Friday, 3 April 2020

TOM THUG: REDISCOVERED STRIP

This was definitely a pleasant surprise this week! As many Oink! fans know, when our favourite comic was cancelled towards the end of 1988 three of its characters made their way to Fleetway Publications' Buster weekly. One of these was of course Tom Thug, who was an instant hit with the readers. While he'll always be more associated with the piggy pink publication to me and many others, he continued on in Buster for nearly a decade's worth of brand new strips!

This week his creator Lew Stringer shared one of these strips on his own blog (after it was brought to his attention on social media) and he has kindly given me permission to show it off here too.

Cover image from Comic Vine website

Originally published in the 1994 Buster/Monster Fun (the latter being another comic which merged with the former) Holiday Special which would've been released around this time that year, the strip itself is a full-page, full-colour story of Tom on 'oliday to Blackpool. While the town isn't explicitly mentioned you can see the tower in the background and it's a setting Lew has used many times over the years, it being a place he frequents himself.

Here's the strip in full, with lettering by David Gould.


It's great to see one of these Buster strips because apart from the first issue after the merge I never collected any more as a kid. I did buy the first few to write up for the blog when I finished my read through of Oink! itself and you can check those out by clicking the cover below.

Also, make sure you save Lew's blog into your web browser's favourites to keep yourself up to date with all of his brand new comics work too!


Buster merge
October/November 1988

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

THE OINK! SCRAPBOOK: PART FOUR

<< GO TO PART THREE

Over the course of the years of putting this blog together I've been able to see some wonderful behind-the-scenes photographs from the time. But on top of that co-creator and co-editor Patrick Gallagher also shared some which weren't necessarily to do with Oink! directly, but were taken in and around the time of the comic's publication and featured various members of the comic's creative team mingling with (other) celebs.

Not only were our humour comics heroes top of their game in the comics world, they also had their trotters in television and music circles, in particular the Manchester music scene. Patrick himself worked on the classic puppet comedy series Spitting Image, which featured in the previous scrapbook entry and cartoonist Marc Riley had been in the band The Fall but is probably best known as being part of Mark and Lard on BBC Radio. So here's some fun and surprising photographs from the archives and then there's some actual Oink!-related behind-the-scenes goodies too.


Above (from left to right): Helen Jones, comedian and They Think It's All Over panellist (which is how I remember him) Rory McGrath, Patrick Gallagher and fellow creator/editor (and Helen's partner) Mark Rodgers.


Above: Patrick Gallagher and Marc (Harry the Head, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, Doctor Mooney He's Completely Looney) Riley.


Above: Yes, believe it or not that's Oink!'s Patrick Gallagher with none other than the late and very, very great David Bowie!


Above: As part of Mark and Lard here's Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley in the BBC Radio 1 studio with Mr Bowie again! Such a shame that's not an Oink! but it's another title many from the sty have also worked on so we'll forgive him.


Okay, so here's those promised photos from the creation of Oink!, or rather the comic's record. The Oink! 45 was a mail order item featuring The Oink! Song and The Oink! Rap from the first issue's free flexidisc. Not only that, but by the comic's second year Frank Sidebottom had joined in the fortnightly fun and so another song was recorded, called The Oink! Get Together Song. Chris Sievey (as Frank) and Mark Riley were the key people behind this new song and were the focus of the marketing.


I can't remember it being part of the comic, but elsewhere there was a competition in which some pig pals got the chance to go to the studio and hear the recording of the new song and meet Mark, Frank and Patrick, and there's the lucky so-and-so's above. Below, here's the front and rear of the record's cardboard sleeve.


I bought the record back at the time and I can remember torturing my family with it! Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for them, I wasn't able to enjoy it for very long. My bedroom was on the top floor of our house and my window was a skylight. It was under this window that I foolishly left my Oink! 45 lying on my bed without its cover on a particularly sunny day. After I returned home from an afternoon outside playing with my friends I was horrified to find it warped and bent all out of shape. Ironically, I had planned to record it onto a cassette that night too just incase I scraped the record! Oh well.

If you'd like to take a look at the full page advertisement for the record when it was first released just click on the cover of #37 below.


Issue 37
19th September 1987

Saturday, 28 March 2020

TRANSFORMERS INSTAGRAM: MONTH #19 of 89

<< GO TO MONTH 18
<< BACK TO YEAR TWO


So last month we finished February off with that superb 50th issue, its conclusion to the Dinobot Hunt and a glorious painted cover from John Higgins. How could Marvel UK possibly top that? Well, the British strip creators actually took a well-earned rest! Okay, not really, they were always beavering away on their next stories but for readers it was time to reacquaint ourselves with the American team for a bit. The highlight is clearly the return of Megatron, in some surprisingly character-driven tales, but there's also the introduction of a new human government operation, a giant cover-up, brand new Autobots to welcome from the toy shelves into the comic universe, the completion of the defection of Jetfire, two new back up strips and a superb free gift. Quite the month. So no fear of being let down after the 50th then!

On top of all that there were no less than five Saturdays that March so clap your eyes on this lot and roll out.

ISSUE 51
1st March 1986


#51: He's back at last! After being forced off a snowy cliff by the Dinobots back in #28 it looks like Megatron's dramatic return isn't down to anything he's done but rather a change in the seasons. With the snow melting and turning into flowing water the Decepticon leader appears to have gone for a long coast down a Portland river. Discovered by a deadbeat crook, his new found gun's voice controlled power leads to successive escapes from murderous debt collectors. He can't believe his luck.

Transforming on command we've got one confused 'bot whose circuits don't seem to have realigned properly and Joey has a compliant metallic companion whose presence will surely see his rise to power in local crime circles. It'll all end in tears, this will. Cue a massive one-man crime spree and a bit of exposition to bring newer readers bang up to date.


On the editorial page Lew Stringer's Robo-Capers appears to have gone all Jackson Pollock. Lew has confirmed something went wrong at the printers, cancelling out all of the black used in the cartoon. The latest back up strip is Robotix, based on a toy line that only made it as far as a pilot movie and a one-off comic in the US. I remember renting the movie from the local video store as a child and enjoying it but a few years back I bought it on Amazon and struggled to stay awake at several points. Incredibly slow with unenjoyable characters, it was a real chore. Let's hope the comic adaptation adds something to the proceedings.

Finally, there's news of a free Panini sticker album with the next issue. That was always big news.

Cover by Geoff Senior
Shooting Star!: Part One pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Al Gordon and colours by Nel Yomtov
Robotix: A World in Chaos art by Herb Trimpe with colours by Nel Yomtov

ISSUE 52
8th March 1986


#52: One week later and Megatron continues his role as the mindless drone to Joey, the petty criminal with a heart. I say that because, while we've seen him violently rob those who have robbed him with the aid of his new alien Walther P38, he's still empty inside. After opening up to the subservient Transformer he uses the money he's made to help those in his local neighbourhood. Then at the end of the story, seeing his life as pointless he has no fear and stands up against the newly revived Megatron, who for the first and last time has some respect for a human. After some soul-searching Joey turns himself in and the former Decepticon leader returns to the fight.

This story really shows off something that I now find weird but was okay with as a kid; mass shifting. How can a gun used by a human transform into a giant robot? Just as a side note, you should watch the DVD/BluRay extras for the first of Michael Bay's movies in regards to this. Mass shifting was never going to make it into his live-action movies and this affected their choice of vehicle for each robot. They even hired a genius who made sure all the robots could actually transform into said vehicles. It's fascinating stuff.


The famous Transformers A-Z series we'd love is yet to surface but the early Fact Files have been replaced with Interface, which is kind of a halfway point between the two styles. Then the Next Issue panel brings us news of the latest Hasbro toys to be released, who will be turned into comic book characters next time.

Cover by Don Perlin and Al Gordon
Shooting Star!: Part Two pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Al Gordon and colours by Nel Yomtov

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHT:
@nerd_realm - "Can't go wrong with some classic Transformers comics 😌😍"

ISSUE 53
15th March 1986


#53: Imagine being in the original target audience for this comic, receiving some Transformers toys for Christmas and then a few months later you see those very toys officially introduced into your favourite comic? Well, with no less than five brand new Autobots making their debut this issue I'm sure there were some out there who got to experience that thrill this issue.

Interesting to see shells being created here on Earth rather than these being the Earthen versions of more arrivals from Cybertron. Grapple, Hoist, Smokescreen, Tracks and my favourite comic Transformer, Skids all get animated this week, being implanted with the brain wave programs of Autobots stored within the Ark's systems. This ties in nicely with Jetfire finally becoming a proper Autobot warrior after being created by Shockwave as the ultimate Decepticon.


All these new troops means the Autobot Who's Who needs two issues compared to the Decepticons' one, so check below for the second half of this one. Also nice to see the comic finally acknowledging the incredible work of the cover artists too, something it hadn't done since the early days of the fortnightly. Beginning this issue they'd all get a credit on the Trans Formation page and to kick things off they caught up with a list covering previous issues.

Cover by Robin Smith
Rock and Roll-Out!: Part One pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Al Gordon and colours by Nel Yomtov

ISSUE 54
22nd March 1986


#54: The hottest news for Transformers fans in the UK in the first half of 1986 was the upcoming release of special combining toys, simply called the Special Teams. A special fold out free gift which acted as a great preview poster is below and it wouldn't be the last time the comic would make a big deal of these characters. I can't blame them for going all out, the toys were fantastic things indeed. Alongside the hype on the editorial page we also find out Robotix is to end already and to be honest I'm glad to see it go, it really wasn't any better than the cartoon after all.

This issue was released around the same time as cartoonist Lew Stringer's birthday so I also took a photo of his 'latest' Robo-Capers. This contained a joke Lew admits he must've really liked because he'd kind of reuse it in Combat Colin (which you can see if you buy #2 of that title).


This issue's story has a little bit of everything really. There's some cloak and dagger government agencies acting all secretive and it's all rather foreboding for future storylines, there's some great subtle humour hitting the mark and who doesn't love seeing how an artist would show a Transformer actually transform in a still picture?

The characters being introduced here and shown around by Bumblebee really are the best new additions to the ranks of the Cybertronians in quite a while. They're very distinctive and each one is highly enjoyable to boot. It's a fun way of bringing them into the comic, with a favourite character teaching them about the ways of humans and life on Earth, their reactions working as a perfect way of establishing their personalities.


We've also got part two of the Autobot roundup of characters and it even includes those we've just met.

Cover by Bob Budiansky and Mike Esposito
Rock and Roll-Out!: Part Two pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Al Gordon and colours by Nel Yomtov

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHT:
@captaincolincoughtrey - "Loved Robo-Capers from Lew Stringer."

SPECIAL TEAMS SPECIAL EDITION
ISSUE 54 FREE GIFT


#54 FREE GIFT: When I read this issue at the right time my issue didn't have the pull-out to introduce the Special Teams, but I've since been able to get a hold of an issue with it intact, so I made an extra Instagram post to show it off and added it in here now to the March round up. Unfortunately I don't know who created the cover, even if it was Marvel or Hasbro, but it's very toy-accurate so I'm guessing the latter. The strip itself is pretty woeful and acts solely as a way to get the newly released toys into the comic as quickly as possible, with their own stories not due for a while yet. It's a real shame that the art for the combined Transformers is very basic, looking more like standard boxy robots with vehicles stuck on.

But let's face it, that's not the main event here.


Much better is the poster this free gift folds out into. I can just imagine many readers studying it in detail, trying to decide which combination they were going to commit their parents' money to. I only ever had one of these individual toys, Drag Strip, but I remember loving it and him being one of my favourite Transformer toys even though he never could combine with anything else. Poor Drag Strip.

Nowadays the poster acts as a lovely retro advert for these classic toys so enjoy this closer look at it.

Cover by an unknown artist, most likely by Hasbro
Strip art by Barry Kitson and Tim Perkins, colours by an unknown artist

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHTS:
@gazmondo595 - "It always bugged me that Bruticus had no head!!! 😡😡😡"

ISSUE 55
29th March 1986


#55: Starting things of this week is this really rather clever cover from G.I. Joe supremo Herb Trimpe, edited by the British team to include their boxout, and inside it's all glorious government conspiracies and craven Megatrons! The Decepticon leader would end up running out of fuel, stuck rigid and unable to move his body or even articulate any speech, so his internal thoughts were a hoot to read. He clearly knew what was about to happen, hence his desperate, terrifying attempt to refuel on the splash page.

In this particular story the US government is using a washed up comics writer to trick the public into thinking all Transformers are actually brainless robots under the control of a homegrown terrorist. As insane as this sounds their rationale is that if Americans believe it's just a man it'd be something they could mentally cope with. It was to stop the widespread panic if the public found out they were a race of alien robots able to disguise themselves amongst us, and which the government actually had no hope of defeating.

It might all sound very far-fetched but we're talking about a comic based on that aforementioned race of alien robots able to disguise themselves amongst us and really, given the lies the current American president tells these days, is it really that far-fetched?


But even crazier than all this is the new back up strip, Rocket Raccoon. Of course, most will know of Rocket through the Guardians of the Galaxy movies these days, but back in '86 this was the first time young British readers would've met him. He introduces us to his otter love, psychotic clowns (I know one or two people who wouldn't be able to read this because of these) and ninja rabbits amongst others in some crazy and hugely enjoyable randomness. It has no right to be such a good fit for this comic but it is, it really is!

My fave Dinobot pops back up this issue too and gets the fact-file treatment. All-in-all it's one helluva good issue.

Cover by Herb Trimpe
I, Robot-Master!: Part One pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Keith Williams and colours by Nel Yomtov
Rocket Raccoon: Animal Crackers pencils by Mike Mignola, inks by Al Gordon and colours by Christie Scheele


I'll say it again: what a month! It takes some going to take really rather out there ideas, place them into the already fantastical setting of The Transformers and keep it all so grounded that we're own the edge of our seats to see what happens next. But writer Bob Budiansky and his team of artists did just that with great aplomb and this month has been the perfect example of the balancing act these comics required to be a success. Balancing the large and far-fetched with the human element and characterisation is a skill that fans of the Robots in Disguise have been lucky enough to enjoy for decades, whether that's in these original strips, the modern big screen or IDW's newest series.

Fans were in for the ride of their lives for years to come and stories beginning later this year may be some of the most fondly remembered, but the comic was already a classic.