Roy Of The Rovers: The Best Of The 50s – Going Back To The Beginning Of An Icon

by Richard Bruton

We’re right back to the very start of the most famous footballer in England as Rebellion and The Treasury of British Comics heads back to a more gentlemanly time for football with Roy Race’s earliest adventures in Roy of the Rovers: The Best of the 50s, published on the 25th of July.

Cover by G. Keane

Roy, and his rocket of a left foot, first appeared on the cover of the brand new Tiger comic, September 11, 1954, and immediately became a fan favourite, for both lovers of football and of comics. Even now, you’ll hear football fans, pundits, and players talking about any incredible moment in football as being real Roy of the Rovers stuff!

Generation after generation have thrilled to the footballing thrills of Melchester Rovers, but this new collection takes us all of the way back to the beginning, from the very moment he signed on with the club he supported as a lad.

But, it’s not all on the field action here, as for all the matchday drama there’s just as much going on behind the scenes. Sure, things are a little tame with these early tales, with one of the early strips featuring Roy getting his boots stolen and being locked in a store room by a Melchester rival, threatened by the brilliance of Roy’s talent, but there’s both a lovely rush of nostalgia for things past here and also a genuinely entertaining read.

There’s also a wonderful sense of time and place, with dialogue that you can only really hear in your head with very proper English received pronunciation, full of “Chaps“, “Good old Roy“, “Wizard“, and more language trapped in a nostalgic post-war Britain that really didn’t exist on either the football field or the terraces of the time!

It’s also a strip full of social history as well as great footballing action. It’s never played on too much, but it’s there in the little things, such as the dress of the time, or the backgrounds to the football pitches, all surrounded by industrial works and factories.

Frank S. Pepper was the original writer, alongside artist Joe Colquhoun, perhaps better known these days for his art on Pat Mills’ Charley’s War. After a few strips, Pepper left the strip and Colquhoun took over both writing and art.

And Colquhoun’s art, particularly on the colour pages, really does shine here. It’s of an older time, certainly, where realism was more the order of things, making the footballing action seem, sometimes, somewhat stiff. But, there’s a polish and incredible style in Colquhoun’s art. As I say, the colour pages really do capture the art far better, as the black and white pages haven’t reproduced as well. However, the Treasury archive here is over half a century old, so a little loss of quality is only to be expected.

The material in this first collection of the Best of the 50s spans strips from Tiger, 11 September 1954 – 21 May 1955 and 20 August 1955 – 11 February 1956. Plus, there’s work from the Roy of the Rovers annuals of 1958 and 1959.

Now… a preview of the Roy of the Rovers: Best of the 50s…..

And a little extra… from the Roy of the Rovers annuals…

And the original of that gorgeous cover by G. Keane…

Roy of the Rovers: The best of the 50s is published by Rebellion and The Treasury of British Comics on 25 July. Written by Frank S. Pepper and Joe Colquhoun, art by Joe Colquhoun.

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