I decided a recent visit to the hospital (and the hospital waiting area) was the best time for me to read this in preparation for this post and it really is one of the very best issues so far. Rather than the majority of strips following a theme (some do take the route of stories based on summer holidays) it's a delightfully random selection of fantastic and 'out there' ideas from the creme-de-la-creme of British comics writers and artists. A few pages in and you realise you really don't know what to expect next. While this is true of any issue of Oink!, it's even more so here and this was a wonderful surprise.
We start and end proceedings with a Mary Lighthouse strip, or so it seems, but it's not long before a cruelly funny twist of fate brings her together with you-know-who, as written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Oink!'s legendary Ian Jackson:
You'll see the conclusion soon but not in this post, as you'll see below.
We've got a few returning characters in this who we haven't seen in a while. Annuals and specials are created a long time in advance and this could account for the return of such early characters as Nigel & Skrat the two-headed rat, Billy's Brain (who I thought ran for longer - maybe he returns at some stage or just appears occasionally from now on) and Pete's Pup, the mammoth-sized pet dog and his forever-tortured human family. Tom's Toe also makes a reappearance, who we've only previously seen in #12 back in October last year. Here Tony Husband and John Greering keep the overly-cheesy spoof of other IPC comics going in fine form. Even Bony Hart is back!
But it's Graham Exton and Jeremy Banx's fault that I received strange looks from other waiting patients at the hospital a couple of weeks ago. Banx's artwork lends itself wonderfully to random little one-offs alongside his established regular characters and the blog has featured some examples of these in issues 10, 12 and especially #13. But here not only did we get a full page one-panel Mr Big Nose elsewhere in the comic but we were also treated to this, written as I say by Graham Exton:
Well, after reading that delightfully crazy strip I was already chuckling into myself, being very discreet, then I carried on and only a few pages later...:
That was it, as soon as I saw the title I erupted in the middle of the waiting room. You know that short, sharp and very loud noise you make when your body wants to laugh but you try to catch it just a second too late? Yep, that. Surrounded by a lot of very serious looking people all tired of waiting for so long, I don't think my enjoyment of the NHS waiting area went down too well. So thank you Graham and Jeremy. Worth it though.
In #23 we'd the pleasure of Oink! taking some old photographs and creating some hilarious captions for them, completely changing their original intent. The same idea is brought back here in six profiles of Oink's Piggin' Crazy Readers. Is this an accurate description of all of us who grew up with the sense of humour this comic implanted in us? You be the judge:
Now when you go on holiday what do you do with your heavy cases? Do you lug them around yourself? Does your loved one offer to do it for you? Or do you make sure you've got money to tip the porter at your hotel? What if, instead, you just brought a friend:
Haldane's Zootown is always a reliable destination.
In the special we'd actually a rather special (yes the same word twice in a sentence but it's fitting) contribution from megastar Frank Sidebottom in the shape of a 2-page board game, all very unfairly balanced against anyone who chose to be Little Frank. The idea was that the evil Kilvertians had invaded and Frank and his pals were going to battle them in their rocket of metal bins. This was prefaced with a comic strip and, after Frank had left a note for his mum to put his tea in the oven because he'd be in space, we were treated to these rather charming cut-out pieces for the game, as ever drawn by Frank's creator Chris Sievey:
The Thunderbird one is my favourite I have to say. Chris' artwork does have a certain something which I think I appreciate all the more now as an adult, or maybe that's just the nostalgia, or simply the fact I didn't know he did all his own work for Oink! when I was a kid. Anyway, a delightful addition to the special.
Have you ever used the Comixology app on your mobile or tablet? I've used it for the new Transformers comics and let's not forget Psycho Gran is also back in a brand new comic all of her own through them as well (catch up here). One thing the app version of their website allows you to do is to view each panel of the comic one-by-one as a full-screen image. While it's a feature of the app I'd turn off when reading Transformers because the artwork is very dynamic - panels are different shapes and sizes and overlap so sometimes you'd miss part of the excellent artwork - for humour comics such as Psycho Gran it can work a treat. Each panel comes up as a huge image on my iPad, leaving the punchline hidden until the very end, stopping any accidental glances from spoiling the joke when you turn over a page.
A digital Oink! could benefit greatly from something like this. For example just imagine the next strip in that format and you might see what I mean:
Add in some dramatic musical tone with each new panel and I think it'd be a winner. Just as Oink! was revolutionary for its time, it could be again with all of the new technology available. Oink! was a comic for children like nothing before it and there's so much potential out there in the digital realm for the way comics could be interacted with, but really nothing is changing. With the new digital-only markets out there and Psycho Gran already back, I just keep thinking there's a market there, a gap and potential to change things around just like Uncle Pigg did 28 years ago. And I can think of no better pig for the job.
But I digress...
This is also the first time I've noticed Haldane writing a script for another artist to draw, this time it's by Pete Dixon who we haven't featured yet here.
But speaking of David Leach's little lady:
Wonderful to look back on these original adventures of her's and know she's still alive and kicking today.
Our final strip for now is a welcome return to the blog for regular Hadrian Vile and this time it's his "Hollyday Diary" we're being treated to. Brought to us by the usual team of writer Mark Rodgers and artist Ian Jackson here's what happens when you try to take him to the beach... and to be fair he was simply trying to have some father-son time:
Scanning back over this post before I finish this would normally (hopefully) make up an entertaining enough post for you all for an issue of Oink! But this is the summer special and there's more to come! These highlights are only from the first half, the first 24 pages and, after the 4-page GBH holiday brochure that makes up the middle, there's more delights to come. These include a 3-page Burp! to look forward to and a 4-page epic that'll bring out all those nostalgic feelings you have for 80s gameshows and celebs... um... well, trust me, it's unmissable!
So when will you not be missing it? Given this is a holiday special and technically is meant to last that bit longer come back next month for the second half when, with any luck, the sun will be shining and all those people who bitch about the rain and wind in winter will be bitching about the sun and lack of wind. Then the following month there's another treat alongside the regular fortnightlies but I'm keeping shtum for now.
Until then though, remember this coming Friday 18th is Oink!'s birthday issue and it's a classic. Hopefully see you then.