Thursday, 20 August 2015
#66: EXTRA CRISPY PORK BELLY
Ah, this is actually quite refreshing! It feels like an age ago when I last wrote about an Oink! comic and since the last issue's release date I've spent many (many, many) happy hours researching and writing for the Beyond Oink! series of posts. It's a delight to be back with the next issue of the whole reason behind this blog's existence. Tony Husband brings us his latest cover with Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins and his wife Mandy. It's always nice to have a cover by Tony seeing as he's one of the comic's editors and creators, but it's also a tad strange another star wasn't up front and centre (so I named this post after him instead).
But first a quick glance through this issue and the transition to the older teen market seems to be complete. While certain strips such as the giant one below would've worked just as well in the fortnightly, for the most part Oink!'s humour is certainly not what it once was and I'm not sure what to make of it to be honest. Don't get me wrong it's still head and shoulders above other humour comics of the time but, having been used to the unique style of the comic for the past two years writing this blog, it's just not the same. It's become a little more like other similar comics aimed at the teenage reader of the 80s, following their lead instead of leading the way. I've covered why this transition to the new-look monthly happened in-depth before so I won't go into that again but overall it's certainly a very different beast.
As such I've found myself swaying towards the more traditional Oink! material at the expense of the majority of this issue. By "traditional" I obviously still mean very different to the norm (such was the comic's whole point to begin with) and way back when I introduced these final six issues I mentioned briefly how we'd see massive strips of some of our very favourite characters. In this issue for example Pete and his Pimple gets a great three-page strip which takes on the Lost in Space TV series in superb fashion and below is the return of a certain giant robotic porker.
Now although the Pete strip and others were written specifically to take advantage of more space being afforded to them, this Pigswilla strip was originally meant to be a serial in the weekly comic but reads particularly well as one giant collection. As ever it's written and drawn by one of the fans' very favourite contributors Lew Stringer and it's the last solo strip for the Godzilla-themed pig, his final appearance being in a crossover with Pete in the next annual.
If you're a regular reader of the blog or of Oink! when originally published I'm sure you're gagging to get stuck into this, so without further ado here he is! Split into three parts in this issue I've placed them all together here as one hilariously epic smorgasbord of Stringer goodness. Enjoy The Perils of Pigswilla:
Lew certainly likes to make up a rhyme or two if quite a few of his Oink! contributions are anything to go by. Thanks as well to Lew for confirming with me this was indeed meant to be a multi-issue serial originally with only slight tweaks (chapter length and the amount of violence, albeit still comedic) made to help it work as one complete strip. I certainly agreed with him when he told me he was very pleased with how it turned out and how great it was to see it all in the one issue.
It's hard to pick out a favourite moment from this final Pigswilla, whether it's his rapping, the fantastically maniacal butchers or the commentary on how quickly the public can be swayed between love and hate. On that final note, in this day and age it's difficult not to look at the penultimate panel on page three and think of a certain political party's supporters when they get a few moments on the news. It's the t-shirt isn't it?
Before we move on do you fancy knowing a little more about the creative genius behind the above character? Well if you remember the cartoonist profiles in the 1988 Oink! Holiday Special you'll know to expect scant information from this:
So what else is there in this issue besides Pigswilla? Well he's definitely the highlight but some other gems are in here too, albeit not as many as we're accustomed to. Reprints are kept to a minimum with two of the Oink! Superstar Posters (The P-Team and Peter Swillton) and Johnny the Jet, and we've new material with GBH getting political, Davy Francis doing his own time-travel rendition of Old MacDonald Had a Farm with Doctor Mad-Starkraving, David Leach's Psycho Gran makes a welcome full-page return and Simon Thorp's one-off Forgetful Ferdinand!! makes a memorable non-appearance.
I have to say though, the GBH dating agency Madvertisement doesn't sit very well with me, making fun of being matched with violent thugs, of attack techniques used on dates and of clinical schizophrenia. I know Oink! was aiming at an older audience but with some of those still on board from the early days being much younger was this really suitable? Well, I suppose it never did me any harm!
