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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violent excesses of Action's strips would soon get the establishment's knickers in a twist and the comic was later withdrawn and castrated, to be relaunched with a tamer approach.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:


Anonymous said...

You're indulging in a little misdirection yourself if I may be so bold. There has always been concern for the content of kids comics because no one can really know what effect violent content may have on malleable young minds. Therefore a 'better safe than sorry' approach is completely understandable.

True story: I was in a newsagents one day when I ovrheard a child trying to persuade his parents to buy him a copy of 2000 AD. 'It's brilliant. You see people getting heads and arms blown off and blood gushing out,' he enthused. Now, whether or not such content would ever inspire him to acts of violence himself is not really the issue. What is significant is the fact that he accepted such gory depictions as nothing more than entertainment, and saw nothing wrong in doing so.

When youngsters, or even adults, are so desensitised to such things, whether it comes in the form of comics, films, games or whatever, then society, to say nothing of the individuals themselves, is the worse for it. Seems to me you're the only one trying to impose your will, or at least your pov, on others with your one-sided rant.

The best comics ever produced in the Sixties were done so under certain strict guidelines. They don't seem to have suffered any negative effects from it.

Boo909 said...

I'm really looking forward to Strip, can't wait, I hope it does well.

And I loved the quotation marks around "mature", been enjoying the strips in Clint, but I find The Dandy and The Beano infinitely more mature humour wise. Ha Ha Mark Millar eh?

Lew Stringer said...

I'm not indulging in misdirection at all "Anon". What a strange accusation.

You're right; many kids LOVE tales of heads being blown off etc. That boy in the newsagent was reacting like any normal healthy boy. Ever play at war at school? They also know the difference between comic violence and real violence. Give them some credit.

When I was around six years old my friends and I used to collect those gory Civil War News bubble gum cards. Lurid paintings of warfare with bayonets going into chests, people being blown up, and more. It didn't "desensitize" us to real life violence, or make us violent. We knew the difference.

What those cards did, as well as excite, was to show how horrible war was and to educate us on the basics of the American Civil War. So I think we gained something good out of it, which perhaps we'd have ignored if they'd been presented in a less extreme fashion. War IS bloody. That's a good thing to learn.

If people are going to ban comics on the grounds that they MIGHT desensitize kids then where does it end? "no one can really know what effect violent content may have on malleable young minds". Should we therefore ban images of the crucifixion just IN CASE it inspires kids to bang nails into limbs? No? Thought not. Banning comics is equally as silly when you think about it.

Thanks for balancing my "one-sided rant" with one of your own. I remain unconvinced.

Manic Man said...

personally, i think some modern comics that are aimed (or more, should be and always have been aimed at) the young teen group are WAY too graphic. About a year or two ago, DC, in a young teens title, which most of the classics like Superman, Batman etc, should be and pretty much always have been, showed a main character's corpse graphically after it had been half eaten by another character. That's too far.. There wasn't any need for such a level. Too many comics these days are going for the shock death, not cause it needs to be there, but because the idea at the moment is some of the writers are fans. They have grown up with the comic and feel now, the comic should also grow up with them.

In order for a young teen/all age comic these days, companies too often either go too far one way in the graphic deaths etc, Or far the other way and have the villains defeated in a away that even Mickey Mouse would find tame. Personally, i think it's a rut comics are in.. If you look at various circles in comics, you will see we are more out of the psychopathic overly muscled 90s and into the graphic murder 2000s (though, i think it's meant to be 2011 now..)

I'm not saying this hasn't happened in the past. Though they were 'robots', transformers had there fair share of problems. Since the characters were as real as any person to the viewers, the film had a little trouble cause of the deaths of all many classic characters, which is why it ended with 'Optimus Prime will return' (well.. there was another reason too but this was kinda the main one). In the comics, there was a bit where Cyclonus was basically ripped apart and hung on a wall, with oil leaking etc. It was deemed more okay cause it was a robot.

