Action - 35 years old today

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Lew Stringer
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Action - 35 years old today

Post by Lew Stringer »

It's 35 years since Action (and Bullet) were launched! I've written a short article about it here:
http://lewstringer.blogspot.com/2011/0 ... k-jaw.html

I was 17 going on 18 when Action came out. By that time I was tired of the traditional UK adventure weeklies like Victor or Tiger but Action was right up my street. Bullet, though it was good, seemed a pale imitation to me. Comments?

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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by colcool007 »

Great blogs Lew. In terms of re-reading, few of the Bullet stories still stand-out as being "edgy", while Action still knocks the socks off me in its' untamed form. Post-ban, Action still has an edge on Bullet, but only just. Either way, both are comics that I would love to see again.
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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by Raven »

I wasn't very keen on Action at the time: I found much of the artwork off-puttingly crude (I didn't like the speech balloons, either!) and some of the story ideas unappealing, and though I wouldn't have used these words at that young age, something always seemed a bit grubby and sleazy about the comic. I wouldn't have spent money on it, but it was swapped round and read at junior school each week, Hook Jaw drawing the most interest - mainly just a morbid fascination with the gore. The editorial supposed 'working class banter' sometimes just seemed weird! "Hi lads, we were so chuffed the footy's back, we went out for pie and chips!" etc.

I think it was fairly irresponsible in its use of violence at times, considering it was pretty much aimed at ten-twelve year olds (I think even Pat Mills agrees with that) and understandably got itself banned, which possibly had a negative effect on the evolution of comics in the UK: a little more self-restraint would have obviated the inevitable official censorship and its repercussions on future work.

I think it's a comic that's been overrated and mythologised to some degree, but there's no question it's a fascinating one to look back on as an adult in 2011, with so much children's entertainment now so depressingly sanitised: a time capsule of a long gone world.

I wasn't really aware of Bullet at the time, but recently got hold of issue one and some later ones. It seems quite a traditional comic, with one or two tales bearing a slightly grittier slant than usual in the earlier issues, at least - a bit less old fashioned than Thomson's usual; the usual mix of very good (especially that Survivor/Valley of Fear artist) and fairly crude artwork, but one of the best Thomson adventure weeklies of the Seventies.

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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by Phoenix »

Raven wrote:I think it was fairly irresponsible in its use of violence at times, considering it was pretty much aimed at ten-twelve year olds (I think even Pat Mills agrees with that) and understandably got itself banned, which possibly had a negative effect on the evolution of comics in the UK: a little more self-restraint would have obviated the inevitable official censorship and its repercussions on future work.
I don't really think the editorial board of Action deserves criticism, Raven, for attempting to push the boundaries. When all is said and done, if you don't try you can't succeed. I'm also not convinced that ten to twelve year olds are that likely to be upset by violence in print when there was plenty of it around them in the real world. By the time I was about six I was aware of the potential threat of violence from kids on the now notorious Ryelands council estate in Lancaster, partly because I attended that primary school, but mainly because the threat was real and you had to be prepared to defend yourself if necessary. Equally, we weren't shielded from violence in the animal kingdom either. Picture books were quite graphic. We all knew that if a shark bit your arm, if he didn't make off with it, at best you would have to learn to write with the other hand, at worst you wouldn't need to bother. But it was when they showed two strong and dangerous animals, not just in conflict with each other but in a situation in which one of them was going to die, that as a young reader I was forced to think deeply about the issue. I didn't have enough knowledge, understanding or vocabulary to talk about such aggression, such violence and the arbitrariness of life, but a drawing of a fully-grown tiger, only on a river bank for a drink, with its head held fast in the jaws of a crocodile that was clearly pulling it towards the water, was certainly an image to be conjured with and a step on the way. I don't think it was at all irresponsible. Perhaps by the time Action hit the newsagents' counters, adults were overly concerned about concealing such matters from their little darlings. The picture below is a full page from Animals Of All Lands - A picture-book for little folk (copyright Blackie and Son Ltd). There was plenty of text in it as well.
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croc'sdinner.jpg

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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by Raven »

