Welcome to the latest weekly edition of OiNK and Davy Francis’ only comics cover of his career. Outlined by Lew Stringer, Davy’s creation Greedy Gorb gets his teeth into the issue and that’s what we’re here for too. Continuing the basic yellow cover theme it’s not the most elaborate in OiNK’s history, although next week’s would be even simpler. But as mentioned before this was a necessary evil to get ahead of the new schedule, doubled from a few issues ago.
Greedy may be a a mini-strip but that doesn’t stop him from producing one of my biggest belly laughs for quite a while and you’ll see that towards the end of this review. As I promised back in #45’s write-up I’m going to take a look at the more serialised nature of OiNK Weekly, starting off with the very funny Sherlock Hams in The Hog of the Baskervilles. Written by Lew and drawn by Ron Tiner, it’s packed to the rafters with silly characters and even sillier plot twists.
The red herring gag from #46 is still my favourite and here the outraged cook reveals themselves as Meatyarty, based on Sherlock Holmes’ own nemesis Moriarty. As with Ham Dare, Lew’s script plays up to the clichés people associate with these types of story (hamming it up you could say) including Holmes’ love of the violin. His ability to deduce clues where no one else would see any is also spoofed here, his supposed super intelligence revealing what are actually very obvious giveaways.
It concludes next week with part five while Jeremy Banx’s Hieronymous Van Hellsong will continue on until the celebratory #50. In this fourth chapter the atmospheric scene-setting is done and it’s time for the butcher hunter to meet his nemesis, Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith, the Dracula to his Hellsing. The main thrust here is their first battle, with Jimmy spectacularly crashing through a window and swiping at our enigmatic hero with his blade. It’s animatedly realised by Jeremy in some of his best work yet.
There are loads of little details I just love here, such as portraying Jimmy’s residence as a dirty hovel in the first panel, showing the OiNK villain doesn’t have a home as such, instead sleeping rough in dirty, abandoned buildings as he makes his way around the country for his pie fillings. The confrontation itself in the middle panels is all exaggerated limb movements and bloody thirsty stares, and is that even saliva spilling out of Jimmy’s mouth as he edges closer to his prey?
Thankfully only the tips of Hellsong’s hat and scarf end up on the chopping board and in the final panels that Dracula inspiration is really brought home with the holding up of the cross. But it’s the reveal of what that cross actually is that made me genuinely laugh out loud. This is about as unique a children’s comic strip as you could ever possibly get and shows how original OiNK still is nearly 50 issues in. Co-editor Tony Husband once told me Jeremy was basically given free rein to do as he pleased. Here is a cartoonist whose imagination and sense of humour know no bounds.
Moving on, from early issues where he’d often be the butt of jokes, to ones where he’d get the upper hand and prove that beauty is only skin deep, Tony’s Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins had already been on quite the journey when his strip was changed to a serialised comedy drama of sorts, chronicling Horace’s new football career. His talent spotted by Melchester United, his headmaster refused to let him attend practice but the readers convinced him otherwise in #43. But a jealous member of his team had been laying traps for him and last issue a mysterious figure had broken into a military facility and stole a nuclear missile! Well that escalated quickly.
There was still plenty of time for humour (and sometimes the strip would revert to a one-off for a good gag or two). I love how William’s mum just casually mentions the weapon in passing, the ‘Ground to Horace missile’ and the fact it’s easily flipped up to avert all of the disaster in a scene which could be right out of a Naked Gun-style spoof. Well, I say it’s been averted but this issue’s cliffhanger has different ideas. From memory the football story would continue for quite a while, dipping in and out until the happy ending in the final issue, the long serialisation making the final strip all the better for it.
Frank Sidebottom wasn’t averse to an ongoing story either, although it was rather more ad-hoc. Case in point, back in #46 he brought us 100 Fantastic Show-biz (sic) Moments No.2. But that second list of moments would then be elongated and spread over several issues, so last week we had (and I quote) “Frank Sidebottom’s Part Two ‘Fantastic Showbiz Moments’ Part 2”, but that wasn’t enough for Frank. He decided a previous plot point needed further explanation, so now we have the third part of the two-part story to the second part of his showbiz moments. Phew!
