Action: The Story of a Violent Comic

Posted in Comics, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 21, 2013 by Aaron

This book – published in a single edition in 1990 – cropped up on eBay a couple of weeks ago and at $50 I snapped it up. I’ve been waiting for it to appear for a few years now. Like almost any book it’s available from dealers, but it’s quite sought after and consequently quite expensive. Of the six or so I could locate online just now they range from about $120 to just over $200.

So what is it and why is it important to me??

whizzerLike almost every young boy, I loved comics. However, growing up in New Zealand we had more of a ‘global’ choice as to what was available as opposed to the US where American comics dominate. I remember when I was very young – perhaps 5 or 6 – digging through boxes of comics my younger brother Kane and I were given by our much older cousin (I guess he was about 16 or 18 at the time. John was his name and he died of lung cancer at the age of about 25..). British titles like Valiant, Buster and Whizzer and Chips were in the box as I recall.  That container was in the bottom of my wardrobe and I used to sit in there in the half-dark poring over these comics at times (why in that fashion, I don’t know..).  While I enjoyed that activity, I don’t recall actually reading them and I seem to remember that the comics themselves didn’t hold much interest for me aside from the fact that there were so many and so there was always something new to see.

Our grandmother – ‘Nana’ as we called her – started buying a brand new comic called Action for us in early 1976.  I would have been 7 years old at the time, my brother 5, and this was a weekly ritual that was to last for another six years or so in one form or another.  Action was a revelation.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, but looking back I can see that it changed (or probably more accurately – primed) my lifelong reading and media consumption habits from a recreational perspective.  Action was as far from Whizzer and Chips as it was possible to get and suddenly comics were something I loved to read.  The stories were hard-hitting, gritty and extremely violent in story and art.  Of course I didn’t think of or see them in that way back then, but that’s what appealed to me.  My favorite story was Hook Jaw, a rogue shark that ate everyone on a weekly basis.

Hook JawOne vivid memory I have regarding the comic is describing the story Hook Jaw to my best friend’s family.  My best friend at that time was Andrew Clausen and we used to knock around together almost every weekend.  Actually it was he who taught me how to ride a bicycle.  Anyway, I think this must have been the first time I stayed overnight at his house because I remember we ate dinner with his full family (which was an unusual event as I recall) and I was a bit shy as I didn’t know his three older sisters – Christina, Tracey and Alex.  Somehow I got to talking about this new great comic I was getting and trying to describe Hook Jaw.  Providing an example, I finished up describing this picture here on the left.  Now, I distinctly remember a couple of things about this event.  First, how, as I proceeded to describe this in detail, everyone stopped eating and all attention became very well focused on me, and second, his sisters found it amusing when I described the unfortunate victim’s trousers coming down in the act of him being savaged.  I’m not sure what kind of impression I made that evening.

As you get older, you tend to recall your youth and things you enjoyed back then more and more.  At least I do.  Hence my interest in Golden Age SF and the comic 2000AD (which I’ll touch upon later..), and Action. This book – Action: The Story of a Violent Comic – reveals much that I was blissfully unaware of as a tender 7 year old.  In New Zealand we were half a world away from the controversy this publication unleashed and the *ahem* ‘action’ that led to it’s demise.  Looking at it now, I’m not entirely sure that I’d be comfortable letting a seven year old read this, and I can understand the objections to it’s stories and their delivery.  But as is pointed out in the text below, I really think that it helped form how I think about good and bad and the ambiguity with which these ‘roles’ are portrayed at times – both in entertainment and real life.  Anyway, at the time it just kind of disappeared and was replaced by a weekly installment of 2000AD (which I enjoyed more in any case).  This fantastic book by Martin Barker, Professor of Film and Television Studies at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales, takes a close look at the origin, evolution, and ultimate defanging and fall of this treasured memory from my younger days.  It really is fascinating reading even if you aren’t familiar with Action, as it provides great insight into the cultural impact that comics can have.  The bulk of the book is made up of partial stories and lost/censored pages to illustrated the comic’s style and the changes that were forced upon it towards the end.  Do appreciate and enjoy the editorial content below, punctuated with a couple of choice Hook Jaw images culled from the digital versions of the comic I have.

