Friday, 17 October 2014

#39: PUZZLING PARODY


The Great Games and Puzzles Issue has left me with a very simple set of decisions on what to include this issue.  Usually I struggle, but with a comic chock full of daft puzzles and the like, I just had to include as many as I could.  So, less strips as it were and instead prepare to interact with Oink! in the way we did with our comics back in the pre-digital age - with pen, paper and the post!

The cover here is superb and it was great fun to see Oink!'s legendary artist Ian Jackson take on drawing other artists' characters.  Recently on the Facebook Group Psycho Gran creator David Leach actually saw this for the first time when pig pal Becky Armstrong shared a photograph of some of her issues.  Becky kindly sent David the issue as he'd never seen the little old dear (I mean Psycho Gran, not Becky by the way) drawn by Ian before and didn't know she'd made the cover!  Even after all these years this comic still surprises.

You were always in for a treat with an Oink! when it had a Jackson cover and his take on Burp, Gran, Frank and Harry were indeed a surprise and hyped up the pages within for my young brain.  Inside on page two we see the start of another running gag, with Harry the Head lost and Uncle Pigg kicking him off through the pages.  We've had jokes like this before, with our own editor lost in time throughout an issue's pages in #24 and the custard pie joke of last issue.  It's probably because this usually rare feature appeared only one fortnight previous that makes this attempt feel a bit forced, but Harry's own page is included which you'll see below soon.

Just a brief side note first though.  Remember I said something would happen around this time which would affect Oink!?  Well, as described in #35, Oink! was placed into a sales group with a few other Fleetway titles and one of these was Nipper, a humour comic for a younger audience.  It hadn't unfortunately found that audience, and so it was that in September of 1987 Nipper was cancelled and merged into Buster.  The comics sharing Oink!'s group were falling one-by-one.  What was Uncle Pigg to do?  You'll find out soon.

The issue is chock full of daft quizzes and puzzles and yet another Oink! board game, Hogopoly.  The instructions for this take up the majority of page 2 and just below it this quick strip from the duo who teamed up so successfully last issue, Marc Riley's Snatcher Sam and Chris Sievey's Frank Sidebottom, set up the tone of the pages in your hand:


Before the gaming goodness a couple more strips for you.  One I just had to include is obviously part two of The Spectacles of Doom sequel, The Monocles of Mayhem from Tony Husband and Andy Roper.  Last time we saw Endor and the Singing Sword head off for a new adventure and it looked like they were going to be enormously outnumbered by the evil Gash (ahem) and his multiple hordes of henchmen.  Time to even the odds somewhat:


Yes, this Spectacle story is indeed lasting longer than the two issues the previous tale managed, and folks I caved and looked ahead!  >>SPOILER<< It's here for a whopping five issues, right through to #42! >>SPOILER ENDS<< (As if anybody is going to think that's a spoiler!  It's hype!  Gotta get you all coming back here somehow...!)

Tony's freeform cartooning is well known to this day, with regular contributions to Private Eye, a recent fantastic cartoon-based book about his father's dementia, and even the occasional celebrity (to us) appearance on the BBC's Countryfile, amongst rafts of other work!  Check out his website on the left there sure.

But anyway, to return to that "freeform cartooning" description, we're all used to his seemingly random work with Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins etc., but here his scripting shines through.  His sense of fast-paced and surprising humour is also taken to new heights when coupled with such gloriously detailed artwork from Andy.  You don't expect such quick succession of jokes when reading a strip with such art and it's a pleasure to read.  If we ever got the chance to see a reprint collection of Oink! all five parts of this joined together would be one of the main attractions, no doubt.

Remember to come back in two weeks for the middle part.

For now, Rubbish Man returns and I know there'll be certain blog readers out there who'll have let out a little "whoop" upon reading that.  Haldane's creation has been with us since the very beginning and now he seems to be permanently attached to his sidekick, Boy Blunder.  This is no bad thing!  His first few appearances may have left us feeling like he was a temporary addition, but he's settled in well and having someone to banter with our hero now really adds something to the ongoing adventures.

Now, given the fact this is the Games and Puzzles Issue, what kind of baddie could our inept superheroes be facing this time around?  If you think back to a certain 60s television show there's only one possible answer there.  Even Rubbish Man himself knows that:


So now onto the main attraction - a selection of the brilliantly bizarre puzzle pages.  Of course EdMcHenry had to be involved, as he's provided us with some cracker ones in the past.  Some of these have featured in the blog too, which you can catch up on in the posts for #6, #9, #12, #15 and #23.  Given how great these have been it really was inevitable he'd be called upon again when we had a whole issue on the subject.

But this time he wasn't giving us the usual half-page of goodness, no.  How about a full page entitled Uncle Pigg Presents the Pig Pals' Picture Puzzle Parade Page?  If you were able to read that in one go without pausing you might just be able to get through what's to come:


I think you'll agree these are just as fresh and fun as when they first appeared.  Number two there was my particular favourite but there was simply no way to get them all - typical.  But Ed didn't have the monopoly on Oink! puzzlers this time around and other cartoonists were also on hand to bring their own unique style to the theme - namely Davy Francis and Lew Stringer (naturally).

There'll be a blog post up before the next issue which I'm particularly looking forward to sharing.  I had the chance to meet Davy Francis in person recently, and while it was only a brief half an hour (and a further five minutes or so this very morn') I can tell you the man is a true gent and I'm looking forward to meeting with him again properly to discuss the Oink! book.  That's a story for another time though so check back soon.

I was able to purchase a few pieces of his original artwork from him which you'll see in the aforementioned post soon, but one of the ones I saw but didn't unfortunately buy was of his creation Greedy Gorb (He'd Eat Anything!), and Gorb's very own puzzle maze:


Why on earth would I, who profess to be an Oink! fan, pass on such a wonderful opportunity?  You'll find out soon, but you won't be disappointed, believe me!

Lew now, and while Tom Thug has appeared in suitably stupid puzzles before in the comic, here he's not alone, Pete and his Pimple join in too for this issue's Pete's Pimply Puzzles!  Regular (and fan favourite) Pete may be relegated to a quarter of a page here but that was part of the joy of Oink!, you were excited to see how your favourite characters would appear each time.  No other comic would mix it up anywhere near as much as Oink! would.  Most of the time other publications wouldn't even move a strip from one page number to another, never mind being a double-spread in some and a quarter-page puzzle section in another:


Now that you've touched your monitor with your nose and panicked when it wobbled, or have been blinded by the glare from your iPad at such close range, you can sit back again and prepare to engage your brain.  Then wipe it clean again, as you'll not exactly need it for Tom's Teaser Time:


More Stringer classics there, plain and simple.

Charlie Brooker joined the Oink! crew a while back now but it was only around this time in the comic's life, this Golden Age, where we'd see him contribute regularly, in fact in every single issue.  While he had his regular characters during the comic's run (we've seen Freddy Flop He Falls to Pieces already in #19) he also drew up some wonderful one-off gags too, such as Time for... A Game of Scrabble:


I've read online (though can't remember where and from what I recall it wasn't a verified source) that Charlie said later in life he was somewhat embarrassed by this early attempt at cartooning.  I really do hope this isn't true and in the course of my book I endeavour to find out.  His strips were fondly remembered before I even thought up this blog, with The Adventures of Death, Transmogrifying Tracey and Clint Gritwood the Trigger-Happy Cop amongst the many, many creations he came up with.  In fact it's amazing to see in future issues so much of his work taking up space, after all he was still at school at this time!  What a wonderful start to a career.  Expect much, much more from him as we continue with the blog.

Last but not least for this issue is Marc Riley's famous Harry the Head.  Always listed when people are asked to rhyme off Oink! characters Harry's latest adventure has once again been taking part over many issues.  It all comes to a head (ba-doom-tish) right here but don't be worrying about what all has happened so far, it was very much made up as it went along!  Harry has been through the wars in previous issues, and here he flew through this issue too, so the combination of these has left him somewhat deflated as you'll see.

However, I have an ulterior motive behind scanning this page in and that's to do with the competition featured.  Do you remember these guys?:


I do!  I had the American Football one!  Ah the memories.  I'm not sure why I chose that one, probably because he was just different.  I even remember there being a random Marvel UK one-off comic released too.  Even as a child it didn't read well and felt like a very desperate attempt to make some money off the back of the latest hit toy range.  But the toys themselves were good fun... for a while anyway.  You see, not being particularly sporty he didn't get played with much and I never got any of the others.  Oh well, the 80s were full of fads!

