Tag Archives: Simon Thorp

OiNK! #29: MUSiC TO MY EARS

Okay, so full disclosure before we kick off this review: I bloody love 80s music! During that decade, as the youngest of five children I heard a constant stream of music coming from the bedrooms of my siblings. Sunday afternoons would find them all in one bedroom listening to the radio chart show, and Top of the Pops gathered the family together every week (usually with complaints from the parents). One-by-one as my brother and sisters moved out in the 90s they’d leave their cassettes behind and I began to discover my own musical tastes. Decades later songs from the 1980s fills up the majority of my Apple Music library.

So with that in mind I’m very happy to introduce you to #29 of OiNK, the Nasty, Noisy Music Issue which kicks off with another fun Ian Jackson cover and more free postcards. Having Ian’s jagged, colourful Uncle Pigg serenading critic Mary Lighthouse promises much hilarity inside and it’s not a spoiler to say that promise is well kept. Prolific OiNK cartoonist Lew Stringer brings his two famous creations Pete and his Pimple and Tom Thug to the pieces of card tucked away in the centre of the comic, and thus began pimples and bird droppings zooming around the world’s postal services in the summer of ’87.

Upon opening the comic the first thing I saw on the Grunts page was an apology to a Madonna fan club for a cheeky reference to the pop star back in #16, the previous musically-theme Pop Music Issue. You can see the original ‘Celebrity Lookalike’ they ran with the so-called apology underneath. Of course, the club members should’ve known better, or perhaps they would’ve fully expected Uncle Pigg to make a joke of it somehow. But they definitely should’ve provided their address, that bit of ridicule was completely their own fault.

I always loved the variety of input from readers on the Grunts pages and this is a great example. If you ever featured in the pages of OiNK do drop me a line in the comments here or on the blog’s social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook). I’ve a list of every contribution made by readers so I’ll happily dig yours out. I have to say I do particularly like the ‘Set of LPs’ promo here too.

Just a few turns of the page later there’s the latest photo story but this one has some very special guest stars. Post-punk band The Mekons were headlined by Jon Langford, a musician and artist who had already contributed some brilliantly anarchic art to OiNK. He and Marc Riley are good mates and at the time were putting together a tribute album to Johnny Cash, an album that’s even been attributed to reviving Cash’s career! (The cover of which was drawn by Jon with help from Mike Taylor, an editorial assistant and artist on OiNK.)

For this issue Jon wasn’t just going to draw a strip, he was going to star in it and he brought his bandmates with him. Going by the name The Mekoneros it took place in the Wild West (filmed in Yorkshire) and was set to a song about ‘The Devil’s Herd of Pigs’. Jon himself stars as Bad Jake and looks to be having the best time gurning to the camera and, as with all OiNK photo strips, exaggerating every movement and story beat.

This wouldn’t be the last time we’d see The Mekons in a photo story either, they’d come back to fight off dinosaurs (well, cheap dinosaur toys) in a trip to the distant past in that typical OiNK fashion of not being convincing whatsoever. From memory it’s a good ‘un so I’ll most likely be including it here when the time comes. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.

Jimmy (The Cleaver) Smith’s look was perfect, a fantastically creepy design that thrilled the young pig-loving readers

Next up Tony Husband pens a ghost story which is brought to the page by artist Les ‘Lezz’ Barton. It keeps all of the usual trappings of a ghost story while weaving in the theme of the issue and having a genuinely laugh-out-loud ending. A staple of ghost stories are the lone figures found to return time and again to one particular place, often performing a particular action from their life or accompanied by a horrible, terrifying noise, perhaps related to the moment of their death or a past traumatic event. 

I love Tony’s take on this idea with it’s fresh twist, while also answering the question of how exactly would you describe the noice bagpipes make?! Tony expertly plays up to traditional ghost stories and stereotypes with affection and gentle digs, from the initial set up to the overuse of the phrase “the noo”, with that ending providing the biggest laugh of course. 

