Wednesday, 5 July 2017


If you've been reading the posts about each individual issue of Oink! you may have come across this cover already:

Drawn by the always-superb Ian Jackson, it's actually the little quotes to the left of Uncle Pigg I'd like to draw your attention to.  Unlike the Booker Prize reference along the strap line these quotes are genuine ones from the British press of the day.  To us young readers Oink! already stood out amongst the crowd for us, with its original sense of humour, mixed-up format, spoofs, art styles... basically, everything!  But in the wider world it had got noticed too and not just for the ultra-conservative WHSmith placing it on their top shelves.

In a pre-internet world, word would spread a lot slower.  So by the time the press had caught on to Oink!, written about it, published their snippets, had their articles noticed by the Oink! team and then had them reprinted in the comic, it was into its second full year before we started seeing many quotes and clippings appear celebrating what we all already knew.  To illustrate this passage of time the cover above is from the very issue which would have that "questionnaire" which "asked" readers if they wanted Oink! to continue as a weekly or a thicker monthly.  We all know what happened there. So despite this issue proudly proclaiming rightful success in previous press reviews, a mere seven months later we'd be reading the last issue.

As I've always said, Oink! was a success and it was the coming in of Fleetway and their shake-up of all their comics titles which saw Oink! change and eventually lose readers.  Obviously it was all with the best of intentions but unlike IPC who were happy with Oink!'s 100,000 sales per issue on average, Fleetway instead felt it wasn't enough and wanted to increase that figure.  (Their reasoning behind this has all been covered before, starting here.)  We know the ultimate end result, but the important thing is to remember just how successful Oink! was seen to be at the time and that's the whole point of this post.

Below are all the press clippings from the actual pages of the comic throughout its run and, while it may have taken a while for the mainstream to catch on, right from the off Mark Rodgers', Tony Husband's and Patrick Gallagher's creation was catching on within certain circles:

From #10

Grunts page in #15 and The Cult did indeed get a
full interview in the next issue as Oink! fans!

#22's Magic and Fantasy special

Oink! was definitely making an impact amongst the music scene of the time and there was a simple reason for this, on top of it just being a superb read of course!  Oink! was edited together in Manchester, a real hub of British musical talent and Tony, Patrick and Mark were well known in the city for previous work.  They'd also brought in Marc Riley to work on the comic, who was in the band The Fall and through the connections this team had within this hive of music creation our favourite comic was getting read by some very influential people.

It may have had a target audience of 8-11 year olds for the marketing leaflets but it was always intended to appeal to all, to not talk down to the kids and to have more sophisticated humour alongside the slapstick.  We could literally have grown up with the comic if it'd lasted longer.  In later issues Uncle Pigg would tell readers how the readership included teens and young adult students and I wonder how many of them decided to give this comic a go in the first place because their pop icons were reading it.  Celebrity endorsement may not seem like a big deal today, but back in the 80s and for something that many looking in from the outside may have seen as a kids-only title, this was something special.  These weren't staged quotes with money being handed over, these were genuine readers!


#25 saw the first clipping from a newspaper and these would continue to appear sporadically throughout the rest of the run, showing just how well received the comic was with the public in terms of popularity and when being reviewed by the wider media.  There were those who criticised its sometimes rude humour, its poking fun at establishment figures and who campaigned against it being displayed with all the other children's comics.  I've covered that before in-depth, particularly the Janice and John strip and the reaction from a couple of parents, but at the end of the day some people (and they still exist today) felt they should dictate what others could read.

Rebellious humour was the order of the day with Oink! and kids were lapping it up!  As you can see from these clippings the press got this.  Today I imagine the likes of The Daily Mail and The Sun would be writing long, convoluted articles about how unsuitable it is for kids for no other reason than to rile up their readers, as they do.  But thankfully it seems most of the press of the day welcomed the refreshing new take on comics and saw it for what it was; an innovative comic that may have had an anarchic quality but which was ultimately harmless, appealing to the qualities of 80s kids rather than the humour of their parents, and a comic that was genuinely funny to all who read it no matter their age.

"Hilarious", "fresh", "heading for the comic strip Hall of Fame", "outstanding new arrival"... I agree!

#25 and The Guardian are on board

Uh-oh, Patrick gets into trouble with the boss while promoting
the special Smokebusters edition given free to schools in the
north of England (from '87 Holiday Special)

#37 really went to town to show off Oink! being reported
on in the 'adult' world.  Half of a two-page Grunts was given
over almost exclusively to press clippings.

Good example of the delay I mentioned above, as
this clipping from the Sunday Times was actually
in Oink! Weekly #50.  Plus yet more musical press

Just two issues later and Oink!, at the ripe old age of
52 issues, is voted in as a new entry in Escape magazine.
Only 15 issues later we'd be waving goodbye though.

To help introduce new readers to the new monthly
Oink!, #63 had a selection of prime pork cuts from
a selection of the British press.

Oink! certainly made its mark and now, thirty years later I'm so proud of the fact this blog has proven so popular with pig pals old and new, with the pages of this comic being enjoyed all over again.  It continues to be fondly remembered, cherished by many and from comments received here and on various social media it's leaving its mark all over again.  (Some bleach should get rid of that.)



It’d probably be uncharitable to Call Chris Sievey a hypocrite for involving himself with an antismoking campaign while doing a considerable amount of this in later life – and most likely lots in between. The man had to do something with his time, I guess.

Phil Boyce said...

It's a fair comment and the editors and Chris were caught out at the time. Apparently some pig pals had won the chance to meet the editors and Frank to help promote the Smokebusters edition and when they'd got back on their train the Oink! team lit up and the press was still there! It was the 80s though, we had adults who'd grown up in the 70s and I don't honestly think at that time their smoking should take anything away from them trying to make sure the younger generation didn't make the same mistake.