Sunday, 31 December 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Hi everyone.

This is just a quick post to wish all readers a very, very Happy New Year.  2017 has been a difficult and strange one, that's for sure.  Personally it's been tough at times too, especially ending the year unemployed, but I have my eyes firmly set on 2018 and am feeling very positive about what's to come.

I started this year with the blog basically shut down, with only the occasional post appearing.  I wasn't sure what to do with it after finishing my Oink! coverage in 2015 and having some setbacks and shutting down a second blog.  But along came my first comic con, a new vigour, some forward planning and the blog ended up not only with some new posts, but a full relaunch.  In the last third of the year it's really taken on new life and this is going to continue big-time in 2018.  I can't wait!

Hard times aside, I'm leaving 2017 feeling very positive.  I've met some amazing people this year, some childhood heroes have become firm friends, comics and Oink! fans have been very welcoming and when I look back at what I've been able to cover and who I've been able to speak to I'm still taken aback.  Not bad for that same blog twelve months ago!  With a firm idea of where I'm going with it for the start of 2018 at least, I'm looking forward to seeing what develops beyond the next twelve!

Anyway, have a great night tonight whatever you plan to do with yourselves and below, in an idea blatantly stolen from Lew Stringer's blog, are a selection of random highlights from 2017 on The Oink! Blog and Beyond, in no particular order at all...:


HAPPY HOGMANAY!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

GOING BEYOND: A PREVIEW (PART II)

<< GO TO PART I

Yesterday I wrote up a quick preview to throw a few hints about what other comics from my youth, picked from the original Beyond Oink! series of posts from 2015, I was going to start covering on the blog alongside the likes of Ring Raiders, Transformers and The Big Comic Book series which have already seen their Oink! Blog-style coverage begin.  What is that style of coverage?  If you're new to the blog it basically means writing up each and every issue of a comic on the date of its original release (or in the case of Big Comic, a book on the date we all got our hands on it).

Some of those comics I enjoyed covering two years ago really surprisingly stood the test of time and some I singled out for ongoing coverage.  But there were also other comics I didn't get the chance to collect as a kid for one reason or another.  For some I bought the first issue but couldn't place a regular order because I was collecting enough already for my parents' wallets.  For others I bought random issues now and again, perhaps when travelling or during the summer holidays, but never bought any more issues due to a child's fickle attention span rather than any lack of quality.  Another, specific example I was a fan of its cartoon, but didn't know anything about the comic until it merged into one I was already collecting.

If I'd had the disposable income back then these are the four other titles I definitely would've placed a regular order for with my newsagent, the four comics that just missed out:





As per the previous preview, the idea is for these to start their coverage in the coming year on their specific dates, but it's all dependent on filling the gaps in those collections.  (I don't do illegal CD:ROMs of over-saturated scans like some blogs.)  But this is me officially confirming their inclusion as soon as it is possible.

With all these new additions I may get to organising the various sections of the blog too... January is going to be busy!

Friday, 29 December 2017

GOING BEYOND: A PREVIEW (PART I)

After deciding to no longer close the blog after covering Oink!, the combination of reading the first new comics in many years (small press titles by Oink! cartoonists like Lew Stringer and David Leach) and the Enniskillen Comic Fest 2017 inspired me.  I looked back at my Beyond Oink! series of posts from 2015 when I wrote about each of the other comics I'd regularly collected decades ago and realised something: I wanted to do for these comics what I'd done for Oink!

This year the blog was renamed 'The Oink! Blog and Beyondand it's slowly started to take shape with the original comic's posts being collected all together in the Relive Oink! section, a proper introductory About page for new readers and both Ring Raiders and Transformers have started to receive regular coverage, then on Christmas Day The Big Comic Book 1987 appeared too.  But what's next?

There'll be two categories and in this first part of a brief preview here's a cryptic glimpse of the other three series (alongside the ones mentioned above) I read as a kid, but which held up so well a couple of years ago I want to collect and read all over again:




The aim is for these to start appearing regularly in 2018 but of course this is dependent on filling some gaps in the collections.  But nevertheless I'm committing to adding them to the Oink! Blog family as soon as I can.  Good times ahead!