Jeremy Banx brings us a Butcher Watch Re-update (after all a simple ‘Update’ or ‘Part Two’ is just too normal) on the whereabouts of notorious butcher (and the comic’s in-house nemesis) Jimmy ‘The Cleaver’ Smith. Now established as a firm fan favourite, Jimmy would appear randomly for the rest of the comic’s run, even in a regular strip in the weekly issues as the villain of a piece about a famous butcher hunting pig. Jimmy’s look was perfect, a fantastically creepy design that thrilled the young pig-loving readers.

That panel with the caption about the possibility of him being in the reader’s house, while he silently clambers in through an open window at night is especially unsettling. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a criticism about unsettling images in a kid’s comic, not at all, we lapped this up! We loved the shudder up our spines that strips like this gave us and the more horrific Jimmy’s antics were the better! Of course, there was never anything actually unsuitable, he was more like our version of a good Doctor Who villain for the kids; someone to thrill us from the safety of our comic’s pages.

Just before we move on I had to include another of Jeremy’s classic characters, Mr Big Nose. Co-editor Tony Husband once told me he loved Jeremy’s work so much because he would just let his mind go wherever it led, and that’s just the best way of describing his OiNK work. Here, Mr Big Nose is putting on a sold-out concert where he hums popular songs, because of course he would.

The joke is right there in the first panel of the strip and it’s just played out again and again over the next four. But it doesn’t get stale. In fact that’s what I find so funny about it, how we get example after example of the ridiculous set up. Genius. As always.

Other highlights this issue include educating the young ‘uns about classic music with Beethoven, in The Golden Trough Awards piano lessons bite back, there’s a special (and I quote) “Psy-Psy-ss-Psycho-o Gr-Gr-an-Gran Rap’ and Helen Jones and Graham Exton make cameos (whether they like it or not!) in Hadrian Vile.

Madonna’s face isn’t the only link back to #16’s pop music theme. That issue also had the most unique competition I’ve ever seen in a comic, to win a pop concert in your own home. Le Lu Lus were fans of OiNK and contacted the team about collaborating. This ultimately resulted in Martin Benster from Pretwich and his friends (as well as his poor mum) watching a performance of the band in the comfort of their own house. Best of all this wasn’t just announced on the Grunts page, instead a full strip was created so Martin could actually appear in the comic, with his mum as part of the punchline at the end.

On the back cover is a glorious colour pin up from Simon Thorp and it’s just the first in a line of spoof movie posters that would become fan favourites over the next several months. From RoboChop to Butcherbusters, Simon’s brilliant take on popular movies with a piggy twist are some of the most requested pages for inclusion in this blog. He kicks off his semi-regular series with The Sownd of Music.

Simon even includes credits, with everything reworded into piggy puns and ploppy parodies, right down to the little production company name beside the title and his take on Cinemascope. Back when movie posters were all hand-painted rather than photographs these really felt close to the original designs. However, even with all that hard work Simon has put into creating that brilliant image I laughed the most at the simplest little joke, the movie’s certificate; adding just one lower case ‘i’ ends the issue with one of its best gags.

That’s us for another two weeks. The next issue of OiNK is very special indeed. Do you remember those silly award categories readers were asked to send in nominations for back in the Hogmanay issue at the start of the year? It’s nearly time to find out how they all voted. It’s a who’s-who of 80s celebrities and culture, all brought to life by none other than Spitting Image! It’s an absolute hoot and the highlights will be here in the next review from Monday 13th June 2022.

OiNK! #27: OFF THE LEASH

Last issue aside we’ve had an almost unbroken run of Ian Jackson covers (including the Holiday Special) and his latest introduces us to the Big, Soft Pets Issue. I’ve always loved pets, even though we never really had any when I was a child, but nowadays I look after a late friend’s cat regularly and if I’m out and about and come across one everything stops while I chat to them in the hope of a little pet on their head. With lavatory humour right there on the front page (quite literally) it’s a funny start to the comic’s second year. Unsurprisingly, there are no pet pigs inside, they were on an equal footing with us in the world by now.

