Friday, 31 October 2014

#40: SERIOUSLY WITCHING HUMOUR


As whatever radio station plays Michael Jackson's Thriller just that once too often today, take a break from your frightful festivities with an issue of Oink! which I can remember so clearly.  That cover by Ralph Shephard, whose work we haven't seen in quite some time in these pages, has stuck in my brain ever since - even though I didn't own it again for so many, many years.  For the next while too, that logo would remain in its current form, one I particularly liked, as the comic settled down to its new format.  It would all get changed again in the new year but for now we can continue to enjoy the very best run of editions Oink! had to offer.

I can remember like it was yesterday reading this issue in my late Aunt May's house, who I mentioned previously in #38's post.  Even though it was dated the Saturday on each issue (which I've kept for this blog) on this occasion I can remember it was a Thursday, and after school I walked up to meet my mum at May's after stopping off at the newsagents.  They met every Thursday and in this case I can remember them talking about Santa Claus while I was sitting right there next to them - probably why this has stayed in my memory all this time.  They obviously thought I was so engrossed that I wasn't paying attention, but at the mention of his name my ears pricked up, but I didn't take my gaze away from the pages.  They were talking about the truth behind Santa (the truth obviously being that he's real, of course, contrary to what some of my school friends had told me...) so that's how I found out, while reading this issue.  It's a weird feeling holding a copy of it in my adult hands, this strange, funny comic, and it bringing back memories of loved ones who are so missed now.

A highlight here is definitely the photo story 2001 Million Years B.C. - A Space Filler.  Not just because it has possibly the best punchline in the history of punchlines (don't peek until you read the whole thing), but also because of the special guest stars, The Mekons.

They're a punk band who had one particular member Oink! fans may be familiar with - Jon Langford.  Look up Jon online and you'll find a wealth of fantastic musical achievements, indeed his own official website is chock full of his work, not just as a musician, but also a writer and, as we know here, an incredible artist.  Seriously, check out his site and you'll be amazed at what this man has created!

As stated he was part of The Mekons at the time (you'll find more info and links about them on Jon's site) but was also working at Cosgrove Hall on, amongst other things, two bastions of British cartoons - yes, that's right, Danger Mouse and Count Duckula.  He approached the Oink! team with relish, wanting to take part in this unique comic experiment and Patrick, Tony and Mark leapt at the chance to work with him.  Who can blame them?

Blog readers will have seen Jon's work in two posts so far - the creepy back page dream sequence from #9 and the equally sinister Terrible Toys in #25.  Here he leaves the pens and pencils behind - well there's nowhere to keep them in a loincloth is there?  Yes, that's Jon Langford himself, esteemed musician, alongside his punk bandmates, all dressed as ridiculous cavemen and women.  That's the power of Oink!:


Now in the last issue I mentioned Charlie Brooker at some length, including some of the characters he'd create over the remainder of Oink!'s lifetime.  In some later issues he really did contribute an awful lot, which must've been a thrill for someone who hadn't even hit adulthood yet, and an amazing achievement to boot!  One of my very favourite characters, not just of Charlie's, but of the whole comic, was Death.

Yes, Death.  The Grim Reaper himself had his own regular strip in Oink! and while it's fitting he should appear on the blog for the first time as part of the Hallowe'en special, he'd actually done so a handful of times already over the previous issues.  While they were all good, young Charlie was really hitting his stride now!

The Adventures of Death would take up a random amount of space from issue-to-issue, this time taking up a little quarter of a page under Tom Thug, but small space still meant big laughs for us fans.  Oink! was the one time when you looked forward to Death coming a-knocking:


Before the next full strip I just have to include one little panel from this issue's Rubbish Man page, as it made me roar reading this in bed last night!:


Quick-fire puns like that were a regular feature throughout all the fantastic creations in this comic.  Haldane certainly delivered and indeed continued to do so in the next addition here.

A few issues back we saw a quick preview for the latest of Haldane's strips, Jimmy Flynn (Jumps Out of his Skin), about a young boy who would literally, well, jump out of his skin when he got a fright.  But then he'd simply carry on walking about as his skeletal self and suddenly be a whole load braver to boot.  While this story, A Nightmare on Butcher Street, is technically an ongoing tale each part is like a little collection of random jokes on its own so they can still be enjoyed separately here.

One particularly funny running gag was how each episode would feature a special guest appearance by a top celebrity who would get suitably top billing in the title.  Then they'd appear in one panel in a way completely unrelated to what was going on, such as Bone Collins in this one:


This issue did provide quite a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments which carried on for several minutes, which isn't bad for a comic whose target audience was initially kids and given the fact I'm 36!  The "It seemed to Jimmy that the very house itself was alive..." panel above was one such moment, a perfect play on words we often hear in horror movies or read in such novels.

As I've already stated I was reading this issue in bed last night for the first time in well over 20 years.  Between accidentally drinking proper coffee instead of my usual late-night decaf cup and the sudden jokes already mentioned, is it any wonder I was so wide awake afterwards that I didn't sleep for an age!  Bloomin' Oink!

It feels like an age too since we've enjoyed some spectacular J.T. Dogg artwork, doesn't it?  Well actually, ok he was featured just a few issues ago, and before that there was the second StreetHogs strip, before that the Crash! special... ok, ok, what I really meant was it's been a good while since we saw his artwork as a great big piggy parody poster!  That's what we've all been missing isn't it?  Well then, without further ado:


Lovely to have his artwork in the middle of the comic again like that.  Let's hope it's not the last time, eh?  I know the original Oink! Superstar Posters from the early days of the comic (check them out here and here if you haven't already) (no, seriously go on) (oh just do it, they're brilliant!) would get reprinted in the monthly issues still to come, but let's hope there's some new poster-size material too.

Before I talk about the next strip, you need to read it first:


In our next issue fans of Pete and his Pimple are in for a right royal treat as you'll see below (I'm including the 'next issue' box here instead of a day or two before the next one because the news is THAT good), and something you'll see is the pimply star being drawn by other artists.  Why?  That'll make sense at the end of this post, but for now how could I resist sharing Lew Stringer's (who also wrote the above) Pete being drawn by Steve Gibson.

I'm an avid follower of Steve's work on his Facebook page and there's a link on the left there if you're curious yourself.  Be warned though, there's a good reason why I've placed the little "18+" next to it, his doodles and notebook drawings are somewhat... adult in nature, to say the least.

From adult-only humour to kid-friendly surrealism.  That can only mean one thing - Mr Big Nose from Banx:


Sometimes there's a strip which just doesn't require anything further to be written about it.  To do so would be to take away from it!  I will, however, mention those plops on the side there, added by Patrick Gallagher throughout this edition (amongst other issues recently) as additional little puns here and there.

Alongside Patrick, fellow editor Tony Husband contributes once again to the strips I've scanned in, with the next part of the latest Oink! serial.  Given more issues to work over than the first Spectacles story, Tony is really going to town in lengthening the quest Endor must travel on, bringing in just about every idea conceivable.  Well, conceivable to someone like Tony.  These ideas are certainly things not many others would come up with!

'Lo brave warrior, present yourself forthwith to marvel at the scriptures of Husband and the craftsmanship of Roper (Andy) in The Spectacles of Doom versus The Monocle of Mayhem:


Now before we carry on to probably my very favourite back page, a little advice for all those kiddies planning on trick'n'treating this weekend.  Very, very sage advice indeed from David Leach.  Especially if you're the one brave enough to ring the doorbell of one certain little old lady:


We're on to our back page and there's a range of spoof movie posters in Oink!'s run, all drawn so astonishingly by Simon Thorpe, which remain favourites to this day (one example being his version of The Sound of Music in #29).  They've been talking points amongst fans on the Facebook group and some members even went out of their way to chase down the RoboCop one still to come in the first third of next year.  That's how fondly remembered these are.

This particular one below remains my own personal favourite though.  At the time of this issue's release it would be a couple of months from now until I became a Ghostbusters fan.  While I'd seen some episodes of Filmation's Ghostbusters, a very strange cartoon indeed, I knew one called The Real Ghostbusters was due to be screened from January.  That Christmas, in preparation, ITV showed the classic 1984 Ghostbusters movie.  It was on at night time, after 9pm, but it couldn't have been a coincidence the cartoon series was going to start soon after.

So I was seeing this Oink! take on the movie before seeing the movie myself.  Indeed, I can remember asking my friends a few days before the film was to air if it contained a flying car and an ape amongst the Ghostbusters, such was the Filmation creation.  Obviously they hadn't a clue what I was talking about!  So I sat down that night over the Christmas holidays, with my brand new 12" portable colour Pye TV and watched it in my room and instantly became a fan!

When the cartoon aired I was hooked and the Marvel UK title became only the second-ever comic I had reserved for me regularly at my newsagents.

Months went by and I stumbled across this spoof in my Oink! collection again and I thought it was simply hilarious!  Not just the (admittedly clever) puns from Charlie Brooker who wrote the script behind this page, but the artwork by Simon is superb!  That IS Bill Murray in pig form!:


Ladies and gentlemen, that is truly a classic piece of Oink! right there.

So before I sign off for another issue, what's this big surprise for Pete and his Pimple fans?  Oh not much.  Just an 8-page pull-out comic dedicated to one of Oink!'s most popular characters, that's all:


As if that's not exciting enough I'll be splitting the next issue into two parts - the usual highlights post and a separate Pete post, containing every page of the pull-out for your giggle-parts to enjoy!  Yes that's right, Pete and his Pimple will be getting a full-on 8-scanned-pages post all to themselves.  The comic celebrated one of the fan favourites, it's only right I give him the same treatment here on the blog.

I'm currently in the middle of moving home, so there'll be no additional posts before the next issue and I do apologise.  However there's some treats in store very soon, I just need to delay them while I ship myself off again.

So join me back here in a fortnight when #41 goes on sale on Friday 14th November.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

NEXT ISSUE: TOO SCARED TO MISS IT!

It's that time of year when ghouls and ghosts abound, when things go bump in the night and city centres across the land fill up with umpteen "sexy" versions of outfits which were obviously never intended to be.  While you're stuck indoors to hide from the kids looking for money because they bought a Poundland mask, why not settled down to the terrifically terrifying Hallowe'en issue of Oink!, coming tomorrow night right here:


And yes, Charlie Brooker's The Adventures of Death finally makes its appearance on the blog!

Friday, 17 October 2014

#39: PUZZLING PARODY


The Great Games and Puzzles Issue has left me with a very simple set of decisions on what to include this issue.  Usually I struggle, but with a comic chock full of daft puzzles and the like, I just had to include as many as I could.  So, less strips as it were and instead prepare to interact with Oink! in the way we did with our comics back in the pre-digital age - with pen, paper and the post!

The cover here is superb and it was great fun to see Oink!'s legendary artist Ian Jackson take on drawing other artists' characters.  Recently on the Facebook Group Psycho Gran creator David Leach actually saw this for the first time when pig pal Becky Armstrong shared a photograph of some of her issues.  Becky kindly sent David the issue as he'd never seen the little old dear (I mean Psycho Gran, not Becky by the way) drawn by Ian before and didn't know she'd made the cover!  Even after all these years this comic still surprises.

You were always in for a treat with an Oink! when it had a Jackson cover and his take on Burp, Gran, Frank and Harry were indeed a surprise and hyped up the pages within for my young brain.  Inside on page two we see the start of another running gag, with Harry the Head lost and Uncle Pigg kicking him off through the pages.  We've had jokes like this before, with our own editor lost in time throughout an issue's pages in #24 and the custard pie joke of last issue.  It's probably because this usually rare feature appeared only one fortnight previous that makes this attempt feel a bit forced, but Harry's own page is included which you'll see below soon.

Just a brief side note first though.  Remember I said something would happen around this time which would affect Oink!?  Well, as described in #35, Oink! was placed into a sales group with a few other Fleetway titles and one of these was Nipper, a humour comic for a younger audience.  Unfortunately it hadn't found that audience, and so it was that in September of 1987 Nipper was cancelled and merged into Buster.  The comics sharing Oink!'s group were falling one-by-one.  What was Uncle Pigg to do?  You'll find out soon.

The issue is chock full of daft quizzes and puzzles and yet another Oink! board game, Hogopoly.  The instructions for this take up the majority of page 2 and just below it this quick strip from the duo who teamed up so successfully last issue, Marc Riley's Snatcher Sam and Chris Sievey's Frank Sidebottom, set up the tone of the pages in your hand:


Before the gaming goodness a couple more strips for you.  One I just had to include is obviously part two of The Spectacles of Doom sequel, The Monocles of Mayhem from Tony Husband and Andy Roper.  Last time we saw Endor and the Singing Sword head off for a new adventure and it looked like they were going to be enormously outnumbered by the evil Gash (ahem) and his multiple hordes of henchmen.  Time to even the odds somewhat:


Yes, this Spectacle story is indeed lasting longer than the two issues the previous tale managed, and folks I caved and looked ahead!  >>SPOILER<< It's here for a whopping five issues, right through to #42! >>SPOILER ENDS<< (As if anybody is going to think that's a spoiler!  It's hype!  Gotta get you all coming back here somehow...!)

Tony's freeform cartooning is well known to this day, with regular contributions to Private Eye, a recent fantastic cartoon-based book about his father's dementia, and even the occasional celebrity (to us) appearance on the BBC's Countryfile, amongst rafts of other work!  Check out his website on the left there sure.

But anyway, to return to that "freeform cartooning" description, we're all used to his seemingly random work with Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins etc., but here his scripting shines through.  His sense of fast-paced and surprising humour is also taken to new heights when coupled with such gloriously detailed artwork from Andy.  You don't expect such quick succession of jokes when reading a strip with such art and it's a pleasure to read.  If we ever got the chance to see a reprint collection of Oink! all five parts of this joined together would be one of the main attractions, no doubt.

Remember to come back in two weeks for the middle part.

