Friday, 31 October 2014
#40: SERIOUSLY WITCHING HUMOUR
As whatever radio station plays Michael Jackson's Thriller just that once too often today, take a break from your frightful festivities with an issue of Oink! which I can remember so clearly. That cover by Ralph Shephard, whose work we haven't seen in quite some time in these pages, has stuck in my brain ever since - even though I didn't own it again for so many, many years. For the next while too, that logo would remain in its current form, one I particularly liked, as the comic settled down to its new format. It would all get changed again in the new year but for now we can continue to enjoy the very best run of editions Oink! had to offer.
I can remember like it was yesterday reading this issue in my late Aunt May's house, who I mentioned previously in #38's post. Even though it was dated the Saturday on each issue (which I've kept for this blog) on this occasion I can remember it was a Thursday, and after school I walked up to meet my mum at May's after stopping off at the newsagents. They met every Thursday and in this case I can remember them talking about Santa Claus while I was sitting right there next to them - probably why this has stayed in my memory all this time. They obviously thought I was so engrossed that I wasn't paying attention, but at the mention of his name my ears pricked up, but I didn't take my gaze away from the pages. They were talking about the truth behind Santa (the truth obviously being that he's real, of course, contrary to what some of my school friends had told me...) so that's how I found out, while reading this issue. It's a weird feeling holding a copy of it in my adult hands, this strange, funny comic, and it bringing back memories of loved ones who are so missed now.
A highlight here is definitely the photo story 2001 Million Years B.C. - A Space Filler. Not just because it has possibly the best punchline in the history of punchlines (don't peek until you read the whole thing), but also because of the special guest stars, The Mekons.
They're a punk band who had one particular member Oink! fans may be familiar with - Jon Langford. Look up Jon online and you'll find a wealth of fantastic musical achievements, indeed his own official website is chock full of his work, not just as a musician, but also a writer and, as we know here, an incredible artist. Seriously, check out his site and you'll be amazed at what this man has created!
As stated he was part of The Mekons at the time (you'll find more info and links about them on Jon's site) but was also working at Cosgrove Hall on, amongst other things, two bastions of British cartoons - yes, that's right, Danger Mouse and Count Duckula. He approached the Oink! team with relish, wanting to take part in this unique comic experiment and Patrick, Tony and Mark leapt at the chance to work with him. Who can blame them?
Blog readers will have seen Jon's work in two posts so far - the creepy back page dream sequence from #9 and the equally sinister Terrible Toys in #25. Here he leaves the pens and pencils behind - well there's nowhere to keep them in a loincloth is there? Yes, that's Jon Langford himself, esteemed musician, alongside his punk bandmates, all dressed as ridiculous cavemen and women. That's the power of Oink!:
Now in the last issue I mentioned Charlie Brooker at some length, including some of the characters he'd create over the remainder of Oink!'s lifetime. In some later issues he really did contribute an awful lot, which must've been a thrill for someone who hadn't even hit adulthood yet, and an amazing achievement to boot! One of my very favourite characters, not just of Charlie's, but of the whole comic, was Death.
Yes, Death. The Grim Reaper himself had his own regular strip in Oink! and while it's fitting he should appear on the blog for the first time as part of the Hallowe'en special, he'd actually done so a handful of times already over the previous issues. While they were all good, young Charlie was really hitting his stride now!
The Adventures of Death would take up a random amount of space from issue-to-issue, this time taking up a little quarter of a page under Tom Thug, but small space still meant big laughs for us fans. Oink! was the one time when you looked forward to Death coming a-knocking:
Before the next full strip I just have to include one little panel from this issue's Rubbish Man page, as it made me roar reading this in bed last night!:
Quick-fire puns like that were a regular feature throughout all the fantastic creations in this comic. Haldane certainly delivered and indeed continued to do so in the next addition here.
A few issues back we saw a quick preview for the latest of Haldane's strips, Jimmy Flynn (Jumps Out of his Skin), about a young boy who would literally, well, jump out of his skin when he got a fright. But then he'd simply carry on walking about as his skeletal self and suddenly be a whole load braver to boot. While this story, A Nightmare on Butcher Street, is technically an ongoing tale each part is like a little collection of random jokes on its own so they can still be enjoyed separately here.
One particularly funny running gag was how each episode would feature a special guest appearance by a top celebrity who would get suitably top billing in the title. Then they'd appear in one panel in a way completely unrelated to what was going on, such as Bone Collins in this one:
This issue did provide quite a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments which carried on for several minutes, which isn't bad for a comic whose target audience was initially kids and given the fact I'm 36! The "It seemed to Jimmy that the very house itself was alive..." panel above was one such moment, a perfect play on words we often hear in horror movies or read in such novels.
As I've already stated I was reading this issue in bed last night for the first time in well over 20 years. Between accidentally drinking proper coffee instead of my usual late-night decaf cup and the sudden jokes already mentioned, is it any wonder I was so wide awake afterwards that I didn't sleep for an age! Bloomin' Oink!
It feels like an age too since we've enjoyed some spectacular J.T. Dogg artwork, doesn't it? Well actually, ok he was featured just a few issues ago, and before that there was the second StreetHogs strip, before that the Crash! special... ok, ok, what I really meant was it's been a good while since we saw his artwork as a great big piggy parody poster! That's what we've all been missing isn't it? Well then, without further ado:
Lovely to have his artwork in the middle of the comic again like that. Let's hope it's not the last time, eh? I know the original Oink! Superstar Posters from the early days of the comic (check them out here and here if you haven't already) (no, seriously go on) (oh just do it, they're brilliant!) would get reprinted in the monthly issues still to come, but let's hope there's some new poster-size material too.
Before I talk about the next strip, you need to read it first:
In our next issue fans of Pete and his Pimple are in for a right royal treat as you'll see below (I'm including the 'next issue' box here instead of a day or two before the next one because the news is THAT good), and something you'll see is the pimply star being drawn by other artists. Why? That'll make sense at the end of this post, but for now how could I resist sharing Lew Stringer's (who also wrote the above) Pete being drawn by Steve Gibson.
I'm an avid follower of Steve's work on his Facebook page and there's a link on the left there if you're curious yourself. Be warned though, there's a good reason why I've placed the little "18+" next to it, his doodles and notebook drawings are somewhat... adult in nature, to say the least.
From adult-only humour to kid-friendly surrealism. That can only mean one thing - Mr Big Nose from Banx:
Sometimes there's a strip which just doesn't require anything further to be written about it. To do so would be to take away from it! I will, however, mention those plops on the side there, added by Patrick Gallagher throughout this edition (amongst other issues recently) as additional little puns here and there.
Alongside Patrick, fellow editor Tony Husband contributes once again to the strips I've scanned in, with the next part of the latest Oink! serial. Given more issues to work over than the first Spectacles story, Tony is really going to town in lengthening the quest Endor must travel on, bringing in just about every idea conceivable. Well, conceivable to someone like Tony. These ideas are certainly things not many others would come up with!
'Lo brave warrior, present yourself forthwith to marvel at the scriptures of Husband and the craftsmanship of Roper (Andy) in The Spectacles of Doom versus The Monocle of Mayhem:
Now before we carry on to probably my very favourite back page, a little advice for all those kiddies planning on trick'n'treating this weekend. Very, very sage advice indeed from David Leach. Especially if you're the one brave enough to ring the doorbell of one certain little old lady:
We're on to our back page and there's a range of spoof movie posters in Oink!'s run, all drawn so astonishingly by Simon Thorpe, which remain favourites to this day (one example being his version of The Sound of Music in #29). They've been talking points amongst fans on the Facebook group and some members even went out of their way to chase down the RoboCop one still to come in the first third of next year. That's how fondly remembered these are.
This particular one below remains my own personal favourite though. At the time of this issue's release it would be a couple of months from now until I became a Ghostbusters fan. While I'd seen some episodes of Filmation's Ghostbusters, a very strange cartoon indeed, I knew one called The Real Ghostbusters was due to be screened from January. That Christmas, in preparation, ITV showed the classic 1984 Ghostbusters movie. It was on at night time, after 9pm, but it couldn't have been a coincidence the cartoon series was going to start soon after.
So I was seeing this Oink! take on the movie before seeing the movie myself. Indeed, I can remember asking my friends a few days before the film was to air if it contained a flying car and an ape amongst the Ghostbusters, such was the Filmation creation. Obviously they hadn't a clue what I was talking about! So I sat down that night over the Christmas holidays, with my brand new 12" portable colour Pye TV and watched it in my room and instantly became a fan!
When the cartoon aired I was hooked and the Marvel UK title became only the second-ever comic I had reserved for me regularly at my newsagents.
Months went by and I stumbled across this spoof in my Oink! collection again and I thought it was simply hilarious! Not just the (admittedly clever) puns from Charlie Brooker who wrote the script behind this page, but the artwork by Simon is superb! That IS Bill Murray in pig form!:
Ladies and gentlemen, that is truly a classic piece of Oink! right there.
So before I sign off for another issue, what's this big surprise for Pete and his Pimple fans? Oh not much. Just an 8-page pull-out comic dedicated to one of Oink!'s most popular characters, that's all:
As if that's not exciting enough I'll be splitting the next issue into two parts - the usual highlights post and a separate Pete post, containing every page of the pull-out for your giggle-parts to enjoy! Yes that's right, Pete and his Pimple will be getting a full-on 8-scanned-pages post all to themselves. The comic celebrated one of the fan favourites, it's only right I give him the same treatment here on the blog.
I'm currently in the middle of moving home, so there'll be no additional posts before the next issue and I do apologise. However there's some treats in store very soon, I just need to delay them while I ship myself off again.
So join me back here in a fortnight when #41 goes on sale on Friday 14th November.