Last month in #23‘s review I told you about a time back at school when a friend erupted in the middle of a class and narrowly escaped getting into trouble because of OiNK. Then just a few weeks ago I explained how a similar situation led to a great deal of embarrassment for me as an adult in a hospital waiting room. We’re continuing the trend here because I’d forgotten how the following Vernon the Vet page produced yet another moment like these back in my school days. There’s a theme here, isn’t there? Can you guess which part of this resulted in a friend going into an uncontrollable giggle fit?

Well of course it was the moment Vernon fed medication to the wrong end of a St Bernard! Vernon had appeared in three of the early issues in tiny little entries, sometimes squeezed in next to a strip with advice for pet owners. Obviously his tips were always terrible and very funny, so it was great to see him upgraded to a full page, drawn here by Wilkie (Eric Wilkinson), who wasn’t with the comic when the character originally appeared. Unfortunately, apart from this very page being reprinted in the final edition (the OiNK Summer Collection, released in 1990) this would be the last we’d ever see of Vernon.

The promo for this issue in #26 featured Roger Rental so it’s rather strange to see he’s not actually present. However, his artist Ian Knox certainly is as he puts his talents to use in bringing a Tony Husband script to life. The story features a one-off character called Neville Stockport, otherwise known as superhero The Amazing Crablad. Ian’s work is easily identifiable but in this particular strip there are instances where I felt like he could’ve been subconsciously channelling his inner John Geering, which is never a bad thing obviously!

I love Ian’s work, always have, and I’m not saying this was the case, it just reminds me of the toothless great white shark Gums created for Monster Fun and originally drawn by Roy Davis. I knew the strip from the pages of Big Comic Fortnightly which reprinted later stories which John drew and I get that same energy here. Neville wouldn’t make another appearance in OiNK for obvious reasons.

This would be the last we’d see of these kinds of stories, and Daz himself, until the final issue

It’s been a while since we’ve read a nice, sweet bedtime story illustrated by Daz (Dave Skillin). These were such a common experience last year, the first appearing in the premiere issue. It’s a bit of a recurring theme with Daz for there to be some form of magical item (or this case an animal) and for the protagonist’s surname to rhyme with it, usually by just changing the first letter, resulting in a ridiculous name of course. In #1 we had Billy Bat and his Magic Hat, here we’ve got a magic kangaroo, so naturally Bangaroo is the person we end up with!

As usual it’s all told with rhyming captions and seems like a normal children’s story until about halfway through, when it suddenly takes a turn for the unexpected. To say the least! This would actually be the last we’d see of these kinds of stories, and Daz himself, until the very final issue, #68. So it’s just as well this one is so good and it’s all down to that very final caption where we find the traditional moral of the tale ( and I thought Graham Exton‘s puns were good/bad).

I hope you groaned and/or laughed as much as I did. This issue has so many highlights but I’ve painstakingly chosen a few to give you a sense of the issue as a whole. Frank Sidebottom’s guide to pets is as unique as you’d expect and his depiction of what’s really under the surface of those Loch Ness monster sightings is fantastic. Burp‘s internal organs’ independence takes a bold new leap and I’m not sure what’s funnier, his liver being a supervillain or the fact the disguise actually worked.

A rather strange addition is Daft Dog because it’s exactly the same joke as the Henry the Wonder Dog strip from #13, and there’s a lovely double-page spread for Zootown‘s pet show which contains this funny little gag below. Finally, Lashy the Wonder Pig from #18 makes a welcome return with his first of many name changes to Laffie. While it’s just as ridiculous as last time I adore this panel which brings a lovely little shadowy sunset atmosphere to the hilarity and a little sense of the heroic to the pig in question.

There’s a treasure trove of smaller strips here. While that could be said of every edition of OiNK, they’re of a particularly high standard this time with many memorable entries that have stood the test of time inside my ageing memory. The fact they’re so tiny and still stand out so much is testament to their quality and the genius of their writers and cartoonists. Out of all of these the largest is (suitably enough) David Haldane’s Hugo the Hungry Hippo. A disaster for all mankind, he takes a break from eating our cities this issue to show us just how lovable he could also be.

The quarter-page mini-strips this issue, those between one and three panels in length and guaranteed to produce a quick laugh, nail it so perfectly. Always a great addition to any OiNK, this issue by design or coincidence they’re all classics. I’ve selected just three of them to show you what I mean and first up is Davy FrancisDerek Blinge.

One panel, one line of dialogue, one funny facial expression and we’re done! Davy’s quick wit on full display

Originally written by Davy to be drawn by Ed McHenry, Ed was ill at the time and waiting for a triple bypass operation. With a few scripts written, when Ed became sick co-editor Mark Rodgers asked Davy to draw them instead. The name was also changed from ‘Plinge’ to the now familiar ‘Blinge’ to keep them separate but as it turned out only two of the scripts would see print, in this issue and the second Holiday Special and both drawn by Davy, so in the end we never did see any ‘Plinge’ strips drawn by Ed. This first appearance is very much classic Davy!

Below that is another Davy creation, Doctor Mad-Starkraving. First appearing in Greedy Gorb three issues ago this was the first time he got his own little corner of the comic. One panel, one line of dialogue, one funny facial expression and we’re done! Davy’s quick wit on full display here. Just brilliant. The doctor would reappear another six times, four of those towards the end of OiNK’s run in the monthlies. Then lastly for these highlights there’s a one-off which will have an air of the familiar for two reasons.

Anyone familiar with Whizzer and Chips (or indeed Big Comic Fortnightly where I knew him from) will remember Sid’s Snake, the regular cover star whose pet snake was a ginormous but friendly snake. For OiNK, Jake’s Snake makes a little fun of the premise, even including a pattern on the snake that’s a riff on the original. The art style may be familiar to some too, those initials in the second panel standing for Simon Thorpe who is best known today for being one of the editorial team behind Viz, which he has worked on since the time of OiNK. He’d contribute to 22 issues of our piggy publication altogether, most fondly remembered for his gorgeous spoof movie posters, so look out for some of them in future reviews.

OiNK writer Graham Exton talked to me once about the inspiration behind the strip, namely Sid’s Snake and how it would often be referred to as “that bloody snake” by writers because it was so difficult to come up with something original and genuinely funny for. As such, few liked working on the strip and so it would be given to new writers as a way of proving themselves, but mainly because no one else wanted to do it!

Steve Gibson returns with another very funny selection of little drawings and captions (see also his Watch the Skies from #25) and this time he brings us a fascinating selection of Amazing But True facts from the world of nature, the first example being my particular favourite. Expecting the cheetah fact to be reflected we instead get more information than we possibly wanted about an elephant “doing a ton”. Surprising, inventive and funny, Steve will return to OiNK more and more regularly I’m very happy to say.

That’s almost your lot from this issue but the back page had one more big surprise in store for pig pals. Finally, 16 issues after they last appeared came news of the next Street-Hogs story, Day of the Triffics (which had actually been referenced way back in #11). As a child I’d missed out on their first adventure so to me originally this may not have been the exiting return it was advertised as, but the artwork and the premise presented here was certainly enough.

Now in 2022 I can’t wait, both from the perspective of a Street-Hogs fan and of someone who has seen more than one version of Day of the Triffids in the intervening years. Take that story and place it into the hands of writer Mark Rodgers and artist J.T. Dogg and this could be the best thing OiNK has produced yet. Time will tell. The wait is sadly a little longer than we’d like though. The ‘Hogs wouldn’t be seen again until #31 with a special poster celebrating their return before the cliffhanging spoof kicks off in #32. I just know it’ll be worth the wait.

Before then we’ve got an ample supply of superb content coming up, with #27‘s (the Flying Issue) review here from Monday 16th May 2022. Watch out for a memorable spoof of a certain high-flying, building-leaping superhero as he hogs the limelight on the cover and in a brilliant strip inside. Don’t miss it, subscribe to the blog (click on the link in the bottom corner as you scroll) or follow along on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to be notified when there are any additions to the blog. See you next time!