Simon Thorp also contributed scripts for a few other parts of the comic including this great little Madvert for their enunciation guide Talk Like A Proper Toff. But I get the impression the end result would be less Barrington Bosh and more The Only Way is Essex. Given the grammar evident with some of today's (and I use this term lightly) 'celebrities' and how it's become the norm with many teenagers and, scarily, adults to copy these speech patterns I wonder if this next scan would just go right over their heads today. It may do, but the rest of us can have a good chortle at their expense:
Someone who seems to be just as prolific in these Oink!s as Lew Stringer is the young, talented Charlie Brooker. Not only contributing his own unique cartooning style he also wrote some brilliant quizzes and other such strips for the comic. This next one takes the hand out of the 80s pop groups we were all so used to back then and, as much as I totally adore music from that decade, this is a simply perfect way of parodying each and every one.
Radio-wise I listen exclusively to Absolute 80s these days so I was particularly taken with this next page, or rather the first quarter of this page. Don't get me wrong, the rest is funny too but I had a load of fun with the first section, 'Think of a name for your group'. There's simply endless hilarious combinations to try out! Seriously, go ahead and try it with Charlie's The Oink! Guide to Pop Stardom:
One recent addition to Oink! who seems to be churning out classics one after the other is Kev F (Kevin F Sutherland) who started off with his Meanwhile... series of unconnected and random little strips. This issue has another one but instead I just had to bring you this inventive, intricately drawn double-page spread.
I love Kev's art style and after reading Oink! for so long now with each artist bringing something completely different to the comic, it's amazing how the editors Mark, Tony and Patrick could still find someone new and unique. As I've mentioned before I was surprised he only showed up for the first time in the comic's final year (see his blog debut in #49), such was the impact his cartoons made on my young mind that I'd thought he'd been there since the beginning.
But back to the present, or really back to the past since it was twenty-seven years ago, but it's the present with the whole remit of this blog, but it was created in the past... maybe The Three Scientists would be better writing their own introduction and explaining all this. Though I wouldn't bet on it!:
Now as you'll be aware we're approaching the end of Oink! with only two more regular issues to go after this one. After that three characters would transition to one of its sister comics and one of them was Weedy Willy. Always drawn by Mike Green but scripted by a variety of different writers, Willy disappeared from the comic for a while in the middle of the run, only to make a triumphant return in quick little jokes tucked away amongst other mini-strips. Right back at the very beginning he was always taking up a lot more space (his strips, not his weedy frame) but by the time I came to be a pig pal with #14 he was appearing in random formats each issue. He seemed to suit all sorts of different lengths but when transferring over to Buster he had to become a full-page character every single week.
With hindsight of course we now know this is about to happen so it seems fitting he returns here with a page all to himself and as ever he's thought of a hair-brained scheme to win over Dishy Mandy. To be honest my initial reaction was to think he'd already done this but nope, after more than sixty issues Willy hadn't yet gotten around to trying out an inflatable muscle suit, which was never going to end well.
Writer Catherine Johnson is a name I'm unfamiliar with and several Bing searches later there's no indication of a comics career, but her contribution here is in keeping with all of the previous Weedy Willy strips so she's a very welcome addition to the growing list of Oink! talent. With just a couple of months to go it's time to bring the weediest of weeds back to the fore:
With Pigswilla taking over so much space I'm mindful of how much I've already scanned in and so it's time to wrap up the latest issue again. But what's this on the back cover? Ian Jackson artwork? Yes indeed Ian brings his unique Oink! sty-le back in just four weeks (the five week wait for this issue felt much longer, didn't it?) with no less than a new Mary Lighthouse strip, the first this year! Long-time readers will definitely be looking forward to that I'm sure so check back here when the next issue goes on sale on Thursday 17th September. September already??: