Friday, 26 December 2014

#44: A NEW YEAR... A NEW COMIC?


Happy New Year to one and all!

What?  That can't be right, it's still Boxing Day when this post is getting published, can't we continue to enjoy Christmas for a while longer?  Well yes, of course we can and we certainly will with the second and third parts of the first Oink! annual still to come to keep the laughter muscles warm over the coming week.  But for now we look forward to the new year and the celebrations to come, in #44 the second and (again) last Hogmanay issue.

Dated 26th December it, just like last year's, was released a few days before Christmas and just like last year I've decided to stick with the dates on the cover rather than the specific day it arrived in our laps as it makes more sense for the point of the blog.  Even now, twenty-seven years later I received the special 100-page Christmas edition of 2000AD in the post a couple of weeks ago, which is meant to be on the shelves in stores for three weeks, yet on Saturday 20th December I received the 7th January edition.  Some things never change and having deadlines is one of those.

The issue starts with Les 'Lezz' Barton finally getting a chance to shine on the cover and so do The Slugs, the punk band created by himself and editor Tony Husband.  New Year's TV shows are known for being incredibly tedious affairs * (my mother and I used to watch repeats of Friends instead back in the day) but The Slugs were there to liven things up in their strip alright.

* please note this does not include Jools Holland's Hootenanny.  Just saying.

The big news of this issue though is the future of our favourite comic rather than the theme itself.  The fact Oink! was going weekly was met with excitement by fans across the board and the comic had hyped it up for a couple of months now.  This was the last fortnightly issue and with it going on sale a few days early we'd a longer than normal wait for the next issue, so the anticipation of it coming to us every single week was only heightened because of this.

For the final piece of hype we were treated to the first full-page Mary Lighthouse strip in an awful long time and Uncle Pigg made a welcome return to strip form as far as the regular comic goes (he's got some great strip work in the annual).  Written by Mark Rodgers and drawn as ever by Ian Jackson Oink! had an announcement to make to its critics:


The price did indeed come down to 30p, at least for a while, even if it was softening a blow, which you'll read about soon enough.  But for now we eagerly awaited 1988 and the prospect of double the amount of Oink!s throughout the whole year!  Little did we know...

Back to the present, in a matter of speaking, and while the issue may have appeared on the shelves early...:


... the same obviously couldn't be said of some of its characters, such as the above in Haldane's ever-funny Zootown.

Things have been a bit quiet on the Jimmy 'The Cleaver' Smith front as we approached the season of goodwill and cheer.  Maybe he'd calmed down on his wicked ways, getting into the spirit of the time of year and spreading love instead of pig parts.  Or perhaps he was just concentrating on turkeys instead.  All wrong.

Always one to make an entrance:


Written and drawn by the twisted pen of Jeremy Banx the maniacal murderer is getting ever more creative.  With that in mind it should send a shiver down the spines of pig pals everywhere to learn that one of the treats of the new weekly Oink! would be a brand new serial featuring the gruesome butcher himself!

In that regard you could almost see the strip above as an introductory story for readers old and new to the horrors coming - creative, imaginative, chilling and always entertaining horrors, mind you.  So look out for the new weekly thrills starting right here on January 9th.  Yes, all episodes will be included, they've stuck in my mind so much since childhood I know already this brilliantly written and very atmospheric six-part mini-series will be included on the blog.

Prepare yourselves.

You could do worse than prepare yourself now in fact, for the explosive first entry to the blog for a character who has been in the pages of the comic since its conception but hasn't appeared in digital form yet.  Written by a variety of scribes throughout the comic's lifespan but always drawn in the unique Wilkie style, his blog debut comes to you courtesy of none other than relative Oink! newbie at this stage, Charlie Brooker:


Billy Bang is one of those characters people rhyme off when they remember back to Oink! without the benefit of an issue in their hands (or a blog on their screens too I suppose) and when you think of the premise - young boy explodes when he gets angry, and something tees him off every issue - it's amazing to think he's survived this long, never mind the fact that he kept going all the way through to the very end of the comic's life.  Just shows how inventive the crew were even when presented with the fact the same thing has to happen every single issue.  It could also explain why so many writers took their turn!

Small strips like Billy's in Oink! were a joy to break up the larger ones and as discussed before regular characters were just as likely to give us a few panels as much as a few pages.  Short, sharp scripts produced some of the biggest laughs, such as this from Keith Forrest (another new name to Oink!), Ian Knox and their Barrington Bosh, he's incredibly PO$H character.  I'm not ashamed to say when I read this for this post I roared when the voice in my head read this out in a posh accent.  (Please read the strip to see what I mean.  I'm not hearing things):


Someone else who took full advantage of the smaller strip format was Banx.  As well as the larger Jimmy Smith and Burp strips, his Mr Big Nose delivered a quick-fire burst of surrealism with this issue which far surpassed anything he'd come up with up to this point, and that's saying something:


Go on then, explain that one.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Alex in the comments who was able to point out at the time that this was actually the very last episode from Mr Big Nose we'd ever get to see in the pages of Oink! sadly.  The man is right, at the time of writing this update I'm a few issues into the weeklies and Mr Nose has indeed disappeared from the comic, perhaps a little too surreal for the 'younger' feel they were going for to attract more readers in the core demographic.

If there's one person quickly coming to the fore in terms of contributors in the pages of the comic it's everyone's favourite Guardian columnist and Screenwipe host, Charlie Brooker.  All but a teenager at the time, by this stage he'd proven himself already and the number of pages with his name attached were increasing substantially.

As well as writing for other characters, he created The Adventures of Death, Transmogrifying Tracey, Clint Gritwood the Trigger-Happy Cop and the new anthology series The Swinelight Zone.  You know, I've been missing the old Golden Trough Awards we used to have back in the early days, a series of different movie spoofs all linked by the title and theme of ripping apart a particular movie or genre of the time.  Some were hilarious, my particular favourites being the Lassie-like Laffie in #6 and, particularly relevant now, #4's Vengeance of the Gnome Men.

The reason I'm bringing that latter one up isn't just because it's so bloody good, but because it was an Oink! twist on a horror tale, and with The Swinelight Zone Charlie would take that idea and run with it!  Every episode would present us with a weird and wonderful tale worthy of the namesake, never mind a kid's comic spoof.  This one is the perfect example to kick them off with:


A highlight of issues to come, look out for many more of these in 2015.

To end, a little nursery rhyme to see you off to sleep after a tiring holiday period, to help you settle down into a restful sleep, to aid in your relaxation.  The very last thing you need is another giggle.  Oh well, that's bit tough because Charlie Brooker is fast becoming a very productive young man and is determined to see us out:


There we go.  The end of an era.  Fortnightly themed Oink!s are no more, but you can look forward to a few months of weekly laughs in 1988/2015, starting 8th January and continuing every Thursday right here on the blog until May, just after the comic's (and thus the blog's) second birthday.  Until then come back over the next week for more from The Oink! Book 1988, as well as some extra goodies to boot.

We may be starting the last year of the comic itself, but trust me it's going to be a good one:

Drawn by Patrick Gallagher

2 comments:

Alex said...

Alas, that's the last ever Mister Bignose. End of an era *sob*.

Phil Boyce said...

I had a quick look forward to the next annual and holiday special and I was shocked to see no Mr Big Nose! You're right, I never actually remembered him ending before the comic did. Such a sad moment... I'll make sure to mention this on the blog, thanks for pointing that out!