Monday, 24 July 2017

COMING UP...

Hi everyone.  Things have been a little quiet on the blog recently but that's all about to change.  I've had a busy old time of it but recently I've been putting the time aside for the site and am excited about what's to come.  You can look forward to more regular updates, a broader area of interest, while keeping Oink! at the centre of it all, naturally, as well as new ongoing series and more.  I sincerely hope you'll find plenty to keep you coming back.

It's all good saying these things of course, so I thought I'd do a little preview for you.

'RELIVE OINK!'

First up the The Comics page at the top-left there has been a constant since day one near enough.  It's a quick and easy way to find any issue of Oink! that I've covered, in order and separated into different categories so you can read back over the highlights.  However, right from the very beginning there were extra posts dedicated to The Street-Hogs and the Oink! Superstar Posters, then as the years have gone on I've written more and more posts with extra content, behind-the-scenes information, loads of Christmas goodies, new material etc.  Add to these the fact the blog is going "beyond" and covering more than just Oink!, it's important to me to have all of the content for the star title be accessible from one central place.  So you'll see a completely redesigned section (yes, a full section not just one page anymore, there's a lot of Oink! stuff in here now!) where you can relive the greatest humour comic of all time to your heart's content.  This has taken longer to organise than I thought as it requires some HTML programming beyond Blogger's standard layouts and it doesn't help that Photobucket have decided they're no longer going to host photos to be used on other sites.  So I'm going to have to move a whole sty full of images from all over this blog to another host too.  But it'll all come to pass soon!

'THE BEYOND OINK! COLLECTION'

During the monthly issues of Oink! I wrote a series of Beyond Oink! posts about the other comics I placed a regular order for in my comic-reading youth of the mid-80s to the mid-90s and I found some of these stood up really well today.  I'd kept a few issues here and there from the days I first read them, but for the majority I had to chase issues down on eBay.  I was pleasantly surprised how some could be enjoyed just as much, or even more, now as an adult in the same way as my Marvel UK The Transformers collection which I'd read through about eight years previous.  When the blog series was over I sold some of the titles off again but kept a few, knowing in the back of my mind I wanted to know how these stories panned out and that I'd eventually get around to collecting them.  Now that time has come so there'll be dedicated sections not only for the aforementioned Robots in Disguise in both their 80s and current movie forms, but also three titles rarely (if at all!) covered online, namely Ring Raiders, Wildcat and Dark Horse's UK comic of Jurassic Park.  Throw in the yearly annuals for Big Comic Fortnightly and Funny Fortnightly and fans of the popular Beyond Oink! series should all have something to read as I put the pieces together for each of these collections, with the aim of covering them in a similar way to Oink! once complete.

'FURTHER BEYOND'

In that initial Beyond Oink! post I mentioned the fact there were other comics I'd maybe bought an issue or two of but never actually collected regularly.  It wasn't because they weren't any good, it was simply the fact there were so many great comics being released around that time.  Of course not all were terrific but the ones I read I really loved, but having so many titles being released it simply wasn't possible to collect them all.  There were new series I read about in my other comics which sounded amazing but I couldn't get because I was only allowed so many at once (I can understand that now!), some I bought an issue or two of before my attention was grabbed by something else on the shelves, or sometimes there were just too many comics to choose between that there'd be some I'd wanted but would never read.  The UK industry was releasing so many comics sales were thinned out across the board and it meant there were some stunning comics which unfortunately simply got passed over by the kids of the day.  Now I have the chance to become even more ridiculously addicted to eBay and build up that dream comics collection I never had, now with the very best material I missed out on first time around.  What will this section include?  How does Transformers spin-off Death's Head, Dragon's Claws, The Sleeze Brothers, Visionaries, Super Naturals and Judge Dredd sound?

'SELF-PUBLISHING'

Contrary to some dark and dingy corners of the internet, the UK comics industry is alive and well and offering a massive variety of different kinds of comics for different kinds of readers.  Mainstream, graphic novels, independent publishers, digital comics, small press...  What I've become very interested in recently for my own reasons are self-published comics.  This has exploded in the UK in recent years thanks to modern technology and I've already been able to sample some simply superb examples; at the Enniskillen Comic Fest this year I bought Vampire Free Style from Jenika Ioffreda and recently on the blog I've covered a few various comics from Oink! alumni Lew Stringer in the form of Combat Colin #1, Brickman Returns and Derek the Troll.  I've taken a look online and the work being produced by some of the small press creators is exciting stuff.  Perhaps the fact Oink! was an independent comic (albeit printed by a mainstream publisher), was so original and took risks with creator-owned content is the reason I'm so interested in these.  Or perhaps it's because self-publishing is something I'm interested in myself!  Either way I've decided collecting some of this will make up another section of the relaunched blog and I can't wait to see what I can get my teeth into.  I've already got the 2000AD-inspired Sector 13 and some David Leach titles to write up and plenty more to come after that.

OVERALL...

I'm not turning my Oink! Blog into a general comics review site, not at all.  The site is expanding beyond its original remit because my own comics collection is growing beyond that one slice of anarchic 80s humour, so the blog will be adhering to those headings above... at least until I cover them for a while and it evolves again.  Who knows what the future holds after all, I certainly didn't expect all this from this silly little blog!  It's evolved naturally over the years of covering the piggy publication, now I'll also be collecting some of the comics I read as a result of Oink!, as well as those I wished I'd collected and now the intriguing small press comics I personally want to look into.  This will very much be my own personal comics blog so you won't see any negative reviews here simply because I'm only going to be collecting those I already know I'll like. That doesn't mean I won't be honest with praise or criticism though, of course I will (just as I have been with Oink! all along).

