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.