Friday, 26 July 2013

#7: COOL AS ICE IN THE SUMMER HEAT


To help get the Oink! message out there this issue, the summer special, would also be given away free (inside those same plastic bags the preview issue came in) with other IPC comics, hence the two covers and the subtle "NOT FOR SALE!" over the second one above, making this issue available on a wider scale.

Normally comics back then (and still these days with the likes of The Beano and the now-defunct Dandy) would have Summer Specials, big thick issues separate from the normal run.  Seeing as how Oink! had only started it'd be the next summer before we'd be treated to one ourselves, after all it would've had to have been created a few months in advance and at that stage no one knew if the title would be a success or not.  But making it available to buy and also giving it away for free made this issue special.

And, of course, so did the contents.

I'm a sucker for comical sharks and have already featured one in the blog, but hey you can never have too many of them and this time one would turn up to scare one of our regulars.  Well, potentially scare anyway:


I've always loved Tony Husband's very freeform style, it always comes across as very natural, like he'd simply sit down to draw and all the ideas would come flowing out.  Definitely something new for kids' comics.  When Oink! joined with Buster after a couple of years I was surprised Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins wasn't taken over too, but in hindsight I can tell this style probably just wasn't seen as a fit for what I'd call a 'normal' comic.  Definitely their loss though!  Horace was a star, and I'd love to know what he's at these days... as you'll see as we go along Horace's life does evolve as Oink! continues...

But now for something rather infamous.

In 1986 early in the life of the comic, Oink! was reported to the Press Council.  Ultra-conservative parents, Christian Aid, some youth groups and Mary Whitehouse's own lot hadn't taken the humour in our next strip too well.  As with these sorts of things in British society, some groups felt the need to take offence on behalf of others.  Just look at the whole Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand thing from a few years ago when the BBC received 2 complaints about the programme, but then one Daily Mail campaign later and 40,000 people who never listened to their radio show in the first place "took offence".

Oink! was aimed at children, but suitable for all and I for one had parents who found it cheeky but funny.  But let's not forget it was aimed at children, not the parents.  But not being the target audience didn't matter - these groups thought this next strip was proof it was a bad influence on children.  Their children probably loved it, probably had the same cheeky sense of humour as Oink! (most kids did!), but still the official complaint was put through.  In the end it was ruled as being "tasteless" but harmless, and the complaint wasn't upheld.  However, part of the fallout from this was that some stores, most notably WHSmith placed Oink! on their top shelves from then on, away from the children's comics because of these "offended" groups.

But, a year later, in an interview with Crash! magazine Tony, Mark and Patrick would be all too happy to confirm sales of 100,000 per week.  The moral?  Never underestimate Pig Power!

Here's the strip, a spoof of those 1930s oh-so-sweet stories of genteel life from Tom Johnson - Janice and John and the parachute jump:


Janice and John would return later in the run and I'll be sure to update with them when the time comes. The above strip would also be referenced in a brilliant update on the complaint in #28.

The next regular character to be introduced on the blog was one of my favourites!  Always appearing in simple little one-to-three panel stories, the sheer variety of craziness on show from issue to issue and the streamlined joke every fortnight were at times pure genius.  I know many of those reading who grew up with the comic will love the inclusion of Roger Rental, He's Completely Mental, written by Graham Exton and drawn by Ian Knox:


What else can I say?

I think Roger's strips may appear quite frequently here.  While "laughing out loud" is something which apparently everybody does every five minutes every day of their lives these days if text messages are to be believed, back in the day it took something special and Roger Rental was it every single time!  I can remember some of them still now without having read the comics yet!  I want to share them all right now, probably just as much for my own benefit of reading them again as my wish to let you all see them, but patience must be had.

(Graham Exton has again provided some more behind-the-scenes info in the comments section, and the secret is out!)

In the middle pages of this issue we were also treated to eight rather rough-around-the-edges postcards to cut out and use from Ian Jackson.  Interesting to see how Ian would draw other artists' characters here, and some of the postcards themselves are priceless.  I wonder if anyone actually did use them?:


The comic also ran a competition (you can see a reminder along the bottom there) and my hazy old memory has this issue as one I was given by my cousin after I'd started reading Oink! at a later stage, and I can remember not wanting to ruin my comic by cutting them out, and cursing I hadn't been buying it at the time so I could've had two!

Never know, if some of my friends are reading this now, next time I'm on holiday...

If anything can sum up the randomness of this comic this from Haldane is it:


If this were a Marvel or DC comic we'd have had about seven months of marketing before seeing two characters do a crossover.  Not that Hugo is taking a blind bit of notice mind you.  However two other notable characters by completely different artists would soon be doing their own joint venture, which might not sound like much, I mean so what if an artist draws characters by someone else, it happens all the time and even did above on the postcards... but no, it's something special, so keep an eye out for it soon.

But now the sun is setting on another issue of the world's greatest comic:

by Tony Husband

But not before Uncle Pigg signs off this issue.  As I've said before each early issue's page 2 would have a strip of some size or other where our illustrious editor would introduce the issue, usually at the expense of Mary Lighthouse.  Then, usually on page 30 (of 32), judging by the issues so far he'd end the issue with the second part of whatever had been happening earlier.  This particular instance also sets up a rather good twist (in the pig's tale) for #8:

by Mark Rodgers & Ian Jackson

And the comic would keep to its word.  Join me in two weeks for a rather unique issue (not that any aren't of course!) and the introduction of a fan favourite who never even had their own strip!

Next issue on sale Friday 9th August.

Friday, 19 July 2013

HAMMING IT UP ON YOUR WALL: PART ONE

J.T. Dogg (real name Malcolm Douglas) was a phenomenal artist.

Let's just say that straight off the bat.  The man was legendary and his work on Oink! brought with it the kind of intricate detail and colouring that made the strips he drew truly epic.  They may have been about pigs on motorbikes (Street-Hogs) or pigs saving the future (Ham Dare) but when reading them they still had a feeling that transcended other comics (humour titles or otherwise!) of the day.

At the beginning of the run, we also had the fortnightly pleasure of the Oink! Superstar Posters, double-page spreads of piggy parodies that, let's face it, looked awesome (and I don't use that word lightly) on our walls.  To this day the artwork still looks phenomenal and the posters themselves are still funny.  In the first of two blog updates dedicated to the eight spreads, below are the four posters from the preview edition and the first three regular issues.

I'm very tempted to purchase more copies of these early issues just to be able to get the posters up in frames in my house, while keeping an intact issue too.  And I'm sure I'm not the only collector who has contemplated it...





Looking at these now I think it's incredible the amount of work that went into these for this anarchic 'kids' comic!  These would be reprinted later in Oink!s run for those that missed them the first time round, during the monthly issues.  Personally I can remember some of them from back then, but moreso some of the ones still to come, so I'll go into that in more detail when I put up part two in a few weeks.  The next posters would be included in issues 4-6 and then #8 so I'll post up the remainder after that issue.

Sadly, Malcolm passed away on 22nd March 2009 after battling cancer.

Oink! writer/artist Lew Stringer wrote a touching piece on Malcolm and his work on his blog at the time, which you can read here:


The Guardian newspaper also ran an obituary for "our friend Malcolm Douglas", which you can see here too:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2009/apr/15/malcolm-douglas-obituary

Malcolm's own website is still open and there's a link in the column on the left there, where you can read about his work in his own words and is full of his fond memories as an artist.

Look out for more of his work soon with more posters (you can now click here to go directly to part two) and for fans of the Street-Hogs don't worry I haven't been leaving them out and their early adventure will be seeing the light of day soon on the blog.

See you all again next Friday, 26th July for next issue.

Friday, 12 July 2013

#6: IT'S A CRACKER!


You know something, this has been the best fun, updating the blog with this issue!  It's been harder than ever to choose what to scan in but that's just a sign of how brilliant this issue is.  For a start, this is one of my very favourite covers (by Ian Jackson) of the whole run and definitely the best so far in my opinion.  Beating issue 3 to the top issue in the blog at this point for me, Oink! really hit its stride here, there's an air of confidence about the whole issue, and on top of that a great theme running through nearly every single strip.

Of which, we'll start with a one-off written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Weedy Willy's artist, Mike Green (don't worry, Willy will be making an appearance soon... erm...):


Every time I see that cat sitting on the windowsill in December it makes me laugh, I have no idea why!  I love how this starts off just as innocent as any other comic strip of the day, with the cat providing the grins, and then in the last few panels it all turns into, well, 'Oink!' again.  It's testimony to the comic that its one-off strips are as well remembered amongst some fans as the regular characters and this is one which has stood the test of time and the old grey memory cells.  The unpredictability of what would come with each issue would keep everything so fresh - you just didn't know what to expect every issue!

Mike Green is also one of only two Oink! contributors who'd continue on with their characters after the comic folded into Buster, but that's a tale for another time.

Unfortunately I can see no credit or signature on this next story and it's such a shame, not just for the sublime art but for the fact it's all one perfect big set up for a good ol' pun!:


Talk about a pay off!  Such fantastic artwork going into a piss-take of Watership Down is just brilliant and as the series continues you'll see more and more fantastic art being used to great effect on some fantastic spoofs.  And if puns like the above make you groan, just be warned about our last strip in this update(!).

UPDATE:  The superb artist behind this makes a welcome return in a much later post (the one for #60 no less!) and when it was published on the blog Patrick Gallagher informed us the artist behind these marvellous pieces of work was in fact his very own neighbour, one Ann Martin.  Fantastic artistry and some sublime pieces of work for a kids' comic.  Thank you Ann!

But first, a little educational break from Uncle Pigg's Amazing Facts About Animals, written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ed McHenry:


Children's favourite stories were never safe, as you've seen above, and even huge franchises such as Transformers could be the target.  But us kids loved that!  We loved seeing our favourite TV shows given the Oink! treatment (as I've mentioned before it was like seeing your favourite celebrity on Spitting Image) and while Rupert the Bear was never one of mine, he was just as loved back then as Winnie the Pooh or Mickey Mouse... both of which would later also make an appearance within the pages of a much better comic than their own!:


I can remember this strip but I think it was from a later holiday special which ran some reprints, as I don't think I'd started collecting the comic at this stage.  Written by Mark Rodgers (you may be seeing a trend this issue!) and drawn by Cowpat County's Davy Francis, Rupert the Pear was the first of many child favourites that'd appear mimicking the actual way we'd see them in their own books and comics.  I remember at the time I was still into Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends alongside the more grown up boy's toys, but I appreciated the way Oink! would do this to them all and as you can see, Mark really didn't hold back!

Just wait to you see what happens to the aforementioned steam train...

Ian Hope is a name I'm not familiar with, nor is the character Young Igor, so I'm afraid I haven't got an awful lot to say about this next strip, but come on this is good stuff:


As it turns out this was the only appearance of the character but he does look familiar, so that's either my memory of Oink! and getting this as a back issue in the 80s (as the cover is very definitely familiar!), or he may just remind me of some of my neighbours.

Fact time again:


And now the afternoon film.  Yes, The Golden Trough Awards have featured just recently in the blog but the beauty of these is that they're all so different, and when I read this one and saw that dog how could I not want to scan this one in!:


Written by Tony Husband and, obviously, drawn by Ian Jackson, Laffie is everything a proper wonderdog should be - cool, collected, talented and is 'anti-establishment' too strong?  Yeah, I'll just go for 'naughty' instead.  I remember I could spend so long just looking at Jackson's artwork and roaring with laughter as a kid and the feeling hasn't dissipated as an adult, though I must say either this issue's track record of bad puns is sky-rocketing, or it's an indication of my sense of humour that I've picked these all out of the comic... hmm...

Another couple of treats this issue if you can pick it up on eBay are Roger Rental He's Completely Mental, a brilliant Hadrian Vile and a really top Tom Thug... below which was a little unassuming two-panel strip.  None of us knew what would follow after this(!):


Yes!  Excuse the excitement, and if you're new to Oink! you'll probably be wondering why this little strip is being given such prominence.  Lew Stringer's Pete and his Pimple is an Oink! legend!  One of my very faves and a top favourite among fans, Pete would continue from here all the way through the run and then into the pages of Buster alongside Willy and Tom.  This little strip would open up a world for a brand new character who'd sit alongside the others in his own full-page (or whatever Uncle Pigg allowed) stories and just you wait and see what'd happen to that pimple and those around it... something which unsurprisingly never did happen when he went to Buster!

But that, like Weedy Willy, is for another blog update and this is just a tease for the fans, and a look at how he was originally introduced.  I always thought he was there from the very beginning with his own regular pages so it's interesting to see he started off almost as a one-off addition to the Tom Thug page.

Ok, so I did warn you above, but if you're prone to the groans prepare yourself right now.  Never in the history of mankind have so many been brought together quite so eloquently (ha!).  Who's to blame?  That'd be regular IPC writer Graham Exton (well, I'm assuming so from the initials and Graham's work on Oink!) and artist Ed McHenry.  I accept no responsibility... even though I scanned it in two bits to get the whole A4+ page in, pasted them together to form the original piece, saved it to a quick-loading format, uploaded it and saved it here.  Nope, not my fault at all:


(For some more insights into the creation of this particular strip, and even some background into the main fish(!), see the comments section for some info from script writer Graham Exton after the post went live.  Thanks Graham!)

Aw I really don’t want this issue to end, it’s been a blast and I just want to share more of it with you, but restraint must be shown!  However...

Well, the next issue is on sale Friday 26th July but let’s just say come back next week for a special additional post.