So this is an exciting review for me. This was the first issue of OiNK I ever read back as a kid. Not only that, this was the first ever comic I could call my own. While my brother and sisters had been reading the likes of The Beano, Bunty and Look-In this was the first comic bought specifically for me, after I saw this funny Jeremy Banx cover in the newsagent. But it was a certain page inside which has made me recognise this as my first issue today and we’ll get to that below.
Once I knew this fact the memories came flooding back, like seeing the cover for the first time and being introduced to my first OiNK spoof, The Unprofessionals. Based on the iconic television show, my dad and brother used to watch it all the time so I was fully aware of it and thought this was such a funny take on it. I’m sure I must’ve showed it to them. Drawn by Ron Tiner (The Hotspur, Battle Action, Hellblazer) if there had been an official comic based on the show some of these caricatures wouldn’t have looked out of place.
It’s a lovingly crafted spoof and superbly highlights the over-the-top violence of the series but in a funny, kid friendly way. Ron would go on to contribute to 16 issues of OiNK including two further parody serials based on Sherlock Holmes and King Solomon. I didn’t know comics did this kind of thing. Of course, they didn’t really, OiNK was unique. Being a fan of Spitting Image at the time (my brother watched it and we shared a room, I didn’t really understand what was going on but I found it funny) this really appealed and was a big reason I wanted to read more OiNK.
Crime might seem like a strange topic for a kids’ comic, but Mary Lighthouse (critic) and her real world counterpart had nothing to worry about, the message was very clear that crime doesn’t pay. Criminals and bullies met their comeuppance in highly imaginative ways throughout, and in one case a thief actually came good and became a private detective. That thief was of course Snatcher Sam, as portrayed by Marc Riley. This being my first encounter with him I was unaware of his dodgy past but that didn’t make this any less funny.
Marc’s appearances as Sam were always highlights of the issues he appeared in, though I was surprised to find out the character only appeared in nine of the editions I owned as a child (and only 16 altogether). I could’ve sworn he was in almost every single one, but perhaps I just reread them a lot! People sometimes doubt me when I say this comic still makes me laugh but if any proof was needed the second panel on the second page had me roaring.
A character who had been a regular in the early issues but whose appearances had reduced by this stage was Maggie Pie, Collector of Weird Things, a young girl with an obsession of finding new things to collect no matter how weird, random or disgusting. Always written by Tony Husband and drawn by Clive Collins (Punch, Reader’s Digest and Life Vice-President of The Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain) her earlier strips have been a bit hit-and-miss with me personally but this one gave me a good old giggle.
Maggie appeared in just ten editions including the first annual and many remember her as a regular, maybe because it looked like she was going to be one at the very beginning when she appeared in nearly every issue. Clive would return a few more times, most memorably for some brilliant Walt Disney parodies where he mimicked their comic characters perfectly.
This issue also introduces another semi-regular character. After the skeleton staff accidentally let butchers into the pages of the comic while Uncle Pigg was on holiday in #8, Jeremy Banx began a series of Butcher Watch Updates with various exaggerated butcher caricatures, each more menacing than the last. While they all seemed to like their jobs a little too much, one stood out enough that he’d return now and again as the nemesis of anthropomorphic pigs everywhere. This was the first appearance of Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith. A small part of the issue this time around, he’d soon ascend to become a menace we’d all love to hate.
Other highlights also include Ian Knox‘s background animals in Roger Rental, He’s Completely Mental, Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins being set up for something and the hidden evidence is just ridiculous and in Tom Thug the bullying pillock faces his own nemesis, a victim’s big sister.
Regular blog readers will no doubt remember the insane amount of puns written by Graham Exton for Fish Theatre in #6 a few months back. Of course, depending on how well you received those puns you may have tried to blank it from your memory! I was a big fan though, in fact the more groans a pun can produce the better. Graham said he used up enough puns for several scripts on that one page, just giving himself more work in the long run. Well, it appears he hasn’t learned his lesson.
Graham has decided to revisit the idea with Agadoo (push a pineapple?) Christie’s Murder in the Orient Express Dining Car, a murder mystery where all the characters are vegetables, drawn by Ian Knox. It might not contain puns in every single panel this time around but that doesn’t mean the volume is any more bearable. Just to make sure you don’t miss a groan, each pun is even underlined.
If you can peel your eyes away from that overload of gags the next two highlights confirmed for me this was my first issue. I had the huge three-part poster calendar up on my walls as a kid. The first part was given away free with #15 so I knew I had to have started reading OiNK by that stage at least. Then this half-page promo for it rang a big bell in my head. I remember seeing this little corner of part one and being excited my second issue was going to have such an exciting gift.
I’ve been able to collect the whole calendar again and it now takes pride of place on the wall of my home office inside which I write this very blog. It’s right behind me as I type in fact, in the perfect position for FaceTime calls. With the next three issues I’ll show you the individual parts and then the complete calendar afterwards. Even after all these years it’s a sight to behold, thanks to Ian Jackson‘s brilliant take on Mount Rushmore, Mount Rushboar.
This next page was the conclusive proof this was my first issue. When I did my previous read through seven years ago this was the first page I recognised from any of the early issues. I did a little research to make sure it wasn’t reprinted later in the run and lo and behold it wasn’t, so here we are! You Are The Detective is a riff on the Cluedo board game, complete with suspects and a murder weapon. All the reader had to do was match the cause of death to the suspect. The only thing is, it looks like figuring out something as simple as the weapon isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Hilariously drawn by Mike Roberts (who as I explained in #10’s review was a big part of my teen years) it’s a brilliant piece with a great puzzle to work out. There is an answer there. You just won’t get it. As a kid I spent forever trying to figure this out, determined I wouldn’t look at the answer until I got it myself. I remember lying in bed with the lamp on, still awake late on a school night no less, eventually giving up and checking the answer later in the issue. Needless to say I laughed and then couldn’t believe I’d missed it!
Try to work it out for yourself. The answer is further down this review but the punchline will be so much funnier if you give it a go first. No peeking!
With this being my first issue it was also my first exposure to all of OiNK’s art styles. I’d always assumed most comics had similar styles. That was certainly the impression I got when I browsed through my brother’s Beano and Dandy annuals every Christmas. OiNK was an explosion of creativity and fun by comparison. Even when it came to its back cover it still had so much to give with the brilliant The Hold-Up written by Mark Rodgers and so expertly crafted by Ian Jackson.
“Some shops think OiNK is so clever that they won’t display it with the kids’ stuff!”Uncle Pigg in reaction to W.H. Smith
The Hold-Up was the best possible sign off from the first time I had a comic all to myself. To be exposed to Ian’s style at such a young age was an incredible experience and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this. But to have this as my first issue and then his huge poster straight after, I know it’s a cliché to say it but it blew my little mind.
Before we go there’s the little matter of the solution to the puzzle, which was found under the newsagent reservation coupon which took a dig at W.H. Smith, who by this time had top-shelved OiNK after a couple of parents had complained about a strip. You can read all about this silliness in the review to #7.
Above this was the Next Issue promo and the main event was going to be a certain Ham Dare, Pig of the Future. I’ll show you that promo box before the next review as always but for now that’s it, my trip back to a very special moment in my life is complete. I’d buy the next issue and then place a regular order, staying with the comic all the way through to the final issue.
The next OiNK will be reviewed on Monday 15th November 2021, however next Monday the 8th there’ll be that special post to mark the actual anniversary of my reading this issue. I hope you’ll join me then to mark the occasion.