For now, Rubbish Man returns and I know there'll be certain blog readers out there who'll have let out a little "whoop" upon reading that.  Haldane's creation has been with us since the very beginning and now he seems to be permanently attached to his sidekick, Boy Blunder.  This is no bad thing!  His first few appearances may have left us feeling like he was a temporary addition, but he's settled in well and having someone to banter with our hero now really adds something to the ongoing adventures.

Now, given the fact this is the Games and Puzzles Issue, what kind of baddie could our inept superheroes be facing this time around?  If you think back to a certain 60s television show there's only one possible answer there.  Even Rubbish Man himself knows that:


So now onto the main attraction - a selection of the brilliantly bizarre puzzle pages.  Of course EdMcHenry had to be involved, as he's provided us with some cracker ones in the past.  Some of these have featured in the blog too, which you can catch up on in the posts for #6, #9, #12, #15 and #23.  Given how great these have been it really was inevitable he'd be called upon again when we had a whole issue on the subject.

But this time he wasn't giving us the usual half-page of goodness, no.  How about a full page entitled Uncle Pigg Presents the Pig Pals' Picture Puzzle Parade Page?  If you were able to read that in one go without pausing you might just be able to get through what's to come:


I think you'll agree these are just as fresh and fun as when they first appeared.  Number two there was my particular favourite but there was simply no way to get them all - typical.  But Ed didn't have the monopoly on Oink! puzzlers this time around and other cartoonists were also on hand to bring their own unique style to the theme - namely Davy Francis and Lew Stringer (naturally).

There'll be a blog post up before the next issue which I'm particularly looking forward to sharing.  I had the chance to meet Davy Francis in person recently, and while it was only a brief half an hour (and a further five minutes or so this very morn') I can tell you the man is a true gent and I'm looking forward to meeting with him again properly to discuss the Oink! book.  That's a story for another time though so check back soon.

I was able to purchase a few pieces of his original artwork from him which you'll see in the aforementioned post soon, but one of the ones I saw but didn't unfortunately buy was of his creation Greedy Gorb (He'd Eat Anything!), and Gorb's very own puzzle maze:


Why on earth would I, who profess to be an Oink! fan, pass on such a wonderful opportunity?  You'll find out soon, but you won't be disappointed, believe me!

Lew now, and while Tom Thug has appeared in suitably stupid puzzles before in the comic, here he's not alone, Pete and his Pimple join in too for this issue's Pete's Pimply Puzzles!  Regular (and fan favourite) Pete may be relegated to a quarter of a page here but that was part of the joy of Oink!, you were excited to see how your favourite characters would appear each time.  No other comic would mix it up anywhere near as much as Oink! would.  Most of the time other publications wouldn't even move a strip from one page number to another, never mind being a double-spread in some and a quarter-page puzzle section in another:


Now that you've touched your monitor with your nose and panicked when it wobbled, or have been blinded by the glare from your iPad at such close range, you can sit back again and prepare to engage your brain.  Then wipe it clean again, as you'll not exactly need it for Tom's Teaser Time:


More Stringer classics there, plain and simple.

Charlie Brooker joined the Oink! crew a while back now but it was only around this time in the comic's life, this Golden Age, where we'd see him contribute regularly, in fact in every single issue.  While he had his regular characters during the comic's run (we've seen Freddy Flop He Falls to Pieces already in #19) he also drew up some wonderful one-off gags too, such as Time for... A Game of Scrabble:


I've read online (though can't remember where and from what I recall it wasn't a verified source) that Charlie said later in life he was somewhat embarrassed by this early attempt at cartooning.  I really do hope this isn't true and in the course of my book I endeavour to find out.  His strips were fondly remembered before I even thought up this blog, with The Adventures of Death, Transmogrifying Tracey and Clint Gritwood the Trigger-Happy Cop amongst the many, many creations he came up with.  In fact it's amazing to see in future issues so much of his work taking up space, after all he was still at school at this time!  What a wonderful start to a career.  Expect much, much more from him as we continue with the blog.

Last but not least for this issue is Marc Riley's famous Harry the Head.  Always listed when people are asked to rhyme off Oink! characters Harry's latest adventure has once again been taking part over many issues.  It all comes to a head (ba-doom-tish) right here but don't be worrying about what all has happened so far, it was very much made up as it went along!  Harry has been through the wars in previous issues, and here he flew through this issue too, so the combination of these has left him somewhat deflated as you'll see.

However, I have an ulterior motive behind scanning this page in and that's to do with the competition featured.  Do you remember these guys?:


I do!  I had the American Football one!  Ah the memories.  I'm not sure why I chose that one, probably because he was just different.  I even remember there being a random Marvel UK one-off comic released too.  Even as a child it didn't read well and felt like a very desperate attempt to make some money off the back of the latest hit toy range.  But the toys themselves were good fun... for a while anyway.  You see, not being particularly sporty he didn't get played with much and I never got any of the others.  Oh well, the 80s were full of fads!

So you've had your brain taxed and next it'll be on to an issue which I remember as being a favourite from my youth.  I really hope it holds up!  The Halloween-themed Hair-Raising Issue will be on sale Friday 31st October.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

READ ON GET ON

Watch this:



When I was a child I discovered the world of comics through the very one this blog is based on.  That was when I was a mere 8 years old.  From there the world of these weekly, fortnightly and monthly treats opened up to me and the list of titles I collected from that age right up through my teens covered a wide variety of tastes.  At one point or another each of these were regular reads:

Oink!
Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends
Wildcat
The Real Ghostbusters
Transformers
Visionaries
Ring Raiders
Death's Head
The Sleeze Brothers
Havoc

I'm sure there were others, random issues here and there, but these were the ones I never missed an issue of once I began.  My parents, particularly my mum, would tut when a title went up 5p or turned weekly from fortnightly, but really they never complained about the load of comics that began to pile up around the house.

The reason was simple.

I was reading.

While I did have some Railway Series books and other children's titles beforehand which I enjoyed greatly, Oink! was a key reason why I fell in love with reading so much as a child, and I truly believe my love of comics back then lead on to that love of reading developing as it did as a teen and as an adult.

But, back in September this year it was truly shocking to read the following news story from the BBC, which highlighted the literacy levels of 11-year old children in the UK, with Northern Ireland coming off particularly poorly.  In case you're not aware, this blog's writer is based in Northern Ireland so it hit home with me somewhat:

Click on the picture to read the full news story

At the same time on Facebook some of the Oink! team were discussing the lack of decent comics out there at the moment for today's children.  Asides from The Beano and Toxic there's not an awful lot out there for this age range, with most comics now consisting of as little reading material as possible and a cheap, tacky toy shoved in a plastic bag.  This is so unlike back in the 1980s when I was growing up, when we'd a treasure trove of titles to choose from and each one was packed from front to back with plenty to read.  No stupid toys making up most of the retail price, no filler material of lame colouring-in pages, "mini-posters" (lazy screen grabs from a movie) or huge over-the-top fonts which amount to a couple of seconds worth of reading per page.

It's another reason why it's so heartwarming to hear of children (sons and daughters of Oink!'s pig pals) discovering this blog and enjoying the comic scans so much.

READ ON.  GET ON.

A friend of mine, Corrine, works at Save the Children and they're determined to do something about this.  I feel very strongly about kids having good quality reading material and the report they've produced details the huge difference this can make in a child's life.  Libraries are closing (the local one in Whitehead here is facing huge cutbacks and possible closure), too many parents are shoving mobile games in front of their children, or just turning the TV or internet on, and the comic shelves are a hopeless pile of gimmicks and merchandising tied into the latest blockbuster movie.

(Don't get me wrong, some videogames and television shows are indeed very educational and studies have shown how they can help.  But not when those forms of entertainment aren't carefully chosen and instead the first thing that comes to hand is that evening's electronic babysitter.)

We need to get kids reading again and you can help.  Below is a link to the Save the Children website and the page detailing their Read On Get On campaign.  As they say, even ten minutes a day can make a huge difference and it's time we helped.  There's a petition to sign to tell our politicians this is something we need to work on, and details of how you can volunteer too, to help out those disadvantaged families who don't have easy access to suitable reading material:


Save the Children are also touring!  This is where another reason comes into play as to why I'm posting about this here:


Corrine and her team will be at Castlecourt in the heart of Belfast this Saturday to promote this worthy campaign and it's absolutely free!  Come on, you'll get to meet the Gruffalo!!  I'm sure that's enough reason for a lot of adults to go, never mind the kids!

Behind this great event there's a serious message here and one which I feel is important to get out there.  So if you can make it to Belfast go along and bring your children for a great day out, and there are plenty of places to buy a few books on your way home for the young 'uns afterwards if they're feeling so inspired.

If you can't make it to Belfast, check out the Save the Children website above for information of where else the tour is heading, sign the petition, volunteer, or just help spread the word through all those social media thingies you all use.

One read of the report, or even just the BBC story above, should be inspiration enough.  It's time to help the children of today get on in life... by reading.

NEXT ISSUE: RIDDLE ME THIS


Prepare your pea brains, muscle your mental agilities and get ready to concentrate on a comic like never before.  Then realise it's Oink! so the puzzles in tomorrow's post aren't exactly going to be 'proper' teasers, and instead just look forward to another issue - #39, the Great Games and Puzzles Issue.

Monday, 6 October 2014

WORKING (on a) TITLE

Those more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed my 'Reset Writer' blog is no more, only weeks after I started it up.  There's a good reason for this and it'll make sense by the end of this post.  For those who didn't read it, a quick recap is in order (don't worry, I'll be brief).

As a teen and a twenty-something I loved to write, everything from short stories to a disk-based fanzine for the Commodore 64 computer, and even studied media and scriptwriting many moons ago.  But then the world of work, money and independence beckoned and it was all put on the back burner, forever a lost dream.  But earlier this year when the blog celebrated its first anniversary the feedback I received from fellow fans and, in particular, professional writers and cartoonists was overwhelming.  It gave me the confidence to see I could do it, that whole writing malarky.  This year has seen a lot of changes - I moved to a new home beside the sea, started a new job, became reacquainted with old friends, and finally decided it wasn't too late in life to begin writing.

Okay, so you're up to speed, pig pals.

Originally wanting to develop a novel based around two separate screenplay ideas I had back at college, it struck me one day that wasn't the way to go.  It was staring me in the face!  I'd already been writing for almost a year and a half about a subject I'm passionate about.  During that time I'd uncovered more and more about the subject material and the people behind it, their successes and struggles (professional and personal), and realised there was a great story to tell right in front of me in the pile of comics sitting on my desk.

There was certainly an audience out there for it too, evidenced by the hits on this very blog and the constant stream of new members in the Facebook group.  I started to think about the kind of book I'd like to see about this favourite subject of mine, just as I had thought about the website I'd like to read as a fan when I first created this blog.  I remembered I still had the old Dandy/Beano 50th anniversary book I was given in 1987 for Christmas and as I flicked through it and my copies of Oink! it all just gelled together in my head:


It's Oink!'s 30th anniversary in two years and I'm officially announcing a brand new book to mark the occasion.  It's planned to tell the whole story, from initial conception right through to the Round the Bend TV series and then on to the modern day.  The story of the comic was already a fascinating one, but there's much more to tell believe me!  Alongside this the book will contain a good, hefty amount of the very best in strips and features from the comic and what is surely the greatest team ever put together for one - as the front page of The Oink! Book 1988 stated, they were "Britain's Best!".

While this blog is very much my own personal journey through Oink! from the perspective of a fan, the book is going to be the creators' tale - their take on our very favourite comic.

I've already put together a pitch document and have shared this with the Oink! team I'm in touch with at the moment and the response has been terrific!  I'll share it and some more details about the plans for the book at this stage across the next few weeks.

So that's it!  It's all official now I guess!  It feels great to finally get it out in the open, and it's been really exciting writing up this initial post as it means there's no turning back now and work has begun.

As for the deletion of my writing blog, I looked at it and realised since my new project was going to be based on Oink! there was naturally only one place to share updates, and that's right here on The Oink! Blog where so many fans, old and brand new, gather to read the pages from the comic itself.  A writing blog should be about the actual writing and so Reset Writer was only going to end up duplicating what's here.

The Oink! Blog has been tremendous fun these last eighteen months, a place for recollecting the stories that moulded my young brain in so many ways.  Now, as the home for my first proper writing project it's becoming an extension of me almost, and a lot more personal.  My online home in a way I guess.  I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Working on the pitch a couple of weeks ago


Friday, 3 October 2014

#38: GET THIS DOWN YE!

(Ahem... sorry, went all Belfast on you there.)


Ah Frank Sidebottom and Marc Riley as Snatcher Sam, surely a match made in food heaven?  Erm, okay, that wouldn't make much sense without that cover, but with that photo it's surely an enticing front page for pig pals.  Frank seemed to constantly be on children's television at this time, making guest appearances on many shows across the land - my personal favourite memories are of him turning up on No.73, back when we used to have two-hour long live children's TV every Saturday morning instead of American cartoons and repeats of American cartoons.

With his star rising, the decision to make him a regular Oink! contributor (and strip star) was a superb idea.  Not just because he was so "fantastic" but also as a piece of marketing genius as he fast became the celebrity face of the comic.  Surely this cover would draw in the kids who had seen him on the tellybox but hadn't come across his cartoon strips yet?  Well, possibly, if it weren't for the stickers covering most of the cover!

But then again, free gifts were such a big event back in the day that these would've drawn in the readers anyway, and then discovering that papier-mâchéd face beneath them would've been really exciting!:


Our next free gift would be a preview comic (quite fitting given how Oink! was the first to go that route) in #68, but we'll not dwell on that yet or else we'll all end up rather emotional...

While Frank's comic strips were always a highlight, this issue he'd appear again in a photo story with Snatcher Sam, the first time since the anniversary issue, #26.  The Story Behind the Cover strip is not only split in two across the comic but, brilliantly, it's also split across two pages at the start of this issue.  The first half-page is on the bottom of page 2, the second half-page on the top of page 3.  The reason?  Simple.  Comic timing:


Then across the page you go...:


Splitting it like that stops your eyes from wandering further into the strip and ruining that surprise joke.  Ingenious I have to say.  Marc and Frank will pick that up again on page 31 and the pie would fly throughout the comic, appearing randomly in strips here and there thanks to Patrick Gallagher, as you'll see below.  Editing a comic certainly isn't like this these days!

But for now the pie takes a back seat for the first part of another Oink! epic.  We've had multi-part tales on the blog with The StreetHogs and Ham Dare: Pig of the Future, and for readers of the comic there was also King's Solomon's Swines which I didn't feature here.  We also had the two-part The Spectacles of Doom which took centre stage in its first issue with a wraparound cover poster too, back in #22.  Well, editor Tony Husband returns as writer once more, alongside artist Andy Roper with a full-colour five-part adventure starring our favourite inept hero Endor and his singing sword and magical glasses, starting this very issue.

As with all good sequel movies (and when I say good, I mean so-bad-they're-good) it's that classic "that one-of-a-kind thing you spent the previous story battling for wasn't the only one after all" plot.  This time it's a mystical monocle and why don't we throw in an army of the dead, time travel and ghostly spirits into the mix too, just for laughs.  Well okay then, but how about all of these in part one!:


This makes sense to me now.  Not the story, I mean the strip as a whole.  When it appeared before in the run I was surprised to see it in black and white and that it only lasted two issues.  I was sure it was a long story and in colour - and here it is at last.  This is one of those strips which stayed lingering in my memory just as much as the characters that appeared in every single issue, so I'm very tempted to skip ahead and see if it matches up to the enjoyment I can remember.  But I'll just be patient like we all must be, and wait a fortnight until part two.

So far, so good though and Andy's action-packed artwork is superb once more, full of detail and if it weren't for the zany script by Tony you'd swear on first glance it was from an action comic.  Tony really delivered the goods with the first Spectacles story and I'm eager to see where he takes us this time.

Oh, and just to clarify, I didn't make a mistake with the scanning of the first page there, Andy's name is cut off the bottom of the actual page too like that.

Burp is back for another belter of a two-pager, all perfectly setting up a final panel joke.  Like Frank and Marc his strip is split in two across the comic but I'm not including him this time, but only for the reason that we've got some lovely big strips in this issue as it is and I couldn't let any one of these slip by.  The smelly alien has featured loads recently so it's with reluctance he'll have to remain in the comic's pages this time around.  But to make up for it somewhat, how about a bit of his creator Banx's Mr Big Nose instead?:


I was speaking to Cowpat County creator Davy Francis on the telephone the other day and we were discussing some of the great work Oink! produced and of course Jeremy Banx came up - how could he not.  We both agreed that Mr Big Nose was just so unique and a perfect fit for the comic.  Surrealism was just something we kids were never exposed to in comics, and I thank Jeremy for introducing us to this kind of humour at such an early stage.  If anything, I'd say Mr Nose affected my humour more than any other, such a stand out character as he was.

Now don't get me wrong, the comic as a whole had a completely different sense of humour and I credit all of its creators with developing our young minds' giggle cells into the senses of humour we adult Oink! fans share today.  It's just these Banx strips were so out there, so random and so far from anything we'd ever seen, they left a lasting impact.

Hang on.  Did I say I was speaking to Davy Francis on the phone?  Why would that be?  Oh you'll find out.  But back to the issue....

As well as Burp, we're treated to a half-page, one-panel Hadrian Vile's guide to Nayming Baybees, Charlie Brooker's further Adventures of Death who you'll see very soon believe me, Dead Fred takes pride of place in full-colour on the back cover, there's lots of additional plops with their usual puns spread throughout, Psycho Gran is back and there's the first part of the Jimmy Flynn strip.  Or to give it its full name, Jimmy Flynn Jumps Out of his Skin!  This was the strip introduced in the small three-panel preview last issue.

Jimmy, from Haldane, was a young boy who had the power to jump from his skin and run around like a skeleton.  But only for a short period of time.  The story starts with us being told, "As regular Oink! readers know..." before explaining what I've just told you.  But we hadn't been told anything yet.  This was the first time.  Anyway, here it's the first part of his adventure and he appears in a haunted mansion and at every turn gets scared out of his.... well, anyway, I'm sure he'll make an appearance on the blog soon enough.

Now there's one character who, more often than not, I'll just have to include whenever he appears.  He doesn't turn up an awful lot, but enough to have become a firm fan favourite over the course of the comic's run.  As usual his strip is an event.  As usual he's up against some horrible monster made of food of some sort.  As usual the solution could never be guessed by the reader.  As usual it's brought to us by the talented hands of none other than Lew Stringer.  A standing ovation please for the magnificent (as usual) return of Pigswilla!:


Beware the Bread-Beast from Beyond was written by Lew as well, though we also appear to have Mark Rodgers' initials by the finger puppets, so I'm going to assume he had a hand (boom!) with the idea behind them.