Watch out for part two of this preview and the comics I wanted to collect way back when, but was never able to.  Until now.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

MODERNISING THE MENACE: KEV F ON SKY NEWS

We've seen it time and time again, fully grown adults getting their knickers in a twist because the comic/cartoon/character (delete as applicable) today's children are enjoying isn't the same as when they were growing up.  It doesn't matter the target audience is children and not adults, they'll still bitch and moan, despite all the evidence being there that the kids are loving whatever it is they're watching or reading.  Just have a look at a previous post I wrote about online "critics" of today's UK comics to see the perfect examples of what I mean.

The latest target of these close-minded individuals and trashy tabloids whose sales rely on getting their readers angry about one thing or another, is Dennis in Beano.  The "Menace" part of his name has been dropped and some parents are apparently up in arms about it, with the leader of all things trashy, The Sun, going so far as to say he's been "changed into a softie".  Laughable.  If you read back on Dennis strips from decades ago he can come across as a bit of a school bully in his treatment of Walter etc., even though that was never the original intention obviously.  But the world has moved on.  This and the smacking of him with his dad's slipper are simply things which a child's hero can't be seen to be partaking in these days.  This shouldn't need to be explained, but apparently for some it does.

Former Oink! cartoonist, and Beano contributor obviously, Kev F Sutherland was invited onto Sky News to discuss the changes that have happened to Dennis and he does a brilliant job of setting the record straight:

Click on the image to be taken to the video on Sky News' website

Dennis is still the same mischievous character and I love the idea of Walter being the kind of person Kev describes here.  It all sounds like the perfect modernisation of characters originally created in another time.  I can fully understand nostalgia, but sometimes it's the harking back to simpler times and our own childhood, all of it and not just the comic/cartoon/character, that we're doing.  Rose-tinted glasses are one thing, but getting angry over a children's comic character to the degree some have when it's no longer aimed at them is quite ridiculous.

To those people:  It's not about you anymore.  It's about the kids.  Just as it always has been.

UPDATE: Lew Stringer has written a piece about this on his own blog which shows just how pathetic the British tabloids are and how easily people can overreact to something which has absolutely nothing to do with them.  He also points out just how long ago this actually happened!  Definitely worth a read!

Monday, 25 December 2017

TRANSFORMERS ANNUAL #1: TRADITIONAL BEGINNINGS


This is a bit of a momentous book, but only with the gift of hindsight obviously.  This is the very first ever Transformers Annual, a yearly tradition that carries on to this day, for some of the animated spin-off series after the original comics finished and now they're based on the movies.  Back in 1985 it was another annual to add to the growing list of licenced fare already out there, mainly from Grandreams.  With the comic in full swing Marvel teamed up with them and produced a great read for fans of the weekly, even if it did have a different feel to the comic, but that's explained below.  It was certainly a special read and would continue to be for Marvel for another six yearly volumes.

As with the Christmas issue #41, I've decided not being able to read this until January would seem a bit weird, what with the season being over by then.  So here's another extra post (the below will also still be part of the monthly round-ups so nothing is out of sequence in the series) celebrating the best time of the year, Cybertron-style.  Enjoy.  Both the annual and the day!


ANN#1: MERRY CHRISTMAS!!  The first Transformers Annual was released in the summer of '85 but let's face it, it was today fans got their mitts on it.  Created a long time in advance, Sheila Cranna was still editor and it shows.  Perfectly suiting the old fortnightlies, the fillers are a bit at odds with the newer weeklies, with basic games, puzzles and lots of pictures taken from the toy packaging.  The strips and stories are also using the older comic models rather than the streamlined ones we were used to by now.

But on to the stories and here Sheila's team really surprised!  Plague of the Insecticons starts out with some nice atmosphere-building scenes, though I have to admit the appearance of Ronald Reagan made me cringe a little, but actually it's all dealt with brilliantly, in much the same way as the modern movies integrate the governments of the world.  The last page of the whole book is a downbeat one, which is all the more powerful in a book filled with such basic, childish fillers between the stories.

