Friday, 30 January 2015

#48: HUNGRY FOR HUMOUR?

First up, no I'm not a day late, I simply miscalculated before now.  The fortnightlies came out every other Saturday and their dates on the cover reflected this.  To post about them on the right dates in 2013 and 2014 meant they'd be up on the blog every other Friday, so when the weeklies came along and the covers states 'Every Friday' I simply moved them forward a day every week.  However, now looking at the dates and how they still tally up with Saturdays, as well as remembering running to the newsagents first thing on Saturdays to get them as a child, it's clear this was the day they came out.  Not Fridays.  Not sure why the cover says that then but that's the case, so we're back to Fridays here on the blog.  (I can remember Buster coming out on Saturdays too yet it said 'Every Monday' on the cover.  Strange.)

Anyway, on to something more interesting than all that.


Welcome to the latest issue of our favourite comic and the only cover to be drawn by Davy Francis, continuing this yellow theme while introducing new readers to some of the regular characters, and this time it's the turn of Davy's creation Greedy Gorb.  As mentioned last time you'll be seeing Gorb himself in strip action further down the page as his contribution to this edition is particularly funny!

Inside, the now standard start of having the Grunts section on page 2 is cut short, with a handful of adverts and Uncle Pigg simply telling us there's no room for reader's contributions due to the apparently "jam-packed fab features" to come.  Those features are nicely organised onto the same pages as last time, hopefully keeping those younger readers coming back to their favourites as hoped... but surely that's what we were all doing anyway?  Coming back to see how each issue was 'assembled', where our favourites were and how it all came together.  Was this new way of editing Oink! paying off readership-wise?

We'll see.  Looking forward things don't stay as tightly arranged as these early weeklies, so should be interesting to see how these issues evolve between now and #62.

But for now, the second half of the Grunts page is given over to David Leach and his semi-regular Radio DJ Dudley Dull.  Saying that, even that monstrously entertaining Psycho Gran only ever appeared in sixteen issues of Oink! believe it or not.  Yup, bet you didn't think she was in so few either, right?  Well towards the end of the fortnightlies this new character appeared, tearing into the typical 80s BBC radio DJs who would just witter on and on, play atrocious music and... hang on, that's modern BBC radio isn't it?

Only joking, I am partial to a bit of Chris Evans' superb breakfast show every morning before work, Graham Norton's agony aunt sections are a hoot at the weekend, and if you happen to be near a radio when Jeremy Vine is on that's always good for a scaremongering laugh.  But with the likes of Steve Wright winning 'Most Irritating DJ' in the Oink! Reader Awards 1987 back in #30 there was certainly plenty of inspiration for this character back in the 80s:


Page 7 was fast becoming the parody poster page and on this occasion it was time to welcome back Viz artist (and editor) Simon Thorpe.  He's already lent his skills to some superb movie posters in Oink!, two examples of such have appeared here in the shape of his take on The Sound of Music in #29 and the brilliant Ghostbusters spoof in #40!  Now he's back to bring us the latest from Ron Dibney.

As regular readers will know this was the comic's version of Disney and over the course of the run his signature would be added to some brilliant spoofs of some of the most beloved children's characters of all time.  I said it before that no one was safe in this regard, which means Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs are about to be turned into a pig and seven rather smelly piles of poo.

Ron Dibney's Sow White and the Seven Plops, created by Simon Thorpe:


Lew Stringer's own spoof tale of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, namely Sherlock Hams and the Hogs of the Baskervilles reaches its conclusion next week, with the week after that being the final part of Banx's mini-series featuring Hieronymus van Hellsong and our favourite love-to-hate creation Jimmy 'The Cleaver' Smith.  For now though they both carry on churning out the goodness with puns, and laughs with cliches in the former, and comedy horror in the latter.  I don't wish to bore you with me prattling on anymore as I have done already for three weeks about these terrific strips, so for this week I'm just going to let them do the talking:



There, wasn't that much better than me endlessly trawling on?

So back to me trawling on.  It's a pleasure to see a few of the previously regular characters pop up again after taking a back seat when the comic went weekly and lost a quarter of its page count.  Squeezing in Dudley above got my hopes up that we'd see some of the others come back too.  Sadly no more Mr Big Nose despite all our hopes, but we do have the surprise appearance of Charlie Brooker's The Adventures of Death.

My favourites were always those where we got a glimpse into the everyday life of Death, the friends he kept and how ordinary the feared and terrifying Grim Reaper actually was.  As a child my first experience of the Reaper in cinema or television was in Monty Python's Meaning of Life or in Bill Murray's superlative Scrooged when we saw a Reaper-esque Ghost of Christmas Future.  But by then the damage was already done so if they were meant to be creepy in any way when you first saw them, all I saw was this lovable oaf right here:


This issue also continues Frank Sidebottom's small tour instead of a comic strip, a quiz to see if you really are invisible, the return of Cowpat County and Burp turning into a gleaming Hollywood star.

We also get the chance to have a laugh at the expense of WH Smith, the store which refused to stock Oink! with the children's comics when stuck up parents took it upon themselves to be offended on behalf of others.  We've all heard about it by now in depth (and if you haven't, check out the strips under the Janice & John tag on the left there) and there's no denying it hurt Oink!'s sales having one of the major newsagent chains in mainland UK put it out of reach and out of sight.  Nor did it help that they were also one of the main distributors of the comic!  They even told Fleetway to change the back cover of first the annual as it originally had the tail in a different place and a little 'x' where the pig's bum was.  But even when it was changed they still refused to sell it.  Thankfully at the time they weren't over here in Northern Ireland in either form, though Ian Paisley did try to get the comic banned but thankfully that fell on deaf ears.

Uncle Pigg had already informed his readers upon occasion to ask for Oink! if they didn't see it on the shelves amongst the children's comics and here was the comic telling its readership the same thing but now in comic strip form.  And now with added bite.

Here, Wilkie draws a not very subtle dig at said stuck up, yet hypocritical, newsagent chain.  I think I've mentioned before how they had a few stores in Belfast in recent years, including a huge one in the city centre, and how now they've been reduced to just one small franchised shop you couldn't swing a cat in, inside a small train station.  But as a pig pal I think it was worth mentioning again:


To finish off just four more strips.

What?!  Well as I've said recently those quarter-page strips were all collected together at this stage onto one page (this gets mixed up again soon though) and the Greedy Gorb one not only brought back memories of some serious guffawing (that's the only word that suits what I did, trust me) but induced some more!

The other strips on this page compliment Gorb's spot-on humour this issue so I thought what the hell let's just scan the whole damn page in.  It's been a while since we've seen Harry the Head in the blog, he'd become a bit bogged down with an almost endless crusade across America where there was no individual episode I could scan in.  But now he seems to really suit the shorter format, along with fellow Marc Riley creation Doctor Mooney He's Completely Looney who was always good for a quick gag.  Topping it all off is the ever-reliable and ever-funny Zootown from Haldane.

Now this is how you do quick-fire humour!:


Perfect fodder for even today's kids and their attention spans.

Harry moves from a quarter-page to the front cover next week, but not only that you'll also find THIS on the cover:


There may be some of you who have jumped to attention at that.  Yes, THE Dave Gibbons and we've Lew Stringer to thank for it.  More next week!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

FRANKENTHING - NEW EBOOK FROM BANX

From the creator of Mr Big Nose,
Burp and Hector Vector and his Talking T-Shirt:


During 2014 Jeremy Banx shared some drawings and ideas on the Facebook page of the Oink! group there, even asking for fans' perspectives and opinions on a couple.  These were for a brand new ebook he was putting together about Dr Frankenstein and his new creation, the rodent-esque Frankenthing. Well the time has come and the book is available now on Amazon's Kindle service for a bargain £1.99.

It's a prose book with illustrations lavished in the kind of detail Banx fans have come to know and love, and the kind of narration he does so well.  It's an addictive read and you'll speed through the thirteen chapters and enjoy every single second of it.  Told in a quick-fire style, you're only ever a few sentences away from something funny or surreal, backed up with the most bizarre way of describing everything happening around our protagonist (my personal favourite being "his bottom quivered like a fried egg in an earthquake"), it paints quite the picture in your head.

Speaking of pictures I've included a couple already shared by Jeremy on the book's Facebook page, just as an example of what you can expect:




The story revolves around Dr Frankenstein creating a new friend for his lonely monster (as we go along we find out just how poorly he's been put together too) from the remains of a dead 'toy' brought into the castle by Igor the one-eared cat, bringing life to Frankenthing.  I don't want to go into too much detail of what happens, as part of the joy is reading this bizarre tale without knowing what's coming next.  But the fun really begins when Frankenstein leaves to go shopping, with the two creations and the cat left to their own devices (look out for the monster counting during hide and seek!).

"Laugh-a-minute" is a phrase bandied about far too much but it actually applies here.

Also included, surprisingly, are some appendices which are suddenly referred to at random points within the main story.  For example the first one takes a good long look at the historical contexts of the Frankenstein family emblem, every part getting more ludicrous than the one before.  I won't ruin the surprise of the other sections or the lengthy final appendix which you'll be tempted to try out for yourself!

I don't read many ebooks as I always prefer having the actual physical versions, but for self-published titles there's a wealth of great content out there in digital format.  Personally I only ever used iBooks for this, but for Frankenthing I downloaded the Kindle app for iPhone (it's free) and it couldn't be easier to buy it from the Amazon site.

