Tag Archives: Mike Taylor

OiNK! #24: TiME FOR LAUGHS

As both an OiNK and a Doctor Who fan, seeing our editor Uncle Pigg dressed as the Doctor, swirling about through time being chased by angry butchers and all drawn by Ian Jackson is an absolute treat for my eyes. What a way to start an issue! As a kid I only began watching Doctor Who the following year and by then Sylvester McCoy was already in the role, but I was fully aware of who this parody was based on. At the time of its publication Colin Baker had finished his final series but had yet to be replaced, his character’s horrid dress sense perfectly captured here by Ian.

As we had with the first Christmas issue, this Time-Travel Special sees Uncle Pigg leave the OiNK office and set out on a multi-page strip throughout the issue, courtesy of writer Mark Rodgers. Running late, he stumbles upon butchers unloading livestock and makes a run for it, mistakenly assumed to be one of their escaped pigs. He dives into a rather familiar looking police phone box to hide and the adventure begins.

I love the fact the disguise he’s grabbed in a haphazard hurry from the local fancy dress shop is a dead ringer for the Sixth Doctor‘s eyesore of a costume and the fact it’s his trotter that gives the game away and not his piggy face! He rematerialises three more times on separate pages in the issue, the first set in prehistoric times where cavemen with butcher aprons and hats are chasing down wild boars.

He quickly sets course for home. He wants to stay because the hogs looked underfed and miserable, but he can’t change the past, it would be too dangerous. Unbeknownst to him, his sudden appearance scared the butchers so much they now worship the very animals they were trying to eat! Then it’s off to 2987AD, exactly one thousand years into the future, and suitably enough for how he got there he bumps into familiar-looking future versions of butchers, the most terrifying of all! Have a look.

I love this theme of simply adding an apron and hat, and in the case of the Daleks actual weapons (or rather, butcher’s tools) instead of their 80s sink plungers. It’s such a simple idea but absolutely hilarious. Uncle Pigg gets out of this tight spot by sharing copies of OiNK, its humour overloading their circuits and freeing the people from their tyranny. As he leaves he tells them if they need more copies for the fight they should place a regular order at their newsagents. We then see the people later worshipping a statue of him while asking, “What’s a ‘newsagent’?”

Uncle Pigg’s TARDIS pops up at various points in the issue

It’s imaginative, original and genuinely very funny throughout. Mark is nothing short of a comics writing genius and Ian’s artwork brings these ideas to life in a way that completely matches their crazy nature. It’s such a shame this would be the last time they’d create a long strip like this for the character. It’s definitely the highlight of the issue and indeed one of my favourite moments from the whole run, not least because he’s not just confined to the pages of his own story.

Much like Star Truck in #3 (and the forthcoming OiNK! Book 1988) which saw our heroes appear among the stars of other strips, so Uncle Pigg (or his TARDIS at least) pops up at various points in the issue and it was fun to spot these as a child. Heck, let’s face it, it’s fun to see it pop up now as an adult, whether it’s in the background or in a way that actually affects the plot of another story.

We can see the TARDIS floating about in Lew Stringer’s Pete and his Pimple strip after Pete accidentally fell into a time warp and also ended up in prehistoric times, then in Dick Tater, Dictator of Time written by Tim Quinn (his one contribution to OiNK) and drawn by Ed McHenry he causes a pile-up in between time zones and in Spotticus the Slave he saves the title character from being eaten by a lion. This last strip was (and I quote), “Writed and drawed bi Davey Jonsey, Pillock-of-the-Year 1981“.

The conclusion is right at the back of the comic and the solution is a simple one; just land on the butchers’ heads and free all the captured piggies. A happy ending all round! We even get a little cameo from the Doctor and this isn’t the first time Colin Baker has been immortalised in an Ian Jackson drawing. Check out #3‘s review for his earlier appearance. What a fantastic strip this has been!

The rest of the issue is just as good, with the vast majority sticking to the theme either by including time travel or being set in the distant past or future. But my first highlight is neither, it was just too funny and too memorable to leave out. It’s the first time I’ve shown an entry from this series on the blog and it might surprise pig pals to know there weren’t that many overall.

In my head the Rotten Rhymes series was in nearly every issue, particularly during the later fortnightlies but in reality there were only 13 of these funny takes on nursery rhymes, and mainly during the monthly issues towards the end of OiNK’s run. Taking a traditional nursery rhyme and changing the last line, often throwing away the need to rhyme at all, they’d be written and drawn by a variety of contributors and Humpty Dumpty by Davy Francis is one of the very best.

My memory may have let me down insofar as how many Rotten Rhymes there were, but I can actually remember reciting this in school to several of my friends. It’s strange the little random memories this blog has brought back to the surface. There are others in this series I loved but this always remained the most memorable, simply because of how brazenly it dealt with the main character! But that’s not all from Davy I want to show you from this issue.

Sometimes in humour comics a character could become a one-trick pony, their regular antics basically playing out exactly the same way every issue but perhaps in a slightly different setting. This was certainly the case with some of the other titles I dipped into back then to see if any would interest me in the same way as this one. None of them really did, so I stuck with OiNK for the time being. Some of OiNK’s own characters could appear on the surface to be examples of these repetitive strips, but in reality they were far from that. Take Davy’s Greedy Gorb for instance.

A boy who eats everything, food or otherwise, is a simple idea that could’ve run dry very quickly in lesser hands. But thanks to Davy every episode was fresh and funny, and he never failed to raise a laugh. The brilliantly named mad scientist Doctor Maddstark-Raving would also get spun off into some strips of his own now and again, such was his potential in Davy’s crazy mind.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Snatcher Sam in the comic and this issue puts that right, although not in his usual photo story format. Instead, Mike Taylor does a superb job of drawing Marc Riley as the clueless thief (and I think Pat Healy as the guard, previously seen in #7‘s Swindler Sid story). It suits the Olde English theme of the page a lot better than photographs ever could and I think the style Mike has used here is very inventive, giving it a unique feel.

As if reinventing Marc as an actual comic strip wasn’t good enough, that final pun is just brilliant. All of the ridiculousness, the seemingly random pratfalls and idiocy is all for a reason, all building to the name of this Dick Turpin-inspired highway robber. It’s nothing short of genius, in both Mark’s writing and Mike’s illustrations, hiding behind what on the surface is just plain silliness. Surely that’s the very essence of OiNK?

Chas Sinclair‘s artwork is perfect for stories such as the next one, written by Tony Husband. He has a knack of making a strip look more mature, a little more like something I might have seen in my brother’s Roy of the Rovers or something. For me this works perfectly because given OiNK’s track record so far, the more it looks like a story we’d find in a non-humour comic, the more insane and funny it usually is. Check out Scruff of the Track, Janice and John and Watery Down for instance. I’m very glad to say No News Is Good News keeps to this tradition.

I really thought the strip was going to end with James Fishpond being hit by the bus and it’d be an OiNK version of The Twilight Zone, the prediction in the newspaper actually causing the event. (The later regular strip, The Swinelight Zone would do strips like that.) But not only is it completely ridiculous how he’s able to talk aloud about how the bus is going to kill him and devise a plan to stop it from happening, all before the bus actually does so (when he clearly had time to jump out of the way), but the poor chap who does get hit is even worse! A brilliantly funny strip that uses the subject of the issue in an original way. Great stuff.

Next to this page is the first of a two-part Tom Thug strip. You might think it’d all return to normal by the next issue, but I can remember the final panel here being picked up on in #25. We welcome back Tom’s nemesis, posh clever kid Wayne Brayne who was first introduced in #10 and who would normally outsmart the dimwitted numbskull with ease, but here he’s decided to be proactive in an attempt to stop Tom’s bullying for good. As you’ll see, in a surprise twist the person punished at the end isn’t the one you’d usually expect.

Remember kids, never lower yourself to the level of the bully, even if your intentions are good. I recalled the panel of an elderly Tom but I thought I remembered it being some kind of time travel where an actual older version of himself terrified him. Nope, it’s all a ruse, but it has the same effect. Another incorrect assumption on my part was thinking it’d all simply be back to normal next time, but you’ll see I was wrong about that too.

Of course, the world sadly did lose Mark in the early 1990s, so this little gag of his is a bittersweet moment.

