Tuesday, 30 May 2017

30 YEARS YOUNG: GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY


After I'd covered all the regular issues of Oink! on the blog my attention temporarily went elsewhere (if you're interested you can find out where by clicking here) and while our comic's 30th birthday was covered over on the Facebook group by fans, it went unmarked here.  I know, it was sacrilege!  Longtime readers will also know my first book idea regarding Oink! was originally planned to coincided with the date but that project has been sidelined and replaced (news to come).  But now that I'm back here full-time again it's not too late to join in the festivities for the remainder of the comic's run.

Each issue in turn is still celebrating its anniversary as Oink!'s two-and-a-half-year birthday continues and I'll be publishing regular posts across social media commemorating each one as the run continues.  To get your fortnightly reminders, funny covers and strips brightening up your day and direct links to the issues all you have to do is one of three things... or do all three just to be on the safe side of course!  You can join the Oink! Facebook group, follow me on Twitter under the username @PhilEdBoyce (or keep an eye on the hashtag #oinkcomic) or on Instagram where I'm also known under the same name.

Today was the turn of #29:


I can't believe it's been thirty years since this brilliant Ian Jackson cover first made its appearance on our newsagents' shelves.  Actually, I can't believe it's been three years since I covered it on the blog!

You can click on the comic above to go to its page and catch up on all the goodies from Banx, Haldane, Les 'Lezz' Barton, Lew Stringer, Simon Thorpe, Tony Husband and Wilkie.  More recollections and celebrations to come so join up/follow/stalk to your heart's content and have Oink! delivered to the feed of your choice every fortnight!

Monday, 29 May 2017

INTERLUDE: THE ADVENTURES OF SMUDGE

Well now that I've let you all digest the rejigging of the blog into its new form I suppose it's about time to start posting up all of this new stuff.  I've been working behind the scenes on future content and other projects which will be chronicled on the blog too and I'll be ready to start posting them up this week.  There's quite an exciting range to cover and enthusiasm levels are at a high, but today is a Bank Holiday so I'm taking the day off to spend in the lovely land of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda on my Nintendo Switch, a place I've been neglecting for a while now.

But I couldn't let things go any longer without at least checking in with my fellow pig pals, although that's really just an excuse to share this photo!  Regular readers who caught my post on the Enniskillen Comic Fest will know I had the pleasure of meeting hugely talented independent comic creator Jenika Ioffreda who was drawing portraits of those attending.  However, as the main character of her Vampire Free Style comic book is a cat I just had to ask if she could draw one of Smudge instead, the cat my friends rescued from a golf course hedge on a cold and rainy night a couple of years ago, and who I love looking after now-and-again for them.  I was delighted when Jenika agreed to do so from a photo on my iPhone and this weekend I was visiting my friends at their new home and, after several failed attempts, we were finally able to get Smudge to look at the camera beside his portrait (thanks to treats as a bribe):

One crazy cat, believe me!

I'll be writing up a piece on Jenika's comic soon and there's exciting times ahead folks, all starting this week on the Oink! Blog & Beyond!  So see you real soon.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

MORE OINK! MORE BLOG! MORE BEYOND!

When I started this little blog back in April 2013 I'd no idea the adventure it'd be leading me on.  I became good friends with some of the comic's creators online, met some of my heroes and they even contributed back to the blog with behind-the-scenes information and stories.  During Oink!'s monthly issues I covered the other main comics from my youth in my Beyond Oink! series and it became a hit, with editors, writers and contributors from IPC, Fleetway, Marvel etc getting in touch and sharing the blog further.  From following Lew Stringer's blog I became interested in 2000AD, became a Judge Dredd fan and collected it for a while, making new friends with fellow fans in Belfast along the way for regular monthly drinks, then former Marvel UK editor John Freeman asked me to contribute a review of the Future Shock documentary for his Down the Tubes website.

I soon lapsed from 2000AD and the world of comics again mainly to save money at the time and also while I explored the possibility of writing about another hobby: the Commodore 64.  After writing for a book and fanzine about the subject it wasn't long before I wanted to get stuck back into the world of Oink!  Suddenly plans were afoot (which will become clear at a later date) and then I found myself at the Enniskillen Comic Fest, initially to meet both Lew and Davy Francis and catch up with my 2000AD buddies.  However, my first comic con soon opened my eyes to so much more!

