There are a lot of exciting and funny things on this cover, beginning with the main event of Superham as drawn by Ron Tiner. Look closer at the accompanying details for more laughs, such as the “Trouser Press” approval spoof of the Comics Code Authority, and OiNK‘s own version of DC Comics‘ logo from the time tucked away in the top corner. We’ll get to the Ham of Steel in a little bit, but there’s an announcement on the cover for the latest free gifts!
The last gifts given away by OiNK were the three parts of the gigantic poster calendar from the end of the previous year (check out #17 for the full product) and again we have three issues in a row with something extra tucked away inside. Unlike the cut-out postcards in #7 these are actual cards which can be easily removed and sent by readers. Each pair would be drawn by a different artist, beginning with Jeremy Banx.
I can remember taking a couple of these on holiday with me back in 1987 and definitely the Burp one. I can’t remember using them though, whether through forgetfulness or changing my mind and not wanting to send them away. Are postcards even a thing anymore when people can just check in on social media or send photos instantaneously back home? I’m not sure, but in the 80s these were a great idea and each one is a brilliant little gift in its own right. The next two issues will contain postcards by Lew Stringer and Ian Jackson, so make sure you check them out.
Back in the Valentine’s issue the Peanuts gang, namely Charlie Brown, Snoopy etc got renamed the Peabrains in a one-off (I assumed) strip complete with some spoof merchandise advertising. As I said at the time I was never a fan of the cartoon or newspaper strips but I still enjoyed OiNK’s version which was created by Patrick Gallagher. Surprisingly, the strip returns but this time Snooby is drawn by David Leach who was best known for Psycho Gran. Here, the little dog is daydreaming, something he was known for in the cartoon and which we’d see brought to life by his imagination. Sitting on top of his kennel he imagines being a heroic fighter pilot. But this is a strip by David Leach so expect the unexpected.
Well I did say that’s who David was known for, didn’t I? I’d forgotten all about this ending, although as soon as Snooby metaphorically took to the air it all came back to me. I’d like to think as a child I didn’t spot Psycho in the final panel until I’d read the full strip because the reveal of the jet itself is so brilliantly drawn and her grin at the end just hilarious.
In 1987 Superman IV: The Quest For Peace had just been released in cinemas and, while not the most successful of the franchise, its marketing was surely everywhere, making him a big, timely target for OiNK. Mark Rodgers took on writing duties for Superham and cover artist Ron Tiner returns for the three-page strip itself. It all kicks off on familiar territory, the narrative captions keeping surprisingly true to the tale of the lone refugee from an alien world movie goers were all too familiar with.
However, alongside those captions the images tell a different, highly exaggerated version of the same events and this is where the laughs come from. The story continues with highlights of Superham’s fight against evil, including a brilliant panel depicting him flying faster than the speed of light. So fast in fact he breaks through time itself and comes upon a spectacular sight. I won’t ruin the surprise because it’s on that third page we get the big punchline.
This is classic Mark, with a very funny twist in the tale and the ever-perpetuating series of events brought on by the “stupid rhinoceros” of a superhero. I’ll admit the recent movies did little to endear me to the inspiration behind this spoof, but with a much more entertaining version of the character taking pride of place on BBC One’s Saturday teatime schedule again this feels like another timely read for this funny take on the original superhero. Great stuff.
The next page is as unique as you’ll find in any of our childhood comics. Back in #7 a strip called Janice and John and the Parachute Jump appeared which has (incorrectly) gone down in history as making a bigger furore than it did; it’s even been written that it was the reason behind OiNK’s cancellation 61 issues later, which is just ridiculous. Yes, an official complaint was made with The Press Council who looked into the story in question. The complaint was dismissed in the end but OiNK wasn’t about to just let this moment pass, as you can see with the following page.
I can’t remember reading this as a child so I haven’t a clue what I made of it, but nowadays it reminds me of working in BBC Complaints and the amount of people who’d want an entire series cancelled because they personally didn’t want their licence fee paying for it (never mind the millions who watched it and were also paying their licence fee), or the myriad of Daily Mail comments Dave Gorman would use to great effect in his Modern Life is Goodish TV show. Even today in the UK and America we have books and comics being banned all in the name of “freedom” without a hint of irony.
