There are many characters that appear in comic strips and have a sporting background. Often the main character in comics is a hero and this can relate well with being a sports star. The “Tough of the Track” appeared in The Rover and The Victor for almost 40 years from 1942. The comic strip featured Alfred Tupper as a “hard as nails” working class hero. The story lines would often feature Alfred as one of life’s underdogs coming up trumps to beat someone from a privileged back ground. He was employed as a welder and after a bust up with his Aunty Meg ended up sleeping by his works bench. His staple diet was fish and chips wrapped in a newspaper. One of his biggest storylines was when he was forced to return his membership card to the Greystone Harriers Athletics Club after an on-track fight with arch rival Vic Mason in the 440 yards race at the Greystone meeting.
Another controversial sporting hero was “Look out for Lefty” who was published in the Action comic in the 1970s. The character involved Kenny “Lefty” Lampton who was trying to make a career as a professional footballer. He did this on the back of his trade mark bullet left foot and he had an enemy on the field with “rich kid” opponent Sid Smythe. Lefty had a skin head girlfriend and would often let himself down with his violent temper. The cartoon strip was actually ended after the episode when girlfriend Angie threw a bottle onto the field striking an opposing player in the head. Unfortunately, at a time of increasing crowd violence Leftie had sailed too close to the wind.
Wilson the Wonder Athlete first appeared in “The Wizard” in 1943 and was a totally unassuming quiet athlete. After being left an inheritance of 5000 pounds he studied biology and medicine in an attempt to live as long as possible. This led to his supreme fitness that resulted in him scaling Mount Everest, running a 3-minute mile, captaining the England cricket team to an Ashes victory against the Australians and claiming 25 victories as a wartime spitfire pilot. All of this was achieved whilst living in a cave and eating a diet of nuts and berries.
However, despite the exploits of the previously mentioned characters no one comes close to surpassing the achievements of Roy Race, who was better known as Roy of the Rovers. He first appeared in Tiger in 1954 where he remained for 22 years before moving to his very own title comic in 1976. Roy started as a young striker playing for a local youth side until he was spotted by Melchester Rovers and he was signed up. He scores 2 goals on his debut and went on to win 9 league titles, 8 FA cups, 3 league cups, 3 European cups, 1 UEFA cup and 4 Cup Winners’ Cups. He made several appearances for England and became the player-manager of Melchester Rovers in 1975. He married the club’s secretary Penny Laine and one of their 3 children Rocky later had a troubled career at Melchester Rovers.
During his time Roy’s wife left him in 1981 and he was shot in 1982 in his office. in 1986 the side were bombed whist playing in a fictional Middle Eastern Country, killing 8 of the players and leaving Roy with a dislocated shoulder, and in 1993 had a helicopter crash in which he lost his left foot. These major story lines along with the never-ending saga of Melchester Rovers facing financial ruin kept the readers engrossed for years. The comic at its peak sold 450,000 copies each week and produced 851 issues between 1976 and 1996. Comic book characters have left an undoubted impression on the sporting world. Even now any surreal performance on a football field is likely to be greeted with the comment “wow that was real Roy of the Rovers Stuff”.