Thursday, 17 September 2015

#67: THIS ONE IS FULL OF RUBBISH


Yes it really is a Rubbish issue.  But with a capital 'R' because it heralds the return of Rubbish Man to the pages of Oink! after a long, long break since the fortnightlies!  His last appearance on the blog was also way back in that last fortnightly issue when I gave him his own post for the superb New Years spread from #44, but he's been sorely missed ever since.  But fret not smelly readers because not only is he back in a brand new strip but it takes up a whole fifth of this issue with a whopping ten pages!  How do you like them rotting, decaying, blackened apples?

(Oh, please excuse the rips along the top there.  I do try to take care of my Oink!s but that was Lew Stringer's fault.  I was so eager to read his Brickman comic (see here) I didn't realise I'd put the protective sleeve down, sticky tape and all, right on top of this Oink!  So yes, all Lew's fault for creating such a fun looking comic that I took my eye off the ball for a moment.)

In a story featuring the then President of the United States, as well as a new kind of crazy for a super villain, a humungous planet devouring... um, slimy thing and even a few of our favourite guest superheroes all playing pool together in their own unique way, it's a recipe for success.  I'll let you read it first though, so meet me a little bit down the page after you've enjoyed this final Rubbish Man of the regular Oink!s from an artist who brought much mirth to every single issue of the comic, Haldane:


It's a belter of a story, containing most of the things we've come to expect from a Rubbish Man strip such as complete and utter randomness and lunacy.  But I couldn't help feeling there was something missing when I read through this again as an adult.  Could it be the fact it feels very spaced out?  Haldane always filled his Rubbish Man strips with a load of panels and there was always a lot going on in each one.  In contrast this one does seem to be rather spread out over the ten pages when his usual style could've told this exact story in half that space, or he could've treated us to twice the story.

But even with that, it's something else.  Where's his mouldy cold custard flying out of his nostrils?  Or the mushy peas spraying out from his fingertips?  Or his rancid feet knocking his enemies unconscious?  See what I mean now?  While it's still a funny strip and the kind we'd only see in a Haldane Rubbish Man story, none of his powers are present.  As kids that's what we loved the most about him, just how utterly disgusting he could be in saving all of us.  Hence why his good deeds went unappreciated by those bystanders we'd see walking away with clothes pegs on their noses while giving him a sarcastic "thank you".  Ridiculing Ronald Reagan (and can you tell who Dr Blip is based on?  Brilliant!) in such a way is an indicator of Oink! going after that slightly older teen-and-upwards market, but surely teens and students would be the ideal target audience for someone so smelly and devoid of hygiene?  (It's a joke, don't write in.)

Nevertheless it's still a funny strip which wouldn't have worked with any other character and Haldane's weird and wacky imagination is still second-to-none.

Now do you remember a few months back in #64 we were given some sage advice in Ten Things You Need to Know About the New Poll Tax?  There's a famous story surrounding Oink! about how one of its issues made its way into the House of Commons.  It should come as no surprise the Poll Tax parody was that very page.  One Oink! reader approached an MP (or, his "pal") with it and some highlights were read out as a way of showcasing just how ludicrous the opposition to the tax felt it was.  Originally written by Howard Osborn (and it's only through this next scan I've finally been able to credit Howard with the original piece in #64's post) it certainly made for possibly the only time the House of Commons had anything read out that'd please the public.

Of course the other side just accused Jeff Rooker MP of wasting his time reading comics instead of doing his job, completely missing the point of the Oink! article in the process.  Or rather just wanting to sweep it under the carpet.  Here's how it was reported:

Order Oink?  Hmm... (see the final paragraph of this post)

It's been quite a while since we saw another Oink! favourite, though this time I mean in the cartoonist department.  Andy Roper contributed some stunning work for previous stories, the most memorable being The Spectacles of Doom where he brought a great action-adventure comic style to the proceedings while keeping in tune with the very comedic script.  It was a blend he perfected masterfully with those strips and it was a delight to see him reappear here with a one-off story written by Lew Stringer.

This reminds me of one of the TinTin books I used to love as a child, when he went exploring in a mechanical submersible.  The story here sees two young children the likes of which we were very familiar with from comics, books and early morning movies at Christmas-time; annoyingly too squeaky clean for their own good, they'd end up getting handed some magnificent 'thing' which allowed them to go on some wild adventure, during which they'd continue to irritate the reader or viewer (please note I'm not describing TinTin this way!).  The fact Lew has named them Danny and Penny Cretin shows to me they're very much meant to fall into the same category.

But the spoof element here seemed very focussed and so I asked Lew if it had been inspired by a real children's story and he confirmed it had.  In the 1960s one of his favourite adventure strips in The Beano (yes, it did adventure strips) was The Iron Fish and after asking him about his inspiration Lew wrote up a full post about these original stories on his Blimey! blog, which you can read by clicking here.  Go and read that first, it'll make what's up next even more enjoyable.

As you will have read there Lew described the original kids as a bit "wet" and thus the surname used in this issue of Oink! becomes ever more descriptive.  Meaning well but ending up causing disaster after disaster and getting on the nerves of everyone and everything they encounter, here they are in their Iron Salmon!

The fact the original mechanical fish seemed to have 'eyes' is captured brilliantly here by Andy who doubles them up with the lights and portholes, seemingly (somehow) capturing the character of the story in the inanimate object.  Right down to the way the captions seem to recall those used in the early adventure strips from The Beano and The Dandy, this is a great take on the classic genre and any fans of The Iron Fish should find this extremely gigglesome:


Last month we welcomed Weedy Willy back to our screens and here he is again in a strip which is fondly remembered by many Oink! fans if the Facebook group is anything to go by, even if it did coast over my head at the time.

Back in #63 Mark Rodgers and Michael Peek brought us the lyrics to a new hit single by Boarrissey, a simple but effective take on the singer Morrissey whose music had a certain tone and was accompanied by a certain kind of lyric.  As I mentioned at the time I wasn't really aware of his music but I certainly knew who he was by the name they used.  I didn't have this luxury when it came to the following Willy strip, but then again I was only 10!:


Written by Kev F this time and drawn by regular artist Mike Green, the identity of the stalker in the last panel may have been a clever and funny ending to many but to me I'd simply no idea who it was.  Of course it reads much better (and funnier) to me now!  It's one of those strips which, to those pig pals who got it, stayed with them to this day and it's been reminisced about more than once over on the aforementioned social media group, so there was simply no way I could not include it.

Lew is back again after the fish course above with his main dish and it's a wonderful three-page Pete and his Pimple this time.

Out of all the contributors to Oink! I do feel with hindsight that Lew really was the one who made the most of the extra space the monthlies afforded.  Every page was always filled to the rafters with the same amount of laughs and cracking artwork we'd come to expect from his single-page strips previously.  So when we saw a larger Stringer strip we knew we were in for a treat.  Have a look at last issue's Pigswilla if you haven't already and you'll see what I mean and the same is true below.

With three pages it's three times the pimply goodness and if anything it actually feels like he's squeezed (no pun intended) even more into each page than he normally would.  Which is saying something!

Still taking suggestions from the readers on how to cure his zit problem, Pete stumbles upon the "simple" idea of time travel.  As you do:


Did you spot the 2000AD reference?  More significantly, as another example of the shift in tone for Oink!, how about that 'Claws 28' joke?  It's clear it means something but my young mind simply put it down to a name for the mechanical claw used to grab Pete; it's getting across there's no way out because of the amount of claws watching their every move and this is just adding to the silliness, right?

No, of course not.  I hadn't read this strip in twenty-seven years and when I did for the blog my instant reaction was to Bing "clause 28" and you can see what I found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_28

Obviously big news in 1988 it just wasn't on the radar of a young scamp of the age I was, having the complete disregard for the news we all had at that age.  However it's shocking to read back on it now in 2015 and to think this was added to the legislation of local authorities in the UK at all, never mind in my lifetime.  But kudos to Lew and to Oink! for getting their little dig in.

