Catching Up with Roy of the Rovers artist Barrie Mitchell

A mystery British football comic that never happened, which caught the eye of downthetubes contributor Richard Sheaf last month, prompted me to drop Roy of the Rovers and Look-In artist Barrie Mitchell a line and ask him about it, which, as these things do, turned into a smashing chat on the phone – only to discover that even in his 80s and battling some health issues, he’s still working.

Alice Where Are You? By Anne Holley, illustrated by Barrie Mitchell
Alice Where Are You? By Anne Holley, illustrated by Barrie Mitchell

Determined to keep busy, a chance meeting at a local club on the Isle of Wight led Barrie to provide all the illustrations for Alice, Where Are You?, a book released last year by first time author Anne Holley in aid of local charity, Ability Dogs 4 Young People. The organisation does amazing work training dogs to help any person under the age of 30 on the Isle of Wight who are physically or mentally handicapped, giving them independence and the ability to lead a more normal life most of us all take for granted.

The real-life star of Anne’s book, Alice Where Are You illustrated by Barrie Mitchell
The real-life star of Anne’s book!

“My book is really for any age group about the pranks that a little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can get up to,” Anne told me in follow-up correspondence, “especially when she goes to live with four border collies. She is the narrator, all the collies have voices with their own personalities. Every ‘happening’ is for real with a little ‘poetic licence ‘.

“Little people enjoy looking at the marvellous drawings that Barrie has done for me,” Anne reveals. “Some like to colour the pictures, onto older children reading the story. Adults that are dog lovers also enjoy my book as they can relate to their own mischievous dogs.”

Alice, Where Are You? is sold through the charity’s shops, with profits of sales going to raise funds for their work. Priced £8, you can also order a copy by mail order – find out how by dropping the charity a line via their web site. An audio book version is also in development.

Finding out about this book featuring Barrie’s illustrations was a bit of a bonus from our chat, but the talented artist, whose work encompasses action, adventure, girls and sports comics also gave me a bit of background on the mystery UEFA Euro ’96 Comic featured in on the cover of Comics International #67 (dated April 1996), which Richard Sheaf recently highlighted on his Boys Adventure Comics Blog.

(As well as his work on Roy of the Rovers, Look-In and the Daily Mirror newspaper strip Scorer, Barrie is created strips for DC Thomson’s Tiger rival, Scoop, drawing three strips for the title in its early days – “Stark”, “Speed Kings” and “This Goalie’s Got Guts” (originally “Leiper the Keeper” in the very first issue, and other strips such as “Superstar” one of Barrie’s favourite strips).

Comics International #67 (dated April 1996)

Inside, a news item revealed publisher Mike Dellios planned a pan-European sports comic and an officially licensed UEFA Euro ’96 Comic was only the start, which would have been welcome news to football comic fans who might still have been mourning the cancellation of Roy of the Rovers a year earlier.

Comics International #67 (dated April 1996) - Euro 96 Feature

Sadly, the project, which Barrie recalls would have included reprint sports strips previously published by both DC Thomson and Fleetway Editions, never went ahead. Barrie has no record of creating new work for Mike Dellios, and he’s unsure if anything was actually published.

“I may have a copy of the magazine, but if there is, it must be all reprinted artwork as I do not remember drawing any pages for him,” Barrie tells me.

If you have any information about this project, do let use know – we’d love to know what happened to it!

Check out the Roy of the Rovers “Best of” collections on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

Lew Stringer takes a look back at SCOOP here on his Blimey! blog

Cartophillic has details of many of the free football-related gifts given away in SCOOP and other DC Thomson comics here

Categories: Art and Illustration, Books, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Other Worlds

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