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Wednesday, 12 September 2018

GOOF! #2: BACK TO GOOF SCHOOL

<< GO TO ISSUE 1


Goof! editor Marc Jackson comments on social media how the time has simply flown since #1 of his new comic, wondering where the weeks have gone.  Well, here on The Oink! Blog and Beyond it feels like it's only been a couple of weeks too, but that actually is the case since I was so late in covering the last issue!  Starting to get caught up now though so bare with me.  At least this month anyone reading this and deciding to subscribe, to enjoy the 27 pages on offer here, has a decent amount of time before the next issue bursts its way from the interweb.

Before I get to the strips I want to highlight I just have to say the Goof character himself has probably the funniest one of the whole issue but I find myself with quite the dilemma here because of it.  If I show any of it I'll end up ruining the joke for you, yet it's my favourite page of the whole comic, so obviously I want to show it to you!  Argh Marc, look what you're doing to me!  At the end of the day though, you should have the same opportunity to read it without any spoilers just like I did so I'll begrudgingly leave him out.  But he's fast becoming my favourite new comics character, which hopefully is enough of a recommendation to check him out.


There are some really delightful, sweet little strips which make up Goof! alongside the craziness and I'd like to focus on a few of them this month.  One such strip comes from the imagination of Emmeline Pidgen, a freelance illustrator who has worked for such publishers as IDW, Hachette and Egmont.  Her website portfolio shows examples from children's books such as Peter Pan and The No More Bullying Book For Kids, alongside self-published comics titles.  Nona the Ninth is Emmeline's monthly contribution here, telling the tale of a young girl, the youngest of nine siblings in her family, who wants to grow up to be a great scientist of the Victorian era.

Her experiments look like they're going to fascinate the younger readers of Goof! while at the same time exasperating her family members.  This issue we get a little story about a 19th century scientist whose experiments Nona would like to emulate, if it weren't for her mother possibly not being too keen on her setting fire to the surrounding fields.  If her strips continue in this vein, with a little fun fact followed by an innocent giggle at the end for the kiddies (who Emmeline's work seems to connect to in a unique and simply beautiful way when you look at her portfolio) then I hope the readers embrace her with open arms so Nona can stick around for as long as Goof! itself does.


We'll come back to more strips like that further down the post.  But first, as I mentioned last time there appears to be some characters within the digital pages of Goof! who are going to be little one-offs and, just like Oink!, we may not know if they are (or if they're going to return) until we read the next issue.  We've seen some characters already come and go in the previous two issues and here in #2 we get to meet Scruff & McGuff in a little tale called Night Terror!  From  North Carolina-based illustrator Allison Steinfeld, the two protagonists live aboard a small house boat which is tied to a dock in the middle of a midnight storm.  With mention of a lake monster it's clear who is going to pop up, but the ending is a funny little gem, that's for sure.

I really hope Allison is due to return to the comic in the future, in particular I'd love to see Scruff & McGuff come back for more misadventures.  It's rare that such a small strip, with only a little bit of speech (and with one character being a mute dog) can leave such a lasting impression of said characters with the reader.  I believe this is testament to Allison's style.  The friendship between man and dog is lovely, the scenario unique and the story a lovely little thing indeed.  Nothing is forced in order to introduce you to them, it's all very natural and flows off the page/screen.  Fingers crossed for more!


Marc's own double-page strip, Donald Dogsbody Does the Dishes is back again with the ongoing tale of the Space-Cats and the missing coffee.  Last month we found out the mystery of why the Monday morning essential had disappeared was really the most obvious of reasons; the Space-Cats were opening their own coffee shop right next door.  This month we get a lovely full-page first panel (above) and Donald's friend Gertie is having none of it!  Highly animated fun, Donald's attempts to hold his friend back don't exactly go as planned and I'm really enjoying how this story is developing over the issues, I have to say.  I'm actually eager to see where this goes!