I met some amazingly talented people from the worlds of 2000AD, independent comics and the fandom of the modern day UK comics scene.  I came away wanting to subscribe to the Galaxy's Greatest Comic* once more and with the first issue of Vampire Free Style to get my teeth into (pun intended).  I'd had the best time and realised I wanted to delve deeper into these comics, both classic and modern.  I looked back and realised that through this little blog one thing had led to another very organically and it'd been quite the journey without even trying.  But what if I did try and get stuck in?

Well here now is the new Oink! Blog.  It's expanded bit-by-bit at different points in its short lifespan and now it's evolved into something bigger and better, but still with our favourite piggy publication at its heart: Phil's Oink! Blog and Beyond...

Over the next while you'll see some new additions and changes to the regular layout and sections, as well as an increase in posts (there have already been a few recently which have been leading to this relaunch).

In a nutshell Oink! introduced me to comics as a kid and now, 30 years later it's ended up RE-introducing me to comics all over again.  It's a very different landscape out there, full of exciting titles across many different formats; digital and print, regular comics and graphic novels, self-published and mainstream.  Come along and be reintroduced with me.  It's a ride worth taking!

* okay, second greatest!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

THE CHANCES OF ANYTHING COMING FROM MARS... ARE HIGH!

A couple of Christmases ago a good friend of mine bought me volume one of the Commodore 64: A Visual Commpendium from Bitmap Books.  I'd grown up with the machine and a few years ago purchased one again for myself.  I've since sold it on but the book still resides on my shelf along with volume two, which I backed on Kickstarter and even wrote a mini-review of a game for.  I'm very proud of my contribution, no matter how small and both books are mighty impressive.  Sam Dyer of Bitmap has gone on to release further books based on other computers and consoles, each volume a masterpiece in design and they're simply stunning to look at, with loads of content for retro fans.

I've been signed up to news emails from Sam for a while now and over the weekend while I was in Enniskillen for the Comic Fest I received a regular update.  I scanned down it, thinking I'd give it a proper look when I got home, after all it'd be the usual updates on their latest retro console book and I was out meeting comics artists... and I froze!:


I immediately went to the Bitmap Books website but there was nothing there and there still isn't at the time of writing.  Obviously then this is just an early teaser, but what brilliant news!  I'm a huge War of the Worlds fan, which started when I sat down to watch an old movie with my mum one night in my mid-teens in the 1990s.  I knew it was made in the 1950s but my word the effects blew me away!  It was of course the classic movie starring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson and I was hooked.

I soon discovered the 1980s TV series sequel, the original novel, the Jeff Wayne musical version and the infamous Orson Welles radio broadcast, then later in life the superlative remake of that classic movie from Steven Spielberg.  To say I'm excited by the prospect of a telling of The War of the Worlds with comic art is an understatement, but to see it coming from Bitmap has me checking Kickstarter daily (even though I'll get a notification) due to the high quality of Sam's books thus far.  I have faith their first 'artbook' will be equally so.

Illustrator Adam Rufino seems like a perfect fit to bring a comicbook-like feel to the proceedings, with a history in sci-fi illustrations and retro gaming art (hence why he's been picked I'd assume) and you can check out his profile on Behance by clicking here.  A wide variety of work there and all very different, but the overall feel should lend itself perfectly to this classic tale from two centuries ago against the Martian invaders; the first ever alien invasion story just won't die, and nor should it!

I'll keep you updated.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

ENNISKILLEN COMIC FEST: LIKE A PIG IN MUCK!

You couldn't miss the 'Fest in the picturesque town of Enniskillen

Where do I even begin?  I'd never been to any form of Comic Con before Saturday and I have to say this has given me a taster that I wish to follow up on.  Lew Stringer told me in the pub that night (there's a sentence I never thought I'd write and I'm thrilled to be able to do so) I'd chosen the best possible introduction for these events, as the Enniskillen Comic Fest is pure comics, not movies and television too.  It's smaller than others because of this, yes, but that also lent itself to organiser Paul Trimble's fantastic get together in the aforementioned pub, something which also happened last year.  I'll get to that further down the post but first, what about the event itself?

OINK! PART ONE

I didn't attend on the Friday but the artists were mainly out at schools that day and in the evening there was a special 2000AD event to celebrate its anniversary.  I decided I wanted to stay in the town on Saturday instead because of the gathering afterwards so I went down that morning.  I arrived in the gorgeous surroundings of Enniskillen Castle and really didn't know where to begin and just walked into the first building I came across, inside which the first person I saw was this fine fellow:

They say you should never meet your heroes.  They're wrong.

