Sunday, 25 January 2015

FRANKENTHING - NEW EBOOK FROM BANX

From the creator of Mr Big Nose,
Burp and Hector Vector and his Talking T-Shirt:


During 2014 Jeremy Banx shared some drawings and ideas on the Facebook page of the Oink! group there, even asking for fans' perspectives and opinions on a couple.  These were for a brand new ebook he was putting together about Dr Frankenstein and his new creation, the rodent-esque Frankenthing. Well the time has come and the book is available now on Amazon's Kindle service for a bargain £1.99.

It's a prose book with illustrations lavished in the kind of detail Banx fans have come to know and love, and the kind of narration he does so well.  It's an addictive read and you'll speed through the thirteen chapters and enjoy every single second of it.  Told in a quick-fire style, you're only ever a few sentences away from something funny or surreal, backed up with the most bizarre way of describing everything happening around our protagonist (my personal favourite being "his bottom quivered like a fried egg in an earthquake"), it paints quite the picture in your head.

Speaking of pictures I've included a couple already shared by Jeremy on the book's Facebook page, just as an example of what you can expect:




The story revolves around Dr Frankenstein creating a new friend for his lonely monster (as we go along we find out just how poorly he's been put together too) from the remains of a dead 'toy' brought into the castle by Igor the one-eared cat, bringing life to Frankenthing.  I don't want to go into too much detail of what happens, as part of the joy is reading this bizarre tale without knowing what's coming next.  But the fun really begins when Frankenstein leaves to go shopping, with the two creations and the cat left to their own devices (look out for the monster counting during hide and seek!).

"Laugh-a-minute" is a phrase bandied about far too much but it actually applies here.

Also included, surprisingly, are some appendices which are suddenly referred to at random points within the main story.  For example the first one takes a good long look at the historical contexts of the Frankenstein family emblem, every part getting more ludicrous than the one before.  I won't ruin the surprise of the other sections or the lengthy final appendix which you'll be tempted to try out for yourself!

I don't read many ebooks as I always prefer having the actual physical versions, but for self-published titles there's a wealth of great content out there in digital format.  Personally I only ever used iBooks for this, but for Frankenthing I downloaded the Kindle app for iPhone (it's free) and it couldn't be easier to buy it from the Amazon site.

So go on, all this hard work put in by one of Oink!'s most prolific creators and it's only £1.99?  What's stopping you?

Click here to buy

Click here for the FB page

Thursday, 22 January 2015

#47: BLOCKBUSTING ENTERTAINMENT


Told you didn't I?  An ugly, horrible cover.  By that I mean of course the fact Tony Husband's Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins is the cover star, I never meant the cover itself was ugly.  My my, did you pick me up wrong?

Anyway, it appears the first handful of Oink! Weekly covers have this yellow background thing going on and this and the next few do have rather simplistic covers which, while appealing to those of us who know the characters within, may not exactly appeal to that new readership Fleetway wanted by the changes it was making.  Inside, certain strips remain the same size and in the same place and there's a neater, crisper feeling to these first few weeklies.  In other words, the humour is there is spades within each panel of each strip, but the overall edge has been lost somewhat.  Will it regain it?  When the weeklies end with #62 we'll take a look back and compare them properly with the fortnightlies while we look forward to the monthlies.  But for now enough of all that talk, what's inside?

Last week I selected The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile - Aged 8 5/8 (years) as one of the issue's highlights.  As well as it being a funny strip it was also included for a superb little in-joke amongst the Oink! team, which I then completely forgot to even mention.  I've updated the post now, so nip back to see what I mean.  Well this time he's getting uploaded here too, as it's back to his always comical interactions with his new baby sister.

First appearing in the Happy Families issue (naturally) which was #37, I've fond memories of Hadrian teaching the innocent young baby the ways of the world in a way only he could.  Of course this would end up with him in all sorts of trouble, but I always loved how the baby came through it unscathed and upon occasion she was actually better at causing chaos than he was.  They were some of my favourite Oink! pages of all so here's another one in the ongoing saga, brought to you by his creators Mark Rodgers and Ian Jackson:


Now I recall after CITV on weekday afternoons a certain programme would be on which, while it was a question and answer quiz at its most basic, as a small child I watched avidly.  I hadn't a clue about any of the questions, neither did most of my family, but we still sat around together and enjoyed it - it was proper family-time entertainment.  It had one gimmick - a board of hexagonal shapes, each with a letter on it (or more than one in the 'Gold Rush'!... oooh 'citin'!) and the contestants had to connect one end of the board to the other, changing the letters to their team's colour if they got it right.  Tactical moves came into play alongside the answer-giving and let's not forget about that theme tune.