Back in the 80s I can remember one piece of primary school homework when we were asked to imagine what our lives would be like in the year 2000. Cue lots of moving walkways and flying cars. It seemed so far away and it’s scary to think that futuristic date is actually further into the past now than it was into the future when we were imagining it!

We weren’t the only ones to dream of life in the future and here writer Mark Rodgers and artist Ed McHenry have created this brilliant back cover to finish the issue. Using the logo of the famous sci-fi comic, a stablemate of OiNK’s from the same publisher, there’s a lot to love here in the little details. Ed is friends with Davy Francis so check out the little desk inscription next to the Cowpat Planet strip, the name of the robot churning out the art, the huge computer monitor layout still using a fiddly indoor aerial, the piggy bank and even a standard office-like holiday rota but for plops!

One little detail here stands out though. At the bottom you’ll see Mark has written in that his brain is being kept alive in a jar hooked up to a script computer. Of course, the world sadly did lose Mark in the early 1990s, so this little gag of his is a bittersweet moment. However, Mark would still want us to laugh and it is funny to think of how his own creation would still expect him to keep on churning out the story ideas.

That’s all the time we have for this time-travel issue and it’s been a blast from the past from page one to 32. Mark and the entire team pulled out all the stops for this one and the fortnightlies only get better and better from here on. My own favourite point in OiNK‘s lifespan will be towards the end of the year and I simply can’t wait. Next up though is the Toys and Hobbies Issue, the review of which will be here from Monday 4th April 2022.

OiNK! #17: HO(G), HO(G), HO(G)!

It’s great to finally be reading the issues I enjoyed so much as a kid and this is one I’ve really been looking forward to, what with me being such a fan of the season. As a child I remember the TV Times magazine being a staple part of my television viewing, even though it only had ITV and Channel Four listed, and the Christmas issue was a bit of an event when it arrived. Today the only time I’ll buy a TV listings magazine is Christmas; there’s something wonderfully nostalgic about it nowadays . Back in 1986 OiNK‘s TV Tips sat proudly alongside the family’s TV Times in the magazine rack for the whole school holiday. I insisted upon it.

What a present the free gift turned out to be too. The third and final section of the calendar for 1987 came with this issue and when linked to the separate parts from #15 and #16 it dominated my bedroom for the whole of the next year. It was subject to many pen marks when crossing off dates and highlighting birthdays, but it was treasured. Below are photos of the final part and the finished calendar I’ve been able to acquire again, proudly taking centre stage on the wall of my office, impatiently waiting for a year the dates will match up.

The issue is packed with Christmassy strips, spoof toy adverts, cards and decorations to make, Christmas stories and more. I know it’s only going to get harder from here on to pick out a few highlights, this issue is proof of that but after long deliberations here’s the selection box of piggy perfection. To set the mood for the festive frivolities is Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental drawn as ever by Ian Knox.

I think that sets things up for us rightly.

So a cover with a comical take on TV listings magazines just has to follow that up on the inside and we weren’t to be disappointed. Blog readers who were alive in the 80s will find this next page particularly funny with references to a lot of the shows we’d have enjoyed ourselves back then, as well as those during which we’d have retreated to our bedrooms to play with our toys but which were favourites of our parents.

So what was on offer for us on TV?  Some aspects really weren’t that much different than today.  Cartoon movies, The Snowman, as well as the inhabitants of Albert Square refusing to have a merry one even back then. We may have had a festive special of Knight Rider instead of Doctor Who but the clichés about the television schedules at this time of the year aren’t a new thing, as OiNK proves here.

To be fair I’m actually a fan of Christmas telly and I think no matter the amount of cracker (no pun intended) specials and film premieres are broadcast people will carry on with the same old complaints. Interestingly, that Roger Moore James Bond illustration by Tin Thackeray was drawn for the first OiNK annual, which wouldn’t be released until the next year! (You can just about make out the OiNK logo above Roger’s head.) Just goes to show how far in advance those books were created.

Let’s not forget about the true meaning of Christmas. I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination but I’m a big kid for this time of year. To me, it’s all about those nearest and dearest to me and thanking them for being in my life for another year. It’s about presents of course but I get just as much of a thrill out of giving to those I love as I do in receiving from them. It’s a time to be grateful, to be happy, to feel loved and to share that love.

