Let me think back to Valentine’s Day 1987. Nope, nothing too embarrassing to think of, just posting a card through a girl’s door then running away, then worrying she wouldn’t see it, running back and ringing the doorbell before running away again, this time getting noticed by said girl as I made my escape. The next day in school was dreaded. At least I had the Valentine’s themed issue of OiNK to cheer me up and love was most certainly in the air, beginning with this Tony Husband cover depicting Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins and his beloved Mandy.
The cover was drawn by Tony and airbrushed by John Moorhouse, an artist on a tabloid at the time who had also worked on some of Tony’s Playboy cartoons. Things are nice and rosy here on the cover for the couple but inside Mandy’s family were emigrating and taking her with them, leaving Horace alone in the hospital recovering after a recent BMX jousting accident. (It’s a long story.) Thankfully things are happier for other characters in this issue, such as those featured in an introduction to the power of love for the young target audience. Which features an alien attack. Naturally.
The Lesson of Love was written by Mark Rodgers who plays Bloonik in the strip and the young lady of the happy couple is Helen Jones, Mark’s partner in real life and future wife. Her character’s boyfriend is actually played by her brother Andy Jones and as for the other alien, well that would be none other than OiNK cartoonist extraordinaire Ian Jackson. This was the closest I got to seeing what he looked like until just last year! The strip is genuinely funny of course, but what I always found particularly hilarious in these photo stories was the imagination on show.
They spent next to no money on these and it always showed, with cheap sets, drawn-on special effects and in the case of this story a photograph of a toy spacecraft glued on. This was always the point, to spoof the cheap photo stories found in women’s magazines. The alien faces are paint or marker pen, with big rubber ears and some form of cut-out eye shapes, possibly egg cartons. Add some circles to their clothes and we have ourselves some silly aliens and their spacecraft interior set is the boiler in Mark’s house. Ingenious and properly laugh-out-loud funny, so I can only imagine the amount of fun they all had putting it together.
What kind of Valentine’s issue would it be without a tale of forbidden passion? Something possibly inspired by Romeo and Juliet. A love-conquers-all story. A happy-ever-after for two star-crossed lovers who just so happen to be a liver and a spleen. You know, real classic stuff. Obviously I could only be talking about a Burp strip and in this case Jeremy Banx outdoes himself with the surreal tale of two of the smelly alien’s internal organs and their undying feelings for one another.
There’s a lot to love here. I particularly like the throwaway lines such as Burp not even realising they knew each other, giving the impression of his body being full of sentient organs, each with their own set of friends and neighbours. I also burst out laughing with the mention of “dirty stop-outs”, a phrase my young, innocent self wouldn’t know the meaning of for quite a few years. A perfect example of how OiNK worked on many levels.
Very funny stuff indeed but what else would we expect from Jeremy? This wouldn’t be the last time we’d see these two either. Next up is another way in which OiNK parodied the romantic stories found in stereotypical supermarket weeklies of the day. In years past on holiday with my other half at the time she’d bring a random selection of said magazines for when we were relaxing by the pool. I’d have a glance at them on occasion and always thought they were truly terrible.
“I thought it was indigestion, but now I realise that I am in love with you.”Lord Wigfall
With their unbelievable romantic text stories, horrific “true” stories sold for a quick profit and umpteen celebrity ‘news’ (term used loosely) articles, I always thought how shallow and silly they were as I relaxed in the sun with my Marvel Secret Wars and Transformers. She thought they were silly too, but there was clearly a market for them. The far-fetched love stories would be aimed at the singletons in the readership with dreams of meeting the perfect partner (think Channel Five afternoon TV movies) and Patrick Gallagher decided he’d write his own version.
I recognise one or two of the facial features used in those photofit-like images. They also perfectly sum up those prose stories; an amalgamation of every reader’s ideal romance, mish-mashed into one truly unbelievable story. Think of how Bridget Jones fantasised about meeting the perfect man, how unrealistic her expectations of the world were because she read/watched stories like those. OiNK just took the ingredients and ran with them, taking it to the extreme.
As a child I remember sitting with my siblings and watching Charlie Brown and the Peanuts. It really wasn’t for me. Charlie himself grated on me. This was just my personal opinion of course, we’re all different and many adored him on the telly and in his original comic strip form. I did love Snoopy though and have heard wonderful things about his new Apple TV+ shows. However, this Peabrains strip below (also by Patrick) was much more entertaining to me as a kid than the original source material.
In fact, I think that last panel perfectly summed up how I felt about the cartoons back then, when I enjoyed everything about the Charlie Brown show except Charlie Brown. Of course, it wouldn’t be an OiNK spoof of a popular franchise without a dig at the merchandise. I remember the Disney watches, the Simpsons clock radios and the overpriced Thomas greetings cards of my own youth, all perfectly summed up here. Although I don’t think mine were quite so overpriced (it just felt like it to my parents).
There are a couple of smaller highlights that stood out this issue I wanted to share. The first is on the Grunts letters page where the theme includes some fan mail for Mary Lighthouse (critic). However, one of these in particular caught my eye. Now I’m sure it’s just coincidence, after all the former TV presenter and tabloid journalist would’ve been 21 at the time, but it does sound like the kind of thing someone who complains about name changes in Beano would say, does it not? Then there’s the quiz, Are You A Fool For Love? and its rather to-the-point multiple choice options!
Turning over a page the comic suddenly breaks from its loved up contents to hit us with an urgent Butcher Watch update from Jeremy Banx. This semi-regular series of news bulletins warned readers about the country’s nastiest meat vendors and began in #8 while Uncle Pigg was on holiday. Then in #14 one of three featured faces belonged to a creation of Jeremy’s called Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith.
That was his first appearance but he immediately struck a chord with readers, who sent in pictures of him and updated fellow pig pals on where he’d been spotted. As OiNK continued he’d feature more and more; the Butcher Watch Updates would become more elaborate, evolving into full comic strips and he’d have the starring role, and he’d even go on to star in two serials in the weekly comic (in #45, its prequel in #55) and pop up on an iconic cover. Here marks the first occasion Jeremy singled him out.
Remembering back to my original time with OiNK, it felt like Jimmy was always there, lurking about. We’d never know when he’d make a sudden appearance. Reading through OiNK now, it’s interesting to see he was just another random butcher before the readers took to him, their feedback bringing him to the fore. Jeremy then made sure that craggy face would return to haunt us again and again in some genuinely creepy moments, some that really surprised me!
Back in #6 the excellent Watery Down was a big, two-page build up to one great joke. I’m very happy to say Tony Husband has written a strip for this issue which takes over two pages with a similar idea. This time the subject of the parody is Emily Brontë‘s classic 1847 novel Wuthering Heights. (How often can you get to mention that in a review of a children’s comic?) Even if you have only a passing bit of knowledge about the book or the movies, you’ll recognise the scene which inspired Tony here. If you don’t know a thing about Catherine and Heathcliff don’t worry, it’s still a wonderfully random piece of silliness.
The sheer daftness of this made it an instant fan favourite, with many OiNK readers remembering it decades later, either from this issue or when it was reprinted in the Winter Special a few years later. Chas Sinclair brings a perfect spoof style to Wuthering Heights’ famous scenes. So when it ends with something completely unrelated and out of left field like this, it’s just perfect, brilliant nonsense.
We’ve reached the back page of another issue and I’m very happy to see another full-page, wordless Ian Jackson strip just like we had in #14. Put these side-by-side with my favourite page from all of OiNK’s run in #4, and just imagine if every issue had finished with a full colour masterpiece from Ian such as these. This particular entry, Stupid Cupids is actually made up of two individual three-panel strips, each read vertically down the page and written by Mark Rodgers and Tony Husband. As always, take your time with Ian’s artwork and savour each panel as you make your way along, because each one is a complete joy.
That’s almost it for this romantic issue of our piggy pink publication but the magic continues in two weeks, quite literally. The 22nd edition is the Magic and Fantasy Special and contains the first appearance of a certain bespectacled hero in a new mini-series. A real favourite of mine and many others, it’s not to be missed. You can check out what it is from Monday 21st February 2022.
But before you go I just have to let all you lovely blog readers know how I really feel, to thank you for your continued support. Take it away, Marc Riley‘s Doctor Mooney, He’s Completely Looney.