So go on, all this hard work put in by one of Oink!'s most prolific creators and it's only £1.99?  What's stopping you?

Click here to buy

Click here for the FB page

Thursday, 22 January 2015

#47: BLOCKBUSTING ENTERTAINMENT


Told you didn't I?  An ugly, horrible cover.  By that I mean of course the fact Tony Husband's Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins is the cover star, I never meant the cover itself was ugly.  My my, did you pick me up wrong?

Anyway, it appears the first handful of Oink! Weekly covers have this yellow background thing going on and this and the next few do have rather simplistic covers which, while appealing to those of us who know the characters within, may not exactly appeal to that new readership Fleetway wanted by the changes it was making.  Inside, certain strips remain the same size and in the same place and there's a neater, crisper feeling to these first few weeklies.  In other words, the humour is there is spades within each panel of each strip, but the overall edge has been lost somewhat.  Will it regain it?  When the weeklies end with #62 we'll take a look back and compare them properly with the fortnightlies while we look forward to the monthlies.  But for now enough of all that talk, what's inside?

Last week I selected The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile - Aged 8 5/8 (years) as one of the issue's highlights.  As well as it being a funny strip it was also included for a superb little in-joke amongst the Oink! team, which I then completely forgot to even mention.  I've updated the post now, so nip back to see what I mean.  Well this time he's getting uploaded here too, as it's back to his always comical interactions with his new baby sister.

First appearing in the Happy Families issue (naturally) which was #37, I've fond memories of Hadrian teaching the innocent young baby the ways of the world in a way only he could.  Of course this would end up with him in all sorts of trouble, but I always loved how the baby came through it unscathed and upon occasion she was actually better at causing chaos than he was.  They were some of my favourite Oink! pages of all so here's another one in the ongoing saga, brought to you by his creators Mark Rodgers and Ian Jackson:


Now I recall after CITV on weekday afternoons a certain programme would be on which, while it was a question and answer quiz at its most basic, as a small child I watched avidly.  I hadn't a clue about any of the questions, neither did most of my family, but we still sat around together and enjoyed it - it was proper family-time entertainment.  It had one gimmick - a board of hexagonal shapes, each with a letter on it (or more than one in the 'Gold Rush'!... oooh 'citin'!) and the contestants had to connect one end of the board to the other, changing the letters to their team's colour if they got it right.  Tactical moves came into play alongside the answer-giving and let's not forget about that theme tune.

But let's do forget about that dance.

It was presented by this man:


The board and the late, great Bob Holness made the show.

But why am I going on about this?  Well because Pete and his Pimple were to appear on none other than Bustblockers (ahem) in this issue, but ace Oink! cartoonist Lew Stringer wasn't too convinced of his own attempts at a caricature of the great man above...

Can you tell?:


Interestingly this is a Pete strip written by Charlie Brooker (was there anything in Oink! he didn't have a hand in at one point or another?) for Lew and I think he's done a great job.  While Pete was always one of my favourites and I'm a huge fan of Lew's, reading back over these now it's always nice to see various writers and artists collaborating randomly throughout the comic's lifetime.  This only happened a few times for this particular strip, but ones such as Roger Rental and even Weedy Willy would be written by various people over their lifespan.  Even Harry the Head, in his new 3-panel quarter-page format was by now being written by Mark Rodgers rather than Marc Riley.

Interestingly, neither the Roger nor Willy characters are appearing in the weeklies so far, even though the latter would go on to the pages of Buster come November.

Speaking of collaborations, it's time for Lew to go from artist to writer now in the third exciting episode of Sherlock Hams and the Hog of the Baskervilles.  After being introduced to the supporting cast and doing away with the obvious butler suspect, the story has to do the inevitable and that's take Hams up to the moors:

Lew's script was brought to life by the talented Ron Tiner

If the scrawled message from the butler in his final death throes doesn't make you giggle then may I suggest you just give up on the blog right now and go and read something else instead, as there's simply no hope for you.

Moving on, sometimes a character is such a favourite it can feel like months since we saw them last on the blog when in reality it was only a few issues back.  In this case Tom Thug appeared twice in the post for the Christmas 1987 issue (#43) with both a strip and your own cut-out 'angel'.  Yet when I decided to include him this time around I was convinced it'd been a lot longer, and his large fanbase will probably agree that a few weeks is a long time to do without him.

Lew Stringer's perennial creation now has a particular full page to himself every single week (as does Pete) and for this issue the subject will be familiar to those readers who were there from day one - his bovver boots.  Tom was there right from the very beginning and his first blog appearance was with #4 where he was still trying to tie the laces of said boots, just like he'd been attempting since the preview issue.  It took a few more issues until Uncle Pigg himself lost it and threatened Tom with expulsion to Whizzer & Chips until he was able to do them up himself, albeit in a blind panic and he then couldn't undo them.

Well the boots are back to cause mayhem but be warned that last panel is rather disturbing:


At the time of writing this Tom has previously featured in no less than sixteen posts on here, a rather impressive number considering how many regulars, semi-regulars and one-offs Oink! would cram in each issue, particularly in the fortnightlies.  Only two other characters share the same amount of appearances on this site.  (Well, I'm not including Uncle Pigg there who has appeared in more posts, but far less actual strips.)  One of the others is Hadrian who you've also read about this issue, and the other is Jeremy Banx's Burp.

For a couple of months last year he appeared in almost every issue's write-up and with good reason, as the smelly alien from outer space was hitting the proverbial home run every single time, with a completely different (and somewhat gory) tale every issue.  The black humour poured out from the pages and I was simply left with no choice but to include them all.  There's even one which I couldn't include late last year as I'd already chosen too much for that issue's post and so had to made the hard decision to leave him out, purely because he'd been included so much already.  It was almost The Burp Blog at one stage.

But back he is and I'm so happy to see the style hasn't been watered down in Fleetway's attempt to bring in more young readers.  Anyone coming to Oink! with these weeklies hopefully lapped up this strange, different character and it's great fun to see his internal organs taking centre stage again.  Though where is his pet specimen from Uranus?:


Now if you're of roughly the same age as me you're bound to remember certain "boys' toys" (as they were known, but played with by both genders) of the era and the gimmicks some of them had.  Planes attached to rings you'd wear on your hands to make them 'fly' around your room.  Pull-back cars which never worked quite well enough on the deep shag carpets of the 80s.  Those little black stickers on Transformers we'd rub until our fingers were sore to see if an Autobot or Decepticon emblem appeared, even though the same emblem was moulded into the toy elsewhere (brilliantly pastiched in the first modern Transformers movie when Sam unknowingly climbs into Bumblebee for the first time).  Or how about action figures with holograms on their chest which didn't actually do anything other than look pretty in 3D when you'd interrupt your playing to hold them up to the light at exactly the right angle.

Holograms weren't the only gimmicks for action figures though.  Some had elastic bands inside so you could twist the torso then let it go for a powerful punch.  Some had levers to move eyes, or make eyes pop out to look frightened, or in the case of some of the more military-style toys they'd peculiar attachments.  Hooks, claws, webbed feet... the list was endless.  When the first live-action G.I. Joe movie came out they got around this by having the two main heroes don special futuristic all-encompassing suits, but no one actually had to live with a deadly-but-impractical weapon instead of a hand, leg, ear etc.

So thinking back to those toys you or your siblings played with, how exactly would that work in real life then?  Mark Rodgers and Wilkie are about to show you:


Finally for this week's issue, below is the third chapter in Banx's new mini-series.  After this we're halfway through the tale and there's actually no sign of you-know-who yet.  Just shadows, hints and close calls.  It builds up a great atmosphere behind the dark sense of humour and yet again Jeremy brings a certain level of light-hearted gore to the kiddies:


Hopefully there's no need to ask if you're a fan of Jeremy Banx, I'd like to think that goes without saying, but if you are then you definitely need to get over to Amazon right now where his brand new ebook Frankenthing has finally become available.  After teasing for months and months on the Oink! Facebook group it's here and you can go and purchase it yourself for Kindle (or the Kindle app on Apple's iOS etc) clicking the picture below.  It's only a couple of pounds for all the hard work he's put in and I'll be featuring a post about it this weekend right here so watch out for that too if you haven't bought it yet:


But for now that's yer lot.  After the weekend post join me again next Thursday, 30th January when #48 brings Greedy Gorb to the cover, one of his funniest strips to the inside of the issue, and a none-too-subtle dig at WHSmiths.  It's a good 'un.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

#46: BACK SO SOON?


Just in the nick of time!  That's no understatement either, as this was one of about half a dozen issues still missing from my collection until this very evening.  But thanks once again to the gent that is Gerry Cluskey I'm able to put up this issue on time (he says as his fingers blur over the keyboard) and get what's needed from the rest so you'll be guaranteed no waiting around.  Thanks for the lend of these Gerry, can't tell you how much I appreciate it!

Trying to collect these again on eBay has been a chore at times, avoiding dodgy sellers, overpriced issues, overpriced postage just because I live in Northern Ireland (yes, some people still do that!) and then just some issues never pop up.  Perhaps it's the fact this is only the second Lew Stringer cover in the whole run which makes it a collector's piece?  (His first cover was for #33.)  The next few issues have very simplistic covers, perhaps to get the comic's creators ahead deadline-wise with the new increased frequency of the comic, but this one is a treat.  Definitely continuing the attempt to bring in new readers to this 'new' weekly, inside it does feel a bit more like a regular comic but it's still good fun!

