Friday, 17 October 2014

#39: PUZZLING PARODY


The Great Games and Puzzles Issue has left me with a very simple set of decisions on what to include this issue.  Usually I struggle, but with a comic chock full of daft puzzles and the like, I just had to include as many as I could.  So, less strips as it were and instead prepare to interact with Oink! in the way we did with our comics back in the pre-digital age - with pen, paper and the post!

The cover here is superb and it was great fun to see Oink!'s legendary artist Ian Jackson take on drawing other artists' characters.  Recently on the Facebook Group Psycho Gran creator David Leach actually saw this for the first time when pig pal Becky Armstrong shared a photograph of some of her issues.  Becky kindly sent David the issue as he'd never seen the little old dear (I mean Psycho Gran, not Becky by the way) drawn by Ian before and didn't know she'd made the cover!  Even after all these years this comic still surprises.

You were always in for a treat with an Oink! when it had a Jackson cover and his take on Burp, Gran, Frank and Harry were indeed a surprise and hyped up the pages within for my young brain.  Inside on page two we see the start of another running gag, with Harry the Head lost and Uncle Pigg kicking him off through the pages.  We've had jokes like this before, with our own editor lost in time throughout an issue's pages in #24 and the custard pie joke of last issue.  It's probably because this usually rare feature appeared only one fortnight previous that makes this attempt feel a bit forced, but Harry's own page is included which you'll see below soon.

Just a brief side note first though.  Remember I said something would happen around this time which would affect Oink!?  Well, as described in #35, Oink! was placed into a sales group with a few other Fleetway titles and one of these was Nipper, a humour comic for a younger audience.  Unfortunately it hadn't found that audience, and so it was that in September of 1987 Nipper was cancelled and merged into Buster.  The comics sharing Oink!'s group were falling one-by-one.  What was Uncle Pigg to do?  You'll find out soon.

The issue is chock full of daft quizzes and puzzles and yet another Oink! board game, Hogopoly.  The instructions for this take up the majority of page 2 and just below it this quick strip from the duo who teamed up so successfully last issue, Marc Riley's Snatcher Sam and Chris Sievey's Frank Sidebottom, set up the tone of the pages in your hand:


Before the gaming goodness a couple more strips for you.  One I just had to include is obviously part two of The Spectacles of Doom sequel, The Monocles of Mayhem from Tony Husband and Andy Roper.  Last time we saw Endor and the Singing Sword head off for a new adventure and it looked like they were going to be enormously outnumbered by the evil Gash (ahem) and his multiple hordes of henchmen.  Time to even the odds somewhat:


Yes, this Spectacle story is indeed lasting longer than the two issues the previous tale managed, and folks I caved and looked ahead!  >>SPOILER<< It's here for a whopping five issues, right through to #42! >>SPOILER ENDS<< (As if anybody is going to think that's a spoiler!  It's hype!  Gotta get you all coming back here somehow...!)

Tony's freeform cartooning is well known to this day, with regular contributions to Private Eye, a recent fantastic cartoon-based book about his father's dementia, and even the occasional celebrity (to us) appearance on the BBC's Countryfile, amongst rafts of other work!  Check out his website on the left there sure.

But anyway, to return to that "freeform cartooning" description, we're all used to his seemingly random work with Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins etc., but here his scripting shines through.  His sense of fast-paced and surprising humour is also taken to new heights when coupled with such gloriously detailed artwork from Andy.  You don't expect such quick succession of jokes when reading a strip with such art and it's a pleasure to read.  If we ever got the chance to see a reprint collection of Oink! all five parts of this joined together would be one of the main attractions, no doubt.

Remember to come back in two weeks for the middle part.

For now, Rubbish Man returns and I know there'll be certain blog readers out there who'll have let out a little "whoop" upon reading that.  Haldane's creation has been with us since the very beginning and now he seems to be permanently attached to his sidekick, Boy Blunder.  This is no bad thing!  His first few appearances may have left us feeling like he was a temporary addition, but he's settled in well and having someone to banter with our hero now really adds something to the ongoing adventures.

Now, given the fact this is the Games and Puzzles Issue, what kind of baddie could our inept superheroes be facing this time around?  If you think back to a certain 60s television show there's only one possible answer there.  Even Rubbish Man himself knows that:


So now onto the main attraction - a selection of the brilliantly bizarre puzzle pages.  Of course EdMcHenry had to be involved, as he's provided us with some cracker ones in the past.  Some of these have featured in the blog too, which you can catch up on in the posts for #6, #9, #12, #15 and #23.  Given how great these have been it really was inevitable he'd be called upon again when we had a whole issue on the subject.

But this time he wasn't giving us the usual half-page of goodness, no.  How about a full page entitled Uncle Pigg Presents the Pig Pals' Picture Puzzle Parade Page?  If you were able to read that in one go without pausing you might just be able to get through what's to come:


I think you'll agree these are just as fresh and fun as when they first appeared.  Number two there was my particular favourite but there was simply no way to get them all - typical.  But Ed didn't have the monopoly on Oink! puzzlers this time around and other cartoonists were also on hand to bring their own unique style to the theme - namely Davy Francis and Lew Stringer (naturally).

There'll be a blog post up before the next issue which I'm particularly looking forward to sharing.  I had the chance to meet Davy Francis in person recently, and while it was only a brief half an hour (and a further five minutes or so this very morn') I can tell you the man is a true gent and I'm looking forward to meeting with him again properly to discuss the Oink! book.  That's a story for another time though so check back soon.

I was able to purchase a few pieces of his original artwork from him which you'll see in the aforementioned post soon, but one of the ones I saw but didn't unfortunately buy was of his creation Greedy Gorb (He'd Eat Anything!), and Gorb's very own puzzle maze:


Why on earth would I, who profess to be an Oink! fan, pass on such a wonderful opportunity?  You'll find out soon, but you won't be disappointed, believe me!

Lew now, and while Tom Thug has appeared in suitably stupid puzzles before in the comic, here he's not alone, Pete and his Pimple join in too for this issue's Pete's Pimply Puzzles!  Regular (and fan favourite) Pete may be relegated to a quarter of a page here but that was part of the joy of Oink!, you were excited to see how your favourite characters would appear each time.  No other comic would mix it up anywhere near as much as Oink! would.  Most of the time other publications wouldn't even move a strip from one page number to another, never mind being a double-spread in some and a quarter-page puzzle section in another:


Now that you've touched your monitor with your nose and panicked when it wobbled, or have been blinded by the glare from your iPad at such close range, you can sit back again and prepare to engage your brain.  Then wipe it clean again, as you'll not exactly need it for Tom's Teaser Time:


More Stringer classics there, plain and simple.

Charlie Brooker joined the Oink! crew a while back now but it was only around this time in the comic's life, this Golden Age, where we'd see him contribute regularly, in fact in every single issue.  While he had his regular characters during the comic's run (we've seen Freddy Flop He Falls to Pieces already in #19) he also drew up some wonderful one-off gags too, such as Time for... A Game of Scrabble:


I've read online (though can't remember where and from what I recall it wasn't a verified source) that Charlie said later in life he was somewhat embarrassed by this early attempt at cartooning.  I really do hope this isn't true and in the course of my book I endeavour to find out.  His strips were fondly remembered before I even thought up this blog, with The Adventures of Death, Transmogrifying Tracey and Clint Gritwood the Trigger-Happy Cop amongst the many, many creations he came up with.  In fact it's amazing to see in future issues so much of his work taking up space, after all he was still at school at this time!  What a wonderful start to a career.  Expect much, much more from him as we continue with the blog.

Last but not least for this issue is Marc Riley's famous Harry the Head.  Always listed when people are asked to rhyme off Oink! characters Harry's latest adventure has once again been taking part over many issues.  It all comes to a head (ba-doom-tish) right here but don't be worrying about what all has happened so far, it was very much made up as it went along!  Harry has been through the wars in previous issues, and here he flew through this issue too, so the combination of these has left him somewhat deflated as you'll see.

However, I have an ulterior motive behind scanning this page in and that's to do with the competition featured.  Do you remember these guys?:


I do!  I had the American Football one!  Ah the memories.  I'm not sure why I chose that one, probably because he was just different.  I even remember there being a random Marvel UK one-off comic released too.  Even as a child it didn't read well and felt like a very desperate attempt to make some money off the back of the latest hit toy range.  But the toys themselves were good fun... for a while anyway.  You see, not being particularly sporty he didn't get played with much and I never got any of the others.  Oh well, the 80s were full of fads!

So you've had your brain taxed and next it'll be on to an issue which I remember as being a favourite from my youth.  I really hope it holds up!  The Halloween-themed Hair-Raising Issue will be on sale Friday 31st October.

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