Also there's the story of Optimus Prime's first battle as Commander!  Most of it is taken up with Prime awaiting the nod from the grand council of Autobot elders, led by Emirate Xaaron (was he a toy or a creation of the UK comic?  A blog reader has the answer in the comments below and this was updated for the January round-up) before he can finally strike back against Megatron, rather than constantly holding a defending position.  It would be a huge turning point for the peace-loving Autobots and I love how it all comes down to politics in a kid's comicbook.

The real stand outs here are the text stories!  Full of character, they take the time to get into the inner thoughts of the Transformers involved.  Unable to wow us with spectacular action-packed art, they relied on some moody scene-setting illustrations and intriguing, gripping, well-written stories.

Storywise, a fantastic first annual and I'm sure it was a stocking filler from Santa which made many, many young people very, very happy.  Heck, I'm 40 and they still read brilliantly today and that ending is a surprise, which I've obviously now ruined for you if you're hunting it down on eBay.  Whoops!  Interesting to see the new direction Sheila was going in before she moved on though.

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays folks!

Plague of the Insecticons
Simon Furman (script), Collins/Anderson (art), Gina Hart (colours), Starkings (letters)
And There Shall Come... A Leader
Simon Furman (script), John Stokes (art), Gina Hart (colours), Starkings (letters)
Unfortunately no credits on the text stories.

BIG COMIC BOOK 1987: FILLING STOCKINGS EVERYWHERE

There was no way this was fitting in my scanner!

MERRY CHRISTMAS MORNING PIG PALS!

I've got two posts for you on this Christmas Day 2017, both as part of brand new ongoing series on the new Oink! Blog & Beyond.  Later on it'll be the turn of the first ever Transformers Annual from 1985, a special additional post to the monthly round up of photos of my Transformers UK collection.  But first up this morning is this whopper of a book!

It was the Christmas of 1987 when I pulled out the heavy weight of the '1988' book from my stocking and was introduced to the Big Comic Book, a huge reprint collection of classic strips which proved so popular it was turned into the 52-page Big Comic Fortnightly the next year, which I collected for quite a long time.  The books would continue as well and I'd end up with quite a few before moving on.  What I didn't know until a couple of years ago was there had actually been one book already.  I'd assumed mine was the first but even then I hadn't known of its existence until that fateful Christmas morning.  Maybe I hadn't noticed it in the newsagents' because I was too excited over the first Oink! Book.

It's easier to explain how I missed the first book.  The Big Comic 1987 released in 1986 but I'd only bought my first ever comic (Oink! #14) in November of that year so comics annuals weren't on my radar.  Yes, my brother received The Beano Book every year which I'd read, but beyond that I hadn't discovered them for myself yet.  Happily though, in 2017 I've been able to get my hands on the one that eluded me and as an adult I can see why they'd make fantastic stocking fillers... keeping young ones quiet and in bed for a good while longer while they absorbed this tome of a volume!

So on this Christmas Day, the day on which most young comics fans would've first been introduced to Big Comic, here's a quick glance at the 256 pages it contains and a handful of my favourites from within.

MY FAVES

The first strip I want to show you is one I can't remember from the fortnightly or from the books I had as a kid, but that's probably more a lack of memory on my part.  Happy Families is drawn here by Dick Millington and I'm sure it can resonate with many of us around this time of year.  The Happies are made up of Mum, Dad, Grandad, Sharon and the twins Vicki and Dicky and the scenario is a simple but effective one (much like the rest of the book's characters), in that a small disagreement over something very unimportant would escalate until the whole family was at war with each other:


As with many of the others featured here, there are several strips of each throughout the book, with most of the other Happy Families stories seeing the police getting involved!  It can vary from them all at each others' throats at the end, all of them being punished or one or two of them getting sweet revenge on the rest of the family.  Yet at the start of each new strip they're back to loving one another again.  Families, eh?

