Tag Archives: Mike Roberts

OiNK! #14: THE BEGiNNiNG

So this is an exciting review for me. This was the first issue of OiNK I ever read back as a kid. Not only that, this was the first ever comic I could call my own. While my brother and sisters had been reading the likes of The Beano, Bunty and Look-In this was the first comic bought specifically for me, after I saw this funny Jeremy Banx cover in the newsagent. But it was a certain page inside which made me recognise this as my first issue when I did my last read through and we’ll get to that below.

But once I knew this fact the memories came flooding back, like seeing the cover for the first time and being introduced to my first OiNK spoof, The Unprofessionals. Based on the iconic television show, my dad and brother used to watch it all the time so I was fully aware of it and thought this was such a funny take on it. I’m sure I must’ve showed it to them. Drawn by Ron Tiner (The Hotspur, Battle Action, Hellblazer) if there had been an official comic based on the show some of these caricatures wouldn’t have looked out of place.

It’s a lovingly crafted spoof and superbly highlights the over-the-top violence of the series but in a funny, kid friendly way. Ron would go on to contribute to 16 issues of OiNK including two further parody serials based on Sherlock Holmes and King Solomon. I didn’t know comics did this kind of thing. Of course, they didn’t really, OiNK was a unique entity and a trendsetter! Being a fan of Spitting Image at the time (my brother watched it and we shared a room, I didn’t really understand what was going on but I found it funny) this really appealed and was a big reason I wanted to read more OiNK.

Marc Riley’s appearances as Snatcher Sam were always highlights of the issues he appeared in.

Crime might seem like a strange topic for a kids’ comic, but Mary Lighthouse and her real world counterpart had nothing to worry about, the message was very clear that crime doesn’t pay. Criminals and bullies met their comeuppance in highly imaginative ways throughout, and in once case a thief actually came good and became a private detective. That thief was of course Snatcher Sam, as portrayed by Marc Riley. This being my first encounter with him I was unaware of his dodgy past but that didn’t make this any less funny.

Marc’s appearances as Sam were always highlights of the issues he appeared in, though I was surprised to find out the character only appeared in nine of the editions I owned as a child (and only 16 altogether). I could’ve sworn he was in almost every single one, but perhaps I just reread them a lot! People sometimes doubt me when I say this comic still makes me laugh but if any proof was needed the second panel on the second page had me roaring.

A character who had been a regular in the early issues but whose appearances had reduced by this stage was Maggie Pie, Collector of Weird Things, a young girl with an obsession of finding new things to collect no matter how weird, random or disgusting. Always written by Tony Husband and drawn by Clive Collins (Punch, Reader’s Digest and Life Vice-President of The Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain) her earlier strips were a bit hit-and-miss with me personally but this one gave me a good old giggle.

Maggie appeared in just ten issues but that did include the first annual and many remember her as a regular, maybe because it looked like she was going to be one at the very beginning when she appeared in nearly every issue. Clive would return a few more times, most memorably for some brilliant Walt Disney parodies where he mimicked their comic characters perfectly.

This was the first appearance of Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith!

This issue also introduces another semi-regular character. After the skeleton staff accidentally let butchers into the pages of the comic while Uncle Pigg was on holiday in #8, Jeremy Banx began a series of Butcher Watch Updates with various exaggerated butcher caricatures, each more menacing than the last. While they all seemed to like their jobs a little too much, one stood out enough that he’d return now and again as the nemesis of anthropomorphic pigs everywhere. This was the first appearance of Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith! A small part of the issue this time around, he’d soon ascend to become a menace we’d all love to hate.

Other highlights also include Ian Knox‘s background animals in Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental, Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins is being set up for something and the hidden evidence is just ridiculous and in Tom Thug the bullying pillock faces his own nemesis, a victim’s big sister.

Regular blog readers will no doubt remember the insane amount of puns written by Graham Exton for Fish Theatre in the animal-themed #6 from a few months back. Of course, depending on how well you received those puns you may have tried to blank it from your memory! I was a big fan though, in fact the more groans a pun can produce the better. Graham said he used up enough puns for several scripts on that one page, just giving himself more work in the long run. Well, it appears he hasn’t learned his lesson.

Graham has decided to revisit the idea with Agadoo (push a pineapple?) Christie’s Murder in the Orient Express Dining Car, a murder mystery where all the characters are vegetables, drawn by Ian Knox. It might not contain puns in every single panel this time around but that doesn’t mean the volume is any more bearable. Just to make sure you don’t miss a groan, each pun is even underlined.

If you can peel your eyes away from that overload of gags the next two highlights confirmed for me this was my first issue. I had the huge three-part poster calendar up on my walls as a kid and with the first part being given away free with #15 I knew I had to have started reading OiNK by that stage at least. But this half-page promo for it rang a big bell in my head. I remember seeing this little corner of part one and being excited my second issue was going to have such an exciting gift.

I’ve been able to collect the whole calendar again and it now takes pride of place on the wall of my home office inside which I write this very blog. It’s right behind me as I type in fact, in the perfect position for FaceTime calls. With the next three issues I’ll show you the part that came free and then the complete calendar afterwards. Even after all these years it’s a sight to behold, thanks to Ian Jackson‘s brilliant take on Mount Rushmore, Mount Rushboar.

This next page was conclusive proof this was my first issue. When I did my previous read through seven years ago this was the first page I recognised from any of the early issues. I did a little research to make sure it wasn’t reprinted later in the run and lo and behold it wasn’t, so here we are! You Are The Detective is a riff on the Cluedo board game, complete with suspects and a murder weapon. All the reader had to do was match the cause of death to the suspect. The only thing is, it looks like figuring out something as simple as the weapon isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Hilariously drawn by Mike Roberts (who I explained was a big part of my teen years in #10’s review) it’s a brilliant piece with a great puzzle to work out. There is an answer there. You just won’t get it. As a kid I spent forever trying to figure this out, determined I wouldn’t look at the answer until I got it myself. I remember lying in bed with the lamp on, still awake late on a school night no less, eventually giving up and checking the answer later in the issue. Needless to say I laughed and then couldn’t believe I’d missed it!

Try to work it out for yourself. The answer is further down this review but the punchline will be so much funnier if you give it a go first. No peeking!

With this being my first issue it was also my first exposure to all of OiNK’s art styles. I’d always assumed most humour comics had similar styles. That was certainly the impression I got when I browsed through my brother’s Beano and Dandy annuals every Christmas. OiNK was an explosion of fun by comparison! Even when it came to its final page, the back cover still had so much to give with the brilliant The Hold-Up written by Mark Rodgers and so expertly crafted by Ian Jackson.


“Some shops think OiNK is so clever that they won’t display it with the kids’ stuff!”

Uncle Pigg in reaction to W.H. Smith

To be exposed to Ian’s style at such a young age was an incredible experience for pig pals, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this. But to have this as my first issue and then his huge poster straight after, well I know it’s a cliché to say it but it blew my little mind. This was the best possible sign off from the first time I had a comic all to myself.

Before we go there’s the little matter of the solution to the puzzle, which was found under the newsagent reservation coupon which took a dig at W.H. Smith who by this time had top-shelved OiNK after a couple of parents had complained about a strip. You can read all about this silliness in the review to #7.

Above this was the Next Issue promo and the main event was going to a certain Ham Dare, Pig of the Future. I’ll show you that promo box before the next review as always but for now that’s it, my trip back to a very special moment in my life is complete. I’d buy the next issue and then place a regular order, staying with the comic all the way through to the final issue.

The next issue will be reviewed on Monday 15th November 2021, however next Monday the 8th there’ll be a special post to mark the actual anniversary of my reading this issue. I hope you’ll join me then to mark the occasion.

OiNK! #10: A (SCHOOL) CLASS ACT

This colourful, busy cover by Mike Roberts is just superb and takes me right back to the 1990s. The 90s? Yes, OiNK may have been my first comic but Mike also had a hand in my first magazine, Future‘s Commodore Format, published between 1990 and 1996. Every month he drew the adventures of Roger Frames which sat between the mini-reviews of the ‘Budjit Games’. Mike’s work can be found in four issues of OiNK and the first 31 issues of CF, the latter he returned to for issue sixty-one, the very final edition and drew its cover.

Mike’s cover perfectly sums up issue ten of OiNK; it’s chock full of great content, jam-packed with random humorous moments, there’s plenty of chaos and anarchy, and loads of genuine laugh-out-loud moments. It’s been very difficult to whittle its 32 pages down to a few highlights and I’ve had to leave out some real gems. There were just too many.

To prove my point here’s a quick glimpse of some of that content, beginning with the one character you just knew would relish the theme. This issue’s Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 7 5/8 (yearƨ) sees him trying a variety of excuses to get out of returning to school, only for his mum to admit it doesn’t start until the next day, she just wanted to see what tricks he was going to try. Jelly-Belly Johnson is a one-off photo story featuring Tony Husband‘s son Paul winning a jelly eating contest, the Skiver’s Survival Kit has everything needed to get out of various lessons and in Tom Thug we meet Wayne Brayne for the first time.

Lew has mentioned in the comments to this post that in the original script Wayne asked Tom, “Are you having a fit?” and Mark Rodgers changed it to the line above, because obviously there’s nothing funny about having a fit. Thanks for the info, Lew! Wayne would pop up now and again in Tom’s strips to outwit the thug, not that this was particularly difficult, of course. He’d also appear now and again in Buster after the merge.

After I discovered OiNK I can remember often taking each new issue into school for my friends to read, in a blatant attempt to get them to start buying it themselves instead of what I called their “boring comics”. Ha! I can imagine this particular issue going down particularly well in classrooms across the country.

We haven’t had a comical shark in a few issues but thankfully here’s Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental to fix that, as ever brought to the page by Ian Knox.

One-panel genius. Not Roger, admittedly, I mean the writers and Ian’s perfect style for the character. Throughout his appearances Roger would be written by a variety of talented individuals, notably Graham Exton, Keith Forrest and later Howard Osborne. Graham originally created the character as ‘Barmy Barney’ but, in Graham’s own words, “The Three Wise Men rename him Roger Rental.” While there are no credits here Graham says co-editor Mark Rodgers was always very good at crediting other writers so most likely this was written by Mark himself.

