A strange little issue this one, as #3 promoted it as their World Cup issue, as does the front cover by Steve McGarry, but there's actually very little in the way of themed strips inside, at least compared to #3. But of course that doesn't take away from another great issue and with two appearances you'll be glad to hear it's this issue that I've chosen to introduce Oink!'s longest-running character, the ever lovable bully and thicko, Tom Thug!
Created by legendary cartoonist Lew Stringer, Tom inherited his dad's 'bovver boots' in the preview issue and it'd take a good few months before we'd finally see him able to tie them and get them on his feet, ready to boot people! Having a strip based around a bully might sound a bit strange to those new to Oink!, but Tom wasn't a good guy, he lost his challenges against those he bullied every single time and was thick as two short planks. He was the greatest advert against bullies you could hope for!
In #4 he's still in the early days of getting his boots tied (his dad believes he's not fit for bovverin' until he can do them up himself) and here he comes up with some novel solutions to his problem:
Tom would appear in every single issue of Oink! and would carry on for years in Buster comic after Oink! folded. Altogether fans had 10 full years of brand new Tom Thug material, with reprints for the final few years of Buster after that, right up to the final issue of that comic too. Even though he appeared in many more issues of the latter, Tom is probably more associated with his original home and rightly so, right alongside Satan. That's his cat.
Excitedly, I want to point you towards an external link right now. Lew has written an entry on his own blog about the creation of a certain Mr Thug, including some brilliant original design artwork and an insight into the process behind the very first strip for the dummy/preview issue. Click here to go check it out!
We'll come back to Tom a little later in this issue, but back to other characters and a chance to introduce a couple of other regular strips. Oink!, as I've previously said, had strips of all different sizes and even from issue to issue they could change. Two of the regular smaller ones, but just as much loved, belonged to Haldane, whose work you would previously have seen on the blog in #1's Rubbish Man strip. Both animal-based, the first was (I'm guessing) inspired by all those monster movies such as the classic Godzilla films and the like.
So which terrifying creature of immense overgrown proportions was going to wreck havoc on the world populace in this comic? That'd be a hippo.
I loved Hugo. He'd travel to many different countries in the world - with accompanying stereotypes! - and while he'd regularly destroy the homes of thousands of people, he never seemed anything more than a completely innocent creature who just happened to be huge and hungry. Bless. We did see him go up against the army but that just resulted in the missiles going straight down his gullet and giving him wind.
Another of Haldane's regular mini-strips was Zootown, made up of many and varied creatures any kid would see at their local zoo, only dressed up in human clothes and with jobs, regular lives, pals and family, but with one key difference - they all kept those animal instincts which often resulted in, well, this:
I can't remember any of the creatures having names and I simply assumed when we saw a similar animal in more than one issue that it was the exact same one. But even though we never got to know them that wasn't the point, it was just a quick laugh with the carnivorous crocs, lions etc. often getting the upper hand, but thankfully I don't think those little docile ones we'd see getting shocked/scared every issue were ever on the buffet menu - there always seemed to be some kind of strange friendship there. Hard to put my finger on it, but even though it only consisted of a few panels each issue, Zootown seemed like such a rich place, such was the talent of Haldane!
'The Man-Eating Marshmallow', 'Rocky 5 1/2' (long before the actual 5th film, never mind the 6th!), and a man accidentally travelling to the north pole instead of the moon... all classic movies in their own right and each one a recipient of a Golden Trough Award presented by Chris Smelly. But the first one to appear here is the 'Vengeance of the Gnome-Men' written by Tony Husband and drawn by Ian Jackson. Just check out how creepy these guys are! Brilliant, a truly classic slice of Oink! right here:
Back to Mr Thug now and an actual football-themed bit of the issue. I'm not a fan of football at all I have to say, but this issue was released right in the middle of the '86 World Cup in Mexico and we did see Harry 'head' off to sunnier climbs and end up in the middle of the action as per the cover picture. Also, Hadrian Vile tried his best to get out of playing the game at school, Snatcher Sam stole a kid's ball and ended up almost blown to bits and Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins was left out of the goal celebrations and there was a poster which we'll get back to in a future post. But that was about it apart from three little half-page one-offs, one of which was this nice little extra, written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Mr Stringer (obviously!):
Tom must've had to take them off again after the game, wonder how he managed...
So here we are again for this fortnight, at the back end of another issue, only 64 more plus specials and annuals to go! I'm really enjoying revisiting the series this way and look forward to reading each new issue as I go along. Nope, I'm still not jumping ahead and I won't, and I know there's some of you out there doing the same as me and it's brilliant to read all of the great reactions to this comic after all this time. I've got a couple of ideas of how to fill (some of) the gaps between issues so stay tuned, and believe me you haven't seen the last of these early issues yet either.
But for now, I'll leave you with this. Cross my favourite movie of all time with my favourite comic of all time, via Ian Jackson, and this is what you get. Keep a wee eye on all the little details in each caption, that's all I'm sayin':
Next issue on sale Friday 28th June.