Oink! keeps to its sense of humour and the strips included are a joy to read but we're definitely seeing a more consistent make up of pages, like all the quarter-page ones on one page, certain strips always on the same page, characters having the same size strips each issue etc.  With less pages and new regular characters we've also had to say goodbye to some others, the biggest change being the omission of one of my very favourites - Mr Big Nose!  I didn't actually know it when I included his last ever strip in the blog post for #44, so thanks to blog reader Alex for the heads up.

I do sometimes think, when reading this issue, that I wish we'd just kept all the regular characters in every issue if it was going to become more traditional in its setup (not in the content of said strips though, mind you) but then I read some of the new content, especially that from Charlie Brooker who contributes so much to these weeklies, and it becomes a tough decision.  I do wonder why Mr Big Nose was dropped though - maybe seen as too surreal now?

Cover artist Lew even mentioned in the Facebook group and on his own blog (in the comments) that he remembered something about the comic becoming more stable, as stability was more appreciated by kids of the time and was one of the ideas to increase the readership like I mentioned last time.

Of course, that lack of stability, the randomness and not knowing what was round the corner - or rather the page - was part of the charm so perhaps this change wasn't as appreciated by some of the older readers, many of which had been buying the comic up to this point.  While the humour was basically the same, the design now does feel like it's being aimed that little bit younger after maturing into a 'for all ages but suitable for the kids' comic with the fortnightlies.

This sits at odds with what's in the stories though, as they're still the same, like I said.  But let's focus on those included stories for now shall we?

Editor and co-creator Mark Rodgers and his partner Helen Jones were both vegetarians, hence the whole Oink! theme after all and their focus on evil butchers and innocent human-like pigs in the first place, and recently Jeremy Banx did a fantastic Burp piece which had a strong message (and will be featured at some point I promise) and now here's another unlikely strip to feature an environmental message - The Slugs from Tony Husband and Lezz:


Now I think that's a cartoon even the captain and crew of the Sea Shepherd vessels around the world would appreciate.  Maybe I'll go ahead and share it with them online sometime!  While Oink! had its critics who said it was a bad influence, a closer look would've shown them such strips got a serious message across using humour children would appreciate - hence getting said message across better.  But then again since when have critics and the like ever actually taken a look at what they want to ban, right?

Thankfully amongst the changes one ongoing strip which has had its characters evolve as time goes along has survived and will continue to do so right through to the very end.  The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile - Aged 8 5/8 (years) does a David Cameron and forgets all about the baby for a week, to focus completely on our small hero.  It takes me back to the early days but I'm missing the family if I'm honest, so conditioned I am to them by now thanks to Mark Rodgers and Ian JacksonI!  Still, it makes for one of the best Hadrian strips in the run so far, so wrap up and enjoy:


One of the reasons I put this page up was also because of the little in-joke to a certain other Oink! contributor.  Did you spot it?  (Also thanks to Helen Jones for reminding me as I'd forgotten to mention it when I published this post.)

At Christmas as a child I was introduced, as it were, to Oink!'s own take on the master of cartoons and family entertainment, with Ron Disney and the Dumb ol' Duck strip.  Now, just a few weeks after being subjected to a drake laying eggs over a talking dog he's back (thanks to Mark and Clive Collins) with what some may see as a more realistic take on The Jungle Book.  Although, given what happens it's quite apt the title had to change too:


Things like this would keep the kids who were raised on traditional comics fare coming back for more week-in-week-out, and this issue contains many more highlights.  Such as the return of the poor teddy bear featured in #32 to the panels of Burp, Tony entertains us again with a quick full-page gag like last issue, Satan the Cat makes a return and the newest Oink! calendar continues.

Next on the agenda for us though is the second part of Lew Stringer and Ron Tiner's multi-part Sherlock Hams tale, The Hog of the Baskervilles.  Followed by the most unsubtle of strangers, Hams and Whatswine travelled to the moors to investigate the screaming terror on the hills and we're about to be introduced to the full cast of suitably suspicious supporting characters, so prepare for more puns and piss-takes of the genre.  This is definitely my favourite new addition to the comic recently!:


Trust me, this just keeps getting better and better.

Which is exactly what can be said of our following serial too from Jeremy Banx.  Again, no title, just the mysterious Hieronymus Van Hellsong going about his mysterious business.  Light on the jokes this time, even black humour, but it still makes for an engrossing page and my young mind was enthralled with the build up to the showdown with none other than every pig's arch nemesis, Jimmy 'The Cleaver' Smith:


Oink! was my first comic (which, by the way, has inspired me to write a new series of posts coming to the blog in a few months when the comic itself goes monthly) so this series was something very special for me.  These days I look back at it and see it as kind of a spoof of some of the more serious 2000AD strips I'm currently enjoying in that title, but as a child it was unlike anything I'd ever read before in books or anything.  So the fact this part, while getting a nice point across at the start, was more serious (in as much as a surreal strip about a human-esque butcher-catching psychic pig can be) had me gripped!  I mean, seriously gripped!  That's stayed with me, and I remember every week the night before my next Oink! would be available I'd read back over the parts of this story so far in preparation.  Good times.

Frank Sidebottom is out touring in a photo collage of him meeting some readers to promote Smokebusters (more on that in the future) and Viz editor Simon Thorpe brings his brilliant artistic style to a GBH  advert for a garden in a bottle, then we're on to that page of mini-strips.  The highlight of them this time around comes from Davy Francis and his long-running creation, and soon-to-be-cover star Greedy Gorb:


Speaking of GBH, the mobsters share the penultimate page again with The Torture Twins, albeit with the Madvertisement taking pride of place this time.  At first glance you'd swear this was a regular plumber's ad from an 80s newspaper, but read it and if you're anything like me you'll laugh yourself silly at the repeated use of... well, read it and see:


Who'd have thought the phrase "grunging-valve sprockets" would be so much fun for ten year olds to read.

Right well there we go, just got it squeezed in.  Next week's cover is horrible though I must warn you.  The word "ugly" wouldn't even do it justice.  Can our favourite comic really produce something so horrible?  This pool of talent, can it really do something which could actually put people off it?  Is it that bad?  Come back to find out on Thursday 22nd January.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

#45: WEEKLY TREATS?


1988 started off in great form.  My favourite comic had turned weekly!  All the other humour comics were weekly and now finally Oink! had joined in.  As a child I always assumed comics went from fortnightly to weekly once they'd reached a certain popularity, like a seal of approval from the buying public.  In reality this wasn't the case.

Oink! had proven a success (and was certainly seen that way by IPC, even if it did only last two and a half years) and had great sales averaging 100,000 an issue at its height.  All seemed rosy.  But as I've already mentioned (in the post for #35) when Fleetway took over the publication of IPC's titles they decided to form sales groups of comics and if the combined sales totals didn't reach what was wanted then all those titles in that group would be cancelled.  I'm not sure what other titles were in Oink!'s group asides from Nipper which had already been cancelled a couple of months before Christmas, but from what I've been able to piece together from various sources, including those who worked on Oink!, the rest of its group had fallen by the wayside by this stage.

Thankfully though our comic wasn't cancelled.  Fleetway saw that it had legs, but while its sales were still good, their top titles such as Whizzer and Chips and, of course, Buster were selling up to 250,000 every single week!  So the publishers decided to try to alter Oink! to increase its sales.  The answer - going weekly.  Possibly.

Some sacrifices had to be made, but we'll talk about them in a bit.

But firstly the whole idea of going weekly was basically to up the amount sold (we'd be buying two issues a fortnight instead of one after all) and bring in more money as a result.  Then, with it being weekly alongside the more traditional humour comics the hope was it'd attract more readers too, again increasing the circulation and money.  On the one hand it's a sound business idea, if you remember me mentioning it before Oink! was more expensive than other comics from the very beginning - not just because of the higher quality paper, it being produced independently etc., but also because it was fortnightly, as the higher price also helped offset the lesser frequency of new issues for publisher and newsagents alike.

It may have changed the paper quality and stayed at the same price since #36, but it was still fortnightly and was still of the highest independent quality!  So now the idea was to bring it just a little more in line with the more traditional comics, at least on the outside looking in, and to build that established readership.  Looking back now, it's great to think that Fleetway could easily have cancelled it at this stage in keeping with their new sales groups rules, but they saw something in it and wanted to work with the team to ensure its continuation while also preserving its humour and what made reading it different.

It wouldn't be the last such change for the comic for the very same reason, but for now we were very happy.

My mum was a bit happier too, the thought of buying double the amount of issues being softened somewhat by the decrease in price by 5p.  For now anyway - again.

But enough of all this serious talk for a bit, let's crack on (or krak on) and see what the first issue of Oink! Weekly has to offer.  I'm choosing the following full-page two-panel strip from editor Tony Husband first for a quick giggle to get us going:


There's a definite air of 'newness' about this issue, with a few new serials starting and Uncle Pigg even introduces us to the comic on page two with Grunts acting as a kind of silly contents page, just for this issue.  Other strips such as Pete and his Pimple also have an air about them of aiming at new readers, and there is indeed something rather different about this issue which took a while to put my finger on when I was 11.

