H. John Edwards by James Zee

Action Comics notoriety and ban

While the first issue of Action Comic in October 1946 was generally unremarkable, the second issue debuted The Lone Avenger, created by teenager Leonard Keith Lawson, writing and drawing as Len Lawson.

Based on Fran Striker’s Lone Ranger, The Lone Avenger was masked cowboy named Paul Nicholls, who fought crime dressed in a distincive red mask, white hat and green shirt. The Lone Avenger began as a wandering hero, but later settled as Marshal in the town of Redrock. His sidekick, Bull Malone, became his deputy.

The Lone Avenger was enormously popular selling more than 70,000 copies of each issue at its peak. While Action Comic was initially an anthology, the character took over the cover and remained there for the rest of the run. Later issues contained only Lone Avenger stories and several specials were published. A junior Lone Avenger club was established with branches in New Zealand and Fiji.

Lawson also created a similar western vigilante for H. John Edwards, The Hooded Rider; as well as series such as Diana, Queen of the Apes, King O’Rourke, Spencer Steele and Peter Fury.11p.186, John Ryan Panel by Panel....  

But on 7 May 1954, aged 26, Lawson drove five female models to Terrey Hills in North Sydney, bound and gagged them at gunpoint, raping three and sexually assaulting the others. Lawson was captured and, on 25 June 1954, he received the death penalty for his crimes. The court denied his request to continue drawing The Lone Avenger while in prison to support his family.22While no longer involved with comics, Lawson's story of infamy was far from over. His sentence was commuted to 14...  

Australia was experiencing a peak of comics' censorship in 1954 and the trial focused on the fact that Lawson was a comic artist. Claims that Lawson’s work contained graphic violence undoubtedly heightened the backlash against comics, with publishers attacked for peddling escapist trash involving sadism, violence, pornography and moral decay.

Despite attempts at self-regulation by publishers and distributors, censorship legislation was expanding across Australia. The new Queensland Literature Board of Review announced The Lone Avenger as one of the books banned in its third list on 27 August 1954. It's second list, on 24 July 1954, has already banned Edward's reprint of the US Fiction House title, Fight Comics.

In an attempt to keep his popular Action Comic going, Edwards engaged Les Such to take over drawing the book and self-censored it. The Literature Board revoked its ban on 21 October 1954 "following an undertaking from the publishers that all objectionable features have been removed".33"Lone Avenger" Ban Lifted, p. 4 Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 23 October 1954 (Retrieved 28 April 2013, from nla.gov.au). The...  


p.186, John Ryan Panel by Panel.
While no longer involved with comics, Lawson's story of infamy was far from over. His sentence was commuted to 14 years imprisonment and he was parolled early in May 1961 as a model prisoner. But on 7 November 1961, while paiting a poitrait of 16-year-old Jane Bower, he bound, raped and stabbed her to death. The next day, he took a group of schoolgirls hostage in the chapel of the Sydney Church of England Girls’ Grammar School at Moss Vale. While struggling with a teacher, his gun went off and killed 15-year-old student Wendy Sue Luscombe. This time, Lawson was sentenced to life imprisonment. But on 15 December 1972 he held hostage at knife point a dancer from a group performing at his gaol, Sharon Hamilton. As a result of her ordeal, Hamilton received extensive psychiatric treatment and six years later commited suicide. Lawson died aged 76 in Gafton jail on 29 November 2003. Biography based on Sun Herald 30 November 2003 (retreived 28 April 2013).
"Lone Avenger" Ban Lifted, p. 4 Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 23 October 1954 (Retrieved 28 April 2013, from nla.gov.au). The revocation applied only to issues published after 21 October 1954.