In other words, the true meaning of Christmas is ripe for OiNK to tear it to shreds.

Written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Davy Francis, Blue Xmas takes the foundations of any good Christmas story and builds upon them with plenty of laughs along the way, before it’s all flipped on its head in the final panels. A poor boy who won’t be receiving any gifts for Christmas tries to raise some money so he can buy his mum a present and through it all he finds that the joy of giving is better than receiving, only for him to be punished for his goodwill!

You can also get a real sense of the amount of work Davy (Francis) put in.

From memory I could’ve sworn this was in one of the annuals but here it is in the regular comic. A good few years back now I had the pleasure of meeting Davy for a chat and had the chance of purchasing some of his original OiNK artwork. One of the pieces was the first page of Blue Xmas which is now up on my wall. At a future point on the blog I’ll show the other pages he gave me and go into more depth on them all but I thought I’d show you a few highlights of this strip now.

In the comic the strip featured two-tone colour, all the faces being quite aptly blue, but on the original drawing you can see it was a black and white piece. You can also get a real sense of the amount of work Davy put in; in the title box you can actually see the pressure put on the page by Davy’s colouring-in of this solid black first panel. Those groups of lines he always used for backgrounds look even more time consuming in full-scale (this is about twice the size of the pages of the comic) and you can also see some of the correction fluid used to change a speech balloon to one with frosty icicles.

A quick look at some of the other highlights of the issue next, starting with Harry the Head‘s big adventure taking him into space, The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile sees the school pantomime descend into chaos and this particular panel had me laughing aloud, and the Christmas Quiz has a real head scratcher for you. Then in Ham Dare, Pig of the Future there’s more parodying of the all-British adventure comics of the day and that image of Ham looks so much like Dan Dare I think artist J.T. Dogg could easily have taken over the strip in Eagle!

I admit that well into my adult life I’d always assumed Mrs. Claus’ name was Mary! I know this was mentioned in a Charlie Brown Christmas Special (thanks to Wikipedia) but I wonder if OiNK was where I got that idea from originally. Anyway, moving on.

The commercial breaks during those Christmas programmes are usually filled with Boxing Day and New Year sales adverts for all those people not happy with what their loved ones gave them the day before. Getting in on this racket is none other than OiNK’s in-house catalogue company, GBH with their very own Christmas Catalogue for the following Christmas! This is definitely the best so far, complete with photographs of children enjoying (well, in theory) the dodgy toys and that background image by Mike Taylor, complete with a very unhappy snowman and a very smug fox.

This particular madvertisement was written by both Mark Rodgers and Patrick Gallagher and this is Mike’s first contribution to OiNK. A renowned ‘zine illustrator, Mike would go on to provide more lovingly crafted work for 13 issues altogether, being most prolific during the comic’s weekly phase.

Patrick directed the photo session which must’ve been hilarious to be a part of. His brother James was the actual photographer and the Barbie toys belonged to his sister Bernie. The two children featured are Patrick’s cousins, Erin Claffey and her brother Patrick, the rest of the toys belonging to them. On a side note I remember having that Castle Greyskull toy myself and many years later being told by my parents they had to make the trip all the way from Belfast to Dublin in order to get it that particular Christmas!

A few issues previous to this Lew Stringer had introduced us to Tom Thug‘s mum. When it was announced she’d be appearing both Tom and his father were terrified. Who on Earth could do that to the two biggest wannabe bullies in OiNKtown? What kind of bully was the mum to make these men shake in their bovver boots? As it turns out Mrs Thug was the kindest, sweetest and most affectionate woman you could imagine and that’s what put the fear of god into them! It was a funny twist and here she’s putting Tom to sleep on Christmas Eve, the morning after which she’d end up very happy with what can only be described as a Christmas miracle.

One thing I always like about Christmassy comics is seeing favourite characters within that setting. We all have our own Christmas traditions for the big day itself and sometimes it feels like we’re getting an insight into the cartoonists’ traditions, maybe from their own childhood, or at the very least maybe what they think our traditions are. These were always extra special strips and one cartoonist who never disappoints with a snowy logo is Lew.