Phoenix wrote:I don't really think the editorial board of Action deserves criticism, Raven, for attempting to push the boundaries. When all is said and done, if you don't try you can't succeed. I'm also not convinced that ten to twelve year olds are that likely to be upset by violence in print when there was plenty of it around them in the real world. By the time I was about six I was aware of the potential threat of violence from kids on the now notorious Ryelands council estate in Lancaster, partly because I attended that primary school, but mainly because the threat was real and you had to be prepared to defend yourself if necessary. Equally, we weren't shielded from violence in the animal kingdom either. Picture books were quite graphic. We all knew that if a shark bit your arm, if he didn't make off with it, at best you would have to learn to write with the other hand, at worst you wouldn't need to bother.
Well, Hook Jaw was a kind of 'fantasy' violence - though I'd say, like the rest of the comic, that it used sensational violence purely for titillation in a way which isn't really comparable with the wildlife pic. Or do you think they were genuinely pushing artistic and creative boundaries, Phoenix?

I was certainly very troubled (in 1976) by the image at the start of Kids Rule OK of an old man being held still while his face was kicked in, spitting out blood and teeth. Though I suppose it'd be obvious enough if you thought about it, I don't think the possibility of people having that kind of violence committed on them had ever really occurred to me at that age, but it did after that.

But it was obvious that a children's comic featuring the X certificate exploitation film style violence of the likes of Kids Rule OK was going to run into serious trouble. If it had been curbed to a degree from within, the comic would probably have been okay.

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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by Lew Stringer »

As comic creators we're all responsible for what we produce, and there'll always be some readers who find something they dislike when a comic pushes against the grain. That's fine and understandable. What I feel strongly against are the people who try to impose their attitudes on others by trying to ban a comic, thus removing the choice that others have of buying it or not.

The anti-comics crusaders had things too much their way in the past but I've never read any evidence that comics ever "corrupted" or desensitized children. Yet the public lapped up the anti-comics myths as gospel! Comics could "warp your mind" because people said so. Staggering.

Critics of comics always underestimate the intelligence of children. Kids are in control of a comic. They read it at their own pace. They can stop at any time. Any violent images are only lines on paper. It's a far cry from experiencing a violent situation in reality, which a child cannot stop and which could traumatize them. This is what the "banners" never seem to understand, or don't want to understand.

Re: Kids Rule OK. Yes, that was excessive, but I assume that image didn't inspire you to kick anyone's head in? It made you aware that some people do that. Made you a bit more streetwise perhaps? That's a positive thing.

Comics can influence, but only positively I think. When I was four or five years old I read a Beano Summer Special where a kid had his foot trapped in the rail track points as a train was approaching. Subsequently I never played on the railway lines at the bottom of our road. Never. Because that image stuck in my mind. Due to the fears fostered by the anti-comics types the Beano could never show such an image today, but as far as I'm concerned that story may have saved my life! (General Jumbo saved the kid in the story, but I knew that Jumbo wouldn't be there when I crossed the tracks. ;-))
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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by Raven »

Lew Stringer wrote: Re: Kids Rule OK. Yes, that was excessive, but I assume that image didn't inspire you to kick anyone's head in?
No, why would it inspire me to commit violence? As I said, it disturbed and troubled me for some time; took away a bit of my innocence if you like, perhaps some time before that need have happened (I'm not sure how streetwise I needed to be that far into junior school).

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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by Lew Stringer »

Raven wrote:
Lew Stringer wrote: Re: Kids Rule OK. Yes, that was excessive, but I assume that image didn't inspire you to kick anyone's head in?
No, why would it inspire me to commit violence?
I didn't think it would, but those were the arguments that the anti-comics people tended to use.
Raven wrote:As I said, it disturbed and troubled me for some time; took away a bit of my innocence if you like, perhaps some time before that need have happened (I'm not sure how streetwise I needed to be that far into junior school).
Fair enough. Perhaps that scene was too realistic for a children's comic. I'll dig it out when I have more time. I think I have that issue.

Did it stop you buying Action?
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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by Raven »

Lew Stringer wrote: Did it stop you buying Action?

As I said in my first post, I didn't buy it - I'd look at or read someone's else's copy at school.

I actually have the issue now - it's 11th September 1976. (The same story features a kid being slashed with a knife, a knife fight, someone having their stomach run over by a motorbike, and someone having their nose smashed by a baseball bat.)

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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by Lew Stringer »

Raven wrote:
Lew Stringer wrote: Did it stop you buying Action?

