In 1986 OiNK’s timing was impeccable when it came to the spooky season and the relevant issue ended up being #13. A year later another happy coincidence saw the release date of the 40th issue as Saturday 31st October, perfect for their second Hallowe’en special. Kicking things off is the triumphant return of Ralph Shephard (not seen since #23 and who wouldn’t be again until the second annual), an artist who drew so many great spoofs of childhood favourites in the early days of the comic. What an incredible cover this is!
Ralph’s bewitching front page is a fondly remembered classic, a gorgeous piece which takes advantage of the little bit of extra space the new smaller logo gives, and that background colouring effect is just beautiful, adding plenty of atmosphere and really making it stand out on the shelves. (It’s also the second cover in a row for Harry the Head.) From now on we’d get one banner along the top instead of several, the cover images no longer needing gaps. I think it makes for a bolder, clearer cover for the rest of the fortnightlies.
For me the stars of this issue are the smaller mini-strips; there are just so many of them this time out and every one is a cracker. This does make my job of select only a few choice highlights incredibly difficult of course but it’s a nice problem to have. On the inside front cover is Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental as ever drawn by Ian Knox, now written by new OiNK scribe Vaughan Brunt.
It’s strange to think how tiny little strips like this, with just two panels and two lines of dialogue, can stick in the brain for decades to come. This one certainly went on to do just that. Then again, Roger was such a memorable character. Ever since his first appearance in #3 all his strips have been genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, the premise letting the writers’ imaginations run completely wild. The job of writing Roger’s ability to turn any everyday situation into the complete opposite was in good hands with Vaughan.
This issue is very memorable for me as a whole, I can remember reading it over and over again that Hallowe’en and in particular at my Aunt May’s house, a lovely lady who wasn’t actually related but was my mum’s best friend and so got the honorary title of ‘Aunt’. May has passed away in recent years and it’s been nice to relive memories of reading OiNKs at her house (see also #37). This strip of The Adventures of Death I can remember giggling about while tucking into the plate of biscuits and juice May had brought out while I read.
Charlie Brooker’s Death was a great little character and a firm favourite from the moment he first appeared. Having been the star of the half-page Next Issue promo in the previous issue I was surprised to see he wasn’t given more than a quarter page here, but that’s all the space Charlie needed. Both young me and older me loved this particular entry. I am aware of how it might seem, describing how this particular character brings back a specific memory of a late friend, but I also think there’s some kind of lovely poetry about that.
Not something Charlie would’ve considered about the character when he created these strips I’m sure. The Adventures of Death is the perfect OiNK twist on a traditional comic character. We’d had fun monsters before in other comics but to turn the Grim Reaper himself into a funny little character like this is very much in keeping with the comic’s ethos. We loved him! Unfortunately, unbeknownst to his fans this was his last regular appearance after first appearing in #35. He’d pop back for just six more sporadically over the next year.
Another character perfectly suited for the theme is Dead Fred, the friendly undead zombie created by Eric Wilkinson (Wilkie). He contradicts my previous comments about memory though, because I thought he was a regular in nearly every issue, but instead he only rose up from the grave every now and again. Maybe he was comfy down there. But he couldn’t miss the Hallowe’en issue. I’ve only shown a couple of panels of his before so he’s well overdue for a full strip, one which reminds me of the attendant at the Ghost Train in Barry’s Amusements in Portrush as a child!
Just like Death, Fred would appear in twelve issues altogether although his were spaced apart in the expanse between #19 and #64, which boggles my mind. I know I did reread many of my OiNKs throughout the time it was being published and that must’ve messed up my memories somewhat. I always loved Wilkie’s art in Fred’s strips, his detailed textures conveying rotting flesh, clothes and bones perfectly. Under any other artist I don’t think the jokes would work quite as well, the contradiction between his friendly nature and his rotting corpse are what makes it funny.
What a delight to turn the page and see a J.T.Dogg (Malcolm Douglas) poster. It’s been far too long since we enjoyed those OiNK Superstar Posters of his in the very first issues so it was a lovely surprise to see this ‘Superswine’ poster of an OiNK take on the classic Dracula, complete with his own Hell Hog? The colouring here is as ever stunning. I love the skin tones and cloak which give a lovely gloomy yet somehow colourful finish. But just look at those gravestones and the finish Malcolm has given them. Simply stunning work.
