Why aren’t there more sports comics? More to the point why aren’t there more absolutely wonderful looking sports comics like Fantagraphics 2011 release “21; The Story Of Roberto Clemente” by Wilfred Santiago?
Over on the Fanta blog there’s some preview pages and a write up of the book, expected April 2011:
According to the Fanta site:
“Clemente was a 12-time All-Star and Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972, while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.”
“The biographical 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente is a human drama of courage, faith and dignity, inspired by the life of baseball star Roberto Clemente. No other baseball player dominated the 1960s like Roberto Clemente and no other Latin American player achieved his numbers….. He played like a man possessed, fielding superbly, unleashing his rifle arm, and hitting in clutch situations.“
“Although baseball was his obsession, Clemente never lost sight of his dreams and his greater responsibilities outside the game. This sense of urgency is what came to define him beyond that of a grand athlete. His eventual success and accompanying celebrity gave him the opportunity to engage his conscience in public life. He died when his plane went down in the Caribbean Sea on a relief mission to earthquake-torn Nicaragua that he personally directed.”
It looks absolutely gorgeous doesn’t it? In just those two pages I was sold on it – the sheer physicality and grace in those panels is quite amazing, completely drawing the eye into the game, and immediately capturing all the excitement and magic of sport at it’s highest levels.
For something that’s near universal, our enjoyment of sport in some form or other, there’s surprisingly very little sport in comic form. Indeed, there’s not that much sport in media full stop. But I’m not going to even go down that path, I’m just going to concentrate on the comics. I may be completely wrong on this, and if you know better, please let me know, but I think we have to go back decades to find comics covering sport in any large, meaningful way – to the glory days of Roy Of The Rovers and The Eagle for that here in England. And I’m sure their are examples in the uS from the 50s and 60s as well.
I grew up reading comics in the 80s and 90s and my only real exposure to sports comics were the relaunched, updated and destined to fail Roy Of The Rovers (I talked about that here) and James Sturm’s quite magnificent baseball graphic novels; The Golem’s Mighty Swing and Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow.
As always, I’m fully aware that there will be (I expect) many, many examples of sports comics from Europe, since they have a far greater acceptance of comics, and consequently a far greater range of subjects that prove popular. I’m sure out Euro expert Wim could point us in the direction of many, many examples, but I’ll just submit one: “Alè Tran Tran”, a footballing mini series by Italian cartoonist Lorenzo Mattotti. Wim flagged it up in July and we mentioned it here. (Arthur Van Kruining has some art from the issues up on his Flickr page and they’re all rather exquisite.)
(Mattotti’s football strip. Anyone got anymore from this? Please?)
The world of sport is a magnificent thing, and I’d be genuinely interested in finding out what examples you can come up with to completely disprove my idea that it’s something that comics does particularly badly. Let me know in the comments.