About Kids Rule O.K.
“Kids Rule O.K.” was set in the bleak future England of 1986, where all adults had been wiped out by a plague, caused by the stresses of modern living. For its time, “Kids” kicked off with an ecologically aware opening, describing the effects of global warming, pollution and massive deforestation on the planet. This supposedly lead to an alteration in the human metabolism, causing the body to dry out and disintegrate rapidly following a massive heart attack. As the adults dropped dead, the kids rose up against the few unlucky survivors. Tired of social order and restrictive structures, anarchy ruled the streets. The government, in an attempt to stave off a total loss of order, had all firearms impounded and hidden in secret storage facilities. On the streets there was rioting and murder.
The readers loved it, but unfortunately, “Kids” was instrumental in the decision to withdraw Action. It drew fierce criticism from all quarters. Even those working on the comic baulked at its excesses. With the alarm bells already ringing, Action was busy calming its more lively stories, and “Kids” was suffering numerous edits to tone down the violence, long before the ban came into effect. Pages were being cut, threat and violence were being removed. The comic was trying to clean up its act. Writer Jack Adrian was struggling to find motivation or direction for the tale and decided to draw it to a swift conclusion. There was probably additional influence from IPC to conclude to the story.
These decisions were made in a time before anyone knew that Action was definitely being withdrawn. Adrian’s solution to his (and the comic’s) problem was to have law and order restored, satisfying the outraged parents and media groups in a gesture of peace. It was awful, truly the worst thing never to be printed in Action.
This ending highlighted the real problem with “Kids Rule O.K”., and it wasn’t just the graphic violence. The story was full of action, but never went anywhere. Fight followed fight but no obvious resolution ever presented itself. Realistically the story could have continued until all the participants had either wiped each other out, or grown old enough to die of the disease. The move to clean up Action and spare it from the axe effectively removed the strip’s reasons for existing. It had nowhere to go and nothing to do. That the story never came back when the comic returned showed that its core content was perceived to be little more than violence.
Luckily, the ban removed all need for that awful ending, but how would “Kids” have developed without the heavy editorial hand? We can only imagine.
England, 1986. A plague is sweeping the earth, wiping out the adult population, leaving gangs of kids roaming the streets battling for survival. Ray Spencer and Mick Roker are joint leaders of the Malvern Road Gang, a bunch of kids who attend the eponymous Malvern Road School. Their alliance is uneasy at best, and as the adults begin to die, Roker is one of the first to begin a descent into barbarism. He and Ray fight over the leadership of the gang and, having knifed Spencer, Roker and his closest allies splinter into their own gang. They find a surviving adult who has a hidden store of guns, and beat him to death in their attempts to gain the location of this cache. A gang of bikers arrive in the area, looking to take over some new territory. They’re fully prepared to wipe out anyone who gets in their way. Pretty soon there is all-out war, as the three gangs fight over the stock of firearms. As the battle heats up, Roker returns to the Malvern Road fold, calling a truce with Spencer. This is short-lived and Roker soon decides to betray Spencer, attempting to kill him as they escape from the burning remains of Malvern Road School. Ray and his mates try to leave the Malvern Road area, but run into a gang of vicious police cadets.
At this point, Action was banned, and “Kids” was axed. Luckily some of the story remains. Having taken a pounding and been knocked unconscious, Ray is dragged away to meet the leader of the cadets, the vicious Inspector Stryde. He is beaten still further as Stryde attempts to learn the location of the guns. After a struggle with the cadets guarding his cell, Ray escapes and manages to free the rest of the gang. A battle and a deadly face-off between the cadets and Malvern Road ensues, before the gang leg it into the tube tunnels and head off to to the West End, where a hippy festival is beginning.
As they emerge from the tunnels, Roker spots them and plots his revenge. The content of the next two issues no longer exists but was said to contain a story that saw violence erupt at the festival. A surviving cover also suggests that the gang break into the Tower of London and steal the crown jewels.
After that, there are no more fragments remaining. The story was left hanging at the point of the gang’s initial encounter with Stryde’s cadets. Everything that happened after that was ignored, and the story rewritten. Entering the tube station, Spencer and friends encounter a gang of police cadets, but these are the upright and decent men of New Scotland Yard, lead by an officer named Dixon, no less. All three warring gangs are dragged back to headquarters and given a jolly good telling off for being so naughty. They all say that they are sorry, and are then sent off to do some community work to help rebuild society.
Ray was leader of the Malvern Road Gang after they were deserted by Roker and his cronies. Ray was a vicious little thug with luck and cunning on his side. Like most of the leading characters in Kids, you only feel any real sympathy for them because all the other characters are more vicious and evil than they are. Ray survived beatings and shootings from all comers, and was then suitably contrite at the lamentable end to the story. This didn’t stop him from maiming and killing a healthy amount of supporting players on his road to redemption.
Roker was joint leader of Malvern Road until he and his closest cohorts were able to lay hands on a hidden cache of guns. Seeing the chance to be top dog, Roker betrayed and murdered many of his former friends. Not one to let his principles stand in the way, Roker changed sides whenever the tide was against him, relying on the fact that Spencer would welcome him back as an ally against the mounting odds, only to betray him again as soon as the chance arose.
Unfortunately, Stryde was not seen before the ban, his only public appearance limited to the surviving copies of the ‘lost’ issue. Ronald Stryde was a Hitleresque character, one of the few adults to survive the plague, and used the opportunity to dispense his version of the law onto the marauding teenagers on the streets. Stryde was the sort of character who firmly believed that their intentions were morally correct, however immoral the means used to enforce them.
The Malvern Road Gang that Roker and Spencer were joint leaders of before the catastrophe. After Roker deserted, having found a stash of guns, Benny, Lou and the others remained loyal to Spencer through some ruthless attacks, usually leaving a big pile of bodies, including many of their own. It’s a wonder any of them saw the end of the strip alive.
Roker’s gang, seconded by a ‘fat pig’ called Baggsy, this Malvern Road splinter group were more vicious, more murderous, more treacherous and less likeable than their former friends. The fact that they were endlessly allowed back into the fold says nothing for Spencer’s abilities as a wartime leader.
The biker gang, led by a bearded, German Wermacht helmeted thug called Buck, moved into North London territory from the West End, expecting little resistance. Unfortunately they reckoned without the turf war already going on, and added many of their own to the list of fatalities, although they had some interesting methods for piling on the violence.
The police cadets were little better than uniformed zealots. Led by Inspector Ronald Stryde, these ‘forces of law and order’ were no different from the other gangs on the streets. They operated from the old Quex Road Police Station, dishing out justice with a heavy handed manner and a love of the truncheon.
Text © Moose Harris
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