We’re back! We’re sensational! We’re Action. Well, er…yes, you are back, after a fashion, but no, you’re not really sensational, and you’re Action in name only, because the spirit of Action has gone. In the late November relaunch, Kid’s Rule O.K. and Probationer had been dumped without explanation. Perhaps it was assumed that the readers would accept that some stories had to go, and what remained would be watered down. There was no mention of the word ‘Ban’, just some limp editorial copy: “It’s great to be with you again! Don’t think we’ve been idle during our short break, either, ‘cos we’ve been working flat out producing two new picture stories for you, Roaring Wheels and Double Dynamite”. Well great, that sure is big of you, but Roaring Wheels and Double Dynamite were two straight as a dye, traditional boys comic sports stories about motor racing and boxing respectively. Rumour has it that Double Dynamite was a rejected story from another comic that was found in a filing cabinet in the IPC boy’s department. The art was there, but the lettering was not, so Jack Adrian had to make up a story to go with the existing pages. “Working flat out” indeed.
The rest of the comic was more of a re-animated corpse than a thinking publication. It wasn’t graphic, political or violent, and unsavoury acts were implied ‘off camera’ rather than seen on the page. Dredger carried on in a similar, weaker vein for the entire run of Action, as did Look Out For Lefty, which was lucky to survive the cut, and Hellman. The backlog of existing scripts and artwork for these three stories and Hell’s Highway were used in an edited form until new, trouble-free scripts could be written and drawn. Hell’s Highway slumped after artist Mike White was moved onto Roaring Wheels, and finished in the 2nd April 1977 issue. There were worse casualties. Death Game 1999 became Spinball. Massimo Belardinelli had drawn several issues worth of Death Game, but these were chopped down to just four pages. Loose ends were tidied for a new beginning. The Karson City Killers won their final match, and their freedom, without a snag. Belardinelli, whose ‘lost’ art eventually graced only one issue, was replaced by former Death Game artist Costa after four issues of new work, and Spinball became a bland futuristic sports story. Even Hook Jaw, devoid of colour, began to eat people with his back to you, or behind a conveniently passing submarine. The bullion hi-jack story was wrapped up in one issue, using parts of the six unpublished episodes, heavily edited. The titles of Spinball and Hook Jaw survived until the final issue, but their spirits had long since departed. Lament it below.