Well here we are, at the very final regular update in line with the original plan of this blog, even though this annual came out in August and many of us wouldn't have got it until Christmas, but you get my drift. (Last year I withheld the book until Christmas Day and below I explain the scheduling of this one.) We've gone from the preview issue all the way through to this second book and it'd be the last time we pig pals had regular access to the wonderful world of Oink!, with only three further specials to come, although we thought at this point there'd only be the one. Those specials will appear on the blog in due course around their original release dates, but for now you may make the most of these next four strips because until next spring this is your lot!
Only four strips? Yes, but as explained last time this annual is chock full of multi-page stories and one in particular I've waited a long, long time to include. But we'll get to that next, first up we're travelling back to the Lewniverse one final time (at least until next time) and not only do we have Pete and his Pimple popping up alongside Tom Thug, making up two of the three surviving Oink! members who were now appearing weekly in Buster, but another fan favourite Lew Stringer creation also joins in just for the fun of it. Well, that and to save the world, naturally.
Yes folks, Pigswilla is also back and this really is for the final time as he unfortunately wouldn't grace the pages of the piggy publication's specials over the following couple of years. His final strip was a mammoth epic which you can read back in #66 and it really was an amazing finale for the Gozilla-spoof, even though we never knew at the time it'd be his last. Such a lovely surprise to see him pop up here unexpectedly and even nicer to see Pete back to reading Oink! instead of that other title, so enjoy this one folks, as it'll have to keep you going for a while:
From that point on the moon was never made of cheese for me. Though try explaining that one!
Right back at the very start of this blog, in only the second post I ever wrote, I made mention of the next strip. Back when I covered the preview edition with only a few pages one of them contained the first appearance of Burp the Smelly Alien from Outer Space, creation of the insanely talented writer and cartoonist Jeremy Banx. The character disappeared when the comic went monthly but I always knew he'd be returning to the blog at the end of the year in a huge strip (eight pages!) and one which was very personal to me.
To quote myself from that preview issue post:
"The last strip I'm scanning in from this issue ... is a character who was very dear to my heart, seeing as how in the second Oink! Book he'd teach me about puberty ... but more on that when we get to that stage". At that stage is where we find ourselves now. You sure you want to carry on reading?
Since beginning this blog I've had the pleasure of being able to chat to some of the wonderful creative team behind this most enjoyable of comics, Jeremy being one of them. I remember mentioning the fact his strip had taught a young, impressionable me about certain changes to come as I grew into my teenage years and I think he was both shocked and dismayed, joking about how he was concerned for my well-being!
Oink! meant so much to me as a kid and quite clearly it still does or else I wouldn't be doing this blog in the first place, never mind after all this time, and there were certain things which stuck with me right through to adulthood. Just like fellow reader Caroline from the Facebook Group I also sing the Oink! version of Christmas carols to this day, for example. Well only a couple of years after Oink! finished I hit that time of life when changes started to happen and it can be somewhat confusing, and even though we all went through various things we never really talked about it with friends or anything. At least, us guys didn't. At around this time I decided to have a read over my Oink! books again as I hadn't over those couple of years (distraught at it being cancelled, obviously) and I came across the following Burp strip.
I remembered reading it back at christmas 1988 and enjoying it, especially the usual little Banx touches and the breaks in the action to detail the ludicrous weaponry, as they were such imaginative and funny designs. But then, at the age of thirteen I saw it in a completely different light and simultaneously thought "how did they get away with this?" while laughing my head off! I have a very distinct memory of completely erupting with laughter and when you read it I'm sure you'll spot at which panel this occurred. Suddenly things also made sense and if Burp had to go through it, then so did I!
After it you'll either have a laugh at my expense or you may also be a bit worried about me and wondering how on earth that taught me anything:
Ah well, we can all look back and laugh at our younger selves can't we? No shame!
See this is why the annual has been covered now instead of on Christmas Day and the days afterwards like I did last year. I knew the Burp strip would be included somewhere and with the 21st being my own birthday I thought it'd be great to have it published again today after all these years. But then I thought it'd also double-up as a great way to close the circle of Oink! coverage, having been referenced in the first issue to be covered on the blog and then included in the very last regular one. So there you go folks, we've come a long way together and there it is at last, ending up as a rather important strip for the blog too.
The larger-scale strips in Oink! were always something unique, something which set it apart from other humour comics. There were a lot of things which set Oink! apart, but even to this day you won't really see huge strips like these in humour titles, either in one edition or spread across several like The Spectacles of Doom and StreetHogs etc. With quite a few in this book it gives it a more mature feel initially, as you'd normally expect shorter, more direct strips in books aimed primarily at kids. As mentioned previously work on the book would've started a long time before the move to the monthly title, which did indeed change its target audience to a slightly more mature one, but Oink! never spoke down to us and was enjoyed by everyone alongside the main demographic of us youngsters. We were used to these big strips and their more mature form of humorous storytelling appearing alongside the slapstick and quick gags.
The lack of those smaller strips is felt however and so we're left with a book which when reading it now as an adult does feel more in line with a slightly older audience, not that we really caught on at the time of course. For example, this next strip is another cheeky one and would've sat perfectly in any issue of Oink! but here in the book, sat amongst the larger strips and the overall feel of this annual, it has an air of being created with more of the teen market in mind (and a smelly air it is too). But of course this wasn't the case as artist Ian Jackson had all-but-left Oink! when it went monthly and he and writer Mark Rodgers had created it before that stage as simply something we kiddies would find cheeky and very, very funny:
It's such a shame Oink!'s time card had already been marked and that the book ended up with a page cut and the inclusion of reprints. Filled with all the same random bits'n'bobs as the first annual it would've gone down as another instant classic annual! As it stands what's in here is top notch and amongst some of the very best pages of humour comics work ever created in my honest opinion; superb scripting, extremely funny throughout, with stunning artwork and gorgeous colours, it's an absolute feast for the eyes if you can get a hold of it; a treasure trove of hilarious beauty. It just feels like it has the makings of the perfect sequel to The Oink! Book 1988, one which could even have bettered that amazing edition if what's here is anything to go by! But when you turn that final page you can't help but think it feels somewhat unfinished. Such a shame, but don't discount it like I've seen some pig pals do. Instead get yourself on to eBay and buy both - you won't be disappointed and you'll be amazed at the content here!
As well as what I've covered there's a series of Uncle Pigg's Barmy Butcherwatch mini-posters all by different artists, Frank Sidebottom becomes "clamboy" in his take on the superhero formula, there's a fantastic Rupert the Pear children's story spoof over three whopping pages to get your teeth into, an imaginative Psycho Gran where she takes on a Godzilla-type monster, some great Oink!-style puzzles in a double-page spread from Ed McHenry, Tom Thug also has his own story and there's the return of some classic strips in brand new Zootown and The Golden Trough Awards. See? Worth every penny.
Only the final inside page and the back cover to go. It's been a blast reading those strips above, hasn't it? But you're thinking this has been a very short post, when in reality it hasn't. There you go, that's the book summed up perfectly.
But yes, at the end of the book is where we find ourselves already but two superbly drawn pages await, from two of my very favourite artists and ones who every Oink! fan adored. Saying that, that kind of sums up this whole post when you see whose work I've included! Last time we saw Uncle Pigg and the rest of the team, as well as Mary Lighthouse, welcome us to the book and there was no greater thing than seeing that Ian Jackson page leap out at me on Christmas morning back in 1988. He finishes off the book with equal aplomb although those final words, poking out from Mary's mouth in the final panel, were particularly heartbreaking to read at the end of 1988 with no actual comic left!:
I've hinted before the blog is going to go off in a new direction in the new year. I'm not going to be simply dragging it out, desperately trying to think of something to write about just to fill up the blog with posts. In fact, the original plan was to shut it down and have it remain online in its finished state, but you'll find out on Tuesday 5th January what's next in store for the site. I'm really excited about the future and I hope you'll continue to join me here to see something in particular develop. But enough of that, for now here's the wonderful back page from J.T. Dogg and the truth behind that front cover. Take a look back at the cover (it's at the top of the page, you needn't go far) and the background looks slightly patterned, wouldn't you say? Well, here's the answer to that clue:
Don't forget to come back over the festive period for some extra pieces (as detailed here) and there may even be another extra post, non-Oink! related but one which I do want to share, something I received for my birthday today which I just have to let you see! Stay tuned and I hope Christmas is continuing to be a good one for you all this year.
I'll be back on Christmas Eve.