Action comic strip Hookjaw to return in Strip Magazine

PJ Holden’s cover for Strip Magazine #1

Hookjaw, a Jaws-inspired strip that first appeared in the controversial 1970s British weekly comic Action, will feature in the new Strip Magazine, which will launch in early 2011.

Lancaster-based Print Media Productions has agreed a deal with UK publisher Egmont to feature Hookjaw in the Magazine, re-publishing the strip in colour – and also has an option to publish Dredger, the hard-nosed secret agent who also featured in Action.

Probably the best-remembered and certainly most popular strip in the comic, HookJaw, inspired by the classic blockbuster movie Jaws, was created by Pat Mills, scripted by Ken Armstrong and drawn initially by Ramon Sola, followed by Felix Carrion and Eric Bradbury. Consistently topping reader polls, it was Mills who decided to make the shark the star of the strip which tackled environmental issues and corporate greed with equal relish.

The strip also caused controversy on publication, one of the stories that rapidly saw Action become a target of campaigners outraged by its violent content — and its social commentary. The controversy Action created saw the comic ‘banned’ after just 37 issues, returning to the news stands only after its characters had been toned down and effectively emasculated by management demands on the editorial team.

The entire controversy was documented in Martin Barker’s book, Action – The Story of a Violent Comic, published in 1990 by Titan Books.

In all, three Hookjaw stories featured in Action before the ban.

“Pat Mills gave the strip an environmental edge,” notes Strip Magazine editor John Freeman. “This was a shark that never balked at eating corrupt humans or criminals out to make money from our oceans – along with anyone else unlucky enough to get near him.

Hookjaw was just one of the strips that provoked the public campaign against Action, but its success also paved the way for comics like 2000AD and it’s interesting to read the strip in that context today.

The first page of  Hookjaw as it will appear in Strip Magazine, coloured by Gary Caldwell and re-lettered by Jim Campbell

“We’re sure there are plenty of the shark’s original fans out there eager to catch up with the beast – and younger readers will be interested to see what all the fuss was about.”

The strips have been coloured by Gary Caldwell and re-lettered by Jim Campbell.

One challenge remains for the new publisher: tracking down good quality of some issues of the original comic, which can fetch high prices.

“The printing on the comic, as with many classic British weeklies, was variable,” notes Freeman. “Some pages of the comic we’ve sourced so far are fine while others are muddy, with print errors and heavy blacks. We’re hoping collectors might be able to help in our quest to ensure the very best reproduction of these classic strips.”

Hookjaw joins a line up of strips that includes work by PJ Holden, Michael Pennick, John Ridgway, James Hudnall, John McCrea, Phillip Hester and others.

Alongside STRIP Magazine, Print Media Productions is releasing a range of graphic albums that include creator-owned projects by Ferg Handley, Kev Hopgood, Gordon Rennie, SMS and more.

The first of these, the steampunk adventure The Iron Moon by Stephen Walsh and Keith Page, will be on sale from next month (October 2010), launching at the British International Comic Show in Birmingham.

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Hookjaw © Egmont UK

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