Friday, 11 July 2014


I'm not a big sports fan, never have been.  Football/soccer bores me.  There, I've said it.  Now the Olympics I do enjoy, in fact I love them and it's the only time you'll see me glued to the screen for any kind of sporting event.  Back as a teen I took an interest in proper football (the American sort) after dabbling in John Madden on the Mega Drive and later followed the American basketball for a while.  I do keep active myself, running and swimming and I look forward to the next Summer and Winter Games, but that's it and so issues of a sporting theme were never going to grab me in the same way as others in Oink!'s run, but they'd a large audience to write for and so I went into this one with an open mind.

Even with my limited sporting knowledge and even more limited enjoyment of a lot of it, there's still some nice treats in this latest issue and artist Steve McGarry follows up his previous sporting cover for #4 for starters, though the accompanying strip isn't great I have to say.  Inside it's a surprisingly mixed bag but the highlights are definitely the return of The Street-Hogs, Weedy Willy's usual 3-panel strip is as good as ever (he hasn't had a full page in a long time now, strange for a character that would live beyond the life of the comic for a while) and Hadrian Vile continues his preparations for his baby brother or sister and as usual causes chaos, but at the moment he's even funnier because he's actually trying to do something he's not used to doing: being nice!

Now the 'Hogs will be appearing in their own posts very soon just like they did originally last year on the blog and back then another early addition to each issue of Oink!, that had its own selection of posts, was the Oink! Superstar Posters series.  Six of these were drawn by the 'Hogs' J.T. Dogg, but the last two were by Ian Jackson, who many would say was the signature artist of the comic.

Well Ian returns to the poster format and another Oink! Superstar one at that for this issue and I don't need to say that this is another highlight of the issue.  Even though I just have:

Now, recently Oink! Facebook group member Caroline Stokes shared the following old magazine advert:

Yes, Oink! has a very random sense of humour at times and this has rubbed off on those of us who grew up reading it, but there was method in Caroline's madness, as she'd remembered Oink! did a spoof.  As coincidence would have it, writer Graham Exton and artist Lew Stringer had indeed concocted the following for this very issue:

Only slightly more ludicrous than the original ad.

Lew informs us in the comments section that there's a reason behind the borders being black like that.  I just assumed it was a design choice to make it really stand out.  But actually there was a leak in the Oink! studio roof one day after a particularly bad dose of Manchester rain and several pages were water damaged before being published.  If you look at that first panel, the orange glow in the sky isn't meant to be there and is part of this damage.  To cover up the rest of what the water had done to the page they (Patrick, Tony, Mark - not Lew as this would've been sent by him via the post to the editors) coloured the borders in black.  Lew himself even says he thinks it's ended up improving the overall look.

Excitingly this issue does see the introduction of one of my most fondly remembered strips.  Created by Rubbish Man's Haldane, it was a half-page regular strip in which we got to see two brothers, twins in fact, take great pride in their work.  They really enjoyed their career, strived to be the very best at what they did, had found a niche industry to build a good reputation in and most of all knew how to have a good, light-hearted attitude in the workplace.  Surely really good role models for the UK's youth?

Certainly.  Introducing The Torture Twins:

Sticking with Haldane for a moment, way back in the depths of time that was #4 I introduced the blog's first Zootown tale by stating how the more docile creatures featured would never actually end up on the buffet menu.  Even though the carnivorous characters in each edition would make remarks towards their ingestion, there still seemed to be some kind of strange friendship towards the cuddly bear-type creatures.

Well I've been wrong before:

In the last two issues I've featured Banx's brilliant Burp, the Smelly Alien from Outer Space.  Though he could have changed his character's sub-heading to the Gory Alien from Outer Space, made even funnier by the fact Burp himself seemed immune to what he was doing and the surreal nature of said gore.  With the surprise effects of his malfunctioning fast food machine in #30, followed by the inner workings (literally) of Ronald Reagan's head in #31 and then this issue's final outcome, I'm including his strip again in his own kind of Trilogy of (Unintentional) Terror.  Take it away one more time, Burp:

One of the best bits of information I found out from getting to speak to the Oink! creators online was that Cowpat County artist Davy Francis is also from Northern Ireland, just like me.  In fact I've lived in the same city for the past 12 years, though just moved away a couple of months ago (this is separate from finding out Davy lives there I should add!).  So for me seeing his artwork now in the comic is extra special as it's officially from 'local talent' as the Belfast Telegraph would put it.  Anyway, just thought I'd share as I thought this next one-off was a bit special too:

Tom's Toe first appeared back in #12 of the comic and I never thought we'd see him again, as he appeared to be very much a one-off strip to take the mickey out of the comic titles which artist John Geering usually worked on, with Whizzer and Chips taking the brunt of it in that issue.  Pleasingly, Tom has reappeared once or twice since then, for example in the Holiday Special.  Well here he's back once more, now with a sporting theme and once again it's quite clear it's having a good-humoured stab at its stablemate titles.

To show you what I mean I've split the page into two parts below.  Here's the first half:

Now in what you might call a 'normal' comic this would've been the entire story.  The above would've been expanded to a full page, with Tom and his friends innocently playing football, bursting the ball, moaning their fun was all over and then Tom's unique ability producing that comic's 'hilarious' climax.  "Hahaa, oh he made it into a football this week, that's great!  I wonder what he'll do next time?"

But this is Oink!

Oink! takes what the other comics would do and goes that bit further.  In this case, it answers the question of how exactly would that work then?!:

I don't remember Tom's Toe at all from my childhood so I'm not sure how often he appears but I do hope he comes back at some point, as he's a great antidote for the stereotypical comics of the day.  The fact he's drawn by an artist who would draw for those other comics all the time just makes him even more special.  Great stuff.

Even the comic's regular characters would sometimes throw us a curve ball and we'd get something different now and then.  Such as cut-out Christmas decorations of Tom Thug, a special mini-comic for Pete and his Pimple (to come up soon) or a frankly scary-looking Snatcher Sam mask.  But surely no other character had such a diverse amount of content than Chris Sievey's Frank Sidebottom.

Chris seems to have really enjoyed creating things for the kids to make or play with and he certainly didn't let us down with this issue's (deep breath) Frank "Windy" Sidebottom vs Elton John All-Star Cut-Out Snooker Game.  I challenge anyone to understand these rules:

I love the writing on the underside of the cut-out Elton John, "you can even"(!!) cut up other magazines or your own photos, like Frank was imparting something brilliant and unheard of.  It was also Oink! getting its readers to go and cut up everyone else's things too.

So there we go, that's it for now but I'll be back on Friday 25th July with an issue theme which really puzzled me as a kid, but which at the same time made me very, very happy to be living in Northern Ireland and not England.  What is it?  Come back and find out.

1 comment:

Lew Stringer said...

Ah that Weightlifter page. as I understand it there was a leak in the Oink! studio roof one day after a bad bout of Manchester rain and that was one page which got a bit water damaged before it was published. The orange glow at the top of the sky wasn't supposed to be there. That's colour run from the water damage! They added the black border to cover up other areas where the colour had bled due to being soaked. Actually I think it improved it!