And of course he can’t resist building on this serialisation joke by starting another on the very same page, this time referencing the amount of parts won’t tally properly before he even begins. The diversity of his pages play out brilliantly in these issues; the first was a photo montage of him with his Smokebusters, the second was a photo strip, here we’ve a lovely hand-crafted written page and as it goes on it’d revert to a comic strip again. There was never a predictable moment within his pages.
That newspaper article is hilarious too.
Elsewhere, the creativity of the readers knew no bounds as evidenced with these winning song lyrics by Lyn McNicol for the comic’s resident punk band The Slugs, fellow OiNK cartoonist Marc Riley made an unscheduled (and I’d assume surprising even to Marc) cameo in Lew Stringer’s Pete and his Pimple, and our already perfectly smelly alien from outer space, Burp, was convinced to undergo some rather extreme plastic surgery!
The mini-strips are still collected together in one section of the comic. This will change soon but for now it’s actually quite fun to get a handful of quick gags in succession. However one in particular stands out, so much so that the image in the final panel has stayed rent free in my mind all of these years later, resurfacing every time I see the instrument in question.
This isn’t just the best mini-strip, it’s the biggest laugh of the whole issue and quite possibly the very best Greedy Gorb strip of his 33 in total, drawn by the incredibly funny and unique Davy Francis. Now and again Davy’s characters would be written by other OiNK writers but here it’s all him, complete with the backgrounds that magically change from one panel to the next so he can squeeze in as many extra sight gags as possible. A classic.
As you know I’m showing the newsagent reservation coupons from each of these weekly issues because they’re a series of jokes in their own right, and to accompany them this time is a full-page strip written by co-editor Mark Rodgers and drawn in glorious full colour by Eric ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson. It’s a very unsubtle dig at the likes of W.H. Smith who had been placing OiNK on the top shelves out of the reach of children after a few parents complained, even though you can guarantee their children shared the same sense of humour as the comic.
“OiNK is such a rude, outrageous comic, we like to make it difficult for you to get!”GBH Newsagent (Mark Rodgers)
A few people trying to ruin everyone else’s fun because they personally don’t like something? Some things never change. There’s no denying this move had to have hurt OiNK’s sales and IPC Magazines for their part did try their best to negotiate with the chain. It also couldn’t have helped they were one of the main distributors. Thankfully they weren’t to be found here in Northern Ireland at the time (the one store that did open in Belfast many years later didn’t last long before going out of business), although DUP leader Ian Paisley did try to get the comic banned at one stage but it fell on deaf ears.
Uncle Pigg had already informed his readers to ask for OiNK if they didn’t see it on the shelves, explaining how some folks who owned the shops thought OiNK was too clever for us kiddies. In fact, this was how he introduced the reservation coupon in the first ever issue I bought, #14. It was a cheeky little joke at the expense of such shops while making the point they wouldn’t stop OiNK from being published. In this latest issue that same message came with a bit more bite to it.
It makes a great point; if OiNK was so bad why not just refuse to stock it? The answer of course is that they were hypocrites, although some WHSmith stores did refuse to have The OiNK Book 1988 on the shelves when it was released. I do love how Wilkie’s art looks on the matt paper. His style always had texture to it, but now on this paper stock this is heightened, creating a gorgeous finished strip that feels like this is the original artwork, drawn directly on to this exact piece of paper by Eric. I love it.
Fittingly, we finish off this review with the latest newsagent coupon put together by co-editor Patrick Gallagher. While the coupon itself is very polite for addressing the shop, the accompanying joke is anything but. It also contains the best description of a dentist I’ve ever come across in my life.
“Gob mechanic”! Haha! Ahem, anyway, that’s us at the end of another review. We’re really getting through them now aren’t we? Enjoy it while you can pig pals, as the comic will change to a different schedule again later in the year. Until then though, we still have another 14 weekly doses of pigs, plops and puns to come, continuing with #49 in just seven days on Saturday 5th January 2023. I’m sure I’ll see you then.