Sunday, 28 September 2014

DAZED? CONFUSED? PERFECT


Yes I'm a little bit behind on posting this up but it was originally meant to be a news story before I decided the blog didn't suit having that sort of thing.  I've got some updates and other posts which I'll be catching up on with you over the course of the next while, starting with a feature on Dazed & Confused magazine's website which you may have missed out on.

Earlier this year, just before the release of Frank in cinemas a journalist by the name of Brook McCord got in touch with me out of the blue.  Yes, it surprised me too!  The magazine's website was putting together a series of articles on the man behind the Frank Sidebottom mask, Chris Sievey, and she was looking for some scans of his work in Oink! to go alongside an interview with one of the comic's editors, Patrick Gallagher.  I was honoured to be asked, felt like a little bit of recognition from outside the world of the comic for all the hard work I'd put in here.  So of course I said I would.

I trawled through all the issues I have and I'm telling you trying to pick out a selection of Chris' work as Frank was a difficult one.  My choices seemed to do the trick though, hopefully showcasing how varied and meticulous his work was.  Brooke kindly gave me a "Courtesy of" credit under each, and Patrick even mentioned the blog (and the amount of people coming to it to read pages from Oink!) as proof of how relevant the comic's humour is today - which, of course, we all know is true.

Personally I loved the references back to here, especially from one of the comic's creators, and over the week or so after the article went up online I have to say my stats did jump!  No, I'm not being big-headed (you should know me better than that by now) but I was so happy because it meant more people were rediscovering, or even discovering for the first time, Oink!

Any regular readers here will know Chris' work is second-to-none and he was such a perfectionist in everything he did, Oink! included, that it's great to see his often unknown work in the comic being highlighted in this way.  It's an interesting read, so click on the image below to head off and enjoy:


Also, while you're there check out the other Frank articles they published at the time, including a playlist of songs and more by clicking here.

Friday, 19 September 2014

#37: FULL OF (FAMILY) FORTUNE


The trend had been started with #36 and this sophomore edition in my own Golden Age of Oink! will hopefully not disappoint you either.  How could it when it starts off with that cover by classic cartoonist Mike Higgs!  Some may know him as the creator of The Cloak many moons ago and if you've been reading your Oink!s alongside the blog you'll know he's appeared in a few of the most recent issues.  However this is the first time his work has appeared on the blog and what a debut it is.  All the covers from this time in the run are fondly remembered and this one is certainly no exception.

Mike had originally created his character The Cloak for Pow comic in the 60s but when IPC took over Odhams range and created two distinct factions (humour and action comics) the comedy Cloak strip was dropped from the action title and never made his way to any other comic at the time.  Such a shame as I've had the chance to read some while doing this research and it's really very, very good.  (The character has guest starred in a few titles since then though.)  Mike worked on Whizzer and Chips with the Space School strip but felt too restricted with the 'safe humour' rules of writing for that comic and so left after a year.  However, fast forward to the 1980s and he definitely liked Oink! and its very different, much more relaxed set of rules.

We have Lew Stringer to thank for bringing Mike to the pages of the world's greatest comic and you can read about one of their collaborations, The Case of the Kidnapped Celebrities from #34, right here on Lew's Blimey! It's another blog about comics site.  Also, while you're there, check out the other posts featuring Mike to see some of those classic Cloak strips too.

A quick look at the issue's free gift before we open it all up - the second set of stickers, which must surely contain the best of the bunch with that Tom Thug one from Lew Stringer:


Only one more set to go and then the next free gift wouldn't be until the very final issue of the comic, believe it or not.  But for now, we're inside this issue and it's a joy to welcome back Cowpat County again, with a groan-enducing story from Davy Francis which really sets the tone here:


What a brilliant setup for the final gag - I bet you didn't see that coming, with the name subtly dropped in the first couple of panels there, surname first.  Definitely seeing a trend in Davy's strips recently with as many background gags squeezed in as possible, with more railway station ones this time just like with Greedy Gorb a couple of issues ago.

Another trend I'm definitely enjoying is the fact Banx is giving us splendid 2-page spreads for his Burp character in these issues.  Not sure how long this particular trend will continue for, but hopefully for as long as possible I say!

When I first started this blog I remembered who my favourite childhood characters were and who I was most looking forward to getting reacquainted with again.  Now Burp (and his pet specimen from Uranus) was fondly remembered and was definitely in the list, that's for sure.  However, nearly a year and a half into the whole thing and it's interesting to see what I've included so far.  I never set out to include any character more than any other - each comic was just taken on its own merits and the highlights I included were ones I felt summed up each issue the best.

Now as my read through has continued I've found myself adding more and more of Burp's pages to the blog and this time round is no different.  There just seems to be something my now-adult brain (in theory anyway) connects with in an even bigger way than my younger self.  Which is brilliant!  There was always that fear when starting this that the comic, or some characters even, wouldn't stack up to the memories - would my recollections have been clouded by rose-tinted glasses, that sort of thing.  So far I haven't been let down by any of my favourites and appreciate a lot of the humour in a different way now, and Burp is a prime example of this.

So without further ado (including a panel I distinctly remember reading as a child and which I included the other day on the blog in that introductory post to these issues) here's Burp's latest 2-page spectacular from Jeremy Banx:


In fact, this issue has lots of great big meaty entertainment to get your teeth into!  Now I haven't included the three pages of cut-out cards (well, they're cards once actually stuck to card) for the Oink! Happy Families game as that'd leave a lot less scope for what I could include and when there's the large multi-page strips on offer that you see here, I just had to include these instead.

As for the thirty-six hand drawn cards from Ed McHenry, as per the usual rules of that game each 'family' is split into four cards and through asking your opponents for specific ones it's a race to see who can complete one family first.  For example, the Vile family has Hadrian the genius, Mr and Mrs Vile parents of the genius, Bowser (the dog) admirer of the genius and Baby Vile sister of the genius.

Wait.  Hold up.  Sister of the genius?  Oh, did I not mention that yet?:


This is the event I alluded to way back in the first anniversary issue when Hadrian's age crept up a year.  It's now quite clear why last issue's Hadrian strip was only a three-panel job with Uncle Pigg eating the diary and the cliffhanger resolution being delayed, as the theme here is obviously perfect for such a tale.

A character's mum becoming pregnant, the ensuing comedy moments, the labour and the birth of a new member of that character's family (that is, the actual birth of a new character!) isn't something most kids' comics would do.  It's made for a very entertaining few months in the Vile household, culminating in this rather sweet strip with even Horace rising to the occasion in helping them get to the hospital on time.  The final full-page panel there is another I certainly remember from all those years ago, but don't be thinking that's the end of it.  Nor should you be thinking that Horace is going to go all slushy on us.  There were plenty of adventures for this baby to look forward to and writer Mark Rodgers and artist Ian Jackson would lavish us with unique tales you'll just have to read to believe.  Hadrian + baby = completely unexpected goodness!

The next couple of pages I'm going to include I'm skipping on a bit for.  I'll come back to a few tidbits afterwards, but I wanted to put these three larger strips up front-and-centre as they're the real stars of this issue.  The Butcher Watch updates had long ago become all about one particular baddie - Jimmy 'The Cleaver' Smith.  He'd feature quite predominantly in the weekly comic, as you'll see next year, but for now he was an irregular regular, if you catch my drift.  His appearances were always highlights and they were certainly getting more creative and, dare I say, gory:


As ever Jeremy Banx delivers the goods here and there's a real sense that this maniacal butcher is ramping up his campaign against the good pigs of the world.  Whether this was all building to a certain weekly series from #45 onwards is another thing, but looking back now it certainly feels that way with the gift of hindsight.

You know, when you think about the comic strips which caused uproar with some people, I can't think of any time when these strips were the subject of those complaints.  Maybe they were too afraid.

As a kid these really caught my imagination and he was that classic comic villain - the type we loved to hate.  I can vividly remember reading Jimmy Smith strips in bed with nothing but a lamp on in the dark room and the atmosphere was palpable, even if I'd already read them during the day or was rereading old issues - something I did a lot of with Oink!  You know, with the comic cancelled long before due we never got a resolution to his tale... he could still be out there.  So "look out for your snout and mind your rind".

This issue has many highlights which make it worth tracking down on eBay or elsewhere, but maybe wait until the end of the year as you may end up wanting all of these particular fortnightly issues and it'll save on postage to get them all at once.  There's even a competition to win a trip to the real Timperley and spend a day with Frank Sidebottom, appearing on one of his radio shows, playing some songs with him and getting the grand tour which, according to the competition, would include the greengrocer on the corner which inspired his song called (strangely enough) 'Greengrocer On the Corner'.  I'll keep an eye out for any news on the winner of this competition as hopefully this is one which was shared with the rest of us unlucky enough not to go.

Speaking of competition winners, this issue contains two mini-strips from the runner-up in a competition run by Oink! and an ITV programme.  I'm including the first one here to show you how talented this young individual was and to see if anyone can shed any light on whether he became a cartoonist or artist of some sort in later life.  His name was Ian Marshall and here's his creation, Professor Foible:


The last strip I'm going to include, but not the last scan, is this little preview of a new character to appear from the next issue onwards.  Given the nature of this next three-panel preview I did skip on to see if this was an actual, real serial or whether this was just a spoof advert.  You'll see why:


Drawn by Rubbish Man's Haldane, I do remember the character now I've confirmed he is indeed in the next issue and have seen what he's capable of, but I couldn't for the life of me picture him in my mind from that preview.  For now though, I'm not going to go into any more detail until the next issue so, if you're like I was, you can rack your brains for a couple of weeks first.

But to finish off I wanted to share a couple of pages of non-strip material with you.  Who remembers this?:


The Oink! 45 was, unlike the flexidisc given away with #1, a proper record the size of a single.  It came in a proper cardboard sleeve and everything!  As I only came to the Oink! party with #14 I was unaware of there having ever been songs written by the creative team behind the comic, so the contents of this was all brand new to me.  In reality, the two songs on side A were taken directly from the original free gift in the premiere issue.  However on side B, with Chris Sievey as Frank Sidebottom now part of the team a brand new song appeared for the very first time - The Oink! Get Together Song.  I can't for the life of me remember it right now (I will be doing a feature on these songs at some point) but I can recall it featured a lot of character voices and I remember listening to this particular song more than the others - I absolutely adored it!  Though the "Don't eat pigs, 'Cause they're made from hhhaaammm" chorus of The Oink! Psycho Rap really did get quoted a little too much by my friends and I!

Yes that's Snatcher Sam... well, Marc Riley, with Frank.  Before Oink! Marc was a member of the groups The Fall and The Creepers, so had plenty of musical pedigree which he brought to the Oink! songs, though I never knew any of this at the time.

Unfortunately my record was to meet an untimely end.  The next springtime, with the weather getting hotter, I was to rush out of my house one day to play after listening to the songs one morning.  It hadn't been played in a while and I just fancied doing so.  But it was a decision I would soon regret.  Dun dun dun!  I lived in the bedroom at the very top of the house with a skylight window and the sun would beam in there on warm days and heat up the bed and part of the floor, which was great when playing indoors!  But not so great when I left the Oink! 45 lying without its cardboard sleeve on the bed.  I came back later that day to find it completely warped.  Destroyed.  I think I hid it from my parents though instead of asking for another.

Oh well.

That and the mug were the only bits of paid-for Oink! merchandise I owned I think.  My memory is fuzzy as to whether I did get the t-shirt or not, so I'll have to check.  The mug got left in an old workplace's kitchen when a few of us were unceremoniously let go when I was 19 - I was in such a rush to get out and away from the people that were doing that to us that I forgot to go and get it!  To this day I still scour eBay daily for it...

Finally, part of the Grunts spread, which also took up two pages this time around.  The reason I'm including this particular piece is because of the recent information I told you about with #35 and the takeover by Fleetway of IPC's comics.  There I touched upon the sales groups and how it would be this more than anything which would lead to Oink!'s own eventual demise - not its own sales figures. Here, over a year after the comic launched (though not too long after that year anniversary, remembering these issues were prepared a good while in advance of their release dates) it was getting great publicity in many publications and Oink! took the time to show some of these to us readers:


Another example of how the editors treated us all as equals rather than talking down to us, the comic gave us the intelligence to know why these were important after the hoopla surrounding the complaints about the Janice and John strip (newcomers to the blog you can read the story behind this in #7, #28 and the Crash magazine interview).

After a year of great sales Oink! was really gathering pace, attention and good publicity.  It was being read by people of all ages, was becoming a hit with students and adults alike, on top of the large target audience.  Other publications aimed at adults would also feature articles about how good it was and we'll see them in due course right here in the blog.  It also had its first annual out, had its own computer game, was featuring on radio and, as detailed above, was appearing on TV.  However, an event took place elsewhere around this time which would see trouble on the horizon, but I'll cover that next time.

For now, look forward to the next issue going on sale on Friday 3rd October (October already?!) and if you're good piggies something else before then!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

NEXT ISSUE: THE PIG THAT LAID THE GOLDEN PLOP

The golden age of Oink! returns to strut its stuff with #37 this coming Friday 19th September.  In case you missed it I also posted up something in the way of a personal introduction to these marvellous issues which you can see here, right after enjoying the first of these perfect piggy periodicals with #36 which you can also read right here.