Friday, 31 May 2013

#3: SCI-FI TAILS


"Pigs... In... Spaaaaaccce!!"  Ahem sorry, bit of a Muppets diversion there with Tony Husband's cover art...

This issue is just crazy!  This is no exaggeration, the first of the themed issues - sci-fi - goes all out to make its point that each and every issue of Oink! was going to feel like a brand new and unique experience, not just from other comics but from each previous issue!  A quick scan below and you'd think I'd gone mad with the amount of strips but I really haven't, there's just one in particular that took over this issue and there was no better way to sum up the comic than to scan the whole story in!  But first, a quick cameo:


Wonder if Colin Baker ever saw himself drawn by the hands of Ian Jackson?  This wouldn't be the last time the Doctor would influence Uncle Pigg but that's a story for a future issue so you'll just have to be patient.  Not patient?  Oh well, bad luck.

So now on to our star strip in more ways than one.  Boldly going where no photo story had gone before, ladies and gentlemen I present to you Oink! creators Mark Rodgers as Captain Slog, Patrick Gallagher as Sock and Tony Husband as Jerm, along with BBC Radio 1's Marc Riley as Jock in...:



Thanks to Tony who cleared up exactly who was under the chicken mask by the way!  Can you imagine the fun these guys must've had when creating these stories?  This was their job!  Fantastic, and I'm a little bit jealous...

Taking the mickey out of all those photo stories that'd appear in women's weekly magazines the Oink! alternatives were always completely nuts and my brain has this mental image of me tittering as I shared one with my mum many moons ago.  I can't remember which one it was but I look forward to finding out later in the run somewhere.

One character who appeared in every single issue was a certain young boy who was rather unique but in a way in which I simply don't think comics today would get away with.  Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins was just that - a young boy with an incredibly ugly face!  Created by Tony Husband, Horace would even perpetually scare his own parents even though they'd lived with him all those years already, but Horace could also sometimes find ways of taking advantage of his looks, so hey there were positive messages in there alongside the laughs!

In much later issues we'd even see Horace eventually meet a girl and end up getting married and everything, proof that happy endings are possible for everyone, but in the meantime Horace would keep us entertained in a way only he could:


Reading this for the blog I loved the 'Monster from the Bog''s grand entrance being "'ello!"  Ha!  For some reason Patrick's Sock has me in stitches here too, nevermind Marc's pose!  Oh how much I wish he could see this, just to hear his reaction after all these years.

Star Truck wouldn't just invade the main strips, Jerm could be seen running through the spoof quizzes and features and random little strips such as this throughout the issue:


A quick diversion away from chickens for now though.  The comic never shied away from spoofing those things us 80s kids adored.  Ghostbusters, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, James Bond and a huge list of others would all get the Oink! treatment.  One which was the brunt of the jokes on more than one occasion was Transformers.  The simple idea of what disguise these robots could take saw a great 'Madvertisement' which you'll eventually see on here and this brilliant double-page spread in this sci-fi special:

Writer/artist unknown at this time

You may notice this isn't a scan but a photograph.  A lot of Oink!'s double-page strips would be read like this, across both pages, and it's simply WAY too big for my scanner.  Spent ages hovering over this trying to get as crisp a photo as possible, with three different cameras and various settings... worth it though!  It's a technique I'll have to employ now-and-again throughout the blog, unless someone wants to donate an industrial-sized scanning device to me.

You might notice with the front covers the very left and right edges may be slightly trimmed (the strips inside aren't so bad as they usually don't run to the edge of the pages or if they're not a full page I can scan it sideways, though the last part of Star Truck below proved me wrong and had to be scanned in in sections) as my scanner is A4 and the pages were the same height but wider than A4, giving them a nice big feel in my hands back then.  Anyone who read it as a child will know what I mean...

So now we're heading towards the rear of the issue, and Mary Lighthouse is still in time and space somewhere.  Time to bring her back to earth.  With a bump!:


As you can see we're on page 30, so it's time to reign in Jerm once and for all.  What I love the most, beyond the absurdity of the photo strips, is the fact they're all so self-aware of being inside the pages of a comic.  This is never more apparent than with Star Truck:


I originally came to Oink! in its teens - I'm not sure which issue but I'll look forward to finding out as I continue - so I missed this strip first time round, but the crew of the Enterpies would return in The Oink! Book 1988 and that's how I first came to know them.  It's an absolute classic which again takes over more than its own pages so you can look forward to it around Christmas 2014(!!).

