Thursday, 19 November 2015


A month ago today I put up my post about #68 of Oink!, the final of six monthly issues and the end of an era of brilliantly original humour.  To me personally the comic was in its heyday when it was still a fortnightly, but it ended up losing pages and regular characters when Fleetway wanted to aim it at a younger readership and turned it into a weekly.  However, it grew in strength and ended up being a particularly fantastic weekly comic, albeit quite different to what had gone before.  Then with the monthlies it changed again when the publishers once more wished to alter the target audience, this time to an older teen and student market.  It was much thicker and went back to glossy paper, but was much less frequent and lost more regular strips and contributors, plus the dreaded reprints started to creep in too.  While it was still head-and-shoulders above any other humour comics out there for me personally, it wasn't the Oink! we'd all swarmed to and many jumped ship, resulting in sales slumping.

We can only imagine how long it would've lasted and how even greater it could've ended up if IPC, who saw Oink! as a hit and were very happy with its sales of 100,000 per issue on average, hadn't sold its comics division to Fleetway (or even if they'd just kept Oink!), instead letting the comic continue to develop that original format.  We'll never know.  The editorial team of Mark Rodgers, Tony Husband and Patrick Gallagher had wanted to extend the Oink! brand beyond the comic but instead #68 ended up being the final issue and, like Fleetway humour titles all seemed to do in the end, it folded into their number one comic of the day, Buster:

Cover by Tom Paterson

This issue of Buster was actually on sale at the same time as the last Oink! and, as you'll have read last time, seeing that above was the first I knew something was up, confirmed when I bought it and the last Oink!  But the readers of Buster already knew this was coming, as the previous week half the letters page was dominated by this:

While they're drawn by their respective artists, their speech and the use of the word "Funsters" to describe them doesn't really sit right, does it?  It feels more like three new-but-traditional characters are being brought to Buster for the first time rather than them coming from the anarchic sister title.  Were our three faves going to end up becoming traditional comic fare after so long?  We'll get to that.

Firstly, you'll notice how the merge is referenced on the cover.  Typically when a title merged into another it got a secondary billing on a temporary new title.  Such as 2000AD and Starlord, The Transformers and Action Force, or even Buster and Nipper or the still-to-come Buster and Whizzer & Chips, all with the cancelled comic's logo still sitting proud on the covers.  But Oink! wasn't granted this status on the cover for whatever reason.  Instead for only these four issues the readers were told there were Oink! stars inside by way of a tagline containing a drawn version of the logo, rather than the logo itself.  After these Buster returned to its regular covers without mention of the new recruits.

In preparation for this post Lew Stringer very kindly answered a few questions I had about the merge and, while neither of us are 100% certain of why the comic never had Oink! as part of the title, Lew made a good point which makes the most sense.  With WHSmith's stupid attitude towards the comic and them placing it on the top shelves, perhaps Fleetway didn't want to chance this happening to their top title.  It makes sense and I'd understand their reluctance if this was the case.

Here's the other three issues which included Tom Thug, Weedy Willy and Pete and his Pimple all being drawn by the Buster cover artists.  The first two are by the amazingly talented and always entertaining cartoonist Tom Paterson whose work on Oink! you can access by clicking on his name in the Stuff in the Sty section on the left there.  The final one, with Pete, was drawn by X-Ray Specs artist Mike Lacey, whose work I also included in the Beyond Oink! posts for Big Comic Fortnightly and Funny Fortnightly:

In that last issue Tom Paterson was on holiday and Mike took over the drawing of Buster, but he ended up shifted to the inside and Mike's own X-Ray Specs was promoted to the front and back covers.

(Lew explained how Tom Paterson, or possibly Jack Oliver, once told him they felt Tom Thug was too difficult to draw, until they imagined his head as a burger and went from there!)

