It was 35 years ago to this very day when Oink! No.1 arrived in newsagents! A preview issue of the comic had appeared a week earlier as a free gift in Buster, Whizzer and Chips, and Eagle, but today, 3rd May 1986, was when the first proper issue went on sale.
I distinctly remember buying a couple of issues from WH Smith that day. (IPC never gave us freebies.) It was an exciting time for me. I'd only been working professionally as a cartoonist for three years and being in an IPC comic for the first time felt like another step forward in my career. Even though I'd been freelancing for Marvel UK for a while, IPC had a long history going back to Fleetway, Odhams, and The Amalgamated Press, so this felt like I'd become part of the traditional timeline of UK comics.
My contribution of course was writing and drawing Tom Thug, the brainless bully. I've previously shown the very first Tom Thug strip that was in the Oink! Preview Issue in this post:
However, today I thought I'd show the Tom Thug story from Oink! No.1, that readers would have seen on this day in 1986. It's shown at the top of this post.
I'd been a big fan of the Odhams comics Wham!, Smash!, and Pow! as a boy and their style of irreverent, visually robust humour was the inspiration for my Oink! work.
I know people think that we were trying to imitate Viz but that couldn't be further from the truth. Most people hadn't even seen Viz in 1986 as it wasn't yet distributed to WH Smiths and suchlike. Editorially, the biggest influence on Oink! was Mad Magazine, and (for my part at least) the aforementioned Power Comics. Most of us were just doing our own thing, inspired by various sources, but mainly driven by a desire to create funny comics!
Oink! ran for 68 issues in total, before merging into the more traditionally tame Buster in 1988. I was fortunate to be one of the only two cartoonists to move over to Buster from Oink! (Mike Green being the other). Tom Thug became more of a standard school bully after the merger, but proved popular enough to survive in Buster for many years.
As I've stated before, Tom Thug was never an anti-hero. He was always depicted as the villain whose schemes would backfire on him. He was never a character to admire, but to laugh AT, not with. One of the few exceptions being the 'Culture Corner' mini-strip at the foot of the page above, where Tom seems to get away with his graffiti, but it's suggested that the trail of dripping paint will lead the policeman to him.
Working for Oink! comic was a happy time in my life and career. I wrote all my own material but I also wrote strips for others too. Many of us were new to the business and the editors allowed us to develop our skills and to experiment with layouts and storytelling styles. There really hasn't been a mainstream British comic like it since, and that's a shame. Happy anniversary, Oink!
On this special celebratory day be sure to check out these links too! Andy Luke runs a podcast and in the latest one he's chatting to Oink! historian Phil Boyce. You can listen to it at this link:
Phil runs the OiNK BLOG that all fans of the comic should be following! Every fortnight Phil will be reviewing each issue on the date it would have been published 35 years ago, plus he keeps people updated on the work of ex-Oink! contributors and suchlike. He does a good job of it and you'll find his blog at this link: