Friday, 30 May 2014

#29: THE SWILLS ARE ALIVE...


Have just uploaded that cover to this post while listening to Forgotten Eighties on Absolute 80s radio and I'm feeling all nostalgic.  I still love 80s music, there's something unique and original about it, an excellent mix of acoustic and 'new' electronic music that was (or rather, still is for me) so fit to bursting with creativity, fun and catchiness ... if that sounds right.  What does sound right is this track playing which I've never heard before - even after two and a half decades I'm still discovering class 80s songs and artists, a bit like how I'm discovering what feels like new strips in Oink!, such is the failure of the ol' grey cells.

So on with the 29th edition and no disrespect intended to any of the hugely talented Oink! crew but there's something special about grabbing the next issue and seeing an Ian Jackson cover, like we're in for a treat or something.  Inside, if you're a fan of the 3-panel, quarter-page strips you are indeed in for such a treat.  But first, an apology - Oink! style, on the Grunts page:


The "*" led to the bottom of the page, which read "* These highly intelligent fans unfortunately don't win a piggy pride, as they forgot to include their full address!  Tee Hee!"

Before the comic strips we've also got the small matter of the "FREE LPs" given away with this issue.  A free LP?  Yes, that's what it says on the Grunts page... then in very small letters underneath, "Little Postcards".  Last issue Banx provided us with the first two but now the torch is handed over to Lew Stringer and when he's got the chance to draw two proper postcards who else is going to be chosen than these two Oink! stalwarts!:

Free postcard #3
Free postcard #4

Very tempted to use some of these on my next holiday, but hang on that'd mean someone else would have them and not me anymore!  Oh hell no!  Sorry friends and family, you'll have to make do with the usual picture postcards which look nothing like where I'll be because it was taken 10 years ago and never updated.

So yes, the 3-panel strips.  Not only would some strips always appear in this format, but we'd sometimes see regular characters give us a short, sharp gag this way instead of having their usual full page to themselves (like Cowpat County in this issue) and of course it was a brilliant way to have the team hit us with a random one-off character or joke.  Such as this from Simon Thorpe, Wally Wiseacre (careful now, no spelling mistakes writing that name):


Zootown from Haldane was always in this format (asides the poster as mentioned in #27's post) and always delivered.  These were always some of my favourite characters, despite never actually finding out if the animals were the same ones featured previously or not.  So here's the latest happenings from the town where nobody knows their names:


Finally for this post's mini-classics we've the welcome return of Wilkie's Dead Fred, the friendliest zombie you'll ever meet, who would be one of those that'd appear to be making it into the comic on a 'now-and-again' basis at the mo, though I've fond memories of him being a regular.  Either way, he's still dead good though:


Yes I deliberately fled through those few strips to help give that quick-read feeling they brought, interspersed at random (to us readers anyway) points throughout the pages every fortnight.  Perfect strip action for the attention deficit youth.

But here, hang on, come back, there's more!  I'll try not to blather on too long.  Honestly, it may look like a lot of pointless text but it's not really, you'll be at the next cartoon soon.  Promise.

A couple of weeks ago I was tinkering about in my new flat sorting some things out and wondering why they'd bothered to remake The Fog movie.  (It was on TV, it wasn't playing on my mind or anything.)  Whether it's the original or the update you prefer you'll be aware of the kind of fog/mist/smoke-machine shrouded ghostly figures the story is all about.  Ghost stories are forever banging on about a particular anonymous person walking past one particular point or along a particular corridor etc, at a particular time every night.  You know the sort, all with a particular characteristic, like a crying child, a howling dog or a laughing toddler - they're noisy lots, the undead.

Well here's just such a story.  Sorta.  From Tony Husband and drawn by Les "Lezz" Barton:


That's one of my faves so far and a perfect example of Tony's sense of humour.  With him being one of the three creators/editors behind Oink! itself how could it possibly fail as a comic?  Well if you're a regular reader of the blog you'll know by now (well, by a long time ago hopefully) that it didn't fail!

Jeremy Banx (whoa! Hold on, literally as I type his name my iPad beside me just lit up there to say he's shared something I found on Facebook.... ok seriously Jeremy, that's a tad freaky...) Ok, going to try this paragraph again.