But let's do forget about that dance.

It was presented by this man:


The board and the late, great Bob Holness made the show.

But why am I going on about this?  Well because Pete and his Pimple were to appear on none other than Bustblockers (ahem) in this issue, but ace Oink! cartoonist Lew Stringer wasn't too convinced of his own attempts at a caricature of the great man above...

Can you tell?:


Interestingly this is a Pete strip written by Charlie Brooker (was there anything in Oink! he didn't have a hand in at one point or another?) for Lew and I think he's done a great job.  While Pete was always one of my favourites and I'm a huge fan of Lew's, reading back over these now it's always nice to see various writers and artists collaborating randomly throughout the comic's lifetime.  This only happened a few times for this particular strip, but ones such as Roger Rental and even Weedy Willy would be written by various people over their lifespan.  Even Harry the Head, in his new 3-panel quarter-page format was by now being written by Mark Rodgers rather than Marc Riley.

Interestingly, neither the Roger nor Willy characters are appearing in the weeklies so far, even though the latter would go on to the pages of Buster come November.

Speaking of collaborations, it's time for Lew to go from artist to writer now in the third exciting episode of Sherlock Hams and the Hog of the Baskervilles.  After being introduced to the supporting cast and doing away with the obvious butler suspect, the story has to do the inevitable and that's take Hams up to the moors:

Lew's script was brought to life by the talented Ron Tiner

If the scrawled message from the butler in his final death throes doesn't make you giggle then may I suggest you just give up on the blog right now and go and read something else instead, as there's simply no hope for you.

Moving on, sometimes a character is such a favourite it can feel like months since we saw them last on the blog when in reality it was only a few issues back.  In this case Tom Thug appeared twice in the post for the Christmas 1987 issue (#43) with both a strip and your own cut-out 'angel'.  Yet when I decided to include him this time around I was convinced it'd been a lot longer, and his large fanbase will probably agree that a few weeks is a long time to do without him.

Lew Stringer's perennial creation now has a particular full page to himself every single week (as does Pete) and for this issue the subject will be familiar to those readers who were there from day one - his bovver boots.  Tom was there right from the very beginning and his first blog appearance was with #4 where he was still trying to tie the laces of said boots, just like he'd been attempting since the preview issue.  It took a few more issues until Uncle Pigg himself lost it and threatened Tom with expulsion to Whizzer & Chips until he was able to do them up himself, albeit in a blind panic and he then couldn't undo them.

Well the boots are back to cause mayhem but be warned that last panel is rather disturbing:


At the time of writing this Tom has previously featured in no less than sixteen posts on here, a rather impressive number considering how many regulars, semi-regulars and one-offs Oink! would cram in each issue, particularly in the fortnightlies.  Only two other characters share the same amount of appearances on this site.  (Well, I'm not including Uncle Pigg there who has appeared in more posts, but far less actual strips.)  One of the others is Hadrian who you've also read about this issue, and the other is Jeremy Banx's Burp.

For a couple of months last year he appeared in almost every issue's write-up and with good reason, as the smelly alien from outer space was hitting the proverbial home run every single time, with a completely different (and somewhat gory) tale every issue.  The black humour poured out from the pages and I was simply left with no choice but to include them all.  There's even one which I couldn't include late last year as I'd already chosen too much for that issue's post and so had to made the hard decision to leave him out, purely because he'd been included so much already.  It was almost The Burp Blog at one stage.

But back he is and I'm so happy to see the style hasn't been watered down in Fleetway's attempt to bring in more young readers.  Anyone coming to Oink! with these weeklies hopefully lapped up this strange, different character and it's great fun to see his internal organs taking centre stage again.  Though where is his pet specimen from Uranus?:


Now if you're of roughly the same age as me you're bound to remember certain "boys' toys" (as they were known, but played with by both genders) of the era and the gimmicks some of them had.  Planes attached to rings you'd wear on your hands to make them 'fly' around your room.  Pull-back cars which never worked quite well enough on the deep shag carpets of the 80s.  Those little black stickers on Transformers we'd rub until our fingers were sore to see if an Autobot or Decepticon emblem appeared, even though the same emblem was moulded into the toy elsewhere (brilliantly pastiched in the first modern Transformers movie when Sam unknowingly climbs into Bumblebee for the first time).  Or how about action figures with holograms on their chest which didn't actually do anything other than look pretty in 3D when you'd interrupt your playing to hold them up to the light at exactly the right angle.

