On this day, 3 May 1986: Oink!
On this day, 3 May 1986 … Further birthday greetings today – this time it’s many hammy returns to Oink!, whose first issue bore today’s date thirty years ago. There’s something not unfamiliar about pig-themed satire and while the comic was ostensibly aimed at children – most of its humour scatalogical rather than overtly political – I think there are aspects of the Oink! sensibility in many of today’s sub-cultures of protest and dissent. This was, after all, a comic published into a society in the grip of a harsh, punitive right-wing government supported by a collaborative mainstream media. What on earth must that have been like … Oink! became the subject of moral outrage and some newsagents, including WHSmith, moved it to the top shelves after a complaint to the Press Council (about a story, Janice and John and the Parachute Jump, in which Janice and John’s mummy sabotages daddy’s parachute, meaning daddy crash lands on top of Janice and John), a scenario – faux offence and disproportionate outcry while the abuses of the rich and powerful continue largely unreported – that one can imagine occuring today.
I said Oink!’s humour was not political, but it does contain a strong anti-establishment vibe, as well as a caricaturing of society’s grotesques. Nerds (Weedy Willy, The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile, Horace ‘Ugly Face’ Watkins) and bullies (Ed Banger, Kid Gangster and Lew Stringer’s Tom Thug) provide good strip material in roughly equal measure, and Mary Lighthouse pops up throughout as the nemesis of Oink!’s porcine editor Uncle Pigg. There’s a running theme of piggy versions of the celebrities of the day – Jimmy Saveloy, Terry Wogham, Bacon Stevens, Hamantha Fox and Russell Grunt – although with the benefit of hindsight, some victims might be considered fairer game than others. There is poo and sick and guts and an enormous flea-ridden dog, and as a whole it’s completely different to anything else IPC were publishing at the time – at least from their juvenile division. Good on the comic’s creators – Patrick Gallagher, Tony Husband and Mark Rodgers – for the vision behind it and their commitment to making it work. I’d love to see this little piggy fly again.
For the full story on Oink!, check out this excellent blog by Phil Boyce.