Jeremy Banx returns now with a further update (or "re-update") on the whereabouts of the most notorious butcher the UK has ever seen, Jimmy (the Cleaver) Smith, in the latest edition of Butcherwatch.  There was always something incredibly creepy about this character.  A superb creation we all loved to hate, his look was very dark for a humour comic aimed at kids, but he was a great success - we lapped up his appearances to get equally thrilled and creeped-the-hell out!:


That "He could be in your house" panel definitely falls under the 'creepy' category.  The TV being off, the darkness outside, the silence in the scene is palpable and sent a slight shudder (although an enjoyable one) down my adult spine, never mind whatever it must've done to me as a 9 year old!

Back in the previous musical issue (that'd be #16) there was a competition to win, I quote, "A pop concert in your home".  As I said in that post I'd no idea who the band were.  Called Le Lu Lus I'd never heard of them, even with all of my fantastic 80s musical taste.  Well in this issue we'd finally get to find out in the following photo story featuring the kid who won the "concert" and his poor mum:


It's great to see Oink! doing this for competition winners (just like with the Radio Manchester winners in a previous issue) and involving the readers in such a way.  Wish I'd entered competitions as a child now!  (Well except this one.)  I always filled out the forms but never actually sent anything off.  But anyway, now we get to see Le Lu Lus in the flesh and the memories come flooding back.

No wait.

Who the hell are they?!

Garish clothing, huge sunglasses and most likely miming to the audience.  Nope, doesn't help, that could be any 80s band on Top of the Pops!  Oh well, the mystery remains and by the looks of them I'm not going to be in any hurry to find out.  Poor child!

Before our final pictures what else does the issue contain if you're looking to add it to your collection?  How about a Western photo story called Ghost-Pigs in the Sky, A Yung Person's Gydde to the Orkistra bi Hadrian Vile, another song from Burp (the first was here), loads of 3-panel goodness, the return of Henry the Wonder Dog at last and the totally tremendous Ted the Ted's Top Tips for Trendy Teddy Boys!

Before we finish off though, when the quite excellent RoboCop reboot came out earlier this year Facebook group member Martin Grimley enquired about the RoboChop spoof Oink! did in a much later issue.  He was able to track down the issue and buy it and once again own his cherished memory (then Stuart Mathers had to show off with the framed RoboChop picture he'd received as a gift just last year).  Oink! would do a lot of its own versions of particular movie posters, including a great Ghostbusters one and I can guarantee you'll see them all right here!

But in this issue we're treated to the first and from my memory of those later pages I'm guessing it'd be Simon Thorpe who'd do them all, or at least the majority.  We'll find out as the blog continues, but for now here's the superb debut of his cinema posters with a great pigged-out version of The Sound of Music, beautifully crafted and taking pride of place on the back cover of this issue:


Brilliant work!

INTERACTIVE BLOG STUFF!

So, we're now looking forward to the next regular issue, but back in #18 (and the following issues) the comic asked readers to send in their nominations for the special 1987 Oink! Awards.  At the time I put those posts up I asked the members of the FB group to nominate in the same categories to see what the results would be like today.

Well, in the next issue the 1987 results will be revealed in the Celebrity Special, but in the meantime here's the categories for you to nominate who you think would win in 2014!  Just email me by clicking right here with your choices before Thursday 11th June and we'll see which celebrities will receive the dubious honours below:


That next issue will be on sale on Friday 12th June and don't forget the month also includes another extra special treat!

See ya.

Drawn by Ian Jackson

(Oh and the tune was Love's Glory by Fruits of Passion.)

Monday, 26 May 2014

HOLIDAY SPECIAL #1 (PART TWO): A STY OF EXTRAORDINARY STRIPS


To catch up on the first 24 pages of 1987's Oink! Holiday Special

Here we go again, back to the first of the big thick special editions and while the first half had some great one-off strips, the second half treats us to more regulars, including an origin tale, a 3-page mega-strip for a fan favourite and, not excluding one-offs of course a 4-page gameshow special which has artwork that has to be seen to be believed.

But, speaking of "big thick", Tom Thug makes his first special appearance in a prequel tale of sorts, where we finally find out a little about his past.  Is it a story about how he inherited his dad's thuggish attitude?  Or why his mum only reappeared recently?  Or was he a cute baby and something went wrong?  It's actually none of the above, as creator Lew Stringer rightfully knows the big questions to ask about his own characters:


All the great mysteries of life eventually become solved, don't they?

