Friday, 27 February 2015

#52: FRANKLY SUPERB


Chris Sievey opens the latest issue, or rather entertains us before the opening, with the first cover to be drawn by his hands.  As a child I always loved the uniqueness of his - or should I say Frank Sidebottom's - strips but I really don't think I gave them the appreciation they so richly deserved.  As an adult I'm a huge fan and can see in every detail the care and attention that went into each and every panel.

Oink! editor Patrick Gallagher told me about how Chris would slave over his artwork for the comic and the length of time he'd spend on creating it and all the splendid details he'd add.  He really did love his young audience.  But let's get away from the regular strips for a second and would you just look at that cover!  Click on it to make it bigger and the JPEG format still doesn't do it justice.  If you have this issue or can buy it somewhere take a moment to look at every inch in front of you.

Those buildings in the distance each with individual windows.  The woodwork design in each fence post.  That amazing sunset over the cityscape.  I have no idea how long this took Chris, all I do know is that it was sitting in my collection and I'd admired it from afar, but now seeing it properly, seeing it up close, it's become one of my very favourites of the whole run.  Chris will also bring us the cover of the very final regular Oink!, so I'm looking forward to that nice big glossy monthly cover later in the year now!

Inside we see the comic finally entering the list of top reads with Escape magazine and Uncle Pigg welcomes us with "It's Oink! - the riotous read that's breaking every record for piggin' popularity!  Get hip - get reading, dummy!" and that's just what we'll do with the second part of editor/writer Tony Husband and artist Lezz's The Slugs and their adventures at Eurovision.  It's a controversial one, this one.  Well, for me anyway.

I can't remember this strip personally, but reading it now I'm not 100% sure if I'm comfortable with it.  Sure it's a good one and we're all used to bare bottoms in Oink! by now, but there's a word which I'm not too sure about:


Doesn't seem like much now, but when the target audience was around the ten years of age mark, should "crap" be in there?  I'll leave it up to yourselves to decide.  There was certainly no Janice & John-esque controversy at the time, maybe it just slipped by.  Do you think a bit of a hoo-hah would've erupted over its use (followed by those three bare bums of course - those complainers and Mail readers love to get angry about them) if it'd been noticed?  Who knows, in this day and age the word can be heard on daytime TV (Top Gear's James May's faux swear word of choice is "cocking" at 8pm on a Sunday too), but would you see it in a kids' comic?

It perfectly fits with the strip though as I read it now and with Oink! sort of fitting into that whole punk rocker rebel thing, while other humour comics were content being safe British pop music in comparison.  The verdict is out personally, but it's positively a memorable one!

So back to Frank now and that exclusive showbiz headline.  Has John Peel really left the BBC?  Why yes, yes he has and Frank has the scoop!  He's also got all the biz on Springsteen signing an album deal with a Timperley company too!  How are these for Oink! exclusives, eh?  Wow!  Must learn more, so read on:


Very clever and probably not a kick in the teeth off how the British press assemble their headlines even today.

Just before sitting down at my Mac to write this post tonight I caught up on last nights Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe and this series has been, I have to cliché, laugh-a-minute.  Everything from his own sardonic wit and cutting analysis of the week's news, to Philomela Cunk and the Russell Brand spoof have all been spot-on.  The only complaint I have is that the series is so short, with next week's sixth episode also being the last.  For a topical comedy show it's only ever topical for the shortest amount of time.

I've gone on at length about how young Charlie was when he worked on Oink! and how it was his first paying job, but I never expected his name to feature so heavily in the comics.  As well as his own creations such as The Adventures of Death and so on he wrote scripts for such huge, established talents as Lew Stringer which you can read in #47, and other British comics alumni.  Another superb example, he wrote the actual script for the fan favourite movie poster spoof of Ghostbusters in #40 too for Simon Thorpe!

Recently he'd also (as if he wasn't already doing enough) taken to writing a few of Oink!s quizzes such as Patrick Boar's Space Quiz, Are You Paranoid? and in this issue Are You A Compulsive Liar? in which the whole point of these quizzes was turned on its head.  In similar features in adult magazines at the time the reader would answer a series of multiple-choice questions and be assessed based on which letter they picked as their answer the most.  In this 'Liar' quiz all the 'A' answers are patronisingly honest, right down to the 'D' answers which are ridiculously false.  So you'd think by answering "mostly A" you'd be assessed as being very honest, "mostly B" as being moderately honest, "mostly C" as being a bit of a fibber (try a career in journalism or politics it says) and... well you get my point.

But when it gets to the "mostly D's" what are you expecting?  To be called the Compulsive Liar the title of the quiz is testing for?  Not quite:

"MOSTLY Ds:
You are probably thinking I'm going to say you're the world's greatest liar, but I'm not!  If you were a great liar, you would have answered all 'A's, and pretended not to be a liar!"

So there!

In this issue he also turns his hand to marketing the latest and greatest item from the brains at GBH for their customers with no brains, aided by some gloriously coloured art from Wilkie:


I also mentioned Death above and for good reason, as his latest Adventure is a treat also:


My eyes instinctively lingered on that penultimate panel.  Comic timing in a comic strip.  Genius.

I have to wonder if Oink! had continued in either this or its monthly guise, would Charlie have continued on with a cartooning career?  Would we have his wonderful columns in The Guardian (his and Victoria Coren-Mitchell's being the only bits I read of the site to be honest), his Screen Wipe and Weekly Wipes on the telly, his superbly crafted Black Mirror stories on Channel Four or indeed the best bit of the same channel's 10 O'Clock Live?

This is a superb issue all round and if the weeklies carry on like this then no wonder I've so many fond memories of Oink! quickly piling up in my bedroom back in 1988.  I've shown you but a small selection and there's much more to come in the next ten issues.

On another positive note, recently pig pal Jayne Gaymer asked on the Facebook group which issue of Oink! contained her attempt at a solution to Pete and his Pimple's spotty problem.  Fellow fan Alex Gray found her in the Winter Special from the end of 1989, but in trying to help I had a quick scan through the monthly issues I own and I have to say I'm looking forward to them!  Yes as a child I didn't like the fact it was out less frequently and yes there were only six before the comic folded, but with hindsight there's simply a huge amount to recommend about them in their own right!  But that's enough teasing for now, that's all to come later in the year.

For now I'll leave you with this back page gag from Tony Husband which raised a giggle with me and I'll be back next week with #53, naturally.  But also check out the blog sometime before then, probably on That Day I Get Around To It, when there's some ABSOLUTELY SUPERB NEWS to write about.  Ta-ra for now chucks:

1 comment:

STEPHEN ARCHER said...

I used to phone Frank’s number after 6pm quite regularly. On one occasion, Chris actually answered with the familiar “Hell-lo!” My nerve went and I hung up; thankfully there was no 1471 in those days! It’s a biggish regret that I didn’t engage with him, and I’ve often wondered if he’d have remained in character or just hung as I did. I tend to suspect the former: I read online a number of years ago the same thing happened to someone else. When asked if he were Frank Chris affirmed before saying “Oh blimey it’s me mum” and hanging up! Can’t find it again to reread; but he was a lucky sod anyway.