After chatting away to Lew online for a long time now it was great to finally meet him in person and he was a gentleman through and through.  I'd brought my original Oink! Book 1988 with me to ask both Lew and Davy Francis to sign, which will hopefully be the start of collecting a lot more signatures from the comic's contributors, and Lew graciously did so and then I asked for a sketch.  But what to ask for?  Well I couldn't decide between two of my favourite comics characters but that ended up being a good thing because now I've a piece with Oink!'s Tom Thug and Combat Colin from Marvel UK's Transformers and Action Force comics together!:

Mesmerising to watch!

It may seem like a silly thing to say but I was so surprised at just how effortless Lew made this look.  He's been drawing them for decades now so obviously that'd be the case, but to see this come together right in front of me from a blank page, to simple pencils, to the structure forming and the inks taking place, then the little dots and details for those finishing touches... superb!  It was a feeling that'd return when watching all the artists throughout the day.  I love this piece and it'll be up in a frame as soon as I can get one to do it justice.

We chatted a good bit and suddenly I found myself in a conversation between myself, Lew and Nigel Parkinson.  As you do!:

Nigel Parkinson himself!

Nigel won't need any introduction for anyone who grew up on British comics or who may be reading The Beano today.  I can very happily report he's an absolute delight in person, very approachable and chatted away.  Any time I returned to this building throughout the day Nigel had families around him, their kids excitedly watching him draw Dennis, Gnasher or The Bash Street Kids.  In fact it was great to see so many children and families at a comics-only event, obviously they know there's still a UK industry here producing output for kids... of all ages!

OINK! PART TWO

I took advantage of arriving early by running about and getting some photos of those who attended, have a few chats and get my own requests in first.  My obvious next stop after Lew had to be Davy:

I'm no good at this selfie malarky.  Here I am with Davy,
Jenika Ioffreda and my oddly shaped neck.

Davy was doing caricatures all day for free, with a bucket for any donations people wished to make to the local NI Hospice charity.  I'd originally came to request a Cowpat County drawing but how could I do that when an Oink! artist could draw me instead?  At a few points throughout the day I came back to say hi again (and to see Jenika above) and would simply watch, stunned as Davy took a quick look at whoever was in front of him and knock out a dead-on cartoon likeness in a matter of five minutes.  He wouldn't even sketch them out in pencil first, he'd just go straight in with the ink (using a pen with ink pot I should add).  I was delighted with mine and Davy even added a couple of little details for this Oink! fan:

New blog logo is coming.

He even drew the Nintendo NES that was on my t-shirt (you can see it in the photo with Lew up above) and has me standing in a cowpat, complete with splatting effect.  Brilliant.  I asked him if I could use it as part of my blog's header too and he enthusiastically said yes, so expect that redesign I promised recently to happen soon.  You can also see in the photo the book I carried around with me and here are the first two signatures from the Oink! team, ready for more to be added over time:




So that's Oink! covered, now how about the rest of the Fest?  Well, next to Davy in the photo above is Jenika Ioffreda, an Italian independent comics creator based in London.  Jenika's part of the table was full of wonderful drawings of a certain little black cat, the star of Vampire Free Style, her self-published six-part comic series.

CAT WITH THE CREAM

Jenika was doing caricatures too, though in a completely different style to Davy's.  When I write up the first issue of Vampire on the blog soon (all part of the new blog being relaunched soon, folks) you'll see the marvellous, natural art style of Jenika's which is mesmerising to look at in the comic.  This was the style of her caricatures too and just before asking for one I thought of something different and asked if she'd be able to do one from a photograph on my iPhone.  But not just any photo, a photo of someone in particular who I look after from time-to-time for a friend.  You'll see below:

Jenika and her display of simply gorgeous art!
Jenika drawing the caricature for me of...
... Smudge the cat!  I love it and so do his owners!

Jenika was an absolute delight to speak to both at the Fest and in the pub that night.  Can you believe this was her 166th comics convention?!  That's just insane but it's great to know the comics have proven popular, as they most certainly deserve to be.  As I said I'll be showcasing Vampire Free Style soon here on the blog and will definitely be investing in the rest of the series.

SNAP-HAPPY

Let's take you on a quick trip around the Comic Fest now.  I tried to take as many photos as I could and I did share a selection on Instagram as the day unfolded, but here's more from various different parts of the day:




2000AD had a large presence with Judge Dredd's co-creators John Wagner and Carlos Esquerra (top) having large queues throughout the day.  I decided at the last minute to not take a rather large and heavy book for them to sign and I instantly regretted it when I saw them in person!  I'll not make that mistake next year.
Other art bots included Cam Kennedy and Ryan Brown (middle, with Ryan MIA), as well as Clint Langley (bottom) and Ian Richardson (featured at the end of the post).  Also in attendance were Peter Duncan (who recognised me from this blog, something I'm not used to yet!) and Mark McCann of the impressive Sector 13 fanzine created by a bunch of talented Northern Ireland fans.



The Joe Dredd festivities continued with Andy Manson attending with his brilliant selection of screen-used weapons props and costumes from the 2012 movie Dredd.  Andy was getting interviewed when I was there so I never found out we could actually try them on!  Stevie Robinson of the Other Worlds Than These blog got to do so though, the lucky bastard.


Independent comics and self-published titles were out in force!  I was amazed at the array on offer; a hugely exciting mix of talent and top-quality reads for any true comics fan that's for sure (top).  As the day moved on the individual buildings inside Enniskillen Castle became a little cramped at times, but not uncomfortably so and it all added to the atmosphere.  Great to see such a brilliant turnout for an event solely about the comics.


OFF TO THE ISO-CUBES (THE PUB)

I've mentioned before on here the Belfast 2000AD fans who meet once a month in the city (Belfast Sector House 13: The Pit on Facebook) who I used to meet up with for a few pints.  Through them I've seen some great cosplay outfits and Enniskillen didn't disappoint either.  While I unfortunately didn't get to see what the always-fantastic Joanne Alexander was wearing, after lunch with the creator of Tom Thug (something else I never thought I'd say) I did get the chance to grab a few photos with this bunch, including Simon McKnight who is a gentleman in real life but here is a rather terrifyingly convincing Dredd!:

To whoever took this photo thanks for the choice
of angle.  Great shot!


At the end of the afternoon was a charity auction but I had to nip off to get checked into my B&B for the night, rest up for a bit (it was a draining day, but in a good way) and get ready for heading back into the town for a bite to eat and some beer on the top floor of local pub, Blakes.  Of course I just had to lay out my stash from the day on the bed to get a snapshot.  I hadn't intended to spend that much but there were just too many goodies on show!:

From the top: My Oink! Book 1988 with Lew's and Davy's signatures, Lew's 7 Ages of Fan, character ensemble and Combat Colin artcards signed by the man himself on the day, an issue of Wildcat for the collection, Sector 13 fanzine, superb Action comic Hook Jaw canvas made with actual pages of an issue, my Smudge caricature and a signed #1 of Vampire Free Style, signed Cam Kennedy print, Dennis the Menace fan club badges given away by Lew and Nigel, my own caricature by Davy and the Tom and Colin sketch from Lew.  I'm a happy comics fan!

So then the day came to an end and I found myself in the bar with people like John Wagner, Carlos Esquerra, Cam Kennedy and many, many more all mingling around.  I even got to meet former 2000AD writer and editor Steve McManus briefly (thanks for the introduction Lew) which was just one more surreal moment to add to the list that day.

But probably the greatest highlight of the entire day can be seen in the photo below:

Lew Stringer, Ian Richardson and Yanick Paquette... with me(!)

Unfortunately this photo was taken after Jenica had moved tables but I can tell you now I haven't laughed this much and this hard in a long, long time!  Lew needs no introduction, Ian is a superlative 2000AD artist (who also just happens to have worked for Dark Horse, Marvel, DC, Image and others) and Yanick has amassed a simply stunning catalogue of work for Marvel and DC, including award-winning Swamp Thing art and Ian also showed me some of Yanick's Wonder Woman work... wow.  Just... wow!  It was brilliant to finally meet and hang out with Lew and we chatted for a long time, Ian had some great stories to tell (about San Diego and Tijuana in particular!) and Yanick was simply hilarious the entire night; I was sore from laughing at one stage!  Completely honoured to have had so much fun in this company.

THANKS

The day has given me the hunger to visit other cons, although I have been warned I've probably picked the best one to start with so it may be a very tough act to follow!  Thanks to Paul Trimble for the event itself and for arranging my being able to attend the nighttime gathering, thanks to all the guests who attended and made our day and obviously to all those I've specifically mentioned throughout this rather lengthy post.

