Tag Archives: Nick Bell

OiNK! #12: MOViE MAGiC & MiRTH

We’re already a dozen issues (and a preview) in to the real time read through of the funniest comic ever produced. Where has the time gone? I suppose it just goes to prove it does fly when you’re laughing at one ridiculous gag after another. This issue we’re off to the movies in proper OiNK fashion, which is quite apt seeing as how I had my first trip to the cinema in about two years this weekend thanks to the pandemic.

One of the biggest events in 80s cinema was Steven Spielberg‘s E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and I remember having to wait a while for the home video release to see it, which was delayed by five years! So this OiNK parody was created before we even got to see it at home. Featuring Nick Bell again as Swindler Sid, this would be his last appearance in the comic but he got quite the send off in the double-page spread spectacular that is E.T. (Extremely Thick).

I contacted Patrick Gallagher to ask about the making of this particular photo story and the people involved. From what Patrick can remember the costume was hired from a local fancy dress shop in Manchester called The Stage Door, run by 70s comedian Jackie Carlton. The “lucky youngster” who found themselves inside it was James O’Malley who starred in human form as Jelly-Belly Johnson in #10, Professor Potts was actually Patrick’s younger sister, Bernie Gallagher (below left), their family dog Dandy played Jimbo the Jabbering Jack Russell and friend Richard Cobey (below right) played the “ugly little squirt”, to quote E.T.!

Swindler Sid may be gone now but we’ve still got Marc Riley as Snatcher Sam who would continue to pop up in various photo strips and GBH Madvertisements during the fortnightly portion of OiNK’s run, so you won’t be short of mischievous, yet somehow loveable thievery as the read through continues.

Billy’s Boots may have been a strip in a sister title to OiNK but that didn’t mean it wasn’t ripe for sending up.

Billy’s Boots was a classic adventure serial strip which appeared in Scorcher comic in 1970, moving to Tiger in 1974 when the comics merged, then Eagle in 1985 and in the year OiNK appeared he transferred to the pages of Roy of the Rovers. He definitely had staying power. It starred Billy Dane who inherited an old pair of football boots which once belonged to ‘Dead-Shot’ Kean and somehow enabled Billy to play in the style of the soccer superstar.

It may have been a strip in a sister title to OiNK, also published by IPC Magazines but that didn’t mean it wasn’t ripe for sending up.

Apart from the character names, the captions in the first two panels are nearly word-for-word how the original strip was introduced in the pages of Roy’s weekly. This just makes what comes after even funnier of course. Just like in that strip, here there’s no reason given as to how the boots have these powers. I doubt they laughed at Billy Dane’s expense either! A brilliant spoof that just gets more and more ludicrous as it goes along and it wouldn’t be the last time OiNK would take aim at its stablemates, as you’ll see further below.

Bobby’s Boots was drawn by Chas Sinclair, a prolific OiNK cartoonist who’d contribute to 37 issues altogether. Before he was hired by Uncle Pigg his work included Basil Brush for TV Comic and Crazy Horse in Plug, the Bash Street Kids spin-off comic. I was delighted to find out he’s still drawing and regularly updates his Instagram account with doodles, illustrations and full strips. It was written by Lew Stringer and according to Lew it was one of the first scripts he’d written for someone else to draw, and he was thrilled Chas was selected because he’d read those Basil Brush strips himself and been a fan. (Watch out for a sensational Lew script drawn by the equally sensational J.T. Dogg starting in #15.)

Some other highlights from this issue include The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 7 5/8 (yearƨ) in which we find out Hadrian had a sister, even though she’d only be born in the comic some time next year. Maybe this one had enough of her little brat of a brother and scarpered. On the Grunts letters page we did actually get a winner to the afterthought of a competition written below #7‘s postcards and in Tom Thug a little sign signals a tiny one-off strip from #6 is returning as a serial. Excited yet?

Back at the beginning of the comic, David Haldane‘s Billy’s Brain strip saw a kid inherit his genius Uncle Vincent’s brain which could think for itself and move of its own accord. Every issue a pair on inept thieves would try to steal the brain from Billy but in the last handful of issues this concept has been changed somewhat. Dropping the thieves completely the strip now focusses almost entirely on Vincent’s brain going off on solo adventures, and it’s a lot more enjoyable as a result.

I can remember Billy’s Brain from childhood so I was surprised to find out my first issue back then (#14) would be his last regular appearance. He’d pop up in a special, an annual and two issues further down the line but that would be it. I was sure he was a regular when I read the comic back in the 80s but with so many strips coming and going from OiNK, perhaps the fact I did see him a few times tricked my old brain when thinking back.

