This week I have been reading ‘Roy of the Rovers – 65 Years An Icon’ from Rebellion.
I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to buy it at my local WHSmith, next to the football magazines. There are a few celebratory titles about U.K. comics out at the moment. ‘Beano at 80’ and ‘Minnie the Minx’ are both still available in my local store too. All have something in common – not only are they about the characters they cover but they recall the cultural and historical impact around British comics over 80 years.
I recently read the first Rebellion reprint of Roy of the Rovers in the 1950’s, when Roy first appeared in Tiger in September 1954 (reviewed here https://comicsflix.org/2019/08/26/comicscene-roy-of-the-rovers-best-of-the-1950s-review/ ). Some of those strips are featured again here alongside in-depth articles by Johnny Nicholson, Simon Robinson and Karl Stock. Roy’s comic journey mirrors not only the the highs and lows of action on the pitch but U.K. comics too. There is an underlying current of how even a character whose very name entered the parlance of cultural language was treated very badly by the custodians of comics, through corporate publishing purchases and ever decreasing investment.
Despite the popularity of the character in the 80’s, signified by a dramatic storyline voted number one in Roy’s Top 50 Moments, you do get the feeling some of the writers followed the character way into adult life but preferred his earlier football antics on the pitch rather than soap opera storylines later on. That was my time, so I loved those stories, but didn’t stick around beyond a few seasons or the losing of a foot so I’d probably have similar reservations about later stories too! Having had the opportunity to read the 50’s and 60’s storylines now you can see why the character endured and became popular from that time and survived a good 40 years in print.
Not even a bullet can keep a good footballing icon down for long. There is hope at the end of the players tunnel as Rob Power brings us bang up to date with the recent Roy of the Rovers reboot. Of course it’s not likely sales will come even close to the numbers Roy of the Rovers was selling when his weekly title was axed, or even that of Roy of the Rovers Monthly, but the book format may have longevity beyond a simple 90 minutes. We are talking the long game, with injury time, extra time and a penalty shoot out included!
If you are a fan of Hibernia Comic Archives, such as their look at 80’s Eagle, Scream and the Fleetway Files then you will love this. The format isn’t dissimilar.
Of course ComicScene has been there every step of the way during the return of Roy Race to the pages of comics. Our thoughts were even been quoted in the novels, which was nice. Recently the family of the late Roy of the Rovers artist Yvonne Hutton reached out to us with a touching message which made recognition of her work on the title in an early ComicScene all worthwhile. In some ways this return and build up to 65 years of an icon was one of the reasons I started the magazine. You can hear me chat about that and reviewing the Roy of the Rovers reboot with Phillip Vaughn on the first ever ComicScene Podcast https://soundcloud.com/comicscene/comic-scene-the-podcast
For Roy of the Rovers completists several articles have appeared in ComicScene Vol 1 and 2. Here’s a quick review of those appearances (below). Alongside this publication and the articles in ComicScene (including a closer look at ‘Glory Glory’, that is briefly touched on in the Roy of the Rovers Monthly article in 65 Years of an Icon) I feel the story of Roy of the Rovers has been told for now. Here’s to more classic reprints from Rebellion and new material to come.
Richard Sheaf looks at classic Roy of the Rovers reprints in Vol 1 Issue 0 available in print https://www.magazineheaven.com/catalog/product/view/id/22281/s/comic-scene/+subscription_length-Single~Issue~-~Issue~0~Aug~18
Richard Sheaf takes a look at the work of Yvonne Hutton – available in print here https://www.magazineheaven.com/catalog/product/view/id/22281/s/comic-scene/+subscription_length-Single~Issue~-~Issue~1~Oct~18
Stephen Jewell in new Roy of the Rovers in Issue 3 – available in print here https://www.magazineheaven.com/catalog/product/view/id/22281/s/comic-scene/+subscription_length-Single~Issue~-~Issue~3~Dec~18
Rebellion are fiercely protective of the image of Roy of the Rovers, showing a care for the character which shows he is in good hands. Here is the original pencils for ComicScene Vol 2 Issue 1 by Charlie Gillespie featuring Roy and Spider-Man. This was our suggested commission but Rebellion requested a classic Roy image instead. I would have loved to see this in colour and Spider-man weaving a foootball net for Roy would probably have helped sell several more copies!
Former Roy of the Rovers editor Barrie Tomlinson in classic Roy of the Rovers, Richard Sheaf In Billy’s Boots in Dutch (new reprints coming early 2020), Richard Bruton On Roy of the Rovers Monthly all in ComicScene Volume 2 Issue 1 currently available in print for only £3 and digital for £1.50 at http://www.getmycomics.com/ComicScene
Stephen Jewell on new Roy of the Rovers and Richard Bruton On Glory Glory in ComicScene Vol 2 Issue 2 available at http://www.getmycomics.com/ComicScene
Barrie Tomlinson On Hot Shot Hamish In ComicScene Volume 2 Issue 6 – available at http://www.getmycomics.com/ComicScene