Tag Archives: Mark Rodgers

OiNK! #6: ANiMAL CRACKERS

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.

One look at that dog in the pilot’s seat and how could this not be one of the selected highlights?

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.

Every single panel contains at least one pun, with well over a dozen altogether in just the one strip.

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.

OiNK! #5: PERFECT PiG PALS

While the main event of this fifth issue of OiNK is the Unfair Funfair adventure game and there’s no theme as such, there’s an overall feeling of celebration inside, a celebration that the comic was proving to be a hit among its target audience. It contains the first contributions from readers, with a few small jokes and drawings scattered throughout, there’s a photo story showing us the kind of kids who were reading OiNK and reference is made to their letters in some of the strips.

Things begin with Mary Lighthouse on page two as per usual and something stood out in its last panel. The image of Mary and the words Uncle Pigg is shouting were definitely not by strip artist Ian Jackson, so I asked Patrick Gallagher about it. In Mark Rodgers‘ original script the mass of letters was meant to be hate mail for Mary but IPC Magazines didn’t like this reference and asked for it to be toned down. It was changed to reference fan mail for the comic which I think is actually funnier. You can compare the two ideas below.

I love the set up with Mary receiving three complaints and calling it an outcry. It all feels very contemporary. After all, that’s how The Daily Mail still operates today, isn’t it? This strip would coincidentally end up quite prophetic. While it’s obviously a joke, it’s strikingly similar to something the comic’s editors would face after a certain story is published in #7, but we’ll get to that later.

Directly below this on the same page is a character whose name is somewhat direct. In fact you could say it’s a bit on the nose. Mr. Big Nose would introduce surreal humour to the young audience in a way that really shouldn’t work in a children’s comic, but it did. One issue he could be showing us gravity is actually invisible creatures holding everything down, or he’d be ignoring an alien assassin by reading the newspaper, or playing Rambo in a school play of Little Bo-Peep, or having his vacuum cleaner turned into a dolphin.

Mr Big Nose’s strips followed no rules and the more absurd the situation, the more bizarre the juxtapositions, the more they didn’t make sense the funnier they were. With no barriers in his way, Jeremy Banx‘s imagination was on full display and this kind of humour would also start to spill over into his Burp the Smelly Alien strip in later issues too.

Appearing in almost every one of the fortnightly issues of OiNK Mr Big Nose would sadly disappear with #45, the first weekly edition. However, including specials Jeremy would end up crafting 42 completely different tales for us to enjoy, and enjoy them we did. That dolphin’s name often gets quoted by pig pals online to this day!

So as I said at the top of the review this issue brought with it the first contributions by OiNK’s readers. The regular space for these was the Grunts page but it only contains one drawing this time and some made up letters to Uncle Pigg from imaginary readers for a laugh. Soon enough it would be full to bursting with readers’ celebrity spoofs, photos, newspaper clippings of pigs in the news, poems and of course jokes for Nasty Laffs and Specs.

These two little panels aren’t on the letters page, instead popping up right at the beginning of the issue on page three. Rather than simply printing the written letters sent in OiNK would illustrate them too, which would just spur on the young readership more. Who wouldn’t have wanted to see their joke turned into a cartoon strip?


“You smell awful! You must be a City supporter!”

Random human to Burp the Smelly Menace from Outer Space

Interestingly, OiNK also printed input from readers in their holiday specials and annuals, something no other annual I collected as a kid ever did. While my Marvel UK comics had standard letters pages answered in very entertaining ways, IPC (and later Fleetway) would often encourage their readers to send something different. Barrie Tomlinson, editor of many action adventure comics was always asking readers to contribute to a wonderful variety of features on his letters pages. But OiNK went even further and just let them send in whatever they wanted!

So who were these young readers, these so-called “pig pals”? Time for Terry Wogham to investigate.

Terry Wogham was a series of photo stories in the earliest issues where a real pig interviewed a series of top celebrities. Of course, we’d often only see these special guests from his eye level, so the comic could get away with only showing their legs and torso. For this issue though we got to see the faces of those interviewees, a selection of Typical OiNK Readers.

Like looking in a mirror. The strip contains all three of OiNK’s creators. Mark Rodgers can be seen wearing the bald cap and bandana with a toothless mouth drawn over him, then that’s him at the bottom left of the final panel, with Tony Husband and his son Paul behind him. Patrick Gallagher is in the middle of the back row, with his former wife Ann to the right (his left), then Ann’s brother James who was also an OiNK photographer. In front of James is his wife Alanna and in the middle of the front row is Tony’s wife, Carole.

So who remembers those Make-Your-Own Adventure books? For the uninitiated I’m referring to children’s novels designed to be read in a non-linear fashion, very much like the text adventure games on home computers at the time. At the end of each page you’d be given a choice of where to take the story next and the corresponding page numbers for each choice, the idea being to make it to the end of the adventure alive. For example the character could be faced with a spooky house or a haunted forest and they could decide to turn to page ‘x’ to enter the house, or page ‘y’ to walk towards the forest. 

Whether it was intended or not, I remember Horace teaching me not to judge anyone by how they look.

The format was ripe for an OiNK parody. Bringing the idea of The Unfair Funfair to life was artist Ralph Shephard, fresh off his excellent riff on The Transformers in #3. He would also go on to draw one of my all-time favourite spoofs from the comic, but that’s a tale for another review. His previous colourful style is replaced with black and white for the most part which suits the setting perfectly with its lovely feeling of spooky mischievousness.

Just like the books this was based on, the cover proclaims “You are Barry the butcher”, but surely that’s the last thing an OiNK reader would want? How can a butcher be the hero of the adventure? Read on, try the game and find out for yourself.

After you’ve tried a few of the options I’m sure you can probably guess what the note on the Grunts page said. To quote Uncle Pigg, “You are Barry the butcher … and I am the fairground owner! Whatever choices you make, you’ll still end up in the swill!!! Told you it was an Unfair Funfair! Hurr hurr hurr!!” Well, the clue was in the name after all, but it’s still fun to try out all the options. Even though you know what’s going to happen next, making those different choices just to end up reading the same panel again and again is the whole point and what makes it so funny.

Besides the blockbuster main event, other highlights include Nigel and Skrat the Two-Headed Rat, Noel Ford‘s weird creations who only appeared in half a dozen issues believe it or not. I say that because I’ve very vivid memories of them! New thief on the block Swindler Sid pops up in Snatcher Sam, Uncle Pigg brings readers up to date on Hoggy Bear‘s predicament in The Street-Hogs before heading home, and while trying to make new human friends Burp‘s breath gets him into hot water.

The final highlight I’m pulling out of this issue’s hat is Tony Husband‘s lovable character, Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins. To anyone new to OiNK the title of this strip might give them the impression of a clichéd comics character with one certain feature or ability that would be played for easy laughs. But as always with OiNK, created as a reaction to such tired comics ideas, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Horace’s strip would alternate between funny, contained stories and ongoing serials showing his struggles at simply trying to live his life. The early stories featured funny scenarios centred around his appearance, but never in a cruel way. He could scare off a monster by complete accident and end up the hero for example and he never seemed to lose his upbeat outlook at life. This issue’s strip sees his parents try to hide his looks from his visiting wealthy uncle, only for it backfire on them and their assumptions.

As OiNK continued the strip matured into an ongoing serial involving Horace’s football career. At times he’d get down about his looks, his treatment by others and how cruel the world could be, but he was a strong individual and we’d cheer him on every fortnight. His story even had a proper ending when the comic finished and a very happy one at that.

Whether it was intended or not, I remember Horace teaching me not to judge anyone by how they look, a strong message for anyone but in particular for a child reading it and getting swept up in the laughs and the adventure. I never felt lectured, never thought Tony was even trying to do any of this, but it’s what I took away from it and as such I believe he was an important part of my development as a child.

On that note it’s time to place this fifth issue of OiNK back onto the bookshelves and look forward to the next edition in a fortnight’s time. Issue six is the Animal Crackers issue and it certainly is a cracker! There comes a time in any comic’s early life when it all just seems to click, to gel together and prove its potential and I’ll tell you all about that moment in OiNK’s run on Friday 12th July.

OiNK! #4: WORLD CUP COMiC

Full disclosure: I am not a football fan in any shape or form. But that hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for this fourth issue of OiNK, released during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. It kicks things off with this Steve McGarry cover of Harry the Head being on the receiving end of said kick, however there’s not an awful lot of football-themed content inside, especially compared to issue three or those to come. The comic was still finding its trotters at this stage.

Anyone who grew up around the time of OiNK should be aware of the Sue Townsend books The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 and the subsequent TV adaptation. Pig pals should also know where I’m going with this. It’s finally time to welcome a favourite character of many readers and one who would appear in a whopping 63 out of the 76 OiNKs published over its lifetime. With Mark Rodgers writing and Ian Jackson illustrating, this was the tale of a young boy intellectual. Fascinated by bogies and creepy crawlies, disgusted by girls, he detested school and thought he was smarter than everyone else, although the most atrocious spelling ever to grace a children’s comic belied this. It is of course The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 7 5/8 (yearƨ).

Before the days of desktop publishing this must’ve been very fiddly to put together but the end result is hilarious and was appreciated by all who read and enjoyed his strips. As the comic progressed so did his age, which you’ll see gradually creep up over the next couple of years. This real time nature was unique and at one stage his mum even became pregnant, actually remaining so for a period of time instead of having the sudden appearance of a baby sister to shake things up.

Alongside the diary Hadrian would write guides to a variety of subjects like “Tellyvision” and the “Orkistra” to share his apparent superior knowledge about everything. He’s one of the characters who pops into many people’s heads when they think back to OiNK and rightly so. Watch out for more from him as we go along.


“Each story is guaranteed to end with a bang. Billy Bang is pure dynamite! This is an explosive character.”

Mike Knowles, creator of Billy Bang

One character I only saw a couple of times in my youth was Pete’s Pup. Remembered by many as a regular, he starred in half a dozen of these early issues before initially disappearing and it’s surprising to find out he only appeared in nine issues altogether, including one reprint. The monstrous shaggy mutt must have made quite the impact on young minds. Physically, he definitely did so for the family he lived with.

Pete’s Pup was brought to life by late cartoonist Jim Needle and was his sole contribution to the comic. A resident of Jericho in Oxford, Jim was a regular newspaper cartoonist and graphic artist, working in many local publications. His signature style was energetic and larger-than-life, much like his canine creation. Jim sadly passed away in May of 1997.

This issue also sees the introduction of another iconic character, even if he was just another star’s pet. Satan the Cat would sometimes get his own mini-strip under Tom Thug‘s but most often would be seen in the background of the main story. The Street-Hogs‘ informant Hoggy Bear is under attack from the butcher mafia boss’ plastic bags, Harry the Head‘s star turn on the cover comes at a price and in The Golden Trough Awards: Vengeance of the Gnome-Men we have possibly the creepiest set of garden ornaments courtesy of Ian Jackson. Just a few of this issue’s highlights.

Billy Bang is another of those characters rhymed off by former readers when they reminisce about OiNK, but unlike Pete’s Pup he became a mainstay of the comic and appeared in almost half of the issues, sprinkled through the run. Originally created by Mike Knowles but killed by a variety of other writers, he’d later be drawn by Eric ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson.

However, in these early editions he was brought to life (and destroyed and brought back to life and destroyed and brought back to life) by Shiloe aka Simon Donald, co-creator and later co-editor of Viz and the man behind such characters as Sid the Sexist. The name he used to sign his work came from a band he was a member of called Johnny Shiloe’s Movement Machine.

Every issue something would make Billy angry, this anger would build and he’d eventually explode. Sometimes this would result in a pun, sometimes the aftermath of his blowing up would be the gag, as in the strip above. Inconceivably he’d somehow be whole again the next issue, just in time for the same thing to happen all over again. In lesser hands the fact this was the sum of his strip would’ve resulted in a short run, but somehow the writers kept coming up with new jokes for this simplest of premises.

Mike himself seemed surprised at the longevity of his creation when he waxed lyrical about Billy in a short piece for the Comics Bulletin website in 2015.

On the inside back cover is possibly my favourite page of OiNK, period.

Tom Thug fans were in for a treat this issue. Not only did he have his usual full-page strip (complete with the first appearance of Satan), he would also pop up again in a half-page section called Play Football the Tom Thug Way! Using his usual powers of persuasion and his excellent football skills, Tom shows us how to guarantee success at the game. We all knew that wouldn’t be the case, but it’s always fun to see it all fall apart for a bully.

This marks the only occasion Tom was written by someone other than his creator Lew Stringer. Obviously Lew would bring it to the page but in this instance the script itself was written by co-editor Mark Rodgers.

On the inside back cover is possibly my favourite page of OiNK, period. I’m a little obsessed with sharks and their preservation, thanks mainly to Steven Spielberg’s seminal summer blockbuster (and its 3D sequel) and the effect it had on me as a teen. To this day it’s still the perfect blockbuster movie, inspiring so many copycats and, more importantly for us, spoofs and jokes on the subject.

While I can hold up several characters as perfect examples of this very favourite comic of mine, if someone were to ask for just one strip, one single cartoon to sum up OiNK’s humour it would be this glorious full-page, four-panel silent offering. Just keep an eye on all the little details, especially that seagull.

I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at this over the years but it’s no exaggeration to say it still makes me laugh. It’s just the perfect example, isn’t it? All the incidental details like the fish blowing up its own beach ball, the noise made when it’s let go, the innocent-looking seagull circling in the water, the running starfish and the fact a giant white shark pops out of such shallow waters. The facial expressions, the jagged lines, the colours, all combine into something that’s so perfectly ‘OiNK’.

For a comic whose subject was something I’m not a fan of this has been an excellent issue. Indeed, if this had been the first issue I’d spotted on the newsagent’s shelves when I was a child I might not have picked it up! That would’ve been criminal, because I’d have missed out on some genuine laugh-out-loud moments here. On that note, it’s time to close this issue and impatiently await the next, which centres itself around a spooky Make-Your-Own-Adventure game involving Barry the Butcher and The Unfair Funfair.

That next issue is up for review on Monday 28th June.