As I said in my first post, I didn't buy it - I'd look at or read someone's else's copy at school.
Sorry, I'll rephrase it; did it stop you reading it again?
Raven wrote:I actually have the issue now - it's 11th September 1976. (The same story features a kid being slashed with a knife, a knife fight, someone having their stomach run over by a motorbike, and someone having their nose smashed by a baseball bat.)
Wot no sharks?

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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by Raven »

Lew Stringer wrote: Sorry, I'll rephrase it; did it stop you reading it again?
I'm not sure - it was one of the most overall violent issues, I think (also containing the Dredger car window choking and person's face being held up and smashed into a low bridge, and an especially strong Hook Jaw: guy with bit off foot, 'blinded by blood', impaled by the shark's hook, and with his severed head washed up and held up at the end), and wasn't long before the ban (it was in the 'rainy break time' cupboard, that one, so I probably saw it a few weeks after it came out.) I think it is the last memory I have of reading Action at the time.

I thought 2000AD was a much better comic, the following year.



PS: Lew, I notice you say on your blog messageboard that "the level of violence in that Hook Jaw image (illustrating your piece) is about as far as Action went." Ahem! Now that's not entirely true, is it?!

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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by philcom55 »

To be honest I do think there's such a thing as pornography of violence which tends to disturb me far more than explicit sex and horror; it's what put me off so many war strips like Captain Hurricane (however cartoonish the fighting may have been), and imho Action definitely stepped over the line in that regard. What's more I also had very serious misgivings about 2000AD when it was launched, with Invasion's Bill Savage in particular seeming to be designed as a hero for the sort of 'patriotic' thugs who were then flocking to the banner of the National Front. In fact I suspect that the lesson of Action was directly responsible for the more intelligently humorous approach that 2000AD subsequently adopted during its best period!

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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by Lew Stringer »

Raven wrote: PS: Lew, I notice you say on your blog messageboard that "the level of violence in that Hook Jaw image (illustrating your piece) is about as far as Action went." Ahem! Now that's not entirely true, is it?!
No, because you've truncated the quote, which continued "although there was another image where a body exploded with limbs flying off". As far as I'm concerned that image was of a more graphic level than someone being kicked in the head. Your opinion may differ, and that's fine.
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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by ISPYSHHHGUY »

I thought that much of the strips in ACTION were a bit on the derivitive side: HOOKJAW merely upped the violence on JAWS and made the shark bigger, with the added bonus of vaving a harpoon-like protrusion sticking from beneath the shark's mouth [offering up even more violence].

However the most derivitive strip for me was DEATH GAME 1999, which later became SPINBALL WARS. This was too clearly culled [lock-stock-and-barrell] from 1975 sci-fi flick ROLLERBALL, with elements of bad-taste low-budget film DEATH RACE 2000 [also from '75] chucked in as added 'bad taste' influence. ROLLERBALL wasn't all that good a film, and this comicstrip unofficial 'variation' was probably more entertaining: the violence in this was extremely lurid, but more laughable than disturbing in my experience.


If BULLET was the DCT comic from around this era with 'SMASHER' in it [about a Nazi-like sleek robot that decimates cities] ; well I preferred this story [it had more class and was exquisitely rendered] to any in ACTION, but this is just coz I love giant robots.....I'm not convinced that ACTION had artists with the will to draw such a cool-looking robot without brutalizing the material un-neccessarily.


However, the comicscape of the 70s would have been much poorer sans the output of ACTION, and for me it is the comics-world equivalent of A Clockwork Orange [although the theme of rape was happily never covered in this comic to my knowledge] regarding pop-culture controversy of this chequered decade.

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Re: Action - 35 years old today

Post by Raven »

Lew Stringer wrote:
Raven wrote: PS: Lew, I notice you say on your blog messageboard that "the level of violence in that Hook Jaw image (illustrating your piece) is about as far as Action went." Ahem! Now that's not entirely true, is it?!
No, because you've truncated the quote, which continued "although there was another image where a body exploded with limbs flying off". As far as I'm concerned that image was of a more graphic level than someone being kicked in the head. Your opinion may differ, and that's fine.

I did read that, and maybe I should have quoted it, too, but the Hook Jaw violence in that 11th September issue I'd say was much stronger than the image on your blog, for a start, as well as all the Kids Rule Ok, Dredger stuff, etc. I'd have to look up the limbs image to refresh my memory, but I thought that wasn't as strong as some of the others, either.

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