Just before signing off, as the blog continues I'll be sharing some of my own personal memories of the comic (such as above) and I do have a special one with this issue's cover.  Quite a while after I started collecting Oink! my cousin gave me a few of his old issues and this was one of them - remember this is before the internet and eBay, kids - back issues were like gold dust.  I can remember, clear as a bell, coming back down to my aunt's living room from his bedroom, 2 or 3 Oink!s in hand and sitting down next to my nanny.  She took one look at the cover, pig bottoms floating about in space and then looked straight at me.  I really didn't know what she was going to think!  But she just giggled like a little schoolgirl, winked at me and then carried on talking to the family.

I've got a lot of happy memories associated with this comic, hence why I'm collecting it again in the first place, and I'm thrilled so many people have already come along for the ride.

Every now and then there'll be extra posts besides the issues themselves by the way so do please check back more than once a fortnight in case of an occasional extra, and the next actual issue goes 'on sale' 14th June.

Friday, 17 May 2013

#2: "DIFFICULT SECOND ALBUM"? NOPE


Welcome back everyone!  First up - wow!  At the time of writing this the blog has been viewed over 1100 times already!  It's absolutely fantastic to see so much interest in this classic comic and thanks to all for your lovely comments on how this project is going so far.  Very early stages too, and one of my favourite covers, from Steve McGarry, setting the tone for the whole run with its cheeky Royal Family photo and even cheekier badge ideas.  Anyone else feeling very old looking at this particular cover though??



The free badge kit was a selection of round blank stickers and icons, letters and pictures, which could be rubbed on to create anything the young readers wanted - a bit like those old rub-on transfers we used to get where we'd pretend we'd a tattoo, even though they never came off in one piece and would look a mess on our arms.  Ah the good ol' days...

Again we've Mary Lighthouse on the cover, but instead of horror at what she sees she's in complete shock and the tale would continue on page 2:




This would be a regular occurrence in the early stages of Oink!, with Uncle Pigg and the comic's critic battling it out in the introduction to each issue written by Mark Rodgers, usually as a way of introducing each theme from #3 onwards (see end of this post) but for this issue it was simply to burst the bubble (pun intended) of Lighthouse.  Again, Ian Jackson's artwork is the star here and he really does epitomise everything Oink! was about, a breath of fresh air for my young eyes!  (Obviously I mean back then, they're not so much young eyes anymore.)

Let's face it, getting a fart joke in on the Royal Family was good for a kids' comic, even if it wasn’t actually wind in the end!

Oink! had an anarchic feel to it which I loved, not only in its artwork, its sense of humour and its uneven and raw panel work, but also in its contents.  While other comics would have certain strips on certain pages every single issue, Oink! mixed it up every time, not only in where to place its regulars but also the space given to them (regular characters could be a full page most of the time, but then have 3/4 of a page, or a double-page spread or a page and half to themselves in some editions) but it also had a lot of one-off strips and semi-regulars filling up its 32 pages.  From this issue, this is definitely a highlight:




 Burp and Mr Big Nose creator Banx brought us Kangaroo Kid, which ends with a blatantly obvious moment of realisation for the reader who, if anything like me, hadn't clicked he hadn't actually left the phone booth!  Brilliant piece of misdirection and a shame he didn't appear regularly.

A lot of comics back then were, as previously stated, printed on newsprint, and Oink!'s shiny paper brought with it not only some vibrant full-colour pages but also these 1-colour strips which really stood out.  Just colouring a page completely differently than those around it lent some strips a whole other feel and was another way Oink! was different from the crowd.  While action comics such as Marvel's hit Transformers were, for most of their run, also on glossy paper and in full colour, the pages of Oink! were of an even higher grade and the difference was clear not only in its look but its feel too.

It also meant those 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 unseen before.  More on that in a few issues time - you'll see what I mean.

Moving on in this issue to the back page, another Oink! favourite and drawn by someone a lot of you are probably very familiar with for a completely different reason:




See?  Something the comic's critics never realised - it could be educational!  Well, ok, I'm pushing it, but still.  If you're reading this around the time I'm posting it up you can't have failed to notice TV and radio programmes about the Dambusters recently, and as this issue was also published on 17th May back in 1986, it ties in neatly with the same time of year as those famous raids.

Created by none other than Marc Riley of Radio 1 fame, Harry the Head would feature in Oink! all the way through to its final issue.  Already known in the music biz, Marc lent his hand to the comic with Harry, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth and Doctor Mooney (He's Completely Looney), amongst others.  He would also be known for playing Snatcher Sam in the spoof photo stories, and he'll be appearing in that guise in the blog quite soon...