But let's get on with the Oink! goodness shall we?  This post is simply going to be a quick look at what happened next for these three fan favourites and we'll start with Pete and his Pimple:

Unlike in Oink! the strips were all full-page entries every single week now, but I was always under the impression, either through cloudy memories or misinformation, that loads of other changes were enforced onto those who had joined the comic.  This simply wasn't the case and as Lew explained it was more like common sense.  For example, he'd first read Buster when he was six and reading it at the time when Oink! was cancelled, so he was well aware of the format and style and how it differed.

On a day-to-day basis very little changed as Lew still worked from home and spoke a lot with Buster's Allen Cummings over the phone in much the same way as he had with Mark Rodgers.  But nothing was enforced and instead Lew simply knew he couldn't show a pimple bursting and covering everyone with pus like we'd seen so much of in Oink!  It just wouldn't have worked here, but I'd always thought his pimple was never allowed to burst at all and upon reading these now in 2015 it seemed this was the case after the strip above.  Surely, previous to this those burglars would've been covered with slimy pus, sticking them to the pavement and unable to run away?

Maybe in Oink! but not necessarily because the giant zit could still burst in Buster, as I was pleasantly surprised to see (unlike the people of Oinktown! had been for those two and a half years) in two of the four strips in these issues!  Here's those highlights for you pig pals:

You'll notice the dogs are still squeaky clean and the person in the last panel is in silhouette form and this is a good example of how Lew adapted to the style of this comic while still keeping the essence and humour of the character.  I'm sure Buster readers were surprised when these happened and I'd like to think they proved a success in the laughter department.

Just to finish off my look at the Pete strips here's the last one and I have to say it's a little heartbreaking after all this time to see him reading this comic instead of a piggy pink one:

Pete would also cross over into regular character Thunderclap's strip, and a character Tom Thug had already met was joining in also.  Always drawn by Mike Green, Weedy Willy was scripted by many varied writers over the lifespan of Oink!  Now as a regular feature in Buster, one of Oink!'s co-creators/co-editors Mark Rodgers took over the helm of his stories permanently.

Mike's artwork really stands out in these comics because it's just so different to anything featured in a more traditional weekly.  While Pete and Tom would be introduced to a degree in their first appearances they still had complete stories, but Mark decided instead to give the new readers of Willy a step-by-step guide to what they could expect from future instalments:

In Oink! Weedy Willy could sometimes have a full page to himself, sometimes just a quick gag at his expense.  His format was always changing and this move to a set one seems to have robbed the strip of its impulsiveness a tad.  Even after reading only four of these it's already starting to feel like the character is going to have a limited run as the idea doesn't seem to have sturdy legs, just like Willy.

That may not make sense at first, but when we look back at Oink! and the variety of writers, sizes of strip, different features and gags he was used for he was in his element.  Give him a full-page story every single issue and those highly original, fresh jokes are being used up very quickly.  Don't get me wrong, these are still very enjoyable but I can understand why a few months later Willy made his last comics appearance.  Such a shame, but Buster was never going to be able to feed him the variety of formats he had in Oink!:

In the first issue of the merge Buster himself welcomed pig pals with this simple little introduction to his letters page:

The problem was this is exactly what he didn't do enough of, or rather what the comic didn't do enough of; keep me laughing.  I'd been weened on a diet of pigs, plops, pus, spoofs, GBH, Ian Jackson, Tony Husband, ugly kids, randomness and Frank Sidebottom to name but a few.  While some regular humour weeklies raised plenty of smiles only Oink! had convinced me to place a regular order, and it was the only place where I was literally laughing out loud every single issue.

The first issue of Buster I bought was also my last, unfortunately.  I'm not meaning to take away from the talented individuals behind the top-selling comic, not at all.  Hundreds of thousands of kids enjoyed the antics of The Winners, Roys ToysBirdman and Chicken, Melvyn's Mirror and all the rest.  Indeed, I've raved this year about the reprint title Big Comic Fortnightly which featured classic strips of many Buster characters and which I was already reading by this stage.

When Oink! finished there was a giant hole in my reading.  This was already partially plugged by the aforementioned BCF, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and The Real Ghostbusters.  Add to this the fact the preview issue of Wildcat had come free with that final Oink!, seeming so cool to my young eyes, I had to make a decision.  I'd love to say it was a tough one but it was all rather easy.

I loved the fact there could be a weekly dose of these three characters again, but upon reading the rest of the comic I just wasn't feeling it.  Some of it made me smile, but it didn't make me giggle as BCF did and it certainly didn't surprise me and make me guffaw as Uncle Pigg's masterpiece had.  Reading it now it's clear it's a class act and a top quality read, though still not really my cup of tea; it was simply for a different audience to me.  I was the audience that other humour comics hadn't catered for after all; kids like myself were the reason Oink! had existed in the first place.  Even though it was still cheaper in 1988 than Oink! had ever been, I couldn't justify asking my parents to buy it every week for the sake of three pages and so instead I pleaded for the action-fest of Wildcat for 40p every two weeks instead.

It was a sad end to my time with these characters but I still had the annual and a special to look forward to, I was collecting other completely different comics but it was all thanks to Oink! and I'd just added another one to the plate.  They were exciting times and so I bid adieu to Pete, Willy and Tom.

But speaking of Tom...

I've deliberately left him to last as it would seem the younger Buster readers were quite taken with Mr Thug!  As mentioned above Willy didn't last too long in these pages and unfortunately Pete wasn't a great hit with the younger, clean-complexion readers either.  Later on in the 1990s another Oink! character (though one who had made only a couple of appearances) Specky Hector the Comics Collector turned up with a comical guide (and Lew would also draw Mark Rodgers' Vampire Brats creation) but it was Tom Thug himself who proved a massive success.  So successful that Lew ended up creating new adventures for him right up until July 1996 when the comic went all-reprint for its final few years.  Altogether, between Oink! and Buster there's a whopping 444 strips out there for this favourite comics character of mine; that's just incredible!

It'd certainly make for a hugely entertaining regular reprint title, especially for Oink! fans who may never have read all those following years of mishaps.  Not that this is a hint in any way at all to Lew*.

As I mentioned before Tom's strips would revert to his schooldays (or "Skooldays") which fits in very nicely considering the comic's main target audience.  There may have been plenty of readers of both comics who may been bullied to some degree at school and to see such a bully get his comeuppance every single week kept them coming back for more and more.  Here's one of those first strips after the merge:

The small extra at the bottom feels very Oink!-like I have to say.

Apart from a few things such as a younger Tom, his cat Satan never getting mentioned by name and (an example given to me by Lew) Tom only looking queasy when he felt like being sick instead of actually throwing up(!), he was pretty much the exact same character we'd grown to love in Oink!  Even though he'd end up appearing in so many more issues of the latter comic to me he's still more associated with Oink!  Whether that's because I never collected Buster, or just because he originated there, or simply because Oink!'s format leant itself to all manner of strip sizes, special stories and punishments for Tom, he's Oink! through-and-through and I'd love the chance to read all those years of missed stories:

In the final Tom strip Pete was also included in the background all cured of his pimples and even Lew himself and his pet dog appeared in a panel.  In the final issue of Buster one page of new content appeared on the back cover, drawn by Jack Oliver and on it Tom had finally turned himself around but Lew is quick to say this isn't canon, I'm very glad to say.  He'd also cross over with Pete a couple of times (which you can read about here at Lew's own comics blog), there'd be a free Tom Thug badge and he'd make the cover in a bid to take over an issue.  Buster readers would also see some wonderful full-colour strips at Christmas and Halloween amongst other occasions.  It was clear he was a huge star!

Oink!'s legacy lived on through Tom for many years but it's all coming to an end here on the blog for now.  However, I'm not quite finished with the regular scans just yet, so come back next month for two posts covering the second annual, which I believe will round off my little project perfectly.  You can find out when these are going to be published in a special Christmas post right here on Tuesday 1st December.  See you then folks.

* yes it is

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


Don't worry, I'm not abandoning The Oink! Blog for a new venture, I'm just spreading my wings.  But first things first.

In June last year I put together a special post about the Oink! computer game for the 8-bit machines of the day, on the date of the release of a very special edition of Spectrum magazine Crash.  Inside there was an extra issue of Oink! no less, a 16-page pullout featuring some of our favourite characters from the game and comic as well as the usual random extras we'd all come to know and love from the fortnightly piggy publication.  If you haven't a clue what I'm talking about you can read all about it here.

It was four years after the original release of the game before I received my own first computer, a Commodore 64.  I'd already started to collect Commodore Format and had never read an issue of the infamous Zzap64 which had temporarily disappeared from the shelves by this stage.  At the time of the build-up to the game it seems Crash wasn't the only one with access to Uncle Pigg's underlings, though Zzap didn't interview the editors and instead had a more traditional preview but with some information the other magazine had left out.  Oh, and they also had what looks like a run-in with none other than Snatcher Sam himself!

Below is the preview and as you'll see my previous research which concluded the Oink! team had nothing to do with the game has actually proved incorrect!  This snippet of info is enough on its own to make me want to play the game, despite the actual gameplay been somewhat unrelated.  But enough from me, have a read yourself:

Scans from the public domain site

While Commodore Format may not have even been available at that stage, its second issue (about a year before I started collecting it) actually gave the full game away for free on its covertape!

This leads me on to the reason behind this post; the launch of a new blog.

After quite a few years of financial difficulties I successfully cleared myself of those problems a few months ago.  Debt-free for the first time in what felt like a lifetime I decided to celebrate and purchased a refurbished Commodore 64 computer, a few accessories and a couple of games.  However, even though it was delivered at the end of September it's remained inside its box ever since as you can see below.  The bigger box is the computer itself, the smaller Sky one is full of a handful of old issues of Commodore Format, games and a few others bits'n'bobs, all waiting for a certain date before being opened to the world again:

Why the wait?  Over a whole calendar month beginning on 11th December I'm off for a whopping 25 days from work, so I'm saving the Commodore opening for that first day.  I'll even be wrapping it up and placing it under the tree!  But you'll find out more about this over at Recovering from a Scratch, the new blog I'm setting up (putting it together on my Mac just like this one, a device which has also helped rekindle my love of writing, hence the picture at the top) to chronicle what I'm planning to do with this greatest of retro devices.

I'm not going to give too much away here, after all you're here to read about pigs, plops and pimples, and that's what the new blog is for after all.  But the first post is up today and you can read it now by clicking right here, if you so wish of course.

Next year The Oink! Blog will be changing somewhat and the new Commodore 64 one will develop alongside it, but you'll find out how when the time comes.

Sunday, 8 November 2015


Yes she's back again!  The temperamental and ever-so-maniacal little old lady that Oink!'s pig pals all adored and the rest of the public feared has returned to the digital pages of Aces Weekly once more.  Well actually twice more.

Brought back to life irregularly by her creator David Leach, Psycho Gran was a fan-favourite amongst Oink! readers and she's still proving as popular today.  Last year David launched the first issue of her own comic and you can read all about it by clicking here and order it up by doing the same to its cover image on the left-hand side of this very page under 'Madvertisements'.

Earlier this year she also popped up in Aces Weekly to show a wayward cyclist a thing or two and again it was covered here on the blog.  David is still planning his second issue of her own title to be a collection of the strips from this weekly anthology of humour, action and sci-fi but you'd be a fool not to take a look now!:

A panel from Psycho's Volume 18 strip

This one is taken from the current volume's story

Aces Weekly is released every seven days and you subscribe to a seven-issue volume at a time, before it takes a rest for a week before popping right back up again with another seven weeks of thirty pages of the very best in British comics entertainment.  That's a whopping amount of comics for the measly sum of £6.99 for the whole volume!  Also each previous volume is ready and waiting to be purchased for the same price on their site.  Around 200 pages for less than seven pounds including top Oink! talent such as David, Lew Stringer and more?  Bargain:


...or David will send her 'round...