Saturday, 18 April 2015

#59: SNUGGLE UP WITH AN OINK! (BUT NOT TOO CLOSE, YOU MIGHT CATCH SOMETHING)

Broadband up and running again, it was actually a problem with a wire about a mile from my house!  But anyway, back to it:


Jeremy Banx sure is prolific with the covers during the weeklies isn’t he?  Not a complaint, obviously, his was the first cover I ever laid my eyes on as well you know.  Here Kid Kidney guest stars along with his owner (or transport) and his fellow organs to gather round and read the latest edition of Oink!  Looking at the cover it seems our piggy pink ‘paper could be taking on 2000AD as The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic and this week’s it’s certainly a close call.

Burp would also return in just a fortnight’s time for his last cover.  As you’ll see.

But to Banx's other strip first and it's a belter!  In the penultimate page for Hieronymous Van Hellsong our hero finds himself trapped in the pits of hell, pulling a trick Doctor Who would be proud of, then... well, there's just no way of building up to this:


Now there's a cliffhanger and a half.  The last ever strip from Van Hellsong is here in seven days (edit: 5 days) but how can Jeremy possibly top this one?  Hieronymous may be about to leave Oink! and us for good but I think he's just made the best exit in comic history already.

Now let’s spare a thought for the cartoonist.  In general I mean, not Jeremy.  The cartoonist is a lone artiste working hard over many long hours, often into the early ones of the morning, with the one goal of making others laugh.  There’s no such thing as trying to get away with as little as possible while watching the clock, no such thing as spending a bit too much time discussing the previous night’s television with your colleagues instead of typing up your work, and there’s certainly no such thing as pulling a sickie.

Rain, hail, sleet or snow… or rather colds, flus, sniffles or coughs can’t stop the cartoonist from working on his or her latest creation.  You can’t allow being sick to slow you down when you’re a freelance writer or artist and recently, at the time of writing this, the one and only Lew Stringer is currently under the weather but continuing to turn out magical cartoons for the likes of The Beano, Toxic and Doctor Who Magazine amongst others.  It seems like this time of the year could have that affect on him:


Okay, yes this would’ve been drawn a good while ahead of this issue’s release date and so the ‘time of the year’ bit there doesn’t make sense when you think about it, but it was a nice way to segue into it.  Also in this issue if you can get a hold of it yourself you’ll find little green blobs over the Tom Thug page too…

The strip above follows on from last issue but it appears that’s it from the great romance and the jealous love rivals, though I could’ve sworn it was an ongoing tale for a while.  Oh well, what’s to come from Pete over the next while is going to either make for easy choices of what to include on the blog, or make it a painstaking task to leave something else out!  Just wait until you see the plops make a return at the suggestion of a reader, although not looking as delightfully happy as the one above on the ice skate (isn’t that just the funniest little shit you’ve ever seen?).

Just a quick aside here for the Grunts page.  While the next issue is the one which would actually go on sale on the second anniversary of Oink!’s preview issue, just as with the first birthday it’s the issue leading up to it which celebrates it.  Unfortunately, unlike last year where we had a themed birthday issue to mark the occasion and wrap up the first full year of the comic, this year the top quarter of the Grunts page is the only acknowledgement.  Such a shame.  Not that a reader-drawn naked Uncle Pigg would normally be an understated thing, but in this case it very much is.

Back to the cover star and do you remember that poor teddy bear who had the misfortune to turn up in Burp’s strips during Banx’s particularly gory phase?  Well he’s returned upon occasion and now resides with The Smelly Alien From Outer Space onboard his spaceship and makes a little cameo in this week’s strip.

There's been some beautifully scripted wordplay in Burp’s stories at times, usually in the form of the anonymous narrator but this time it’s the star himself who steps up to the plate and delivers a beautiful little speech.  Then naturally it all falls apart when he tries to do a good deed for us humans.  Naturally:


Back in Oink! 37 Frank Sidebottom ran a competition like no other - to meet him in the showbiz centre of the world (or perhaps the galaxy) that is Timperley for the day.  While the joke with Chris Sievey’s Frank character was always that he would boast of being a megastar and being friends with all the greatest celebrities, it was of course all a farce.  However for fans of the papier-mâché one this would’ve been like meeting Paul McCartney, David Bowie and Michael Jackson (coincidentally enough) all rolled into one!  Not only was he a radio and TV star but much more importantly a bonified Oink! character! 

