Thursday, 30 April 2015

#61: FORWARD TO THE PAST ONCE AGAIN


Another Burp cover so soon?  You'd better believe it!  Jeremy Banx brings another superb introductory page only a fortnight after his last appearance front and centre of newsagent shelves.  It would also be his last - for both alien and artist.  It relates to a special two-page Burp strip inside and you'll be happy to know I've included it too, but we'll get there eventually.

You'll have noticed a little trend creeping into Oink! recently.  I've been talking about the fact the comic was appealing to a very wide demographic but how Fleetway wanted it to refocus on younger readers, believing this was key to increasing it's already hit audience of roughly 100,000 per issue.  But you'll have read and, in the case of some previous issues like this one and this one, seen for yourself how Oink! acknowledged this.  (The former was Uncle Pigg's pimply opener to Grunts, the latter last week's banner above the title.)

This trend continues here with the front cover directly marketing itself to the teen audience.  The reader survey in #54 did include an age section but as I said at the time it looked like the change to come was already in motion, another piece of redirection by the publisher to increase sales, only this time for a different audience again.  Can a comic survive so much change so quickly?  Especially when the original format was such a hit for the previous publisher?  Well we know the answer to that, and in two issues time you'll see that final phase of Oink! appear.

For now let's mosey on inside #61 and we're greeted on the prime real estate of page three with a one-off Charlie Brooker creation.  80s Radio DJs were obvious fair game for Oink!, with many other one-off strips tearing into the profession, John Peel contributing and also brilliantly taking the hand out of himself, Steve Wright winning a not-very-prestigious award (again, with John) and of course David Leach's Dudley Dull DJ character.

It'd be easy to say this had been done to death but Charlie comes up trumps here with another spin on the idea with the simply-titled Dave the DJ:


A few issues ago I mentioned a future Pete and his Pimple strip where a poor plop would be the focus of attention in Mr Throb's endless quest to cure himself of his massive zit.  Well here is that very strip.

Lew Stringer's plops certainly seem to have more weight and smell to them.

Hang on.  That doesn't sound right.

Lew's plop drawings seem to have more weight and 'smell' to them here.  Whereas they'd normally be a solid black colour, Lew seems to have taken care to really flesh them out, if you'll pardon the expression.  Out of all the things Oink!'s overly-righteous critics complained about the plops got a free pass.  But for any newer readers with this issue there could certainly be no doubt what these little blobs actually were - faeces.  Especially with them hanging out in a toilet-shaped club and with their own little community on the pavement in this story, they could easily star in their own strip every issue and my preference would be for Lew to be the artist!

A great little slice of what made Oink! great, this is the perfect page with them and one of the comic's most popular characters joining forces in a story about zits and poo, and all from a reader's original idea:


This week I reached out to the members of the Facebook group as last year sometime a pig pal received a fantastic present from, I think, his dad.  It was a framed page of Oink!, the very favourite one of the recipient and he couldn't have been happier.  It was a lovely idea from his father and we were all a little bit jealous.  Well it has finally come to the printed page, from the mind and hand of Simon Thorpe the king of Oink!'s movie spoof posters:


The group member didn't get back to me in time and I've searched the photos but to no avail.  If he does I'll throw up another post to show you and you can all be jealous too.  I have to say it looks wonderful in a frame.  That's thanks to Simon's superb artistry once again, something he carried off with aplomb and I can only imagine how long he spent hand-crafting these for us lucky, lucky readers.

Speaking of the group, a while ago the Oink! team were sharing scans and photos of some wonderful behind-the-scenes goodies, such as unpublished strips, early character designs and even editorial letters and personal Christmas cards sent between them at the time.  Some of the stories they shared were great and if you haven't already I heartily recommend you join up.

