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Issue 1, 3 May 1986

Oink! was a controversial children's humour comic published by IPC/Fleetway that ran from 3 May 1986 to 22 October 1988. Its humour was anarchic and scatological, reminiscent of the adult humour of Viz pitched to a younger audience. The American Mad magazine was also a significant influence, particularly in the large number of one-off parodies it included. It was devised and edited by Patrick Gallagher, who brought in cartoonists from outside the IPC stable, like Tony Husband, Mark Rodgers, Jeremy Banx, Davy Francis, Haldane, Marc Riley, Lew Stringer, Malcolm Douglas and Kev F. Sutherland, Viz contributors Davy Thorp and Chris Donald, and satirist Charlie Brooker.

Its figurehead "editor" was Uncle Pigg, whose writers were pigs, whose technical staff were piles of poo called the Plops, and who faced opposition from conservative critic Mary Lighthouse. As well as comic strips, it also included photo-strips and spoof news items, adverts, horoscopes ("Russell Grunt's Hogoscopes"). Starting with #3, most issues had a theme (e.g. travel, music, revenge, pets, etc), though this was dropped when the comic went weekly at the start of 1988. Pigs provided much of the comic's iconography, with celebrities caricatured in porcine style and regular updates on the nefarious activities of those public enemies, butchers.

The comic was promoted with a full-length preview issue bundled free with copies of Eagle, 2000 A.D. and Buster. It may also have been given away with some of IPC's non-comic publications such as NME. This issue is now often assumed to be a rarity, though given its enormous print run, logic dictates that it is probably one of the most common eighties comics, and the sheer number of copies that come up for sale at artificially inflated prices would seem to bear this out.

The first proper issue came with a free flexi-disk single entitled "Oink Song" but better known as "Poo Poo Tinkle Tinkle Parp Parp Oink Tiddly Widdly Widdly Widdly Plop". The preview and #1 issues between them introduced long-running characters such as Burp the smelly alien, Tom Thug, Rubbish Man, Harry the Head, The Streethogs, Snatcher Sam, and the 7 and 5/8-year-old "interleckshual" diarist, Hadrian Vile, as well as Cowpat County and The Golden Trough Awards, a framing device for a series of film parodies. The surreal Mister Bignose debuted in issue #3, the inept and possibly psychopathic Doctor Mooney (He's Completely Loony) in issue #5, a raft of new strips including Pete and his Pimple, Psycho Gran, Hector Vector and his Talking T-Shirt, and Greedy Gorb in #15, and Frank Sidebottom in #16.


Oink! started out as a 32-page fortnightly (44 issues) and achieved steady sales in its target market, but after IPC sold its comics division, the title came under pressure from its new owners, resulting in it going weekly at the start of 1988 in an attempt to compete directly with more established comics. During this period of weekly publication the comic appeared rather more conventional, and although there were several pig-themed strips (including recurring parodies of Billy the Kid, Lassie and Sherlock Holmes), the metafictional world of Uncle Pigg and the Oink! "staff" was barely touched upon, with Mary Lighthouse and the Plops all but forgotten. The smaller 24-page format retained most of the old regular characters, leaving less space for one-off and minor recurring strips. After 18 weekly issues, it was reformatted as a 48-page monthly (6 issues), by which time even readers with no interest in the workings of the industry would have realised the comic was in trouble. The monthly version's cover designs attempted to position it as a magazine rather than a comic (though the actual content remained the same), and though this did result in a welcome return to glossy paper, there was also a growing reliance on reprints from the early editions.

The comic was finally cancelled in November 1988 after 68 numbered issues, merging into Buster. Annuals were published for 1988 and 1989, and two "best-of" compilation books, Uncle Pigg's Crackling Tales 1 & 2, also appeared. 1989 saw the publication of both a summer and winter special, which between them gave happy endings to a number of long-running characters, though with Banx being busy elsewhere, having taken up the role of pocket cartoonist for the Financial Times, his strips were conspicuous by their absence -- meaning, among other things, that there would be no final update on the deeds of butcher Jimmy "The Cleaver" Smith, for so long the comic's uber-villain. A further "summer collection" appeared in 1990, but consisted almost entirely of reprints.


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