Happy New Year from Score ‘n’ Roar star “Nipper”, who lives on – in Croatia! (and football comics are on the ‘keepy up’, too)

Happy New Year 2018, from NIpper

2018 has begun with a a reminder from 2000AD publisher Rebellion that Roy of the Rovers, one of the major British comic characters they now own, is returning (as we reported last September). But Roy isn’t the only football comic character enjoying new life beyond his original run. Nipper – star of the 1970s football weekly Score ‘n’ Roar – is still ‘alive” and kicking – in Croatia!

First appearing in the short-lived football comic Score ‘n’ Roar, drawn by Francisco Solano Lopez, Nipper Lawrence was an impoverished young footballer, trying to turn pro with Blackport Rovers in order to earn enough money to help him clear the name of his dead father who had been unjustly accused of being a criminal.

"Nipper" - Sample Strip 01

"Nipper" - Sample Strip 02

"Nipper" - Sample Strip 03
A typical episode of “Nipper”, drawn by Francisco Solano Lopez © Rebellion Publishing Ltd
Early issues of Score 'n' Roar lead with photo covers, but later issues, such as this one cover dated 13th March 1973, went with a strip lead - too late to save it, however, from merger with Scorcher
Early issues of Score ‘n’ Roar lead with photo covers, but later issues, such as this one cover dated 13th March 1973, went with a strip lead – too late to save it, however, from merger with Scorcher

Score ‘n’ Roar emulated the format of the successful Whizzer & Chips “two comics in one” format with an inbuilt rivalry provided by brothers, ‘Jack of United’ and ‘Jimmy of City’, who played for opposing teams – and in rival halves of the comic. The title lasted just 41 issues, but along with “Lord Rumsey’s Rovers” and “jack and Jimmy”, “Nipper” went on to feature in the better-selling Scorcher and then Tiger for some years.

“Nipper” was written by, among others, Tom Tully (who also wrote “Roy of the Rovers”, with some strips drawn by Lancashire-based Charles Roylance, who’s perhaps best known for drawing Valiant‘s “Captain Hurricane”.

“His chippy temper and – in later episodes – his little dog Stumpy, whom Nipper saved from drowning, were part of [Nipper’s] endearing character, but I think what really made this story a classic was the work of the first artist to work on it, Solano Lopez,” feels David Moloney, who wrote about the launch issue of Score ‘n’ Roar over on Great News For All Readers.

“Lopez was Argentinian but there’s something gloriously British – almost Victorian – about the dirty, smoggy, Midlands estuary town of Blackport that provides the backdrop to Nipper’s hard-knock life on the streets. This first instalment of Nipper’s story – which would carry him into the pages of ScorcherTiger and (in 1980s reprints) Roy of the Rovers – is a joy to read, and one of the few non-2000AD strips that I’m not sure I could ever tire of reading.”

Well, if you can read Croatian, David, then publisher Non Stop has collected al his adventures in several volumes in chronological order, and very handsome they look, too.

Their first Nipper collection was published back in 2014, a project inspired by publisher Dražen Ivanić’s interest in the character, which like may others was published locally back in translation – but he was curious to know how the Nipper story ended, since only 800 pages were published in Croatia back in 1978, and the character’s adventures continued until 1983 in the UK.

Head over to their web site – www.stripnonstop.hr – for more details with Google translate powered up on your browser!

Meanwhile, while football comics may have had higher sales in the UK back in the 1960s and 70s, interest in bringing the game to the page certainly hasn’t abated, and from personal experience when we began offering a digital version of Roy of the Rovers to mobiles back in 2008, mainstream media simply loves the much-loved character.

Daily strip Striker continues unabashed, read by millions every day in The Sun, and we recently reviewed Campfire’s football story, The Beautiful Game, written by Jason Quinn with art by Lalit Kumar Sharma and Jagdish Kumar.

Last year, Blink Publishing released F2 Galaxy of Football: Attack of the Football Cyborgs, and utterly bonkers time travel SF-meets-football tale, written by Dan Watters and Alex Paknadel with striking art from Amrit Birdi. However, it’s a title credited to, and stars, Billy Wingrove and Jeremy Lynch, better known as the YouTube sensation The F2, launched after they’d already released two back-to-back best selling books.

Featuring cameos from some of the world’s best footballers – Pele, Steven Gerrard, Cristiano Ronaldo (and his granddaughter from the future, Julia Ronaldo!). In Attack of the Killer Cyborgs, the evil Galaxico aliens steal the game of football from planet Earth, and it’s up to Jez and Billy (and the help of their trusty time machine) to assemble the greatest team to have ever played the beautiful game in the hope of stealing it back! From the 1958 World Cup Final, to the year 3000, the F2 travel through time and call upon some of heroes of footballs past, present and future to help in their quest to reinstate the joys of playing the game.

Yep – I told you it was bonkers! But it is great fun, so why not check it out… and Attack of the Football Cyborgs certainly isn’t madder than some other football strips I’ve read down the years – including “Nipper”!

Nipper Volume One 1970 - 1972 - Cover

Nipper Volume Two 1972 - 1974 - Cover

Nipper Volume Three 1974 - 1976 - Cover

Nipper Volume Four 1976 - 1978 - Cover

Nipper Volume Five 1978 - 1980 - Cover

Nipper Volume Six 1980 - 1983 - Cover

Nipper © Rebellion Publishing

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as a freelance editor, as Creative Consultant on the new Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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