Tag Archives: Simon Thorp

OiNK! #56: THE TRiP OF A LiFETiME

Lew Stringer brings us what would ultimately be his final OiNK cover, not that anyone knew this at the time of course. Tom Thug’s threat has the shine taken away by the good dog on the page with him, all of which could take our attention away from the fact the comic had gone back up to its pre-weekly (and pre-page-reduction) price of 35p. This made OiNK 7p more expensive than its Fleetway Publication peers, who also had 8 more pages. Today, I know this all sounds like it shouldn’t matter but back when most of us received 50p-£1 pocket money a week, this could make all the difference.

But inside OiNK still had plenty of content and to me it still truly felt like better value for money. There’s a wealth of reading material in this issue, including the conclusion to Tom’s Crude Crew story which began in Whizzer and Chips and carried into the two previous issues of OiNK, a superb middle page spread for Dibney World by Simon Thorp, a gorgeous Dead Fred strip (no really) and the return of a favourite character, albeit not in the form I was expecting. First up though, Hieronymous Van Hellsong’s prequel by Jeremy Banx steps up a gear.

As always with this character it’s deliciously dark humour at it finest. Beginning with the nameless executive for who death is just a hurdle to overcome, and then to see Van Hellsong kill himself in order to go to hell to chase down his contract is a bit of a shock. However, all of this dark, twisted humour is perfectly offset by that last panel and his silly realisation, taking us from the dark to the daft in an instant. It’s classic Banx.


“Dibney characters act out historical highlights of US history [such as] The Slave Trade, The Bay of Pigs Crisis [and] Watergate!”

Ron Dibney World, Simon Thorp

Dark humour was something we weren’t normally exposed to as kids and OiNK revelled in it. In fact, Jeremy Banx in particular did, with some hilarious moments in his Burp strips that involved over-the-top gore that was just so ridiculous we never saw it as gore in the first place. His first Van Hellsong mini-series finished with our hero being killed by a notorious butcher villain and turned into a string of linked sausages and used to swing away from the authorities. These were the perfect introduction to black humour for me and many pig pals.

Back in #53 future Viz editor Simon Thorp wrote and drew Outlet-by-the-Sea, a GBH Madvertisement of a shockingly poor holiday destination that poked fun at English seaside resorts. Now he’s back for another, this time a collaboration between GBH and Thomas Crook and it’s bigger and better. Not only is it a double-page spread in the middle of the issue, Simon is taking aim at the biggest and grandest of holiday resorts, Walt Disney World.

The rickety British Rail train is back from Outlet-by-the-Sea too. It must’ve been a favourite of Simon’s. I love the way the ‘Animation Complex’ is the smallest, least impressive building in the whole park which is a dig at Disney World’s priorities. Then we have the large golf ball-like Epcot spoof called ‘Mom’s Apple Pie World’ apparently made in Taiwan, which could either be a silly joke or could very well be making a statement for the older readers, take your pick.

It’s what’s inside this building that I find the funniest and most cutting. We live in the modern world of 2023 where American politicians of a certain type are trying to whitewash (literally) the teaching of American history, so to have something with such a wholesome name as ‘Mom’s Apple Pie World Heritage Trail’ have that list of attractions feels like a particularly contemporary joke. You can clearly see Simon’s later Viz work in its early stages here. I just love it.

Now it’s time to conclude one of our mini-series.

Of course Tom’s scheme had to backfire in spectacular fashion, he’s a bully and bullies always lose after all. So we begin this final episode of Tom Thug and his Crude Crew with the gang all assembled and ready for bovver for the very first time, but by the end of the page it’s already fallen apart and Tom ends up in a very familiar state. The key joke here, played out more than once, is how bullies are all essentially cowards and will always ensure they’re picking on those they believe are less capable of fighting back.