This was around the time the Frank movie arrived in cinemas across the UK, starring Michael Fassbender under the papier-mache face for the duration of the whole film.  While discussing this at the group Oink! writer Graham Exton commented on how Michael had appeared as Ron "Machete" McHetty in a GBH holiday madvertisement.  I assumed we'd see a young child in one of these, so you can imagine my surprise when this turned up:


What a brilliant (m)ad!  Written by and starring Mark Rodgers with the photographs taken by his partner Helen Jones, it looks like they had the most fun creating this superb centre-page spread.  In no less than the Bahamas too!  Why did they go so far for this?  Was GBH really making that much money?  Well no, this is the home of Graham, and Mark and Helen were visiting on vacation when they took advantage of the scenery for Oink!

That can't be Fassbender, he'd be a small child!  So why would Graham have said that... well the obvious answer is that's actually Graham who was likening himself to the chiselled good looks of Prometheus' android.  I messaged him to ask for clarification and immediately embarrassed myself as the wording came across like I actually thought that was the future Hollywood star back in 1988.  Nothing like a cringe-worthy moment with one of your childhood heroes, eh?

To be fair, as Graham said to me Michael wouldn't even have been born at the time, never mind being a young child in a GBH ad!  So yes, I needn't have asked at all, no matter the wording, but my grey hair is always in denial about just how long ago Oink! was.

So yes, that's Graham above there too and one-by-one we're getting to see the Oink! crew in the flesh (as well as their own interpretations in this year's Holiday Special), which is as good an excuse as any to include this picture from this week's Grunts page of editor/writer/cartoonist Patrick Gallagher.  Yes we've seen him before a few times on the blog but I couldn't let this go by without showing you:


Back to our cover star now and it brings me great pleasure to bring to you a double-page Burp strip from Banx.  We used to get this in every issue in what I called Oink!'s Golden Age, then in #58 we were treated to a gloriously coloured return for the Pet Specimen from Uranus.  Here we get a bit of a mix of both, not quite full colour but the 1950s example and Burp and his time machine being the only things in colour are a nice touch.

Burp is about to do his greatest good deed yet.  Instead of trying to help a neighbour or a city, now he's going to bring his 'A'-game and help the entire planet in one go.  How?  You'd never guess.  But then again, you should never try to guess where a Jeremy Banx script is going to go, have you not caught on to that yet?:


From Burp's final cover to Hadrian Vile's final appearance!  Now now, don't weep too much he'll be back with some holiday snaps in the second part of this year's Oink! Holiday Special (read the first part here) but as for the regular comic this is it, his final contribution and at the time of publication you'd have finished the special by now anyway.

It was a shock to see his diary disappear from the weeklies as he was always one character I remembered being there right up to the final issue, or so I thought.  Then again I thought the same of Mr Big Nose too.  Hadrian's Vidiots series, while good, was no substitute for a proper comic strip in the style we'd become so accustomed to.  It was also very similar to a previous page he had way back in #30.

In that issue we had Hadrian Vile's Interleckshual Guide to Famous Peeple - sound familiar?  We even have some familiar faces from that one turn up in this issue's final Vidiot:


While those previous special pages were just a break from the fortnightly diary, here they'd become a replacement and so Hadrian would end up denied a final strip or a send off of any sort when the comic came to its end (which is in just seven issues time!).  But he still remains as one of my very favourite and most fondly remembered comics characters of all time, and yes I mean across all comics, not just Oink!  Writer Mark Rodgers and artist Ian Jackson had created something truly original, imaginative and, most importantly, extremely funny with The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile.  As I said before I would love to have seen the strip continue in real-time for many more years, just as it had in those first forty-four issues and so it's with a heavy heart but a cheery smile full of memories that I say a fond farewell to the little horror.

(Is it ironic his last appearance doesn't even include his actual face?)

To finish this post on the inside back cover of this issue the usual newsagent reservation coupon is accompanied by a copy of a classic photo and a caption, which as always places it in a completely different scenario.  Another funny way to end the issue, but do you notice anything missing compared to previous ones?  (I've featured a couple in the posts for #49 and #54):


Thanks for reading folks, see you next week!

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