One look at the cover of the next issue has me very excited indeed. The Time-Travel Special contains another multi-page Uncle Pigg strip written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ian Jackson and is heavily influenced by Doctor Who! In fact the front cover, also drawn by Ian has our esteemed editor tumbling through space and time dressed as Colin Baker‘s Sixth Doctor. I feel like I’m time-travelling myself, right back to enjoying #24 way back in 1987.
The issue also includes a colourful, hilarious look at the OiNK offices in the year 2000AD, original takes on time-travelling predictions, Tom Thug getting a look at how his life could pan out and let’s not forget Ye Ballad of Snatching Sam, a wonderfully illustrated comic strip for our usual photo story star. Come back on Monday 21st March to check out the highlights and read all about one of the best issues yet.
It appears I jumped on to the OiNK train at the right moment back in 1986. Last time I shared the memories of my first issue and just one week later came a kind of soft relaunch as the theme. OiNK had established itself, publishers IPCMagazines were happy, the readers were happy and it was proving to be a success, so the team decided to celebrate by bringing in a whole bunch of brand new regular characters.
Let’s not forget the fantastic free gift, the first of three Ian Jackson posters which combined into one giant calendar for 1987 featuring The 8th Wonder of the World: Mount Rushboar. I can remember pouring over all the little details in the swarm of people running across Harry the Head and Burp the Smelly Alien carved into the rock face and even the little bits of rubbish left behind on this apparently reverential site. How typical of us humans and a funny swipe at British tourists in particular.
On page two we find out how this glossy comic could afford such extravagances, with staff reduced to working naked, cartoonists and accountants alike shivering in the cold as Uncle Pigg looks on, wearing his Hawaiian shirt to boot. Christmas was coming early for him with all the money OiNK was raking in, and it was coming early for us too because the calendar poster freebies would continue up to the first festive issue.
Mary Lighthouse is back with her strip on page three. Normally this would be a way of introducing the subject matter of the issue but here it’s quite clear it has a bigger job to do. It’s introducing new readers to the character and the overall cheekiness and irreverence of the comic. Don’t get me wrong, Mark Rodgers and Ian Jackson still deliver the goods for the regulars too, it’s genuinely funny but it also reinforces the way the comic is reintroducing itself now that its readership is growing.
Coming on board just before this issue is probably the reason why I always assumed certain characters were in OiNK right from the beginning, when in reality this was their first appearance. Two such examples are Davy Francis‘ Greedy Gorb (He’d Eat Anything) and Jeremy Banx‘s wonderfully surreal and often very rude Hector Vector and his Talking T-shirt. The latter actually gets a proper origin story when a magical genie appears from Keith Disease‘s (I never remembered him having an actual name!) packet of crisps, but Keith is rude to him because his snack is gone. Poor Hector happens to be passing and Keith is forever confined to be a “tasteless print” on his t-shirt.
I remember his strip being one of my favourites so expect to see them soon. The only reason I’m not including them here is because there’s just too much I could include that I had to leave some real classics out. But I was always going to show you the beginning of OiNK’s second spoof epic. Hot on the trotters of The Street-Hogs comes Ham Dare: Pig of the Future, also stunningly illustrated by J.T. Dogg and this time the multi-part serial is written by Lew Stringer. IPC’s very own Eagle and 2000AD hero Dan Dare was the subject of OiNK’s style of parody, complete with sidekick Pigby and arch nemesis The Weakun‘!
This was my first exposure to J.T.’s artwork and it looked like nothing I’d ever seen before. Possibly because of this, as much as I love The Street-Hogs now, Ham Dare remains my favourite of all the OiNK serials. Lew’s script is fast-paced and packed full of gags, both for fans of the original space adventurer or those like me who learned of him through this. I especially love how Sir Hogbert has to show our heroes such a basic drawing to describe Earth being pulled out of orbit. Ham Dare may not be the sharpest pork scratching in the packet but he looked dashing as the hero and that’s what was important to him (and we loved him for it).