This issue’s Mr. Big Nose turned a work colleague of mine into an OiNK fan.

Jeremy Banx‘s Mr Big Nose steals the show on a regular basis with his uniquely surreal humour and unexpected punchlines. By all means they don’t make an awful lot of sense but that’s what made them so funny to the young (and now the not-so-young) audience, it was just lovable nonsense. This issue’s strip also turned a work colleague of mine into an OiNK fan several years back.

When I was reading the comic for the previous version of ‘The Oink! Blog’ I posted the strip below on Twitter and a woman I worked with, who had previously rolled her eyes at what I was doing in my spare time, admitted she loved it and couldn’t stop laughing when she saw it. Apparently, thinking I was reading something more along the lines of Beano or The Dandy, it had just taken her by complete surprise. Thanks to it and another Banx strip later in this issue I ended up lending her my OiNK Book 1988 and she loved every silly page.

Success.

I’ve another personal story about this little one-off from Ed McHenry too. Before collecting the whole run and putting together the original blog back in 2013 I’d bought a handful of issues online to reminisce with. (Little did I know it’d turn back into an obsession again.) When they’d arrived I took a couple down to the house of my girlfriend at the time where I was staying for the weekend.

I hadn’t had a chance to flick through them yet so I was oblivious to their contents. I started to casually scan over them while she was curled up asleep on the sofa next to me after a tough day at work. I should explain that my laugh can be rather loud, especially when I’m caught unawares and I was already doing my best not to laugh at Graham Norton’s show on TV so as not to wake her up.


“Don’t be frightened by bullies, kids! And don’t try to scare anyone yourself!”

Uncle Pigg (Cowardly Custard)

I was doing a very good job of it too until I read Mike Slammer. Well that was it. I erupted into laughter! She jumped awake!  I tried to apologise but I couldn’t stop laughing. When I eventually calmed down and explained I wasn’t actually laughing at scaring her awake, I showed her the culprit. One strange look and a shake of the head later and the status quo returned, albeit it with my attention solely on the TV, just in case.

Moving on, one of the most enjoyable series in these early issues is Pigg Tales, double-page stories introduced by Uncle Pigg and often with a moral at the end (in a typical OiNK fashion). So far on this read through I’ve shown you The Revenge Squad in the preview issue and Testing Time in #1, both of which were hilariously drawn by Tom Paterson. This issue’s school-based tale is Cowardly Custard, illustrated by OiNK-supremo Ian Jackson.

Contrary to critics of the comic at the time, OiNK contained some strong moral messages within its pages, especially of the anti-smoking variety which you’ll see here in due course. (They even created a complete ‘Smokebusters’ comic to give away to schools.) They just didn’t preach at us. Instead they created Madvertisements or funny strips like the one above which is clearly an anti-bullying story but presented in an original way.

I love the different character designs for each of the kids and how the usual comic strip cliché of the victim turning the tide on the bully is then also turned upon. The victim teaches the bully a lesson, but then the other bullies teach the victim a lesson. The message is clear: Don’t become the bully! All told through giving the reader a good laugh. Job done.

Getting a reference to the Warsaw Pact into a kids’ comic could only have come from the mind of Jeremy Banx.

Cowardly Custard is a main highlight of the issue and it’s nice to actually see our editor in a strip, what with him not getting his usual introduction on page two for the first time. While OiNK would have so much variety and so many different art styles it always felt like Uncle Pigg’s appearances throughout tied everything together. In this issue he also pops up on the Grunts letters page and in an advertisement for those ‘Prime Porky Products’ of OiNK merchandise.

Okay, so earlier I showed you the Mr Big Nose strip that sold the whole premise of OiNK to a work colleague. Over the course of a few issues, starting with this one, Jeremy Banx got some extra space to deliver us some dynamite one-off strips. The first one of which is below and was the one I alluded to above.

Getting a reference to the Warsaw Pact into a kids’ comic, and as the name of a character no less, is so out there it could only have come from the mind of Jeremy. But let’s not brush over the fact this character then proceeds to have her child put down! Then stuffed! Innocently slipped into the issue it’s an example of something we just found silly fun as children, then as adults are so surprised by (in the best possible way, of course). Brilliance.

Finally, the issue also contains the penultimate part of the epic Street-Hogs story which started right back in the preview issue (and you can check out a full chapter in #1’s review), ending with yet another cliffhanger they’ll get out of in the most improbable way imaginable in a fortnight’s time. The team are also the focus of the ‘Next Issue’ promotion which you’ll see a few days before the next review.

In two weeks it’s the conclusion of The Street-Hogs’ first adventure, with a general biking and motoring theme to the rest of the issue. But it wouldn’t be long before the next spoof adventure series to be masterfully drawn by J.T. Dogg would appear, and it was the first my younger self clapped eyes on. So watch out for the introduction of Ham Dare: Pig of the Future in a few short months.

That aforementioned next issue will be here for you to peruse on Monday 20th September.