Holograms weren't the only gimmicks for action figures though.  Some had elastic bands inside so you could twist the torso then let it go for a powerful punch.  Some had levers to move eyes, or make eyes pop out to look frightened, or in the case of some of the more military-style toys they'd peculiar attachments.  Hooks, claws, webbed feet... the list was endless.  When the first live-action G.I. Joe movie came out they got around this by having the two main heroes don special futuristic all-encompassing suits, but no one actually had to live with a deadly-but-impractical weapon instead of a hand, leg, ear etc.

So thinking back to those toys you or your siblings played with, how exactly would that work in real life then?  Mark Rodgers and Wilkie are about to show you:


Finally for this week's issue, below is the third chapter in Banx's new mini-series.  After this we're halfway through the tale and there's actually no sign of you-know-who yet.  Just shadows, hints and close calls.  It builds up a great atmosphere behind the dark sense of humour and yet again Jeremy brings a certain level of light-hearted gore to the kiddies:


Hopefully there's no need to ask if you're a fan of Jeremy Banx, I'd like to think that goes without saying, but if you are then you definitely need to get over to Amazon right now where his brand new ebook Frankenthing has finally become available.  After teasing for months and months on the Oink! Facebook group it's here and you can go and purchase it yourself for Kindle (or the Kindle app on Apple's iOS etc) clicking the picture below.  It's only a couple of pounds for all the hard work he's put in and I'll be featuring a post about it this weekend right here so watch out for that too if you haven't bought it yet:


But for now that's yer lot.  After the weekend post join me again next Thursday, 30th January when #48 brings Greedy Gorb to the cover, one of his funniest strips to the inside of the issue, and a none-too-subtle dig at WHSmiths.  It's a good 'un.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

#46: BACK SO SOON?


Just in the nick of time!  That's no understatement either, as this was one of about half a dozen issues still missing from my collection until this very evening.  But thanks once again to the gent that is Gerry Cluskey I'm able to put up this issue on time (he says as his fingers blur over the keyboard) and get what's needed from the rest so you'll be guaranteed no waiting around.  Thanks for the lend of these Gerry, can't tell you how much I appreciate it!

Trying to collect these again on eBay has been a chore at times, avoiding dodgy sellers, overpriced issues, overpriced postage just because I live in Northern Ireland (yes, some people still do that!) and then just some issues never pop up.  Perhaps it's the fact this is only the second Lew Stringer cover in the whole run which makes it a collector's piece?  (His first cover was for #33.)  The next few issues have very simplistic covers, perhaps to get the comic's creators ahead deadline-wise with the new increased frequency of the comic, but this one is a treat.  Definitely continuing the attempt to bring in new readers to this 'new' weekly, inside it does feel a bit more like a regular comic but it's still good fun!

Oink! keeps to its sense of humour and the strips included are a joy to read but we're definitely seeing a more consistent make up of pages, like all the quarter-page ones on one page, certain strips always on the same page, characters having the same size strips each issue etc.  With less pages and new regular characters we've also had to say goodbye to some others, the biggest change being the omission of one of my very favourites - Mr Big Nose!  I didn't actually know it when I included his last ever strip in the blog post for #44, so thanks to blog reader Alex for the heads up.

I do sometimes think, when reading this issue, that I wish we'd just kept all the regular characters in every issue if it was going to become more traditional in its setup (not in the content of said strips though, mind you) but then I read some of the new content, especially that from Charlie Brooker who contributes so much to these weeklies, and it becomes a tough decision.  I do wonder why Mr Big Nose was dropped though - maybe seen as too surreal now?

Cover artist Lew even mentioned in the Facebook group and on his own blog (in the comments) that he remembered something about the comic becoming more stable, as stability was more appreciated by kids of the time and was one of the ideas to increase the readership like I mentioned last time.

Of course, that lack of stability, the randomness and not knowing what was round the corner - or rather the page - was part of the charm so perhaps this change wasn't as appreciated by some of the older readers, many of which had been buying the comic up to this point.  While the humour was basically the same, the design now does feel like it's being aimed that little bit younger after maturing into a 'for all ages but suitable for the kids' comic with the fortnightlies.

This sits at odds with what's in the stories though, as they're still the same, like I said.  But let's focus on those included stories for now shall we?

