Author and journalist Richard Clarke has interviewed former Tiger editor Barrie Tomlinson for his SportsContentStrategy Podcast, offering a wide ranging insight into the development of Roy of the Rovers across several decades.
Barrie worked with Roy of the Rovers as a sub-editor, editor and group editor from 1969 through to 1989, before circumstances saw him move on to other work, including the creation of the long-running “Scorer” strip for the Daily Mirror.
As Barrie noted himself earlier this year for Football Pink, he was in charge of all Roy’s activities on and off the football pitch. During his time, Roy had got married, become a father and been shot. He had also won numerous cups, become player-manager and had (shock, horror!) been transferred to Walford Rovers. The latter only very briefly!
“Barrie played a major part in my childhood,” notes Richard, author of Last-Wicket Stand and a longtime sports consultant. “As editor of Tiger & Scorcher and Roy of the Rovers, he was in charge of the two comics that dominated my reading before I went to secondary school. At their height, these publications sold 300,000 copies per week in the UK and enjoyed guest writers including the England manager and Duke of Edinburgh.”
While Barrie’s success as a shrewd editor with a canny eye for a PR opportunity came decades before digital media, in this podcast, Tomlinson provides useful lessons in content strategy, character development, the importance of feedback, editorial control versus commercialisation, being prepared to ‘kill your darlings’ and much, much more.
The wide-ranging Podcast offers an insight into the production of weekly British comics from the 1960s onwards, covering changes in the printing process and the editing system Barrie learnt and employed throughout his career; and changing Tiger to an all-sports comic and increasing the features, and getting big-name celebrities involved.
Barrie also talks about how The Duke of Edinburgh helped to launch Roy of the Rovers comic, keeping storylines fresh, the challenging rise of television that competed for reader attention, the importance of reader feedback, sending in their two favourite stories (and about the time of Roy of the Rovers feedback phone-line broke down; publicity ‘stunts’, the importance of schools roadshows and get-togethers, and the importance of the ‘parent buy’.
Offering an insight into Roy’s history, too, including the change of tone with Roy of the Rovers, entering the off-field arena and the problems in football in the 1980s and how Roy Race handle them, this episode of Richard’s SportsContentStrategy Podcast is definitely a must for anyone curious about both the history of British mainstream comics, and will be a trip down memory lane for Roy of the Rovers fans, including the story behind the shooting of Roy Race – a tale involving Sir Alf Ramsey, a 14-0 win and the noise of the crowd.
The Podcast offers a fascinating insight into the career of a writer and editor who freely admits he had “no skills whatsoever” when he answered an advert that read “Beginner wanted for children’s comics”.
It also covers the development “Scorer” in the Mirror, and a mention for Dan Dare, the Mekon and Big Daddy at the Waldorf Hotel, the reputation of comics then and now, the revival of Roy of the Rovers by Rebellion – and Barrie’s legacy, and how he would like to be remembered.
Roy of the Rovers copyright Rebellion Publishing Ltd