Tag Archives: Ralph Shephard

OiNK! #15: NEW PiGLETS

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 IPC Magazines 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 FrancisGreedy 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.

The message was clear, don’t let the bullies get to you.

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.

OiNK! #9: SWEET REVENGE

There was always an extra bit of excitement that came with an Ian Jackson OiNK 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!

It’s a glorious thing indeed. Almost as glorious was my reenactment with my Mattel toys.

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.

OiNK! #5: PERFECT PiG PALS

While the main event of this fifth issue of OiNK is the Unfair Funfair adventure game and there’s no theme as such, there’s an overall feeling of celebration inside, a celebration that the comic was proving to be a hit among its target audience. It contains the first contributions from readers, with a few small jokes and drawings scattered throughout, there’s a photo story showing us the kind of kids who were reading OiNK and reference is made to their letters in some of the strips.

Things begin with Mary Lighthouse on page two as per usual and something stood out in its last panel. The image of Mary and the words Uncle Pigg is shouting were definitely not by strip artist Ian Jackson, so I asked Patrick Gallagher about it. In Mark Rodgers‘ original script the mass of letters was meant to be hate mail for Mary but IPC Magazines didn’t like this reference and asked for it to be toned down. It was changed to reference fan mail for the comic which I think is actually funnier. You can compare the two ideas below.

I love the set up with Mary receiving three complaints and calling it an outcry. It all feels very contemporary. After all, that’s how The Daily Mail still operates today, isn’t it? This strip would coincidentally end up quite prophetic. While it’s obviously a joke, it’s strikingly similar to something the comic’s editors would face after a certain story is published in #7, but we’ll get to that later.

Directly below this on the same page is a character whose name is somewhat direct. In fact you could say it’s a bit on the nose. Mr. Big Nose would introduce surreal humour to the young audience in a way that really shouldn’t work in a children’s comic, but it did. One issue he could be showing us gravity is actually invisible creatures holding everything down, or he’d be ignoring an alien assassin by reading the newspaper, or playing Rambo in a school play of Little Bo-Peep, or having his vacuum cleaner turned into a dolphin.

Mr Big Nose’s strips followed no rules and the more absurd the situation, the more bizarre the juxtapositions, the more they didn’t make sense the funnier they were. With no barriers in his way, Jeremy Banx‘s imagination was on full display and this kind of humour would also start to spill over into his Burp the Smelly Alien strip in later issues too.

Appearing in almost every one of the fortnightly issues of OiNK Mr Big Nose would sadly disappear with #45, the first weekly edition. However, including specials Jeremy would end up crafting 42 completely different tales for us to enjoy, and enjoy them we did. That dolphin’s name often gets quoted by pig pals online to this day!

So as I said at the top of the review this issue brought with it the first contributions by OiNK’s readers. The regular space for these was the Grunts page but it only contains one drawing this time and some made up letters to Uncle Pigg from imaginary readers for a laugh. Soon enough it would be full to bursting with readers’ celebrity spoofs, photos, newspaper clippings of pigs in the news, poems and of course jokes for Nasty Laffs and Specs.

These two little panels aren’t on the letters page, instead popping up right at the beginning of the issue on page three. Rather than simply printing the written letters sent in OiNK would illustrate them too, which would just spur on the young readership more. Who wouldn’t have wanted to see their joke turned into a cartoon strip?


“You smell awful! You must be a City supporter!”

Random human to Burp the Smelly Menace from Outer Space

Interestingly, OiNK also printed input from readers in their holiday specials and annuals, something no other annual I collected as a kid ever did. While my Marvel UK comics had standard letters pages answered in very entertaining ways, IPC (and later Fleetway) would often encourage their readers to send something different. Barrie Tomlinson, editor of many action adventure comics was always asking readers to contribute to a wonderful variety of features on his letters pages. But OiNK went even further and just let them send in whatever they wanted!

So who were these young readers, these so-called “pig pals”? Time for Terry Wogham to investigate.

Terry Wogham was a series of photo stories in the earliest issues where a real pig interviewed a series of top celebrities. Of course, we’d often only see these special guests from his eye level, so the comic could get away with only showing their legs and torso. For this issue though we got to see the faces of those interviewees, a selection of Typical OiNK Readers.

Like looking in a mirror. The strip contains all three of OiNK’s creators. Mark Rodgers can be seen wearing the bald cap and bandana with a toothless mouth drawn over him, then that’s him at the bottom left of the final panel, with Tony Husband and his son Paul behind him. Patrick Gallagher is in the middle of the back row, with his former wife Ann to the right (his left), then Ann’s brother James who was also an OiNK photographer. In front of James is his wife Alanna and in the middle of the front row is Tony’s wife, Carole.

So who remembers those Make-Your-Own Adventure books? For the uninitiated I’m referring to children’s novels designed to be read in a non-linear fashion, very much like the text adventure games on home computers at the time. At the end of each page you’d be given a choice of where to take the story next and the corresponding page numbers for each choice, the idea being to make it to the end of the adventure alive. For example the character could be faced with a spooky house or a haunted forest and they could decide to turn to page ‘x’ to enter the house, or page ‘y’ to walk towards the forest. 

Whether it was intended or not, I remember Horace teaching me not to judge anyone by how they look.

The format was ripe for an OiNK parody. Bringing the idea of The Unfair Funfair to life was artist Ralph Shephard, fresh off his excellent riff on The Transformers in #3. He would also go on to draw one of my all-time favourite spoofs from the comic, but that’s a tale for another review. His previous colourful style is replaced with black and white for the most part which suits the setting perfectly with its lovely feeling of spooky mischievousness.

Just like the books this was based on, the cover proclaims “You are Barry the butcher”, but surely that’s the last thing an OiNK reader would want? How can a butcher be the hero of the adventure? Read on, try the game and find out for yourself.

After you’ve tried a few of the options I’m sure you can probably guess what the note on the Grunts page said. To quote Uncle Pigg, “You are Barry the butcher … and I am the fairground owner! Whatever choices you make, you’ll still end up in the swill!!! Told you it was an Unfair Funfair! Hurr hurr hurr!!” Well, the clue was in the name after all, but it’s still fun to try out all the options. Even though you know what’s going to happen next, making those different choices just to end up reading the same panel again and again is the whole point and what makes it so funny.

Besides the blockbuster main event, other highlights include Nigel and Skrat the Two-Headed Rat, Noel Ford‘s weird creations who only appeared in half a dozen issues believe it or not. I say that because I’ve very vivid memories of them! New thief on the block Swindler Sid pops up in Snatcher Sam, Uncle Pigg brings readers up to date on Hoggy Bear‘s predicament in The Street-Hogs before heading home, and while trying to make new human friends Burp‘s breath gets him into hot water.

The final highlight I’m pulling out of this issue’s hat is Tony Husband‘s lovable character, Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins. To anyone new to OiNK the title of this strip might give them the impression of a clichéd comics character with one certain feature or ability that would be played for easy laughs. But as always with OiNK, created as a reaction to such tired comics ideas, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Horace’s strip would alternate between funny, contained stories and ongoing serials showing his struggles at simply trying to live his life. The early stories featured funny scenarios centred around his appearance, but never in a cruel way. He could scare off a monster by complete accident and end up the hero for example and he never seemed to lose his upbeat outlook at life. This issue’s strip sees his parents try to hide his looks from his visiting wealthy uncle, only for it backfire on them and their assumptions.

As OiNK continued the strip matured into an ongoing serial involving Horace’s football career. At times he’d get down about his looks, his treatment by others and how cruel the world could be, but he was a strong individual and we’d cheer him on every fortnight. His story even had a proper ending when the comic finished and a very happy one at that.

Whether it was intended or not, I remember Horace teaching me not to judge anyone by how they look, a strong message for anyone but in particular for a child reading it and getting swept up in the laughs and the adventure. I never felt lectured, never thought Tony was even trying to do any of this, but it’s what I took away from it and as such I believe he was an important part of my development as a child.

On that note it’s time to place this fifth issue of OiNK back onto the bookshelves and look forward to the next edition in a fortnight’s time. Issue six is the Animal Crackers issue and it certainly is a cracker! There comes a time in any comic’s early life when it all just seems to click, to gel together and prove its potential and I’ll tell you all about that moment in OiNK’s run on Friday 12th July.