A few posts back, I mentioned Action comic, and a fantastic site dedicated to keeping its memory alive;
I have had another look around the site and I have got to tell you that it is a work of dedication and well worth your time in looking at it if you have any interest in comics, or censorship. The Action story, as opposed to the comic strips themselves, is a fascinating and disturbing tale, redolent of the EC comics witch hunt of the 1950’s (and for more on that);
Basically (and this is a very short summary of a tale better told on the sevenpenny nightmare site) Action comic challenged the establishment in a way that no other mainstream British comic has ever done. It was full of bloody, brutal stories, based on popular themes of the time (Great White Sharks, futuristic death sports, tough crime stories). The level of graphic detail that these stories carried proved to be its undoing, and pressure mounted on those responsible for the comic to cut down on what was making it so popular.
As a child of the 70’s, I collected Action from its first issue, and for quite a few months after that. My favourite story was ‘Hook Jaw’ as I was fascinated and scared by ‘Jaws’ which was on at the cinemas at the time, even though I had never actually seen the movie. I would look at the cinema listings in our local paper to see the poster of Jaws shrunk to the size of a large postage stamp, that swimmer still unknowing of her fate – and it scared me stupid. It was given an ‘A’ rating (which is the equivalent of todays PG rating) but I couldnt get my head round how something so obviously terrifying would be okay for a kid of my age to see. When I did finally watch it, in 1982 when ITV premiered it on UK television, I was palpitating and shaking and sweating all the way through. I don’t think any other film has gripped me like that.
The poster for Jaws still manages to break me out in a shiver. I had that up on my bedroom wall in 1976, even had a t-shirt of the image. I would stare at it, looking at the sharks rows of teeth, never quite working out if they were all teeth, or if there were a few fish stuck in there as well. It’s the helplessness of the situation that makes you ill at ease – what you are seeing is a depiction of the impending death of a human by a shark attack. A big shark at that. I don’t know if there are many other movie posters that are so explicitly tell you that something very bad is about to happen. Fantastic poster and a classic film.
Back to the comic – the most vivid memory I have of Action is the partworks poster they gave of hook jaw, over several issues. I remember assembling it in my back garden, weighing the corners down with stones, and getting the full glory of the artwork;
it nearly blew my primary school mind. What the Jaws movie poster hinted at, the hook jaw poster gave unedited – a bloody, vicious shark attack.
That was what Action was all about, it was violent, gory, brutal and frightening. It was also the forerunner of 2000AD, which was the success story IPC magazines could have had with Action, if they had had the cojones to field the flak….
Anyway, check out the sevenpennynightmare site – it does a much better job at celebrating the anarchy and creativity of Action.