Saturday, 22 February 2014

#19: TRIMMING THE PORK FAT

Originally due on the blog back on Friday 10th January.


So after the food of the Christmas holidays (one of the highlights of my year, every year if I'm honest) and most likely the liquids of the New Year festivities the magazine shelves of newsagents up and down the land become, ironically enough, fat with titles on one subject.  It's the time of each and every year when men and women make those resolutions, the gyms become busy for a month and January's top-selling magazines lecture their readers on exactly how bad they were for enjoying themselves the previous few weeks.

1987 sought to bring a remedy to that - Oink!'s special Keep Fit issue, beginning with that 'strong' cover from Banx.  To be honest though, #19 doesn't always hit the mark, but when it does it outshines all the competition as per usual.  I know I always said the blog wouldn't be a 'best of' but I'm making the exception here for this issue to show the lean, mean comedy machine pumping at the heart of this edition.

Now speaking of lean and mean, remembering the fact this was the 1980s, what kind of fitness instructor will that conjure up in your imagination?  I can bet you got the leotard right.  But probably not the rest:

by EdMcHenry

Less Mr Motivator, more Mrs Lotafat-or.  Oh my word that was terrible.  Sorry.  I won't do that again.

So after your workout you'll be needing a rest in front of the telly and the old fashioned Saturday morning serial format of Ham Dare would surely suffice.  But he's dead, right?  Reduced to a bunch of Tescos Finest.  Well, the solution from Lew Stringer and drawn by J.T. Dogg is eloquently simple:


Yep so that's it from Mr Dare for now and while he may only have been present for 5 issues compared to the 12 in total for the Streethogs (now you know why they got their own series of updates on here), he's just as fondly remembered and will definitely be back in the first annual and then in the third Holiday Special, so keep your trotters off that dial!

Another new character who appeared alongside the glut of new attractions in the sort-of relaunch issue #15 was another creation from the mind of Cowpat County's Davy Francis and one who would stay with us all the way through Oink!'s run from then on - reader favourite, Greedy Gorb - He'd Eat Anything!:


Gorb would become a highlight for me personally and I'd look forward to his diet tips in every issue.  Though while you'd hope kids wouldn't copy his attempts to satisfy his hunger (in the 80s we had a thing called 'common sense' instead of 'Health & Safety') there were occasions when Oink! would give out a very clear message, knowing how popular the comic, its characters and its humour were becoming with the young readers.

I remember in a much later issue a story to tell kids to take care of their teeth had a profound effect on me that'll I'll get into when it comes up later this year, but in this issue with it being all about fitness there could be only one nasty habit that would be the butt of the next Tony Husband strip (no pun intended I swear, I wasn't going there after that failed Mr. Motivator pun):


This kind of acts as a precursor to the Smokebusters Special, a limited edition issue of the comic which was given to some select schools in England, but we'll keep that for another time.  Unsurprisingly, I doubt the press and the pressure groups who unfairly attacked Oink! gave much publicity to that special or the strip above.

Recently on his Facebook page Lew Stringer was reminiscing about the fact it was 30 years to the month since he went fully self-employed as a comics writer and artist, back in 1984.  I grew up never far from a comic which featured Lew's work, not just in Oink! but also in Marvel UK's action comics The Transformers, Action Force (and 'The Transformers & Action Force' when the latter one folded) and then the more comedy-based The Real Ghostbusters comic.  Robo Capers, Combat Colin with Semi-Automatic Steve, Blimey! It's Slimer, Pete & His Pimple, Tom Thug, Pigswilla... it's an absolute pleasure to be able to talk to the man behind these strips nowadays online and one of the (many) joys of doing this read-through is being able to discover little one-offs which pop up now and again.

The next one is one such example.  Never to appear again, as he was simply created for this themed issue, he'd be gone as quickly as the cereal he's based on:


Here's to many more years of Mr Stringer's imagination keeping us all entertained!

Couple of special strips for you now, starting off with Scouting for Boys, which isn't a prelude to a later pop group but rather a boys' own exercise regime, with very official-looking artwork by Mike Taylor:


After all that hard work, Oink! shows its gentler side, with the tale of a ballerina with a wooden leg whose only dream was to compete, to dance and to be happy...:


The artwork is very similar to that found in such comics as Bunty and other girls' titles, which you'll be unsurprised to read since Oink!'s artists were just fantastic at mimicking those they were parodying.  Les Barton does a top job here and he'd become a regular contributor later with those anarchic rockers The Slugs under the name 'Lezz'.  Sadly he passed away in October 2008, but he left a legacy of cartoons not just in Oink!, but in other IPC/Fleetway titles such as Whizzer & Chips and outside the children's market in Punch, Private Eye and many more.

You can read more about this remarkable artist here in an obituary in Lew Stringer's Blimey! blog:

http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/les-barton-1923-2008.html

And Les' son, Bob, wrote the following article for The Guardian after his passing:

http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2009/jan/15/obituary-les-barton

Going back to the Wanda with the Wooden Leg story, I noticed it was written by the unstoppable talent that is Mark Rodgers, with Helen Jones, a name I've never encountered before in this or any comic.  However, Hadrian Vile seems to possibly know her, if this panel from his story in this issue is anything to go by:

Part of Hadrian Vile written by Mark Rodgers, art by Ian Jackson

Thanks to Lew Stringer and Graham Exton in the comments section for letting me know this is actually Mrs Rodgers and Helen has, much to my delight, joined us at the Facebook group now too to remember the comic and the fantastic work of Mark!

By the way, did you notice the letterer in the Wanda strip...?

Now before we finish, just time to introduce another new character who appears here for the first time.  But it's not just the character who's new and of great importance.  His creator's name may be familiar to you:


Freddie Flop was the first of the creations of one Charlie Brooker - yes that Charlie Brooker.  Now a staple of BBC and Channel 4 television in the form of his own series Screen/Weekly/Games/News Wipe or as the best bit of Ten O'Clock Live and the like.  He also writes regular columns for The Guardian and was the creator of the dark comedy Black Mirror.  I love his sardonic and often quite brutal sense of humour, but as a teenager and while he was still at school he contributed to Oink! by sending in some unsolicited material and his work soon became some of the highlights of the comic!  What a first job, and talk about a kid's dream come true!  Transmogrifying Tracey, The Adventures of Death and Clint Gritwood the Trigger-Happy Cop are still to come but they're worth the wait.

Welcoming Charlie's first strip to the blog makes me feel like the collection of characters (Dead Fred started in this issue too) is really gelling with all of my best memories of Oink!, so I'm really looking forward to seeing where we go in the #20s and this is definitely the year where Oink! was at its peak.  For me anyway.  It was the only year in the comic's life where it'd be released all year long (having started in May 1986 and ended in October 1988) so let's look forward to '1987' and the very best full year of comic goodness I can ever remember.

Speaking of looking forward:

Artwork by Patrick Gallagher

With all of the war centenary programmes flooding the BBC at the moment it'll feel very appropriate to be reading this next issue at this time.  So see you soon for it.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

#18: BACK FROM THE BRINK... WITH A WHOLE NEW YEAR

It's been a long road lined with technical problems, very frustrating technical problems which stopped me from following the very idea behind this blog in the first place - to update on the date of release of each issue 27 years ago (see previous two posts for details).  But now, I'm back up and running and everyone's favourite Uncle and his pigs are back... with a New Year's issue!

Originally due on the blog back on Friday 27th December, here's #18.  At last.


I remember as a kid thinking "hogmanay" was another Oink! pun, so used to them was I by this stage.  I had to have my parents explain to me when I saw it listed in the TV Times that it wasn't a pun and had nothing at all to do with pigs.  I didn't believe them.  This cover doesn't ring many bells (not sure who the artist is, could be Marc Riley but that's unconfirmed) but it's a fun start to an issue which is brimming with Scottish jokes and strips, so if you're one of those people who laughs at the jokes in Have I Got News For You but flips out when they dare poke fun at Scotland, don't read on.

But then again, you're an Oink! fan! That means you're not of those people, as you've already got the very best sense of humour.

But before we head on to the festivities, it's time to continue with the penultimate episode in the first Ham Dare strip.  When we last left him (which, yes, was a while ago now) it looked like he was about to become rat food.  Do rats eat pork?  Maybe metal ones do.  Scripted by Lew Stringer with art by J.T. Dogg, read on:


Ok, now that looks like a certainty doesn't it?  He's gone.  Where he's been shot several times it looks like there's plenty of crispy pork belly to go around.  I needn't tell you to expect the unexpected, that goes without saying (so just ignore it) but you'll see how he got around that one next issue (which you won't even have to wait a fortnight for!).

