Friday, 28 June 2013

#5: 'BUTCHER' EYES ON THIS


No, it's not Halloween, but Oink! decided to celebrate spookiness anyway with an issue which is less themed and more centred around a kind of adventure game, with the occasional little strip here and there backing up the tagline "The Comic For Creeps" on the front cover there.  One such example had Terry Wogham interviewing typical Oink! readers.  And for "typical" of course we mean a random selection of creeps, monsters and reformed butchers.  While #3 was themed near enough cover-to-cover, #4 was less so and this one seems to take an even more Diet Coke approach which surprised me upon reading it.

You could say Oink!'s regular strips are full of weird and insane characters as it is anyway and so no differences were needed to the scripts, but trust me, Oink! did take the themed approach and while this is very light on it, it still counts.  However, you'll see how the idea goes from strength-to-strength from the next issue onwards.

But for now, YOU are Barry the Butcher!  Remember those adventure books where you could choose the way the story was told?  They'd be mini-novels and at the end of each page you'd be given a choice of which page to turn to next.  For example the character could be faced with a spooky house or a haunted forest, turn to page 'x' to enter the house, or page 'y' to walk towards the forest.  Well, that was just ripe for the Oink! treatment:


Artist Ralph Shephard would draw one of my all-time favourite Oink! parodies, but you'll see that soon enough.  And I'm sure you can probably guess what the message from Uncle Pigg was on the Grunts page - yep, the mysterious stranger was Uncle Pigg himself and there was never any way Barry could escape!  Well, he was a butcher after all.

There was a very unique character (weren't they all?) who made his first appearance in #3 and then reappeared in this issue of the comic, however he's not going to make his first blog appearance just yet.  This is simply because his creator, Jeremy Banx, recently tweeted this very second appearance of Mr Big Nose (yes, straight to the point with the name there) so some of you will have already seen it recently.  So I thought I'd save Mr Big Nose for another issue and some strip which won't have seen the light of day in the last 27 years... but in case you missed it:


To say Mr Big Nose's strips were surreal is simply to undersell them.  In fact to sum them up by using one word such as that is a complete cop out.  Banx would just continue to get more and more... well... well now, I've kind of made it impossible to explain the series now, but the tweet above is only the tip of the iceberg.

Some of our regulars had particularly good entries this time around, but one character (or should that be plural) who could be found in these early editions but not later in the run was Noel Ford's Nigel and Skrat the Two-Headed Rat:


Appearing right from the preview issue, this was unfortunately their final regular outing but would reappear in the following year's Holiday Special.  Reading back on these now I can't remember them from my childhood but I find them so lovable, even Skrat!  There's something very 'Me, Myself & Irene' about them.

Noel is a very accomplished artist too, and one visit to his site here shows just how busy the man's career has been!  Plenty of work there that I'd no idea came from a previous Oink! contributor!  Small world indeed.

A few years ago The Dandy was relaunched and creatively was a great success, bringing the emphasis back to having plenty of comic strips for kids to read rather than cheap plastic toys and movie reviews.  One of their new features was the 'Madvertisement' - mock advertisements for any manner of random nonsense.  However, the idea had been done before...:

Writer/artist unknown at this time
Oink! had featured silly ads before now, for example the one for kids jealous they didn't have a new BMX bike like all their friends - just buy the 'Supa-Dupa-Hammer' and smash up everybody else's bikes!

But this was the first time one had had the 'Madvertisement' label.  Later in the run a certain fictional mail order brand would be the main 'company' to have these fake adverts, but this was a great start and, with The Big Bang Theory in full swing at the time of writing, this one in particular strikes a chord today.  The Madvertisements were great for poking fun at near enough everything kids actually wanted, never afraid of having a go at the big craze of the moment, even though the readers could very well be into the products being targeted.

Later issues would see some of my favourites of the day being lampooned, but it was like seeing your favourite celebrity on Spitting Image - it proved how popular they were (they'd 'made it' if they appeared on Spitting Image or in Oink!) and you were so happy to have a giggle at their expense, as it was all done in an affectionate way and never cruel.

Well we're near the end of another issue for another fortnight.  These past two weeks in particular have been so enjoyable.  More and more people are once again enjoying the world's greatest comic which is testimony to the enduring humour and the hard work put in all those years ago.  I've seen Oink! contributors share information on the blog in social networks, had more people follow me and talk to me on Twitter, even add me as a friend on Facebook (feel free!) and comment on here too.  This is only issue 5, I can't wait to see where this goes...

I'm also making a few tweaks to the blog, like the labels cloud and a Google+ box soon, I'll be updating The Comics page too and I'll be making character/artist references more prominent... basically, I've realised how many people are wanting to read up on Oink! and so I'm very conscious of making this the best blog I can.  Also look out for a couple of additional updates soon.  But I know you're not here to read my wafflings though (ha!) so I'll leave you with one more cartoon from Tony Husband:


Next issue on sale Friday 12th July.

Friday, 14 June 2013

#4: HEADS UP!


A strange little issue this one, as #3 promoted it as their World Cup issue, as does the front cover by Steve McGarry, but there's actually very little in the way of themed strips inside, at least compared to #3.  But of course that doesn't take away from another great issue and with two appearances you'll be glad to hear it's this issue that I've chosen to introduce Oink!'s longest-running character, the ever lovable bully and thicko, Tom Thug!

Created by legendary cartoonist Lew Stringer, Tom inherited his dad's 'bovver boots' in the preview issue and it'd take a good few months before we'd finally see him able to tie them and get them on his feet, ready to boot people!  Having a strip based around a bully might sound a bit strange to those new to Oink!, but Tom wasn't a good guy, he lost his challenges against those he bullied every single time and was thick as two short planks.  He was the greatest advert against bullies you could hope for!

In #4 he's still in the early days of getting his boots tied (his dad believes he's not fit for bovverin' until he can do them up himself) and here he comes up with some novel solutions to his problem:


Tom would appear in every single issue of Oink! and would carry on for years in Buster comic after Oink! folded.  Altogether fans had 10 full years of brand new Tom Thug material, with reprints for the final few years of Buster after that, right up to the final issue of that comic too.  Even though he appeared in many more issues of the latter, Tom is probably more associated with his original home and rightly so, right alongside Satan.  That's his cat!

Excitedly, I want to point you towards an external link right now!  Lew has written an entry on his own blog about the creation of a certain Mr Thug, including some brilliant original design artwork and an insight into the process behind the very first strip for the dummy/preview issue.  Click here to go check it out!

We'll come back to Tom a little later in this issue, but back to other characters and a chance to introduce a couple of other regular strips.  Oink!, as I've previously said, had strips of all different sizes and even from issue to issue they could change.  Two of the regular smaller ones, but just as much loved, belonged to Haldane, whose work you would previously have seen on the blog in #1's Rubbish Man strip.  Both animal-based, the first was (I'm guessing) inspired by all those monster movies such as the classic Godzilla films and the like.

So which terrifying creature of immense overgrown proportions was going to wreck havoc on the world populace in this comic?  That'd be a hippo.


I loved Hugo.  He'd travel to many different countries in the world - with accompanying stereotypes! - and while he'd regularly destroy the homes of thousands of people, he never seemed anything more than a completely innocent creature who just happened to be huge and hungry.  Bless.  We did see him go up against the army but that just resulted in the missiles going straight down his gullet and giving him wind.

Another of Haldane's regular mini-strips was Zootown, made up of many and varied creatures any kid would see at their local zoo, only dressed up in human clothes and with jobs, regular lives, pals and family, but with one key difference - they all kept those animal instincts which often resulted in, well, this:


I can't remember any of the creatures having names and I simply assumed when we saw a similar animal in more than one issue that it was the exact same one.  But even though we never got to know them that wasn't the point, it was just a quick laugh with the carnivorous crocs, lions etc often getting the upper hand, but thankfully I don't think those little docile ones we'd see getting shocked/scared every issue were ever on the buffet menu - there always seemed to be some kind of strange friendship there... hard to put my finger on it, but even though it only consisted of a few panels each issue, Zootown seemed like such a rich place, such was the talent of Haldane!

'The Man-Eating Marshmallow', 'Rocky 5 1/2' (long before the actual 5th film, never mind the 6th!), and a man accidentally travelling to the north pole instead of the moon... all classic movies in their own right and each one a recipient of a Golden Trough Award presented by Chris Smelly.  But the first one to appear here is the 'Vengeance of the Gnome-Men' written by Tony Husband and drawn by Ian Jackson.  Just check out how creepy these guys are!  Brilliant, a truly classic slice of Oink! right here:


Back to Mr Thug now and an actual football-themed bit of the issue.  I'm not a fan of football at all I have to say, but this issue was released right in the middle of the '86 World Cup in Mexico and we did see Harry 'head' off to sunnier climbs and end up in the middle of the action as per the cover picture, Hadrian Vile tried his best to get out of playing the game at school, Snatcher Sam stole a kid's ball and ended up almost blown to bits and Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins was left out of the goal celebrations and there was a poster which we'll get back to in a future post... but that was about it apart from three little half-page one-offs, one of which was this nice little extra, written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Mr Stringer (obviously!):


Tom must've had to take them off again after the game, wonder how he managed...

So here we are again for this fortnight, at the back end of another issue, only 64 more plus specials and annuals to go!  I'm really enjoying revisiting the series this way and look forward to reading each new issue as I go along.  Nope, I'm still not jumping ahead and I won't, and I know there's some of you out there doing the same as me and it's brilliant to read all of the great reactions to this comic after all this time.  I've got a couple of ideas of how to fill (some of) the gaps between issues so stay tuned, and believe me you haven't seen the last of these early issues yet either.

But for now, I'll leave you with this.  Cross my favourite movie of all time with my favourite comic of all time, via Ian Jackson, and this is what you get.  Keep a wee eye on all the little details in each caption... that's all I'm sayin'...:


Next issue on sale Friday 28th June.