For the last time in the regular comic let's take a look at that classic logo as big, big changes are afoot for the last time:
Editor Tony Husband brings us the last weekly cover and it's a simple affair, giving a football magazine theme to the proceedings, gently mocking the style of other titles such as Shoot! etc. The reason? Inside there's a four-page Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins story to end his ongoing tale of football stardom, amnesia, radioactive monsters and shadowy transfer agents. I'll admit even today, while the story is well told and Horace is always a lovable character, the football puns and jokes are a bit lost on me, but only because I was never into the sport. It's not a slight on the strip itself.
As a child I didn't like sport at all. Swimming I loved, and the Olympics were always magical. Now as an adult (physically anyway) the Olympics still have that grip on me and you'll find me cheering on Tom Daley in much the same way as my dad screams at the TV during a Newcastle United match. Other sports though it's still a case of not so much, but every two years for the Summer and Winter Games you'll find me living a hermit-like existence for two weeks in front of the TV, followed by regular trips to the pool or out running. Olympic legacy and all that, eh?
But anyway, Horace would continue into the monthlies on a more traditional note with individual stories with an ending each issue and a good old belly laugh. But others weren't so lucky. Readers, it pains me to break the news to you but below is the last ever appearance of Burp in the regular Oink! comic! Yes that's right, after we've already said goodbye to Mr Big Nose and with Hieronymous Van Hellsong having two great mini-series come to their own natural ends, Jeremy Banx bids us adieu with this final page.
He does return in the Holiday Special and the annual to come later this year, after all these would've been completed long before this time, but for those final six issues to come we're left not only Burp-less, but Banx-less! You'd better enjoy this one then and that's an order!:
Of course you were going to enjoy that and the Congenitally Blind Saturnian After-Image Nibbler could so easily have also been included in his superb Frankenthing e-book, couldn't it? What an imagination!
But what a sad realisation that Jeremy isn't going to be contributing to any of the following issues. But as I've mentioned before the Burp epic in the second Oink! Book (coming Christmas Day 2015 on the blog, folks) is a particularly memorable one for me for a very personal reason, so I'm really looking forward to revisiting that during the festive season! Until then, so long Burp, it's been a blast. A very smelly, slimy and at times gory blast.
On to the next strip for this issue then. We all grew up with cartoon characters based on animals such as Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck etc. As an adult though you're bound to have come across someone in your personal life or on television who asked questions we never thought of as children. Such as why did Donald wrap a towel around himself as he stepped out of a shower when his lower half was naked at all other times? Also why did Bugs not wear clothes normally, but when dressing as a female wabbit felt the need to put human-type apparel on?
But hey, at least Bugs knew where he should be living, as Ed McHenry picks up on with a swipe at a comics-based character from the Beano, Biffo (now Bummo) the Bear:
Speaking of things we never thought about at the time, Pete and his Pimple has been with us since #15 but not once have we considered the ramifications of his existence on the wider world. Sounds very serious, doesn't it? Who cares about the clean up, the putrid mess left behind on the streets of Oinktown and the health hazard of having large amounts of greasy, slimy pus all over the pavements?
Well as it turns out Lew Stringer cares:
It's such an obvious idea for a Pete strip, but only so in hindsight once you've read it. Like some of the greatest stand-up comedians who point out the funny things in our daily lives we never really thought of, Lew comes up trumps with the non-obvious-yet-obvious joke above.
I love the fact the character is played completely straight. We're used to Pete's world being rather zany, so this page has got a completely different feel to it, with the captions having a rather matter-of-fact description, as if explaining something completely serious and normal. Great stuff and really funny!
No Frank Sidebottom strip this issue, not even a photo story or gossip column. But what we get instead is this superb mini-poster, an A4-sized piece of charming felt-tip pen work from Chris Sievey, the man behind the mask. Frank of course will return right the way through the monthlies and will actually be the final cover star of the comic, but for now just take in the following scan before we move on:
Simon Thorpe is well known to regular readers of Viz comic, the title erroneously linked to Oink! when people call our comic the kids' version of it. In reality that was never the intention and Oink! was actually more inspired by Mad magazine and the need for something different in UK comics. However, when we're treated to a full-page strip such as this next one it's easy to think of Viz as Simon's art style is so fundamental to that adult monthly.