To end I just wanted to say to those individuals who stopped and chatted about Oink! when they saw my book it was wonderful meeting other pig pals in person after writing this thing for a few years now and I hope you're enjoying the blog.  So a big shout out to Pieter Bell, Andy Boal and the other super-friendly gentleman whose name I'm so sorry I've forgotten (Action Force/Combat Colin man!), you also helped make the day an unforgettable one.  (Aha!  One blog comment later and I can name that man as John Vaughn.  A pleasure to meet you!)

ALL THE LINKS YOU COULD EVER NEED:

Lew's Blimey! blog is still the top blog for classic comics and the latest info on new British fare.

Nigel's artwork can be enjoyed by young and old alike (and everyone in-between) over at The Beano.

Jenika's fantastic creations are available at her site, the Neptune Factory.

Check out Northern Ireland's own 2000AD fanzine Sector 13 too on Facebook.

While there nip over to Belfast Sector Housing 13: The Pit for info on the next meet!

Obviously, last but most importantly the Enniskillen Comic Fest has its own Facebook page which you simply must like for all the latest photos and, later on in the year (hopefully) the first news of any future event.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

ENNISKILLEN COMIC FEST PROGRAMME

The Enniskillen Comic Fest is happening over the next two days in the town of the same name in the heart of Northern Ireland, which for me is just a couple of hours of a Nintendo Switch-playing bus ride away from where I live.  I'll be there Saturday, so if you see a guy wandering around with a copy of The Oink! Book 1988 stop me and say hi!  I'm taking the book to hopefully get it signed by Lew Stringer and Davy Francis, two fan-favourite Oink! contributors and part of an utterly fantastic line-up of guests!  Below is the full list you can expect to see across the two-day con and the school and public events taking place:



You can read my preview post for my first ever comic con by clicking here and then go and check out the organiser's Facebook page by clicking here.

Hopefully see some of you there pig pals!  Plus don't forget if you can't make it you can follow my Instagram for loads of photos throughout the day and a full write-up soon here on The Oink! Blog.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

THE FINAL PSYCHO GRAN? DEATH AND THE OLD MAIDEN


Is this really the end?  Is Psycho Gran's creator David Leach sending her off to the pearly gates after all these years entertaining us since her debut in Oink! #15?  Certainly seems that way from the preview David kindly sent me for the blog... or does it?  Well, of course I'm not going to spoil anything for you, but he has supplied me with these four panels to whet your appetite for the old dear's latest brand new adventure:


David tells me he's been wanting to do a strip featuring Death visiting Psycho Gran for a while now and had previously been working on other stories to do just that.  But they didn't work out for one reason or another and so he went back to the drawing board (pun intended) and eventually came up with the idea for Death and the Old Maiden:


The story is debuting right now in the weekly anthology digital comic Aces Weekly which I've covered before here on the blog.  Filled to the brim of its 30 pages with top quality strips across different genres, from adventure to horror to comedy, each volume lasts for seven weeks and if you subscribe to a volume each new issue will be delivered to your device automatically every seven days.  At the end of each volume there's a fortnight's break before the next volume kicks off again.  Also, at any time you can purchase any previous volume in one go and get all seven issues delivered instantly.

Just head on over to acesweekly.co.uk and you can subscribe to the latest volume for only £6.99 (€7.99), that's only £1.00 per issue!  Currently on its 27th volume it's been a smash hit (so much for there being no UK industry, right?) and that small amount of money in the end brings you a whopping 210 pages, including extras such as design sketches, scripts and more:


I'm also delighted to announce David has more Psycho adventures planned for this year in Aces, with another 9-page story (the same length of the complete Death tale) and a smaller one-off story which he describes as "very small, sad and poignant".  I'm very intrigued I have to say.  In the Death and the Old Maiden strip there's certainly a poignant tone to it on occasion, but never fear the Psycho humour isn't far behind!

These strips will then all be collected together into the third issue of the Psycho Gran comic, so it looks like we're going to be treated to an issue of her own title once a year which is brilliant.  More brand new UK comics and featuring one of my very favourite Oink! characters.  What's not to love about that news?

So to see the fate of our beloved little crazy lady, get yourself over to the Aces Weekly website and treat yourself to the current volume.  You'll be hooked and buying back issues and subscribing to new ones before you know it!


Also, don't forget the first two issues of the Psycho Gran comic (the first containing all-new tales and a modern take on an Oink! classic, the second collecting together previous equally-brand-new Aces Weekly strips) are available right now from Comixology alongside the one-off Psycho Gran Vs special and you can read more about them by clicking on the covers below: