Friday, 15 November 2013

#15: NOT A NEW LOOK


Yes part of that cover may look a bit familiar to regular visitors to the blog and on hindsight it's quite apt this was the image of Uncle Pigg I chose for the title, as this issue feels almost like a relaunch of Oink! now that it's established itself as a hit.  Introducing a lot of new characters and foregoing the usual idea of having a binding subject for the content (maybe in order to welcome new readers), this is topped off with the first part of a huge free poster calendar for the forthcoming 1987.

Unfortunately this is only one of two free gifts from the entire run I don't own at the time of writing (the other being the Wildcat preview issue from #68) but many, many thanks to Kevin Tuson at the Facebook group who very kindly took photographs of his posters and sent them to me so I could share them on here.  Really appreciate that Kevin, as I'm sure the readers here do too!  Parts 2 and 3 are the ones I own but below is Kevin's and he's also supplied the completed calendar which you'll see when you get to #17.  A huge 3-part poster by Ian Jackson?  Any wonder I loved this comic from the offset?!


UPDATE: A very generous blog reader got in touch about eight months after these posts were originally published and passed on his complete calendar poster to me.  It's in immaculate condition and I dedicated an entire post to it (for a very special reason) which you can read by clicking here.

Inside the front cover we also found out how this glossy-paged comic (this being only my second issue as a kid the page stock was still a lovely novelty for a humour title) could afford such extravagances, with naked piggy artists, writers and accountants shivering in the cold - clothes were part of the sacrifices made to afford it all apparently, but Uncle Pigg was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and sporting an early Santa hat.  Christmas was coming early for him and the readers and we'll see below exactly the extent to which he passed on such good feelings to his staff.

But first, a decidedly "introduction for new readers"-feeling Mary Lighthouse strip on page 3:


Writer Mark Rodgers, artist Ian Jackson and indeed the whole Oink! crew's strips seem tailored towards new readers and for me this was perfect back in the 80s with this being my second issue.  This may also be why in my old(er) age I've always assumed certain characters had been there from the beginning but in reality this issue is the first outing for classics such as Davy FrancisGreedy Gorb (He'd Eat Anything), Rodgers' and Lezz's Hyperactive Harriet (Fastest Girl in the World!) - a lot more entertaining than Billy Whizz trust me, Rodgers' and Dave FollowsSally Scowl (Her Temper's Foul!) - I'm sure Billy Bang wasn't happy with that(!), Rodgers' and Mike Green's Fatty Farmer (He's a Whole Lot Calmer) and a personal favourite of mine Hector Vector and his Talking T-Shirt from Banx.

All of the above will appear at some stage in future blogs but we've got lots more in this issue from our already established regulars, as well as two particular newbies I've included for obvious reasons.

We also had an apparently "New Character!" in the shape of Billy Buzz, a bee who was sickly sweet and seemed a bit too traditional on first reading it this week… but then the strip ends with Uncle Pigg swatting him with a piece of paper after being stung and so ended Billy’s career, never to appear again.

But a lovely surprise here comes from another strip drawn by the legendary Tom Paterson who supplied some brilliantly inventive work for some of the earlier issues including the preview edition and the very first regular issue.  Written (as ever) by Mark Rodgers, it's the details that count so take your time and relish all of this one-off, Mister Cheese:


Now in previous posts (here, here, here and here - flip I do repeat myself don't I?!) I may have mentioned an upcoming spoof strip of what was at the time my all-time favourite television programme.  It was so funny to see this next strip as a kid and I can so clearly remember the moment I came across it for the first time and over the course of those two weeks reading it over and over, laughing and loving the fact Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (as it was known in its Ringo Starr days, you know, when it was okay to call the main human character The Fat Controller) was having the mickey taken - it'd never happened before after all, and Ralph Shephard's work on yet another spoof is, yet again, great fun:


Thomas... I mean, Sammy was on page 10 and just across, on page 11 in case you didn't know, was the first full strip from one of what would become Oink!'s longest running characters.  Appearing in a brief footer strip underneath Tom Thug in #6 it was now time for Pete & His Pimple to finally take centre stage.  Exciting times!:


Lew Stringer's famous creation would carry on into the pages of Buster after Oink! folded, though in a slightly sanitised form - as you’ll see in future posts that pimple wasn't shy of the occasional popping in this comic and if you've never seen these strips before just wait until that happens!

Later issues would even see an ongoing theme of readers sending in suggestions on how to cure the pimple.  None would be entirely successful of course, with some making it even worse, but every one won a “Piggy Prize” and we'll get to them eventually.

Pete will return soon in the blog but for now cast your eyes over the panel below his strip.  This has surely got to rank as one of the strangest competitions ever to grace a comic.  And I'm only talking about the prize, nevermind the rest(!), drawn by editor Tony Husband:


Ok, so now it's time for something… well I can't say "different" as that wouldn't really narrow it down, but anyway instead of making you wait like I did with the StreetHogs I've decided to post up each instalment of the following story within each actual issue post.

Following the success of the 'Hogs and the superb artwork of J.T. Dogg, Oink! moved on to their unofficial "sibling" strip, another epic multi-part parody told in double-page spreads, this time written by Lew Stringer.  IPC’s very own Eagle and 2000AD comic hero Dan Dare was now the target and all I can say is this must've been the most fun to write and draw.  It's certainly great fun to read.

Ham Dare: Pig of the Future (Part One):


He's another character who'd finish their tale and then disappear for a while, only to return later in the run as an established reader favourite.  He was my first encounter with Dogg's drawings and so was even more special to me for that reason.  Remember at this stage I hadn't seen the Oink! Superstar posters (which you can check out here and here) either, so this blew me away and for me StreetHogs were his second set of characters.

But anyway, for now we'll leave our heroes for a whole 14 days and we'll pick up where we've left them in #16.

Just as we did in #9, it's time for a little puzzle break with artist Ed McHenry:


Some toughies there, eh?  Well if that was too much like a cerebral workout maybe you'd be better off in the company of our next star, again from the mind and hands of Mr Stringer, the latest instalment in the obviously full and fulfilling life (if the first panel is anything to go by) of Tom Thug.  And it looks like even this regular strip, which goes right back to the preview issue, is introducing a new character too!:


Hmm… that little panel at the bottom (no pun intended, sorry) bares (again, no pun intended, sorry) a striking resemblance to a certain Mr Butt Face from Toxic, also by Lew.  You can read up on him here if you’re interested, on the artist's own Blimey! blog.  I’ve never read Toxic but having read Lew’s blogs for a long time now I remembered this guy’s, um, face.  Even the hat is similar, so must have been a cheeky (okay, I meant that one but still, sorry) idea which stuck with him for some time to come.

Skimming on through some more of the new characters, as well as Rubbish Man’s memoirs and an anti-smoking Pigg Tale, we come to the very first appearance of a true Oink! legend.  These humble beginnings gave no indication of just how popular a little old granny would become.  Of course that may have had something to do with a certain characteristic of her’s.  The subtle name gives it all way - David Leach’s Psycho Gran!:


Among my grey memory cells Psycho Gran still resides, so much so that I remember exact strips and jokes and I’m looking forward to discovering 'new' ones now too.  David Leach is another example of the exemplary talent Oink! attracted and he's worked on such titles since then as Brain Damage and Toxic Crusaders, as well as editing and scripting for such brilliant licenced characters as Ren and Stimpy, Beavis and Butthead, and even Spongebob!  However for me Psycho Gran is my favourite and I was so pleased to see a huge framed picture of her in his living room when he was a contestant on Channel 4’s Come Dine With Me this year.

The little old dear is also, despite her age back in Oink!, still on the go and has been brought back to the world of comics by David recently in a few various special one-off titles these past couple of years and now in the regular digital comic Aces Weekly.  Oink!'s characters were creator-owned unlike other comics, so long may she reign.

UPDATE: It seems she wasn't content with Aces Weekly and has only gone and starred in her very own digital comic!  Yes, brand new Oink! character goodness, which you can read all about by clicking here!

I’m going to finish off with the back cover, again another full colour strip from Lew Stringer (his previous back cover Tom Thug has featured before in the post for #8) and his great colour work shines once more.  Regular readers of his blog will remember this from a post in March this year which contains Lew's own insights into the creation of his one-off strip.  Continuing on from page 2, here’s the real inside scoop of how the world’s greatest comic came into being every fortnight:


I can think of one or two places I've worked where this isn't too far from the truth…!

Now before I go, let me just tell you a little about our next issue.  #16 goes back to our familiar themes and it's the turn of pop music, which considering this is the 80s should be a treat!  Big fan of 80s music here.  But, and this is a biggie, it's also the beginning of another superb chapter in the life of the comic.  While this issue may have introduced a wealth of new characters, #16 brings with it a true superstar, a megastar, a "fantastic" character I remember waking up to every Saturday morning on No.73 on ITV, whose creator sadly passed away a few years ago but who has recently been commemorated with a superb statue in his home town.  It's a great start to a very unique (even by Uncle Pigg's standards) contribution from a hugely talented artist - a contribution to the world which many today don't realise exists.

So be here on Friday 29th November when the next issue goes on sale.

4 comments:

Lew Stringer said...

Another great blog, Phil. I felt this was the issue where the comic had begun to mesh well. When we drew the early issues we didn't know what each other was up to of course, or what the finished comic would look like. By the time of this mini revamp I think we all felt more comfortable in understanding the tone and direction of the comic. Very happy days.

Graham Exton said...

That was exactly how Oink! was produced. Fortunately I was thousands of mile away at the time.

James Spiring said...

lol, that Sammy the Steam Engine page is actually done in the same format Marvel's Thomas the Tank Engine comic was at the time, with the old fashioned text paragraphs under the pictures instead of using speech bubbles. It wasn't just parodying Thomas, but also nursery comics as a whole, which were still using that format in the 1990s.

Phil Boyce said...

Thanks to Lew for pointing out I'd typed "Viz" instead of Toxic. I did know this, I'd read Lew's post the day before, but my mind had replaced it in my head with that other bastion of British comics instead for some reason, even though I knew which one I was talking about. Oops! Fixed now though.