There are ways of depicting death and if need be, graphic death without going for the shock value of the old slasher films. True, some of them were okay, but it was mostly death, pain and blood for the sake of death, pain and blood.. and i think cinema is back to that too.. Maybe it's the people of the world changing too much, but since alot of classics still have there strong following, is it really a matter of the media pushing the change on people? Remember when X-files came out? it wasn't the first show of it's type, or the best, but once it was a hit, hundreds of shows copied.. They claimed 'it was what was popular'.. why? at the moment, the 80s idea of dark and gritty is the rage again, and how many shows need to have that? I think we are out of the 'lets throw vampires into everything' phase and we are on cops shows, like the 60s.. okay, if something is popular, it's a safe bet to try the same to get the money in, but has the world become SOO based on money that there is never another option?

I'm rambling a bit.. common for me.. What can't adventure comics be around which aren't aimed for adults, but aren't aimed for children? okay, maybe they need to be a little toned down at times and maybe just slap a warning on the cover. I'm not big in censoring BUT why can't a person censor there own work? If i want a graphic death, i think 'Hang on.. do i really need this? how can i do it in the context of the pg-14 rating?' Maybe some of these comics could make a come back If the writers and artists remembered to look around for other ways of showing something? the old idea of giving the impression with a smaller budget.. it's not just for films. You saw a tiny bit, you saw peoples shocked reaction and all.. that was all that was needed.

To me, that image of hook jaw at the start is good. There is a bit of realistic blood, and some reaction work and the comment. It doesn't need to be a close up of flesh being ripped apart, muscle tearing etc. Its not TOO graphic (though, for the time, maybe it was) yet its not too toned down. It's a fairy good midway point.
I hope this makes sense to anyone ^_^;

Lew Stringer said...

The level of violence in that Hook Jaw image is about as far as Action went, although there was another image where a body exploded with limbs flying off.

What Action's critics often miss is that such scenes were often so over the top that enter into black comedy. Kids know this and appreciate it in a knowing way. The EC Comics used the same approach.

I think some adults who criticized comics forgot what it was like to be children, and clouded the issue by assuming that a violent drawing was as traumatizing as seeing the real thing. This really isn't the case. A child is in full control of a comic, which is only a series of 2-D images. He knows it's not real.

As for slasher films or adult comics, they were intended for adults. If they got into the hands of young children that's the responsibility of the parents or guardians. My concern is solely about children's comics being banned by people who never had any proof the kids had been harmed by them.

Anonymous said...

The difference being that the crucifixion isn't presented for the purpose of entertainment and the American Civil War is likewise a historical event. Not having seen these cards though I can't comment further on them, but I always find it helpful to keep things in their proper context. However, I would suggest that gratuitous violence presented merely for the titillation of children is an issue that parents would quite naturally be concerned about. Kids might find such stuff fascinating, but parents are usually appalled by the excesses their kids are drawn to. If the parents say they have concerns about certain material being presented to their offspring, then they are perfectly entitled to respond as they do and call for it to be banned. It's too easy to say that parents should ensure their kids don't have access to anything the parents deem inappropriate. It's not that easy in the real world.

I'd also take issue with your definition of what constitutes a 'normal healthy boy'; ever considered the possibility that many children may find such images distastful? Anyway, going by the comments in your original post, your main objection seems to be based on how 'censorship' of such things impacts on the earning capabilities of 'creators' such as yourself. The real crime is when a relatively minor body of so-called artistic types insist on the freedom to inflict absolutely anything on the rest of us in the name of 'art' or 'entertainment', when all they're concerned about is turning a buck.

Lew Stringer said...

"Anonymous" said:
"If the parents say they have concerns about certain material being presented to their offspring, then they are perfectly entitled to respond as they do and call for it to be banned."

No, they should just stop buying it. They have no right to police what OTHER people's children read.

Let's clarify things. We're talking about children's comics, not some dark adult graphic novel that's fallen into the hands of tots. ACTION was more extreme than, say, TIGER, but even it had its limits.

I think it's not so much a case of kids being desensitized but more an issue of OVER sensitive adults and their knee-jerk reactions based on zero proof.

"The real crime is when a relatively minor body of so-called artistic types insist on the freedom to inflict absolutely anything on the rest of us in the name of 'art' or 'entertainment', when all they're concerned about is turning a buck."

Inflict? No one forced you to buy it.

As for commercial gain, I'm sure there are many more profitable ways to "turn a buck". "So-called artistic types" as you call us in comics tend to be there because they enjoy it and because they like entertaining their readers. It seems a far healthier pursuit than those bitter people who post complaints all the time anonymously on blogs. I wonder which comics made them like that? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Your own bitternss is all too apparent. And there's no need to repeat entire sections of my comments; I'm sure your readers have better memories than you give them credit for.

And of course we have the right to police what other people's children read. If your child, because of something he's read in a comic, commits an anti-social act against my child, then I feel I'm entitled to comment on it, just as you are if the situation is reversed. It's called communal or social responsibility.

And if there were many more profitable ways of turning a buck, you'd be doing it. Interesting argument you've got going though; parents shouldn't be allowed to voice concern over what is available to their children. I'm willing to bet you aren't a parent. So parents should wait until the damage is done and they have the proof of it before making their concerns known?

What comics did you read as a boy to make you so omniscient?

Lew Stringer said...

"Anonymous" wrote:
"If your child, because of something he's read in a comic, commits an anti-social act against my child..."

There's the rub. There's no evidence that children's comics ever led children to commit anti-social acts against other children. So your argument is baseless.

It's sad that the anti-comic crusade of the 1950s has influenced the thinking of some adults though. I pity such gullibility.

Thanks for your opinion anyway.

KlownKrusty said...

Re: Violent comics/cartoons/television shows/whatever influencing children to commit acts of violence.

That would be the Hypodermic Needle Model of behaviour, a theory that fell out of favour decades ago and is now largely considered naive.

More details here:

The crucial part would be here in the wiki introduction -

"... this model holds that an intended message is directly received and wholly accepted by the receiver. The model is rooted in 1930s behaviorism and is largely considered obsolete today."

- but read on if you wish.

Anonymous said...

You're reading things in that aren't there. All I'm saying is that if parents aren't willing to play 'Russian roulette' with their children's development, then they're perfectly entitled to that view. Thanks for sharing your dogmatic prejudices.

KlownKrusty said...

Apologies, my link didn't work.

Full address for the wiki entry on the hypodermic needle model of behaviour is:

I won't try linking again. I'd only look like some kind of clown. Regrettably.

Lew Stringer said...

The links are fine Krusty. People can cut n paste them if they don't work as a click-on. Thanks for that interesting info! (Sadly, the train of thought is still active in the media, as shown by their scaremongering about the Beano's "Si Co" strip last year.)

As for the last comment by old "Anonymous", I think this link says it all:

"Psychological projection or projection bias is a psychological defense mechanism where a person unconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to other people. Thus, projection involves imagining or projecting the belief that others have those feelings."

Manic Man said...

Wiki links aren't really a good way to present 'facts'.. okay, some of the place is okay but... as a rule, it's not the best of things ^_^

this Anonymous seams.. American? anyway.. When i was younger, i watched 15 rated films, i watched 18 rated films.. Why? Cause my parents basicly checked them to make sure they were okay and if there were any bits that were a little iffy, we were told about them and we knew that you don't go around saying some of the words said etc.. The one time, my sister wanted to buy the one comic, it had a parent warning on the top. It was checked first to make sure it wasn't anything bad-bad, and was said 'okay'.. What's wrong with parents being more active and basiclly, checking (if only quickly) what they buy for there childern?

"your main objection seems to be based on how 'censorship' of such things impacts on the earning capabilities of 'creators' such as yourself"

someone has a grudge to bear there.. I haven't done any of my stuff for a while but i make NO money from my work. I still place on a form of censorship in the way that i set my set a target group (up to 14 year olds) and make sure my stuff is fine for that group. I make NO money from my writing or drawing.. thatfine now? okay.. I think comics should be writen with a group in mind, creators should limit themselves to that, IF something has a bit more blood and gore then normal, don't just bann the comic. Stick a little warning on the cover saying 'This comic contains blood and images that might not be fine for little childern that aren't told the difference between real and fake'. Is that SOO hard? They do it for films, for games (yes, for Computer games! going back as far as the 80s, dispite what some groups claim ¬_¬).

Banning a comic simple as that is pretty bad move. There is little to link kids behaving stupid and what they see on TV (Judas Priest anyone? besides, the song in question was a cover ^_^;) True, i see some kids trying to reenact stuff they have seen, but this are ones i think there parents are to blame cause they don't tell the kids that it's fake. also the fault of the media image IF they need to stick some form of warning and don't. No need to go overboard but why try to force your views on everyone in the world when there are ways to make everyone, but the most diehard of over protective erm.. nutters..

Anonymous said...

Wow! What happened to Hook Jaw in the end? He was a pretty mean shark. Did any one manage to kill him?

Also, please stop Anonymous from posting. His comments are invariably always exactly the same.


Lew Stringer said...

The other "Anonymous" has been barred from posting now Andy. As you say, his comments are always the same, his fixation is always the same, and always follows the same pattern. His most recent (unpublished) post was getting abusive as usual so he can blogger off now. :-)

As for Hook Jaw, I'm not sure what happened to him in the end as my collection of Action post-ban is incomplete. Can anyone help?

Lew Stringer said...

Manic Man said:

(quoting Anonymous)

"your main objection seems to be based on how 'censorship' of such things impacts on the earning capabilities of 'creators' such as yourself"

someone has a grudge to bear there.. "

Nail on the head MM.

KlownKrusty said...

Manic Man said: "Wiki links aren't really a good way to present 'facts'."

I agree, but we're limited by short-hand in these discussions sometimes. Specifically for the Hypodermic Needle Model - the wiki entry seemed accurate to my understanding. It's a very well-known theory which is (generally) covered in Sociology/Media courses in the UK once you reach A-level and beyond.

As for Lew banning "Anonymous (1)" - I'm guessing it's the same person who rails against most Lew Stringer posts. Which is what it is, I just wish he'd use one name (or alias) and stick to it, just so it's clear how his argument progresses. If you're going to post more than once anonymously, you really should at least sign off with some name or initials on these posts, fella.

Lew Stringer said...


That's right, I will not publish the two recent comments you sent me (or "print" them as you call it). When you cowardly hide behind the anonymous option to post snide remarks, it's called abuse.

Don't waste any more of your, or my, time by posting comments to this blog as they will no longer be published. Your fixated, long-winded rambling about the imagined harm that comics might do, peppered with churlish remarks, is incredibly boring and no longer welcome here.

I think I've been more than generous in letting you have your say on this blog. We get your point but we just don't agree, ok?

You know, people are allowed to have a different opinion to you without you making sneering comments about it.

And don't blame me or others for your situation. You're the architect of your own misfortunes. I really think you have a problem in understanding that, but using the internet as an outlet for your bitterness isn't the way to help yourself. I hope you eventually find peace of mind. Good luck.

john said...

Hi Lew,

The last episode of Hookjaw finishes with the sole survivor of an underwater archaeological/survey team whose boat has exploded saying "But Hookjaw couldnt have survived that explosion - he caught the full force of the blast! At least I don't think he could have survived! But will I ever know?"


Lew Stringer said...

Thanks John!

Tony Howson said...

I never read an issue of Action because I was away from UK comics between the end of Countdown and the launch of 2000AD. It was the usual story - girls, rock music and the works of Gilbert Shelton.

But it's strangely comforting that the contents of Action can still cause controversy and offence 35 years later. It's contributors obviously did their work well and it deserves to be presented to a new generation.

John Freeman said...

Ironically, Hookjaw writer dropped me a line recently, and it appears he now lives in Australia. I'm hoping he can shed light on what he planned for HJ...

Maelstromd5 said...

Hello - late post - reader from Ireland who looks back on all those great British titles and laments their loss! Feck that guy Anon - he probably was American - you gave hi a fair crack of the whip - and all he could do was hide behind his kids - this - from a people that have guns in their homes - a far more dangerous thing to be worried about in my humble opinion - they were grea comics - and that was it full stop - we read them - we collected them - we traded them - I can't recall anybody going loco about anything other then their eventual demise.

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