We'll get back to that after we've enjoyed the strips I've selected from this 45th edition of the greatest humour comic and it's Davy Francis' turn as he takes us back to Cowpat County with this half-page strip.  After a few new names such as Ponsonby Claret the Know-It-All Parrot and Haldane's Incredible, Amazing (Bizarre) World (both of which are good of course) it's nice to see a familiar face in this very-different-feeling comic and, as per usual, Davy's final panel comes from left field (no pun intended):


As I've mentioned before the new weekly format lent itself perfectly to ongoing serials and quite a few of the team took this opportunity to explore this further.  Tony almost changed Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins from a humour strip to an ongoing football-themed drama, but we enjoyed cheering on the underdog and hoping he'd win to show life isn't all about looks.  Below you'll also see how Jeremy Banx decided to created a mini-series too, then there's the calendar for 1988 on the back page which readers could collect over this and the next five issues.

Also, Lew Stringer set in motion a very fondly remembered ongoing competition.  In his Pete and his Pimple Lew asked the readers to send in ideas for a permanent cure for his larger than life zit problem.  I'll be including some of these as we go along, as it was always fun seeing how some perfectly sound solutions were inevitably turned on their heads into complete disaster.  Great fun, so check back every week to see if I've included any.

However, keeping to the subject of serials for the moment, Lew wrote the superb Ham Dare Pig of the Future as regular blog readers will know and now in its weekly state the comic was to treat us to its next epic pig tale - Sherlock Hams and the Hog of the Baskervilles.  Full as ever with piggy puns and quick-witted dialogue a la the very best Stringer-serials, the script was also brought to life by the artwork of Ron Tiner who did the same to great spoofs all the way through Oink!'s run - such as joke versions of The Professionals (in my cherished #14), Superman and even David Attenborough.

What a brilliant start this is and now you've only a week to wait until the next episode:


In fact we go straight from part one of this story to the aforementioned Banx one.  In amongst all the extra bits'n'bobs, books and Christmas cards, calendars and carols, #44 was tucked away on Boxing Day, the date on its cover.  The Hogmanay issue brought with it the latest Butcherwatch Update and as I said it was kind of like a pilot episode in a way for this mini-series.  It brought back to the pages of Oink! none other than the most terrifying butcher ever to walk the streets of Porksmouth - Jimmy 'The Cleaver' Smith and yet again we saw another piggy person meet their doom in an ingenious and gory fashion.

Banx's black sense of humour comes to the fore in this simply divine serial, heightened even more by the actual black framing of the piece.  There's not even a title.  It all combines to give it a wonderfully creepy feeling and the sombre nature of our hero (coupled with that strange black humour) makes for something... different.  Different, but hugely enjoyable and very, very memorable:


There have been times where I've wondered into my childhood memories of this comic and told you about the actual time I read certain things back then.  This is one particular time when a strip was just so good it stuck with me.  My eleven-year old brain found this mesmerising.  There's simply no other word for it.

If you're reading the pages from Oink! for the first time through this site, try to imagine yourself as a young child with this in front of you.  I've said it before how Oink! formed the senses of humour of so many kids back in the 80s, when you've got such original humour strips as this you can see what I mean.

For the life of me I can't remember exactly what happened but I do know roughly how it ends and I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing this one develop over the next five issues.

Now for the bad news.  Well two bits of bad news actually.

In going weekly two things had changed.  The first was that there were no longer any themes.  Whether this was simply because to create fifty-two differently themed issues every year would be deemed too difficult (fair enough) or whether it had something to do with fitting Oink! in amongst other comics a little better (without changing what made it 'Oink!') I simply don't know.  The last time we'd gone without one in the regular comic was way back in #15 when it kind of relaunched and added a whole bunch of new characters to the roster.  With some new additions such as the ones already scanned in or mentioned above, and with no theme, it felt like that again.  But, moving into the next issue it was clear subjects were gone completely.  But like I said it was understandable and after The Oink! Book 1988 we saw how it could actually work in its favour - a weekly slice of completely unpredictable goodness...

However, another change was the page count.

Oink! had always been a thirty-two page fortnightly comic, just like all the other weekly IPC/Fleetway titles.  But on transitioning to double the amount of comics to churn out the independent Oink! Publishing Ltd had to drop the amount of pages by eight, meaning we were left with twenty-four.  This wasn't mentioned in any of the hype or indeed in this issue, and it was only on my second read through as a child that I noticed it (the pages were no longer numbered) as I was sure it hadn't taken me as long to get to the end as normal.

The drop to 30p meant it had gone back to its original price from almost a year previous but it was still roughly 6p (doesn't sound like much but it was back then) more expensive than its stablemates, and now it'd a quarter less of the total pages to boot.  It'd take a few issues for it to adjust, but soon it'd be rocking it's new slimline look and the whole thing would start to feel tailored to its size.  But in this issue things do seem a little less random, a little less mad than usual.  It seems to have been put together more like a traditional comic.

These days we're used to seeing a page full of quarter-page strips so it's important to remember other children's comics generally didn't do that back in the 80s, instead keeping most things to a full page or two, occasionally a half-page here or there.  This issue of Oink! still has strips of various sizes, but they're all grouped together, like below here's the first half of a page of ones the same size:


Written by Mark Rodgers for Marc Riley, Harry the Head's strip is actually the best in a while and of course Zootown was always this size and both of these are brilliant, naturally!  Even amongst the more organised comic the actual humour still shone out as something that bit different.

But it did feel more organised and so it felt like the edge had been taken off a bit overall.  I can remember thinking that as a child too.  But like I said it'd get better as the weeklies went on.  With less pages to play with it must've been difficult to squeeze that Oink!-feeling in, that complete randomness, while also making sure there was plenty to read - hence why this issue has more full page strips.  Perhaps throwing in all the smaller one gag features etc would've resulted in a feeling of less 'content', which they've masterfully avoided somehow.

(As a sidenote, I collected Marvel UK's Transformers comic too from around 1988 or so, long after it'd gone weekly.  After Michael Bay's first movie I went back and completed my collection and noticed the first year's twenty-six issues were actually thirty-two page fortnightly comics, with two main strips, back-ups, humour pages, features etc in its mix of colour pages and black and white ones.  When it went weekly it boasted of full-colour and it too went down to twenty-four pages, but it actually used this in its advertising, stating it was more streamlined, showing off it was getting rid of the superfluous features and concentrating on two strips and quality content instead.  It worked and sales continued to grow.)

At the end of the day though, even with less pages per issue we were still getting two issues a fortnight and actually would be up sixteen pages if you think of it!  Then, just as the comic had a new level of confidence with #6, just as it relaunched with new characters and talent in #15, just as it began a simply faultless stretch in the mid-twenties and then hit its golden age (for me anyway) with #36, so would the new format of Oink! Weekly hit its stride in a few issues, just in time for a special celebration.  But for now you'll just have to trust me and enjoy the rest of the goodies which are here for us right now.


As you can see the humour hadn't lost any of its edge amongst the more traditional layouts and the Torture Twins from Haldane were always guaranteed to raise a smile, no matter what.

As for the rest of the issue, it's full-page goodness for Pete and his Pimple, Tom Thug, The Slugs, The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile - Aged 8 5/8 years (then again, he usually was), Frank Sidebottom, even Nasty Laffs and Specs and a double-pager for Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins.  They're all terrific, but it's also meant there's less room for the other characters too and this was something which could cause a problem for a comic with so many various characters and strips, features and fake adverts.  While they all fitted seamlessly into the larger comic thanks to the amount of pages and the fact they could all be of various sizes, would this now mean some would be dropped altogether?

OR, that we'd be treated to even more random choices of strip, not just in their size and placement but also in who would appear in each issue, when the weeklies really got going?

What do you think??

For now let's round things off with one of my favourite GBH Madvertisements and make sure you heed that final sentence and be back here on Thursday 16th January for more from Oink! Weekly:



Thursday, 1 January 2015

HAPPY NEW 1987!

1987?  But surely even the comic is moving into 1988 on the blog, not '87?  Yes, you'd be right, but there's also something taking up rather a lot of space at the top of my stairs which holds the answer...:


Remember in the final months of last year... erm, I mean year before last (always takes a while to get used to) Oink! had a sort of relaunch with #15?  IPC had a hit on their hands, so with this issue new talent was brought on board, new characters joined the comic and a new-found confidence filled the pages.

In addition, to celebrate this they gave away a huge three-part calendar poster over issues #15, #16 and #17 and I've already bleated on in those posts about how I only had two of the three parts and how Kevin Tuson from the Facebook group was able to send me photographs of the final part for inclusion on the blog.

Well, last summer I received a wonderful email from a gentleman named Graham Brown who had stumbled upon the blog when researching if he could sell his complete calendar online.  Thing is, after seeing this site he didn't want to sell me it, he just wanted it to go to a new home.  I of course sent him a little something (I hope your Hobgoblin Gold was enjoyable if you're reading this Graham) but what a generous individual!  Never ending thanks to that man.

What will be of interest to pig pals who still have the free gift(s) is that you can use it this year.


That's right, 1987 and 2015 sync up so it's time to dig those calendars out and get them up in pride of place.  Mine greets anyone venturing upstairs in my house and its unmissable as you can see.  Below are photos of it in its complete state and some close-ups of the little details for those who aren't as lucky to have one at home.

I can't think of a better way to start the new year and the next one hundred posts.

Happy 1987!