Presented here on downthetubes, with the full permission of Moose Harris, creator of the original Sevenpenny Nightmare site (now defunct and the domain under a different ownership), is his fascinating history of Fleetway’s fondly-remembered Action comic, going behind the scenes on the origins of all its strips, including Hook Jaw, Dredger and more.
PLEASE NOTE Some pages of the original site were unfortunately missing from available online archives and Moose’s own files. Those pages marked “TO BE ADDED”, below have yet to be traced
Moose Harris started reading comics when he was very young, but the titles he chose in those early years were a little tame.
THE ACTION STORY
This section details Action’s all too brief history, from the original concept and inception, through its development, to its swift decline, fall and inevitable death. Much of the research was taken from Action – The Story of a Violent Comic by Professor Martin Barker, currently of Aberystwyth University, who kindly gave permission to quote him liberally.
Additional material was taken from his earlier book Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics and from his original research. Former Action staffers proved to be useful sources, offering additional information to help put this area together. Thanks to them for their input.
The story of Action doesn’t end with the comic itself. The controversy surrounding Action had an impact on the way IPC produced comics for many years, and this negative effect will be detailed in the upcoming ‘Legacy’ section, to be commenced in the near future.
Reviewing the pre-ban issues of Action looking for a favourite, I couldn’t find one… so I made one up
The most important thing about Action was what lay beneath those attention grabbing covers. Every week there were seven or eight rollicking stories, a cartoon strip, some daredevil stunts, free money, sports guides, profiles, letters, a clever dick answering your questions and, as they say, much much more. Below is the sort of thing that seven new pence would buy you in 1976, if you spent it on the sensational new paper for boys. Every story is listed, with information on who the creators were, the story start and finish dates, number of episodes, major characters, an outline of the plot and, most importantly, a full pre-ban run of the strip.
There’s also some info on the other pages of Action, including the regular features like Twit of the Week, Money Man, Knowall, Action Man and Action Mouse. There’s also a list of the regular contributing staff, where known.
Gaff hook wielding Great White terror from the deep or ecological crusader? The jaws… AAARGH!
D.I.6.’s most deadly and dirty agent, with his squeaky clean sidekick, Simon.
Hellman of Hammer Force
World War Two from the perspective of Panzer Major Kurt Hellman. Sven Hassell anyone?
Death Game 1999
Karson City convicts are given a stark choice, play the deadly game of Spinball or go to the electric chair, the lucky bastards.
Kids Rule O.K.
1986, and a deadly virus kills every adult in the world. Hooray! The kids rule the streets and anarchy reigns.
Look Out For Lefty
Kenny ‘Lefty’ Lampton struggles with life, love, Third Division Wigford Rovers and his Steptoe-like Grandad.
Two truck drivers are coerced into acting as covert US Government agents. Don’t laugh, it could happen.
Boxer Jack Barron fights for the World Heavyweight Title as he battles against blindness, then becomes Carl Douglas.
The Running Man
Athlete Mike Carter wakes up with another man’s face, as you do, and winds up running from both the law and the mafia.
Green’s Grudge War
Commando action with a twist. Bold is as bold as they come, Green is green with envy and plots his comrade’s downfall.
Play Till You Drop
First Division footy shenanigans as striker Alec Shaw is blackmailed by a sports journalist with sunglasses.
Sport’s Not For Losers
Athletics hopeful Dan Walker handily breaks his leg and it is left to his layabout brother Len to uphold the family honour by smoking heavily.
Only four episodes of this story about a bloke on probation were published. Good, it was rubbish… or was it?
The cheery tale of submarine commander Mark Kane, who wished he’d drowned with his former crew, as did the readers.
ACTION – BEHIND THE SCENES
Who did what in the Action office.
Action – Original Artwork – TO BE ADDED
A few pieces of the original artwork for Action.
ACTION – THE FEATURE PAGES
Editorial features to fill out the gaps between the strips.
A history of reader-irritating idiocy by well-known television and sporting types of the era.
Readers try to stump Milton Finesilver, Action’s resident egghead, with difficult questions.
Stuart Wales hated money and had to give it away. Did he visit your town?
The twelve stunts that Action Man undertook, mainly at circuses, for a tenner a pop.
