This is the cover for Action (Issue 37), cover dated 23rd October 1976. Issues of Action were prepared some seven weeks in advance. Scripts were written even further ahead, but normally finished artwork existed for about seven issues.
The persistent rumour that surrounds this issue goes like this: once the issue was ready for production, 30 copies would be run off the presses for proof reading and internal checks. The 37th issue of Action had reached this phase when the plug was pulled. A full production run was never implemented, making this issue extremely rare.
Unfortunately, it transpires that this rumour is, in fact, completely untrue. Former 2000AD art editor Robin Smith tells a sad tale of IPC production that fateful week. A full print run was completed, something in the region of 200,000 copies were produced. Free copies were distributed to a regular list of recipients, including staff and others, and a set number were reserved as file copies, to be kept in the IPC archive. Once the ban was instigated, the remaining copies were pulled from distribution and sent off to be pulped. That’s just about every issue, turned back into paper sludge. IPC later destroyed all the file copies of every issue, leaving only a scant few in the hands of the comps list.
This issue was important for several reasons. The original stories had already begun to be toned down. Alterations were made to both text and art before going to press. “Kid’s Rule O.K.” had half a page removed entirely because of the graphic violence taking place as a battle raged between the Malvern Road Gang and a group of enthusiastic Police Cadets. In “Death Game 1999”, new artist Massimo Belardinelli drew a particularly spectacular panel featuring the death, by explosion, of Karson City Warden Kruger. The panel was obscured by a giant white BA-ROOM!, entirely covering the disembodied portions of Kruger’s corpse. Action Staffer John Smith tried to save the original artwork by adding the sound effect lettering as an overlay, rather than painting onto the original art, but unfortunately all of Belardinelli’s finished work ‘went missing’ from the IPC archive for several years. A source close to the comic has told this site an unrepeatable tale of exactly who was responsible for the destruction of so many pages of the original art, and it brings a tear to the eye just contemplating this act of vandalism.
When Action eventually resurfaced on December 4th, major changes had been made to the issue. “Kid’s Rule O.K.” and “Probationer” had been axed from the comic. Further edits in both art and dialogue were made to the remaining stories that survived the transition from the October 23rd issue. Tragically, “Death Game 1999” was cut to pieces and sacrificed at the altar of moderation. The Karson City Killers story was compressed to a mere four pages. The insipid “Spinball” emerged in its place, but would never fill its shoes. Even the cover was recycled for the December 11th issue.
Text © Moose Harris
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