Elsewhere this issue Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins‘ own serial continues and a lot of the humour comes from the narrative by Tony Husband. Fan favourite Pete and his Pimple makes his debut after being the footer gag to a Tom Thug strip in #6. Hyperactive Harriet is the fastest girl in the world and a not-so-subtle take on The Beano‘s Billy Whizz. Then Billy Buzz gets the same ‘New Character’ treatment as the rest, but his saccharine personality annoys Uncle Pigg so much he swats him by the end of the strip and that’s the last we’d ever see of him!
Billy might not have made the grade but the next new addition certainly did. She quickly became a childhood favourite, so much so that I was certain she appeared in almost every issue I had as a kid. But surprisingly Psycho Gran was only in 20 editions of OiNK altogether including specials and annuals. Despite this, she became a true OiNK legend.
Created by David Leach (Brain Damage, Toxic Crusaders, Spongebob Squarepants) she was originally submitted as a one-off strip, so when OiNK’s editors introduced her as a new regular character in this issue it was a bit of a surprise for David. This explains why she doesn’t reappear until #21 because he hadn’t made any more! David tells me the guys would send him a list of upcoming issue subjects and he’d submit Psycho Gran strips for whichever ones he had an idea for. He never had a Psycho strip turned down and as a fan I can see why.
This strip might look familiar to anyone who has purchased the new comic series from David in recent years because he reproduced this as a gorgeous, heavily detailed, full colour strip. In fact, between contributions to Aces Weekly and Psycho’s own digital and print comics, David has now produced more work for the little old dear in the years since OiNK than during her time in her debut comic.
There are certain Psycho Gran strips, as well as individual jokes and images that stayed with me long after childhood was a distant memory. Whether she’s randomly throwing people into the ocean, making military preparations to pick her pension up at the Post Office or adorning a Wild West Wanted poster, she could terrify many in her little world but she was adored by pig pals.
“‘Sammy is getting old and worn out! I’ll have to replace him with a new engine!’, said the Controller.
Sammy the Steam Engine
Two new characters are up on the next page together, namely Sally Scowl (Her Temper’s Foul!) and Fatty Farmer (He’s A Whole Lot Calmer). Their titles may have rhymed like so many traditional humour strips of the time but that’s where the similarities end. Both were written by Mark Rodgers (of course) and drawn by Dave Follows and Weedy Willy‘s Mike Green respectively.
Both are enjoyable, even if we do already have a bad tempered youth in the shape of Billy Bang. But unlike Billy, Sally’s temper builds until she uses it to her advantage at just the right moment. She’s a lovable character and after that hilarious first panel I can’t blame her for being in a bad mood all day! She was also that rare occurrence indeed, a black character in one of our childhood comics. So why does Sally disappear after #16, totalling only two appearances? So much for a new regular character! What a shame and a waste of a great idea.
Fatty Farmer was a larger than life country farmer who’d often come up against bullies and small-minded individuals making fun of his weight. However, he’d remain chilled out and deal with them calmly, often proudly using the very thing they were laughing at to his advantage. The message was clear, don’t let the bullies get to you. He’d go on to be a bit more successful than Sally with 11 strips in total, appearing in every issue for the first few months and then on and off during the rest of the fortnightlies. To have him and Sally on the same page for their first appearances was a great contrast and a great idea.
Back in #3 artist Ralph Shepherd drew OiNK’s brilliant take on The Transformers. As I said at the time, the comic would often take the hand out of things we readers loved and for me there was nothing I loved more than the subject of this next strip. It was so funny to see this as a kid. This was really the first many fans of the show would’ve seen a spoof of it (and it was even several months before the official comic finally launched). Over the course of the two weeks I had to wait for my next OiNK I reread this several times, laughing and loving the fact OiNK had its own version of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.
Looking at this issue as a whole I can see I was clearly spoiled as a kid with this as only the second comic I ever bought. Whether I realised that at the time is another matter. I got to experience the gorgeous work of J.T. Dogg for the first time, got to meet lots of new characters including many who would become lifelong favourites, the subject of my top book series and TV show was given that unique OiNK makeover and then on top of all that was one of only five Tom Paterson OiNK strips!