Action Mouse – TO BE ADDED
Some examples of the cartoon strip that most people didn’t find funny.
Find out more about how strips were changed (or rather “eviscerated”) on Action‘s return to the news stands.
When Action was withdrawn after the 16th October issue, work was already well underway on the next seven issues of the comic. The 23rd October issue went to press, but was destined to be pulped rather than distributed. The issues that should have followed didn’t even get that far…
The Lost Stories – Hell’s Highway – TO BE ADDED
There’s only one surviving episode of Hell’s Highway in the public domain.
Most of the Dredger stories in the archive were lightly edited and represented in a toned down form. Acts of violence were removed, language was tamed and, most strangely, Dredger was no longer ‘dirty’. He was tough, he was gritty, but he was fair, and didn’t kill anybody unless he absolutely needed to.
The Lost Stories – Death Game 1999 – TO BE ADDED
Death Game 1999 became Spinball, and the Karson City Killers won their final match.
Whither Stalin? – TO BE ADDED
What possible problems could Hellman of Hammer Force give a revised Action?
Cutting Out the Violence from Kids Rule O.K. – TO BE ADDED
Kids Rule O.K. was an obvious candidate for censure.
The ‘lost’ Hook Jaw page on the left looks odd.
The Lost Covers – 30th October 1976 – TO BE ADDED
Intended for the issue that followed the withdrawal of Action.
The Lost Covers – 6th November 1976 – TO BE ADDED
Much thanks to Rufus Dayglo for this one, long believed to be destroyed.
The Lost Covers – 13th November 1976 – TO BE ADDED
This particular cover has been made using any available resources.
The Lost Covers – 20th November 1976 – TO BE ADDED
The only clue as to what the November 20th story would have contained.
THE STORY OF A VIOLENT COMIC
In 1990, readers of Action were given a treat that they’d waited fourteen years to receive. Martin Barker brought out the book behind the comic that bit the dust. Action – The Story of a Violent Comic was a fascinating and insightful account of the creation, birth, life and death of a much missed and wrongly maligned publication.
Saturday, October 23 1976 must have seemed a pretty ordinary day when it began.
“The Coffin Sub” was the first to go.
The Critics Bite Back – TO BE ADDED
The revenge of the critics and moralists.
Moving in for the Kill – TO BE ADDED
The moralism of Action’s critics finds a voice on the inside.
So, Should Action Have Been Censored? – TO BE ADDED
Action as a hidden pot of virtues, all misunderstood sweetness and light.
Hook Jaw: The Shark Bites Back – TO BE ADDED
Throughout Action’s history, “Hook Jaw” was consistently the most popular story.
The Lost Pages of Hook Jaw – TO BE ADDED
The next extract follows the reprinted material from “Hook Jaw”.
How Lefty Lost His Bottle – TO BE ADDED
“Look Out For Lefty” was not the first football story in Action.
The Lost Pages of Lefty – TO BE ADDED
The next extract followed the reprinted material from “Look Out For Lefty”.
A “rip-off’ of Rollerball, but with a difference.
The Lost Pages of Death Game 1999 – TO BE ADDED
The next extract followed the reprinted material from Death Game 1999.
“Kids Rule OK” – the worst villain of the piece.
Dredger – “rip-off” of Dirty Harry with a touch of The Ipcress File.
After December 4th, the character of Action changed.
People argued that Action lost its way by mid-1976.
Action was originally © IPC Magazines Limited 1976. The comics division of IPC was sold to Fleetway, who were bought out in turn.
All characters, distinctive likenesses thereof, artwork and text are © and ™ Rebellion Publishing Ltd, and used with permission of the publisher
ACTION™ REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, COPYRIGHT © REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
See this section’s Acknowledgments section for more information
Bullet and related images are © DC Thomson Ltd
Action – The Story of a Violent Comic by Martin Barker © Titan Books 1990. The text from Action – The Story of a Violent Comic © Martin Barker 1990, is reproduced here with the author’s kind permission.
The name The Sevenpenny Nightmare Moose originally to describe his Action site is taken from an article published in The Sun newspaper on April 30th 1976. Relevant images and quotes from The Sun, Daily Mail and Evening Standard are © their respective publishers and are reproduced here with permission.
All other text © Moose Harris and reproduced here on downthetubes with his full permission