So you've had your brain taxed and next it'll be on to an issue which I remember as being a favourite from my youth.  I really hope it holds up!  The Halloween-themed Hair-Raising Issue will be on sale Friday 31st October.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

READ ON GET ON

Watch this:



When I was a child I discovered the world of comics through the very one this blog is based on.  That was when I was a mere 8 years old.  From there the world of these weekly, fortnightly and monthly treats opened up to me and the list of titles I collected from that age right up through my teens covered a wide variety of tastes.  At one point or another each of these were regular reads:

Oink!
Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends
Wildcat
The Real Ghostbusters
Transformers
Visionaries
Ring Raiders
Death's Head
The Sleeze Brothers
Havoc

I'm sure there were others, random issues here and there, but these were the ones I never missed an issue of once I began.  My parents, particularly my mum, would tut when a title went up 5p or turned weekly from fortnightly, but really they never complained about the load of comics that began to pile up around the house.

The reason was simple.

I was reading.

While I did have some Railway Series books and other children's titles beforehand which I enjoyed greatly, Oink! was a key reason why I fell in love with reading so much as a child, and I truly believe my love of comics back then lead on to that love of reading developing as it did as a teen and as an adult.

But, back in September this year it was truly shocking to read the following news story from the BBC, which highlighted the literacy levels of 11-year old children in the UK, with Northern Ireland coming off particularly poorly.  In case you're not aware, this blog's writer is based in Northern Ireland so it hit home with me somewhat:

Click on the picture to read the full news story

At the same time on Facebook some of the Oink! team were discussing the lack of decent comics out there at the moment for today's children.  Asides from The Beano and Toxic there's not an awful lot out there for this age range, with most comics now consisting of as little reading material as possible and a cheap, tacky toy shoved in a plastic bag.  This is so unlike back in the 1980s when I was growing up, when we'd a treasure trove of titles to choose from and each one was packed from front to back with plenty to read.  No stupid toys making up most of the retail price, no filler material of lame colouring-in pages, "mini-posters" (lazy screen grabs from a movie) or huge over-the-top fonts which amount to a couple of seconds worth of reading per page.

It's another reason why it's so heartwarming to hear of children (sons and daughters of Oink!'s pig pals) discovering this blog and enjoying the comic scans so much.

READ ON.  GET ON.

A friend of mine, Corrine, works at Save the Children and they're determined to do something about this.  I feel very strongly about kids having good quality reading material and the report they've produced details the huge difference this can make in a child's life.  Libraries are closing (the local one in Whitehead here is facing huge cutbacks and possible closure), too many parents are shoving mobile games in front of their children, or just turning the TV or internet on, and the comic shelves are a hopeless pile of gimmicks and merchandising tied into the latest blockbuster movie.

(Don't get me wrong, some videogames and television shows are indeed very educational and studies have shown how they can help.  But not when those forms of entertainment aren't carefully chosen and instead the first thing that comes to hand is that evening's electronic babysitter.)

We need to get kids reading again and you can help.  Below is a link to the Save the Children website and the page detailing their Read On Get On campaign.  As they say, even ten minutes a day can make a huge difference and it's time we helped.  There's a petition to sign to tell our politicians this is something we need to work on, and details of how you can volunteer too, to help out those disadvantaged families who don't have easy access to suitable reading material:


Save the Children are also touring!  This is where another reason comes into play as to why I'm posting about this here:


Corrine and her team will be at Castlecourt in the heart of Belfast this Saturday to promote this worthy campaign and it's absolutely free!  Come on, you'll get to meet the Gruffalo!!  I'm sure that's enough reason for a lot of adults to go, never mind the kids!

Behind this great event there's a serious message here and one which I feel is important to get out there.  So if you can make it to Belfast go along and bring your children for a great day out, and there are plenty of places to buy a few books on your way home for the young 'uns afterwards if they're feeling so inspired.

If you can't make it to Belfast, check out the Save the Children website above for information of where else the tour is heading, sign the petition, volunteer, or just help spread the word through all those social media thingies you all use.

One read of the report, or even just the BBC story above, should be inspiration enough.  It's time to help the children of today get on in life... by reading.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

NEXT ISSUE: RIDDLE ME THIS


Prepare your pea brains, muscle your mental agilities and get ready to concentrate on a comic like never before.  Then realise it's Oink! so the puzzles in tomorrow's post aren't exactly going to be 'proper' teasers, and instead just look forward to another issue - #39, the Great Games and Puzzles Issue.