Wednesday, 31 December 2014

!!DOUBLE CELEBRATION!!

Happy New Year (again) everyone and welcome to Rubbish Man's party (and you thought Jools Holland's guest list was impressive) to celebrate the end of 1987 and the beginning of a brand new, shiny 1988.  Oink! had had an absolutely golden run of faultless issues, released a superb book for the first time and was about to turn weekly in only a matter of days, what was not to love about the new year?

Courtesy of Haldane then, dig in and enjoy the company of the assembled masses:


But why have I labelled this post as a double celebration?  Well that's because it's also rather fittingly the one hundredth post I've made on here.  Not bad for someone who previously was known for having had little-to-no attention span.  So raise a glass and join me in looking forward not to 1988 but to 2015 and the piggy pink goodness it'll bring.  I'm hoping it's going to be a big year, if all goes to plan, so thanks for joining the party and I'll see you tomorrow folks.

Happy Hootenanny.

THE OINK! BOOK 1988 (PART THREE) - BUM DEAL (IN A GOOD WAY)



No matter how many times I see that cover it never gets old, especially when you see its party trick, but more on that below.  For now let's take a look at the last third of this mammoth treat for Oink! fans and you may have noticed certain regulars haven't been included.  Never fear, if you wish to pick up the annual online somewhere or at a local car boot sale (do!) the creations of Mr Lew Stringer are correct and present.  But for the purposes of this blog I decided to stick with Lew's larger strip of the book and the return of none other than Pigswilla.

Normally reserved for when there's a giant monster made up of some sort of food stuffs, for the annual the strip went suitably white, covering itself in snow and creating a frozen nightmare out of The Snowman of Doom.  Hey, it's more convincing than the Mr Freeze in Batman & Robin, right?

There's even a special guest appearance from another Oink! character, the lovably geeky Specky Hector, now with added surname.  A highlight of any issue of the regular comic and indeed of this volume, enjoy the latest adventure from the gigantic robotic pig:


Now from one character who only appeared a handful of times in the comic but who has appeared in the blog before, to one - or rather, two - characters who haven't appeared here yet but who had a good run of issues in the actual publication before now.  These things can happen when you've so much you'd like to cover but only scanning in a handful of pages for each issue.

First appearing back in #15 alongside some other 'new' characters, Keith Disease was the world's rudest boy who came across Beelzebub, Prince of Darkness in a magic crisp packet.  Nonplussed with the appearance of this mighty satanic presence Keith made his displeasure at not having crisps to eat very clear, and so instead of being granted all of his desires he was cursed by the pissed-off creature.

Confined to an existence of eternity as "a tasteless print on that boy's t-shirt", Keith was to become attached to the unsuspecting and completely innocent Hector Vector, who just happened to be walking by and within arm's length of Beelzebub.  So began the love-hate relationship.  We no, that'd be a lie, it was simply a hate-hate relationship, with the t-shirt getting Hector into all sorts of scrapes and it was always fun to see who'd be worse off at the end of each issue's tale.  Yep, this wasn't a strip where the cheeky brat got his comeuppance in the final panel.  Sometimes he would, but sometimes poor Hector would be the one to get it in the neck while the t-shirt laughed on in that "hi, hi, hi" way.

Yes, regular readers will know that laugh and who the writer is!  Also, given the barmy origin story could it have come from any other mind than that of Jeremy Banx?  No, it could not.  Another highly original creation of his, here at long last is the fondly remembered Hector Vector and His Talking T-Shirt in a fantastic two-page spread:


Fantastic stuff and it just makes me look forward even more to next year's book and the absolutely epic Burp strip in it, which personally taught me all about puberty.  Yes.  You'll see what I mean soon.  Well in twelve months.

Only a couple of times so far has Oink! ventured into the text story format but each one has been a great success of the genre (two good examples are in #9 and #21) and this one below is no different.  Now unfortunately I can find no credit for this page (oh and I updated the previous post with confirmation of Tim Thackeray's contribution as artist on the James Bong strip by the way) so if any creators reading happen to know please do get in touch as it shouldn't go without one.

Snuggled up with your now-mangled soft toys (see last time) in front of the roaring fire on a bitterly cold winter's night?  Gather your children, nieces, nephews, dogs, cats, and enjoy a heart-warming family tale together.

