The recent release of longtime comics editor and writer Barrie Tomlinson‘s book Real Roy of the Rovers Stuff (Barrie himself talks about that project here, and Ian Wheeler’s review is here) made us wonder what other Roy of the Rovers books are out there for the collector.
2000AD publisher Rebellion has hinted they have major plans for Roy, the football ace first created for Tiger back in 1954 they now own after accquiring him from Egmont UK. (The character is one of the few Fleetway Editions characters that became part of Egmont’s portfolio in the mid 1990s when ownership was agreed as part of a wider rights agreement between them and IPC, now TimeUK).
But until we find out what those plans are, while eBay or amazon.co.uk are probably your first ports of call for old Tiger and Roy of the Rovers annuals and holiday specials you can still easily, for example, track down the excellent Titan Books collections: Roy of the Rovers – The 1970s; Roy of the Rovers – World Cup Special; Roy of the Rovers – The 1980s; The Bumper Book of Roy of the Rovers, and The Second Bumper Book of Roy of the Rovers.
These offer an extensive selection of stories from different eras of the character’s long comics career.
But like the annuals and holiday specials, they’re quite well-known, so we’re going to gloss over those, and instead draw your attention to these titles…
There have been a few “autobiographies” of this popular fictional comics character, including…
Roy of the Rovers: The Unauthorised Biography
Mick Collin’s effort from Aurum Press, published in 2008, was the first non-illustrated book about the hugely popular comic book hero which sparked thousands of boyhood fantasies.
Designed with a comic strip opening each chapter, the text takes the reader through Roy’s many incarnations and gets the inside stories from the editors, illustrators and story creators who worked on the comic through the years. It also has memories and contributions from sports celebrities involved in the comic, such as Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker.
Roy: The Official Autobiography of Roy of the Rovers
Published in 2014 by Century this is “the greatest story ever told by the world’s most beloved sportsman, Roy of the Rovers, in his own words for the first time.”
Find out more about five terrifying kidnappings that threatened to blight his playing career; the stomach-churning murder attempt in 1980, which left Roy in a life-threatening coma; the sickening car bomb attack that tragically killed eight of Roy’s team-mates while on a pre-season tour of Basran; the devastation of losing his wife, former Melchester club secretary Penny Laine, who died in a car accident that brought Roy closer than ever to quitting the game he loved.
And finally the horrific helicopter crash in 1993 that resulted in the amputation of Roy’s legendary left foot, bringing the curtain down on his sensational, game-clinching, goal scoring exploits.
“Candid, emotional, optimistic, and never nothing less than inspiring, the autobiography of the man all fans of the game know simply as Roy Race aka ‘Roy of the Rovers’ lays bare for the first time the truth behind soccer’s ultimate fairy-tale story,” the publishers informed.
Roy: The Official Autobiography of Roy of the Rovers was then reprinted in paperback by Arrow in 2015 (ISBN 978-0-09-959866-4).
• Read a Daily Telegraph interview with Roy Race to promote the book, published in 2014
Roy of the Rovers: The Playing Years, published in 1994, isn’t an autobiography but it does offer a complete chronological overview of Melchester Rovers’ seasons from 1951-52 up until 1992-3.This 200-plus page A4 sized volume features a huge amount of content and is well worth getting hold of if you’re a fan of the character.
Be warned, it always seems to be quite expensive – we can only assume it sold well at the time.
Barrie Tomlinson’s recently -released Real Roy of the Rovers Stuff, telling the real-world story behind the creation of the football legend, complements this rather nicely.
Roy also rubs shoulders with a number of other comic heroes in Football’s Comic Book Heroes by Adam Riches with Tim Parker and Robert Sandland. Published by Mainstream, published in 2009, it’s a celebration of the football comic genre and the many legendary characters they produced.
The Quiz Books
There was a time when Mirror Books (an offshoot of the Mirror newspaper) published quiz books, and the first Roy of the Rovers Football Quiz Book was published in 1978 (above, featuring a foreword by comedian Eric Morecambe), followed by another the following year. Both were edited by longtime Roy of the Rovers editor Barrie Tomlinson.
Like its predecessor volume the Football Quizbook 1979 – 1980 has some reprint art in it and (unsurprisingly) lots of questions about football, as well as a foreword by Trevor Francis.
The format must have been a success because Roy of the Rovers wasn’t the only comic character to front a quiz book around this time. Published in 1980, the 2000AD Space Quiz Book was compiled by Roy Preston.
The first non-comics Roy of the Rovers tale, published by New English Library, was released in 1977. Written by James Hart, and simply called Roy Of the Rovers, the story revolved around Melchester’s bid for the European Cup Winners’ Cup, hampered by acidental team injuries and deliberate sabotage.
Two paperback storybooks were also produced in 1993 by World International Publishing, both written by comic strip writers: The Shoot-Out by Scott Goodall and Come on You Reds! by Tom Tully (who was by far the longest-serving writer on the ROTR strip).
Ravette Books also published two Roy of the Rovers paperbacks in 1993; Melchester Magic, a collection of eight shirt stories and Eastern Promise, a direct sequel to the first collection that sees Roy Race takes the Melchester Rovers Youth Football Team on a visit to Japan, for a soccer tournament. How does Roy end up playing, what surprises do the Melchester stars face and who wins the tournament?
Two Roy of the Rovers Colouring Books were produced by Egmont Books in 1993.
As well as books, Roy has featured in a couple of comic book reprints.
The short-lived Egmont Classic Comics reprints first appeared in 2009 and this collection (01/04/09 – 23/06-09) launched the line, which like the others was only on sale through WHSmiths, included a number of sports-related strips as well as “Roy of the Rovers” – “Billy’s Boots”, “The Hard Man”, “Mighty Mouse” and a few more.
Egmont followed up the comics line with several collections, a Classic Comics web site in 2013 (now defunct), Facebook and Twitter presence.
This magazine from the “All About…” series (cover dated 16/06/10 – 13/07/10) again this didn’t just include Roy of the Rovers strips either; Melchester’s finest was joined for this special by “Andy Steel – Playmaker” and “Goalmouth”.
The Today newspaper ran from 1986 to 1995 and included Roy of the Rovers stories drawn by Kim Raymond in early editions, some at least collected in the Roy of the Rovers Collection No. 1.
Roy himself advertised the Today stories in his own comic on 19th April 1986. At that time they were appearing in the Today newspaper on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
The Pink Floyd Super All-Action Official Music Programme for Boys and Girls, the Pink Floyd 1974 tour programme, contained a quartet of comic strips, each based on one of the band members. The strip featuring Roger Waters was entitled ‘Rog of the Rovers’… Steve Holland has more on this project here on Bear Alley.
In mid 2012, Egmont launched its digital Classic Comics imprint with four iBooks collecting some classic Roy of the Rovers stories. A fifth volume followed in November 2012, which we reported here. None of these iBooks are currently available.
WARNING Collectors of Roy of the Rovers should be aware that digital collections of the strip often offered as DVDs on eBay are pirated scans.
Roy of the Rovers Merchandise
Over the years, particularly from the 1980s onwards, a whole range of Roy of the Rovers memorabilia has been released, including pocket watches, an alarm clock, waste paper bins, tooth paste holders, mugs, records and Corgi vans. There has also been more football specific memorabilia as well including Subbuteo extensions (released in the 1980s, the first two only available through the comic), board games, computer games, figurines, football boots and football shirts.
In 1990, Roy Race and Gary Lineker even teamed up to produce a record called ‘Europe United’ (1992 mix) (Let’s work together), written by Colin Jarman, who documents the experience here. “Europe United” – a hot rocking heavy metal rap taking a stand against hooliganism – featured Gary Lineker and Roy on vocals and Roy on lead guitar. It was a double A side with the “Roy Of the Rovers Rap” featuring MC Wade Locket on the flip side. There’s more about this project on the Football and Music site here
Alongside the launch of Roy’s digital collections in 2012, as well as its own publishing, Egmont also licensed a new range of Roy of the Rovers-related merchandise, including Blow Football, Table Football, wallet and keyring, sold only by Marks and Spencer.
TOFFS produced a range of replica Meclchester Rovers shirts in recent years, but these are no longer available.
The Roy of the Rovers Timeline
1954 – First appearance of Roy of the Rovers in Tiger (cover dated 11th September)
1960 – The Melchester Rovers team disappeared when their aircraft was shot by rebel forces in a South American civil war
1964 – The squad is kidnapped near Bogota and has to escape on horseback
1968 – Roy Race breaks the club’s 30-year club record with his 300th goal
1976 – Roy of the Rovers starts up as a separate comic with the first edition released on 25th September. It runs for 853 issues, until 20th March 1993
1978 – Race stands in as England manager for a friendly with Holland after the national team boss is injured in a car crash
1981 – Roy is gunned down in his office by a mystery assassin. It later turns out to be a disgruntled actor who played him on TV
Early 1980s – Roy’s wife Penny leaves him, in a storyline covered by national news
1985 – Former stars Bob Wilson and Emlyn Hughes come out of retirement to play for Melchester. Martin Kemp and Steve Norman, of the pop group Spandau Ballet, join the board in the same year. Eight members of the Melchester team are killed in a bungled act of terrorism in war-torn Basran.
1992 – Roy sensationally quits Melchester on Sky Sports
1993 – Re-launches as a monthly comic with grittier storylines aimed at teenage readers. Roy’s playing days are ended after nearly 40 years when he loses control of his helicopter and crashes into a field
1997 – Final home for the comic is Match of the Day magazine – until 2001
2010 – The Daily Mail describes Steven Gerard as a modern Roy and commissions special art to illustrate their story
2011 – Roy of the Rovers… at the Manchester derby! Sportsmail brings back the comic book hero in a specially commissioned story
2012 – Roy of the Rovers archive launched for iPad
2016 – Rebellion buys Roy of the Rovers from Egmont, along with the rest of its Fleetway “classic” characters
Melchester Trophy Cabinet
Division One Champions – 1931, 1932, 1933, 1951, 1958, 1960, 1963, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1980, 1988, 1992
Division One Play-Off Winners – 1998
Division Two Champions – 1903, 1982
FA Cup – 1907, 1934, 1937, 1938, 1947, 1953, 1959, 1961, 1966, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1984, 1990, 1999
League Cup – 1974, 1986, 1987
European Cup – 1964, 1969, 1973
European Cup Winners’ Cup – 1967, 1971, 1975, 1985
UEFA Cup – 1979
• This article was in part first published in episodic form on the Boys’ Adventure Blog and content from those articles by Richard Sheaf is reproduced here with permission
• The official Roy of the Rovers web site run by Mark Hunt remains offline (but there’s an archive of its early incarnation here) and the character’s official Facebook page hasn’t been updated since February 2014!
• There’s a terrific guide to the Melchester Rovers kit here by John Devlin, published in 2009
Roy of the Rovers TM and © Rebellion Publishing Ltd.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.