So I say well done to the OiNK team for printing this page and standing up to the bullies! It’s refreshing and damned funny in its own right, especially how it can’t help but stir things up a little more with that final gag at the bottom referencing a non-existent next chapter. Janice and John would return in a story about a thermonuclear reactor though, as promised at the end of #7’s story. That wouldn’t be seen until #41, possibly held back until the outcome of the complaint was known and the whole thing was in the past.
I don’t think any other comic would’ve been this brave and I commend the editors for deciding to do this. Recently, Helen Jones very kindly sent me a wonderful package containing the original complaints and responses including those from The Press Council and IPC’s John Sanders. They’re a fascinating read and will be on the blog soon. A famous moment from OiNK’s history but one which very few seem to accurately write about. I hope I can help set the record straight.
Moving on for now and another superstar of the comics world joins the sty as Mike Higgs draws Infamous Failures of Aviation, written by Lew Stringer.
It’s a cracker script by Lew (or ‘Biggles’) and Mike’s work really stands out, his style easily identifiable to anyone familiar with his strips elsewhere. Mike was best known for creating The Cloak in 1967 for Pow!, as well as bringing his unique artwork to Space School and Thundercap for Whizzer and Chips and Buster respectively. He (and The Cloak in particular) was a big influence on Lew when he was creating his Combat Colin character for Action Force comic.
Lew worked as Mike’s assistant in the early 80s for a range of children’s books and they became good friends. When OiNK came along Lew suggested bringing Mike back to comics for the first time in years to co-editor Mark Rodgers. This was his first appearance in the comic and he’d be back another eight times. Even though he’s better known for appearing in more traditional titles, there was never anything traditional about his work. As such, I think he’s a perfect addition to Uncle Pigg’s team and I look forward to seeing what else he brings to future issues.
Writer Graham Exton (whose name I haven’t seen mentioned in the fortnightly in several months) and artist Davey Jones produced another funny little OiNK mini-strip but this one is a little special because Davey has previously shared an original rough sketch by Mark Rodgers as well as his own thoughts on his finished product. I saved this away for future reference and it’s nearly time to share this little insight into the creation of OiNK. I say nearly because it deserves its own post so watch out for that in the days after this review.
Mike Higgs’ son also makes an appearance this issue, sort of, in a scrawled shout out on an office desk in Lew’s Pete and his Pimple as the young Mr Throb dreams of being the high-flying Captain Pimply superhero. Smelly alien Burp isn’t being anywhere near as daring at the beginning of his strip though. More classic highlights to long-running OiNK favourites.
Our heroic Wonder Pig is back again with another name change, another ill-fated attempt at heroism and it all kicks off when his owner falls down another pit. Lashie the Wonder Pig is written by Tony Husband and drawn by Chas Sinclair and it’s this repetition of events which makes it so very funny indeed. In fact, this issue’s strip will be all the funnier if you’ve read the one I included in the highlights to #18. So go read that first and then come back here to read this next strip. Go on then!
This is a great way of parodying the TV series and movies of a certain Border Collie and their own repetitive nature. But just like Lassie‘s fans didn’t mind, our own Lashy (well, that’s the spelling for now anyway) also had fans who craved the same things happening again and again. The more strips that appeared the funnier these got. They wouldn’t appear too regularly, if they had maybe we would’ve grown tired of the formula but as such their semi-regular surprise appearances were always a hit.
Our flying special comes to an end with news the next issue is a ‘Mirthful Musical Issue’. Regular readers may be thinking this is a repeat of the subject from #16 but that issue was all about the world of pop music, our next one takes in the whole of the musical world and nothing is off limits. Think of the difference between #6‘s ‘Animal Crackers Issue’ and #27‘s ‘Big, Soft Pets Issue’. There’s even going to be a very special appearance from a famous post-punk band in a photo story, so it’s definitely not to be missed.
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