Editor and co-creator Mark Rodgers and his partner Helen Jones were both vegetarians, hence the whole Oink! theme after all and their focus on evil butchers and innocent human-like pigs in the first place, and recently Jeremy Banx did a fantastic Burp piece which had a strong message (and will be featured at some point I promise) and now here's another unlikely strip to feature an environmental message - The Slugs from Tony Husband and Lezz:


Now I think that's a cartoon even the captain and crew of the Sea Shepherd vessels around the world would appreciate.  Maybe I'll go ahead and share it with them online sometime!  While Oink! had its critics who said it was a bad influence, a closer look would've shown them such strips got a serious message across using humour children would appreciate - hence getting said message across better.  But then again since when have critics and the like ever actually taken a look at what they want to ban, right?

Thankfully amongst the changes one ongoing strip which has had its characters evolve as time goes along has survived and will continue to do so right through to the very end.  The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile - Aged 8 5/8 (years) does a David Cameron and forgets all about the baby for a week, to focus completely on our small hero.  It takes me back to the early days but I'm missing the family if I'm honest, so conditioned I am to them by now thanks to Mark Rodgers and Ian JacksonI!  Still, it makes for one of the best Hadrian strips in the run so far, so wrap up and enjoy:


One of the reasons I put this page up was also because of the little in-joke to a certain other Oink! contributor.  Did you spot it?  (Also thanks to Helen Jones for reminding me as I'd forgotten to mention it when I published this post.)

At Christmas as a child I was introduced, as it were, to Oink!'s own take on the master of cartoons and family entertainment, with Ron Disney and the Dumb ol' Duck strip.  Now, just a few weeks after being subjected to a drake laying eggs over a talking dog he's back (thanks to Mark and Clive Collins) with what some may see as a more realistic take on The Jungle Book.  Although, given what happens it's quite apt the title had to change too:


Things like this would keep the kids who were raised on traditional comics fare coming back for more week-in-week-out, and this issue contains many more highlights.  Such as the return of the poor teddy bear featured in #32 to the panels of Burp, Tony entertains us again with a quick full-page gag like last issue, Satan the Cat makes a return and the newest Oink! calendar continues.

Next on the agenda for us though is the second part of Lew Stringer and Ron Tiner's multi-part Sherlock Hams tale, The Hog of the Baskervilles.  Followed by the most unsubtle of strangers, Hams and Whatswine travelled to the moors to investigate the screaming terror on the hills and we're about to be introduced to the full cast of suitably suspicious supporting characters, so prepare for more puns and piss-takes of the genre.  This is definitely my favourite new addition to the comic recently!:


Trust me, this just keeps getting better and better.

Which is exactly what can be said of our following serial too from Jeremy Banx.  Again, no title, just the mysterious Hieronymus Van Hellsong going about his mysterious business.  Light on the jokes this time, even black humour, but it still makes for an engrossing page and my young mind was enthralled with the build up to the showdown with none other than every pig's arch nemesis, Jimmy 'The Cleaver' Smith:


Oink! was my first comic (which, by the way, has inspired me to write a new series of posts coming to the blog in a few months when the comic itself goes monthly) so this series was something very special for me.  These days I look back at it and see it as kind of a spoof of some of the more serious 2000AD strips I'm currently enjoying in that title, but as a child it was unlike anything I'd ever read before in books or anything.  So the fact this part, while getting a nice point across at the start, was more serious (in as much as a surreal strip about a human-esque butcher-catching psychic pig can be) had me gripped!  I mean, seriously gripped!  That's stayed with me, and I remember every week the night before my next Oink! would be available I'd read back over the parts of this story so far in preparation.  Good times.

Frank Sidebottom is out touring in a photo collage of him meeting some readers to promote Smokebusters (more on that in the future) and Viz editor Simon Thorpe brings his brilliant artistic style to a GBH  advert for a garden in a bottle, then we're on to that page of mini-strips.  The highlight of them this time around comes from Davy Francis and his long-running creation, and soon-to-be-cover star Greedy Gorb:


Speaking of GBH, the mobsters share the penultimate page again with The Torture Twins, albeit with the Madvertisement taking pride of place this time.  At first glance you'd swear this was a regular plumber's ad from an 80s newspaper, but read it and if you're anything like me you'll laugh yourself silly at the repeated use of... well, read it and see:


Who'd have thought the phrase "grunging-valve sprockets" would be so much fun for ten year olds to read.

Right well there we go, just got it squeezed in.  Next week's cover is horrible though I must warn you.  The word "ugly" wouldn't even do it justice.  Can our favourite comic really produce something so horrible?  This pool of talent, can it really do something which could actually put people off it?  Is it that bad?  Come back to find out on Thursday 22nd January.