A few issues before this we’d been introduced to Tom’s mother. Her arrival was announced and both Tom and his father panicked at the idea. It made us think what kind of ferocious bully could have these two so scared, only for her to end up being the most loving and affectionate woman you could imagine. Overly so, in fact. It was this aspect of her character the two wannabe hard nuts feared. A little extra note, according to Lew he originally had Tom actually shoot Santa but Mark Rodgers said it should be a dream so as not to upset kids. Lew says, “Mark was 100% right and it worked out far better”.

While it only ever snowed once for December 25th when I was a child we expected all of our strips to be covered in the white stuff and Lew always seemed to go that extra mile in this regard. Whether it was Tom and Pete in OiNK, or Combat Colin and Robo Capers in Transformers, you could be assured of a white Christmas in the pages of your comics. Nice to see Satan the Cat back in his own little mini-strip too and to have it all finished off with crackers and holly, and that little man at the top keeping the pages clear is a very funny touch.


“I normally manage to cadge a free, slap-up meal at Christmas time!”

Mr. Big Nose

This issue is really making my Christmas all over again 35 years after it did the first time, and now it’s the main event, a wonderful multi-page Uncle Pigg strip, one of only two times this would happen in the whole of OiNK’s run. Written by Mark Rodgers and of course drawn by Ian Jackson this four-page story is spread throughout the comic, even appearing as a subplot in Rubbish Man.

The plot has our editor declaring he’ll take his staff out for a Christmas treat, but the free gifts and competition prizes have drained the piggy bank. But as luck would have it, at that exact moment a flyer pops up offering a £10,000 reward from Santa Claus if anyone can find Rudolph who has gone missing. Donning his best Sherlock Holmes-esque getup Uncle Pigg leads his team into the snow and immediately stumbles upon a clue. But not all is as it seems.

I can remember reading this back then and loving every panel of it, wondering why we didn’t get at least a full-page like this every issue. I don’t know how many times I read it, but it was so witty and the art so funny it was definitely more than a few! I even remember lying in bed on Christmas Eve reading it yet again (even though the next issue had already arrived by that point, see the bottom of this review for more on that) just before going to sleep, or at least trying to fall asleep with the excitement of the night, which this only added to.

As the story continues there’s one madcap mishap after another, such as above when Percy Plop makes a welcome guest appearance. It reads funny but Ian’s style heightens every piece of slapstick such as the policeman skidding on Percy, forcing him deep into the snow. In the end our heroes follow the trail right back to the OiNK offices which Mary Lighthouse (critic) and none other than Santa Claus himself have commandeered. Why is Santa working with Mary? Read on.

In hindsight it’s a bit strange to have Santa team up with Mary, but when you think about it he isn’t meant to bring toys to the naughty children, is he? Children who like rude jokes, bare bums on their comic covers, puns about plops and stuff like that. But in the end Uncle Pigg and the OiNK crew won through and showed him we were all just as deserving. The present he refers to is the cut-out mobile on the back cover “for people who hate Xmas”, which is a very strange thing to put in a children’s comic. It’s more revenge on Santa for the story, but still, I remember thinking even at the time it was a little weird. Surely no one in OiNK’s target audience would hate it!

So that’s us at the end of a superb issue, a very special Christmas treat and a great stocking filler in itself if you can throw a hint at any loved one to search for it on eBay in time. With everything wrapped up (again, no pun intended) in time for the holidays there’s just one last thing I wanted to show you and that’s Jeremy Banx‘s Mr. Big Nose, another highlight of this issue that has stayed in my memory for decades and it’s a joy to see it again.

The next issue of OiNK had an on-sale date of 27th December but as per usual with Christmas comics and magazines it was released earlier than normal, what with the comics publishers shutting for the holidays, distributors working limited hours and back then our shops actually shut for days at a time! So our New Years editions would always arrive before Christmas, but I’ve no way of knowing exactly when so I’m just going to stick to the on-sale date.

That means the Hogmanay (appropriately enough) issue of OiNK will be reviewed right here on Monday 27th December 2021. I hope to see you then!