There was quite a bit of excitement in British comics circles – and beyond – last week when an eBay auction got underway for a copy of the 23 October 1976 issue of short-lived ultra-violent 1970s weekly British kids' anthology comic Action; within days it had sailed past the thousand pound mark and eventually sold for just north of £2,500 – a remarkable sum considering the issue before it, dated 16 October 1976, offered by the same seller, went for just under sixty quid. But this wasn't just any issue of Action: the 23 October issue was the last one before Action went on hiatus – the comic resumed publication over a month later but in a watered-down form – and the vast majority of copies were pulped, with only a few dozen known to have survived.
A censored version of that 23 October issue formed the basis of the post-hiatus 4 December issue, but at least some of the comic strips appeared as originally intended fourteen years later in this book:
Action: The Story of a Violent Comic, published in hardback by Titan Books in 1990. Compiled and written by Professor Martin Barker, the 288-page book details the history of the comic The Sun newspaper dubbed "The Sevenpenny Nightmare" and presents large chunks of key stories Hookjaw – a blood-soaked blatant Jaws rip-off – Death Game 1999 – a blood-soaked blatant Rollerball rip-off – and Look Out for Lefty – an underclass take on Roy of the Rovers – as well as a small selection of strips from spy thriller Dredger.
Best of all it reprints in its all-too-brief entirety the brutal Kids Rule OK, a bovver-booted dystopia which envisions a world where the adults have all largely carked it and gangs of feral youth reign supreme. Written by Jack Adrian – an alias of Chris Lowder – and drawn by Mike White, the story owes an obvious debt to William Golding's Lord of the Flies, something Adrian acknowledged in his initial notes for the series, as quoted by Martin Barker. But an even more apposite antecedent is Dave Wallis's 1964 novel Only Lovers Left Alive, in which the adults also cark it – at their own hands in this instance – and the unruly teens take over.
Unfortunately, in the years since its publication Action: The Story of a Violent Comic has become almost as elusive as that 23 October issue of Action: there are only around a dozen copies available online at present, and the cheapest of those is nearly sixty quid (most are more like £90 to £100). When I was in charge of the graphic novels department at Titan in the mid-2000s I remember there being a single copy of the book tucked away on the shelves in the library room behind where I sat, and I must admit I did occasionally entertain the notion of 'borrowing' it. In the end, though, I left it where it was (it may even still be there).
Happily, earlier this year I chanced upon a pristine copy in Dave's Books, the next-door-but-one back issue department of Dave's Comics in Brighton, priced at just nine pounds. Which just goes to show that good things eventually come to those who, er, elect not to thieve.
You know, there just maybe some copies in the loft, 76 was the year of panic in the press though, they'd successfully convinced the country to ban 100 mph mopeds. Small details like such machines not existing, being a tedious irrelevance. There was a bunch of others, killer cosmetics from abroad made by people who don't spend on press adverts and oh yeah, deadly Moskvich cars, although that might have been a little earlier. 2000 ad did quite a nice Action homage with Shako, which is worth checking out, the artwork is pretty good.ReplyDelete
Some copies of the book, or some copies of the 23 October 76 issue...?Delete
I meant the comic but I'm unlikely to have October, unless it was a swapsy.Delete
*Love* the jacket of that Dave Wallis book. Is that your copy?ReplyDelete
That is my copy. The photo on the jacket is by Bruce Fleming. Follow the link to see more of it – and the Pan paperback can be seen here: http://www.existentialennui.com/2011/10/only-lovers-left-alive-pan-1966-pat.htmlDelete
I'm looking at the book right now, I'll read it calmly later. It is a disappointment that the book does not indicate the name of some artists: the first "Dredger" is without doubt Horacio Altuna. Or the full names: Gustavo Trigo, Horacio Lalia. It is a beautiful book, but it is a detail that caught my attentionReplyDelete