In issue 1 we saw Harry's parents in a brief introduction to the main strip, both of whom are heads as well (who didn't want to "stick their neck out" about their son).  So did we ever find out why Harry's family is just made up of disembodied heads?  
As it turns out we did get to see Harry's origin story in #8, but it changes things.  I suppose in this age that'd be called a reboot.  The strip isn't on the blog but basically Harry was an overweight and very grumpy kid with no friends and who complained about everything.  Lying on the beach he finds a bottle and a genie pops out and grants him three wishes.  After Harry complains about "only three?!" he wishes for lots of chocolate and "pop", then gets belly ache etc.  His last wish is to have the pain in his neck, belly and basically all over disappear.  The genie, pissed off with Harry's moaning and the fact he brought the pains on himself, does make it all disappear.  Just more literally.  So there you go, completely contradicting what went before.  Keeps us on our toes.

As I've said it's fantastic Oink! is generating so much interest all these years later, and hopefully the blog will pick up some new readers for the comic - judging by comments over at the Facebook group from parents it certainly seems kids these days 'get' it, and it's nice it's being passed on and not forgotten.  After the furore some parents unfairly caused at the time, seeing it being passed down now feels like a small victory, doesn't it?

In two weeks the first themed issue will be with us, and every fortnightly issue after that would follow suit, with some seasonal issues and an awful lot of very random themes thrown in too.  Naturally.  Hope you'll come back then for more of this(!):



Sunday, 12 May 2013

MY OWN PIG PACK

I was asked recently about how many actual comics of Oink! were ever released, including specials and annuals, and when did it change its release schedule and stuff like that.  A few weeks before I started this blog I posted up on the Facebook group a spreadsheet I did up on my iPad with a list of all the Oink!-related stuff there'd ever been released, including all those bits in "piggy pink plastic".

But as it was pointed out to me, trying to get a hold of things like the Pig Packs or the extremely rare sweatshirt was going to be impossible!  Maybe one day...

But for now I've cur(pig)tailed my ambitions to concentrate on the actual comic itself... and the mug!  I left that in my wish list!  Gotta get my mug back!

For those interested, here's everything that's out there somewhere - hope it's useful!

REGULAR COMICS:
  • #1 (Sat 3rd May 1986) to 35 - Fortnightly glossies with 32 pages and themes starting in #3
  • #36 (Sat 5th Sept 1987) to 44 - Fortnightly but now on newsprint and with a slight new look (taken over by Fleetway from IPC with #35)
  • #45 (Fri 9th Jan 1988) to 62 - Weekly 24-page comics with themes now dropped
  • #63 (Sat 21st May 1988) to 68 - Monthly glossies with 48 pages

ANNUALS:
  • The Oink! Book 1988
  • The Oink! Book 1989

SPECIALS:
  • Summer '87
  • Summer '88
  • Summer '89
  • Winter Special 1989
  • Summer Collection 1990

EXTRA EDITIONS:
  • Free Preview issue
  • Oink! #7 free edition
  • Crash! Souvenir edition
  • Smokebusters Special
  • From the Pages of Oink! #1 (book)
  • From the Pages of Oink! #2 (book)

FREE GIFTS:
  • Flexidisc (#1)
  • Badge/sticker kit (#2)
  • Giant poster in 3 parts (#15 to 17)
  • 3 sets of postcards (#28 to 30)
  • Stickers (#36 to 38)
  • 'Wildcat' Preview issue (#68)

MERCHANDISE (GOOD LUCK!):
  • Mug
  • T-Shirt
  • Sweatshirt
  • Pig Pack membership card
  • Pig Pack Lucky Butcher's Foot
  • Pig Pack stickers
  • Pig Pack comb
  • Pig Pack badge
  • The Oink! 45 (record)
  • Oink! computer game (available on C64, Amstrad and Spectrum on cassette and on disk where available)

Of course, me being me a simple check list was too boring.  Removing all the seperate merch apart from the mug, my own collection thus far looks a bit like this, meaning I can take it easy for now as I won't need to plug any gaps until the new year!  (I've got the free edition of #7, incase you spotted that hole.)


So are you collecting Oink!?  I know quite a few are over at the FB group, so if you are please come and join us, there's a big ol' link there on the left.

See ya'll Friday 17th.

UPDATE: There's now a page dedicated to the comic collection above under the blog title.

Friday, 3 May 2013

#1: START AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON


Off we go...

Complete with a see-thru flexidisc containing The Oink Song and Oink Rap to play on those record player things we all used to have, Oink! 1 hit the shelves.  These two songs would be rereleased later in the comic's run on an actual record along with a third song which is when I first heard them, but for readers coming on board from the first retail issue this was as unique a free gift as any kid was ever likely to get!