This backfires throughout and each time shows us why everyone loved Tom’s strip, especially when you’re a kid and may have had to deal with bullies yourself. From Braddock trying to steal some grub while Tom and Daisy panic because he hasn’t picked a “wimp” (guest starring Mauler Morrison again from #54), to the crew deciding an infant school is the perfect target, the message is clear. Finally, it’s probably a coincidence but that verbal noise “OWK!” Tom makes when he’s trampled on caught my eye because I see it alternatively as ‘OWK!’ and ‘OINK’!

Whatever name Charlie Brooker gave his chain-smoking victim of The Swinelight Zone has been changed to a more familiar one

This has been a simply brilliant series and I’m sad it’s over but there are plenty of laughs to come from Tom in future issues, particularly in the monthlies if memory serves. Sticking with this issue for now, in The Life and Times of Harry the Head (his first full-page since the weeklies began) we get a little behind-the-scenes look at the making of The OiNK! 45 record and whatever name Charlie Brooker gave his chain-smoking victim of The Swinelight Zone has been changed to a more familiar one.

You can see here that Steve Gibson’s name has been pasted in after the strip was completed. I asked Steve about this and he tells me he used to smoke at the time and fellow cartoonist Marc Riley (Harry the Head‘s creator and star of Snatcher Sam) hated that, so while he was doing some pasting work with the editors he changed this character’s name as a joke. Last week we learned how the OiNK editors played a little joke on Lew too. I love little in-jokes like these and it all adds to that anarchic OiNK feeling!

A humour strip about a zombie and his undead friends isn’t something you’d imagine having gorgeous artwork but Eric ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson really delivers this week with his latest Dead Fred. Written by Ken F Sutherland, like Harry above it’s not often we’d see Fred get so much space. This page shows he really was able to carry the larger format. Unfortunately though, instead of more full-page strips for the character this would actually be his penultimate story! One more in the second monthly issue to come and then he’d finally rest in peace.

Certainly the last thing I expected from a Dead Fred strip was what on the surface looks like a moving war story regarding the Battle of the Somme.

Of course we know all of this wartime storytelling, complete with art that in some panels wouldn’t look out of place in Commando, must be leading to a joke and we’re not let down. In fact, I think the serious nature of the majority of the strip makes the opening and closing panels all the more silly by comparison and, I’ll say it again, I think it’s gorgeous. Just a few pages later we reach the back cover and some more unique art that you would only have seen in OiNK, with the return (at last!) of Hadrian Vile.

We’ve had some special pages from the character before, such as guides to everything from orchestras to babies, holiday photo albums, school magazines, letters to Santa and even a map of Scotland. But for almost all of the first 50 issues we enjoyed his Sekret Diary entries and this was what he was known for. Now, after a five issue hiatus he’s back, with Mark Rodgers is writing and Ian Jackson is drawing Hadrian but the diary has been dropped in favour of a new series, Vidiots – or Hadrian Vile’s Interleckshual guide to Tellyvision (a one-off of which had appeared in #23).

Love those little caricatures of Mark and Ian! It’s great to see Ian back after he also seemed to take a break lately (apart from a couple of mini-strips). But knowing what’s to come it’s sad to know that apart from one monthly entry and another in the second OiNK Book, the diary series was for all intents and purposes finished. If OiNK had remained weekly perhaps we’d see it return as co-editor Patrick Gallagher told us about other characters that had left us.

Unfortunately, Ian seems to move on to pastures new for the most part after this series too, so let’s enjoy his work while we can. It would remain on the back page for six issues altogether, finishing in #61. I did miss the insights into his family life and these were a much quicker read than a full strip, but at the time I figured it was just a temporary series and the diary would return straight after. So I really enjoyed having something different from one of my very favourite comics characters ever to finish off each issue with. I intend to enjoy them all over again and this first one is a very promising start.

Another daft newsagent reservation coupon by Patrick rounds off our review and looking at the most recent weekly OiNKs you can see, even with eight pages less, how much more rammed with content they were compared to others, and just how varied that content could be from page to page, and issue to issue. A recipe for success if ever there was one, surely. We’ll touch upon what led to OiNK’s eventual fate in a future post but for now I’m really enjoying my weekly trip down memory lane.

But we’ve more to come before #57! Regular readers will remember we used to have ‘Coming Up’ posts before each issue, back when OiNK had actual Next Issue promos. Since turning weekly these were dropped (the comic didn’t have themes to promote after all) but in three days on Monday 27th you’ll see their return. Well, for one edition anyway, the second OiNK Holiday Special, the review for which will be up on Wednesday 29th March! After that, #57 will be here on Friday 31st March 2023. A busy week ahead! Great, isn’t it?

OiNK! #54: PAST PRAiSE, FUTURE SHOCKS

You may have noticed the weekly OiNK reviews have shifted from Saturdays to Fridays this month. Just in case you were wondering why, this is simply because back in 1988 February had 29 days, one more than we had this year. So the shift to a day earlier is to keep things aligned to the original publication dates, which is the whole point of this site after all.

That’s a lot of praise from some surprising sources on the cover. Towards the end of the fortnightlies some clippings were sent in by readers. It might seem like this took a long time but in the pre-internet days and the way comics and magazine deadlines work, it would take time for the comic to make an impact, be reviewed, have those reviews printed, then clipped, pasted into the comic and in turn published in OiNK. This issue’s cover decided to sum up previous as well as showing off new ones.

I like the fact it includes some not-so-flattering praise, that little “R.I.P.” being a funny little dig too. The Press Council quote is part of their ruling over the famous complaint placed against the comic which I’ve mentioned before and I’ll take a closer look at soon. As for the banner along the top, perhaps it was the Charlie Brooker Prize? Haha. Always nice to see an Ian Jackson cover and I remember the quotes and clippings pleasing me greatly as a kid because it surely meant OiNK was a huge success and would be around forever. It’s hard to comprehend there are only 14 regular issues left.

Unknown to us at the time, a page inside signalled an upcoming change that would ultimately lead to OiNK’s demise.

Reading over the survey there are a lot of silly questions and answers, it wouldn’t be OiNK without them after all, reading almost like a spoof survey, but it’s not. The fact there’s nowhere to write in whether the readers wanted it to change to a monthly or not had me thinking this decision was already made. Perhaps the writing was on the wall and this was an attempt to save the comic, worded in such a way to make it seem like it was the choice of pig pals. But I was wrong, for the most part anyway.


“Accept others as they are”

Lew Stringer, Pete and his Pimple

Co-editor Patrick Gallagher tells me, “Our survey, which you refer to, was genuine and not having a designated space for that final question was an error, though the readers used their noggins and scribbled their answers in any available space! And yes, I think it was Fleetway‘s intention to go monthly as it had been to go weekly, from what I can remember, which I didn’t mind – though I can’t remember at the time thinking the writing was on the wall. I think sales were down across the board but OiNK’s figures weren’t the worst – it was the other comic’s figures that dragged it down. In the meantime [the survey was] checking the audiences’ opinions, which may have had some sway.”

Moving on for now and this issue may have been published in 1988 but this week’s Pete and his Pimple feels rather contemporary. Lew Stringer brings his rhyming strip skills to the fore once again in the tale of Johnny Bigot. It’s a wonderfully funny page with a message of “accept others as they are”; a strong message where we laugh at the bully of course, which is very typically OiNK and Lew. It’s a good life lesson and of course the whole basis of Lew’s Tom Thug character. In a world where people like Johnny seem to have louder voices than ever I find this strip rather cathartic.

If this were printed today, the Johnny Bigots of the world would probably scream and shout that OiNK was indoctrinating their children to hate others (irony isn’t their strong point), or that it was full of political correctness in a children’s comic. Nonsense of course, but I just think of this and laugh when I see such things online now and I heartily recommend it. Let’s all figuratively burst our pimples at them and let them sow the seeds of their own demise. Reading funny comics is much more fun anyway.

(On a separate note, as a good friend once said to me, it’s not about being “politically correct”, it’s just about being the second word in those quotes.)

Speaking of laughing at the bullies let’s take a look at Lew’s other famous creation, Tom. Two days after the previous issue of OiNK our resident thicko appeared in a half-page strip in sister title Whizzer and Chips to promote his own comic to their readers. In that story, after failing to join the gangs of either Shiner or Sid, he threatened to form his own in the pages of OiNK, creating a unique crossover for a humour comic where a story started in a different title. Below is the first of what would actually be a three-part mini-series called Tom Thug and his Crude Crew.

On the one hand you could ask why it’s taken Tom this long to think about having a gang, what with him often ending up in the state he’s in at the start of this strip. But then again he’s a bully so he’s not the brightest. I did laugh at the depiction of the bigger bully and how it takes Tom so long to finish his sentence (not until he’s conscious again in hospital). Then it takes him six months to get out! Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fryer. This story will continue over the next couple of weeks and I’m eager to see who he selects next as my ol’ memory cells have long forgotten.

Elsewhere in this issue we get another Mary Lighthouse strip. That’s two in as many issues, we’re being spoiled. With my fascination with all things Ancient Egypt I just had to include this little highlight below as she regales us with tales of her family tree. Then, the Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins strip continues its football serial, and as you can see co-editor Tony Husband has taken the already ludicrously far-fetched football serials in other comics and newspapers of the day, and spoofed them perfectly with this ridiculous tale.

One page that’s usually guaranteed to be a highlight of each issue is Frank Sidebottom’s. Recently he’s moved away from strips (they’ll return, we never knew what to expect from one issue to the next) and was instead informing us of some very funny showbiz gossip. These pages included intricate background art and lots of text to keep us giggling along for a good few minutes but this issue’s page seems a bit ‘off’, like it feels a bit rushed.

The first thing that struck me was how large his writing is, much bigger than usual so it took no time to read; the two usual non-stories here would’ve normally taken up about half the page, if that. The background isn’t his usual detailed standard either, looking instead like a few squiggles quickly thrown together to give it come colour. What is here is classic Chris Sievey and very funny, but I’m just left wanting more and that hasn’t happened before. Then again, he was an extraordinarily busy man to also be producing a weekly comics page!

The back cover was certainly not rushed. Here we find another spoof movie poster drawn by Simon Thorp from a brilliant script by co-editor Mark Rodgers. In 1987 the Masters of the Universe movie starring Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella had been released and flopped. The 80s saw rules against toys being made into cartoons and the like relaxed, giving birth to mega franchises based on action figures etc. This was one such example. The fact these toys were being created as franchises instead of just playthings wasn’t lost on Mark and Simon.

This definitely went some way to making up for the two hours of my life I wasted watching the film. There are so many piggy puns in there, make sure you read the smaller credits at the bottom under that lavish movie title. The longer you look at this the more little sight gags you can spot as well, such as the GBH ‘Mussel’ to go with the GBH ‘Muscle’ and the fact one of the characters’ legs has fallen off like a cheap action figure. Brilliant, memorable stuff which rounds off the issue perfectly.

One thing that did stick out with this issue was the lack of Hadrian Vile. In fact, he hasn’t been seen since #50. With the weeklies having less pages we’d become somewhat used to characters popping in and out, but missing from three issues in a row, for a strip that’s been in every single edition since #1? A character who was a huge fan favourite and whose diary was a highlight of every single issue he was in? It also meant a lot less from Ian Jackson too, which is always a shame, his work epitomising OiNK.

Clearly Patrick is needing a bit of a rest after another busy week putting together the issue so we’ll leave things there for now. There’s a lot to enjoy in the weeks ahead, even if this issue seems to have left me wanting a little bit, with the obvious lack of a favourite and a rushed page or two. But last week was one of the very best OiNKs of them all and what’s here in #54 is still great, so onwards and upwards. Don’t forget the reviews will be coming at you every Friday from now on, so join me here Friday 17th March 2023 for #55 and a couple of days later for the next crossover comic!

OiNK! #53: FiT TO BURST

Comic covers don’t come much more creative than this. Lew Stringer’s latest OiNK cover is definitely one of my favourites, right up there with those from #6 and #43 by Ian Jackson. The OiNK logo being pushed off the page was all Lew’s idea, who pencilled out a rough of the whole cover for approval by the comic’s editors. After it was approved he then drew the Pete part of the design, leaving the logo for Patrick.

Co-editor Patrick Gallagher was the famous logo’s original creator and told me he thought Lew’s cover was a “swell” idea, pun very obviously intended, and that it was a doddle for him to rejig the letters and complete this eye-catching front page, a highlight of the issue for sure and really makes the issue stand out in the collection. Just as well the inside is as good then. The first interior highlight comes from Davy Francis and Greedy Gorb, along with a special guest star.

Although he goes unnamed, that’s Doctor Madstarkraving (“He’s Bonkers”) who has appeared in his own strip a couple of times (#27 being one example) with more to come later in the run. Showing how uncontrollable Greedy’s appetite is, he shoots himself in the foot by eating the doc’s inventions when they could’ve fed him even more food! I particularly like the name of the shop, a little dig at how other comics seemed to have sweet shops on every street corner, a hang up from their more traditional (read: old-fashioned) days that OiNK liked to rib.

Speaking of old-fashioned tales, James Bond author Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang wasn’t a film I loved as much as my friends seemed to. However, I was certainly knew enough of its story that the following spoof by ‘Ian Phlegming’, with a funny illustration summing it up by Simon Thorp, was very funny indeed. Speaking with Patrick he thinks Simon may have written it too. It starts off silly and quickly escalates, culminating in an over-the-top ending that couldn’t be further away from the original saccharin tale. Then again, that’s the whole idea.

Spoofs were something unique to OiNK in the children’s comic market at the time, yet in the case of Twitty Twitty Bang Bang this wasn’t the only thing that set it apart. While comics such as Beano and Buster did have text adventure serials in their early days, it wasn’t something humour comics had any more, or any children’s comics outside of the nursery and very young children’s market. Later on in this year (1988) other comics such as The Real Ghostbusters and Thundercats would bring back the prose story, but for the time being pages like this really stood out.

Simon’s other contribution to the issue has plenty of panels of text packed with gags, this time as part of a full-page illustration in his usual entertaining style, but with a rather more dreary colour palette than usual that’s all part of the joke. This time of the year family holidays would be planned and paid for; I remember the TV listings magazines being full of them the first few months of the year. These were just ripe for a makeover, selling the Porkshire Riviera’s Outlet-By-The-Sea.

While it’s not a GBH Madvertisement their presence is still very much felt with their Spamtins Holiday Camp and Multi-storey Caravan Park. Growing up in the 80s and 90s I really found the caption for the Top Class Variety Acts very funny, even as a fan of the person at the butt of the joke. In the image itself there are so many funny little details, such as the quick sand, the periscope, a pair of socks that seem to have survived beyond their owner and the rigid man who I don’t think is sunbathing anymore.

This wasn’t the only time Simon would try to entice us away to sunnier climbs. Watch out for his special cruise ship cutaway later in the year. That particular contribution will definitely be featured in the highlights to come. This issue’s highlights are particularly good too, beginning with Invisible Charlie (who appeared in three issues) and Davy Francis’ trademark background gags. (Check out the posters.)


“Baby George! The Beastie Babies! And Paul Extremely Young!

Tiny Tots TV, Vaughan Brunt

On the Grunts page a reader must’ve had the fright of their lives on their high street, Tiny Tots TV suggests some more baby based television hits after the success of the 80s’ Muppet Babies, and Frank Sidebottom has two colourful pages this week. One is a competition, the other is his recurring Frank Sidebottom and his Fantastic Showbiz Gossip column which incudes his diary and, while he slips in a couple of joke entries, it’s an interesting look into the busy life of the man behind the mask, Chris Sievey.

The life of a superstar, eh?

There are a ton of mini-strips in here, including two full pages of them. Over these two pages alone we have the return of Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse to strip form, Zootown, Harry the Head, Doctor Mooney He’s Completely Looney, a GBH Madvertisement, a one-off strip by Charlie Brooker called A Day in the Life of a Typical Schoolboy and the first strip of a perennial favourite, Wally of the West. Oh, plus the weekly funny newsagent coupon.

I want to show you a few of these in quick succession and it’s been difficult to decide which ones to pick out from this brilliant selection. I’ll begin with Charlie’s Typical Schoolboy, simply because it’s so daft.

GBH returns with a tiny madvert with big prices. Their special modelling clay promises plenty of “steaming” fun from the offset, so I’m sure you can draw your own correct conclusions as to what the product actually is. There are so many jokes following on from the theme of that ‘clay’, including the variety of colour schemes and even a special free gift and another dig at radio DJ Gary Davies (also see Outlet-By-The-Sea).

I’m not sure who wrote it but the couple of tiny illustrations are by Steve Gibson, so given past examples in the weeklies of his work with Charlie on quizzes and the like I’m going to assume Brooker wrote this one too.

My eyes lit up and I’m sure I had a great big grin across my face when I saw our next mini-strip, the first appearance of Ed McHenry’s Wally of the West. The character would appear in 12 OiNKs altogether, sometimes more than once in an issue and was a main staple during this final year of the comic. Often accompanied by his long-suffering friend Fungus, Wally was a series of short gags about a very dimwitted cowboy set in the American Wild West of the past.

The jokes revolved around his stupidity which might not sound that original, but Wally had two things going for him. The first was the setting, which gave it a unique feel and opened it up to new ideas. The second was the most important though, Ed himself. Creator of many quizzes and one-off strips, Ed was now beginning to move into his own serials having also recently created Igor and the Doctor which was an exciting prospect for any fans of his work so far in OiNK.

Back in 1988 Beano reached its 50th anniversary, after The Dandy had the previous year and the first combined celebratory book had been released in 1987. I actually received that book myself for that Christmas, when I also got the first OiNK! Book, although I do think the Dandy/Beano tome was originally for my brother but he’d grown out of comics by the time Santa came to town (as a lot of us mistakenly do at some point before correcting course again). In fact, at the same time I was reading DC Thomson’s book my other annual was making lots of jokes at its expense!

This wasn’t going to stop anytime soon by the looks of this week’s newsagent reservation coupon by Patrick Gallagher.

I’ve one more little mini-strip I want to show you but I’ll finish with it after I round up this review first. From the brilliant front cover which showed right there on the shelf OiNK didn’t follow any of the traditional comic rules, to its huge array of mini-strips and strong one-offs, this is by far the best of the weekly editions so far! In fact, it could easily be one of the best issues of the whole run up to this point. I remember being very excited at getting OiNK every single week from issue 50 onwards as a child and that remains true today.

Even though I know there are only nine weeklies left until we have to wait much longer between issues, I’m still just as excited at the prospect of those to come as I was 35 years ago. To wrap up this excellent issue we even get a tiny little Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse strip, something we haven’t seen in the regular comic in a long time. They used to introduce every issue, or would pop up in multi-page strips now and again, but for a long time now have been relegated to the Grunts page, so it’s nice to see Ian Jackson bring them to life again. This time, however, it’s not written by Mark Rodgers as usual, but Kev F Sutherland. Thanks for bringing them back, Kev.

OiNK #54’s review will be here on Saturday 11th March 2023.