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Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Archive's Sunday Comics - Action 1970's style

A slight format change for this week's Sunday Comics - we'll be back to the usual format next week and we've some lovely stuff lined up - but an article in Comic Heroes by James Lovegrove which looked at the 1970's and the strange happenings the decade saw for Marvel Comics led me to thinking of the decade in regards to British comics. The 1970's were the decade that I did most of my comic book reading - I was five years old at the start of the decade and when it ended I was mid-way through my teenage years. This was the age to be reading comic books and although I have kept reading comics into middle age and seen some amazing use of the medium, nothing can compare to the total immersion I felt during my childhood years.

The 1970's was an extremely active decade for British comics and many of the most fondly remembered titles came from these years - 2000AD was launched mid way through the decade, Battle Picture Weekly came a little earlier, as did Action. The latter not to be confused with the American title of the same name which showcased Superman. The UK Action was a totally different beast. In other parts of pop culture the 70's saw the birth and demise of British Punk and there was a new attitude that swept the old aside. This new attitude was reflected in UK comics, particularly in the more edgier titles published by IPC/Fleetway. Titles such as 2000AD and Action.

In the 1970's you could walk into any newsagents and the range of titles available were staggering - Whizzer and Chips, Cor, 2000AD, Battle, Whoopie, Tiger, Roy of the Rovers, Shiver and Shake, Action, Warlord, Bullet, Victor, The Beano, The Dandy and Look- in, are just some of the titles I can recall off hand but there were many many more, including titles aimed squarely at girls - but differing totally to the girl's comics published today. Misty, for instance, was so cool that boys would often sneak a read of their sister's copy. For 10p you could usually get two comic books as well as change to spend on a mixture of Black Jacks and Fruit Salad chews - I seem to remember getting five of these for a penny. There was no political correctness back then and anyone who suggested Black Jacks were racist sweets would be beaten and then tied to one of those new fangled skateboards and sent whizzing down Thomas Steet - man, that was one steep street. Walking up it on a warm summer's afternoon was a bitch, even for such young legs.

Of course the decade also saw the emergence of new talent that are these days big names in Brit Comics - Pat Mills, John Wagner to name but two . The 1970's was certainly a vibrant decade for Brit comics, with sales generally at an all time high - perhaps the reasons for this was that children growing up in this decade were the last not to have computer games and 24hour television to steal their attention, from the delights of comic book reading. We had no X-Box's. Playstations or DVD players . We would never have believed the Internet and we only had three TV channels and BBC2 was filled with hippie shit in any case - least, that was how it seemed at the time.
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius, the theme of some TV show told us (and for the life of me I can't remember what that show was) and at least in terms of comic books we were entering a brave new world.

Everything seemed to be changing - the cinema had changed forever when Jaws heralded in the age of the blockbuster and then a little, dare I say overrated movie called Star Wars changed everything and like the rest of the world UK comics looked towards science fiction as the genre of choice. 2000AD was launched mid decade - billed as the galaxy's greatest comic the title was seemingly edited by an alien whose Spaceship had landed on earth and disguised itself as King's Reach Towers. His name was Tharg and he was a hip cat and you know he's still editing the comic now. Not real. What do you mean Tharg is not real! Get out of here.

When the decade ended and we moved towards the 1980's, a kid of the time would have been left feeling things had improved. Video Recorders were just making an appearance, Betamax and VHS, and we had the first home computer games - that these games consisted of a square pixel hitting a smaller square pixel around the screen with only two sound effects didn't matter. These were cutting edge and we marvelled at the graphics. How things would change - the two colour world of the Sinclair Spectrum was just around the corner.

During the 70's it had been a cool time to be a kid and life for us imitated art or at least Star Wars and we ended the decade by seeing our own version of Darth Vader become Prime Minister. From then on it wasn't such a cool world....even today it remains not such a cool world.

To commemorate the 70's in comics we present a scan of Jack Adrian's Kid's Rule OK from the controversial comic, Action. Remember click on any image for a larger version and find a full history of the UK Action comic HERE


Unknown said...

Excellent article Gary. I loved action comic - my dad used to enjoy reading my comics too. But he banned me from buying action after the first few editions .

gobshyte said...

many thanks again gary.ive got a whole load of action and warlord comics on the harddrive if youd be interested in reading them.let me know.thanks again

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Gobshyte - I have a complete run of Action but it would be great to see the Warlord files.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I already have a complete run of Action, but it would be great to see some of those Warlord files. Thanks

gobshyte said...

hi gary.if you leave your email address in the latest comments on my blog(i wont publish it!)ill email you a link of comics related stuff.ive got some warlord and also battle action force,battle picture weekly,battle summer specials,commando,and scream uk! comics on file if youd like as well?

gobshyte said...

nearly forgot.ive got sgt.rock and his howling commandos as well.shed loads!