And then you can read this one too, The Uninvited Stranger:


Pig pals will remember how our esteemed editor Uncle Pigg used to take a starring role in each and every issue introducing each theme, usually at the expense of Mary Lighthouse (critic) and one or both of them would see the comic out as well each fortnight, more often than not.  It's actually been what feels like a long time since we've seen them together in strip format at all, never mind more than once in the same issue.  This book is really spoiling us.

For those who missed it check out The Facts of Life from the first part of the book by clicking here.  It's a delight to see the two of them doing so much more than hosting the Grunts page and popping up in promos, side-panels and other stories.  Just like the old days.

As well as Mary appearing in Uncle Pigg's strips, she also had her own in almost every issue for a long time after its launch and he'd guest star in them too in return.  Here she is now, written and drawn as ever by Mark Rodgers and Ian Jackson, not only starring in her own two pages within the book, but actually stealing them from Uncle Pigg!  A classic, and about time they came back to their strip forms in the regular comic I say:


As if that wasn't exciting enough for fans, here's another feeling of going back to the early days of Oink!, with the conclusion of the Star Truck tale The Search for Sock.  Mark Rodgers' Captain Slog had also popped up in a Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins by this stage, coming out of a sewer which may explain why he's appeared now outside a ladies' public toilet!

With Patrick Gallagher as Sock again here's the two separate episodes together in one package for you.  Savour every panel folks, as this would unfortunately be the last time we'd see these characters and not just in this book, but forever:



So long to Captain Slog, Sock, Jock and Patrick's eyebrows.

We've also got to finish off another multi-part story with Hadrian Vile's interleckshual guide to Nacheral Histry reaching it's third and final chapter.  If you recall we were still in the time of the dinosaurs... sorry, dinersaurs, so he's got quite a lot of ground to cover with his last page.  I'm sure he'll not miss anything out or gloss over millions of years of evolution.

Oh:


The genius team of writer Mark Rodgers and artist Ian Jackson must've had a blast with this character.  Unlike some of the strips covered through this book's posts, Hadrian was in every single issue of Oink! and would be there right through to the very end.  Not exactly Buster material for when the comic merged though - not sure what they would've made of him if the content of Oink! was new to them!

Before we finish off there's just room to squeeze in a couple of teeny tiny squirts who only appeared in this annual, albeit twice.  Maybe originally designed as regular characters by Dave Fellows (who contributed to some early editions) as they had two different pages to themselves here, they never appeared in the regular comic.  But this just makes their popping up here that bit more special for those of us who received this that Christmas.  I'm sure you'll agree the inclusion of The Zits is a nice addition to the book.  The annual really is crammed full of brilliance.  You could say it's fit to burst:


It's with a heavy heart but with a chortle and a smile on my face that I now bring the coverage of my very favourite childhood book of any sort to a close.  I'll leave the final word to Uncle Pigg below and the inks of Ian Jackson as per usual, but moreso than any other issue this has been a real trip down memory lane for me.

From seeing the books gleaming in the newsagents, to getting my hands on its smooth glossy cover, to showing its front and back off to anyone who appeared at my house that Christmas, to re-reading it in my teens, my twenties, my thirties... and to seeing a friend trying (and failing) to stifle laughs when he read it in a college class many moons after its publication.  This book will never, ever get old.  It's Oink! in its most concentrated form, the perfect example of this awesome comic.

And that's coming from someone who doesn't like using the word 'awesome'.

If there were ever any chance of Uncle Pigg et all returning to entertain today's kids, to make a difference again in a comic market full of samey licenced titles, this is the issue/book you'd test on the audience.  Every page holds up as if it was written this year, not twenty-seven of them ago.  I hope you've enjoyed the selected pages I grabbed for you and if your favourites aren't included I can only apologise, every strip I had to leave out was a tough decision, believe me:


Ahhahahahaa....!!!  Oh I remembered my original reaction to that too just as I read that.  Well that's page 80, only the back cover to go and if you haven't seen it before and you're thinking it seems strange to use up a scan with the back cover of a book, you'll understand why I'm including it very soon.

But beforehand, I just want to extend a trotter and a huge Thank You to Oink! Facebook group member Gerry Cluskey.  I've mentioned Gerry before in the blog when going over my own history of returning to the world of pig pals again, but he really did me a huge favour which can't go unmentioned.

Regular readers may recall that I only had this book, #45 and #68 (the final issue) left in my collection from my childhood a few years ago.  I collected the whole run, then sent it all on to Gerry for them to have a good home when I moved on myself.  But back I came with the blog idea and I started to collect the whole series again from scratch.  However, even though I always intended to buy a copy of The Oink! Book 1988 as I had to for the blog, I knew it'd end up being dissected so that I could fit the pages into the scanner (such is the thickness of the book and the size of the pages they just wouldn't sit flat otherwise). I had originally planned to buy two copies for this reason (one to keep intact, one to scan) but was having problems tracking down even one, but then I asked Gerry for a favour...

Could he send me the copy of the book I'd sent him.  I'd send it straight back once I'd scanned it in, of course.  Being the kind of man he is though, he told me he had another copy of it himself anyway, so he sent me back my original copy - to keep!  I was thrilled when it arrived.  The actual book, the actual copy of the book attached to all those memories!  I was able to come across a second copy on eBay for scanning purposes a few months later (even though it's a spare it was still heartbreaking to take it apart) and so my childhood copy has remained in great condition and back in my possession.

It takes pride of place above the bookshelves in my living room and always draws attention from visitors.  These have been my very favourite posts from the whole blog experience and so thank you Gerry, my original annual is still sitting proud and completely intact among the necessary carnage of the scanning.  I also think having my own book back has made reading the contents even more special, even more funny.

My original childhood copy on the right there.

Thanks for reading, folks.  Come back to join Rubbish Man's New Year's party tonight around midnight and an extra post tomorrow to see in 2015 - mark it on your calendar (hint).

Closing the book now, and here's why the ten-year old me pestered all of my parents' and siblings' visitors with this book all over Christmas 1987.  See you soon!:


Monday, 29 December 2014

THE OINK! BOOK 1988 (PART TWO) - LICENCED TO SWILL


Time for the middle part of the book!

Hope you had an amazing Christmastime everyone and welcome back to the second of three posts covering the greatest comics annual ever to grace a stocking.  Well, I remember some annuals being advertised as 'perfect stocking fillers', but in the case of The Oink! Book 1988 what size of stockings did parents have for Santa to fill?!

Let's get straight back to it shall we?  I waffled on long enough as an introduction to this book last time and if you're as full of turkey, ham, stuffing, pudding, minced pies and cake as I am you'll probably have trouble staying awake if I don't get on with the strips.  There's a few running themes in the annual, some obviously linked such as Hadrian Vile's interlechshual guide toe Nacheral Histry and Star Truck which are both long stories told over several pages separated into chunks.  Others gather together genres into a handful of pages at a time, all different examples of it, but all with the same idea.

Before we get to sampling some though, it's back to Mark Rodgers' and Ian Jackson's Hadrian to tell us all about the DINERSAURS!:


I wonder if that's where Spielberg got his inspiration for the accent to Mr DNA in Jurassic Park...

Onwards to the next collection of themed pages and much like the one discussed last time here's a spoof of another kind of children's comic.  Back in #36 we had our first encounter with a Dandy/Beano spoof in the shape of The Deano and a two-page riff on Dennis the Menace with Benny the Butcher.  Well The Deano makes a welcome return here... well a sort of return anyway.

You see this one in the book was created and published first but most of us would read it second as these annuals stayed on newsagent shelves and in Santa's workshop until Christmas morning.  Also, whereas it was another butcher/pig scenario before, now the book took on a different turn with the two British comics.

You see this was also the year the two titles reached their 50th anniversary and indeed I got the special commemorative book at the same time as Oink!'s first, so that was a nice juxtaposition!  To be fair it was a fascinating book for my ten year old eyes to read about how long they'd been running for, what the humour aimed at my parents was like and how they'd survived during the war.  Oink!, of course, took this celebration and turned it on its head somewhat:


A comic lasting that long should be celebrated and admired, and while Oink! had already made a point in its very creation that it had a new sense of humour (specifically aimed at those kids who felt the likes of the other titles on the market were too safe/old-fashioned/not for them) these spoofs were never meant in a negative way.  As I've said all along I too am not criticising any of the other comics we had the choice between back then, I enjoyed them and they'd raise a smile.  But the porky pink publication was the first to make me laugh out loud.  It was the first that seemed to speak to my own sense of humour - after all, aren't we all different?