I'd better get finishing off what I've started then, but I hope you'll return with me soon and enjoy the new material and take part in comments sections etc.  See you later!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

COMBAT COLIN #1: SEMI-AUTOMATIC REVIEW


First up I just have to say what a delight it was to open the envelope containing this comic and see this character slide out after all these years.  When I began collecting Marvel UK's The Transformers way back in 1988 it'd already been going steady for 191 issues prior, so Combat Colin had established himself for quite a while after coming over from the pages of the cancelled Action Force.  This was another feather in the cap of Lew Stringer's stalking of me throughout the comics I collected as a kid, having already appeared in Oink! and The Real Ghostbusters.  His inclusion brought familiarity to this new weekly title for me and I thoroughly enjoyed Colin and Semi-Automatic Steve's adventures throughout the rest of the comic's long life.

You can imagine my thrill then when Lew announced a while back that he'd be following up his successful self-published Brickman Returns and Derek the Troll reprint titles with not one Combat Colin comic, but a series of them.  Aiming to have six issues in total, hopefully with two a year in the pipeline, this first issue takes all of Colin's original Action Force misadventures from across forty-three issues and repackages them into one volume.  I've only ever owned three issues of that title when about ten years ago I read through my (at the time newly-collected) The Transformers collection and its epic story from the 80s and early 90s.  Those few Action Force comics were the issues where the two comics had crossed over for one story, so apart from those few Colin strips all of this was going to be brand new to me.  Nostalgia for the character aside then, would these produce the laughs when read today, thirty years later?

What do you think?:

Part 3 of 'One of Our Milkmen is Missing!' (yes, really)

Clearly there was never any need to worry.  Not that I had been, mind you.  The humour remains timeless just like Lew's work in Oink! (and that comic as a whole) and there's plenty of chucklesome moments throughout, beginning for me with that fantastic front cover.  I love the design with the smaller Colin in the top-left reminiscent of the Marvel UK graphics and the main image with its War of the Worlds-esque War Machines.  Oh, and you'll never guess the solution on page 2!  As for the inside, the first handful of pages are made up of quick gag strips and they're very enjoyable but after that we start getting into the meaty multi-part adventures, the style of which I'd loved so much in The Transformers.

Above you can see one of the parts of the first ever Combat Colin serial which ran for six weeks and culminated in a full-page finale.  Even from this early stage all the classic ingredients are there such as groan-inducing puns, ridiculous cliffhangers, equally ridiculous cliffhanger resolutions, wild scenarios, crazy baddies and unexpected twists and humour from as far out of the left field as you could possibly get.  There's even one told in Lew's trademark rhyme.  It isn't long before each and every instalment takes up a full-page... well, apart from one double-page spread.  Regular baddies make ridiculous reoccurring appearances and as Colin settles in to the whole cliffhanger serial approach there's more and more opportunity to spoof that genre.  For example one of the recap panels simply states, "The story so far: Colin and Steve's vilest villains have ganged up... blah, blah... death trap of feathered barrels and acid pit... blah blah... should have bought last week's Action Force... blah, blah, etc... etc...".  Brilliant!

There's plenty of memorable moments I'm looking forward to again in future issues, but from these strips my favourite has to be the six-part The Mystery of the Missing Pyramids.  Perhaps it's because I'm a sucker for anything to do with Ancient Egypt or maybe it's simply the lunacy of it all.  From the opening on a hijacked plane, to last minute heroics that don't quite work out, flying pyramids, kung-fu penguins and a mummy named Arnold, it's chaotic and crazy from start to finish with barely a panel that doesn't hit the funny bone.  (Oh, and no, I didn't make a mistake by including penguins there in a story about Egypt.  Trust me, it works.)

A page from my favourite story of this issue

Fans of Colin and Steve will be in their element here and shouldn't pass this up.  At only £3.50 plus p&p it's a bargain for a 40-page comic of such quality.  The strips are just as strong as you'll remember so don't be worried about reading these today without the rose-tinted glasses.  For newcomers who haven't read any of these before then you're in for a real treat, because this is a superb introduction to Lew's work and the even more epic, more insane strips to come from the pages of The Transformers over the next few years.

If it sounds like I'm gushing somewhat then yes I'll admit I am.  But you've got to remember I was already a huge fan of this character over so many adventures previously, loving all of the ones I'd read again about a decade ago just as much as the first time around.  It'd be like one of my favourite Oink! characters getting a reprint book of their strips, I'd know going in it was going to be a treat.  So yes, I'm gushing and I'll happily admit that.  This blog is only about the comics I enjoy after all.

There's a couple of little extras included in here too, such as an introductory page which will serve as an actual honest-to-gosh letters page from issue two onwards.  Fantastic stuff and it will lend a real retro feel to events and take readers like me right back to writing in to our comics as children.  I'm sure there's plenty of adults who'll read this and wish to take the fun opportunity to do so once again all these years later, although there's no clue as to whether it'll be Lew answering the letters himself or whether he'll hand it over to one of the characters.  I'm sure you can guess which one I'm hoping for and I'd bet I'm not alone in that either.

For this issue though we get some background information on how Lew got the job on Action Force and the creation of Colin, as well as some details on the development of the strip throughout its lifespan and beyond, even after the robotic war comic was laid to rest.  There's also a very funny fact-file on Colin and some footnotes under certain strips, including one where Lew displays concern about how some of the humour on that particular page could be seen today, plus every strip is annotated with information on which issue it was originally published in and the date.  Finishing it all off is an advert for Lew's other comics and even a 'Next Issue' panel:

Get your letters in now for #2 at Christmas (hopefully)

All told it has a lovely feel to it and I don't just mean its high quality paper and glossy cover.  It feels like a complete comic in its own right rather than a simple collection of reprints, the whole package coming together rather wonderfully.  As a fan already it's neat to have all the Action Force strips together in one issue and The Transformers ones kicking off separately, while for those new to Colin it works as a great, solid premiere issue of a new comic.

It's the kind of publication I'm sure we'd all love to see on newsagents shelves, but this is 2017 and the world has changed but in my view it's been for the best.  There's still plenty to entertain the actual kids on the shelves, while for them and children of all ages today's technology has resulted in such a huge, varied and vibrant self-publishing scene here in the UK.  So much so, that going online now in search of comics to purchase (and support) almost feels like taking those Saturday morning trips to my local newsagents and scouring the huge array of quality comics on offer anyway!

Back to this particular comic and if you're interested (and I'm going to assume you're sane enough to be interested) you can click here to go to Lew's online shop to buy this issue and his other titles right now!  Or there's further information about Combat Colin #1 on both Lew's personal comics work blog and his Blimey! blog on the British comic industry past and present.

To finish with, for all pig pals reading this there's even a few references to a certain other comic for you to find too, just in case you needed any further incentive:

Just one of several little Oink! appearances from Colin's run

Now get going troops!  Get buying!  We all want issues two to six!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

IT WAS PIGGIN' EVERYWHERE: OINK! PRESS CLIPPINGS

If you've been reading the posts about each individual issue of Oink! you may have come across this cover already:


Drawn by the always-superb Ian Jackson, it's actually the little quotes to the left of Uncle Pigg I'd like to draw your attention to.  Unlike the Booker Prize reference along the strap line these quotes are genuine ones from the British press of the day.  To us young readers Oink! already stood out amongst the crowd for us, with its original sense of humour, mixed-up format, spoofs, art styles... basically, everything!  But in the wider world it had got noticed too and not just for the ultra-conservative WHSmith placing it on their top shelves.

In a pre-internet world, word would spread a lot slower.  So by the time the press had caught on to Oink!, written about it, published their snippets, had their articles noticed by the Oink! team and then had them reprinted in the comic, it was into its second full year before we started seeing many quotes and clippings appear celebrating what we all already knew.  To illustrate this passage of time the cover above is from the very issue which would have that "questionnaire" which "asked" readers if they wanted Oink! to continue as a weekly or a thicker monthly.  We all know what happened there. So despite this issue proudly proclaiming rightful success in previous press reviews, a mere seven months later we'd be reading the last issue.

As I've always said, Oink! was a success and it was the coming in of Fleetway and their shake-up of all their comics titles which saw Oink! change and eventually lose readers.  Obviously it was all with the best of intentions but unlike IPC who were happy with Oink!'s 100,000 sales per issue on average, Fleetway instead felt it wasn't enough and wanted to increase that figure.  (Their reasoning behind this has all been covered before, starting here.)  We know the ultimate end result, but the important thing is to remember just how successful Oink! was seen to be at the time and that's the whole point of this post.

Below are all the press clippings from the actual pages of the comic throughout its run and, while it may have taken a while for the mainstream to catch on, right from the off Mark Rodgers', Tony Husband's and Patrick Gallagher's creation was catching on within certain circles:

From #10

Grunts page in #15 and The Cult did indeed get a
full interview in the next issue as Oink! fans!

#22's Magic and Fantasy special

Oink! was definitely making an impact amongst the music scene of the time and there was a simple reason for this, on top of it just being a superb read of course!  Oink! was edited together in Manchester, a real hub of British musical talent and Tony, Patrick and Mark were well known in the city for previous work.  They'd also brought in Marc Riley to work on the comic, who was in the band The Fall and through the connections this team had within this hive of music creation our favourite comic was getting read by some very influential people.

It may have had a target audience of 8-11 year olds for the marketing leaflets but it was always intended to appeal to all, to not talk down to the kids and to have more sophisticated humour alongside the slapstick.  We could literally have grown up with the comic if it'd lasted longer.  In later issues Uncle Pigg would tell readers how the readership included teens and young adult students and I wonder how many of them decided to give this comic a go in the first place because their pop icons were reading it.  Celebrity endorsement may not seem like a big deal today, but back in the 80s and for something that many looking in from the outside may have seen as a kids-only title, this was something special.  These weren't staged quotes with money being handed over, these were genuine readers!

SHUSH PHIL, JUST SHOW US THE CLIPPINGS!

#25 saw the first clipping from a newspaper and these would continue to appear sporadically throughout the rest of the run, showing just how well received the comic was with the public in terms of popularity and when being reviewed by the wider media.  There were those who criticised its sometimes rude humour, its poking fun at establishment figures and who campaigned against it being displayed with all the other children's comics.  I've covered that before in-depth, particularly the Janice and John strip and the reaction from a couple of parents, but at the end of the day some people (and they still exist today) felt they should dictate what others could read.

Rebellious humour was the order of the day with Oink! and kids were lapping it up!  As you can see from these clippings the press got this.  Today I imagine the likes of The Daily Mail and The Sun would be writing long, convoluted articles about how unsuitable it is for kids for no other reason than to rile up their readers, as they do.  But thankfully it seems most of the press of the day welcomed the refreshing new take on comics and saw it for what it was; an innovative comic that may have had an anarchic quality but which was ultimately harmless, appealing to the qualities of 80s kids rather than the humour of their parents, and a comic that was genuinely funny to all who read it no matter their age.

"Hilarious", "fresh", "heading for the comic strip Hall of Fame", "outstanding new arrival"... I agree!

#25 and The Guardian are on board

Uh-oh, Patrick gets into trouble with the boss while promoting
the special Smokebusters edition given free to schools in the
north of England (from '87 Holiday Special)

#37 really went to town to show off Oink! being reported
on in the 'adult' world.  Half of a two-page Grunts was given
over almost exclusively to press clippings.

Good example of the delay I mentioned above, as
this clipping from the Sunday Times was actually
in Oink! Weekly #50.  Plus yet more musical press
coverage!

Just two issues later and Oink!, at the ripe old age of
52 issues, is voted in as a new entry in Escape magazine.
Only 15 issues later we'd be waving goodbye though.

To help introduce new readers to the new monthly
Oink!, #63 had a selection of prime pork cuts from
a selection of the British press.

Oink! certainly made its mark and now, thirty years later I'm so proud of the fact this blog has proven so popular with pig pals old and new, with the pages of this comic being enjoyed all over again.  It continues to be fondly remembered, cherished by many and from comments received here and on various social media it's leaving its mark all over again.  (Some bleach should get rid of that.)

Friday, 30 June 2017

NEW LEW STRINGER COMIC OUT NOW: COMBAT COLIN #1

As a huge fan of Combat Colin (and Semi-Automatic Steve, naturally) it's a great thrill to finally announce the release of the first issue of this series from Lew Stringer!:

Gorgeous cover, complete with Lew's
own logo!

I've mentioned this before here on the blog but today Lew has officially put it up on his online shop so you can go and buy it right now.  What, you're still here?

To give you a little bit more info, Colin first appeared in Marvel UK's weekly Action Force comic, which was our version of G.I.Joe and when that title was cancelled after it's 50th issue it merged into The Transformers, creating one of the most loved comics of that era and one which was already certainly one of the most successful!  By the time I was introduced to Colin he'd already established himself as the humour strip for a few dozen issues and quickly became an unexpected highlight for me too.

He was there right the way through to its final issue and never missed a beat in my time with the comic, all 141 issues I collected at the time.  Of course in later years when Michael Bay's fun movies began my inner TF fanboy emerged and I sought out the rest of the run on eBay.  With that I was able to enjoy many more of the crazy scenarios Lew had thought up not only for Colin but his predecessor, the equally nutty Robo Capers.  Really, some of the ideas he came up with were way out there, but I'll get to that when I'm writing up the issues properly.

For fans of Combat Colin this is a great day surely!  Issue one is available right now and contains all of the strips from Action Force together in one volume, with the subsequent issues covering all of his misadventures in The Transformers and his appearances after that comic came to its end too.  You see, Marvel had returned the rights to the strips to Lew so Colin has been able to pop up now-and-again in other stories from Lew, such as in Brickman.  Lew hopes to have the second issue out for Christmas and to continue with two a year until all six planned issues are published.

A quick preview to whet the appetite - check back
soon for a full write-up

Another example of the great small press scene here in the UK and I've already ordered mine directly from Lew's shop so it should be here in a day or two.  Once it's here and I've devoured its contents you can obviously expect a full review.  In the meantime though you can find more information on Lew's two blogs (Blimey! and Lew Stringer Comics) and check out his shop for not only this comic but previous titles too.

Alternatively on Lew's comics blog he's got a list of his forthcoming convention appearances (he's a very busy man!) where he'll have copies with him for purchase.

Colin was also a pleasant surprise as a recurring character in Brickman as I mentioned above and you can read up on Brickman Returns on this very blog.  A couple of his strips also appeared as a back-up in Derek the Troll which Lew released last Christmas and why not check out his hilarious take on a "battle" between Grimlock and Soundwave in my Beyond Oink! post on Transformers too?

Go on, treat yourselves.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

VAMPIRE FREE STYLE #1: DON'T MICIA IT!

I guarantee you won't have read a comic like this before:

The enchanting cover to #1

I'd attended the Enniskillen Comic Fest simply to meet some of the Oink! creatives and perhaps see some of the amazing talent from 2000AD there too, as well as catch up with some old friends.  What I didn't expect was to come away with a new found enthusiasm for buying some comics again, the current UK being a melting pot of independent talent.  You can read about my day and the amazing people I met in my previous post about the event, but finally now I can tell you all about one of my favourite purchases from that day: Vampire Free Style from Neptune Factory, otherwise known as London-based Italian comics creator Jenika Ioffreda.

Sitting beside Oink! legend Davy Francis at the con', Jenika's table immediately drew my attention with all of the lovely badges and magnets featuring a cute little black cat.  Upon closer inspection I realised this cat, called Micia, was the star of a six-part comic series from Jenika.  I nearly bought the complete collection graphic novel based on this one character alone but, not knowing how much money I would spend throughout the day (a lot, as it turned out) I decided to hedge my bets with my first dip into new comics and bought #1 instead.

The story revolves around a young man whose girlfriend has mysteriously vanished without a trace and he's dabbling in witchcraft in order to find out where she's gone.  As a novice witch he hasn't quite got the hang of it yet and we see him researching the craft and building up to his first flight on his broomstick.  Clearly this would be the culmination of his work; being able to fly would mean he'd succeeded and could use his new found powers to track her down.  Well...:

The tale lends itself to some great, random
spots of humour

Sudden bits of humour pop up throughout, each one more surprising than the last and Jenika adds what looks like a highly-animated Anime style to each one, such as with the bird in the last panel above.  More important than the bird though is the little stray black cat, the aforementioned Micia, a character who seems to have gathered quite the following online with fan art and even tattoos popping up on Instagram.  Even though she obviously can't talk and her facial features are minimalist she's still full of character and is a delight to look upon.

Apart from aunt Margherita (who we only see the body of, Tom-and-Jerry-style) and a stranger on the street who keeps seeing Micia (but whose friends don't) there's really no one else in this first issue and I think it's all the stronger for it.  Dialogue is kept to a minimum for quite a lot of the early pages, concentrating instead on atmosphere and telling the story through lovely greyscale artwork and clever use of sound effect lettering.  The dialogue we do get for the rest is mainly from our protagonist chatting away to his new pet, which allows for the reader to be sucked into the story without the details feeling like forced exposition:

The intrigue builds bit-by-bit with tiny Micia

Interestingly it seems the meeting of our two main characters may not have been by chance, but this is kept to slight hints in this first issue.  As far as the back story goes, some flashbacks show us glimpses into the boy's life with his girlfriend.  As I write that I know you might now be thinking filling in the gaps this way would be a cliché, but what if I told you the flashbacks were happening to Micia through her interactions with certain objects belonging to the missing girl?  Ahhh... intriguing stuff and the little flashes we do get only ask more questions.  The final page has a great surprise and leaves things on an interesting cliffhanger that left me wanting to know more about these characters and their story.  Jenika has definitely hooked me.

It's clever stuff, all wrapped up in an art style which I can best some up as being completely natural and free-flowing.  Jenika's style is definitely unique and gives you this feeling of it being freshly inked just before you turn each page.  It's like she's drawn this superb comic just for me, or just for you if you also purchase it, which you definitely should.  Vampire Free Style may be my first brand new independent comic but I don't think I could've picked a better title.  It all feels very personal, a real labour of love and I may only be one issue in (and planning on purchasing the graphic novel soon, so watch out for it on the blog) but it's been a lovely experience and one I can't recommend highly enough.

The pure black cat with the big eyes drew me in and now I want to know all about the humans in the story too.  As someone who often looks after a friend's rescue cat, I found one specific image particularly lovely and I'll end this review with it, because it's my favourite from the comic and it sums up that happy feeling this premiere issue has brought to this reader:


Vampire Free Style is available as individual issues and a graphic novel collection from Jenika's website Neptune Factory, where you can also check out Micia merchandise and the new comic series, Midnight Tea.  Also there you'll find the comic cons Jenika will be attending and a list of the comic stores where you can simply nip in and grab your issues:


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

PETE DREDGE EXHIBITION

The Professional Cartoonists' Organisation website today tweeted out news about an exhibition currently on show in the town of Kirriemuir in the east of Scotland which might be of particular interest to pig pals:

From #31 and written by Tony Husband

Pete Dredge drew some fantastic strips for Oink! during its run, including the early Master T spoofs of The A-Team's bejewelled milk-drinker.  His fresh style always felt so animated on the page, full of character and energy, his drawings as unique as the comic they were published in.  Still working to this day and known for his work in publications such as Private Eye, his one-panel gag cartoons are enjoyed by a huge audience and you can clearly see why on his profile page of the PCO's website.

Well, if your sty is located in Scotland you may wish to pop along to Kirriemuir's Bank Street Gallery where a selection of his work is now on display.  Apologies this is only being mentioned now here on the blog but this is the first I've heard of it, so with the exhibition ending this Friday (16th June) you'll want to get a move on!

To check out PCO's news on the exhibit click here:
http://procartoonists.org/hurry-pete-dredge-exhibition-finishes-this-friday/comment-page-1/#comment-56619

Need info on where exactly that town is?  I've got you covered:
https://www.visitscotland.com/info/towns-villages/kirriemuir-p244451

Thursday, 8 June 2017

MEETING (PART OF) UNCLE PIGG!: PATRICK GALLAGHER

What a year it's been so far!  In Enniskillen I finally got to meet Lew Stringer after chatting to him online for a few years now and he was just as you'd expect; a gentleman, warm and welcoming, chatty, funny and great fun to be with throughout the day.  I also got to see Davy Francis again, who is always so eager to chat, has a great dry wit and I've now got quite the collection of his art, including the great caricature in the logo above of course.

Well now I can add one more signature to my Oink! Book 1988 as recently I met one of the three editors and original creators of our favourite comic, Patrick Gallagher!:

I really have no idea what my chin is trying to do here

Visiting Donegal with family for the week, Patrick took a whole evening away to come to my home in Belfast.  That's a hell of a long way to drive to meet someone for the first time!  We've been speaking for a good while now over the telephone about everything Oink! and this visit was no exception.  It was rather surreal to have him in my home, this man who'd co-created something which made such a huge impact on me as a kid and formed so much of my sense of humour (and which is having a profound effect on me now as an adult), as well as obviously having worked on such favourite TV shows of mine as Spitting Image and Round the Bend!  An absolute honour (only let down by me because I didn't have anything gluten-free to offer as a snack with the coffees).

The signature collection continues...

I'll go into more depth in the future over what exactly we discussed and the reasons I can't go into it now will become clear at that time.  Needless to say it was a fun night, full of very funny anecdotes, entertaining stories of his time on Oink! and Round the Bend, as well as great discussions about the future.  We bounced ideas about future projects off each other until it was time for him to leave and drive all the way back across the border at the other end of the country from me.

Patrick, thank you so much for the kind words about what I've done with this blog and it was great fun discussing everything we did.  Looking forward to speaking soon and meeting again during the summer over on the mainland.

Until then folks, keep reading the blog for more updates on "things" soon...

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

30 YEARS YOUNG: GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY


After I'd covered all the regular issues of Oink! on the blog my attention temporarily went elsewhere (if you're interested you can find out where by clicking here) and while our comic's 30th birthday was covered over on the Facebook group by fans, it went unmarked here.  I know, it was sacrilege!  Longtime readers will also know my first book idea regarding Oink! was originally planned to coincided with the date but that project has been sidelined and replaced (news to come).  But now that I'm back here full-time again it's not too late to join in the festivities for the remainder of the comic's run.

Each issue in turn is still celebrating its anniversary as Oink!'s two-and-a-half-year birthday continues and I'll be publishing regular posts across social media commemorating each one as the run continues.  To get your fortnightly reminders, funny covers and strips brightening up your day and direct links to the issues all you have to do is one of three things... or do all three just to be on the safe side of course!  You can join the Oink! Facebook group, follow me on Twitter under the username @PhilEdBoyce (or keep an eye on the hashtag #oinkcomic) or on Instagram where I'm also known under the same name.

Today was the turn of #29:


I can't believe it's been thirty years since this brilliant Ian Jackson cover first made its appearance on our newsagents' shelves.  Actually, I can't believe it's been three years since I covered it on the blog!

You can click on the comic above to go to its page and catch up on all the goodies from Banx, Haldane, Les 'Lezz' Barton, Lew Stringer, Simon Thorpe, Tony Husband and Wilkie.  More recollections and celebrations to come so join up/follow/stalk to your heart's content and have Oink! delivered to the feed of your choice every fortnight!

Monday, 29 May 2017

INTERLUDE: THE ADVENTURES OF SMUDGE

Well now that I've let you all digest the rejigging of the blog into its new form I suppose it's about time to start posting up all of this new stuff.  I've been working behind the scenes on future content and other projects which will be chronicled on the blog too and I'll be ready to start posting them up this week.  There's quite an exciting range to cover and enthusiasm levels are at a high, but today is a Bank Holiday so I'm taking the day off to spend in the lovely land of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda on my Nintendo Switch, a place I've been neglecting for a while now.

But I couldn't let things go any longer without at least checking in with my fellow pig pals, although that's really just an excuse to share this photo!  Regular readers who caught my post on the Enniskillen Comic Fest will know I had the pleasure of meeting hugely talented independent comic creator Jenika Ioffreda who was drawing portraits of those attending.  However, as the main character of her Vampire Free Style comic book is a cat I just had to ask if she could draw one of Smudge instead, the cat my friends rescued from a golf course hedge on a cold and rainy night a couple of years ago, and who I love looking after now-and-again for them.  I was delighted when Jenika agreed to do so from a photo on my iPhone and this weekend I was visiting my friends at their new home and, after several failed attempts, we were finally able to get Smudge to look at the camera beside his portrait (thanks to treats as a bribe):

One crazy cat, believe me!

I'll be writing up a piece on Jenika's comic soon and there's exciting times ahead folks, all starting this week on the Oink! Blog & Beyond!  So see you real soon.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

MORE OINK! MORE BLOG! MORE BEYOND!

When I started this little blog back in April 2013 I'd no idea the adventure it'd be leading me on.  I became good friends with some of the comic's creators online, met some of my heroes and they even contributed back to the blog with behind-the-scenes information and stories.  During Oink!'s monthly issues I covered the other main comics from my youth in my Beyond Oink! series and it became a hit, with editors, writers and contributors from IPC, Fleetway, Marvel etc getting in touch and sharing the blog further.  From following Lew Stringer's blog I became interested in 2000AD, became a Judge Dredd fan and collected it for a while, making new friends with fellow fans in Belfast along the way for regular monthly drinks, then former Marvel UK editor John Freeman asked me to contribute a review of the Future Shock documentary for his Down the Tubes website.

I soon lapsed from 2000AD and the world of comics again mainly to save money at the time and also while I explored the possibility of writing about another hobby: the Commodore 64.  After writing for a book and fanzine about the subject it wasn't long before I wanted to get stuck back into the world of Oink!  Suddenly plans were afoot (which will become clear at a later date) and then I found myself at the Enniskillen Comic Fest, initially to meet both Lew and Davy Francis and catch up with my 2000AD buddies.  However, my first comic con soon opened my eyes to so much more!

I met some amazingly talented people from the worlds of 2000AD, independent comics and the fandom of the modern day UK comics scene.  I came away wanting to subscribe to the Galaxy's Greatest Comic* once more and with the first issue of Vampire Free Style to get my teeth into (pun intended).  I'd had the best time and realised I wanted to delve deeper into these comics, both classic and modern.  I looked back and realised that through this little blog one thing had led to another very organically and it'd been quite the journey without even trying.  But what if I did try and get stuck in?

Well here now is the new Oink! Blog.  It's expanded bit-by-bit at different points in its short lifespan and now it's evolved into something bigger and better, but still with our favourite piggy publication at its heart: Phil's Oink! Blog and Beyond...

Over the next while you'll see some new additions and changes to the regular layout and sections, as well as an increase in posts (there have already been a few recently which have been leading to this relaunch).

In a nutshell Oink! introduced me to comics as a kid and now, 30 years later it's ended up RE-introducing me to comics all over again.  It's a very different landscape out there, full of exciting titles across many different formats; digital and print, regular comics and graphic novels, self-published and mainstream.  Come along and be reintroduced with me.  It's a ride worth taking!

* okay, second greatest!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

THE CHANCES OF ANYTHING COMING FROM MARS... ARE HIGH!

A couple of Christmases ago a good friend of mine bought me volume one of the Commodore 64: A Visual Commpendium from Bitmap Books.  I'd grown up with the machine and a few years ago purchased one again for myself.  I've since sold it on but the book still resides on my shelf along with volume two, which I backed on Kickstarter and even wrote a mini-review of a game for.  I'm very proud of my contribution, no matter how small and both books are mighty impressive.  Sam Dyer of Bitmap has gone on to release further books based on other computers and consoles, each volume a masterpiece in design and they're simply stunning to look at, with loads of content for retro fans.

I've been signed up to news emails from Sam for a while now and over the weekend while I was in Enniskillen for the Comic Fest I received a regular update.  I scanned down it, thinking I'd give it a proper look when I got home, after all it'd be the usual updates on their latest retro console book and I was out meeting comics artists... and I froze!:


I immediately went to the Bitmap Books website but there was nothing there and there still isn't at the time of writing.  Obviously then this is just an early teaser, but what brilliant news!  I'm a huge War of the Worlds fan, which started when I sat down to watch an old movie with my mum one night in my mid-teens in the 1990s.  I knew it was made in the 1950s but my word the effects blew me away!  It was of course the classic movie starring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson and I was hooked.

I soon discovered the 1980s TV series sequel, the original novel, the Jeff Wayne musical version and the infamous Orson Welles radio broadcast, then later in life the superlative remake of that classic movie from Steven Spielberg.  To say I'm excited by the prospect of a telling of The War of the Worlds with comic art is an understatement, but to see it coming from Bitmap has me checking Kickstarter daily (even though I'll get a notification) due to the high quality of Sam's books thus far.  I have faith their first 'artbook' will be equally so.

Illustrator Adam Rufino seems like a perfect fit to bring a comicbook-like feel to the proceedings, with a history in sci-fi illustrations and retro gaming art (hence why he's been picked I'd assume) and you can check out his profile on Behance by clicking here.  A wide variety of work there and all very different, but the overall feel should lend itself perfectly to this classic tale from two centuries ago against the Martian invaders; the first ever alien invasion story just won't die, and nor should it!

I'll keep you updated.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

ENNISKILLEN COMIC FEST: LIKE A PIG IN MUCK!

You couldn't miss the 'Fest in the picturesque town of Enniskillen

Where do I even begin?  I'd never been to any form of Comic Con before Saturday and I have to say this has given me a taster that I wish to follow up on.  Lew Stringer told me in the pub that night (there's a sentence I never thought I'd write and I'm thrilled to be able to do so) I'd chosen the best possible introduction for these events, as the Enniskillen Comic Fest is pure comics, not movies and television too.  It's smaller than others because of this, yes, but that also lent itself to organiser Paul Trimble's fantastic get together in the aforementioned pub, something which also happened last year.  I'll get to that further down the post but first, what about the event itself?

OINK! PART ONE

I didn't attend on the Friday but the artists were mainly out at schools that day and in the evening there was a special 2000AD event to celebrate its anniversary.  I decided I wanted to stay in the town on Saturday instead because of the gathering afterwards so I went down that morning.  I arrived in the gorgeous surroundings of Enniskillen Castle and really didn't know where to begin and just walked into the first building I came across, inside which the first person I saw was this fine fellow:

They say you should never meet your heroes.  They're wrong.

After chatting away to Lew online for a long time now it was great to finally meet him in person and he was a gentleman through and through.  I'd brought my original Oink! Book 1988 with me to ask both Lew and Davy Francis to sign, which will hopefully be the start of collecting a lot more signatures from the comic's contributors, and Lew graciously did so and then I asked for a sketch.  But what to ask for?  Well I couldn't decide between two of my favourite comics characters but that ended up being a good thing because now I've a piece with Oink!'s Tom Thug and Combat Colin from Marvel UK's Transformers and Action Force comics together!:

Mesmerising to watch!

It may seem like a silly thing to say but I was so surprised at just how effortless Lew made this look.  He's been drawing them for decades now so obviously that'd be the case, but to see this come together right in front of me from a blank page, to simple pencils, to the structure forming and the inks taking place, then the little dots and details for those finishing touches... superb!  It was a feeling that'd return when watching all the artists throughout the day.  I love this piece and it'll be up in a frame as soon as I can get one to do it justice.

We chatted a good bit and suddenly I found myself in a conversation between myself, Lew and Nigel Parkinson.  As you do!:

Nigel Parkinson himself!

Nigel won't need any introduction for anyone who grew up on British comics or who may be reading The Beano today.  I can very happily report he's an absolute delight in person, very approachable and chatted away.  Any time I returned to this building throughout the day Nigel had families around him, their kids excitedly watching him draw Dennis, Gnasher or The Bash Street Kids.  In fact it was great to see so many children and families at a comics-only event, obviously they know there's still a UK industry here producing output for kids... of all ages!

OINK! PART TWO

I took advantage of arriving early by running about and getting some photos of those who attended, have a few chats and get my own requests in first.  My obvious next stop after Lew had to be Davy:

I'm no good at this selfie malarky.  Here I am with Davy,
Jenika Ioffreda and my oddly shaped neck.

Davy was doing caricatures all day for free, with a bucket for any donations people wished to make to the local NI Hospice charity.  I'd originally came to request a Cowpat County drawing but how could I do that when an Oink! artist could draw me instead?  At a few points throughout the day I came back to say hi again (and to see Jenika above) and would simply watch, stunned as Davy took a quick look at whoever was in front of him and knock out a dead-on cartoon likeness in a matter of five minutes.  He wouldn't even sketch them out in pencil first, he'd just go straight in with the ink (using a pen with ink pot I should add).  I was delighted with mine and Davy even added a couple of little details for this Oink! fan:

New blog logo is coming.

He even drew the Nintendo NES that was on my t-shirt (you can see it in the photo with Lew up above) and has me standing in a cowpat, complete with splatting effect.  Brilliant.  I asked him if I could use it as part of my blog's header too and he enthusiastically said yes, so expect that redesign I promised recently to happen soon.  You can also see in the photo the book I carried around with me and here are the first two signatures from the Oink! team, ready for more to be added over time:




So that's Oink! covered, now how about the rest of the Fest?  Well, next to Davy in the photo above is Jenika Ioffreda, an Italian independent comics creator based in London.  Jenika's part of the table was full of wonderful drawings of a certain little black cat, the star of Vampire Free Style, her self-published six-part comic series.

CAT WITH THE CREAM

Jenika was doing caricatures too, though in a completely different style to Davy's.  When I write up the first issue of Vampire on the blog soon (all part of the new blog being relaunched soon, folks) you'll see the marvellous, natural art style of Jenika's which is mesmerising to look at in the comic.  This was the style of her caricatures too and just before asking for one I thought of something different and asked if she'd be able to do one from a photograph on my iPhone.  But not just any photo, a photo of someone in particular who I look after from time-to-time for a friend.  You'll see below:

Jenika and her display of simply gorgeous art!
Jenika drawing the caricature for me of...
... Smudge the cat!  I love it and so do his owners!

Jenika was an absolute delight to speak to both at the Fest and in the pub that night.  Can you believe this was her 166th comics convention?!  That's just insane but it's great to know the comics have proven popular, as they most certainly deserve to be.  As I said I'll be showcasing Vampire Free Style soon here on the blog and will definitely be investing in the rest of the series.

SNAP-HAPPY

Let's take you on a quick trip around the Comic Fest now.  I tried to take as many photos as I could and I did share a selection on Instagram as the day unfolded, but here's more from various different parts of the day:




2000AD had a large presence with Judge Dredd's co-creators John Wagner and Carlos Esquerra (top) having large queues throughout the day.  I decided at the last minute to not take a rather large and heavy book for them to sign and I instantly regretted it when I saw them in person!  I'll not make that mistake next year.
Other art bots included Cam Kennedy and Ryan Brown (middle, with Ryan MIA), as well as Clint Langley (bottom) and Ian Richardson (featured at the end of the post).  Also in attendance were Peter Duncan (who recognised me from this blog, something I'm not used to yet!) and Mark McCann of the impressive Sector 13 fanzine created by a bunch of talented Northern Ireland fans.



The Joe Dredd festivities continued with Andy Manson attending with his brilliant selection of screen-used weapons props and costumes from the 2012 movie Dredd.  Andy was getting interviewed when I was there so I never found out we could actually try them on!  Stevie Robinson of the Other Worlds Than These blog got to do so though, the lucky bastard.


Independent comics and self-published titles were out in force!  I was amazed at the array on offer; a hugely exciting mix of talent and top-quality reads for any true comics fan that's for sure (top).  As the day moved on the individual buildings inside Enniskillen Castle became a little cramped at times, but not uncomfortably so and it all added to the atmosphere.  Great to see such a brilliant turnout for an event solely about the comics.


OFF TO THE ISO-CUBES (THE PUB)

I've mentioned before on here the Belfast 2000AD fans who meet once a month in the city (Belfast Sector House 13: The Pit on Facebook) who I used to meet up with for a few pints.  Through them I've seen some great cosplay outfits and Enniskillen didn't disappoint either.  While I unfortunately didn't get to see what the always-fantastic Joanne Alexander was wearing, after lunch with the creator of Tom Thug (something else I never thought I'd say) I did get the chance to grab a few photos with this bunch, including Simon McKnight who is a gentleman in real life but here is a rather terrifyingly convincing Dredd!:

To whoever took this photo thanks for the choice
of angle.  Great shot!


At the end of the afternoon was a charity auction but I had to nip off to get checked into my B&B for the night, rest up for a bit (it was a draining day, but in a good way) and get ready for heading back into the town for a bite to eat and some beer on the top floor of local pub, Blakes.  Of course I just had to lay out my stash from the day on the bed to get a snapshot.  I hadn't intended to spend that much but there were just too many goodies on show!:

From the top: My Oink! Book 1988 with Lew's and Davy's signatures, Lew's 7 Ages of Fan, character ensemble and Combat Colin artcards signed by the man himself on the day, an issue of Wildcat for the collection, Sector 13 fanzine, superb Action comic Hook Jaw canvas made with actual pages of an issue, my Smudge caricature and a signed #1 of Vampire Free Style, signed Cam Kennedy print, Dennis the Menace fan club badges given away by Lew and Nigel, my own caricature by Davy and the Tom and Colin sketch from Lew.  I'm a happy comics fan!

So then the day came to an end and I found myself in the bar with people like John Wagner, Carlos Esquerra, Cam Kennedy and many, many more all mingling around.  I even got to meet former 2000AD writer and editor Steve McManus briefly (thanks for the introduction Lew) which was just one more surreal moment to add to the list that day.

But probably the greatest highlight of the entire day can be seen in the photo below:

Lew Stringer, Ian Richardson and Yanick Paquette... with me(!)

Unfortunately this photo was taken after Jenica had moved tables but I can tell you now I haven't laughed this much and this hard in a long, long time!  Lew needs no introduction, Ian is a superlative 2000AD artist (who also just happens to have worked for Dark Horse, Marvel, DC, Image and others) and Yanick has amassed a simply stunning catalogue of work for Marvel and DC, including award-winning Swamp Thing art and Ian also showed me some of Yanick's Wonder Woman work... wow.  Just... wow!  It was brilliant to finally meet and hang out with Lew and we chatted for a long time, Ian had some great stories to tell (about San Diego and Tijuana in particular!) and Yanick was simply hilarious the entire night; I was sore from laughing at one stage!  Completely honoured to have had so much fun in this company.

THANKS

The day has given me the hunger to visit other cons, although I have been warned I've probably picked the best one to start with so it may be a very tough act to follow!  Thanks to Paul Trimble for the event itself and for arranging my being able to attend the nighttime gathering, thanks to all the guests who attended and made our day and obviously to all those I've specifically mentioned throughout this rather lengthy post.

To end I just wanted to say to those individuals who stopped and chatted about Oink! when they saw my book it was wonderful meeting other pig pals in person after writing this thing for a few years now and I hope you're enjoying the blog.  So a big shout out to Pieter Bell, Andy Boal and the other super-friendly gentleman whose name I'm so sorry I've forgotten (Action Force/Combat Colin man!), you also helped make the day an unforgettable one.  (Aha!  One blog comment later and I can name that man as John Vaughn.  A pleasure to meet you!)

Finally, when two blogs (and 20-year friends) meet for the first time in a few months at a Comic Fest strange things can happen...


ALL THE LINKS YOU COULD EVER NEED:

If that photo hasn't put you off, check out Stevie's superlative Other Worlds Than These blog.

Lew's Blimey! blog is still the top blog for classic comics and the latest info on new British fare.

Nigel's artwork can be enjoyed by young and old alike (and everyone in-between) over at The Beano.

Jenika's fantastic creations are available at her site, the Neptune Factory.

Check out Northern Ireland's own 2000AD fanzine Sector 13 too on Facebook.

While there nip over to Belfast Sector Housing 13: The Pit for info on the next meet!

Obviously, last but most importantly the Enniskillen Comic Fest has its own Facebook page which you simply must like for all the latest photos and, later on in the year (hopefully) the first news of any future event.