A quick check with a couple of friends at the group that that particular page hadn't been reprinted later in the run and I had it, the first issue I ever owned as a kid! Ladies and gentleman, I'm very, very happy to introduce you to #14 of Oink!:
The more I look at this Banx cover the more I can remember getting my hands on it all the way back in 1986 and suddenly that whole "reading these 27 years later" thing I'm doing here feels like an awfully long time ago! More than anything so far in this blog this issue has been a real trip down memory lane and has made me long to jump forward to those issues I know I still hold dear as my favourites. But I won't, I'll stick to the rules and for now this issue will more than suffice.
We haven't actually had a proper strip from Mary Lighthouse (excuse me?!) and she kicks off proceedings on page 3 (oh no, nonono!!). No, calm down! This is all I meant, from Mark Rodgers and Ian Jackson as always:
Crime might seem like a strange topic for a kids' comic to tackle, but tackle it they did and they came up trumps throughout. Mary had nothing to worry about, the message was very clearly that crime doesn't pay, with criminals and bullies meeting their comeuppance in highly imaginative ways throughout, or a thief turning private detective (as you'll see below), but the comic also had a little joke at the local bobbies along the way.
Speaking of comeuppance, Tony Husband took this to a whole new level with this issue's Golden Trough Awards!:
This was me sold on Oink! I knew this comic wasn't going to be like anything else. I loved the above and Tony's artwork, plus having Hadrian Vile on the opposite page cemented this in my young mind. Then it was on to introducing me to my first spoof, which was of a certain television show my dad and brother used to watch and enjoy. It never appealed to me but I knew of it, enough to appreciate when the piss was surely taken:
If there'd been a comic (and if there was I apologise for not knowing) for The Professionals itself, this superb artwork from Ron Tiner wouldn't have looked out of place I have to say. The fact it's in such a lovingly crafted spoof is a real joy. Ron would return to Oink! with other spoof strips so you haven't seen the last of him here, but for now just savour the above before you turn against me with what's coming up next.
Regular readers will no doubt remember the achingly funny puns of Fish Theatre in the animal-themed #6 from a few months back. Well the person whose fault it was, er, I mean, the person who came up with such brilliant puns was Graham Exton, who decided to revisit the idea of trying to set a groaning record amongst readers with a murder mystery set on the Orient Express drawn by Roger Rental's Ian Knox.
Murder in the Orient Express Dining Car.
(Graham talks to us again briefly about the use of so many puns in one strip in the comments section, folks!)
If you can peel your eyes away from that overload (one too far?) my own young eyes then came across my first Oink! photo story. I honestly don't remember the above, but my first encounter with Snatcher Sam, while not up to his usual tricks, was something else. Going through this issue I'd say about 30% of it was still in the recesses of my mind somewhere and I can remember my reaction to my first Snatcher Sam but for the life of me this strip doesn't ring a bell. But my word, after Graham's puns above you may need to go and get a coffee before you proceed with what this strip has in store:
People sometimes doubt me when I say this comic still makes me laugh as an adult and that I mean out loud, not just inside my head. If any proof was needed, the panel on the second page above where he literally gives the gorilla his gun had me roaring when I read it for this update. Sam's still got it!
Marc Riley as Sam was one of my many favourite characters and his contributions remain as highlights for me all these years later. And this issue introduces another highlight, though on a different level. For every hero needs a nemesis, every goodie needs a baddie, every piggy editor needs a terrifying butcher. Though Uncle Pigg would never meet him in a strip, Oink! had it's very own definition of evil!
Butchers were always the butt of many jokes within the pages, but this issue would introduce one which would become infamous in future issues and I can remember a particularly brilliant front cover and the 'Wanted' pages in the second annual. Below doesn't give any indication of the chilling tales to come for Jimmy 'The Cleaver' Smith from Banx, but believe me Oink! fans will remember him!:
I can almost sense the shudder reverberating around the UK, so best move on for now, but try not to have nightmares. Also check your front door locks before bed, pig pals.
This next page lit up my eyes the moment I came across it while reading this issue. This is 100% recognised from my childhood. A little detective work later (suitably enough) and this was the conclusive proof this was indeed my first issue. I may even frame this comic's cover, but I digress.
Have a good look at this next page. It's a brilliant piece from Mike Roberts, but there's a riddle here. As an 8-year old I spent forever trying to figure this out, determined I wouldn't look at the answer until I got it myself. I can actually remember lying in bed with the lamp on, on a school night no less, and eventually giving up and checking the answer. Needless to say I laughed and then couldn't believe I'd missed it. So here you go and the answer is in the comments section so you're not tempted to peek!
I'm going to include the 'next issue' box on this occasion (though the poster was promoted elsewhere in the issue) for a very special reason, but first I'm going to finish off the strips with this from the back cover. Even though it was just the end of another issue for Mark Rodgers and Ian Jackson, to me The Hold-Up was a great sign-off from my first encounter with the piggy fortnightly and ensured I'd be back in two weeks time. This was the final bit of convincing, rounding up a hugely enjoyable read. I was hooked and I'd have a regular order at my local newsagents very quickly:
Hopefully you'll join me again in two weeks yourself and if you need any more convincing how about a new epic, not only drawn by the Street-Hogs' very own J.T. Dogg but also written by Tom Thug's creator Lew Stringer?:
That's right, Ham Dare is back! Well, almost. And a nice little reference there to the fact some of the more conservative newsagents like W.H. Smith were placing Oink! on the top shelves, as I've mentioned before. Also, new characters and a big free gift? Sounds like a big push from the creators is on the way here.
Next issue goes on sale on Friday 15th November, but for now I'm away to enjoy this one again!