Two characters I heavily associate with these favourite issues of Oink! are Haldane's Torture Twins. I vividly remember reading certain strips at my Aunt May's house.  She wasn't really my aunt but my mum's best friend, but she got called that by the whole family.  Every Thursday my mum and May would take it in turns to visit each other and eat biscuits, drink coffee and chinwag.  I can remember reading some Oink!s in her house like it was yesterday and for some reason the Torture Twins in particular.  It's strange what the mind remembers.  I can also remember them having a conversation about Santa Claus while I was reading the Halloween issue of the comic, thinking I wasn't really listening.  I can also recall reading Marvel UK's The Sleeze Brothers at her house, but I think that may have been the next year...

But anyway, this isn't one of the strips per se - I think - but it's too good for you not to see:


This next strip, again running to two pages, surprised me when I read this issue again.  In The Oink! Book 1988 the team did a superb spoof of the Dandy and the Beano, taking well-intentioned pot shots at multiple characters from those two legendary British comics.  Now while the book was already on sale at this time, and indeed would've been created many moons before being published, this next scan would've been the first time many of us saw Oink! take a clear swipe at either one of them, as most of us got our annuals at Christmas instead.  (In fact, this was also the year I got the Dandy/Beano 50th anniversary book too, even though it was my brother that usually got Beano annuals.  I think he'd just outgrown them at this point.)

Just as in the annual the title they 'earned' was the Deano.  Here we see a superb Mark Rodgers take on Dennis the Menace where we see him... look, just read it first.  I don't want to spoil the surprises:


Les 'Lezz' Barton does a superb job of emulating the art style of Dennis' strip at the time, right down to the title panel and the layout of the pages which would've made up the front and back of the real Beano.  The comic logo itself here is absolutely spot on!

I've read on a blog online how these were allegedly "mean spirited" piss-takes, or drawn up by the "jealous" Oink! team.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  That particular blog then takes great pleasure in reminding us Oink! lasted two and a half years while those other two were still going at the time of the author's post.  It's a fun spoof, not a full-frontal attack like he seems to think.  I believe they may be just an over-protective Beano/Dandy fan, but the simple fact is that at the time many lovers of those comics enjoyed these joke versions from Oink!  Just as I enjoyed the spoof of my favourite early-primary school TV show Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends in #15.  Just as we enjoyed our favourite celebrities on Spitting Image, or even Bobby Davro or Gary Wilmot's takes on them at Saturday tea-times.  (There's names you'll need to explain to your kids!).

No, these were fun spoofs of their kind of established sense of humour Oink! was throwing in the bin and reinventing.  It was all par of the course for this comic and if anyone thought they were "mean spirited" or the creators were "jealous" of the success of the Beano, they were completely missing the point of Oink!'s fun and would definitely be better off not reading it at all.  (Also remember if the comic had continued at IPC where it was treated as a hit instead of Fleetway the length of Oink!'s run may have been very different - I first mentioned this here and it comes up in other posts too, so keep reading.)

But for the rest of us we can look forward to more of this sort of thing later in the year.  If you can't remember, or are new to Oink!, you've definitely got a treat in store in the first Book.

So time to round off this issue with the conclusion of our photo story on page 31.  Before you read it though, it's worth noting the second page of the Deano above was page 24 of this issue, it just didn't have a page number.  You'll see why:


That's our feast of an issue over in style.  The next issue is a belter!  Then the one after that is the Halloween issue which, alongside the Christmas one to come, I think was one of my favourites as a child.  So great times ahead - it just keeps getting better somehow!

That next issue, the Great Games and Puzzles Issue goes on sale Friday 17th October.

Before I go, however, I can't stress enough how you need to come back to the blog this Monday.  I'm really excited about the post I'll be putting up and I can't wait to share something with you all.  Looking at that stats figure on the left I know there's a whole sty of pig pals out there reading this and as one myself I can put my trotter on my heart and say don't miss it!  I'll be putting it up first thing on that morning before I head to work and, more than with any other post, I'd love for you to leave a comment under it, or at the Facebook Group (so join it if you haven't already).  I hope to see you then, right here, at The Oink! Blog.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

NEXT ISSUE: GREAT GOBBLING GAS!

He may have disappeared from the comic but Fatty Farmer is never one to turn away from free food so he's reappeared in #37's 'next issue' panel to get you in the right mood for the Food and Drink Frenzy that is the next edition of Oink!  Expect Frank Sidebottom and Marc Riley on the cover photo, a British comic stalwart getting its long overdue first Oink! spoof and the return of some favourites who haven't featured on the blog in a while - including the start of another multi-part tale from a fan favourite... but nope, not Ham Dare or the StreetHogs.

Gorgeous goodness is here this Friday 3rd October.