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solid writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 2
total score 7
knockabout comics 1 _ knockabout comics 2
Knockabout Comics #1
Knockabout Comics #2
knockabout comics 3 _ knockabout comics 4 _ knockabout comics 6
Knockabout Comics #3
Knockabout Comics #4 Knockabout Comics #6
Knockabout Comics

1980-1988 / Knockabout Comics

Knockabout Comics was launched in the United Kingdom in 1980 and ran for 14 issues (one being a hardback book) over eight years. The series was published by Knockabout Comics, which was founded in 1975 by Tony Bennett to publish Gilbert Shelton's The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers in Britain. Leveraging that success, Knockabout evolved into a major distributor of a wide variety of American and British undergrounds and launched its own title that initially featured mostly American underground comics.

In July of 1982, after publishing three issues of Knockabout Comics, their offices were raided by the police and 75 titles were seized, primarily those with content related to illicit drugs. Police raids for obscene publications were nothing new in Britain, as H. Bunch Associates (Oz magazine) and Bloom Publications (Nasty Tales) were both prosecuted for obscenity in the early '70s, though neither was found guilty (the initial guilty verdict for Oz on lesser charges was overturned on appeal). In 1983, Tony Bennett and Knockabout were also found not guilty of obscenity, but the enormous costs of the legal trial, as well as the loss of confiscated inventory, nearly killed the company.

Knockabout and its comic book managed to survive, but it abstained from publishing anything too controversial from that point forward, especially anything related to drugs. After the 14th issue of Knockabout Comics came out in 1988, the title ceased publication due to poor sales and the publishing company went belly up. However, Tony Bennett revived the company some years ago and Knockabout now publishes a handful of comics, including some by Hunt Emerson, Alan Moore and Gilbert Shelton.

Knockabout Comics was a solid anthology series that provided British fans access to underground comics and helped open the floodgates to more British alternative comic publications. Early issues in the series are sometimes derided for leaning too heavily on American underground creators instead of native British talent for its content, but Knockabout was simply giving the market what it wanted. Later issues shifted to predominantly non-American contributors.

It's also questionable whether Knockabout Comics should even be considered an underground comic publication by fans and historians. David Huxley, author of Nasty Tales: Sex, Drugs, Rock'n'Roll and Violence in the British Underground, posits that Brainstorm Comix was perhaps the last truly underground comic book series published in Britain, and it ceased publication in 1978. Huxley categorizes Graphixus and Knockabout as alternative comic titles, but he also quotes a representative of a huge British comic publishing company, who stated in 1987; "...we're about thirty years behind" the rest of the comic book world. If that were literally the case, Britain's underground comic era would have ended in 2010 by my standards.

Knockabout Comics was launched in 1980, at the very end of the era that I categorize as underground, so it technically qualifies, just like Rip Off Comix qualifies by launching in 1977, even though it ran until 1992. So I've got both of those titles placed in the underground comics category instead of alternative comics. I've thought about ending the underground categorization in 1979 instead of 1980, which would push Knockabout into the alternative category along with Raw and Weirdo. In the end, I guess it doesn't matter much, but when I think of Knockabout (or Graphixus for that matter) I do think "underground," which is not the case with Raw or Weirdo. There will never be a unanimous consensus anyway, so I'm going to do whatever the hell feels right to me. Which is why you're reading this review of Knockabout Comix in this particular place on my site.

One other note: I think I have other issues from the series, but I'll have to dig them up and add them to the site at some later date.