Were you a CBBC viewer back in the day when we had a couple of hours of children's programming and we chose one channel over the other? As a CITV child I wasn't that familiar with most of the BBC's programmes but I do remember the odd episode of Maid Marion and her Merry Men. Remember Tony Robinson's programme, do you? Well it aired at around the time of these issues of Oink! and may have been rather... shall we say, inspiring for Simon by the looks of it:
One of my favourite additions to the weeklies have been some lovely full-page strips which contained no dialogue and very few panels. These started off with Tony's and then moved on to Ed McHenry's. I've included some of these before now and couldn't let this final weekly one go unnoticed. It's a great page and is beautifully coloured, especially when you see it on the printed page. Take your time and let each panel sink in before moving on to the next, the payoff is completely worth it:
Yes we had such strips of various sizes before the weeklies, but they became a guaranteed full-page fixture in every single issue since the new format and I think being in a slightly smaller comic than before made them stand out all the more. Definitely no other title would've dedicated a full page out of twenty-four to what could've been seen as such 'simple' strips as these. As of next issue, with many, many more pages to play with I'm positive they (or something similar) will continue into our last half dozen.
In fact my sister absolutely loves elephants so I must share this with her on Facebook. Hang on, I won't be long....
So what have I chosen as the last weekly strip of the entire run? The biggest laugh of the issue for me, it's a Madvertisement but not from GBH for once, instead this one comes from the mind of Kev F. It's got a great punchline and works just as well today as it did in 1988, because that's how far washing-up liquid adverts have moved on since then:
Well here we are at page 24 and the shape of things to come.
You'll remember in #54 Uncle Pigg ran a reader's survey and the change from next issue is meant to have come off the back of that. Like I said at the time, there wasn't actually a space to tell the team which format the readers would prefer the comic to continue in, so was the move to a new format already decided? Or at least on the cards?
Anyone who has been following the blog for a while will know all about Fleetway's good-intentioned fiddling. Oink! was a great success for original publishers IPC and Fleetway saw great potential but ultimately these changes were to contribute towards the demise of our favourite comic. You'll see next time just how different Oink! would become and how obvious it is that they were refocussing the title again on another certain audience, albeit one that did make up a large majority already.
Looking back at the comic now all these years later I'm really looking forward to these final issues, especially once they find their feet a couple of months in. At that stage we begin to see strips designed from the ground up for the increased page count, so you can look forward to both multi-page versions of your favourites and, with the extra space, some former characters making a reappearance at long last!
Just like the weeklies it does take that time to settle in (though now there's a longer period of time between editions it only takes a couple of issues rather than half a dozen or more) and to take full advantage of the new format. The first couple feel like Holiday Specials, basically more (much more) of the same strips you'd see in the fortnightly or weekly issues. Obviously this is no bad thing! Monthly Holiday Specials? I'll be having some of that thank-you-very-much! But those final three or four issues really do sink their teeth into creating strips for the 'new' Oink! and the results look to be tremendous fun if my scan of them in preparation is anything to go by.
I haven't forgotten the premise of the blog, but I wanted to have a little scan ahead - not reading, just flicking through them - to be able to preview them for you all, as I know there are fans out there who instantly write them off when discussing Oink! Some people wrote off the weeklies and I hope I've been able to show you how they went from strength-to-strength and (while they were still very different in feel to the fortnightlies) we ended up with an incredibly strong, very random weekly title that I absolutely adored. Looking ahead I hope I can prove those naysayers wrong again, these final six issues look like they're going to be an absolute hoot.
I'll leave the final word with Uncle Pigg himself and you've only a fortnight to wait until "The Wild New Monthly Magazine" and its big, fat porker of a premiere issue:
Next issue on sale Thursday 21 May and watch out for a new thirteen-part series of posts coming the week after which I'm really excited about, but which don't feature a single pig! What?! See you soon.