Thursday, 23 April 2015

#60: TWO YEARS LATER...


Before I start on this issue, which has been a belter, I just want to say the same thing I said this time last year - thank you.  Thank you to all those who have read this blog over the past two years and who have given me such lovely feedback both here and at the Facebook group.  Two years ago today I wrote a post for something which was just going to be a fun little thing to do every other week and now it's grown into something huge.  Just a few days ago the blog reached 50,000 views, something beyond my wildest imagination when I began, so thanks to one and all again.

There may only be a handful of regular issues left but it won't be the end of the blog, no not at all.  Personal circumstances have delayed the start of the work on the book but with things all settled there'll be news soon.  If this is new to you, just click here to read my previous post when I decided to officially announce it.  It's going to be an exciting time and there's some special memories I'll be sharing over the summer too in addition to all this right here on The Oink! Blog.  But for now it's back to the latest issue:


The Slugs from Lezz make it to the front cover is glorious (or not so glorious) colour and inside they've got an equally colourful poster in the middle pages.  They don't appear in strip format though and while they may be "The Sensation of '88" they, like most (but not all) of the regulars of Oink! at this stage, have to take their turn in the back seat while others get the strip space with the twenty-four pages of our favourite comic.

By way of example their usual strip page is taken over by Barrington Bosh He's Incredibly Posh, someone more used to short gags, but here he's got a full page to himself and it's a delightful read.  But it did get me thinking about those readers the publishers wanted to try and attract with the new format for the weeklies - that is, those young readers who Fleetway felt preferred more traditional comic layouts with the same characters on the same pages every week.  'Familiarity' was key.  By this stage though the concept had almost been completely abandoned, with only a few characters appearing in the same space - although even The Slugs (who were normally there like clockwork on page 3) were bumped this time.

We'd already read how Oink! was still attracting an older audience, the same mixture of old and young that the fortnightlies did, so was it a matter of the editors just going back to their own direction like they did under IPC?  To me, Oink! just didn't work as well when it was trying to be more traditional in its contents lists, but unfortunately twenty-four pages just isn't enough to share amongst the great cast list the comic had along with all the random one-offs and spoofs we loved so much.  So we've seen some regulars being dropped completely, others only turning up once in a while.

My point here is, what would new readers make of an issue they picked up randomly?  With something more traditional and safe like Buster or Whizzer and Chips you'd know what you'd just read was indicative of the next issue, and the one after that, and the one after that... but Oink! wasn't.  No one issue was the same as the one before or after when it was fortnightly, and thankfully for us long-term readers this had become the case again after the first ten or so weeklies.  But a new reader could read an issue and think that was everything Oink! had to offer, they'd not know about all the other charcters, or the fact a lot of the content was completely interchangeable and random.  Maybe it's only because I was a long-term reader, but it feels to me now that the fortnightlies contained everything which made Oink! what it was, but it'd actually take someone to read a few of the weekly issues to get the full picture.  Could the page reduction be detrimental to bringing in the new readers?  What if that particular issue's mix didn't gel with them as well as others may have.  Would they have given it another chance, not knowing the next issue could be completely different?

Food for thought for those of us who like to look into the bigger picture of our favourite titles.  But enough of that, let's get back to that content.

It's the end of an era now folks.  The very final chapter, not just for this prequel story, but for the character as a whole because it's time to bid a fond farewell to Jeremy Banx's Hieronymous Van Hellsong.  After last week's 'exit', this feels almost like an epilogue rather than the actual climax, but that doesn't detract from another surreal look into the imagination of one of the fans' most loved cartoonists:


He may only have appeared in twelve pages altogether but Van Hellsong is a fan favourite, make no mistake.  It's heartbreaking to know we've said goodbye to so many Oink! characters already and we'll be saying goodbye to more as we move on, but at least they're going out on a high.

Speaking of pages, I've often been asked why I didn't include strip 'x' or strip 'y' from a certain issue.  Or why the complete issues simply aren't available online to download or on this blog.  The answer is simple, I don't own these.  When I started the blog I was always aware that Oink! was creator-owned. This was something else which set it aside from other children's comics of the day, in that each character and strip was owned by those who created them.  If the issues were made available illegally online that'd be stealing from those very people we say we're a fan of, people who have the right to those strips and to actually make money from them if they so wish, as is their right.  After all they worked extremely hard on them.

The title of the comic is copyrighted to Egmont these days and I did check with them first of all about the idea behind the blog - to have highlights from each issue with the consent of those who worked on it (never more than a quarter of the content was a general rule I set myself).  Egmont liked the idea so much they even linked to me on their Classic Comics site - see here and this is reflected on the copyright notice at the bottom of the page.

I obviously haven't been able to talk to every single creator, though I have been extremely fortunate to be able to befriend many online.  If any one of them ever objected to any of my scans it'd be removed, but no one has ever done so and indeed they've told me time and again how much they love the blog and rereading Oink! through it.  It makes me quite starstruck at times I have to say!  My forthcoming book is also not going to simply be me scanning in a load of reprints and trying to sell them, but there'll be more details of that soon and again the creators, writers and artists have been overwhelmingly positive with my plans.

So when having to choose highlights I've always said it wouldn't simply be a 'best of' as that's too subjective and I've no right to say what are the definitive strips.  I wanted to make sure each issue was well represented, with a great cross-section of its contents which in turn would hopefully reproduce a bit of that chaotic randomness from post-to-post which we loved so much reading from issue-to-issue.  Some issues would have more included than others and it wasn't simply about including exactly a quarter of the amount of pages, but just what felt right in each post.  It's hard to explain as it's been a very organic process as I've gone along, with each issue having various amounts of pages jumping out at me for inclusion.

This issue may look like it's got an awful lot of its contents into this post when we're only talking about twenty-four original pages, but by coincidence it actually adds up to exactly eight pages' worth.

Anyway, I hope that answers some of the questions you've raised.  Meanwhile, while I've been wittering on Kev F has been in the kitchen:


If there's any more of these little gems I may just have to include the 'Meanwhile...' title in the tags.

What's been a delightful surprise for a couple of issues now has been a regular page for a certain Wonder Pig.  Usually popping up infrequently as double-page spreads he's been returning every week now, but that hasn't meant he's decided on a regular name yet.  If you're looking for any of his other adventures you can read some of them by clicking on the "Lashy" tag in the Stuff in the Sty section down the left-hand column there.  That was his first name.  His latest is Lappie but what hasn't changed is the lovely characterisation he gets from the pen of Chas Sinclair.  (Just look at that last panel, those simply-drawn floppy ears add so much to his demeanour - it's just natural talent on the part of Chas.)  There's no writer credit, but as Tony Husband has written all of his previous adventures we'll run with it being him on this one too:


His master didn't fall down a hole!

The next strip from Lew Stringer has a story behind it but you should read the Tom Thug page first.  Then when you read the behind-the-scenes tale it'll be interesting to see what you think about a rare piece of Oink! censorship:


Something being censored certainly doesn't sound like Oink!, but there was a panel above which in its original form Fleetway thought they'd simply have to change.  No prizes for guessing which panel, but it may surprise you to see what they took out and how in the end they actually made it worse by comparison.  To read the full story just click here to go to Lew's post all about it on his Lew Stringer Comics blog.  Don't worry, we'll wait for you.

So you're back and what do you think?  In a comic with bare bottoms, fart jokes and (of all things) plops it seems strange this particular windy gag was deemed too much.  But I agree with Lew, it makes the end result worse.  Why is her hat blowing off?  In anger?  At what?  Tom wasn't meant to be mooning her but that's now the impression, backed up (but not intentionally obviously) by the punchline.

A strange case indeed.

So hands up who remembers our next star:


Another of Charlie Brooker's many, many (many) creations, Transmogrifying Tracey had a simple set up - a girl who could transform into absolutely anything.  Nope, there was no origin story, no daft explanation, it was simply a matter of fact that Tracey could instantaneously change into anything she desired.  It'd often get her into mischief and her gift would be used against her to punish her, but sometimes she'd get the last laugh and teach others a lesson too.

Taking the 80s sensation of Transformers to the Nth degree, if fans' wishes of a return from Oink! was ever to materialise she'd fit right in with today's comics audience, as that sensation has returned to its own Nth degree!  It was just such a wonderfully silly premise, it's hard to explain why I loved this character so much, but I think it was just the insanity of it all.  That's a pretty good way of summing up Brooker's work on the comic though when you line up all of his creations beside each other - each and every one just would not have worked in any other comic.

Now and again a glorious piece of artwork pops up which I simply don't know the origins of.  Sometimes other Oink! artists have been able to name those behind them and I'm hoping the same can happen here:


A cheeky little poem which I'm sure raised plenty of smiles amongst us back then but did we really appreciate this beautiful page when we were young 'uns?  I certainly hope so.  It reminds me a little of Dave Huxley's work (for example here and here) and also of that fine Watery Down strip, but if anyone out there can help me officially identify the artist so I can give them the credit they so rightfully deserve, please get in touch.

UPDATE:  Well I was right with the Watery Down connection.  Oink! co-creator and editor Patrick Gallagher left a message on the Facebook group to let us know who the extremely talented artist was.  It was none other than Patrick's own neighbour, a lady by the name of Ann Martin.  I've also updated the Watery Down strip in #6 at long last.  Glad to let the pig pals know whose work this is, Ann more than deserves the credit!

Time to wrap things up for this week and for the first two years of the blog.  I still can't get over the fact I've kept this going for so long.  When I started I was living in a different house (and have moved twice since)and was in a different job.  I wasn't doing anything creative and for pointless net surfing I was using a crummy, slow laptop prone to crashing, now I'm all kitted out with my Mac Mini and iPhone with an office space in my house and I'm writing a book!  Regular exercise was something to kid myself about when making new year resolutions, now I'm running and swimming and in the best shape of my life (with lots of improvement still possible believe me).  My whole life has changed.

Lots of that change has come about because of this blog, because of Oink!  To be chatting with the creators and cartoonists was something beyond my wildest dreams back then, now I've been chatting with them online, on the phone and meeting them in person!  Previous blog and website ventures never lasted, but with Oink! I loved it so much it reignited my passion for writing and a yearning to follow those dreams again.  I can't express how much I owe this wonderful comic for this experience and for what is (hopefully) to come.

I'll leave you with two classic mini-strips from Haldane (Zootown) and Ed McHenry.  Both made me laugh out loud and so I feel they're the perfect way to round off what has been both a great issue and a very special, personal post:


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