As the popularity of Tiger comic’s timeless ‘Roy of the Rovers’ strip spiralled with kiddie culture over the course of the ’60s, rivals racked their brains for money-spinning alternatives. In the second week of the ’70s, IPC published its first theme comic, the football-only Scorcher, chock-full of faux Roys.
While flagship hero ‘Bobby of the Blues’ – a clean-cut, win-everything, alliterative centre-forward – probably wasn’t a great example of thinking outside the box, the likes of ‘The Kangaroo Kid’ jump-started a bandwagon of magnificent comic contrivance. By the end of 1970, Score ‘n’ Roar had arrived in the market, featuring ‘Phantom of the Forest’ (yes, he was a ghost), ‘Forward From Rome’ (a time-travelling gladiator – cue alarmingly vivid memories of a muscly goalbanger with a sword) and ‘Peter the Cat’ (no, he was just a schoolboy goalie).
Even rival Tiger writers and artists were competing, with ‘Football Family Robinson’ just one of the many team strips spawned to go up against the long-running Melchester Rovers soap – ‘Lord Rumsey’s Rovers’; ‘Lags Eleven’ (a prison team – geddit?); ‘Paxton’s Powerhouse’ (they were robots, radio-controlled from the stands by an evil millionaire: no-one noticed).
Over the course of the ’70s, as Tiger and Jag and Scorcher and Score became Tiger and Scorcher, then Roy of the Rovers was spun off to stand alone, the checklist of unlikely and exotic nouveaux Roys grew ever more out of hand. Not to mention the burgeoning menagerie of animal companions. And not a single 13-year-old ever questioned a word…
1 – Nipper
Penned in superb DirtyVision to signify Northernness and social squalor, the ‘Nipper’ strip must have been many pre-pubescent boys’ introduction to such grim concepts. Nipper Lawrence was an orphan who lived on the bleak dockside of Blackport with his landlady and pig-ugly bulldog, Stumpy. Times were hard, what with his old man getting nicked for a crime he didn’t commit, or something. But then Nipper he got picked for England and started wearing a white suit… and, yes, he still wanted our pity.
More comic cuts, cloggers, Cossack and cotton tops in British Sports Book of the Year runner-up ‘Got, Not Got’ – available here for just £12.99, post free.