Three other very lucky readers got to meet both Frank and Marc “Snatcher Sam” Riley for Oink!’s first anniversary issue and here the pleasure fell to Sue Sharples, an older reader this time who I’m sure had a blast and got to see a lot more than the railway station and a signpost:


I’m wanting to finish off this post with a couple of belter quick jokes so we’ll skip forward to the back page and another edition of the Vidiots series, or to give it its full name Hadrian Vile’s Interleckshual guide to Tellyvision.  This week’s gets included because it in particular takes me back to my childhood as the subject of Hadrian’s wrath this time is none other than children's TV.

If you were an Oink! fan growing up what were your favourite TV shows?  Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends was still great fun for me and around this time The Real Ghostbusters was shaking us all up too.  I also remember this time period for Count Duckula, the short-lived shows Tugs and Visionaries, Saturday morning favourites No.73 and Motormouth, and of course Duck Tales (woo-oo) amongst many others.  So while none of the ones featured below were regular views of my own they’re still fondly remembered as ones I’d catch now and again or ones my friends loved.

(Though Pob always did freak me out a bit, especially when he spat over the TV screen to wipe off each section of his end credits.)

The name of the main celebrity featured here is escaping me at the moment and while I usually like these sorts of memory tests to be played out without the use of internet research, even that isn’t helping either as I just can’t find him!  I can’t picture his actual face but yet this Ian Jackson drawing is so, so familiar.  Do you remember?  If so please get in touch!

Curse you Ian and writer Mark Rodgers, you're playing with my 37-year old mind!:


Finally for now we've just enough time to quickly dip back inside for two excellent gags from Ed McHenry’s current regulars, Wally of the West and Igor and the Doctor.  You’ll either thank me or curse me for their inclusion pun-wise, so prepare yourself:



Fantastic stuff and out of the whole issue these two mini gems were the strips which definitely produced the loudest reactions from me this time around.  Trust me, my friends know what my laugh can be like when I get going or when something funny takes me by surprise.  They’ll be glad I was alone when reading these.

Folks my internet being off for a week has meant the extra special post I promised last time has also had to be postponed.  I’ll stick it up in a few days so check back soon (once again).


In the meantime enjoy your weekend and next week is celebration time!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

'BOAR'DBAND DOWN...

On Saturday my Sky Broadband decided it'd had enough and simply stopped working.  It took until Monday night for them to diagnose the problem and it won't be fixed until this Saturday (I'm quickly typing this on a break in work).  This does unfortunately mean this week's blog post will be a few days late, but on the plus side it did result in hearing the following hilariously useless message while on hold to Sky for twenty minutes on Monday night:

"If your Sky Broadband has lost its connection you can find tips on the help section of our website."

GBH would be proud.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

#58: FROM 1988 TO 2015 VIA 2000AD


Just last year I bought my first issue of the legendary anthology comic 2000AD and have become a huge fan (and needless to say a subscriber too) of the title.  As a child Oink! had already spoofed Judge Dredd before I started reading it, but now it's the turn of the issue which I remember so well from those times, like showing it to a friend who was a huge fan of Dredd and he thought it was fantastic.  I have to agree.

Steve Gibson is the perfect artist to bring the rugged and hard-edged style to the character, making this joke even more reminiscent of the original strips that inspired it, especially those Dredd stories from the early days of 2000AD back in the late 70s and early 80s.  To show you what I mean I'm going to do this issue a little bit out of sync and pull forward the Judge Pigg page, written by Mark Rodgers (who else?) to the top of the post.

Now as I said Steve's artwork gives that punk-y feel we'd associate with early Dredd and in fact comes up with a strip style which feels in part like a heightened version of the likes of early Brian Bolland Dredd.  Of course that may not have been Steve's intention, as this is his own style anyway but the end result is simply (here's that word again) perfect:


Keep your peelers peeled for the second half of the 1988 Oink! Holiday Special too for more Judge Dredd shenanigans with none other than Psycho Gran.  In the meantime part one of the special can be read here.

Jeremy Banx returns this week to the blog with two full pages being included and the first is the continuing adventures of Hieronymous Van Hellsong in the pits of hell looking for the soul of singer Raoul McCurtney.  (My Mac's autocorrect just loved that sentence!  Time to teach it a few new words before next week's edition I think.)

Before you get going, take a quick glance at the fourth panel and just imagine how that picture could be taken out of context.  Terrifying right?  Ha.  Oh I can just imagine how The Daily Mail could have a field day ignoring the attached caption.  Terrific stuff from Banx yet again:


Just one turn of the page later and you'll be greeted with the second highlight from this artist and a wonderful full-colour Burp page.  The occasional cover aside it's been a long time since we saw the slimy one in glorious, goopy green (the last time a strip appeared here in colour was way back in #33) and speaking of things we haven't had the pleasure of in a while it's a splendid return to his Pet Specimen from Uranus.

Finally.  I always enjoyed this questionable little fella in the jar who would usually be seen attached to Burp's belt, but he's been missing in action for quite a while now.  Here he makes his return as the real star of the strip which has a gloriously surreal ending the likes of which Jeremy is so, so good at. Enjoy.  You will:


From full-colour pus and slime to partially coloured pus and pimples.  Lew Stringer's Pete Throb is still looking for that suggestion from a reader which will cure him of all his problems.  Since all his problems centre around that one zit he has you'd think finding a solution would be a piece of cake.  Well of course us readers weren't simply going to suggest a strong bottle of Biactol, were we?  That wouldn't be very comical so the ideas sent in were somewhat less practical than that.

Everything from trouser presses to helium could be up for experimentation with and in this issue a simple coat of paint was picked out.  How would that work?  In a rather brilliantly thought out way by reader Kelly Moore as it happens, and Lew's story based on it leads to a surprisingly happy ending for our Pete:


Now that actually sounds like a solution to more than one problem - no more worrying about the pimple and a very understanding girlfriend to boot.  But of course it wouldn't be as simple as that and the last panel there is lining up a story to come (Lew is certainly liking his multi-part stories at the moment) so try not to burst with excitement, Pete will be in another spot of bother very soon.  I'll stop.

The recent issues have really gone overboard with the one-offs and I don't mean 'overboard' as a bad thing at all.  The balance seems to be perfect for a 24-page weekly trough-full of what this comic does best.  Yes my favourite times in Oink! will still be the fortnightlies, especially the later ones, but to get a slightly smaller comic twice as much was fantastic, regardless of what some might say about the weeklies in comparison.  It never stopped being a novelty as a child, running to the newsagents every single Saturday to pick up the next Oink!  It was always the one thing I looked forward to the most every week and it may be strange reading each issue now on a Thursday night but it's still great fun.

One person who brought a raft of one-off treats our way from the moment his work appeared and then right the way through to the end of the run was Kev F Sutherland.  From quick quarter-pagers to double-page spreads his unique sense of humour, coupled with his very recognisable art style, were fantastic late additions to the comic.  For example, below is a very simple idea taken to the nth degree over a whole page instead of what others may have summed up on a smaller scale over less space.  It's classic Kev F all the way and one which the inner ten-year old in me fondly remembers:


Bit thirsty now, hang on a sec...

Ahh that's better.  Though Asda's own brand blackcurrant and apple dilute juice isn't quite cutting it as much it must be said.

To finish off with this week another cartoonist who'd more often than not be brought in to fill the pages with some inspired one-off comedy was Dave Jones.  He did do a few Rotten Rhymes but mainly he added something different and unique every time he popped up.  My absolute favourite of his, and one of my very favourite strips of the entire Oink! comic so far, was The Phantom Moose-Napper way back in #27, or as I like to call that story, 'Monty Python - the Comic'.  Seriously, if you've come to the blog since that issue and haven't had a chance to catch up yet please go check it out for some of the very best pages Oink! ever produced.

One strip which appeared a little while ago and which I mistook as another random addition to one issue was The Kingdom of Trump.  It did resurface a few issues later but disappeared again, however now it's come back and I couldn't be happier to discover it's one of those semi-regulars which I hope with both of my funny bones makes a return at some point again.  The King in the strip below has featured before but really it's more along the lines of Zootown and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth which both featured the same setting every issue but with different characters and scenarios each time.

With highly imaginative artwork please take your time and savour each panel and facial expression of this quality little tale:


It's been another fun issue and by this time I feel, in hindsight, Oink! had really established itself as a new weekly title.  Different to what had gone before but now, with new talent coming on board and the balance right like I mentioned above, it feels more like a natural evolution rather than an enforced change.  Still attracting more of the older audience than the target which brought about the change, this fact would see it change again (less of an evolution the next time and more of an outright transformation) but if Fleetway had just accepted they had a hit with a different audience which would I have preferred:  the fortnightlies or the weeklies?  It's a tough call and sounds like a topic for another post and for another time.

For now the next issue will be on sale next Thursday, 16th April and I hope you'll join me again then, or even before then for some exciting Oink!-related news regarding one of the characters featured above...!