Screen printer John Patrick Reynolds has some great images on offer from a variety of DC Thomson comic titles, including The Beano, The Dandy and Commando – but we thought we’d highlight his Alf Tupper prints, simply because they’ve left us hankering for fish and chips and it’s almost tea time!
Known affectionately as “The Tough of the Track”, Alf Tupper, first brought to life by artist Pete Sutherland, featured in boys’ comics such as The Rover and The Victor over a forty year period from the 1950s onwards (transferring to the new picture-strip comic when it launched), last appearing regularly in 1992, a demise of the character widely reported in the national media. Typically, he would join a race half a lap late and overcome massive odds before enjoying a last-gasp victory against the snooty upper-class twits from a nearby university.
All of John’s screen prints so far are based on art Pete Sutherland, except for his “Got to keep going” release, which was drawn by Ted Rawlings.
He was a hero to several generations of British middle-distance runners, including Ron Hill, Brendan Foster and Steve Cram and was revived, albeit briefly, by Athletics Weekly for a special appearance in 2014.
Brendan Foster, the European and Commonwealth champion, was also a fan and wrote the foreword for The Best of Alf Tupper collection published by Prion. He told AW last week that if Alf’s race goes well in London this weekend then he is welcome to tackle the Great North Run in September.
Alf may have been from the wrong side of the tracks, but he was on the side of the angels and was indomitable – he embodied the virtues that the British liked to thing they embodied.
And of course he was a working-class hero – the phrase “The Tough of the Track” was a sort of pun, referring to his humble background as much as his gritty determination in competition.
His other signature characteristics were that he worked as a welder and lived under railway arches. He would train by running along the canal towpath.
Each story would involve Alf battling against some kind of iniquity – often at the hands of posher grammar-school boys or public-school boys. They would cheat in some way, which would disadvantage Alf but he would always bounce back and win in the end. The phrase “I run ‘im,” would end many stories.
“I had a subscription to The Victor,” says John. “Most weeks the comic had an Alf Tupper story, which would run for several weeks. Then there would be a gap of a few weeks before the next one started again.
“I was always a bit disappointed if there wasn’t an Alf Tupper story!”
Alf Tupper © DC Thomson Screen prints featured by John Patrick Reynolds
Thanks to Colin Noble for additional artist information