When comics ruled

BAR­RIE TOMLINSON re­flects on his ad­ven­tures with the likes of Roy of the Rovers, Tiger, Billy’s Boots and Hot-Shot Hamish…

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS - Comic Book Hero, by Bar­rie Tomlinson, is pub­lished on Septem­ber 1 by Pitch Pub­lish­ing, price £14.99.

The days of Roy Race and Tiger

ITHINK I had the best job in the world. I was Group Editor of the Boys’ Sport and Adventure Depart­ment at IPC Mag­a­zines and I was re­spon­si­ble for such clas­sic comic ti­tles as Tiger, Roy of the Rovers, the new Ea­gle and a host of oth­ers.

I’d started as a sub editor on Lion, in 1961, then I moved to Tiger where I first met a char­ac­ter called Roy of the Rovers. Roy would change my life.

I be­came editor of Tiger and de­cided to make Roy Race’s ad­ven­tures much more true to life. Orig­i­nally, Roy’s team, Melch­ester Rovers, won ev­ery game they played.

I made the foot­ball con­tent much more real, with Roy fac­ing all the prob­lems of a mod­ern striker.

Roy even­tu­ally be­came cap­tain and then player-man­ager of the Rovers.

Off the field, I also made his life just like the real thing. He was the first boys’ comic hero to get mar­ried and the first to be­came a fa­ther. The na­tional press loved the sto­ries and Roy got plenty of public­ity.

In 1976, I gave Roy his own comic. By this time, he was get­ting very fa­mous. So much so, that the Duke of Ed­in­burgh agreed to write an ar­ti­cle for the first is­sue of Roy of the Rovers.

When Roy was shot, I had to find some­one to take over Melch­ester Rovers. Sir Alf Ram­sey agreed to be­come man­ager of the side, while Roy re­cov­ered. When you were in charge of Roy Race, you could or­gan­ise that sort of thing!

Sir Alf ap­peared reg­u­larly in the Roy of the Rovers pic­ture strip and he seemed to re­ally en­joy be­ing part of the Melch­ester set-up. News­pa­per head­lines said: ʻ Ram­sey of the Rovers’ and ʻ It’s Sir Alf of the Rovers’.

Later, Ge­of­frey Boy­cott took over as Chair­man of Melch­ester Rovers. There was noth­ing that Roy could not achieve!

Ge­of­frey ap­peared in the pic­ture-strip and the press said: ʻ It’s Geoff of the Rovers’ and ʻ Meet Boy­cott of the Rovers!’.

It was great fun in­volv­ing peo­ple who you wouldn’t think of as be­ing as­so­ci­ated with comics. Each time that hap­pened we got lots of public­ity.

I told the whole Roy story in my cur­rent book ʻ Real Roy of the Rovers Stuff’. In words and pho­to­graphs the book out­lines the events which made Roy a na­tional in­sti­tu­tion.

But I was also in charge of other comics, in­clud­ing Tiger, which had some mag­nif­i­cent sports sto­ries.

Billy’s Boots, the boy with ʻ magic’ boots that used to be­long to old-time foot­baller Dead­Shot Keen; Hot-Shot Hamish, the gi­ant Scot­tish striker; Johnny Cougar, the Na­tive Amer­i­can wrestler; Skid Solo, the grand prix rac­ing driver and Martin’s Marvel­lous Mini, two lads with a yel­low rac­ing mini. Re­mem­ber any of those sto­ries?

Fa­mous peo­ple were in­volved with Roy’s comic and it was the same with Tiger.

Gor­don Banks, Trevor Fran­cis and Mal­colm Macdon­ald wrote for the ti­tle for many years, as did Mike Chan­non, Tony Greig, Ian Botham and Ge­of­frey Boy­cott.

I signed More­cambe and Wise to write for the comics. Eric starred in Roy of the Rovers and Ernie con­trib­uted to Tiger. Paul Daniels wrote for Tiger.

So much hap­pened in the comics I edited that I felt it was time to pro­duce a sec­ond book, which goes on sale on Septem­ber 1.

It’s called ʻ Comic Book Hero’ and tells my

be­hind-the-scenes sto­ries of lots of fa­mous comics, such as Tiger, Bat­tle, Scream, Speed, Teenage Mu­tant Hero Tur­tles, Wild­cat and a few oth­ers, as well as an­nu­als I edited, such as the Big Daddy An­nual, the Suzie Dando An­nual and Geoff Boy­cott An­nual.

The new book also takes in the 22 years I pro­duced Scorer, the six days a week foot­ball pic­ture-strip which ap­peared in the Daily Mir­ror.

There are lots of pho­to­graphs in the book, in­clud­ing Peter Sell­ers and Pele read­ing Tiger.

Big names and the comics went to­gether very well. I think I might have had just a lit­tle bit of skill in per­suad­ing fa­mous peo­ple to get in­volved with my ti­tles!

There’s a great pho­to­graph of Trevor Fran­cis play­ing Sub­bu­teo against Ge­of­frey Boy­cott, with Dickie Bird as ref­eree. That hap­pened at a party to cel­e­brate Tiger’s 25th birth­day.

I had a life-sized cut-out of Roy of the Rovers and I took him ev­ery­where.

On one oc­ca­sion we were watch­ing an Eng­land train­ing ses­sion when an Eng­land coach came across to me and said “There’s more life in your card­board cut-out than there is in the Eng­land team!”

Even Roy smiled at that.

The Duke of Ed­in­burgh called the Roy story “a soap opera”. He was right.

That’s what the story be­came as I tried to keep the comics as up-to­date as pos­si­ble.

Tiger and the Roy story had a tremen­dous start in life, in 1954, with the first is­sue of Tiger, with Roy of the Rovers on the cover.

Tiger, Roy of the Rovers and my other ti­tles were lucky to have some bril­liant con­trib­u­tors... writ­ers and artists. They were the best of the best. To­gether we pro­duced comics which were very spe­cial. Usu­ally the comics were de­liv­ered with the morn­ing news­pa­per and were a mas­sive part of a child’s life. It is very re­ward­ing that peo­ple to­day still re­mem­ber the comics and there is a mas­sive amount of in­ter­est on the in­ter­net. I reg­u­larly get lots of ques­tions from peo­ple who read my ti­tles as chil­dren and are now grown-up, with chil­dren of their own. Some­times I feel like a comic book hero my­self!

Keep­ing up to date: Tommy Docherty’s Manch­ester United show off their copies of Tiger

Bearded won­der: Gor­don Banks with a copy of Tiger

Good read: Bar­rie Tomlinson, left, and Mal­coln Macdon­ald

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