So every now and again it's nice to take in a bit of culture isn't it?  Scotland certainly has a rich history, and even their famous poet Robbie Burns wasn't immune.  Nope, as I've said before nothing was sacred, and it certainly wasn't just celebrities who were still alive that we'd see being given a unique makeover, in this instance by Steve Gibson:


After witnessing Rubbish Man take on the Loch 'Mess' Monster (huge lizard with kilt, tattoos and the like) in the centre poster it's once again in the second half of the comic where things pick up and the first target is the Dandy.  Again - because there was a Desperate Don strip in the first half.  Any readers of the classic comic will know exactly where the inspiration for the next strip comes from and that would be the Dandy's The Jock and the Geordies.  It also wouldn't be the last time Oink! would accuse other comics of simply being boring in comparison with itself.  Before now we've seen it in issue 12 where even IPC's own Whizzer & Chips felt the brunt of it by one of their own artists!  If you haven't read that one yet go check it out.  Then come back and check this out, written by Mark Rodgers and drawn with character by Marc Riley:


We've had a poem, how about a nursery rhyme?  Dave Jones brings to us the very first Rotten Rhymes, a series of familar children's stories told with a surprise ending every time.  I remember some of the later ones with much fondness, so I was overjoyed to see them begin this early in the run, so there must be plenty to look forward to.  Plenty along the lines of this:


So yes, poetry and nursery rhymes and with the next two strips we'll cover geography and languages.  Oink! was seen as a bad influence...?

The following map is simply fantastic.  Take your time to appreciate all the little jokes and references drawn up by Ian Jackson here as Hadrian Vile takes us on a tour of the highlands:


There's too many there to pick a favourite, but this did have me laughing probably much more now than back then, as at age 9 I wasn't really up to speed on Scotland's geography.  But that was Oink!, suitable for the kids but like the very best comics of the day it didn't speak down to the little ones so was enjoyed all the more by them and adults alike.

So - languages.  Well, when I say "language" I actually mean Glaswegian.  It's written by the ever-brilliant Mark Rodgers and drawn by Mike Green, and as someone who frequently laughs at the Ulster-Scots "language" when I see it in manuals and contracts these days I particularly enjoyed this:


We're into the final pages and this issue has one more classic to give up for us before it places itself back onto the shelf.  Now as far as my memory goes I think the following little character would make a return appearance at least once more in the run, but hopefully more.  Remember Lassie the Wonder Dog?  Back when we had dogs, kangaroos and even dolphins helping little children trapped down wells.  Well surely nothing could be more ripe for a pig makeover than that stable of morning television.  Oink! co-creator Tony Husband and artist Chas Sinclair team up here for something rather special and hopefully not a one-off:


The GBH group was now a regular feature within the pages of the comic, providing a rather unique selection of goods and services to buy and for the New Year special they (for once!) bypassed making extortionate amounts of money and instead offered a cookery class in that Scottish delicacy that is sheep's heart, liver, lungs and stomach lining.  (As I'm playing catch-up with these issues I'm posting this one up on a Sunday so apologies for that last sentence if you're a bit delicate from the night before):


That's us folks, the first of what will be a rather frequent set of updates to get caught back up and on schedule, so check back very soon for the next issue which has a very obvious theme since it was the first of the New Year back in 1987.  After all, what's the usual main topic of mainstream magazines in January every single year?:


See you soon!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

TIMES, THEY ARE A-CHANGING (BACK)

Good news at last!

Okay, so my laptop seemed to die.  I didn't want to lose all the precious photos, documents and everything else on it, so I couldn't do a system wipe to see if that would work.  Ironically enough, I only use it for The Oink! Blog because my iPad has become my main computer, but the Oink! files were the only stuff I wouldn't mind losing as everything so far is right here in the blog anyway.

I tried different system recoveries and techniques, until it got to the stage where it would boot up but as soon as you touched the mouse pad or a key it just froze.

So I tried various "experts".  There's a reason for the quotation marks.

I was told it was gone, deader than a dead parrot and that it was a hardware issue so a system reboot would be no good.  So I tried my friend's netbook but, as good as that wee machine is, the pictures simply weren't turning out as well, with some cross-hatching of solid colours and things like that.  Maybe I'm a perfectionist... actually, yes I am when it comes to this blog, so I spent a couple of weeks trying new software, various settings etc.

In the end I was desperate.  I was already delayed long enough so I thought a complete wiping of my laptop couldn't break a broken computer any further.  And you know what?  It worked!



As you can see, those "experts" earned their quotation marks and I'm currently working to get caught up.  I'll only be installing the minimum I need for the blog and I've lost all my other files, including years of photos (new photos are saved to my iCloud these days and some of those older ones are on Facebook) but the main thing is to keep that glass half full, and 'blog corner' is definitely back in my living room.

We've got a few issues to get through before we get back on track so prepare for more updates than you'd usually get!  We'll be starting with our Hogmanay issue after all.

Better get to it then actually...


See you soon.