The Goof! website has started to add some of its promised extra features with readers' letters and the Goof of the Month sections now accessible.  It's lovely to see children getting into the comic and writing in to express what they loved about the first two issues, it really does take me back to when I was first discovering comics at a young age.  So in that regard it's brilliant to think about how these kids are going through that very same discovery with Goof!  The other section is a page where one of the cartoonists gets asked a few questions about their contribution and this month it's Tor Freeman, creator of the following strip, Spells in the Forest.


Telling the tale of Florence the Witch, Prince Frog and, of course, Elfis the elf simply living their lives in the forest, it's the artwork which really makes this particular page sing.  Tor's work is simply delightful.  An illustrator, author and comics maker, her beautifully coloured panels paint a world full of magic and wonder for the younger audience.  So much so, Tor was the artist on a new The Wind in the Willows book published in 2016 by Alma Books and it really does have to be seen.  Check out her website (the book's cover is in the blog section) for more wonderful illustrations and even a shop where you can purchase everything from flower prints and stickers to dinosaur birthday cards, all with that magical Tor touch.  Having recently joined the ranks of The Phoenix I'm looking forward to getting lost in more of her creative worlds.

It's clear the target audience for this particular strip is a somewhat younger one than this slightly greying blog writer, but that doesn't make it any less loveable as a piece of art with the added benefit of enjoyable characters, that's for sure.  The comic has a handful of strips which are clearly for the children in the audience, while others might be aimed more to the older audience.  But the magic of Goof! is that both groups will still enjoy everything here.  That's the whole point of the comic after all, "Comics for Everyone" and all that.  The next one is another perfect example.


How to be Cool by Andrea Bell has a simple premise; to show kids what it takes to actually be cool.  It takes what us older readers probably thought was cool when we were younger, and what social media might still portray as cool today, and turns it on its head.  Basically, it's about being nice!  It's that simple.  It's not about being aloof, or trying to look cool, or trying to chat people up, or being seen in the coolest places... it's simply about being nice.  In this day and age it can sometimes be a breath of fresh air to come across someone in the street or in a shop etc. who is just genuinely nice, who hasn't got their nose in their phone while ignoring you, or music blasting from their ears while they annoy everyone around them on the bus.  How to be Cool shows kids who are growing up in the modern world how being genuinely nice is the new 'cool'.

Andrea's art is simplistic in nature but is the perfect fit for the scenario here.  Instead of trying hard to be cool, it's so simple to just be yourself and be nice to others to make the biggest impact in this world.  Am I overthinking this?  Maybe, but hopefully that's the impact Andrea's monthly lessons will have on the impressionable youth and maybe even some of the adults reading.  It may not necessarily be what you'd term "goofy", but it's positive outlook and unique sense of fun make it perfect for Goof!

Another particular highlight this issue is (as always) Jim Boswell's Stick Pig in which yet another new team member joins the crime-fighting team.  No actual crime-fighting yet but perhaps that's the point, Stick Pig being all bluster and no action and the last panel is incredibly funny.  Brilliant stuff.

So, another month and another Goof!  This is clearly the best issue yet.  The team all seem to be settling in to their contributions really well and it's all coming together brilliantly into a solid monthly title which deserves to run and run.  I know it's a lot of work for Marc, especially committing to a regular monthly schedule, but here's hoping he's getting the same sense of satisfaction out of it as us readers are.  It's a profit-share product, meaning everyone working on the comic gets a share of the money, so make sure you subscribe (only £12 for 12 issues!) and then just sit back and wait for the first Saturday of each month and that magical email telling you the next issue is ready and waiting for you at goofcomic.co.uk.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

THE BEANO #2280: MISSING SOMETHING?

<< GO TO COMIC 5: #1768


Hello again!  This is the last reproduction of a classic newsprint edition in DC Thomson's 80 Years of Fun box set, the superb celebration of eighty years of the world's longest-running comic, Beano.  But it's not the last issue to be covered.  All will be revealed before the end of the post, but for now let's concentrate on #2280, or rather this superb copy of that issue.  As with the previous ones, it's been printed on high quality paper, much better than the paper originally used, but it's coloured to look like the newsprint young readers were more accustomed to back then.  All twenty pages are here, kicking off with Dennis the Menace without his sidekick Gnasher.

David Sutherland's strip became a major talking point throughout the UK during the seven weeks of Gnasher's disappearance, inspired by a multi-part siege story in British soap opera Brookside of all things.  Readers wrote in with tales of them spotting similar dogs in their neighbourhoods, pleading for his return and even Radio DJ Mike Reed featured the search on his show, also appearing in the story itself!  Inside, Walter's dog Foo-Foo took over the page usually reserved for Gnasher's own strip, all adding to the sense that he was going to be gone for a long time.  But, as it turned out, he reappeared after the aforementioned seven weeks with a litter of pups (must've been busy), one of which called Gnatashia got her own strip in DCT's Jackie magazine.  So all's well that ends well.  In the end.


I know I included a brief look at Roger the Dodger last week, but when I saw this edition I instantly recognised the artwork style as being more like that which I remembered.  While it's certainly heavily based on the original style of artist Frank McDiarmuid, under new editor Euan Kerr the character had been handed over to Robert Nixon, who had previously drawn Roger between 1964 and '73.  While still not as playful as the modern day version, Roger certainly wasn't as harsh and 'mean' looking as the one featured on last week's post.  McDiarmuid's may be a classic and fondly remembered by many and I can understand that, of course I can, but this is definitely the Roger from my brother's comics and annuals.  Indeed, I can actually remember this specific issue!  More on that below.

Roger proved so popular during the 80s he was eventually given a second page to spread his dodges over and even an additional, separate strip called Roger's Dodge Clinic after that.  This particular strip this week hasn't aged well at all though.  Or, I suppose, you could say it's simply very much of its time.  The whole point behind Roger's dodging is to get out of cooking something in school, something which apparently was only for girls.  Even the teacher makes a point of highlighting the fact this exercise was going to include the boys in the class.  Of course, these days kids would look at this and wonder why on earth this would be the case, but even I can remember how cookery classes were viewed by us kids back then.  It's a shame, as it's something I adore doing today but because of that outdated view I never studied it at school and as a result I feel I really missed out now!


Just a quick note here about this Minnie the Minx strip from Jim Petrie following that Roger page.  While the cookery-is-for-girls aspect is simply outdated and would read rather strangely to today's children, this Minnie strip is the perfect example of why these reproductions have a statement from the publishers in each one which states, "Some pages may contain references which are of their time, but would not be considered suitable today".

Not only does Minnie trick a rather obese kid into being tied upside down to steal their sweets, which today is rightly deemed as bullying, but the ending above shows the traditional slipper smacking the characters would receive when they misbehaved.  While there are some people online who bemoan the fact today's comic doesn't contain elements such as those, it's pretty obvious to the majority of us why these would simply not be acceptable for inclusion in a children's comic today.


Another David Sutherland strip and it's another classic character I particularly liked when I glanced at the occasional issue of The Beano.  I wonder what I liked so much about this one?  If you really don't know the answer to that question then may I politely suggest you rethink which website you're looking at.  Originally guest-starring in a Dennis strip in 1979, by the mid-80s Rasher, his pet pig, had his very own strip.  He's disappeared and reappeared over the years and is yet another character featured in this series (Big Eggo and Pup Parade previously) who recently became reacquainted with Beano readers thanks to Oink!'s Lew Stringer.

What else do we have in this issue?  From front-to-back we've got Simply Smiffy from Bash Street in his own strip, then Roger the Dodger, Minnie the Minx double-page spread, Lord Snooty, Ball Boy, the letters and fan club page, Rasher, the double-page Bash Street below in the middle pages, Ivy the Terrible (another character who Lew would eventually get his hands on), Billy Whizz, Smudge (not the real-life cat sometimes featured on this blog!), Pup Parade, "Baby-Face" Finlayson, Little Plum and previous cover star Biffo the Bear have half-page strips on the same page, Tom, Dick and Sally and finally on the inside-back cover we have the temporary Foo-Foo strip.


Back to the full-colour middle pages to focus on that Bash Street Kids story from record-breaking David Sutherland before moving on and this is the reason I know I can remember this particular issue.  I have a clear memory, brought to the surface by reading these pages, of being in my primary school's playground and playing a game with my friends where if you got caught you were given something silly to do which, if you did it, would stop you from becoming "it".  The impossible task one person was given was to tell everyone what the secret joke was from the Bash Street Kids that week!  Kids, eh?  But anyway, I remember I was aware of the story and knew what my friend was talking about, so I must have read at least part of my brother's comic that week at some stage.

Isn't it strange, the useless information our brains decide to keep hidden below the surface, while at the same time important information can disappear forever?


So, above I included Roger the Dodger again and here we've our second Pup Parade in as many weeks too.  Why?  Gordon Bell is still the artist but just look at those lovely hand drawn speech bubbles.  At this stage in Beano's life most of the strips had typed balloons, with a clear exception being Dennis on the covers.  I don't know why the pups were another exception to the rule, in fact the only other exception, but I'm glad they were.  It's a beautiful page, isn't it?  I recognised the writing from a Beano Book at Christmas some year in the distant past.  I never expected this much nostalgia to come flooding back to me, given how I was never a collector of the comic myself, so things like this have made these last two issues such a pleasure to read and write about.

As I stated at the top of this post, this week's issue is the last reproduction of those classic newsprint comics but it's not the last comic in this set.  You see, while there's still two issues to go from the 21st century they were by then on glossy, full-colour paper.  #3052 is from the year 2001 and its shiny, reflective paper really stood out when I first pulled it from the set.  After the gradual changes made to The Beano over the decades-worth of material we've covered so far, it's quite the change!  There's a gap now though (see the second update below), so pop back Thursday 4th October to see what I mean by the big change as we skip forward fifteen years and edge closer to the modern day.

UPDATE 1: Thanks to Lew Stringer for pointing out I'd misread a website I'd used for research into the artist behind this week's Roger the Dodger, and for correcting me when I originally stated the next issue wasn't a reproduction.

UPDATE 2: A couple of months ago when I was planning this series I was unemployed, able to give time over to all of these classic issues, but now I'm working full-time again I'm finding myself with a lot less time on my hands for everything I'm trying to do on the blog.  There's changes I'm wanting to make to its overall goal, layout etc. and I'm not getting anywhere with that, so Beano's anniversary series is going to be taking a little hiatus for a few weeks while I make a start on everything else.  I'm off for a week (cat-sitting again!) soon and would like to dedicate my time to doing a lot with the blog in regards to other comics and posts needing covered and the blog's new sections worked out.  Because I've set an ambitious deadline of the end of this year to get everything done, that week off is the best chance I'm going to have to get a head start on things.  But Beano #2280 will be with you soon folks, have no fear!

- - -

The article I wanted to share this week is very much one of two halves.  It's from the website ComicCon.com and talks about a panel at the recent London Film and Comic Con which featured some current Beano contributors celebrating the anniversary.  That part is very interesting but unfortunately the article also bemoans the comic not including certain older elements of the comics because they're no longer suitable, like those mentioned above.  Falsely saying it's been "toned down", they fail to see that times have simply changed.  But for the panel it's worth a read right here.

TRANSFORMERS INSTAGRAM: MONTH #12 of 77

<< GO TO MONTH 11


A full year's worth of blog posts covering Marvel UK's weekly Transformers comic. A few years ago I wouldn't have kept up with this, I'd wager. But doing this blog has done wonders for my procrastination and here I am twelve months in to this mammoth undertaking, still photographing each issue for Instagram on the dates of their original releases, then slapping them all together into this monthly summary right here.  If you'd like to have a look at each issue as they pop up then head on over to The Oink! Blog and Beyond's Instagram feed every Thursday for the foreseeable future, where the account is public so you don't even need an account to see it all.  But of course you've been here all along, keeping up with these posts for the past year so you know all this already, right?  Right?

This month's post also marks a rather special occasion for me personally.  It's the first post to be produced using my new Apple MacBook Pro, which I purchased so that I can work on this blog and future planned projects, anywhere, anytime, instead of only at home.  So this particular summary has been brought to you from the comfort of a local Starbucks as well as my own couch while binging on repeats of Impractical Jokers.  It's brought a new found enthusiasm with it too and I'm absolutely loving working with this powerhouse of a device!  But anyway, to get back on subject, what treats did Marvel have in store for us in August 1986?


Well, it all started off with Skids having retired from the fight and living a life of peace and quiet with his new female human friend, Charlene.  My favourite story for my favourite Transformer came to a conclusion at the beginning of August 1986, but was swiftly followed up with the start of what would prove to be an absolutely epic run of British stories.  Beginning with the conspiracy-filled In the National Interest, by the end of the month the comic would be all set for something that would change the face of the British comic forever!

ISSUE 73
2nd August 1986


#73: 32 years ago today in Transformers history Skids was up against it!  Up against Megatron on his own?  Nope, it's just a dream, but the Autobot is still certainly put through the wringer this week, just emotionally rather than in an action-packed battle.  This is another reason it's my favourite story of his, as it's all about character and it's rather sad to see him have to go through all of this when all he wanted was to be Charlene's car.  Awww.  He returns to the fight of course, tricking Ravage down a large mine shaft where he'll stay for the time being.


Also this issue it was goodbye to Matt and the Cat (thank goodness) and to Soundwave, whose tease of next week's issue meant a fondly remembered Robo-Capers from Lew Stringer was just seven days away.  Plus, an innocent-looking word thrown into the 'Next Issue' page was about to lead the UK comic down an epic route like no other.  Exciting times ahead that's for sure!

Cover by Herb Trimpe
Showdown! Part Two pencils by Herb Trimpe, inks by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey, colours by Nel Yomtov

ISSUE 74
9th August 2018


#74: A gorgeous painted cover opens this new-look issue, complete with iconic full-page Robo-Capers strip from Lew Stringer to explain the handover of letter answerers.


A truly epic tale is fast approaching but first we've got a fascinating story full of secretive human death squads, hunting down fellow humans who've had contact with the Transformers.  Plus, Dinobots!  In the cartoon they were fun, if stupid robots but in this comic the UK team have made them the most interesting of all the Autobots and I just love the lengthy scenes of them casually chatting away and enjoying some Cybertronian banter, as they casually stroll down a tiny mountain road!


Finally, Hercules gets a splendid introduction to his new story, so let's hope he's here to stay for a while.  Plus the Hasbro advertisement for the Triple Changers (apparently the upcoming Bumblebee movie will feature some!) makes its debut too.

Cover by Alister Pearson
In the National Interest: Part One art by Will Simpson and colours by John Burns
Robo-Capers by Lew Stringer

ISSUE 75
16th August 1986


#75: Megatron takes centre stage in the Marvel UK info box on the cover as he disrupts the best laid plans of reporter and Dinobots alike in the second part of In the National Interest.  Inside, local Northern Ireland artist Will Simpson's interpretation of the evil Decepticons' leader is perfect, as is his chunky, action-packed line-work in the battle with human-controlled Centurion below.


I loved seeing the Dinos frolicking in the background water there while Grimlock and Swoop work with reporter Joy Meadows as Sludge hilariously fawns over his crush!  Lots of great dialogue, Swoop in particular taking the lead again and as their leader takes control of the letters page he makes his feelings about his cartoon portrayal all too clear.


Elsewhere, Lew Stringer's Robo-Capers finally gets a half-page every week (love the look on the giant robot's face in the punchline) and there's the first look at the year's annual, which of course I won't be photographing until a certain Big Day in December!

Cover by John Stokes
In the National Interest: Part Two art by Will Simpson with colours by John Burns
Robo-Capers by Lew Stringer

ISSUE 76
23rd August 1986


#76: Transformers UK continues to fire on all cylinders with In the National Interest.  Shame the same can't be said of Dinobot Swoop, but at least he's kept his inner monologue humour.  I love this character!  Megatron and his fellow Decepticons certainly make for formidable foes for human and Cybertronians alike, with Northern Ireland artist Will Simpson continuing his winning streak.


Elsewhere, even though most of us would wait until Christmas morning, Marvel UK was in full marketing mode for their 1986 annuals which were already on sale (some things never change).  Who remembers the Zoids?  I never knew they had had their own comic strips until I read Transformers decades later, so I must track some down!  For now though, here's the preview of the Transformers Annual which you'll see photos of on, naturally, Christmas Day.  Patience!

Finally for this issue, Lew Stringer's Robo-Capers has also gone from strength-to-strength with the half-page format, so here's another one for you this week.  You lucky people!

Cover by David Hine
In the National Interest: Part Three pencils by Will Simpson, inks by Tim Perkins, art assist was Andrew Leary and the colours are Gina Hart's
Robo-Capers by Lew Stringer

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHTS: @marcmakescomics "Zoids used to be in a comic with Spider-man of all things!  I have copies and was checking them all out again recently in fact!  [British strips], done especially for the comic.  They were cool, but to be honest Spidey by Ron Frenz was the draw for me on this comic 😄"

@the_inevitable_k "Loved the Zoids back-up strips.  Shame there's not a collected edition."

ISSUE 77
30th August 1986


#77: In the National Interest concludes and it's all-action, all the way, but in true Marvel UK form it's not at the expense of a great story or its characters.  Things are left open-minded for Professor Morris and Centurion so here's hoping there's more to come.  The action here even includes a funny, seamlessly integrated pratfall!  A brilliant climax to an enjoyable mini-epic.

Then there's that book in the competition.  I actually bought this book in the early 2000s thinking it was new, so it's a little strange to see it here I have to say.


The issue ends with a smaller 'Next Issue' panel than usual on Grimlock's letters page.  Tucked away here, it'd be easy to forget how epic the UK Transformers comic would become, starting with Target: 2006.  It was the beginning of truly classic storylines which would continue for years in the comic and end up being revered the world over decades later.

Just to nail the point home, the Hasbro advert on the back page was the first time young fans saw these two particular robots!

Cover by Phil Gascoine
In the National Interest: Part Four art by Will Simpson and colours by Tony Jozwiak

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHT: @the_inevitable_k "Such an exciting time for me back then. 😄 Loved Transformers UK.  I bought 'Cassette Man' (Soundwave) when it came out and was hooked on them right away.  Not sure how I found the comic, but bought it from issue one, loved them. 🙂


If you're following the weekly updates on my own personal Instagram (@PhilEdBoyce) make sure you make the switch to the blog's own account at @TheOinkBlog because that's where they'll be from now on, starting with the next issue's photos which are always up on the same day as the monthly blog post.  I'm switching up my personal account so the comics posts, including any and all behind-the-scenes photos of me putting the blog together, buying titles to write about and more, will all now be in the one place for all pig pals, everywhere.  So make sure you add it to your favourites, or even better sign up to the social media site (if you're not already) and give The Oink! Blog and Beyond a follow for all this and more.

But don't forget about these monthly summaries, especially if you comment on the weekly Transformers Instagram posts.  You could see your name up above after all.  The next summary is going to be an exciting one given the storylines that are about to kick off and the event of the 1980s for Cybertron fans it was all building up to, so make sure you come back, Target: Thursday 4th October!  Until then, 'til all are one!