What a lovely surprise it was to come across this page when reading the issue for this review. Written by Mark Rodgers it’s already a funny script, but when it’s in the hands of Tom you just know there are going to be many more laughs added before he’s done with it. Mister Cheese would unfortunately be Tom’s final full page story for OiNK. After this his work would only pop up once more in a tiny quarter-page strip in The OiNK Book 1988, which I won’t be reviewing for another 13 months! Just as well this is so jam-packed with Tom’s trademark sight gags then isn’t it? Tom was just too busy to be a regular contributor and that’s such a shame because I believe he and OiNK were the perfect fit, perhaps more so than any other comic.
Before we wrap up with the back page, here’s a little bit of news about the next issue. While this edition may have introduced a wealth of new characters, #16 brings with it a true superstar, a megastar, a “fantastic” new addition to OiNK who I remember waking up to every Saturday morning on No.73. His creator sadly died back in 2010 and it was the news of his passing that brought me back into the sty after decades away. Next issue sees the start of his contributions which really have to be seen to be believed.
I’m definitely looking forward to the next issue! For now, I’m going to finish off with this full colour back cover from Lew Stringer. We got a glimpse on the Grunts page (at the top of this review) of what it was like to work in the OiNK offices. Uncle Pigg may have had all the right words to say to the readers but the reality behind them was somewhat different. Here’s Lew’s inside scoop on the real behind-the-scenes of creating the funniest comic ever produced!
For a much younger me these two issues were a strong start. Such a strong start! How could it possibly get any better? Be here on Monday 29th November 2021 to find out.
There was always an extra bit of excitement that came with an Ian JacksonOiNK cover; it made us feel like we were in for an extra special issue. The oddly-themed Revenge Issue kicks off with this brilliant piece which follows on from last month’s fiasco in the OiNK offices. The Next Issue promo saw Mary Lighthouse in fear of retaliation from editor Uncle Pigg and it would appear she was right to be scared.
A bizarre cover such as this needs a story behind it and on page two we discover it was all a dream after Mary fell asleep watching an old western movie. But unbeknownst to her there’s a new ‘Splat-O-Pult’ with a bucket full of swill awaiting her in her garden. At this point I’m going to flick forward to the middle pages of the comic where the aftermath of this becomes apparent with the Mad Murder Maze!
The strips are as ever drawn by Ian with the maze itself brought to colourful life by Ralph Shephard, known to pig pals for his spoof strips of children’s cartoons and of course the Make-Your-Own-Adventure from issue five. Following on from that is this further piece of interactive fun for the young readers as they try to find a safe way across a monstrous maze for the catty critic. But why would we want to help her? As usual there’s a twist in the tale.
I hope you found your way across before skipping to the conclusion! Unlike the Barry the Butcher strip this one is actually doable. Every issue the back and forth between these two characters always drew me in, like I was part of Uncle Pigg’s club and even today as an adult it still feels like I’m getting access to some secret behind-the-scenes shenanigans of creating an anarchic comic. So a really fun main event.
Originally created by Graham Exton and always drawn by Mike Green, Weedy Willy was an easy strip to adapt to the subject. His regular plans to woo dishy Mandy would always fail, often resulting in Mandy being on the receiving end of the failure, so she’d end up chasing him (not in the way Willy intended) with revenge in our eyes. However, this time it’s his own mother who ends up with that fearsome look, after Willy’s dad tries to encourage him to seek revenge on the constant stream of bullies.
We already knew Willy couldn’t formulate any kind of successful plan, so I love how all of his dad’s resources are just shoved into a bag and thrown out of the window to achieve the desired effect! Willy would be a regular character all the way through the comic and into the pages of Buster for a short period of time, but his days of full page strips in OiNK would soon be up, as you’ll see soon in the read through.
One of my favourite things about OiNK were the spoof Madvertisements and I’ve shown you some of these already. By the time I purchased my first issue back in 1986 the majority were for the comic’s in-house brand G.B.H. and this is the issue in which they made their first appearance. Later they’d have full colour pages to hawk their wares, sometimes even multipage catalogues, but here they get a little area at the bottom of one page with four tiny classifieds, the best of which is below.
I can still remember the day I asked my brother what the initials stood for and given the fact it was clearly a company run by mobsters it suited the premise perfectly. Interesting little part of the Grunts letters page there too, which I previously missed during the read through I did several years back on the previous site. That’s OiNK cartoonist Davy Francis pointing out a newspaper clipping to the team. Well, he would notice this kind of story wouldn’t he, what with his lead strip being Cowpat County!
Also this issue we see the saga of Tom Thug and his shoelaces come to its conclusion. If you take a gander at the very top of this review you’ll see Uncle Pigg threatening Tom with a transfer to Whizzer and Chips comic! In complete panic Tom somehow manages to tie his bovver boots, but we later see him in the bath, boots still on his feet because he doesn’t know how to untie them.
Clearly just over two years later the transfer to Buster wasn’t as scary for the dimwitted boy.
“He battled his way past the castle guards – the Noxious Newts of Noona and the Preying Potties of Poohbah!”
Nice-Man and the Lords of the Universe (Mark Rodgers)
Not every strip in every issue would stick to the subject at hand, which would give a nice variety to the contents and one of those giving us a break from all of the revenge, monsters, threats and mobsters was David Haldane‘s Rubbish Man. The premise here is a simple one and in fact the story itself only takes half of the space afforded to it. The end gag panel takes up half the page and you can see why. I’ll admit the way his final speech balloon reads in my head has me in giggles every time I read it.
Even at this early stage in the comic’s lifetime Haldane has all but abandoned Jimmy Bung (the secret identity of Rubbish Man) but that’s perfectly fine by me. All we want is his madcap, smelly adventures, we don’t need to see him transform anymore. As much as I enjoyed him as a kid, I do think Rubbish Man is one of the strips I think is even funnier to me now as an adult.
At the time of writing this review, a shiny new sequel series to the original Masters of the Universe cartoon has just been released, alongside what seems to be innumerable documentaries on the original toy craze. I don’t think it can be overestimated just how massive this toy line was in the early 80s. Personally, I can remember being told by my parents (years later for obvious reasons) how they had to travel to Dublin to secure a Castle Greyskull toy for Christmas!
This means of course that an OiNK parody was inevitable and in this issue Ralph Shepherd (I told you he would be known for these) took Mark Rodgers‘ brilliant take on He-Man and Skeletor and turned out this beautiful spread. As well as the main characters themselves the seemingly endless array of ridiculous sounding villain toys and the equally endless war itself were also taken to task.
The only possible negative thing I could say about this is that the first page is in black and white. This isn’t usually an issue for a comic whose fortnightly ratio would be eight full colour pages, eight one-colour pages and 16 in black and white. But when you see the second page you can’t help but wish the first was the same. This isn’t a case of it being printed that way, you can tell by Ralph’s crosshatch shading the first page was created in black and white.
Still, it’s a glorious thing indeed. Almost as glorious was my reenactment of this with my Mattel toys. It was reprinted in the third Holiday Special and by that time I’d moved on from He-Man but the toys were still in the bottom of a cupboard somewhere. Digging them out and utilising some Visionaries and The Real Ghostbusters toys, as well as an actual banana, I played out this classic OiNK spoof. Funny the things that stay with us, locked deep in our memories.
We’re almost at the end of another OiNK real time review but we’ve got Mary Lighthouse‘s escape from the monsters to clear up. It would seem she’s done so unscathed, at least until page 31 anyway. Making it back to her Dun Complainin’ home (nice touch) her choice of supper and bedtime reading comes back to haunt her in her nightmares, thanks to a particularly bold back page from Jon Langford making his OiNK debut.
A friend of Marc Riley’s, Jon was a founding member of The Mekons, who as a group would also appear in a photo story or two in OiNK! But that’s only one small part of his incredible creative output which includes various other bands, visual art and design, music production, theatre work and political activism. His illustrations would appear in OiNK four times over the course of the fortnightly issues so watch out for more from him over the next couple of years.
Strong central scripts, beautiful one-off special contributions and far too many little strips and gags to talk about here. It would still be a few months before I would discover OiNK just before turning ten years of age and it’s almost criminal to know a quality, laugh-a-minute read like this was sitting right there, just down the road from my house in the newsagent and I wasn’t aware. Thank goodness I never grew up in the intervening years and was able to track them down!
The next of these is the Back to School Special and it’ll be reviewed on Monday 6th September 2021. If I’d known about it at the time it definitely would’ve taken the sting out of returning to school at that age, as you’ll see in two weeks.