As I've mentioned before Oink!'s letters (etc!) page would appear in specials and annuals and there's two pages devoted to them here too (examples can be seen here).  We've also got a puzzle-page with a spoof word search and the like, Frank Sidebottom's board game (the cut-out pieces were featured in the previous post from this issue), another rhyming strip from Lew Stringer in the shape of Fatty Herbert He Likes His Sherbet!! and the conclusion to the Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse story which you'll see down below.

But next up is this 3-page Burp! from Banx, in which our smelly calamitous friend takes himself off on vacation.  But obviously this opens up the whole galaxy, after all he's not exactly indigenous to our planet (though smell-wise he's not far off sometimes).  Burp! was forever pissing off us humans in his attempts to befriend us and it looks like this trait of his isn't something he's simply prone to on Earth:


Now, on to holiday romances.  I've been to Turkey with two females but only got mistaken for their gay best friend, been in Florida where my friend had a crush on Chip of the Rescue Rangers (well, the girl in the costume) and in Butlin's back as a 19-year old I met a girl.... and that's all of THAT story I'm ever going to share publicly.  Whether it's the sort of thing which ends up like the ending to Grease or, more likely, a complete disaster you regret the moment you leave for the airport (experiences may vary), I'm not sure many of us could relate to Carol here.  Well, maybe some of us can relate to the other, silent character in this strip from the late, great Les 'Lezz' Barton:


By the way, no I'm not saying it's always the women who are like this, I've seen it happen the other way around!  Not with me personally of course, the women love me.  (Told you this blog would be full of good jokes.)

Kevin O'Neill.

Now for some of the readers out there the mention of that name will have made you finally sit up and pay attention to my typing, while for the rest let me just say the man is a legend in the comics industry.  Working on a multitude of titles over the years I've really enjoyed researching him for this post and he's certainly earned his fame!  Working on such titles as 2000AD, Starlord and, of course, in later years the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,  he liked Oink! and was invited on board by Lew Stringer.

You can read more about him on Lew's Blimey! It's Another Blog About Comics site here and here.  I certainly recommend you do so!

To see him here taking on such brilliantly satirical artwork and a script by Oink! editor Mark Rodgers is certainly something very special indeed!  The artwork itself is special in and of itself but to now know who was behind it makes it all the more enjoyable and, once again, it's great to see that Oink! attracted such far-ranging talent to its pages.  The sharp, sharp, sharp edges give the strip its own edgy feel and the whole thing feels like it was drawn with set-squares and those infinitely thin drawing pens we'd use in Technical Design classes back at school - I love it!  So careful you don't cut yourself on the razor sharp pictures (and wit) and enjoy The Game is Greed:


The 80s child in me came alive right there, spotting all of the contemporary celebrities we were so used to seeing on our television screen back then.  How many were you able to name?  Though thinking of how their careers went post-80s, if you're a bit younger than those of us who enjoyed this comic at the time of its release you may struggle with that one.

Look out for a superb Stringer/O'Neill collaborative in the first Oink! annual later this year and thanks to Lew for the info above!

Now before we head back to the desert island to see how Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse are getting on, another artist whose work I really enjoy these days is Steve Gibson, who shares some strangely unique artwork on his Facebook page quite regularly.  More of an adult-orientated style, his work sat perfectly in the pages of Oink! alongside his contemporaries and here he is taking on the tale of Long John Pilferer:


Well that's us coming to the end of the first special edition of the comic, but it's by far the last.  But let's finish off for now just as we began last time, with Mary Lighthouse and Uncle Pigg still on their desert island, one stranded, the other just taking a well earned break.  You can check out part one here if you haven't already, then get back here for the conclusion which is also written and drawn by the perfect pairing of Mark Rodgers and Ian Jackson respectively:


Hope you enjoyed this extra issue and come back soon for the next music special goes on sale on Friday 30th May.

Bye for now!

Friday, 16 May 2014

#28: IS IT A BIRD? IS IT A PIG? OH... YES. YES, IT IS.


Yes, yes, I know, it doesn't look like the summer special and that's because it isn't, at least not yet.  I've been moving home, getting out of the big smoke and coming back to my own hometown where I grew up reading about pigs, pimples, evil butchers and plops.  The whole task of getting moved, decorated and settled has taken somewhat longer than anticipated and to be frank has taken a lot out of me!  So it came to today and the Mac is finally hooked back up again and instead of delaying the next regular issue I'm going ahead with it and the special will be here in a few days.  The first half still went up the week it was released so it still counts!

Back to today's issue and Ron Tiner returns for only the second time as far as this blog is concerned, his first being the superb spoof of The Professionals back in my very first childhood issue, #14.  Here it's Superman's turn to face the 'chop' and become piggy-flavoured in the "fantastic flying issue".  Not only that, but it's also our first free gift issue of the year!

In #7, which was a regular issue but branded as a summer-themed special, we had eight cutout postcards to make up ourselves but here Oink! was giving away actual proper card-based treats to send to friends and family while on holiday.  Yes, they had nothing about where you were on them but, while this may have defeated the purpose for some, it didn't matter to Oink! readers.  Between the middle pages of this and the next two issues we'd be treated to a total of six postcards which were easily removed to send to anyone we cared about.  This issue it was the turn of Banx:

Free postcard #1
Free postcard #2

I wonder how many of us actually used these?  I can remember taking one or two on holiday with me (the Burp one definitely) at some point, whether it was during 1987 itself or not I'm not sure, but I can't remember actually using them.  Did any of you?  They were a neat idea, though would probably be lost on the youngsters of today who just check in on Facebook on every holiday they go on instead.  Why send a nice handwritten card personally to someone when you can click a button and let everyone know in a cold and impersonal way, eh?  Oh, feeling old again...

Back in the Valentine's issue Charlie Brown and chums got the Oink! treatment and while I was never a fan of the actual TV series or comic strips, I was pleased to see the spoof treatment return here... although this time by David Leach, which may go some way to explaining why I was glad to see their return:


You didn't really think it was because I was happy to see Snoopy, did you?!  Psycho Gran should get a medal for that, but it's our next strip where we go properly heroic thanks to a script from Mark Rodgers and artwork by cover star Ron Tiner.  Many 80s movies would "appear" in this comic, some later favourites being RoboChop and the Butcherbusters, but for now Superham takes to the sty (sty/sky, eh?  Eh?  Hello?  Is this thing on?) in a three page strip of preposterous proportions, but unlike Man of Steel you won't have to force yourself to stay awake with this!:


Brilliant twist and a cracker spoof earning him a worthy Oink! cover.

Seeing a large strip like this makes me notice we haven't had any ongoing epic tales in a while but that's all about to change.  Saying nowt for now though.  Instead, I'm going to concentrate on a rather interesting page in this issue where we see the comic stand right up for itself!

Remember back in #7's blog post I told you all about how Tom Johnson's Janice and John strip caused some stores to put Oink! on the top shelf?  Also how this was after only very few people complained?  If you haven't yet, scoot off and read it and then come back.

I really can't stand people who complain about something they normally have no interest in, such as the ones who never watch Top Gear but will always complain about it and try to get it pulled from the air.  The kind of people who, if they don't like something, demand that no one else should like it.  Well this next page made me smile - to see these sorts of people get their comeuppance and in a kids' comic too!  I can't remember this as a child but I think it's great to see.  Oink! always did talk to its young readers on an even level (instead of talking down to them like other comics) and with this next page Oink! really did keep that up, as they explained what had happened and the outcome:


No other comic would've been this brave, or would've believed their audience would understand or be interested.  Another great example of what set it apart and a great outcome to the complaint.  Not that it made a difference with some stubborn shops, but still.  I love that further little wind-up at the bottom, just to stir the pot a little more.

A quick bad pun:


Thanks Tony Husband.

If you're searching eBay for Oink!s and fancy knowing what else is in an issue I'm always willing to rhyme off some other highlights.  You see, that's why I do it, it's not to rub it in that I've been able to read the whole thing.  Lashie (this time) the Wonder Pig returns after his owner falls down another pit and the pig takes to the sky in a hot air balloon, Banx crams in no less than six final gags into the last panel in Burp, the Golden Trough Awards tells the tale of The Birdman of Dartmoor and we get to see how Frank Sidebottom draws Uncle Pigg!