I do love an 80s movie, especially if it contains a good soundtrack, but I don’t think Mary Lighthouse (critic) was as appreciative at the time. Up next is her top ten movie list, although these are films she insists you do not see! Given her appearances so far you’d expect her to hate anything with a smidgen of violence, but wait until you read her reasons for wanting to ban E.T., Cinderella and even The Sound of Music!

Her comments about Cinderella in particular had me roaring! In a later interview with editors Patrick Gallagher, Tony Husband and Mark Rodgers in computer magazine Crash! we’d find out the real Mary Whitehouse’s people were constantly checking the pages of OiNK for libel, though I know of no point when they actually complained about this character. The thing is, to check for libel they had to buy the comic!

Ed McHenry was the go-to guy for OiNK’s little puzzle sections and in this issue he brings us Barry Norham’s Movie Quiz. It contains the usual seemingly easy questions with silly, bizarre answers (upside-down at the bottom of the page). For example, “In which film does The Invisible Man appear?” Easy, right? The answer is, “He never appears, he’s invisible.” See what I mean?

With that in mind, do you think you can complete the answer to this brain teaser?

The answer is at the bottom of the review.

Moving on now to our final highlight for this issue. OiNK was my first comic and before I started discovering adventure comics and the like I would sometimes pick up other humour titles to try them out. This would normally be when I had to go somewhere with my parents on the train and I can remember a few journeys with a copy of Whizzer and Chips. It felt a little different to the others, none of which really made me laugh, probably due to my being used to OiNK’s humour!


“Take that, you stereotype Whizzer-and-Chips bully!”

Tom in Tom’s Toe


While it was still more of a traditional comic, Whizzer and Chips felt like two in one (Whizzer for the outer 16 pages, Chips for the inner 16) and while it wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny it certainly raised a smile. OiNK was anything but traditional and would often poke fun at more established comics, labelling them as boring and predictable. I remember The Dandy and Beano being particular favourite targets, though in reality Mark Rodgers was a huge fan of both. You see, there’s a difference between parody, which is what these were, and satire. I’ll go into that in more depth in a later review.

Here, editor and writer of this strip Tony Husband teams up with legendary cartoonist John Geering to poke fun directly at the aforementioned comic. Even the strapline is hilariously generic!

Jonn should surely need no introduction, having created Bananaman and worked on many traditional DC Thomson comics such as the two mentioned above, alongside some of IPC’s own titles like Cheeky Weekly and Knockout. I think it was a genius idea to have him come on with his signature artwork to do Tom’s Toe and send up the kind of strips he’d normally contribute to other comics! However, unlike his other work he was given full credit on the page for this strip.

“John Geering was an acquaintance of Tony’s from pre-OiNK days whom I was introduced to later when OiNK first started,” Patrick told me. “John was working for Cosgrove Hall at the time on Danger Mouse and Count Duckula, alongside Andy Roper – they were both frequent visitors to the OiNK studio and John was delighted at the suggestion that he should parody his own style. And Bob Paynter thought it was a great idea, too (albeit, to bite the hand that fed him!)” Brilliant stuff!

Unfortunately John is no longer with us, having passed away in 1999, working on Beano right up to the end. An obituary to this great talent can be found on The Independent website.

So the screen fades to black on another issue of OiNK, the lights have come back on and we’ve got sticky soda-encrusted popcorn stuck to our shoes. In two weeks the gang will all be back with the perfectly timed #13, the Hallowe’en Special, so come back on Monday 18th October 2021.

QUIZ ANSWER: “________ knees and booms-a-daisy.

OiNK! #7: SUMMER COOL

Be forewarned, if you’re reading this in the heatwave we’re experiencing at the time of writing you may be a tad jealous of the people on the cover that we’re actually meant to be laughing at.

While comics would normally have a separate Summer Special OiNK had only just begun so we’d have to wait for ours. But something else made it extra special, at least for readers of other IPC Magazine comics such as 2000AD. As with the preview they received this issue for free as a promotional push, hence the subtle “NOT FOR SALE!” over one of the covers above.

By coincidence the issue receiving extra visibility also contained the strip that would be famously investigated by the Press Council. But, just like the ‘Viz’ myth surrounding OiNK, this chapter in the comic’s life has become distorted in the intervening years. Two (yes, only two) complaints were received and no it did not contribute to the comic’s eventual cancellation. After all, that was over two years and 61 issues later. So what’s the truth?

Well first, here’s the story itself which co-editor Patrick Gallagher believes was written by Mark Rodgers. Every pig pal remembers Janice and John and the Parachute Jump, which was illustrated by Trevor Johnson, a friend of Patrick’s and a renowned Manchester graphic designer who did a lot of work for Factory Records and the famous The Hacienda.

The complaint accused the story of disregarding mother-family relationships, but the Press Council rightly saw it as the deliberate parody of the traditional stories found in old fashioned children’s publications that it was. They ruled that it was meant to be a tasteless spoof and was not improper in any way, rejecting the complaint. Brilliantly, OiNK would publish this in a future issue.

IPC loved the attention things like this brought.

OiNK was aimed at children, not their parents, and we found it hilarious. My own parents thought it was stupid but harmless. However, while only two people complained, WHSmith still placed OiNK on their top shelves as a result. A ridiculous situation. But a year later in an interview Tony, Mark and Patrick would be all too happy to confirm sales of 100,000 per issue so never underestimate Pig Power. Tony also recently told me IPC loved the attention things like this brought.

Janice and John would indeed return in the sequel Janice and John and the Thermonuclear Reactor, although it didn’t appear until much later in the run, possibly held back until the outcome of the complaint was known. I’ll definitely include that and OiNK’s response to the complaint when we get to those issues. But now, for our next highlight let’s enjoy a different form of crazy.

What else can be said about this strip? Nothing really. Simple, straight to the point and laugh out loud funny, that’s Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental, written by Graham Exton and drawn by his regular artist Ian Knox. To this day I can remember reading certain entries in his series of tiny, one-joke strips as a kid and just losing it with the sheer, unintended anarchy of it all.

At the beginning of OiNK’s run there was a competitor to Snatcher Sam‘s crown as the most idiotic thief to appear in a photo story. His name was Swindler Sid. Played by a good friend of Patrick’s called Nick Bell, the strips were photographed by Patrick’s brother James who we saw as a Typical OiNK Reader back in #5. Despite the consequences of Sid’s actions here I think we’d all risk it at the moment given the weather outside.

Patrick and James would rope in other friends to play the roles of whoever the scripts called for. In this case the first customer is Billy Gregg (a welder in real life), the second is Paul McGarty (a labourer) and P.C. Porker is Pat Healy (a bricklayer) who would appear more than once as the same character.

Sid has now reformed himself and given up his swindling career, “Though he still dabbles in ‘finance’ occasionally” says Patrick. Nick has had an amazing and varied career, working in the NHS for more than 30 years in positions such as Lead Auditor and Benchmarking Analysis, as well as a Business Analyst at Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust. Sid’s certainly come a long way from swiping ice lollies.

Swindler Sid (Nick Bell) – Photo credit: Patrick Gallagher

Let’s have a quick look at some other highlights from this summery edition, starting with an early character called New Wave Dave who was a bit too keen to be part of that 80s scene. Dave was drawn by Viz founder Chris Donald. Tom Thug went on an ‘oliday to Blackpool with a regular selection of British folk (we’ll see how he gets on next time). There was a comics crossover of gigantic hippopotamus proportions when Hugo the Hungry Hippo popped up to save the day in Rubbish Man, Tom Paterson‘s hilarious Wet Blanket will see publication again later this year and roles were reversed in Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins.

I’m a sucker for comical sharks, as evidenced already with my favourite OiNK page of all in #4, so if any more pop up you can be sure I’ll show them off.

On the middle pages we’re treated to eight lovely, rough around the edges postcards to cut out and take on holiday from the pen of Ian Jackson. I wonder if anyone actually used them? There’s a small competition along the bottom and I’ll keep an eye out for any results as we continue the read through. The best thing about this is Ian interpreting other artists’ characters. Some of the postcards themselves are just priceless too.

Some time next year you’ll see the actual postcards the comic gave away with a few issues. I’ve a foggy memory of wanting to take them on holiday but not sure if I ever did, and they were separate from the comic. So I doubt I would’ve cut up my OiNK to use any of these if I’d been collecting the comic at this point. Why would you want to send away these pieces of art?

Snatcher Sam might be missing in action at the moment but his alter ego Marc Riley‘s strip creations are continuing to bring the laughs. Alongside Harry the Head sat a little quarter-page strip which took us back to the Jurassic, at least in theory. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth may have had ancient creatures as the stars but the settings and stories were very 1980s.

Popping up in 25 issues altogether they, like Roger Rental, disappeared during the weekly issues as a casualty of the reduced page count. We’d see situations ranging from package holidays to skateboarding, basically everything except anything to do with the correct time period and we loved them.

But for now the sun is setting on another issue of the world’s greatest comic.

One final sight gag from Tony Husband there to round things off. The comic itself would end with Uncle Pigg and his staff heading off on a bus to go on a well deserved vacation of their own, but not before promising to leave the comic in the hands of his “dedicated skeleton staff”. Prophetic words indeed as you’ll find out next time. (There’s a hint under one of the strips above.)

Join me in two weeks for an issue that’s even more unique than those we’ve seen already. That’ll be on Monday 9th August.