Friday, 27 March 2015
#56: READ THIS - OR ELSE!
This has probably been the easiest selection of highlights to choose since I started this blog. Each issue I usually struggle with too many strips, pages, Madvertisements etc. to include and there's usually some classic gag left in the comic for you to discover for yourselves if or when you get a hold of any of the issues. But this week it's different.
Last time I included part one of Hieronymous Van Hellsong's prequel tale so obviously he's back this time around. Tom Thug is not only the cover star of another brill Lew Stringer piece this issue but I obviously had to include the third and final part of his Crude Crew tale. Then there's the return - finally - of one of my very favourite comics characters of all time on the back page, the one-and-only Hadrian Vile.
That's not to say any one of these pages wouldn't have been included anyway but it certainly made the selection process a lot less time consuming! As for what else I've chosen, when you see them you'll see why.
So yes, back to that darkly comic hero from Jeremy Banx.
As I hinted at before I can remember this part of the strip vividly and the profound effect it had on me as a child. Have a read of it first:
Black humour was just something we'd never read at our age and taking this strip into such territory was a brave move. Or actually perhaps it wasn't brave at all. Maybe instead it showed just how much Banx and the editors knew their audience, knew they could not only get away with such dark humour but that we'd love it! Oink! never talked down to its audience. In fact none of the comics of my childhood did, they treated us all with intelligence and the creators simply wrote what they knew they'd enjoy themselves - while obviously making sure it was suitable for a young readership.
Having our hero kill himself so he could go to hell and all as part of his job - what a concept for a humour weekly to bring us. I'm not reading ahead and that just means I'm itching to do so right now! Must. Resist. Must. Resist.
I know what'll take my mind off it and that's another slice of classic Lew Stringer and the concluding part of Tom Thug and his Crude Crew. Now we all know Tom's schemes must always fall apart in spectacular fashion and the more violent towards the bully himself the better, naturally. Also, his dad may be all grown up, married to an incredibly nice lady and sitting comfortable in life, but that doesn't mean his fatherly advice is any better, so I've been looking forward to this finale.
Obviously trying to ensure his son is protected like any father would, he just wanted to help his son in the only way he knew how. Two weeks ago he told Tom to assemble a gang so they could pick on people together without getting hurt. That was the theory. In practice it wasn't ever going to work out quite as easily as that for the teenage torture, which I'm sure you're very glad to hear:
It's an issue of two finals here for Tom. Not only is it the final part of this story but it's also his final cover for Oink! He'd reappear on Buster's covers in the years to come but for getting pee'd on by a dog would be his cover curtain call. Sadly, it's also Lew's final cover for our comic as with only twelve issues to go there'd simply not be the opportunity for him to produce another one for us. But that's not to say there isn't a whole load of fun to look forward to from the same man. Just you wait until you see what he produces for the monthlies!
On to the couple of examples of this issue which weren't pre-planned seven days ago and they both come from the same page funnily enough.
Looking back now that we've been treated to eight episodes altogether of Van Hellsong over the course of the weekly issues, maybe I've been a little premature to natter on about how we weren't treated to black humour until that fantastic creation came along. After all, Haldane had been treating us to jokes about medieval torture for a long time now!:
The Torture Twins, however, are less of the black humour genre and more of the ludicrous variety of course. Perfectly summing up what Oink! could get away with that other comics couldn't, these brothers took what was basically maiming to comedy heights and presented it in a way which kids found hilarious. I mean come on, could you imagine the furore if The Beano or Whizzer and Chips had a strip making light of decapitation?
If you're going to have such a working environment you may as well enjoy it. Who's to say (apart from probably every historian ever) that such characters didn't exist in medieval times. Lightening the mood in a grim working environment works even to this day after all. So maybe Oink! was being educational after all.
Being educational is the very reason behind the next half-page too, when we children were to be educated about none other than William Shakespig, the greatest playwright who ever lived. Steve Gibson provides the portrait but the lesson's teacher is currently unknown. The target audience (but not the whole audience) were a few years away from being introduced to his plays in grammar school and it was Oink!'s job to enlighten us. How do you think it did?:
Before we march to the back page and the new-look content for Harian, we've just time for a moving war story of sad memories and lost comrades. Just recently added to the line-up of talent Kev F Sutherland takes us down memory lane to the trenches, the mud, the blood, the terror and the touching story of those who fought for us all.
As told through the eyes of Dead Fred and his zombie pal:
Wilkie's art style is perfect for Dead Fred as we all know by now, but in particular this story shows his range and how his work could cross genres with ease. We've the comedy zombies at the top and bottom of the page, but in-between the battleground panels wouldn't look out of place in a top action or military comic.
This blending really makes this strip stand out for me and heightens Kev's already funny strip to a completely new level. This is a humour comic and we know a joke is coming, but the use of this kind of art - serious, foreboding and adult - makes that punchline all the more funny. A brilliant strip and one of my favourites.
Now, finally, after being missing in action for far too long (okay, just a number of weeks but his absence has been felt) we're all set for the return of none other than The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile Aged 8 5/8 Years.
Oh wait, hang on.
But it's not.
Yes Hadrian is back as promised, but his diary is nowhere to be seen. Instead it appears the back pages of Oink! over the next few weeks will see the pint-sized intelekual take us through his guide to television instead. I do remember this series but what I'd forgotten was it being a replacement for the diary we'd all grown to love so much. Ian Jackson's artwork is still present and correct, as are Mark Rodger's wonderfully inventive scripts and spelling, but I miss the insight into him and his family's life.
Don't get me wrong, these Vidiots pieces are great fun, but they're no substitute for a proper strip featuring this most wonderful of characters. The diary was always guaranteed to be one of the main highlights of each and every issue and it'd only become better and better as it went along. Unfortunately Hadrian's diary was already now consigned to history, but I could've sworn he himself was in the comic right the way through to the very end. But, heartbreakingly, apart from the occasional page in a special these back pages would be the last we'd see of Master Vile in the regular comic. We do have a really rather good special coming up though and just for old times sake (and also because it's guaranteed to be a highlight as I said) Hadrian's holiday photo album will be scanned in.
Such a shame though. So soak up this and the following weeks' pages as much as you possibly can, folks. It's the end of an era but he's going out on a high with a special treat - a selection of his very own Interleckshual Guides to Television. First up it's the news:
It's been a rather bittersweet issue, but only because of the hindsight of knowing we've just twelve regular issues remaining. The last Lew cover, the beginning of the last run for Hadrian and the realisation his diary has also ended. It all means that, while this issue has been a great laugh, as an adult looking back now it really does feel like the beginning of the end. Of course this simply wasn't known at the time and we'd have assumed there'd be many more of all of these things to come, but alas it wasn't to be.
UPDATE: Hmm.... click here Hadrian fans!
Chin up though as next week is another, erm, week. But not only will you see one of my very favourite covers of the whole run (another from Banx as it happens), but over the Easter weekend look out for an extra something. I've mentioned it above, so come back again after #57 for an extra dollop of Oink! with the second Holiday Special on Easter Monday.
Until then, mind your rind!