Thursday, 13 March 2014

#20: SURVIVING OFF FOOD RASHERS

Originally due on the blog on Friday 24th January.


It seems very apt to be reviewing this particular issue at this time as the BBC begins its centenary programming for the first World War.  While this issue of Oink! is very clearly based more on the second War, it makes for an inspired read at times and I hope I can do the topic justice with my pick of the pork.  (Also remember, we've already had Harry the Head mark the anniversary of the Dambusters raid.)

It all kicks off with the strip on pages 2 and 3 which link in with that surprising cover, both drawn by Wilkie.  Surprising because it's not the sort of topic you'd expect a children's humour comic to cover in such a way.  Yes, The Beano and The Dandy were actually published during the second World War and obviously the majority of their stories took pot shots at the enemy and since then we've had other humour comics occasionally touch upon the subject in a strip here or there.  But not as a full blown cover-to-cover subject and Oink!'s irreverent style, well established by now, may seem like an odd fit when you first find out about the topic, but my word does it work!

It's a brave move, but one look at the cover and its little details and I think it's clear this would be a success.  Indeed, while being respectful, Oink!'s sense of humour is an absolutely perfect fit here. We've got period tales (see below), regular characters being inspired by the events of the war (Tom Thug builds a wooden tank, Hadrian Vile assembles his own army against the local bully), or the theme touching upon other battles (a Wild West butchers/pigs war) and parodies (The Great Escape in the Golden Trough Awards, which you'll see below!).

But to begin with, the star of the issue, that strip of the front cover:


With the one understandable exception being the new multi-issue story King Solomon's Swines, every other story covers the war setting, some in less obvious ways than others such as Haldane's here:


Now how do you link in a kid with a giant zit to the subject at hand?  I have no idea what thought processes writer and artist Lew Stringer went through but he managed it!  Also, when we first met Pete and his Pimple you may remember I said something would very often (most issues) happen to Pete's defining feature which would suddenly stop occurring when he moved into the pages of Buster comic after Oink! folded in late 1988.  Can you guess what I was referring to...?:


Yep, once Pete, Tom and Willy made the move to the more traditional comic that pimple couldn't burst anymore, but we can enjoy it here in the pages of Oink!, especially gross when it'd happen on one of those single-colour pages when Lew would treat us to a little yellow in his strips at just the right time.

Now I mentioned the Golden Trough Awards above and as usual it's a parody of a famous genre, or rather a very specific movie this time.  Think war movie.  Think any bank holiday on ITV.  Think of whistling the theme tune.  Now that it's stuck in your head for the rest of the day, here's Tony Husband's take on The Great Escape - Don't Wag Your Tail Till You're Free:


As if that wasn't surreal enough, we can always relay on Banx and his creation Mr Big Nose to bring us something different.  So we interrupt this issue for a special wartime announcement:


I was always a fan of comics as a kid, albeit just the British ones, the American ones came later (though obviously I did enjoy the US reprints in The Transformers).  I knew I was a geeky kid, just as I know I'm a geeky adult now in some aspects I suppose, but it never bothered me and I was lucky enough that comics always seemed acceptable in both my primary and grammar schools.  These days those that have never even read comics sport t-shirts proclaiming otherwise, mainly thanks to The Big Bang Theory and the success of recent comic book movies.

While geek is chic, it wasn't always so.  While I was never bullied there were those in the minority who would try to take the piss.  Mainly, however, anyone who did take the piss would also do so for anyone caught reading outside of class, which showed their own level of intelligence.  Hmm... Tom Thug isn't too far from the truth after all!  But those sorts of people were great cannon fodder for comics creators, and surely the best foil for them would be an actual comics collector in Oink! of all comics, yes?

Yes:


While I don't remember this particular strip, I'm almost sure I remember the character so I really hope I'm right and this further creation from the pens of Lew Stringer makes further appearances.

Next, from Davy Jones:


Remember those Milk Tray adverts from the 80s?  What if other food suppliers had got in on the act, what would their adverts look like today, when marketing departments can get away with a lot more on our screens?  Maybe Davy got it spot on.

On to the back page now and another Oink! moral tale for children.  Back at Christmas 1987, alongside the first Oink! Book, my parents got me the 50th Anniversary book for The Dandy and Beano.  A large portion of this was dedicated to the comics during wartime and it was a fascinating read to see how they survived those years.  Amongst these pages were short stories set out like the one below, rousing tales of heroism that would also connect with the young readers of the 1940s, relating the ongoing war to them in ways they could understand and rally behind.

Don't think any of them were written to the tune of a Rolf Harris song though...(as drawn by Chas Sinclair):


So there we have it, the end of the issue and the end of the war.  Could it even be that there's a ceasefire and peace between our esteemed editor Uncle Pigg and our favourite critic Mary Lighthouse?  A few panels into this Mark Rodgers/Ian Jackson 'next issue' promo and you'd think so:


Ha!  Of course not!

Now, I WILL be catching up, that's a promise.  In fact we should've been caught up by now, but a few ailments befell me at the same time, all being taken care of at last thanks to my new doctor, but basically I'm now permanently based at home for a while and have a pile of Oink!s just staring at me.  I'd say I've been dying to get back to the blog but I don't want to tempt fate.

Expect the Valentine's issue very soon, just a bit late, but then isn't that always the way with us men and that particular day?  Allegedly.

3 comments:

Peter Gray said...

Lew drew Specky Hector in Buster for the 35th anniversary about comic history..

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, I'd forgotten that Hector was actually created as an Oink! character before he re-appeared several times in Buster years later. Thanks for the reminder Phil!

Phil Boyce said...

Hey no worries Lew! Did he come back in Oink! after this? As I'm sure I recognise him from other strips of his.