No matter how many times I see that cover it never gets old, especially when you see its party trick, but more on that below. For now let's take a look at the last third of this mammoth treat for Oink! fans and you may have noticed certain regulars haven't been included. Never fear, if you wish to pick up the annual online somewhere or at a local car boot sale (do!) the creations of Mr Lew Stringer are correct and present. But for the purposes of this blog I decided to stick with Lew's larger strip of the book and the return of none other than Pigswilla.
Normally reserved for when there's a giant monster made up of some sort of food stuffs, for the annual the strip went suitably white, covering itself in snow and creating a frozen nightmare out of The Snowman of Doom. Hey, it's more convincing than the Mr Freeze in Batman & Robin, right?
There's even a special guest appearance from another Oink! character, the lovably geeky Specky Hector, now with added surname. A highlight of any issue of the regular comic and indeed of this volume, enjoy the latest adventure from the gigantic robotic pig:
Now from one character who only appeared a handful of times in the comic but who has appeared in the blog before, to one - or rather, two - characters who haven't appeared here yet but who had a good run of issues in the actual publication before now. These things can happen when you've so much you'd like to cover but only scanning in a handful of pages for each issue.
First appearing back in #15 alongside some other 'new' characters, Keith Disease was the world's rudest boy who came across Beelzebub, Prince of Darkness in a magic crisp packet. Nonplussed with the appearance of this mighty satanic presence Keith made his displeasure at not having crisps to eat very clear, and so instead of being granted all of his desires he was cursed by the pissed-off creature.
Confined to an existence of eternity as "a tasteless print on that boy's t-shirt", Keith was to become attached to the unsuspecting and completely innocent Hector Vector, who just happened to be walking by and within arm's length of Beelzebub. So began the love-hate relationship. We no, that'd be a lie, it was simply a hate-hate relationship, with the t-shirt getting Hector into all sorts of scrapes and it was always fun to see who'd be worse off at the end of each issue's tale. Yep, this wasn't a strip where the cheeky brat got his comeuppance in the final panel. Sometimes he would, but sometimes poor Hector would be the one to get it in the neck while the t-shirt laughed on in that "hi, hi, hi" way.
Yes, regular readers will know that laugh and who the writer is! Also, given the barmy origin story could it have come from any other mind than that of Jeremy Banx? No, it could not. Another highly original creation of his, here at long last is the fondly remembered Hector Vector and His Talking T-Shirt in a fantastic two-page spread:
Fantastic stuff and it just makes me look forward even more to next year's book and the absolutely epic Burp strip in it, which personally taught me all about puberty. Yes. You'll see what I mean soon. Well in twelve months.
Only a couple of times so far has Oink! ventured into the text story format but each one has been a great success of the genre (two good examples are in #9 and #21) and this one below is no different. Now unfortunately I can find no credit for this page (oh and I updated the previous post with confirmation of Tim Thackeray's contribution as artist on the James Bong strip by the way) so if any creators reading happen to know please do get in touch as it shouldn't go without one.
Snuggled up with your now-mangled soft toys (see last time) in front of the roaring fire on a bitterly cold winter's night? Gather your children, nieces, nephews, dogs, cats, and enjoy a heart-warming family tale together.
And then you can read this one too, The Uninvited Stranger:
Pig pals will remember how our esteemed editor Uncle Pigg used to take a starring role in each and every issue introducing each theme, usually at the expense of Mary Lighthouse (critic) and one or both of them would see the comic out as well each fortnight, more often than not. It's actually been what feels like a long time since we've seen them together in strip format at all, never mind more than once in the same issue. This book is really spoiling us.
For those who missed it check out The Facts of Life from the first part of the book by clicking here. It's a delight to see the two of them doing so much more than hosting the Grunts page and popping up in promos, side-panels and other stories. Just like the old days.
As well as Mary appearing in Uncle Pigg's strips, she also had her own in almost every issue for a long time after its launch and he'd guest star in them too in return. Here she is now, written and drawn as ever by Mark Rodgers and Ian Jackson, not only starring in her own two pages within the book, but actually stealing them from Uncle Pigg! A classic, and about time they came back to their strip forms in the regular comic I say:
As if that wasn't exciting enough for fans, here's another feeling of going back to the early days of Oink!, with the conclusion of the Star Truck tale The Search for Sock. Mark Rodgers' Captain Slog had also popped up in a Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins by this stage, coming out of a sewer which may explain why he's appeared now outside a ladies' public toilet!
With Patrick Gallagher as Sock again here's the two separate episodes together in one package for you. Savour every panel folks, as this would unfortunately be the last time we'd see these characters and not just in this book, but forever:
So long to Captain Slog, Sock, Jock and Patrick's eyebrows.
We've also got to finish off another multi-part story with Hadrian Vile's interleckshual guide to Nacheral Histry reaching it's third and final chapter. If you recall we were still in the time of the dinosaurs... sorry, dinersaurs, so he's got quite a lot of ground to cover with his last page. I'm sure he'll not miss anything out or gloss over millions of years of evolution.
The genius team of writer Mark Rodgers and artist Ian Jackson must've had a blast with this character. Unlike some of the strips covered through this book's posts, Hadrian was in every single issue of Oink! and would be there right through to the very end. Not exactly Buster material for when the comic merged though - not sure what they would've made of him if the content of Oink! was new to them!
Before we finish off there's just room to squeeze in a couple of teeny tiny squirts who only appeared in this annual, albeit twice. Maybe originally designed as regular characters by Dave Fellows (who contributed to some early editions) as they had two different pages to themselves here, they never appeared in the regular comic. But this just makes their popping up here that bit more special for those of us who received this that Christmas. I'm sure you'll agree the inclusion of The Zits is a nice addition to the book. The annual really is crammed full of brilliance. You could say it's fit to burst:
It's with a heavy heart but with a chortle and a smile on my face that I now bring the coverage of my very favourite childhood book of any sort to a close. I'll leave the final word to Uncle Pigg below and the inks of Ian Jackson as per usual, but moreso than any other issue this has been a real trip down memory lane for me.
From seeing the books gleaming in the newsagents, to getting my hands on its smooth glossy cover, to showing its front and back off to anyone who appeared at my house that Christmas, to re-reading it in my teens, my twenties, my thirties... and to seeing a friend trying (and failing) to stifle laughs when he read it in a college class many moons after its publication. This book will never, ever get old. It's Oink! in its most concentrated form, the perfect example of this awesome comic.
And that's coming from someone who doesn't like using the word 'awesome'.
If there were ever any chance of Uncle Pigg et all returning to entertain today's kids, to make a difference again in a comic market full of samey licenced titles, this is the issue/book you'd test on the audience. Every page holds up as if it was written this year, not twenty-seven of them ago. I hope you've enjoyed the selected pages I grabbed for you and if your favourites aren't included I can only apologise, every strip I had to leave out was a tough decision, believe me:
Ahhahahahaa....!!! Oh I remembered my original reaction to that too just as I read that. Well that's page 80, only the back cover to go and if you haven't seen it before and you're thinking it seems strange to use up a scan with the back cover of a book, you'll understand why I'm including it very soon.
But beforehand, I just want to extend a trotter and a huge Thank You to Oink! Facebook group member Gerry Cluskey. I've mentioned Gerry before in the blog when going over my own history of returning to the world of pig pals again, but he really did me a huge favour which can't go unmentioned.
Regular readers may recall that I only had this book, #45 and #68 (the final issue) left in my collection from my childhood a few years ago. I collected the whole run, then sent it all on to Gerry for them to have a good home when I moved on myself. But back I came with the blog idea and I started to collect the whole series again from scratch. However, even though I always intended to buy a copy of The Oink! Book 1988 as I had to for the blog, I knew it'd end up being dissected so that I could fit the pages into the scanner (such is the thickness of the book and the size of the pages they just wouldn't sit flat otherwise). I had originally planned to buy two copies for this reason (one to keep intact, one to scan) but was having problems tracking down even one, but then I asked Gerry for a favour...
Could he send me the copy of the book I'd sent him. I'd send it straight back once I'd scanned it in, of course. Being the kind of man he is though, he told me he had another copy of it himself anyway, so he sent me back my original copy - to keep! I was thrilled when it arrived. The actual book, the actual copy of the book attached to all those memories! I was able to come across a second copy on eBay for scanning purposes a few months later (even though it's a spare it was still heartbreaking to take it apart) and so my childhood copy has remained in great condition and back in my possession.
It takes pride of place above the bookshelves in my living room and always draws attention from visitors. These have been my very favourite posts from the whole blog experience and so thank you Gerry, my original annual is still sitting proud and completely intact among the necessary carnage of the scanning. I also think having my own book back has made reading the contents even more special, even more funny.
|My original childhood copy on the right there.|
Thanks for reading, folks. Come back to join Rubbish Man's New Year's party tonight around midnight and an extra post tomorrow to see in 2015 - mark it on your calendar (hint).
Closing the book now, and here's why the ten-year old me pestered all of my parents' and siblings' visitors with this book all over Christmas 1987. See you soon!:
UPDATE: On Christmas Day 2016 I shared a few more highlights from this hilarious book. Click here to read them too!