Hook Jaw Omnibus (2017) by Pat Mills.
Way back in 1976 there occurred an event that probably determined who I am today. On a rainy Saturday morning I accompanied my dad to the newsagents to pick out my comic books, normal standard fare like Spider-Man and Thor. On this particular day however, my eyes were drawn to a brand new comic called Action. Well it certainly lived up to its name because flicking through the pages my eyes were assaulted by non-stop violence and carnage the likes of which I had never seen before in a children’s comic. I quickly slipped Action between my regular comics and gave them to my dad. I don’t think he even noticed the extra comic.
Upon getting home I was introduced to a new type of comic, a comic without rules. Normally when you read a comic book, you were in safe hands. Stan Lee knew what he was doing and how to present wholesome characters in a battle where good triumphs over evil. I quickly discovered that when you read Action, you weren’t in safe hands, Pat Mills was a fucking lunatic who specialised in gore drenched tales of ultra-violence.
I loved every page.
The whole shtick of Action was to do what the comic world called dead cribs. You took a movie that was really popular and basically, ripped it off. Rollerball became Death Game 1999, a Battle Royale competition where guys on motorbikes with studs everywhere drove around in a circle killing each other, while Dirty Harry became Dredger. I’m not sure what film Kids Rule Ok was based on, maybe A Clockwork Orange, but it involved juvenile delinquents armed with knives, chains and baseball bats beating up teachers and policemen and basically any authority figure they came across.
But the most talked about film of the time was Jaws, so naturally Action gave us Hook Jaw, a tale of a gigantic great white that chomped anyone it came across. I fell in love with Hook Jaw, as did every other kid and Hook Jaw quickly gained notoriety, becoming Action’s flagship character.
The premise was simple, greedy people looking to exploit the seas, such as illegal oil rig owner Red McNally, were swiftly chomped in half by the vengeful Hook Jaw. Every story was basically an excuse to have helpless swimmers ripped in half by the completely awesome great white.
If all this violence and carnage sounds too good to be true, it was. It didn’t take long for the authorities to kick up a stink, leading major news chains to refuse to sell the comic and in October, a mere eight months after its glorious debut, Action was banned outright.
The comic did return but in a much watered down version and the sales figures reflected this. Hook Jaw without insane amounts of blood and guts? No thank you. Action limped on for another ten months before finally folding in November 1977.
As for Hook Jaw? Well the title was resurrected in 2017 and had me all frothing at the mouth like I was seven years old again. My excitement soon turned to dismay as the chomping antics of the great white seemed to take a back seat to some overt, preachy feminist agendas concerning a war between Somalian Pirates (the good guys) and the CIA (the bad guys). Plus they made Hook Jaw female and the hook isn’t even embedded in its jaw. Combine that with the fact that most of the violence takes place off panel and basically the comic creators can fuck right off. Reading Hook Jaw 2017 is like watching the 1998 remake of Psycho. Yeah, it’s that bad.
But it’s this collection of the original stories, released by Titan in 2017, that will forever hold a special place in my heart. Hook Jaw was my first taste of over the top violence and horror and sent me down the path I still travel today. Without Hook Jaw there’d be no Tokyo Gore Police, MegaPiranha, FrankenFish or any of the crap I love.
Steve Barnard lurks in the Stygian swamps of South America. He divides his time between scouring ancient jungles for the lost City of the Monkey Children and watching horror movies. Literally any horror movie he can get his hands on. Especially Japanese ones.