01 02 03
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04 05 06
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07 08 09
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11 12 10

Well, the now boring post-evisceration version of Action disappeared (subsumed by Battle magazine to become Battle Action, which actually was a darn good comic itself) and was replaced by 2000AD which was a far more subtle and smarter publication. We existed on a diet of Battle Action and 2000AD, and then Starlord (until it was merged with 2000AD) and then Tornado (which 2000AD also swallowed) until in the early ’80s we kind of outgrew the weekly ritual and I felt that 2000AD was losing the entertaining edge it had for me.  I still love and really enjoy those early issues of 2000AD which is why I collect them.  I might write about that sometime.  However, I’m very grateful for Action.  It had a profound impact on me as a person and provided the fertile soil that 2000AD was able to take root in.

History, Ideas and Dreams, in Science Fiction

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 27, 2013 by Aaron

PictorialBecause of Mr David A Kyle’s association with Gnome Press, I took a bit of an interest in his subsequent activities in books and publishing.  Two items of real interest to me were a couple of unusual books he put out in the mid ’70s – A Pictorial History of Science Fiction and The Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas and Dreams61hEg6z0SELI picked up the Pictorial History a couple of years ago, and have been hunting for a decent copy of the latter.  Proudly, a couple of days ago I snared a signed copy of SF Ideas and Dreams.  These are oversize books packed with illustrations and content.  I’ll do a pictorial feature and comment a little more on these two when the recent purchase arrives.  In the meantime, click each image to check out reviews.  Enjoy.

Close Up: Minions of the Moon

Posted in 1950, Close Up with tags , on January 27, 2013 by Aaron

closeupWilliam Gray Beyer

I originally got this as one of three or four GP titles I picked up in NZ back in mid-2009. I bought it then because it was cheap $18 and would expand my collection. But like the rest of those I bought on that occasion (with one exception), I wasn’t satisfied. They were all of inferior condition and I probably shouldn’t have picked them up. However, I did, and disregarding the sunning on the spine that copy of Minions was in pretty good condition.

Fast forward three years and I got hold of a copy that didn’t exhibit the endemic issue that seems to plague certain GP titles of which this title is one.  The aforementioned sunning.  Just digressing a little and I think I have mentioned this before somewhere, there seem to be three or four books that are notoriously difficult to find without a (usually severely) sunned spine – Pattern for Conquest, The Porcelain Magician, Minions of the Moon and Castle of Iron.  You can get sunning on any book, and I of course have quite a few that are, but these four books…  I’ve been collecting GP for about 5 years, only a short period of time admittedly and due to my location here in Korea my experience is limited to online contact, but I have never seen a copy of any of these books that hasn’t been affected by exposure to the sun.  Just to illustrate the point, a mint unused copy of Castle of Iron‘s dust jacket went for about $325 on eBay a few years ago.  A crazy price perhaps, but it does illustrate the desirability of a pristine jacket for a book that jacketless in Fine condition probably wouldn’t fetch 40 bucks. What is it with the prevalence of this condition on these titles? Is it the color? Is it the grade of inks used?

Ok, back to what we have in hand here.

William Gray Beyer - Minions of the Moon

No sunning at all. Beautiful.  There is a little rubbing to the cover though.  The art isn’t exactly inspiring for me as to what the contents might be, but I guess we’ll find out in due course.


The boards look nice. Clean and minimal bumping to the extremities of the spine.


Immediately apparent here is the slight cock to the spine. The jacket edges are excellent – slight wear is quite noticeable due to the dark color of the jacket. In handling the book this is far less significant.


You can see that the ink still retains that vivid quality which is so quick to disappear with exposure to sunlight. There are a couple of cracks and chips on the jacket at these points, but no big deal really.


Some rubbing evident on the back, but this doesn’t detract too much from the overall quality and great impression this copy shows in real life.

Year: 1950
Paid: $45
Art: Edd Cartier
Copies: 5000 (Eshbach, Chalker & Owings, wikipedia)
Binding: Jade cloth / red lettering on spine, red title logo with crescent moon on the cover.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: MINIONS OF THE MOON, by William Gray Beyer, 1950, pp.190, $2.50. 5000 copies printed. Jacket by Edd Cartier.
Currey: Absent
Comments: I was very happy to pick this up as a replacement for my previous copy which itself was nice aside from the sunning. Not an expensive title but one I hold dear because of it’s condition – especially the spine of the jacket.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 15, 2013 by Aaron

I discovered a great little place here in Seoul where one can get t-shirts printed.  Well, I didn’t actually discover it so much as was told about it by a friend.  Anyway, it’s a great little place.  You can choose from their selection of good quality shirts, sweatshirts and such-like, or take in your own and get whatever you like printed on them.  I got several done and I’ll be going back to get some more.  Why I’m talking about this, and I wanted to mention it here is that I scanned and adorned a shirt with the cover art of Pattern for Conquest.  I must say, I am impressed with the results – both the shirts and the printing are of excellent quality.


I’m definitely going to get some more done.

Expansion into the Final Quarter…

Posted in New Arrivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2013 by Aaron

Andrew North - Plague ShipLong time since a meaningful post.  Timely is an update on the Odyssey as over the past couple of days I’ve been successful on eBay.  Recalling the last state of play on this, I had received a superior copy of Minions of the Moon to that I already had, and a nice Plague Ship was on the way. Frederik Pohl & Jack Williamson - Undersea Fleet Well, Plague Ship arrived and a misdirected Gray Lensman (amongst a couple of other things which I’ll talk about presently..) landed with my parents in New Zealand.  Arriving here about a month ago was the middle third of Frederik Pohl’s and Jack Williamson’s Undersea Trilogy – Undersea Fleet.  Over the past week I’ve picked up Talbot Mundy’s Purple Pirate and another Williamson title in conjunction with James Gunn – Star Bridge.  Both these are on their way, and Doc Smith’s Gray Lensman will be in an aid package from the homeland due to be sent soon.

Taking these into account, there are only 16 titles left to acquire. ‘Only’ is slightly misleading as the balance of the catalog are all (with one or two exceptions..) perennial big ticket editions such as the 6 remaining Conan titles, the Foundation series, Simak’s City and… I, Robot.

Q: Where the Hell have I been??

Posted in Uncategorized on December 28, 2012 by Aaron

A: Right here, in front of my computer.

But… obviously not posting.  There’s been a helluva lot going on the collecting front though.  Time to catch up on that and a few other things.  I’ve been threatening for a while now – time to come good.  Items to address in no particular order.

  • The Seedling Stars: Review and Close Up
  • Minions of the Moon: Close Up
  • Kindle Paperwhite aquisition
  • Gene Wolfe signed first edition collection expansion
  • Tshirts
  • Gnome Press additions
  • Other Matters

Dunno what I’ll post on first, but to my hardcore readers (I use the plural with poetic license..), these things will follow soon.

Two in Two…

Posted in Gene Wolfe, New Arrivals with tags , , , on September 19, 2012 by Aaron

Two books came in over the past two days.  Yesterday came that chapbook Christmas Inn by Gene Wolfe and William Gray Beyer’s Minions of the Moon arrived today.  I’ll do a Close Up on that in a moment.  Scott (the chap from whom I purchased Minions) had several other GP titles available, all of which I already had but one – Plague Ship by Andrew North (a pseudonym of André Norton).  I grabbed that as well and it’s on it’s way.

Have a quick look at the chapbook.  It’s regular octavo size, but is only about 8mm thick – and that’s including the hardcovers!

As you can see, this is number 38/200 of those that weren’t given away to PS Publishing hardcover subscribers.

Regarding the other book, one of the attributes that Minions of the Moon most often exhibits is a sunned or faded spine on the dust jacket, and one that my original copy displays quite effectively.  The reason I bought this copy is because that there is NO fading at all to the jacket.  Compare the two here.

You can see which is the new non-faded one. The faded copy has the Brodart cover on and that further distorts things. In reality, the difference is much more pronounced than is shown here. Anyway, I’m very happy with the latest copy. The book is in a little better condition overall too.