You may have noticed that there’s a football tournament starting today. This is a wonderful thing. And I wanted to do at least a couple of articles this weekend about the wonderful world of football. And what’s the most iconic football comic in the world?
Except I never enjoyed Roy Of The Rovers and the adventures of Roy Race when I was a boy myself and have very little interest in going back to it now. (I will however point you in the direction of the official Roy Of The Rovers website, the Wikipedia entry and best of all, this nicely done overview of the comic from Down The Tubes.)
But there was a Roy Of The Rovers comic that I really enjoyed, and one that never got it’s fair share of acclaim for trying something different and inventive (and I know Joe already covered this back in 2009 but I thought it would be nice to have a little more).
It was 1993, Roy Race had gone down in flames in a helicoptor crash as the weekly comic was cancelled, leaving readers unsure what had happened to their hero. Six months later Roy Of The Rovers emerged as a monthly…..
And, as you can tell from those covers above, it was rather different this time around. Roy Race’s golden foot was gone and the latest Roy Of The Rovers was a Nigerian player called Delroy.
The artist on much of these new Roy Of The Rovers strips was Rob Davis, who talks about the genesis of the idea at his blog here. Essentially it all came from an idea from the ill-fated Tundra UK (a 90s money pit of excess and wonderful idealism funded by Kevin Eastman and the millions made from the Turtles goldmine). The proposed Glory Glory football comic never got off the ground (a familiar tale for anyone who remembers Tundra) and writer Stuart Green and Rob Davis took the idea over for a radical reinvention of the worlds most famous football comic.
I stumbled on the comic with the 2nd issue in WHSmiths and instantly became a big fan. The ideas were original (even revolutionary for something as tired and cliched as Roy Of The Rovers) and this was obviously a very modern, relevant comic tackling a lot of difficult issues surrounding the modern game, most importantly confronting the vile problem of racism and supporting the “kick racism out of football” campaign.
One of the most controversial things they did, as far as the traditional Rovers fans were concerned was to address the ridiculous idea of Roy Race effectively playing world class football for the best part of 40 years. The simple, and elegant solution – simply split his career in two and invented a Roy Race Senior for the first bit. Establishing a footballing dynasty culminating in Roy Race’s son Roy Race Junior.
And to slap convention about the face a little more, Roy Race Jr certainly wasn’t a chip off the old block. Sure, the 18 year old may have had some of the skills, but lived in the shadow of both his father and grandfather, never quite living up to his legacy and had become a spoilt, cocky, nasty piece of work, even chucking it all away in a fit of anger and taking Ecstasy at one point.
And the art was just as radical a departure from what had gone before. Davis wasn’t the only artist, but he’s the only one I can find reference to (the others Davis notes were Sean Longcroft, Gerraint Ford, Gary Marshall and David Jukes). In his blog posts Davis is very harsh (far too harsh in my eyes) on his work, but I think it stands up extremely well and still looks relevant and very modern to my eyes and the design elements he recoils from look damn good to me. The flashbacks he refers to were used eextensively, and to great effect, artistically and narratively. It really was a very good comic.
Sadly this Roy Of The Rovers, MY Roy Of The Rovers, so good and so different to what had gone before, was a little too much of a departure from what was expected and the monthly lasted a mere 19 issues, finally closing in September 1995. A real shame. Titan Books have started issuing Best of collections, and they’ve covered the 70s and 80s – what hope for these great 90s strips being collected one day?
But if you never seen any of these great Roy Of The Rovers comics, then here’s a treat for you. Rob follows up his first Rovers blog entry with a complete story from issue 6 of the comic, here’s the first three pages – for the rest (and there’s some lovely work in those) head over to his blog.