As Oink! writer Graham Exton put it in a comment on this very blog:

"I can vouch for the fact that Mark Rodgers loved DC Thomson comics, such as The Dandy and The Beano.  There was a Dandy annual in the Rodgers' bathroom for guests to peruse while ablating, for example.  The Beano parodies were just that - parodies.  Usually you parody stuff you admire, otherwise it's called satire, and there's a big difference."

With that in mind let's take a look at some of the pages within this Deano.  It took up a whole five pages in the book, so along with the Tony Husband/Les 'Lezz' Barton Dennis strip, we'd also Desperate Old Man, The Last St. Old People and then a wonderful two-page spread which included some great takes on Beano favourites from none other than John Geering himself!  To the uninitiated John worked on just such DC Thomson titles!  Here's a couple of examples of how he took the hand out of them on this occasion:


For a look at John also enjoying having a good-intentioned little joke at IPC/Fleetway's own titles go and have a look at the Tom's Toe strips, in particular his first appearance in Oink! #13.

To finish The Deano though, after Little (Old) Glum and Bodger the Dodger (who is trying to find a way out of another 2000-year contract with the comic) we get Boffo the Bore from artist Philip.  Now I'm not exactly sure who this 'Philip' is (even though his signature bares a striking resemblance to my own) but it's a perfect end to the perfect large-scale spoof only a big Oink! book such as this could bring us:


While annuals did go on sale in the summer, they invariably contained Christmas-themed tales or ones which were perfect to read at that time of year.  Now last time we had The Truth About Santa Claus and if, as a child reader, you recovered from that home truth by snuggling down with your favourite soft toy you were about to get another rude awakening!  So, years before Toy Story, those soft teddies were next on the agenda from Dave Jones, who started his professional comics career with Oink! and later in life would move on to contribute to, and edit, Viz.

There was just something wonderful about a children's comic taking a twisted and warped look at things which were usually a safe haven for kids, and the unsettling strips continued within the book were second-to-none.  From Mr Big Nose dispatching his greatest fear in cold blood, to a Frankenstein-esque tale of the creation of a disgustingly grotesque comedian in the shape of Bernard "Mannin", the following tale sat perfectly within such pages:


Nice reference to Lew Stringer in there too and look out for one of his very best strips in the final part of the annual in a few days.

Now before we head on to the next couple of strips it's time to once again see what the GBH boys want us to buy.  What's the next big Christmas fad going to be?  What are parents up and down the land going to have to make sure is waiting for their kids from ol' St Nick?  Surely they can't lose with this - from one of the very best Madvertisements the comic produced:


Have you bought the brand new Psycho Gran comic yet?  First covered here on the blog way back in March this year and still available, the first issue is to be followed up in 2015 so go and grab yourself a cheap-as-chips last Christmas present of the very highest quality!  Creator David Leach has written and beautifully drawn and coloured an entire comic dedicated to the woman which contains a whole load of brand new material and just a couple of updated Oink! strips.

As well as her very first appearance (which was in Oink! #15 by the way) the other strip to get a fresh coat of paint came from this very book.  So for fans old and new alike, here's the original version of that infamous dog-themed tale, and just below it I've kept in one of the several nice little additions from readers which made their way onto various pages throughout:


I can remember the very first time I read that Psycho Gran strip, I thought it was just so incredibly funny!  Also, I may have repeated that poem once (or twice) too often to friends and family...

Finally for this post we move onto another themed section of the book.  Now I come to think of it, were these bits a way of carrying on that idea of having whole issues of themes in the fortnightlies?  Whether they were or not, they fit the bill brilliantly and my favourite of such strips from the book is the next one, taken from this special Adventure Section:


The more eagle-eyed among you (and that didn't include me first time round I have to say, only when reading these for the blog did I spot it) may think there's something awfully familiar about that picture above.  That's because part of it, created for this publication, was used back last Christmas in Oink! #17 as part of the TV listings page.  Yes, this book really was created that far in advance, and judging by the likes of such artists as Lew Stringer on his blog, deadlines are still as far ahead as ever these days.

But back to the past.  I'm a huge James Bond fan, absolutely huge, though that wasn't until roughly 1993 when I discovered Licence to Kill in the local video store, rented The Living Daylights afterwards, was crushed that there weren't any more Timothy Dalton movies and so moved back to Roger Moore, all before their return was announced with Goldeneye.  Ah, good times.

Even though Timothy had already taken over from Roger, and Octopussy had been followed by two more films since its release, both it and Moore were perfect fodder (moreso than any other) for the following strip.  Written by the genius mind of Mark Rodgers and drawn by Tim Thackeray, a name I believe was new to the comic at this point and who was kind enough to confirm in an email that this was indeed his work.  You can check out a simply sublime selection of creative work by Tim on his website at timthackeray.co.uk, it's a real treasure trove!

Back to his Oink! work here and this is the perfect example of what I was talking about above with The Deano - I love Bond but just adore this strip too:


The Adventure Section also contains Police Vet, a great take on 70s cop shows (who would return in one of the monthly Oink!s the following year), Ena Blighty's Five Go Adventuring Yet Again and that superb GBH mad' above.  Then that takes us into the final third of the book and so to the end of this post.  It's been fun so far hasn't it?

As well as the final section of The Oink! Book 1988 before the end of the year, check the blog around midnight on the 31st and in the evening of the 1st for a couple of (further) additional posts.  That's all I'm going to say for now, other than we've got 18 weekly editions to follow all this holiday hog.  It's a good time to be reliving it all, so I hope you'll join me again in a few days.


Friday, 26 December 2014

#44: A NEW YEAR... A NEW COMIC?


Happy New Year to one and all!

What?  That can't be right, it's still Boxing Day when this post is getting published, can't we continue to enjoy Christmas for a while longer?  Well yes, of course we can and we certainly will with the second and third parts of the first Oink! annual still to come to keep the laughter muscles warm over the coming week.  But for now we look forward to the new year and the celebrations to come, in #44 the second and (again) last Hogmanay issue.

Dated 26th December it, just like last year's, was released a few days before Christmas and just like last year I've decided to stick with the dates on the cover rather than the specific day it arrived in our laps as it makes more sense for the point of the blog.  Even now, twenty-seven years later I received the special 100-page Christmas edition of 2000AD in the post a couple of weeks ago, which is meant to be on the shelves in stores for three weeks, yet on Saturday 20th December I received the 7th January edition.  Some things never change and having deadlines is one of those.

The issue starts with Les 'Lezz' Barton finally getting a chance to shine on the cover and so do The Slugs, the punk band created by himself and editor Tony Husband.  New Year's TV shows are known for being incredibly tedious affairs * (my mother and I used to watch repeats of Friends instead back in the day) but The Slugs were there to liven things up in their strip alright.

* please note this does not include Jools Holland's Hootenanny.  Just saying.

The big news of this issue though is the future of our favourite comic rather than the theme itself.  The fact Oink! was going weekly was met with excitement by fans across the board and the comic had hyped it up for a couple of months now.  This was the last fortnightly issue and with it going on sale a few days early we'd a longer than normal wait for the next issue, so the anticipation of it coming to us every single week was only heightened because of this.

For the final piece of hype we were treated to the first full-page Mary Lighthouse strip in an awful long time and Uncle Pigg made a welcome return to strip form as far as the regular comic goes (he's got some great strip work in the annual).  Written by Mark Rodgers and drawn as ever by Ian Jackson Oink! had an announcement to make to its critics:


The price did indeed come down to 30p, at least for a while, even if it was softening a blow, which you'll read about soon enough.  But for now we eagerly awaited 1988 and the prospect of double the amount of Oink!s throughout the whole year!  Little did we know...

Back to the present, in a matter of speaking, and while the issue may have appeared on the shelves early...:


... the same obviously couldn't be said of some of its characters, such as the above in Haldane's ever-funny Zootown.

Things have been a bit quiet on the Jimmy 'The Cleaver' Smith front as we approached the season of goodwill and cheer.  Maybe he'd calmed down on his wicked ways, getting into the spirit of the time of year and spreading love instead of pig parts.  Or perhaps he was just concentrating on turkeys instead.  All wrong.

Always one to make an entrance:


Written and drawn by the twisted pen of Jeremy Banx the maniacal murderer is getting ever more creative.  With that in mind it should send a shiver down the spines of pig pals everywhere to learn that one of the treats of the new weekly Oink! would be a brand new serial featuring the gruesome butcher himself!

In that regard you could almost see the strip above as an introductory story for readers old and new to the horrors coming - creative, imaginative, chilling and always entertaining horrors, mind you.  So look out for the new weekly thrills starting right here on January 9th.  Yes, all episodes will be included, they've stuck in my mind so much since childhood I know already this brilliantly written and very atmospheric six-part mini-series will be included on the blog.

Prepare yourselves.

You could do worse than prepare yourself now in fact, for the explosive first entry to the blog for a character who has been in the pages of the comic since its conception but hasn't appeared in digital form yet.  Written by a variety of scribes throughout the comic's lifespan but always drawn in the unique Wilkie style, his blog debut comes to you courtesy of none other than relative Oink! newbie at this stage, Charlie Brooker:


Billy Bang is one of those characters people rhyme off when they remember back to Oink! without the benefit of an issue in their hands (or a blog on their screens too I suppose) and when you think of the premise - young boy explodes when he gets angry, and something tees him off every issue - it's amazing to think he's survived this long, never mind the fact that he kept going all the way through to the very end of the comic's life.  Just shows how inventive the crew were even when presented with the fact the same thing has to happen every single issue.  It could also explain why so many writers took their turn!

Small strips like Billy's in Oink! were a joy to break up the larger ones and as discussed before regular characters were just as likely to give us a few panels as much as a few pages.  Short, sharp scripts produced some of the biggest laughs, such as this from Keith Forrest (another new name to Oink!), Ian Knox and their Barrington Bosh, he's incredibly PO$H character.  I'm not ashamed to say when I read this for this post I roared when the voice in my head read this out in a posh accent.  (Please read the strip to see what I mean.  I'm not hearing things):


Someone else who took full advantage of the smaller strip format was Banx.  As well as the larger Jimmy Smith and Burp strips, his Mr Big Nose delivered a quick-fire burst of surrealism with this issue which far surpassed anything he'd come up with up to this point, and that's saying something:


Go on then, explain that one.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Alex in the comments who was able to point out at the time that this was actually the very last episode from Mr Big Nose we'd ever get to see in the pages of Oink! sadly.  The man is right, at the time of writing this update I'm a few issues into the weeklies and Mr Nose has indeed disappeared from the comic, perhaps a little too surreal for the 'younger' feel they were going for to attract more readers in the core demographic.

If there's one person quickly coming to the fore in terms of contributors in the pages of the comic it's everyone's favourite Guardian columnist and Screenwipe host, Charlie Brooker.  All but a teenager at the time, by this stage he'd proven himself already and the number of pages with his name attached were increasing substantially.

As well as writing for other characters, he created The Adventures of Death, Transmogrifying Tracey, Clint Gritwood the Trigger-Happy Cop and the new anthology series The Swinelight Zone.  You know, I've been missing the old Golden Trough Awards we used to have back in the early days, a series of different movie spoofs all linked by the title and theme of ripping apart a particular movie or genre of the time.  Some were hilarious, my particular favourites being the Lassie-like Laffie in #6 and, particularly relevant now, #4's Vengeance of the Gnome Men.

The reason I'm bringing that latter one up isn't just because it's so bloody good, but because it was an Oink! twist on a horror tale, and with The Swinelight Zone Charlie would take that idea and run with it!  Every episode would present us with a weird and wonderful tale worthy of the namesake, never mind a kid's comic spoof.  This one is the perfect example to kick them off with:


A highlight of issues to come, look out for many more of these in 2015.

To end, a little nursery rhyme to see you off to sleep after a tiring holiday period, to help you settle down into a restful sleep, to aid in your relaxation.  The very last thing you need is another giggle.  Oh well, that's bit tough because Charlie Brooker is fast becoming a very productive young man and is determined to see us out:


There we go.  The end of an era.  Fortnightly themed Oink!s are no more, but you can look forward to a few months of weekly laughs in 1988/2015, starting 8th January and continuing every Thursday right here on the blog until May, just after the comic's (and thus the blog's) second birthday.  Until then come back over the next week for more from The Oink! Book 1988, as well as some extra goodies to boot.

We may be starting the last year of the comic itself, but trust me it's going to be a good one:

Drawn by Patrick Gallagher

Thursday, 25 December 2014

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Spoiled rotten, us pig pals.

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

{insert dramatic introductory music}

STAR TRUCK II: THE SEARCH FOR SOCK

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Or haunt you.

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


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


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

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

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

Merry Christmas everyone!  Make it a good one.