Wednesday, 25 June 2014

CRASH: SPECIAL OINK! ISSUE & PULL-OUT COMIC!


Eh?  Probably got you a bit confused to see Timothy Dalton on a Spectrum computer gaming magazine (as ever drawn by the talented Oliver Frey), but have a closer look because I haven't made a mistake... yup, there's that same pig silhouette used in pre-Oink! advertising and on the plastic bags the preview issue was wrapped in and it's completely suitable here because this issue of Crash contains a special 16-page pull-out sample issue!

THE COMPUTER GAME

And it's not as random as you might initially think, as in the summer of 1987 CRL released the Oink! computer game for the Commodore 64/128, Spectrum and Amstrad CPC ranges, on cassette tapes and those 5 1/4" inch floppy (as in actually floppy, kids) disks.


Three years later the game would be given away free on the covertape of #2 of Commodore Format so that's how I came to play it a few years back when I indulged in a bit of retro gaming on the C64.  Strangely renamed 'Pig Tales' inside the actual magazine, the game boasted the usual Oink! logo and character names upon loading.

The game itself was okay taken on its own merits with an overhead flying game which was titled Rubbish Man, a Breakout clone called Pete's Pimple with the pimple as the ball and a zombie chasing game for Tom Thug.  Yes, really.  As a licenced product it had very little to tie itself in with the comic.  The overall theme was that by playing the three mini-games you'd collect panels of comic strip and as Uncle Pigg you'd put these into place, up against a time limit to play all this and get it to the printers.  As you can see it wasn't the best thought out of tie-ins and no one who worked on the comic had any input into the game, with the humour sorely lost in translation.  Still, as a game in its own right it seemed to do well at the time critically, garnering respectable 7 or 8 out of 10 scores, and even full marks in Computer & Video Games magazine!

You can read a review of the Commodore version from Zzap!64 magazine right here.  Make sure to click to the next page for a couple more opinions on the game.

More screenshots of this version are also available on the Lemon 64 website's page for the game.

So to celebrate, Crash magazine did an extended preview and arranged to have a specially commissioned comic to give away free.  First up, the preview in the magazine itself.

CRASH

The preview was mainly made up of a fascinating interview with Patrick Gallagher, Tony Husband and Mark Rodgers, Oink!'s leading men, during which they'd touch upon the creation of the comic, the very reason behind its existence, its sense of humour and popularity and sales, the real Mary Whitehouse, the future and the furore around the Janice & John strip which appeared in #7 and which was followed up on in the comic itself in #28.  But you don't need me to tell you about it, you can read it all here for yourself:

Who says you have to take your job seriously all the time??

Also in this issue Frank Sidebottom would be in charge of the production of a competition for readers to win a copy of the game, which involved trying to find the word "Oink" as many times in a hand-drawn wordsearch, as well as his own "Top 5 Computers" which were (and I quote, hence no capital letters too) "the very big super crazy MKIII, a mega amiga, come through the door 64, the one with the rubber keys and the spectrum 3".

With the comic I've got into the habit of mentioning some of the contents I haven't included and in this issue of Crash I've certainly had myself transported back more than usual!  While I was a Commodore 64 person, this issue of the magazine contains a great feature on the "new Bond" Timothy Dalton (my own personal favourite after Craig I have to say) and the stunts from his first film The Living Daylights alongside the preview of the game.  And there's a quaint feature on the new "Nintendo gaming console from Mattel" which is summed up with a conclusion which states that while the games are fun for arcade conversion fans, the price of the machine and its games and the fact you can't do anything else with it means it's a novelty and won't be a success, as people will continue to come to the Spectrum because of what it can offer.

Bless.

THE COMIC

There's that mug again!  Grr....

Yes here it is, a very rare little bit of Oink! history, it's a strange little title, not only in its tall and thin shape but also with some of its strips.  Don't get me wrong, we've got a great mix of regulars and a special one-off strip as well and for the most part they wouldn't look out of place in an issue of the fortnightly, but for three of the strips they just don't feel..... 'right'.

This is because they had to tie in with the tie-in.  Confused?  Well, the only way Haldane could tie in his brilliant Rubbish Man character to the game's plot was to actually have his characters play the game and get interrupted by a baddie.  Lew Stringer's Pete & his Pimple became simply 'Pete's Pimple' as the Breakout clone was all about the pimple itself and not Pete (and the pimple was seen bouncing about town taking out billie in the strip) and Tom Thug was dreaming about the zombie attack in his strip.  With the lack of thought going into the actual 'tie-in' part of the computer game itself, these were simply the best ways to try to tie the characters back into the characterless games.