I'm a huge shark nut.  Why else would I have given "sharks" their own tag while covering Oink!?  So far this year I've also been the recipient of quite a few shark-themed Christmas gifts as well.  It all started with Jaws when I was about 12 or 13, I became obsessed with the films and through them, like so many actual marine biologists these days, was inspired to find out more about the real sharks of the world.  So when I spotted Gums on the cover of this book I was thrilled to be able to read a handful of 'new' strips:


Gums, who was a star of Buster comic, is unmistakably drawn by John Geering who even sent up the kind of strips he did for IPC/Fleetway in Oink!'s Tom's Toe.  His attention to detail in facial expressions was always a winner for me and in these strips that's even more evident than normal, as he gives such fantastic, expressive gestures to Gums, a character who would have to rely solely on his face to get across what he was planning or doing, what with the lack of arms or legs!  Genius work from John and this was by far my favourite in the book because it was the only one in which Gums finished with the upper hand.. or rather, the upper gill.

While the following chap started out in Monster Fun, he would later pop up in Buster and it's from these pages that the editor (or editors) have grabbed Kid Kong, drawn here by Rob Lee who had taken over from original artist Robert Nixon:


Kid's Granny Smith was chronically short-sighted and very much hard of hearing and she mistook Kong as her own son.  She'd even often call him "son" in the stories.  Originally he was an escapee and was much larger than we see here.  He was soon shrunk down to be more manageable in the setting of a family home, constantly drawn with a stoop, leaning down into each frame.

2017 saw the return of Faceache to comic book shelves across the country, as current owners of the IPC/Fleetway back catalogue, Rebellion released a gorgeous-looking reprint book.  Called 'The Ken Reid Years' it confusingly includes strips not drawn by Ken but by other artists who shadowed his style, but it still looks like a beaut of a volume and you can read more about it on Lew Stringer's Blimey blog:


Created for Jet but soon found in the pages of Buster (much like all cancelled comics of the time) Faceache's style is instantly recognisable as Ken's and on first glance seems very traditional, very 'DC Thomson', especially in the case of the teacher.  But when you start to read them the humour is very different and the "scrunges" he pulls are hugely creative and original.  This juxtaposition of the new and original, and the classic styles is really enjoyable and Ken's work here really jumps off the page.  This is no small feat in such a huge book where everything is black and white on thick newsprint, but if you're scanning the Big Comic Books these strips really do stop you in your tracks and pull you right in.

I have happy memories of the following family from my time with the fortnightly comic and they'd often be the first strip I'd read.  The Bumpkin Billionaires originated in Whoopee and told the tale of a family of Beverly Hillbilly types who had won billions of pounds on the Pools (the family-friendly weekly sports betting which predated the lottery, kids) but who hated the lifestyle changes this brought about.  Every story would show us another out-there scheme of Ma, Pa, Billy and Daisy's  to get rid of all their cash, much to the disgruntlement of their bank manager:


Mike Lacey was the artist who brought these loveable rogues to life and the physical comedy of the main characters was always a hoot.  Most of the time the family's plan would fall apart in the final frame or two and they'd somehow end up with even more money than they started with, but I've included the one above because it was one of those rare occasions when things actually worked out in their favour.  Well, I'm assuming these were rare occasions.  I certainly can't remember them being a regular fixture of the strip and as a kid I've fond memories of trying to work out what was about to go wrong for them.

Throughout this entire book there's only one instance of quick, one-panel gags, something which the fortnightly would have more of and which companion comic Funny Fortnightly would really run with.  Other than these few below from Jim Crocker the remainder of the book is mainly all 1-or-2-page strips, with just a handful of half-page ones thrown in too.  It's a far cry from what I was used to with Oink!  These though, these are a real treat:


Do you remember Grange Hill?  My siblings would watch it religiously, though I never really sat down with them to do so.  The theme tune is still seared into my mind though, as I'm sure it is with many of you.  Whizzer & Chips came along with its own interpretation in the guise of Strange Hill which as a name I absolutely love.  Starring Teech as the poor sap who had to try to educate the young monsters, in this case the little horrors are actually little horrors; a class full of spooks, ghouls and tiny takes on some famous Hollywood creatures.  I thought this particular example would be a good one to include on this blog, can you tell why?:


It could be ingenious stuff and Tom Paterson, who brought us Testing Time (which was also set in a school) in the very first Oink!, is the perfect choice for a manic script with such a varied ensemble cast and his trademark smelly socks, little squiggy creatures and descriptive word bombs are all evident by the bucketload.  All these little extras always made his strips stand out for me as a kid in my brother's Beanos and then later in Buster too.  It's unfortunate he didn't contribute more to Oink! but at least now on The Oink! Blog we can see more of his superb work.

As a teen I'd become somewhat obsessed over my Commodore 64 computer, whether it was playing games, writing my own or drawing and creating magazines, but before that you'd have been hard pressed to find me without my nose in a book or comic.  Reading was a huge part of my life when I was growing up.  Comics were a big part of developing my reading skills on top of the books that covered all of the shelves (and let's face it, the floor too) of my bedroom.  But anyway, I've digressed.  For some reason I'm not sure of, this next character struck a chord with me as a young 'un:


Sid Burgon's Book Worm for Whoopee would often go about his daily life with his nose stuck firmly where mine could be found, with the world going on around him, completely oblivious to the real situation.  This would often lead to him getting in and out of these scenarios without even realising it.  But the rest of the time he'd use his obsession to get the upper hand against a bully or a clueless family member, or some obscure knowledge within the books would help him to do the same.  Ah those were the days, when people would need to read up on actual facts to prove a point rather than believing anything they read attached to a random image online.

Another of Sid's strips was Lolly Pop, the tale of an entrepreneur who had a seemingly endless range of businesses and an equally endless supply of money.  However, while his businesses thrived the same couldn't be said of his relationship with his son, Archie.  Archie was a regular kid who just wanted a regular life, to be able to play and spend time with his dad.  His dad being so preoccupied with his factories, Archie would often find trying to lead a normal life would inevitably lead instead to a variety of disasters.  It also didn't help that his dad was rather mean to say the least.  To keep within the season let's just say he'd give Scrooge a run for his money:


Also from the pages of Whoopee, Lolly Pop is one of the stronger series in this book and it seems there's no end to the ventures Pop is willing to put his money into rather than his son.  In this volume alone there's Lolly Pop Toffees Ltd, Lolly Pop Movie Studios, Lolly Pop's Garage, Pop's Tyres, Lolly Pop Wood Products and Lolly Pop's Record Company over five 2-page strips.

That's a good average for all of characters in the book actually and while some haven't stood the test of time as well as others, there's none that won't at least raise a smile, and besides it's Christmas Day and this is a post about my favourites!  So let's not dwell, other than to say if you see this on eBay or in a second-hand or charity store snap it up.  With the sheer amount of content here you should find plenty to keep you amused no matter your tastes.

To finish with though, a perennial favourite that surely no one could find fault with!:


Originally appearing in Shiver & Shake, Sweeny Toddler was drawn by Leo Baxendale before being taken over by Tom Paterson.  It was quite the task trying to figure out who drew this particular one.  There was no signature where Tom's other strips here are signed, but according to experts it was probably not Leo.  But it also didn't contain all the little incidental pieces of humour Tom's later strips would contain when Toddler was written by Oink!'s very own Graham Exton.  In the end it's been concluded this is most likely an early Tom strip after he took over for Leo, but before the winning team of him and Graham.

Phew!

Thanks to those experts by the way, Lew Stringer and Graham Exton!

Well there we go folks, the first of many Big Comic Books to come!

That's right, I've decided to collect the annuals (alongside those for Funny Fortnightly) for inclusion in the blog, although I'm tempted to only write them up at Christmas time, but that would also mean a whole year before you got to see some more!  Heck, they're worth the wait and the Transformers project is going to take nearly seven years anyway so you know I'll still be about!

Speaking of those Robots in Disguise, check back later for a look at the first ever Annual!

Finally, if you've been suitably teased and would like to see more from Big Comic Fortnightly, check out my original post which covered the regular title, its books and the whole shebang basically.

Hope you're all having a wonderful day and I'll see y'all later!