The only negative I can think of for this poster is that it wasn’t the return of the poster series. In fact, it would be the last poster by J.T. Dogg, although the original ones would be reprinted in the first few monthlies which is when I enjoyed them all for the first time as a kid. This Hallowe’en issue isn’t short of other highlights too, Hadrian Vile has me thinking about my friends’ latest addition to their family (and her older brother), and after Burp‘s tractor beam (#37) he has more inventive weaponry to show off. The biggest laugh of the whole issue comes from a background gag in Rubbish Man, and Jimmy Flynn’s strip plays up to an old horror moving staple.
Back in July the free Crash magazine edition of OiNK ran a special competition. The Mutant Space Barbarian Magic Warriors of Doom strip ended with the readers being asked to send in drawings of what they thought had turned hero Macho Mike into a big pile of blancmange. Suitably enough the editorial team have decided to use the Hallowe’en issue to show off the winners, taking over one half of a Grunts spread. There were ten altogether, each of which received an OiNK t-shirt and a copy of the OiNK computer game for their chosen format.
The strip they were drawing the conclusion to was illustrated by J.T. Dogg, so no pressure, right? You can’t deny the pig pals had skills. My favourites are ‘Squirty Bogweazel’ by Glenn Taylor of Gwynedd and ‘Molly Slocombe Intergalactic Mother-in-law’ by Michael Firth of Wolverhampton. Just a shame they’re so small on the page really. Special mention to ‘Uglay’ by Plymouth’s Danial Garside who dare I say is obviously a fan of Tom Paterson. Also, have a look at Noel Watson’s fantastic multi-headed beast on the other page! Quality reader contributions all round.
Lew Stringer’s Pete and his Pimple gets a half-page this issue but just across from him on the opposite page (right beside said strip when the comic is opened out) is Night of the Vampire! written by Lew and drawn by the ever entertaining Steve Gibson. With OiNK’s artists having such a wide range of styles I always like it when they take on each other’s characters, and Steve’s interpretation of one of Lew’s ‘popping’ up here in a particularly Steve-like fashion is great!
Little did I know the very next issue would bring a lot more of this sort of thing as different artists would take on Pete Throb in a special pull-out comic dedicated to the fan favourite, as advertised in the Next Issue promo here. That’s something you won’t want to miss so make sure to follow the blog.
On the same spread is this little treasure from Jeremy Banx. Regular readers of the comic (or of this blog) will know all about the surrealist humour of Jeremy’s strips, in particular Mr Big Nose. From toothpaste squeezing competitions and starring as Rambo in Little Bo-Peep to the famous Keith the dolphin, there’s been a lot of memorable strangeness and he appears to be upping that with each new appearance. (Ploppy puns throughout the comic drawn by Patrick Gallagher.)
Where would you even begin if you attempted to describe this to someone who hadn’t seen it? The poltergeist idea itself is a brilliant one and looks hilarious in that final panel, complete with the one who let go of the globe I bet you didn’t notice was floating. In those first images using Mr Big Nose’s face on the planet and the globe to tell us the story is weird but it works. Brilliantly. It’s heartbreaking to think this character will disappear from the regular comic after the next four issues!
But let’s not think about that yet, let’s enjoy the rest of the year and these simply perfect issues of OiNK we were getting every fortnight. This one ends with a truly classic OiNK back page, the latest spoof movie poster. Written by Charlie Brooker and again drawn so perfectly by Simon Thorp, it’s one which I particularly enjoyed at the time. In fact, while I hadn’t seen the original movie when I first saw this, it would become my favourite of Simon’s mini-posters as a child because the next year I became obsessed with the cartoon and Marvel UK comic. Take a butchers at this.
I can remember re-discovering this many months later after I’d eventually seen the movie and thought this was hilarious. Somehow, Simon has perfectly captured Bill Murray in pig form. It’s just a genius piece of work. Believe it or not, despite how great this is, as an adult it isn’t even my favourite of Simon’s pieces any more. That honour goes to a certain Half Pig, Half Machine hero who I’ll definitely be showing off when we get to that issue.
As we tear ourselves away from page 32 that’s a wrap on the latest OiNK and it’s been a genuine pleasure to relive every single thing this has had to offer. Seriously, if you haven’t read a full issue since the 80s (or perhaps never have) then I’d heartily recommend #40 as the ideal starting point to your inevitable collection. The next issue, complete with pull-out Pete comic, is the Health & Fitness special and its review will be here on Monday 14th November 2022.
Just to finish off this superb Hallowe’en feast here’s a suitably terrifying mini-strip from Mark Rodgers and Ian Jackson. See you next time.