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Barrie Tomlinson reveals “Real Roy of the Rovers Stuff”, his new book on Britain’s best-loved football comic hero

Real Roy of the Rovers Stuff - Cover-W

Out on 3rd October from Pitch Publishing is Real Roy of the Rovers Stuff!: Roy’s True Story, a new book on one of British comics greatest characters, written by comics editor and writer Barrie Tomlinson, a man instrumental in the creation of many of his stories.

Roy Race was Melchester Rovers’ super striker, and later manager and chairman; he is known everywhere simply as ‘Roy of the Rovers’. Real Roy of the Rovers Stuff is the inside story of his life with Melchester, told by the man who knows him better than anyone: editor Barrie Tomlinson, the man who helped turn him from comic-book hero to a national institution.

From the 1950s, millions of children grew up reading about his footballing adventures in Tiger and, from 1976, Roy of the Rovers. Now they can relive all the memorable moments from Roy’s illustrious footballing career. From his debut as a fresh-faced teen in the comic Tiger, Roy became the hero of his own football comic; with league titles, cup finals, Wembley wins and much more; how he survived near-death experiences, became the first boys’ hero to get married and just why the saying ‘Real Roy of the Rovers stuff!’ became a stock phrase for football commentators everywhere.

Packed with photos from Roy’s life, Barrie’s book tells how he became a top celebrity of his day, how Sir Alf Ramsey was convinced to be Melchester manager, Geoffrey Boycott became chairman and even how the Duke of Edinburgh once came to write for Roy’s comic!

Here, Barie tells us how this great new book came into being…

Arsenal striker Malcolm Macdonald, Roy and Barrie Tomlinson

Arsenal striker Malcolm Macdonald, Roy and Barrie Tomlinson

Real Roy of the Rovers Stuff!

It’s over twenty years since I stopped being responsible for editing Roy of the Rovers but there is still a big connection between Roy and myself. I’m flattered that people still contact me when they went to talk about real Roy of the Rovers stuff. For example, when Leicester City won the Premier League, people were saying it was like something out of Roy of the Rovers comic.

I was interviewed on Radio 5 Live, by Adrian Chiles and I told him that Leicester’s success was too much, even for a Roy story. I said that if we had run such a story in the comic, the readers would not have believed it and that if I’d had a script submitted to me, with such a plot, I would have rejected it, as being too far-fetched.

The interview reaffirmed to me that there is still a massive interest in Roy and his Rovers and it confirmed my decision, taken about a year ago, to write the Roy story, was a good one.

An original page of art from Tiger & Hurricane 1967 featuring Roy of the Rovers and Melchester Rovers overcoming adversity on the pitch.

An original page of art from Tiger & Hurricane 1967 featuring Roy of the Rovers and Melchester Rovers overcoming adversity on the pitch.

There have been other books written about Roy but I felt I was in a unique position to tell the full story of how we made Roy a superstar. To tell the true story and detail all those people who helped make Roy such a success. I knew the first editor, Derek Birnage and worked with writers Frank Pepper and Tom Tully and artists Joe Colquhoun, David Sque and Michael White. I think I know who thought up the name ‘Roy of the Rovers’. The answer is in the book!

A panel of Roy of the Rovers in action by David Sque, running onto a pass from Blackie Gray! Roy of the Rovers © Egmont UK

A panel of Roy of the Rovers in action by David Sque, running onto a pass from Blackie Gray! Roy of the Rovers © Egmont UK

The publishers of the book, Pitch Publishing, have a high reputation in the world of sports books and I am delighted people at Pitch were already fans of Roy, before I even submitted the book idea to them.

Roy of the Rovers cover - 6th November 1976I joined Tiger, which featured Roy of the Rovers, in the mid 1960s and worked as a sub editor under editor David Gregory and later became editor, when David went off to edit Shoot.
I launched Roy of the Rovers as a separate title in 1976 and became group editor of Tiger and Roy, with Paul Gettens editing Tiger and Ian Vosper editing Roy of the Rovers.

As group editor, I was able to concentrate on creating PR opportunities for Roy which added to his fame and popularity. I worked closely with author Tom Tully, in writing the PR events into the story. I was proud to be part of Roy’s life until the early 1990s.

The book tells how Roy became possibly the first comics hero to get married and to become a father. Each event in Roy’s life produced massive coverage on TV, radio and in the newspapers. That publicity did not happen by accident: the PR campaigns were well thought out and the media was always on the look out for new ways to feature Roy’s life and they always welcomed my press releases as a relief from all the serious news of the day.

Roy’s involvement with famous celebrities was always a good news story and my book tells how I persuaded Morecambe and Wise, Geoffrey Boycott, Sir Alf Ramsey, Malcolm Macdonald and many, many more to feature in the story or feature pages of Roy of the Rovers. I even got HRH The Duke of Edinburgh to write for the comic!

Barrie Tomlinson today

Barrie Tomlinson today

In the book, you can also find out, in Sir Alf Ramsey’s own words, why Roy Race wasn’t selected for the victorious 1966 World Cup squad.

As well as words, the book also contains many photographs, historic evidence of how Roy mixed with various England managers, as well as the big names of sport and show business.

Yes, the Roy of the Rovers adventure was something special. For 30 years I was Roy’s best friend as well as his editor and group editor. I hope people will buy the book to enjoy the adventure with me. It really is Roy of the Rovers stuff!

Barrie Tomlinson

• Follow Barrie Tomlinson on Twitter @BarrieEditor1

Real Roy of the Rovers Stuff  is on sale from all good bookshops from 3rd October 2016

• Pitch Publishing is online at www.pitchpublishing.co.uk

Roy of the Rovers © Rebellion

About John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative" who is currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 25 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary, including DEATH'S HEAD II and WARHEADS. At Marvel he wrote strips for THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS, THUNDERCATS, DOCTOR WHO and co-created SHADOW RIDERS with Brian Williamson and Ross Dearsley. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. He has written comics for Marvel UK, Judge Dredd Megazine, Lucky Bag Comic, CGL (an Italian publisher), STRIP Magazine and ROK Comics; and edited some of Titan's British comics collections including Dan Dare and Charley's War. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.
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