Oink!'s cover art would contain some absolute classics, but to begin with the main focus of the cover was on the flexidisc and, more importantly, that bright pink logo that'd bring so much joy to so many kids and adults alike.  Arriving on Saturday 3rd May 1986 and priced at 30p (now that makes me feel old!) Oink! came on the same bigger-than-A4 (hence why some covers etc may be slightly clipped by my scanner) glossy paper as the preview, standing out well on the shelves as something brand new and unique.

While the fortnightly comic would start having themes every issue from #3, this first issue's theme could probably be summed up as simply 'the first one'.  Although upon reading it now as an adult I'm thinking the theme could be labelled as 'were they trying to see what they could get away with?', as you'll see by the strips I've decided (at length) to include.

Remember the books and TV series The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4?:


With that legendary Ian Jackson artwork married to a Mark Rodgers script, this spoof strip was all about Hadrian Vile who was just that - vile.  But brilliantly so.  Disgusted by girls, fascinated by bogies and anything at all disgusting, smelly, scary... he was your typical boy some could say!  As Oink! progressed so did his age and this was a great start for him.  What also got me was the spelling contained within his diary, which today probably isn't as bad to kids brought up on "txt spk" but to us it was hilarious!

That typewriter text, being all over the place like it is must've been so fiddly to put onto the page so well in the days before computer-aided cartooning!  The extra effort was appreciated across the board, as Hadrian became a fan favourite and would stay with the comic all the way right through to the final issues.

UPDATE: Well it appears I'm wrong with that last sentence, as at the time of writing this little update I've noticed Hadrian wasn't there all the way to the end which was a shock.  Almost though!  Keep reading to find out.

But that unofficial theme to this first issue... I literally - no joke - nearly spat my coffee over this issue when I read that last caption.  Do they mean - ?  They couldn't - !  Did they - ?  No of course not, which I realised once I read the bit at the bottom of same caption!  Phew...

Back in the first few issues (including the preview) a certain cartoonist who was ubiquitous with some crazy artwork already with the likes of The Beano's Calamity James and the Buster comic, was now being handed scripts by none other than Oink!'s co-creator/editor Mark Rodgers.  Can you imagine Tom Paterson with a Rodgers script?!  You don't have to:


Did you spot the 'They didn't just do what I think they did, did they?' moment?  Read it again if you didn't.

Tom's work is just simply without comparison.  I remember Calamity James being my favourite Beano strip as Tom's pages were always chock full of so much detail, it was like discovering lots of little jokes that my child's brain believed were there just for me to discover.  Just me.  The detail in his Testing Time pages is simply amazing, from the measle to the trademark smelly sock, from the Sam Fox "portrait" to the little hole in the wood next to the "grovel 'ere" sign... it's just my mind isn't it?  That's completely coincidental and innocent right?  Can anyone who worked on Oink! confirm ha??

Reading my brother's Beanos and then our shared Beano Annuals every Christmas, I'd always go back to Tom's pages time and time again and would either pick up lots of new things, or just enjoy all the little side jokes all over again.  Timeless.  What a shame he didn't work on Oink! all the way through.

Finally, for this issue, a superhero who you may prefer didn't come to your rescue:


David Haldane contributed quite a few characters to the comic, including some of my faves such as Hugo the (giant) Hungry Hippo and the Torture Twins, who'd crack jokes whilst working away at their victims.  Another was Rubbish Man.  We didn't get to see Jimmy Bung in his regular day-to-day disguise much but who cared, we all wanted to see what disgusting food stuffs would come out of Rubbishman's body next or what completely random baddie he was going to battle.

This first issue story had him going up against a chicken flying a space craft laying evil eggs of doom across the planet - complete with handily-bleeped (or should that be clucked) swear words.  As my post title says, start as you mean to go on and his adventures would simply become ever more random as Oink! continued and he's another character we'll definitely revisit at some stage.  Right now though I've got a hankering for a KFC.

Oink! made a big first impression with this issue for all those who hadn't read IPC's preview and there was plenty to come back for.  The next Oink! Superstar Poster in the series, the epic Streethogs and Tom Thug's quest to learn to tie the laces of his father's bovver boots would have kids all eagerly anticipating the second edition.

And let's not forget Terry Wogham's star interviews, a photo story series of a real pig interviewing celebrities who we'd handily only ever see from his pig eye level so the comic could get away with only showing their legs and torso.  In this issue we saw even less, as it was the turn of The Invisible Man, who also had a drawn cartoon flashback sequence drawn by Marc Riley which included this caption, which I'll end on:


Next issue post 'on sale' Friday 17th May and I'll be back before then with another post as requested by a reader.  Hope you're all enjoying this so far!