In fact, Lew has talked about his strips on his Blimey! It's Another Blog About Comics blog which you can read here.  Hence why I've not included them here as you can visit Lew's great blog for those and find out from the man himself (who does a better job than I) about what was asked of these strips, his creation of them and, most interestingly, his thoughts on how the game turned Tom into a heroic good guy when the comic always made sure he wasn't - he was after all a bully!

But back to the remainder of the 16 pages and what have we got?  Well obviously with this being read by many, many new readers it needs an introduction from Uncle Pigg and Mary Lighthouse naturally, doesn't it?  Remember this guy?:


Well.....


Written by Mark Rodgers (who else?), having such a good cover (to the game and comic) and then the first inside page drawn by Ian Jackson I wonder how the impact with Crash readers compared to those of Buster, 2000AD, Whizzer & Chips etc in April the previous year when the preview issue first appeared.  But whatever it was, it set this up brilliantly for regular readers too as it gives it all a feeling of familiarity before the changes to Pete and Tom.  But then we get to the middle pages.

It's been a while since we've had a double page spread from the amazingly talented J.T. Dogg so you can imagine my delight when reading this and my eyes glanced upon the below!:


Nicely subverted story at the end there but then again this is Mark Rodgers writing again after all.  So two questions remain here - how exactly was this an "interactive comic strip" and what was it that stopped our hero dead in his tracks?  Surely they can't just leave us not knowing the answer to the latter one?  Well, actually, yes they can and they can also have the cheek of getting the readers to tell the creators!:


Yup, another competition!  Now that's the Oink! postal address, not Crash's, so I can only assume (hopefully correctly) we'll find out what the winning entry was at some later point in the run of the regular comic.  I'll keep you posted.  I'm sure you're at the edge of your seat.

Banx was another to contribute to this special, though it seems like a more natural fit for Burp to appear here as we've had a lot of science fiction elements already by this stage.  Here though he's treated to a page and a half and in full colour too.  The colour only makes me miss his internal organs though and there's no sign of the pet specimen from Uranus... maybe not suitable for Crash?  Anyway, it's still a good one for fans of the Smelly Alien from Outer Space:


In case you're interested in trying to track down this issue, it also contains strips from Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins, Harry the Head, Billy Bang and Mr Big Nose.  Also this little treat from Haldane's Hugo the Hungry Hippo which made me smile:


Now as we all know this is certainly the year of Frank Sidebottom and this special pull-out contained a surprisingly text-heavy double-page spread from the man himself.  But not only is it a delight to read, it also contains some actual working type-in programs for the Spectrum user of the late 80s.  He might have been a bit weary of computers if the 'how to make 1' segment is anything to go by(!), but these little gaming programs are not only working but are funny in their own right for what they actually are and what they do.

Complete with cassette covers which had nothing to do with what was on screen, just like a lot of games back then (but none for Little Frank's game, naturally) one is basically a game which would randomly select a point on the screen and you had to use your cursor to find it in a trial-and-error fashion.  The other, even more basically, was a linear romantic story (it was a game for girls you see) where all you'd do is hit a key to read the next line and it'd give you a couple of choices to get slightly different compliments about what a nice young woman you are.

Oh and Little Frank's "game" prints "l.f. is better than f.s." at random points on the screen.  That's it.

Here it is, in all it's glorious glory:


To finish, what else could be on the back page but a GBH madvertisement?  For the younger readers of the blog it might seem strange to think that around the time of Oink! video gaming was still very much a hobbyist's lot.

It was a very exciting time, with innovation every step of the way, games made by individuals not huge teams and thus these people became household names, home coders creating their own games and selling them, the beginnings of a multi-million pound industry... it really was in its toddler years here and while games for home computers such as the Commodores and Spectrums were selling massively, these games were anything between £1.99 for a budget game and £9.99-£19.99 for an 'expensive' full-price one.  We didn't know where it was going to go, but we knew it was the start of something.

By the end of the 1980s more powerful computers and gaming consoles started to appear and it began to grow beyond its beginnings, but it was a wonderful time and GBH saw an opening in the market for the kind of computing accessory no one knew they even needed:


So there you go, a rather lengthy post this time around but then again I was kind of covering two publications I suppose.  I hope you've enjoyed this, it's been a great trip down memory lane for me and makes a great addition to anyone's Oink! collection and I don't just mean the comic but the Crash magazine itself too.

To finish off, inside the pull-out there's a small advert you might like to see!!!:


Ooooh!!

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