Tag Archives: Steve McGarry

OiNK! #4: WORLD CUP COMiC

Full disclosure: I am not a football fan in any shape or form. But that hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for this fourth issue of OiNK, released during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. It kicks things off with this Steve McGarry cover of Harry the Head being on the receiving end of said kick, however there’s not an awful lot of football-themed content inside, especially compared to issue three or those to come. The comic was still finding its trotters at this stage.

Anyone who grew up around the time of OiNK should be aware of the Sue Townsend books The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 and the subsequent TV adaptation. Pig pals should also know where I’m going with this. It’s finally time to welcome a favourite character of many readers and one who would appear in a whopping 63 out of the 76 OiNKs published over its lifetime. With Mark Rodgers writing and Ian Jackson illustrating, this was the tale of a young boy intellectual. Fascinated by bogies and creepy crawlies, disgusted by girls, he detested school and thought he was smarter than everyone else, although the most atrocious spelling ever to grace a children’s comic belied this. It is of course The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile – Aged 7 5/8 (yearƨ).

Before the days of desktop publishing this must’ve been very fiddly to put together but the end result is hilarious and was appreciated by all who read and enjoyed his strips. As the comic progressed so did his age, which you’ll see gradually creep up over the next couple of years. This real time nature was unique and at one stage his mum even became pregnant, actually remaining so for a period of time instead of having the sudden appearance of a baby sister to shake things up.

Alongside the diary Hadrian would write guides to a variety of subjects like “Tellyvision” and the “Orkistra” to share his apparent superior knowledge about everything. He’s one of the characters who pops into many people’s heads when they think back to OiNK and rightly so. Watch out for more from him as we go along.


“Each story is guaranteed to end with a bang. Billy Bang is pure dynamite! This is an explosive character.”

Mike Knowles, creator of Billy Bang

One character I only saw a couple of times in my youth was Pete’s Pup. Remembered by many as a regular, he starred in half a dozen of these early issues before initially disappearing and it’s surprising to find out he only appeared in nine issues altogether, including one reprint. The monstrous shaggy mutt must have made quite the impact on young minds. Physically, he definitely did so for the family he lived with.

Pete’s Pup was brought to life by late cartoonist Jim Needle and was his sole contribution to the comic. A resident of Jericho in Oxford, Jim was a regular newspaper cartoonist and graphic artist, working in many local publications. His signature style was energetic and larger-than-life, much like his canine creation. Jim sadly passed away in May of 1997.

This issue also sees the introduction of another iconic character, even if he was just another star’s pet. Satan the Cat would sometimes get his own mini-strip under Tom Thug‘s but most often would be seen in the background of the main story. The Street-Hogs‘ informant Hoggy Bear is under attack from the butcher mafia boss’ plastic bags, Harry the Head‘s star turn on the cover comes at a price and in The Golden Trough Awards: Vengeance of the Gnome-Men we have possibly the creepiest set of garden ornaments courtesy of Ian Jackson. Just a few of this issue’s highlights.

Billy Bang is another of those characters rhymed off by former readers when they reminisce about OiNK, but unlike Pete’s Pup he became a mainstay of the comic and appeared in almost half of the issues, sprinkled through the run. Originally created by Mike Knowles but killed by a variety of other writers, he’d later be drawn by Eric ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson.

However, in these early editions he was brought to life (and destroyed and brought back to life and destroyed and brought back to life) by Shiloe aka Simon Donald, co-creator and later co-editor of Viz and the man behind such characters as Sid the Sexist. The name he used to sign his work came from a band he was a member of called Johnny Shiloe’s Movement Machine.

Every issue something would make Billy angry, this anger would build and he’d eventually explode. Sometimes this would result in a pun, sometimes the aftermath of his blowing up would be the gag, as in the strip above. Inconceivably he’d somehow be whole again the next issue, just in time for the same thing to happen all over again. In lesser hands the fact this was the sum of his strip would’ve resulted in a short run, but somehow the writers kept coming up with new jokes for this simplest of premises.

Mike himself seemed surprised at the longevity of his creation when he waxed lyrical about Billy in a short piece for the Comics Bulletin website in 2015.

On the inside back cover is possibly my favourite page of OiNK, period.

Tom Thug fans were in for a treat this issue. Not only did he have his usual full-page strip (complete with the first appearance of Satan), he would also pop up again in a half-page section called Play Football the Tom Thug Way! Using his usual powers of persuasion and his excellent football skills, Tom shows us how to guarantee success at the game. We all knew that wouldn’t be the case, but it’s always fun to see it all fall apart for a bully.

This marks the only occasion Tom was written by someone other than his creator Lew Stringer. Obviously Lew would bring it to the page but in this instance the script itself was written by co-editor Mark Rodgers.

On the inside back cover is possibly my favourite page of OiNK, period. I’m a little obsessed with sharks and their preservation, thanks mainly to Steven Spielberg’s seminal summer blockbuster (and its 3D sequel) and the effect it had on me as a teen. To this day it’s still the perfect blockbuster movie, inspiring so many copycats and, more importantly for us, spoofs and jokes on the subject.

While I can hold up several characters as perfect examples of this very favourite comic of mine, if someone were to ask for just one strip, one single cartoon to sum up OiNK’s humour it would be this glorious full-page, four-panel silent offering. Just keep an eye on all the little details, especially that seagull.

I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at this over the years but it’s no exaggeration to say it still makes me laugh. It’s just the perfect example, isn’t it? All the incidental details like the fish blowing up its own beach ball, the noise made when it’s let go, the innocent-looking seagull circling in the water, the running starfish and the fact a giant white shark pops out of such shallow waters. The facial expressions, the jagged lines, the colours, all combine into something that’s so perfectly ‘OiNK’.

For a comic whose subject was something I’m not a fan of this has been an excellent issue. Indeed, if this had been the first issue I’d spotted on the newsagent’s shelves when I was a child I might not have picked it up! That would’ve been criminal, because I’d have missed out on some genuine laugh-out-loud moments here. On that note, it’s time to close this issue and impatiently await the next, which centres itself around a spooky Make-Your-Own-Adventure game involving Barry the Butcher and The Unfair Funfair.

That next issue is up for review on Monday 28th June.

OiNK! #2: STiCKiNG iT TO THE ROYALS

it’s time for the second issue of the world’s funniest comic and the cover sets the ball rolling in typical OiNK fashion. Using the same design as the preview issue, an artist’s illustration framed above Patrick Gallagher‘s Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse, this has proved to be very memorable over the years amongst fans.

Let’s try to forget about how old the image of those two boys makes us feel and instead concentrate on the funny rendering by Steve McGarry. This was all to promote another free gift, a set of blank sticky badges with letters, numbers and images which could be rubbed on to create anything the young readers wanted. They’re a bit like those old pretend tattoo rub-on transfers we had as kids, which never transferred in one piece and would look a right mess on our arms.

Of course there were other cheeky examples of what could be created inside the issue and a request for pig pals to send in their ideas, which we’ll see later. As we open the issue it’s again up to critic Mary Lighthouse and editor Uncle Pigg to introduce the issue, this time by following on directly from Mary’s quite startled discovery on the front page.

It’s not often you’ll see a Royal fart joke. Again, Ian Jackson‘s artwork is the star here and he really does epitomise everything OiNK was about. I’d call it a breath of fresh air but that might not be the case given the subject of Mark Rodgers‘ script. Mary’s face in the final panel brings out a childish grin on my own face every time I see it.

It’s time to meet another regular star of the comic. Weedy Willy was introduced in the preview issue as “So Pathetic It’s Embarrassing”. Cowardly, insanely weak and lacking any kind of social skills, Willy’s continued optimism led to us cheering him on through mishap after mishap. Most of these would also involve his unrequited love of local girl Mandy, who’d often fall foul of his misplaced affections.

While Willy’s weediness (expertly rendered by Mike Green) was the subject of the humour, he was never portrayed as a victim. Yes, we could laugh at his inability to lift the lightest of objects or his fears of the cutest, cuddliest babies, but whenever the strip put him up against a bully he’d always come out on top, even if it was inadvertently. His positivity was infectious and the moral was clear, albeit delivered in an original OiNK fashion.

[Harry the Head] paid tribute to the Dambusters, believe it or not.

The comic had an anarchic feel to it which I always loved, not only in its humour and artwork but also in how it was organised. Other humour comics would have certain strips on the same pages every issue, always taking up the same amount of space. OiNK mixed it up, placing its regulars on different pages and often giving them varying amounts of space from issue to issue. Co-editor Mark Rodgers said strip length was one of the rules they no longer wished to be confined by.

This variation carried over to the one-off strips, which could be anything from a quick three-panel gag to a detailed multipage story. From this issue, this two-thirds of a page strip is one such example and a definite highlight.

Burp and Mr Big Nose creator Jeremy Banx‘s Kangaroo Kid leaps (sorry, I couldn’t resist) off the bright yellow page, ending with the reader actually taken by surprise with the blatantly obvious fact he hadn’t exited the phone booth yet. A brilliant piece of misdirection and comic timing.

Compared to the newsprint comics of the day, OiNK’s shiny paper was a revelation. While action comics such as Transformers were mostly printed on full colour glossy paper, OiNK’s was much bigger and of a higher grade, meaning even these one-colour pages feel more vibrant when held. Its printing process also meant black and white strips didn’t have to be quite so simple anymore and shades of grey could be used to really bring them to life in a way we hadn’t seen before in humour comics.

But of course, OiNK also had more striking full colour pages than any other funny comic and none would use this to greater effect than J.T. Dogg, so while we’re on the subject here’s his latest Superstar Poster, Frankenswine!

I know I’ve included one of these before but how could I not show off this masterpiece? I hadn’t discovered OiNK at this stage but I remember having these up on my wall back in the late 80s, from a mix of issues given to me by my cousin and reprints from much later in the run. I have a couple up on the walls of my home office now, I’ll let you know which as we go along.

Other highlights of this issue include the pun-tastic pigs The Street-Hogs as they continue to fight Don Poloney, not-so-subtle in-jokes in Cowpat County, a wonderful full colour Burp and a Rocky-inspired Golden Trough Awards, complete with catchy musical monologue. Be warned, you may not get the original tune out of your head after you read this.

One of the main contributors to OiNK had never worked in comics before, but was the lead singer of the band that received a little promo above in Cowpat County. Marc Riley is better known today as a BBC Radio 6 Music presenter, previously of Mark and Lard fame on Radio 1. Just for the record, our Marc was ‘Lard’.


“With Marc all hunched over dressed like this, passers-by and car drivers were stunned and puzzled.”

Tony Husband

An old friend of Patrick’s (still good friends with both him and fellow co-editor Tony Husband to this day) Marc could be heard singing on the free flexidisc from issue one and would star as Snatcher Sam in many photo stories, often appearing alongside Frank Sidebottom. Later stories are set outside or on makeshift sets, but in these early days Marc would be pasted onto hastily drawn backgrounds.

The Bully Who Went Bald is one such story. It also features Tony’s son Paul (previously seen in the preview issue) as Sam’s intended target and Patrick as an innocent airplane pilot who just happens to be passing by. The rough sketches and cut-and-paste nature adds to the amateurish look, which in itself highlights the fact these were spoofs of photo stories found in the likes of Eagle and women’s weeklies.

This behind-the-scenes photo has been shared by Tony, who said that after the shoot Paul walked down the lane holding Marc’s hand. “With Marc all hunched over dressed like this, passers-by and car drivers were stunned and puzzled”, says Tony.

We stick with Marc for the back page and our final highlight. Probably Marc’s most fondly remembered creation after Snatcher Sam was Harry the Head, the tale of an ordinary boy who just happened to be a disembodied head. In the preview issue Harry’s parents were also just heads but a later strip would change this to involve a genie, a greedy young boy and a lesson learnt.

Quite a severe lesson to learn! But Harry did just that and ended up kinder and less selfish, earning himself a good friend in Barney (who would diligently carry Harry around by the hair) and decided to live life to the full. Later he would go off on an adventure around the world over multiple issues, but his best strips were the self-contained ones where he’d use his predicament to his advantage, such as in this one which paid tribute to the Dambusters, believe it or not.

Who would’ve thought this crazy comic could be educational too. Well okay, I’m pushing it but this strip actually saw publication on the 43rd anniversary of the Dambusters raid, which occurred on the night of 16-17 May back in 1943.

With that we come to the end of our second review (third if you count the preview) of OiNK in this real-time 35th anniversary read through. The next issue is the first of the themed editions. These were another example of how OiNK stood out from the crowd and another reason it was a favourite among so many.

The first subject is space, so watch out for chicken aliens, pigs behind the moon and even a cameo from The Doctor. Issue three takes off on Monday 31st May and you can also check out the promo for it from tis issue.