A new book aims to highlight the “Action Force” strip that featured in British comic Battle Action Force, the continuation of Battle Picture Weekly, ran from October 1983 to November 1986, published by IPC Magazines,
Battle Action Force featured some of the greatest talents in the British comics industry of the time, both on the editorial and illustrative fronts, and many helped bring to life the licensed property “Action Force”, created by British toy manufacturer, Palitoy.
Working with the approval of both Action Force brand owner Hasbro and Battle Action Force copyright holder Rebellion, the new, hardback Total Action Force: The Battle Years, the brainchild of pop-art photographer Brian Hickey and co-author Paddy Lennon, will run to 176 pages, offering background features on the strip, including interviews with surviving members of the comic’s creative and editorial teams, and former senior staff at Palitoy.
As Luke Williams previously recounted here on downthetubes, by the early 1980s, sales on the war / action title Battle, the first wave in the Pat Mills and John Wagner revitalisation of the IPC comics library, were on the wane. The weekly comic had already absorbed two others IPC titles – the John Wagner edited and long standing bastion of British comics Valiant and the Pat Mills created Action – but something new was needed to add to the mix to keep readers on board. Battle needed a shot in the arm, what it got was a licence to print stories based around the Action Force toy line.
Celebrating the work of some of the greatest talents in British comics, and demonstrating how they brought a hugely popular, licensed franchise from that period to life – one of the most challenging creative projects for a comic – as well as featuring the toys, this book will tell the story of the people who created the Action Force universe, with first hand accounts from many of the surviving designers, writers and artists.
The book, which will include items from David McDonald, publisher at Hibernia’s Comics and consummate British comics archivist, will detail at the inception of the Action Force brand, showcasing the design creativity at Palitoy with the evolution of Action Force series 1 through series 2. It will examine how IPC secured a licensing deal, giving the comic Battle a lifeline as its sales tumbled, and how the writers and artists, led by comics legend Gerry Finley-Day breathed life in to Palitoy’s IP and expanded the Action Force universe.
The book will also discuss the mythos created in support of the toys; and will profile each character from Action Force Series 2.
The book, a highly visual, retro pop-culture experience for its readers, is expected to have a small print run, reflected in its £105 cover price (akin to the price of similar projects such as the Marvel Omnibus project). It aims to tell the story of Action Force, with a particular focus on the period where the toyline was closely associated with the British comic Battle.
Lest anyone think there may be no demand for such a book, you only need to check out the hugely-successful BloodfortheBaron project, their most recent version of the Action Force Palitoy Collectors’ Guide, which raised over £15,000 from just under 300 backers to deliver a 300-page book, priced at £50.
Given the proposed Action Force: The Battle Years, which doesn’t include Marvel UK’s separate publication, is even more niche, it’s no surprise the cover price is higher.
Total Action Force: The Battle Years will also come packed full of diorama photos, showcasing Action Force like you’ve never seen them before, and you only need to check out Brian’s official web site or his Instagram to see what he’s capable of on that front.
“To help celebrate the toyline and comic, we’re going to push the boat out in terms of award winning photography and design,” says Brian.
“This will be a limited run book that will celebrate the incredible work of a bevy of talented writers, comic artists and toy designers whose creations live on to this day.
“The price is high,” he acknowledged on social media, “but that’s because we’re producing a very high quality hard back book in very small numbers. If the campaign funds then we’ll only be producing enough books to cover the backer pledges – hence the high unit cost. Also, the price includes tracked, worldwide shipping.”
As well as the book, the team are offering prints of select diorama images of the Action Force toys, as well as a print from toy designers Erik Araña and Catrina Cerise-Arana of Boss Fight Studio, recreating the cover from Marvel’s G.I. Joe #1, using the vintage Action Force characters.
This print was previously available in extremely limited quantities at Roll Out Roll Call and will be reprinted for this campaign.