Friday, 4 April 2014

#25: BACK IN THE PLAY PEN


It'll be almost time to catch my breath, right after this issue in fact, since I'm no longer behind schedule, although there is the matter of an extra special Oink! but I'll mention that at the end.  In the meantime here's the toys and hobbies issue and of course that instantly conjures up images of scientific experiments, voodoo and torture.  Or at least it does if you're Hadrian Vile or his artist Ian Jackson by the looks of it.

But what's this?  35p?  "Thirty-FIVE!?  How dare they?!"  Yup, it had to happen eventually and now, one fortnight away from the 1st anniversary edition Oink!'s had to make the jump and take its first price increase.  It's strange to look back now at how different titles were priced.  When Oink! was released it was 30p, yet its stablemates Buster and Whizzer & Chips at IPC Magazines were only 24p, then when the price went up 5p with the pigs, the others only went up 2p.  I remember by the time Oink! folded at the end of the following year Buster was still only 28p.  Was it because Oink! was independently made?  Was it the glossy paper?  Or simply what was worked out by all involved?

Looking back I remember every time a new comic would launch it'd be a few pence more expensive.  When Marvel's The Real Ghostbusters came out it was more expensive than their Transformers, even though both were the same size and shape, while Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends from Marvel was also more expensive yet had less pages.  Maybe it was simply easier to introduce slightly higher prices with new titles than to increase the current ones by that amount.  Or maybe, as I said, each title had its expenses, target audience, projected figures etc worked out by everyone.  Who knows?  My mum definitely wanted to know why every time they went up.

But really, when you think 35p it's unbelievable isn't it?  How on earth could this be produced to such high standards and only cost this much?  It's nothing!  Ahh the days of getting 50p pocket money and being able to buy a comic and a Mars bar.  Long, long time ago that.  (Though my 'reserved at the newsagents' comics never came out of pocket money so I was quick to learn to place an order once I liked something!)

Now, when people hear that Oink! could be cheeky and a little bit rude, they instantly think of bodily functions, but come on is that really what we found funny?  Writer Mark Rodgers and artist Mike Green certainly seemed to think so with Fatty Farmer:


We were kids!  Of course we found it funny!  Fatty Farmer (original tagline: "He's a whole lot calmer") had been introduced in the kinda-relaunch issue #15 when a raft of newbie characters were with us for the first time.  But don't for one minute think this was a cruel strip where the comic took the mickey out of his being overweight.  On the contrary, he'd use his figure to win battles over bullies or, like above, just to have a good time for example.  A miniature feel-good strip and a nice addition.  Though if he ever did any actual farming we never saw it.

If you cast your mind back to the revenge-themed issue #9 you'll probably remember the back page and that nightmare of Mary Lighthouse's after she'd eaten her bacon buttie.  Well actually if you've read that issue once you're most likely to be unable to forget that back page!  Brilliantly crafted and terrifying in equal measure, the unique artwork of Jon Langford hasn't been seen nearly enough so it was a great thrill to see him return in the pages of this issue with The Terrible Toys, which is written by Mark Rodgers also:


And actually that's not the scariest Santa Claus you'll see on the blog, trust me!

We settled back down into more familiar territory after this with Mr Big Nose, Harry the Head presenting cut-out pieces to make your own balloon Harry and Hadrian Vile telling us about his favourite pastimes - slug racing, "bilding a howme-mayde volkaynoe", making disgusting sandwiches and hiding his dad's slipper.  Wonder what certain groups these days would make of a comic making fun of parents smacking their children?

Oh and in case you're wondering, the "fantastic cut-out zeo-trope" is a Frank Sidebottom page where you could create your own animated Frank, one of those round toys with slots in them that when you spin it all the images inside look like they're moving.  Add in the Harry the Head stuff and a cut-out stage and puppets and there wouldn't be much of this issue left if you actually created these things!

Now, last time, I did mention fans of Lew Stringer would have plenty to look forward with this issue and I'm going to place them all right after one another here, even if that isn't exactly the way they're positioned in the actual comic.  We've already seen Music-Mad Jo getting hit by a lorry because she was too busy listening to loud music on her personal stereo (remember them?) and the road safety message that came with that.  Poetically written, Lew returns now with another rhyming tale and again there's a lesson to be learned, Oink!-style, in Hey! Do You Need a Hobby?:


About a decade ago I was a train conductor and in my 4 years there I saw many a trainspotter and appeared in I-don't-know-how-many home videos and photographs as my trains arrived or left stations (when I first began we still had the manually opening doors where we needed to have our heads out the window at such times), never mind when I was the guard on a steam special!  They weren't quite as bad as our protagonist above, but I have a feeling one or two were only ever a few coffees away from it...

From a returning theme to a returning character and it gives me great pleasure to welcome back Specky Hector the Comics Collector.  When he appeared in the war-themed issue (#20) I was sure I recognised him as a regular but in the comments left by Peter Gray and Lew himself I thought maybe I was mistaken, as it seemed he appeared in Buster after that and had just originated in Oink!  Maybe he'd appear once or twice, but I hoped it wouldn't be too long until he did.  Thrilled, he's appeared already just 5 issues later, with a guide which will speak to many of us I'm sure, whether you only collect specific titles off eBay as I do, or are a hardened collector, or even just watch The Big Bang Theory!:


Finally from Lew is another surprise, a second part to last issue's Tom Thug strip.  Okay, so not a surprise to you as I mentioned it last time, but as I said before I didn't know it was a story which was to get an actual resolution.  Of course Tom couldn't remain that way forever but this is a neat way to bring him back, and we get the additional pleasure of seeing Satan back in his own little mini-strip too:


Nice to see Ian Hislop make a special celebrity appearance there as Wayne, or is that just me?

Another nice little one-off drawn by Ian Jackson now, only this time with actual words.  A simple little strip but made nonetheless charming in its own 'Oink!' way by the artwork - the jaggy lines and Ian's style lending it a special 'something' which, as with all his work, you just can't take your eyes off:


A couple more of those little quarter-page strips being featured this time around, as this issue has a very high level of top quality quick jokes hitting the mark and there can be none more guaranteed to do just that than the Ian Knox-drawn Roger Rental, this time written by Mr Rodgers:


Just before we reach the exciting news I started this post off with we introduce another new regular character to the blog.  First rising in the keep fit issue (of all things) and making his first reappearance since, Dead Fred definitely returns regularly as he's another one of those characters that stayed with me.  Here written by Mark Rodgers and always drawn by Wilkie (who did that superb war cover for #20), Fred was exactly what it said on the tin - a dead body.  A walking zombie who was just trying to fit in with everyday life and despite rotting away he'd kept his sense of humour about it!:


No particular Fred strips spring to mind from the time of publication all those years ago but I look forward to rediscovering them again, after all the character has to have stayed with me all these years for some reason.

Well then that's us again.  It's great to finally give you an issue on the actual date it hit our newsstands 27 years ago, after all that was the whole point of this when I first started a year ago.  Yes, a whole year almost.  And it's this special anniversary which we'll be celebrating with the next issue which goes on sale Friday 18th April.

Ah but!  Uncle Pigg is especially happy, as not only is he celebrating a full year of the world's greatest comic but there's also the first ever Oink! Holiday Special which went on sale at the same time as this issue here!  Just think of all that extra money he made for his birthday (on top of all those extra 5p's too):

Drawn by Tony Husband

So while it's a full fortnight once more until the next regular issue, look out for the first of two posts for the special before then.  After all, it is a big fat pig of a comic so one post just wouldn't do it justice.

See you back here soon (again).

4 comments:

Lew Stringer said...

I think you're right about the paper quality having an impact on the price, Phil. Oink was glossier and more colourful than other IPC humour comics so unfortunately it meant a higher price. I'm sure being a fortnightly played a part too, as IPC and newsagents would want a higher return for it being on sale for 14 days.

Thanks for showing my pages again. Again, I'd forgotten the hobbies one, but I remember now that I really enjoyed doing that. Mark Rodgers suggested the advisory at the end. I added the bit about the hat not suiting them.

I'd also forgotten that Specky Hector originated in Oink until you showed these pages recently. So that's a fourth Oink character who transferred over to Buster, albeit on a very infrequent basis.

Paul said...

I love that Tom Thug strip. It's great to see Tom in full 1980s-Walter-the-Softy mode!

Phil Boyce said...

Never even considered the fact it was fortnightly being an issue which could determine price, Lew. Makes perfect sense obviously, and I've mentioned it before in the blog about the paper and people reading it now must think I'm crazy. But it really was that different to what we were used to!

One of these days maybe I should go through the Oink!s and send you all the one-off strips you did, your body of work is so huge no wonder you've forgotten some of them!

Hi Paul, it's a brilliant example of the Tom strip isn't it? You can thank you man above!

Lew Stringer said...

Don't put yourself to the trouble of doing that Phil. I have all my Oink's in a box nearby. It's just that I haven't looked through them in years, which is why at I forget the one off strips.