This week back in 1986 saw the debut of British children’s comic Oink!, crammed with jokes about pigs, poo, plop and puke – and cartoonist Andy Luke celebrates its “birth” over on the latest episode of his Drew and Look podcast, along with Oink! archivist Phil Boyce.
Published by Fleetway, devised, launched and edited by Patrick Gallagher, Private Eye cartoonist Tony Husband and the late Mark Rodgers, perhaps IPC’s most prolific comics writer at the time, Oink’s mission of deep fun and challenge to accepted morality quickly drew questions from the British Press Council, England’s largest retailer WHSmith and eventually, the House of Commons.
While less known than contemporary title VIZ, Oink!’s legacy continues to impact modern culture, and had great support from the likes of Radio One DJ John Peel and many others.
Oink!’s contributors, who, unusually for the time, for the most part, retained copyright on the characters they created, included cartoonist Jeremy Banks, aka Banx; future Financial Times cartoonist and satirical media commentator-to-be Charlie Brooker, who was still at school at the time; the late Malcolm Douglas, who co-created “Ham Dare” with Lew Stringer, who was both an illustrator and an avid fan of folk music; Davy Francis, who also drew strips for Monster Fun and whose bonkers puns were a frequent delight; Private Eye cartoonist David Haldane; cartoonist Ian Jackson, who probably drew more covers than anyone else, and who brought life to Oink!’s fictitious editor Uncle Pigg, his words usually the work of the late Mark Rodgers; cartoonist and future editor David Leach, creator of Psycho Gran, who debuted in Issue 15; Private Eye cartoonist Tony Husband; comic artist and writer Steve McGarry, who drew two covers and his contributions included a parody of the Royal Family; ex-The Fall member and future BBC Radio 1 radio host Marc “Lard” Riley, whose contributions included “Harry the Head”, and who helped create the free Oink! flexi disc, given Way with Issue One; Beano and Dandy cartoonist Lew Stringer, creator of “Tom Thug” and xxx “Pete and his Pimple”, characters that survived the move to Buster; the late Frank Sidebottom (Chris Sievey, who joined the comic’s line-up in Issue 16); and writer and artist Kev F Sutherland, today parodying modern life through sock puppets as well as creating new takes on the plays of William Shakespeare.
VIZ founders Davy Thorp and Chris Donald also contributed some one-off strips, as did the Beano‘s Tom Paterson and John Geering.
Despite conservative furore, Oink! was an instant hit and a cult juggernaut, and its creators and contributing artists and writers had no intention of slowing down, but, sadly, despite the obvious enthusiasm and rampant talent of its creators, the comic lasted just 68 issues (plus some specials and other publications), before being merged with Buster, in part a victim of re-shelving by WHSmith early in, where the kids it was aimed at couldn’t reach it, but largely, in my personal view, by its publisher’s lack of faith and support in most comics at the time.
(When the comic came under Robert Maxwell’s ownership, editorial interference mounted, to the dismay of its creators, taking the fun out of making it,according to Tony Husband).
Marking Oink‘s 35th anniversary, comic creator Andy Luke is joined by expert blogger Phil Boyce, who has documented the story of the comic and others, discussing the punk aesthetic in editorial, the multi-disciplinary artists, and their iconic characters over on Drew and Look.
Phil delivers a fascinating account of the comic’s origins, drawing on his research and discussion with many of its creators, and also hints that Rebellion are working on ways to bring Oink! material back into print, although it also sounds like this might take some time and working out a format.appropriate to the original presentation is going to require much thought.
It’s a great listen, placing the always chaotic, never safe Oink! firmly in context of its time.
DID YOU KNOW…
• Mark Rodgers was a major contributor and co-founder of Oink!. A collection of his papers is held by the University of Dundee, whic includes issues of Oink! and documents relating to the subversive comic, as well as many of Mark’s scripts, notes, and correspondences. His wife Helen Jones has also added some contents, including a copy of Mark’s obituary
• Talking of Mark, over on his Boys Adventure Comics blog, Richard Sheaf features two “letters of comment”, as they used to be called from the August 1987 issue of the Society of Strip Illustrators newsletter, following a presentation that Mark Rodgers had given to the organisation and that featured in the July 1987 issue of the SSI newsletter. One, defending Oink! is from Neil Gaiman; the other from artist John Richardson, perhaps best known for his work on Tammy, who clearly didn’t like Tom Thug and, it appears, also lashed out without reading any of the strips… something a lot of critics did back then!
As opined by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr back in 1849, “Plus ca change”…
• Alternative Software released a computer game based on Oink! in 1988, documented here on the Internet Archive. Chief editor, Uncle Pigg, has a problem: he’s missing many pages for the next issue and the editorial deadline is near. The player needs to play three mini games starring Pete’s Pimple, Rubbishman and Tom Thug, and, depending on the performance, more or less pages are filled. Said comic pages can be read after finishing the mini games
• Oink! published an item deriding the Poll Tax – a much protested replacement to Council Tax – claiming people owning parrots had to pay tax unless they were members of the Conservative Party. This was read out in the House of Commons
• Oink’s creators, Patrick Gallagher, Tony Husband and Mark Rodgers, were offered a TV deal which resulted in the satirical children’s television series, Round the Bend, produced by Hat Trick Productions for Yorkshire Television. A satirical parody of Saturday morning magazine shows, after its initial run, the show was later repeated on Channel 4, The Children’s Channel and Nickelodeon UK.
You can watch episodes on Tony Husband’s official web site, but unfortunately you need the now outdated Flash player to do so which some modern browsers do not support
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.