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.
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.
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!