Monday, February 07, 2011
Happy Birthday Hook Jaw!
On this day in 1976 IPC unleashed their bold new adventure weekly Action featuring stories far more robust and streetwise than had been seen in their previous titles Thunder, Jet, and Scorcher. A year earlier the company had launched Battle Picture Weekly which played a large part in modernizing the style of boys adventure weeklies. However, credit must also go to the girls weekly Tammy, launched in 1971 by IPC, which ushered in stories with a little more edge than its contemporaries, albeit with subtler methods than Action would employ.
The standout strip in Action No.1 was Hook Jaw, making the seas (and the comic's centre pages) awash with blood. (The saga is to be reprinted in new UK adventure comic Strip Magazine, coming soon.)
Sadly, the often violent excesses of Action's strips would soon get the establishment's knickers in a twist and the comic was later withdrawn and castrated, to be relaunched with a tamer approach. How sad that we live in a society that can blame children's comics for violence and that such misdirection is readily accepted by the public, even without evidence. Perhaps it's easier and more palatable for some people to blame outside forces instead of taking stock of their own failings.
No doubt some will say I'm on my soap box again. Damn right. The whole bloody comic industry should be outraged when comics are irrationally considered to be a cause of crime and violence. If people don't like a comic, fine, no one's forcing them to buy it. But to call for it to be banned, imposing their will on others, stopping readers from enjoying their comic and forcing creators to lose income, then that is a greater crime than any perceived "influences" in the pages of a children's comic.
It was those attitudes which devastated the American comic industry in the 1950s and, I believe, have held back the British comic industry in more recent decades. The Action situation (and also that of Oink!) led to publishers understandably being over-cautious, and it gave too much power to the retailers in determining the content of a comic. "Safe" comics that followed Action, such as Speed, were therefore doomed to fail. Subsequently the industry began to produce "younger" titles, flooding the market with nursery titles, content that the material would be inoffensive enough never to cause another backlash. Now we have a generation growing up who have never even seen an adventure comic. Did society become less violent after Action was banned? Not a bit.
Not that I'm suggesting kids' adventure comics should be overtly violent, but it'd be good to see something modern out there with a bit more of an edge than Spider-Man & Friends but still accessible for children instead of being "mature" like CLiNT. Yes, there's Marvel Heroes, but even that plays it safe with action that is more diluted than the adventure comics of old, and seems "younger" than Action or Battle in tone. Let's hope Strip Magazine fills the void and that retailers don't immediately put it on the top shelf just because it features drawings of people in peril.
The same day that Action was launched also saw D.C. Thomson publish rival comic Bullet No.1. A bit like Tiswas versus Swap Shop, in more ways than one. I've already featured a review of both first issues on this blog three years ago, so I won't repeat myself here. If you haven't already read it you can see the post here: