On this day, 2 April 1977: Action
On this day, 2 April 1977 … By the spring of this year Action was re-established in its short-lived post-ban form – still containing a fair degree of death, violence and anarchy (see below the frames from Dredger, Spinball, Roaring Wheels and Hook Jaw), but not quite so graphically presented, nor obviously approved of. In Spinball, for example, there’s a pretty gruesome training ground incident by the Eagles’ next opponents, the Tokyo Titans, which is old-school Action in one sense but subtley different in that our heroes react with horror and outrage so it’s clearly an atrocity performed by ‘them’ rather than ‘us’, and not to be celebrated.
If Action took human form I feel fairly certain that it would want to be Dredger, the hard-boiled ‘DI6’ agent who really, really doesn’t want to be (or, at least, really, really wants everyone to think that he doesn’t want to be) a part of the very establishment that justifies his existence. I relate to this feeling, to be fair, although I haven’t yet ever said ‘Have a lead sandwich, pal!’ in the course of my work as editorial director of a respected book publishing firm. In this issue, while temporarily suspended from duty, he is delighted to take a mercenary commission to track down a former Gestapo officer in the Guatemalan jungle, accompanied as always by goody-boy partner Breed. Quite how Breed assists Dredger and earns his share of the fifty grand reward money on this particular mission, other than whinging about responsibility and stewardship of the natural world, is not clear, other than to emphasise by way of contrast just what an absolute bastard Dredger is. That is until the end, when Breed wants to let the poor feeble Nazi war criminal live out his final days in the luxury to which he has become accustomed, but Dredger becomes the voice of justice and honour.
It’s interesting to see that Action continues to promote the personality of Steve ‘Action Man’ MacManus, with his photo next to his editorial and all readers’ letters addressed to him. There’s no doubt that this is his comic, and while one could cynically wonder whether this was so he could be easily scapegoated if Action ever went on public trial again, it still gives lovely character to the comic and, given what we know about what Steve would go on to achieve at 2000AD, it’s a well-judged spotlight.