Meanwhile… which would have a completely different scenario every time, all linked together by nothing more than his unique art style and even more unique sense of humour. You’ll see some of those next year.

One character who didn’t appear too often, showing up for just five regular issues and both annuals, but who made a huge impact with readers and remains a fan favourite to this day was Pigswilla. Then again, when you’re a heavy, building-sized robotic pig there’s no way you can’t make an impact. He returns this issue in Beware the Bread-Beast from Beyond. As you can see Lew Stringer’s gorgeous colour work has returned, as has his rhyming storytelling.

It’s all very funny, that exclamation by the Bread-Beast at the top of the second page along with his facial expression made me genuinely roar! You know you’re in for a treat when you turn a page and find Pigswilla is in the issue and we were never let down. The strip ends with cut-out finger puppets and by the initials it appears Mark Rodgers had a hand (boom! boom!) in those. It wasn’t the first time OiNK featured such things and Lew would do something similar to brilliant effect with his Combat Colin strip in Marvel UK’s Transformers a few years later.

The next strip takes up two pages, although it’s not a double-page spread, instead we turn over for the second half. This isn’t for comic timing this time, instead it means they can be presented as the front and back covers of a spoof comic. When I read this issue for the first time since childhood I was surprised to see it because the first annual had a superb, multi-page spoof of The Beano and The Dandy and it would’ve been on sale at this time (although most of us didn’t get it until Christmas, of course). Nevertheless, here’s the first time OiNK took a direct swipe at DC Thomson’s best-seller with The Deano.

This was all a well-meaning jest, a parody of the long established comics. As OiNK writer Graham Exton once told me parody is when you poke fun at something you admire, satire is something different, and these were always intended as parodies. For example, this was written by co-creator/co-editor Mark Rodgers who (according to Graham I should add) would always have a Beano Book next to the loo for guests in his house to read while they did their business.


“There’s a new butcher in town, gang! Let’s splat him!”

Scramble

Brought to life by Les ‘Lezz’ Barton, it emphasises the running gag that the comics were tired and had been going on too long with the volume and issue numbers, and it all goes rather dark on the second page. I’m not referring to the lights being turned off, let’s be clear Dennis has just minced and eaten his pet dog! Then again, we are reading a comic which advertised burgers made of butchers in its preview issue so the precedent was set.

Percy Piglet turning the light out will actually get mentioned in our final highlight from this issue but just before that here’s the winner of Granada TV’s Scramble competition as promised. I actually prefer runner up Ian Marshall’s Professor Foible but I wasn’t judging and when the winning strip is that of a gang of punk pigs it’s clear this was always going to be the winner. After all, co-editor Tony Husband was (and still is) a huge fan of punk music and always saw OiNK as the comic equivalent.

I’m sure Michael Spencer of Poynton was thrilled to see his work in the comic, introduced by Uncle Pigg and the plops on the previous page. You can’t fault the imagination on show and it reminds me of the comics my friend Roger and I made for each other in school, which were usually riffs on Marvel UK comics such as Transformers and The Real Ghostbusters. From memory, Roger created The Battleoids and School Busters, while mine were called War-Bots and The Real Smokebusters. Hmm, definitely not as original as Michael’s strip.

Time to round off this issue’s review with the conclusion of our photo story starring Marc Riley as Snatcher Sam and Chris Sievey as Frank Sidebottom. The custard pie has made its way through the comic to end up splattered all over Sam so the OiNK photographer finally gets their shot. In response the reluctant cover stars plot revenge and this is where the reference from earlier comes back to funny effect.

The lucky young star here who got to meet some of the OiNK team was Scott Steward, neighbour of Patrick Gallagher‘s. Thanks again to Patrick for the info and as always he’s sent along a recent photograph to show us Scott as he is now. Hello Scott!

That’s our feast of an issue at an end and it’s been a belter from start to finish. It should come as no shock that I think the same of the next one, at least from memory anyway. After that will be the Hallowe’en issue which (along with the Christmas edition later on this year) I seem to recall was one of my very favourite OiNKs of all time. So good times ahead then! The next OiNK review, of the Games and Puzzles Issue will be here on Monday 17th October 2022. See you then, pig pals!

OiNK! #37: NEW ADDiTiONS

Our second new look OiNK sees the logo enlarged a little, sitting proud in its new position and, as promised by co-creator/co-editor Patrick Gallagher in the previous review, it lets us see more of the superb cover image by Mike Higgs. There’s a confidence about this issue and it’s new format that takes me right back to those days of running to the newsagent for my latest issue every fortnight, knowing I was going to get another 32 pages of perfect pork!

Another set of free stickers are wrapped around the cover, that Tom Thug ‘Book of Grammar’ one being my particular favourite. I think I used the Hadrian Vile sticker on a school book of some description back in 1987 (I would’ve been in primary six at the time of this issue) and the missing one on the back was the same as the one I showed you was on my fridge. This issue’s has been added to the comics shelves in my new home office.

The ‘Hilarious Happy Families Issue’ lives up to its name from the very first page with that brilliant cover complete with a couple of strategically placed OiNKs, portraying an elderly relative dying from the shock of reading an issue. The Christmas Club, the note on the bottom of the casket and a couple of plops for good measure, I can remember visiting my mum’s friend’s house with this issue and sitting absorbed by it while they gossiped.

In fact, I remember they were talking about Santa Claus and wondering if I knew the truth (that he most definitely existed, obviously) and I caught part of the conversation between strips. I can recall May asking the question and my mum saying at my age my friends would’ve been talking about it, so she assumed I knew. I kept quiet, I still wanted all my toys (and my OiNK Book!). That’s something which always comes back to me whenever I see this cover. May (or Aunty May as we called her, even though she wasn’t related) is no longer with us so it’s a happy memory that I’ll never forget thanks to OiNK.

This is quite simply the perfect comic script

Inside, one of the first strips is an old favourite, Davy FrancisCowpat County. Davy has two trademarks when it comes to his funniest strips, background gags and brilliant puns. This next page is easily my favourite featuring Farmer Giles. It is quite simply the perfect comic script. It all leads up to the final joke, expertly laying in the little bits of information along the way that’ll make it work, the reader unaware this is happening until the end.

Davy is a real comedic genius and it ran in the family. His father Stanley Francis was a comedian, performing in the old club circuits in Northern Ireland with Frank “it’s a cracker” Carson. Stanley also played piano and once accompanied Little Richard at Belfast’s Boom Boom Rooms! He’d often tell jokes at home to try them out (which Davy now uses on his bus tours) and the joke at the centre of this Cowpat County was one of Stanley’s.


“She’s luvly!!”

Hadrian Vile

Just one final note about this strip. I have the original artwork, one of a few pieces of Davy’s I own. I’m going to hold that back for a future post and show them all off at once. It also couldn’t have escaped your notice that something is going on with Snatcher Sam and Frank Sidebottom. Anyone who grew up on OiNK should instantly know what this refers to. Yes, it was finally available. Exciting! I’ll get back to that later in the review.

Next up is what I’d easily describe as the main event of this family themed issue. In fact it’s probably the main event in the whole life of Hadrian Vile thus far, something I’ve alluded to ever since the character first appeared on the blog back in #4’s review. To mark the occasion he gets three pages written by Mark Rodgers in glorious Ian Jackson full colour. This story more than any other plays to Ian’s strength of perfectly capturing a character’s thoughts in their face and body language. For example, his exasperated dad when they’re pulled over and in the next panel when he’s trying to explain things to the police officer.

We saw Hadrian’s age increase in the birthday issue and his reaction when his parents explained he was going to be a big brother. Now, after months of him torturing his poor pregnant mum the big moment has arrived and while the laughs are still plentiful, what we have here is a surprisingly sweet strip. After all those previous issues full of Hadrian getting into trouble thanks to his ridiculous schemes, he actually comes up with a helpful idea when the situation calls for it. It’s still daft and funny of course, especially his dad trying to run along holding that pillow. 

After wearing down the carpet in the waiting room the family are called in to see their latest addition, even Bowser gets a mask so he can join them. We turn over to see the following full-page image with a simple, sweet (yet still incorrectly spelt) diary entry. This was certainly a memorable moment in humour comics. When did a character live their life in an almost real time manner like this? When was something like this properly built up to instead of just being a sudden change? OiNK was always unique and this is all the proof you need.

Don’t be thinking Hadrian is going to go all slushy on us though. Instead, he sees his new baby sister as a potential protégé, someone to teach the ways of the world to, someone to train and we get to see him ingratiate himself over the following months from what I can remember. She also makes an appearance in the card game in this very issue.

This takes up the middle pages and the back cover, with another half page for the instructions, which are the same for the regular Happy Families game.

So as per the typical rules each family is made up of four individuals, with Hadrian’s not including Bowser as would’ve been expected up to this point, instead the newest addition gets a little cameo of sorts. Altogether there are 36 cards for the reader to stick on to cardboard and cut out, split into nine families. Parents and siblings could also easily take part because each group has a simple numbering system so non-OiNK fans (yes, they exist!) wouldn’t get lost amongst the silly names.

I always liked seeing favourite characters drawn by different artists. Ed McHenry is the artist here and his depictions of Ian Jackson’s Hadrian and his family, David Haldane’s Rubbish Man, J.T. Dogg’s Street-Hogs heroes and villains, and Jeremy Banx’s alien innards are my particular favourites. Did any blog readers cut out and play this game when they were but a piglet? I never cut up any of my OiNKs back at the time. (I did begin to colour in something in the first annual but that was about it.) However, these days the angel on top of my Christmas tree is from a page of the comic, and for the blog I’ve already constructed an old-fashioned Frank Sidebottom toy.

There’s a certain phrase I remember my dad using whenever my siblings or I did anything that our mum would’ve found particularly bad and one of the little quarter-page strips in this issue takes that exact phrase and ridicules it, albeit swapping the parents’ roles over in the process. From that moment on I could never take it seriously when it was used. I still can’t. Mad Dad is written by Vaughan Brunt and drawn by Ian Knox. This is followed up by Grate Expectations, a memorable little one-off from the insane mind of Simon Thorp who, I’m very happy to say, was turning up more regularly by this point.

There were so many potential highlights in this issue I really struggled in deciding which ones to include. This could be a regular problem these next few months, but it’s a nice problem to have, isn’t it? The Grunts page features press clippings about OiNK itself, although I’ll save them for their own post at a future date. Just mentioned recently on the blog’s Twitter feed by a fellow pig pal was Burp’s tractor beam and it pops up here, so I just had to include that in this little selection of panels.

There was also a unique competition in which readers could win a trip to Timperley, the home of megastar Frank Sidebottom and meet their hero, and to get readers excited to enter he tells us all about his post office having two letterboxes! I’ll keep an eye out for the results and winners. There’s a full-page Uncle Pigg strip describing the special versions of OiNK he publishes around the world and it’s nice to see he and Santa have made up since #17

For the first time we see Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins playing football, something which would lead to a huge multi-issue story for the character in future issues, a little plop drawn by Patrick Gallagher invaded a handful of pages throughout the issue such as Rubbish Man’s, and in the latest Butcher Watch a pig by the name of Stig the Pig thinks he’s finally won the battle with Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith, with wonderfully Banx’y captions.

Of course, Jimmy has to live to see another day and terrorise the world in which the characters of OiNK reside. As it turns out that shadowy figure wasn’t Jimmy at all but rather a selection of pork sausages tied up and dressed to resemble him. We see this reveal just before Jimmy strangles Stig to death with another string of sausages. This might sound a bit brutal for a kid’s humour comic but it’s so ludicrous and over-the-top it was a hoot to read every time and we’d just laugh at the absurdity of the pretend horror.

So, Frank has just set a new competition and this issue announces the runner-up of a previous one, but not one we’d seen in the comic. Instead, in much the same way as OiNK had run a competition in conjunction with Radio Manchester (the results were in #26), they teamed up with Granada TV’s Scramble programme. Ian Marshall from Bramhall has not one, but two small strips in this issue starring his own creation, Professor Foible.

If this is the level of quality the runner-up produced I can honestly say I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what the young winner came up with! We’ll have to wait to find out though because they’re holding that back until #38.

So for the uninitiated, what were Frank Sidebottom aka Chris Sievey and Snatcher Sam aka Marc Riley up to earlier in the issue? Why, they were recording a new song for the OiNK 45 of course! Way back in the mists of time the premiere issue of our favourite comic gave away a fun flexidisc record with two songs created specifically to annoy adults as much as for the kids to enjoy. The OiNK Song and The OiNK Rap are often quoted by fans to this day and on this new proper record they were getting another outing alongside a new song.

When the original songs were produced by Marc, Chris was yet to join the comic (#16) so the new track, called The OiNK Get Together Song was a chance for the pop music sensation to get in on the action and team up with the former member of The Fall. Along with the other two songs (the rap now renamed The OiNK Psycho Rap) this was a proper, solid record the size of a single, in its own sleeze for just £1.70 and I for one jumped at the chance to own it, especially since all three songs were new to me (having missed the flexidisc first time around). In fact, this and the mug were the only pieces of OiNK merchandise I originally owned.

I recall the song contained impressions of various characters and it irritated my family just as much as the other two. My record met with an early demise when it warped under the hot sun from a skylight window only a couple of weeks after it had arrived in the post. I hadn’t even had a chance to tape it yet so I could listen to it on my Walkman. Now if only I could listen to it again after all these decades to see how my adult brain would react to these songs.

Well would you look at that. Yep, in a moment of perfect timing just a couple of months ago this appeared on eBay and the record is in mint condition. I could not be happier. But then again, I haven’t listened to it yet! Nope, I haven’t stuck it on the ol’ record player yet, I’ll do that when it comes to writing the accompanying blog post. So look out for that just after 17th October. Why am I making you wait so long? Well, we had to wait 28 days for delivery after all and this is all in real time.

That brings us to the end of another fantastic issue. As a child I’d loved the changes and was so happy they weren’t a one-off (the previous issue‘s theme explaining them away for that edition), the book was in the shops and I was eagerly anticipating it for Christmas and I’d just ordered an exciting new piece of merchandise, my first piece of OiNK merchandise in fact. I’d been a fan of OiNK since I’d first discovered it, but by now I was completely obsessed. The next issue is the Food and Drink Special with yet another memorable cover, a full-page photograph of (who else) Frank and Sam. The next review will be here on Monday 3rd October 2022.

October already?!

COMiNG UP: OiNK! #37

As OiNK continues through my favourite issues each one brings with it more happy memories of reading these all those years ago (35 years ago to be precise). The next issue brings back specific memories for me, not least of which was how much I enjoyed it. Will it live up to those memories all this time later? Given how much I’ve been enjoying the main real time read through of the blog I think the odds are pretty much stacked in its favour.

In #37, the Happy Families Issue, you’ll see a surprisingly touching moment for the young trouble maker Hadrian Vile when his diary chronicles a major life moment, Cowpat County delivers one of the greatest gags in all of OiNK history, there’s a cut out (or rather, save image and print and cut out) card game and a major announcement of some new OiNK merchandise! The next review will be here on Monday 19th September 2022.