Last month I promised you the return of two things which have been sorely missed for a while now.  One was the artwork of Ian Jackson and the other was Oink!'s critic, the lady we all loved to hate, Mary Lighthouse.  Originally in every single issue either as part of Uncle Pigg's strip or in her own story, this regular routine was all dropped when we hit the weekly issues.  While the editor's strips did decrease in the fortnightlies he still had regular big outings and he was very much a large presence in all issues.  But even he saw the chop for the most part from #45 onwards.

Both characters were reduced to appearing in the corner of the Grunts letters page and only the very occasional guest star role elsewhere, and in these monthly issues the letters page is the only place!  (Grunts had now been renamed as simply Uncle Pigg's Piggin' Crazy Readers.)  Originally they were the glue which held it all together and the pig theme ran throughout with them, the plops and the Oink! office staff in there every chance the comic could squeeze them in.  It made for a wonderfully anarchic and very original feel.  Without all of this, and with only the occasional pig-themed spoof, I'm left thinking any new readers Fleetway were wanting to bring in may have been a bit confused with the name "Oink!" and why readers were always drawing pig-related celebrities.

But to long-time fans the return of Mary, even if it was for three-quarters of a page, was a welcome return to form.  Still no Uncle Pigg though:


Classic Lighthouse and no mistake and a nice bit of familiarity with Ian's work gracing the pages again too.  The name of the writer there is F. Jayne Rodgers who is editor Mark's younger sister and this appears to be her one contribution as far as I can tell, so a big thanks to Jayne for bringing back Mary just before the comic's finale.  Also a big cheers-and-thanks to Helen Jones for helping me with my query on this one!

Jayne and her daughter Bibi run the award-winning Veggie Runners blog which you can find by clicking right here.  Chronicling their marathon running and equally inspirational vegetarian cooking adventures it's a great read and I heartily recommend you scoot over after reading this post.  Helen also gave me a little bit more information on the Rodgers clan, and if you click here you'll open up the website for A Man Called Adam, the group of recording artists which includes Mark's youngest sister Sally.

It feels quite fitting to see Mary Lighthouse on form again after so long, knowing what the next issue would bring us.  Now don't well up, try to contain yourselves pig pals, I've got one more thing to show you first before I talk about the next issue (#sniff# #sniff# pass me a hankerchief):


This big, bold advertisement graces the back page of the issue and after the glorious Oink! Book 1988 pint-sized me was elated to see news at last of the next annual!  The previous year similar adverts had run in the regular fortnightly comic, building up a degree of anticipation that thankfully was matched (well, bettered) by the book itself when I got my hands on it that Christmas morning.

But thrills turned to confusion when I actually read the above.  Only 64 pages?  That was the same as the much smaller Marvel UK annuals.  The first Oink! book already had less pages than its stablemates from IPC/Fleetway but made up for it with the gloss and shine, the high quality of the paper and of course the contents!  It stood out and seemed like so much more than the books alongside it with higher page counts.  So while those other humour comics did have their annuals cut back a little for Christmas 1988, it seemed unfair to cut Oink! too.

But I still couldn't wait!  With the old logo, the same kind of physical cover and a fantastic J.T. Dogg picture taking a sinister twist on the idea of the first book's front page, I eagerly awaited Santa that Christmas and upon having a glance in the newsagents' it seemed to be chock full of the things I'd been missing from the monthlies.  How did it hold up after the wait?  You'll find out in about three months.

ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?

But for now we've got to come back to the present, or should I say October 1988 and the very final issue of Oink! is only four weeks away.  The next issue page this time was part of a Frank Sidebottom strip as he was to be the cover star and there was no indication of the sad news to come (athough I do now realise the reservation coupon on the letters page had been replaced by one for 2000AD).  I found out in a rather surprising way as you'll discover, so please do come back on Thursday 15th October and join me as we sadly have to face the music and bid adieu to the regular editions of the world's greatest comic...

1 comment:

John Pitt said...

Don't you just HATE that sticky stuff? It always touches something you don't want it to, resulting in damage. I then have to try and track down a replacement!