Friday, 8 August 2014

#34: HALF-TIME SHOW


Can you believe we're already at the halfway point in the regular issues?  That's right, just another 34 to go after this one until that final, fateful issue appears in October 2015 right here.  But as I've mentioned recently the blog will continue, so this is no time to get down, it's a time to celebrate the fact that after all these lovely issues we've still got the same amount yet to cover!  Plus, as a way of acknowledging the fact we've covered half the issues I'm going to put up a particularly nostalgic post in a few days which I hope you'll enjoy.

Back to the present 27 years ago and Ed McHenry gives us a fantastic Thundercats riff with the cover of our Amazing Adventure Issue, filled with daring dos and spoof action tales.  I have a very distinct memory of reading this issue thanks to this cover and the fact my older brother was a Thundercats fan.  CBBC (when it was a couple of hours in the afternoon on BBC One) started the series with a double-length episode I remember, but back then we all had loyalties to either BBC or ITV for our afternoon kids' telly and I was an ITV boy at this young and naive stage.  Later in life I discovered the rich content of BBC children's programming I missed out on as a result.

Now while the Thunderpigs are featured below and they've got the cover, for me they're not the headline act here.  For some reason I'd no recollection of the following actually happening but it was an absolute joy to open pages 4 and 5 now and discover the following mega-crossover!  Forget Age of Ultron, this is where it's at:


Zeta had already featured in the comic's Tom Thug strips as his girlfriend but little did we know she was Zeta Throb and related to the Pete and his Pimple star.  Lew Stringer's creations were fan favourites and to this day still stand out as such with the now-much-older readers.  I'm sure this strip is going to please many when they see it, including some of our younger readers who are enjoying this comic for the first time.  It was also a great time to be a fan of Pete in particular, as he'd soon be subject to his own pull-out comic and then the time would come, not far off now, when readers would be asked to send in their solutions to his pimply problem.  Watch out for these as they're handled brilliantly by Lew.  After all, none were allowed to work.

Also in case you missed it Tom has already featured in a special crossover story in #13 of Oink! when he came face-to-face with none other than Weedy Willy in a special strip which saw both Lew Stringer and Mike Green work on the same pages and within the same panels!  Written by Lew, Mark Rodgers and Graham Exton it's a highlight of the entire run and you can catch up by clicking here.

Now that we've passed the real main strip for many of us, it's time to introduce the latest in a long tradition of Oink! spoofs.  Written by who else but Mark Rodgers and drawn by the same hands as the cover above (Ed McHenry in case your memory is going the same way as mine) here they are - the Thunderpigs:


More of a parody of all children's cartoons of the day than just the 'Cats, this strip made a good point.  In the early 80s rules were relaxed about not allowing children's TV to promote toys etc.  This opened the floodgates to whole series based on our favourite playthings, led expertly by The Transformers and Masters of the Universe.  While Thundercats was first and foremost a TV series and the toys were a spin-off of it rather than the other way around, Oink! still gets the point across.

Reading this I'm actually remembering why I didn't follow the Thundercats as a child and it wasn't just because it was on the 'wrong channel' - that bloody Snarf character and the two kiddie cats were so annoying, even as a child myself.

I have to say it was an absolute torture to choose what to include in this post, there's some real gems I've had to leave out such as Burp's man-eating bathtub, Rubbish Man's disastrous present buying skills for Frozen Chicken Man, Hadrian Vile playing 'He-Person and the Lords of the Yooniverse' and Mary Lighthouse's strip expertly ripping apart those who protest violently against violence on TV and in comics.  Though I'm not too fussed on the Harry the Head strip when it does an 'ongoing adventure' type of story, much better when it focuses on a tight, funny page instead.  Asides from that though, seriously get this issue picked up from eBay if you get the chance and by way of example the next few scans all come from a run of 6 pages right in the middle of the comic, one glorious bit of paper after another.

We start off with Banx's latest Butcherwatch.  Well technically it is but by this stage his Jimmy 'The Cleaver' Smith creation had captured the imaginations of not just Banx himself obviously, but also of the young readership who became enraptured in following the terrifying serial butcher's despicable doings to the good pigs of the UK.  So the semi-regular Butcherwatch updates had now been officially renamed here as Cleaver Flash!:


When you think about the fact pigs were full citizens in the world of Oink! it's brave to show a character like this covered in pig blood and standing in pools of it every time he popped up, but we all knew what butchers did for a living and that this was just an exaggerated bit of fun.  Saying that, the character did send shivers up the spine as a kid as he is just so creepy looking and Banx seemed to have great fun in being as disturbing as he could get away with in a kids' comic.  Just look back at my last example of him creeping silently through a window and now with that last panel above as well is it any wonder we looked forward to his infrequent visits to the pages of Oink! - kids love a good scary baddie!

I also like the nice little details above such as the reporter constantly covering the face of the victim with his mic, the way the pools of blood appear to be literally pouring from his cleavers and rippling away from his feet and the look of the poor victim in that middle-right panel on the second page as he realises things aren't quite right.  Brilliant stuff.

Next Ron Tiner makes a welcome return with his very 'IPC adventure comic' style for this fun one-off spoof of everyone's favourite nature programme presenter and narrator:


The next strip is rather exciting when you look back on it in hindsight.  In the 2000s Lew Stringer took over the Mini Marvels strip in Panini's Marvel Rampage comic.  After the comic itself finished its run Lew was then approached to continue these small humour strips in the UK's Spectacular Spider-Man comic.  Think Robo Capers from The TransformersCombat Colin from Action Force (and later The Transformers too) and Blimey! It's Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters.  They felt like extra treats every issue and were hugely enjoyable.

Unfortunately when Disney took over the Marvel empire they stopped all UK-originated material in their comics, not only these wonderful humour strips but any and all UK main strips, all being replaced with Amercian reprints.  Fair enough the Marvel monthlies we get here are great value for money, usually combining three titles of American content for the price of one comic (and DC do the same - Batman Legends was once a favourite of mine), but there was still room for original UK comics with these characters.  Not anymore though.

Thankfully Lew has shared some of his Mini Marvels on his Lew Stringer Comics blog and you can click here (you really, really should!) to see all his posts tagged with the 'Spider-Man' label who was a regular fixture of these strips.

Now you've gone and enjoyed them why am I bringing them up here on The Oink! Blog?  Well, in his blog Lew says how much fun he had drawing these famous characters.  However, in this issue Lew came up with this brilliant little spoof of one of those very characters, many years before getting the official gig:


Before we move on again, just go back and check out the graffiti on the wall there if you missed it.

Now on to the bottom half of this page which is a lead-in to the poster which came with this issue:


You'll have seen on the front cover above reference to a "Norm-ham Conquest" pull-out.  Imaginatively written by Tony Husband and superbly drawn by Wilkie this is the creme de la creme of historical satire.  The style would made a great poster in a big elaborate frame, only to surprise visitors to your home when they take a closer look at The Styeux Tapestry 1066:


If anyone asks you to show them an example of Oink! when you're trying to describe it to the, wanting to make sure they don't think it's just like any other comic you're simply partial to, then show them that!  To me it perfectly captures the comic's sense of humour, but then again it is written by one of its editors and creators so how could it not?

Just a brief side note now.  I find it so strange, after recent talk on the Facebook group about it, how Computer & Video Games magazine apparently raved about the Oink! computer game so much back in the day.  There's a little panel in this issue about their review where they gave it 9/10 for graphics, 8/10 for sound and full marks for value and playability.  Maybe we're too close to the subject matter but the general consensus amongst us was that it was a fun game but ultimately too basic and disappointed us as it had really nothing to do with the comic.  But there you go.  If you're interested in trying it out it's available for Commodore 64/128, Amstrad CPC and Sinclair Spectrum computers on cassette and disk (where available) on various retro sites and eBay if you've got one of those systems at home.  I've also covered it before - as well as the special edition of Oink! created for it - right here.

Back to the rest of the issue and I'm going to round it off with two great examples of that Oink! sense of humour I mentioned above.  The three-panel strips from this comic would make a great digital collection of quick-fire laughs in a very spontaneous-feeling assortment of jokes and randomness.  Take these two as examples.  First up Roger Rental - he's completely Mental! written by Howard Osborn and drawn as ever by Ian Knox and followed by Tarzipan of the Apes from Davy Francis:



Great to see Tarzipan becoming a possible semi-regular, having appeared two issues ago in #32 where I assumed he was simply a one-off.  Here's hoping he makes more appearances if the first two strips of his are anything to go by.

Well folks that's us for this issue.  It's been a pleasure as always, only moreso this time around.  Oink! is my favourite comic (hence the blog in the first place) but now and again you just get an issue which places itself firmly into your top issues list and this is certainly one of them.  Most of the memories of Oink! I still have in the recesses of my brain come from the latter half of 1987, the fortnightly issues in these coming six months just seem to have stuck with me all the way through my life, especially those from #36 onwards.  But we'll chat about that when the time comes as Oink! underwent a change with that issue which you'll see in four weeks.  But anyway it was a nice surprise to come across an issue with so many fond memories and a new addition to that favourites list, even before those ones I hold so dear come along.  A nice surprise.

As mentioned before expect more blog updates between issues and then the next one will be on sale on Friday 22nd August.

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