We zoom now towards the end of the issue but a couple of treats still await.  Mark Rodgers and artist Mike Green have come up with a one-off strip (by "Raymond Piggs" - groan) which wouldn't have looked out of place in the Christmas issue either!:


Now, last issue was our pets special and way back in the bygone era of 2013 we had a look at one of my favourite issues to date #6, which was animal-themed.  Two different takes on a similar theme - one for all animals, one for domestic pets and their interactions with us.  Well you may remember #16 was the pop songs issue and in a fortnight's time all music is ripe for the mirth treatment with the music special.  Another take on a similar theme then... is Oink! running out of ideas?  Of course not!  We're a year in and have so much yet to come.

Second part of that Oink! Holiday Special up in a few days and #29 will be on sale on Friday 30th May... but that's not all.  Next month we've something rather special to look forward to.  Something which was released on Thursday 25th June 1987.  I'm not telling you a thing yet so you'll just have to wait to see what it is.  But for now, Mark Rodgers and the talented Mr Lezz see us off on our flights home:

Friday, 2 May 2014

#27: PET SHOP PIGS

Cover art by Ian Jackson

Right, so, what do we have to start off our second full year of the biggest, shiniest and funniest 80s comic there ever was?  Pets.  Unsurprisingly there's no sight of anybody having a pig as a pet, after all they're now on an equal footing with us in the world of Oink!, but we do have plenty of laughs.

As a kid our family had various pets at different stages, though fish and budgies were the longest lasting ones which left very little opportunity for actual petting, the dog we had made my sister and mum come out in a rash and my mum thought cats were just evil.  So when I said "longest lasting" I simply meant ones my family liked having, nothing more!  As such going to friends' houses with their cats and dogs I was always down on my hands and knees playing with them as they were a novelty and I have a vague memory of visiting an open farm and being particularly fascinated with the pigs we could pet.  But that wasn't going to happen in the house either.

But anyway, I digress (already) and the first treat this fortnight is one of the best GBH madvertisements I've seen yet:


Nice of them to think about you and the jail term you'd be serving while they get away with it - how's that for customer service?

Oh and if any of the Oink! crew knows who wrote and drew these wonderful ads please let me know so I can give them the full credit they deserve!  Is it Patrick Gallagher by any chance for the artwork?

So onwards and upwards, or rather onwards and inwards, as we once again see the adventures of Burp's internal organs.  Last time they were falling in love with each other (in, unsurprisingly, the Valentine's issue) but now they're taking their independence to a whole new level in Banx's latest:


Not only do I love the idea of his organs having their own lives, but that it's been going on away from his body for so long the local police know them!  Brilliant and it also plays up to the whole idea of one little piece of eyewear being a completely unrealistic disguise.  We know this was a glaring flaw in Superman (moreso the films and TV series) and look out for Oink!'s own take on that superhero in the next issue.  Not to be missed.  Which it won't be, because this is a blog and not a comic so won't exactly sell out or be replaced by the next issue.  But anyway...

For some strange reason one of the strips in this issue, called simply Daft Dog, is the exact same joke as the Henry the Wonder Dog strip from #13 albeit by a different artist.  We've also got Frank Sidebottom's take on the Loch Ness Monster and a fake newspaper front page for Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins being eaten by a shark in the last issue.  Zootown also graduates from a quarter-page to 2 full pages this issue for a one-off poster of their pet show.

Back in our Hogmanay issue we met Lashy the Wonder Pig and it made me smile to turn the page in this issue and find him back once more, although with a name change to Laffie the Wonder Pig... and in the next issue he's known as Lashie the Wonder Pig.  No wonder he's a bit thick (if exceptionally talented), he's probably just constantly very confused at being called different names by his owner, nevermind going through a bit of an identity crisis.  Blame Tony Husband, but at least we now know he could be a regular (or semi-regular at least, as even regulars do come and go in this comic), so we'll see if the name changing is an ongoing joke or not.  For now, Chas Sinclair brings his story to life once more:


Yes, that's not a coincidence how his owner fell down yet another pit.  That's one definite running joke!

Recently here in Northern Ireland there's been a campaign group on Facebook (click here if you're interested) for dog lovers to come together and put pressure on certain policies in the country, such as no dogs allowed on the local trains, no dogs on certain beaches, no dogs in certain parks etc.  The group have made a huge difference and attitudes are changing, but I wonder if it'd have just been a lot simpler to improvise the Davy Francis way:


Davy Francis has shared the origins of this character on the Oink! Facebook group.  A character called Eric Plinge was originally created and was to be drawn by Ed McHenry but he became very ill and needed a triple bypass operation.  Davy had written a few Plinge scripts for Ed to draw but when he became sick Mark Rodgers asked Davy to draw them instead.  As a result they changed the name to Derek Blinge to keep them separate.  Thanks for the info Davy!

Recently, not for the first time, on our own Facebook group Oink! has been likened to those bastions of British comedy, Monty Python.  Their silly, random and irreverent humour has always struck a cord with me since I was very young.  I can remember as a teen my mother hearing me laugh all the way downstairs in the living room from my bedroom three flights up when I encountered the Spanish Inquisition for the first time (the one where the programme ends with them catching a bus and racing to the scene where they're needed to burst in) and as a young child I recall literal tears of laughter as my brother (I assume) watched the scene with the constant fish/face slapping.

I challenge anybody who likes Python to not love this next strip!  Dave Jones brings something which in my mind as I read it could be perfectly acted out by Cleese, Idle et all - The Phantom Moose-Napper.  Enjoy!:


Well, what do you think, was I right?  Personally I just think there's so much to love in that strip and we even got a fish/face slap for good measure!  A true Oink! one-off classic right there.

More Jeremy Banx now in the shape of the fan-favourite Mr Big Nose.  After the joke-packed marathon of the strip above the issue follows it up with a stripped down and to-the-point gag:


Of course that description isn't to take anything away from the strip, it's what Mr Big Nose does best!  Yes I've mentioned it before but I still think a collected publication, print or digital, of all of Mr Nose's adventures could be a great seller.  Just imagine a big Far Side-type book filled with these and it wouldn't be just us who'd buy it, he'd go down a storm with anybody surely... oh yes.  But anyway, you never know, stranger things have happened in his world after all!

Now back in #23 I told you the tale of an old schoolfriend bursting in class over a particular Oink! page.  Well, I'd forgotten all about the fact that this wasn't the only time this particular person was caught unawares by Uncle Pigg's inventive staff.  It actually did happen on another occasion and the culprit was this Vernon the Vet diary.  Vernon was an early character in Oink!, appearing in the very first issues but usually just as a little drawing at the bottom or side of a page with a random tip on how to look after your pets.  Obviously these tips were terrible and here he'd finally, after a long absence, have a full page to himself to tell us about a typical week in his job, drawn by Wilkie.  No wonder his advice was so awful:


Can you guess which panel had that effect on my friend back in school?  Yep, the St Bernard.  But you knew that didn't you.

I originally didn't know the origins of the 'S.T.' signature in the following strip but thanks to Oink! writing supremo Graham Exton and regular Oink! Blog reader Ben Baker who were able to confirm it's none other than Simon Thorpe, one of the editorial team behind Viz and a long-term contributor to that bastion of British comics .  Simon also drew another strip in this issue called Michael and his Magic Fish and his artwork is very distinctive and, I'm almost sure, would feature in Oink! again.  For now though, this simple little creation Jake's Snake is a fine introduction to his work for the blog:


Also check out Graham's comment attached to this post for a little more detail on Jake's Snake.

This year a new Godzilla film is set to appear on our cinema screens.  By all means the trailer I've seen (I try not to watch too many trails as I like to simply go and see a film without seeing too many clips) is very impressive and I'm looking forward to it immensely.  However there appears to be one thing missing, a key scene which could really make this movie a classic.  Here's Hugo the Hungry Hippo from Haldane to illustrate it for me:


That's us again for a fortnight... well, not quite a fortnight actually as I'll be back sometime before then with the latter 24 pages of the Oink! Holiday Special!  If you haven't read the first half yet you can find it right here.  Remember you've a special gameshow filled with celebrity guests and a 3-PAGE Burp strip to look forward to so be sure to check back, or subscribe to email updates, or become a follower, or follow me or the hashtag on Twitter or join us at the Facebook group.  All the details are down the side there.

So, more Holiday Special fun next week and then #28, the "special flying issue" goes on sale Friday May 16th.  Bye for now though.