Thursday, 25 December 2014

THE OINK! BOOK 1988 (PART ONE) - THIS IS IT! THE BIGGIE!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!


Ah the memories!  How many of you can remember coming downstairs on Christmas morning and seeing this cheery face staring back at you?  Well if you're online today (Christmas Day) Merry Christmas and I hope this fantastic cover brings it all back to you - that'd certainly set you up for the day!

I'd been giddy with excitement at getting my hands on this ever since I saw it in my local newsagents, piled up high on a huge table along with the other annuals, it's glossy cover shining bright - my little eyes were wide with anticipation.  And how it shined!  All other kids' annuals were the usual cardboard hardback books but, as Oink! does, this title went for something different - an incredibly shiny, soft cover that made it stand out from the crowd even more than that piggy face already did!  Inside, all eighty interior pages were huge and made of top quality paper, giving the whole thing a solid, expensive feel.

Inside the content was even more random than the regular comic.  Up to this point we'd been used to themes in each issue but the book only had one - to be as funny as possible and anything goes!  I remember feeling at the time that other humour annuals (my brother used to get The Beano's) were basically just the same strips but with bigger panels to make them last for a few pages more.  I'm not saying that's what they were, but my young mind felt that at times.  The Oink! Book 1988 packed so much into each and every page it seemed to contain much more content than its stable mates who had roughly about thirty pages more.

It's a wonderfully varied read, containing everything from our favourite characters to photo stories, spoofs of other comics, TV and film, posters, puzzles and even readers' letters and drawings - the latter one being something which definitely was never included in other annuals I collected over my young years.  So how on earth am I going to select highlights from this tome of a volume?  Well it's already proving incredibly difficult believe me, but to help a little I'm splitting it into three posts - there's just that amount of goodness in here.

Starting with surely the best cover an annual ever had, Ian Jackson outdid himself yet again.  After doing the superb cover for the first Oink! Holiday Special Ian takes the idea of a small plasticine Uncle Pigg and ups the ante to a full-blown pig's face.  The adverts for Fleetways' annuals that year had Oink!'s billed as "there's never been an annual like it" and this cover sums that up perfectly.  If you've never read it before then just wait until you see the back cover.  But that'll come, for now though we've got a treat in store.

The book starts and ends with a great full-colour Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse bookend which, just like the regular comic, promoted the huge array of talent involved:


As a child I didn't pay much attention to the claim on the cover of this being 'all-new stuff by Britain's best' as I already knew the comic was my favourite.  As an adult however, just look at that list of writers, cartoonists and contributors!  This really was a comic which understood the importance of supplying the very best of top quality content to the children reading it.  It really was Britain's best collaboration and all for kids!  That'd be interesting to explore even more wouldn't it?  Hmm... might do something about that.

Spoiled rotten, us pig pals.

So which of these listed individuals are present and correct in the first third of this book?  We start off with, unsurprisingly, Mark Rodgers and this time he's partnered with a new artist to the pages of Oink! (as far as I can tell anyway) called Swoffs.  The fictional Ron Dibney is back with the latest Disney spoof and Dumb ol' Duck makes a welcome return, and this time he's brought along a friend:


The character hadn't been seen in the comic since #10 but these annuals are planned and worked on so much in advance this was most probably created at roughly the same time.  For example in here we've also got Nigel and Skrat the Two-Headed Rat who hasn't been around in an age and the James Bond spoof you'll see next week had a small portion of it used in last year's Christmas issue!  For anyone who may have gotten this annual for Christmas in 1987 but hadn't read the comic yet the strip above was definitely the one to set the scene, wasn't it?

But as if that wasn't enough, on the opposite page was the concrete proof - as if any were needed - they were going to not only read something the likes of which they'd never read before, but that they were going to have an absolute blast doing so.  You just can't have a large special book without your advertisers getting in on the action after all:


6Music DJ Marc Riley dresses up in his Dennis the Menace-esque wooly jumper as surely the most conspicuous burglar the world has ever seen, Snatcher Sam, who is now making an honest(-ish) living with the crooks behind GBH.  Magazines and comics were filled with likewise adverts for book clubs promising you cheap titles to begin with but then signing you up to buy a certain amount of full priced ones over the next year.  I myself was a member of the Britannia Video Club.  Remember them?

The book contains some strips which run the length of it, such as Hadrian Vile's interleckshual guide toe Nacheral Histry.  We've all seen Hadrian's mind at work to explain the world around him, so what happens when writer Mark Rodgers and artist Ian Jackson send him out into the world to explain to the young readers a subject a little bigger in scope than smelly girls, family life and homework - say, the complete history of the entire planet:


After a 4-page Fun Hour comic containing The Tragic Roundabout, Georgie & Zip's Party and Postman Fat and his Slightly Flat Cat amongst others, we go from natural history to learning language skills with Aunty Enid and then, as you'll see below, on to the facts of life.

Well the initial target audience of the comic would, in a few years perhaps, be learning about such things at school or through an awkward conversation with parents so why not prepare them with a little educational piece in Oink?  Oh, hang on...:


I turned 10 years of age just four days before getting this book so the strip above went over my head a little when I first read it, but it was by far only the first of many, many times this would get read after a few years of it sitting on a shelf, enjoyed immensely, then placed back on the shelf until next time.  Even in my teens I remember thinking this was way ahead of its time to contain something like this in a children's comic book.  Great stuff.

Now, talking of great stuff, this book was the first time in my youth that I came across the crew of the 'Enterpies' and their adventures in space with the grotesque and scary aliens they'd encounter.  Yes folks, it's finally time to welcome back to the blog the tales of Captain Slog, Sock and Jock in:

{insert dramatic introductory music}

STAR TRUCK II: THE SEARCH FOR SOCK

This photo story take on the Star Trek franchise was first seen way, way back in #3 and they went down a storm with blog readers and fans at the Facebook group.  Just as back then we've got editors Mark Rodgers and Patrick Gallagher as the Captain and Sock respectively, though Tony Husband is nowhere to be seen this time.  Well, technically we couldn't see him behind the chicken mask last time but you get my drift.

Last time we'd Marc playing Jock as well but now he's been recast and a friend of Mark and his partner Helen Jones by the name of Andrew Richardson is taking his place and does a hilarious job.  Also fellow friend Rose Goodier is underneath the high-tech alien make-up effects, and Helen herself makes a brief appearance too in this first episode of many to feature throughout the annual.  Enjoy!:


I've said it before and I'll say it again - what a great job.  The fun these guys and all the creators had working on Oink! has been great to hear about while doing the blog, and that very enjoyment certainly came across on every single page, especially in this book.  No wonder we loved it so much when these are two of the three guys in charge!  They and Tony were the bosses.  Just let that sink in.

Also, huge thanks to Helen for the information on who was who in this sequel strip.

As with the previous Star Truck this one would continue in little random parts and guest appearances in other stories (the captain turns up in a Harry the Head for example) as you continue through the pages and the first couple of actual strips are below.  But first a little home truth.

I've mentioned previously how this was the year of my youth when I was hearing all those rumours around the playground that Santa Claus didn't really exist.  Thankfully I soon found out they were just rumours when he left my Oink! Book 1988 under my parents' wardrobe before Christmas because demand for it was so high and he didn't want to disappoint me.  I found it but left it where it was as I didn't want him to think I'd started believing the untrue rumours.  But about these rumours. What was the truth?  It was up to two men, writer Lew Stringer and artist Kevin O'Neil to join forces and save Christmas, with The Truth About Santa.  It was time for the kiddies to know:


There's an image that'll stay with you.

Or haunt you.

But quick, back to our epic tale, our search for Sock and a very special guest non-appearance:


Oink! was already set apart from the crowd of humour comics out there at the time but something which continued this trend for the book was that it was basically more of the same.  While other annuals had large multi-page versions of the regular strips, Oink! kept them to their usual size from the comic, more or less.  It just meant there was a hell of a lot more of them!  Little quarter-page strips popped up all over the place just like in the fortnightly, and this little one written by the ever-puntastic Graham Exton and drawn by the legendary Tom Paterson (so happy to see him back in the pages of an Oink!) is a particular favourite out of them all:


Little one-off characters weren't expected in the annual and it's a delight to see the creative team took the opportunity to simply cram much more in of what made the regular comic so great in the first place.  For a child of ten years of age there was just so much content to read and enjoy, is it any wonder it became - and still is - my favourite childhood book of all time.

Well that's me a third of the way through and I'm going to leave it for now and go and enjoy Christmas Day.  I hope you're all having a marvellous holiday season and that it continues for a while yet.  The next issue of the fortnightly comic, which incidentally is the last fortnightly too, will be up on the blog... tomorrow!  Does my dedication to this blog know no bounds?  Or have I used the Schedule Post option to my advantage?  I'll never tell.

#44, the Hogmanay issue, will be with you all tomorrow to enjoy over your supper of chocolate and shortbread, then more goodness from this very book in just a few days.

Merry Christmas everyone!  Make it a good one.


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