Action was a short lived British comicbook serial published in 1976 and 1977 by IPC. Created by Pat Mills, it earned much attention for its focus on fairly Grimdark, gritty, gorily violent stories, many of which were "dead cribs" (ideas derived by ripping off from currently-popular films, books and other comics) intended to appeal to the growing punk culture and the increasingly disenfranchised youth of Britain. Its stories had much the air of a Darker and Edgier take on classic Pulp novels, while detractors likened it to the penny dreadfuls of the Victorian era.
This, ultimately, was the comic's downfall. The dark themes of the comic, combined with the strong anti-authoritarian inclinations of its stories, ultimately resulted in a successful attempt by the National Viewers And Listeners Association, led by Mary Whitehouse, to force IPC to censor the stories. With the violence and cynicism toned down, Action soon lost its fanbase and was merged with Battle Picture Weekly.
Though obscure, Action played an important role in the development of British Comics; it was the first multi-themed "boy's stories" comic (prior to Action, all "boy's stories" comics would focus on one theme - war or sports, for example), and it proved that there was a market for boy's adventure stories outside of the classical moulds. IPC and Pat Mills would go on to create the successful 2000 AD comics. Many of the early 2000 AD stories have a very strong resemblance to the moods and attitudes of Action stories, and the stories Flesh and Shako in particular have a strong resemblance to Hook Jaw.
More details (and even scans of many pre-cancellation stories) can be found here.
Hook Jaw was later revived in 2016 by Dynamite Comics.
Not to be confused with Action Comics.
Stories that Action produced include the following:
- Hook Jaw: Derived from Jaws, it revolved around a monstrously huge and tough Great White Shark with the tip of a gaff hook lodged in its chin and the strange ability to cause swarms of different kinds of sharks to flock to its presence. Hook Jaw kept coming into contact with malevolent, corrupt humans trying to exploit the sea, which resulted in copious amounts of ludicrously gory death. Generally the best-remembered strip, and revived by Si Spurrier in 2016, and then given a Continuity Reboot by 2000 AD in 2020.
- Black Jack: A working class black heavyweight boxer from the East End of London named Jack Barron was the star of this comic, which revolved around Jack's efforts to win matches and eventually take the World Heavyweight Title, all to keep on championing the other impoverished working-class who looked up to him. His efforts were put at risk by the fact an injury sustained in the first comic left him at risk of going permanently blind if he took too many blows to the skull — at the end of the pre-censoring of Action, his story ended with him winning the title, but going blind. After the censorship, Black Jack was brought back in a storyline about his efforts to raise the money to acquire a "miracle surgery" that would restore his eyesight and which saw him learning kung fu and becoming a rapper.
- Death Game 1999: Derived from Rollerball, this comic revolved around the dystopian future of 1999, where bands of criminals compete in the Blood Sport Spinball, a bizarre mishmash of gladiatorial combat, motorcycle derby, pinball, and ice hockey, to try and win their freedom. The story opens with the Karson City Killers losing their captain, Al Rico, to being smashed by one of the flippers — coincidentally, shortly afterwards, a football genius (now washed up because Spinball has replaced Football) named Joe Taggart is imprisoned after being mistakenly accused of beating a spinball ticket tout to death. Joe Taggart is forced to become the coach for a new team of Karson City Killers — in fact, he goes through several teams as members keep getting killed off.
- Kids Rule O.K.: Also known as When the Crumblies Vanished, the most controversial of all the stories and instrumental in getting Action censored and ultimately cancelled due to its bleak, ultra-violent depiction of a world in 1986 where nearly every adult suddenly dies of sickness and pollution, leaving gangs of brutal, ruthless, violent children to take to the streets, doing whatever they please.
- Hellman of Hammer Force: A World War II story with a twist — the hero was Major Kurt Hellman, a non-Nazi German Panzer commander, who strove to fight a "clean" war, in contrast to the brutalities of the SS and Gestapo. Touches of Cross of Iron. It eventually folded fairly neatly into Battle.
- Dredger: A bizarre, violent spy story revolving around the enigmatic, silent, almost force-of-nature-like Dredger, a rough, tough, ultra-violent secret agent somewhere between Dirty Harry and The Professionals.
- Lookout for Lefty: A football story set around the working class football prodigy Kenny Lampton, known as "Lefty" for his powerful left footed kick. Another highly controversial story because it had a more realistic, down-to-earth portrayal of the English football scene of the 70s, including plenty of hooliganism and violence. "Lefty" was definitely not the squeaky-clean protagonist common of football comics at the time, possessing among other things a wicked temper, a disdain for authority figures and a fierce skinhead girlfriend not afraid to belt him if she thought he was taking her for granted. After the censorship, the story was retooled as being much closer in mood and theme to the common football comics of the time.
- Sports Not For Losers!: When amateur athlete Dan Walker is injured, he has no choice other than to try and whip his disinterested, disdainful younger brother Len into shape and taking his place.
- The Running Man: British athlete Mike Carter is kidnapped by the Mafia and given plastic surgery to make him the body double of crazy cop killer Vito Scarlatti, sole son of Don Scarlatti. Confused and alone, Mike is forced to run to stay one step ahead of both the law and the mob in hopes of catching Vito and proving his innocence.
- The Coffin Sub: A short-lived "straight from the mould" story about a British submarine fighting in the Mediterranean. Considered dull and loathed by publishers and readers alike.
- Play Til You Drop!: A football story revolving around a football player being blackmailed.
- Hell's Highway: A secret government organisation relies on a couple of ex-army truckers to carry out covert, truck-based ops for them.
- Green's Grudge War: In a World War II commando unit, a story of jealousy and vendetta is played out between the envious Jimmy Green and the blithely unaware John Bold, ending at last when Green's attempt to get Bold killed by the Germans ends with him being shot. Regarded as disappointingly formulaic and repetitive.
- Probationer: A working-class man finds himself being drawn against his will into the criminal underworld.
This comic includes examples of:
- Blood Sport: Spinball, a game where two teams of convicted criminals take turns to be attackers and defenders in an arena that mixes pinball flippers and pins with the field of an ice hockey and features attackers mounted on customised motorcycles.
- Condemned Contestant: Spinball players are generally on death row anyway when recruited.
- Frankenstein's Monster: Towards the end of Death Game 1999, Al Rico is rebuilt with cybernetics, including one bionic arm, and brought back as a near mindless killing machine to help bolster the Karson City Killers.
- Ludicrous Gibs: Some of the most violent deaths happen this way, including a literal case of Explosive Decompression on the third page of Hook Jaw.
- Mouth Cam: In Hook Jaw there are many panels shown from inside the eponymous man-eating great white shark's mouth before he sinks his teeth into another human.
- Teenage Wasteland: Kids Rule O.K.
- Threatening Shark: The whole premise of Hook Jaw, which follows a huge great white shark eating humans with a lot of Ludicrous Gibs.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: Death Game 1999 and Kids Rule O.K. were set in 1999 and 1986, respectively; the comics came out in 1976.