Roy of the Rovers, the quintessential comic strip football hero, started out as the lead strip in Tiger in 1953, got his own title in 1976, and also starred in his own newspaper strip.
Tiger was launched by editor Derek Birnage in September 1953, with "Roy of the Rovers", created by writer Frank S. Pepper and artist Joe Colquhoun, on the cover. Young Roy Race was spotted by a scout from Melchester Rovers in the First Division, and as the series progressed, Roy progressed through the youth and reserve teams, until he made his first team debut, and scored twice, in August 1955. Pepper wrote the first four episodes, after which Colquhoun took over the writing duties, credited as Stewart Colwyn, and continued as writer-artist until February 1959, as Roy and Melchester went on to ever greater success, winning the League and FA Cup multiple times and getting picked for England.
Editor Derek Birnage took over writing the strip, and Paul Trevillion drawing it, in 1959. In 1964 the strip lost its permanent place on the cover of Tiger, alternating with other strips. Colquhoun returned as artist from 1965 to 67, when Yvonne Hutton replaced him, drawing it until autumn 1975, when she handed it over to David Sque. Tom Tully contributed occasional scripts from 1969, and became the regular writer in 1974, with occasional scripts being written by Scott Goodall. In 1970 Tiger introduced a second strip, "Roy Race's Schooldays". In 1975 Roy became Rovers' player-manager, and at the end of the 1975-76 season he married the club secretary, Penny Laine.
Roy of the Rovers weekly
Roy of the Rovers the weekly comic, edited by Barrie Tomlinson, was launched in September 1976, with Tully writing and Sque drawing the lead strip. Hutton returned to drawing Roy's strip in Tiger until it ended in 1978. Rovers were relegated in 1981, and Penny left Roy. In a plotline lifted from the TV soap Dallas, Roy was shot in 1982. He transferred to Walford Rovers in 1983, but returned to Melchester within the year. In 1986 Mike White took over as artist, and eight members of the team were killed in a coach crash in the Middle East. Barrie Mitchell drew the strip from 1992 until Roy lost a foot in a helicopter crash in 1993, retired from playing, and the comic ceased publishing for six months.
It absorbed Hot-Shot in 1989. Other strips in the weekly included:
- "The Apprentices" (1983-84)
- "Billy's Boots" (1985-92, written by Fred Baker anddrawn by John Gillatt, Mike Western, formerly in Scorcher, Tiger, Valiant and Eagle)
- "Buster's Ghost" (Tom Tully and Francisco Solano Lopez, 1992-93)
- "The Boy Who Hated Football" (1979-80)
- "Cheat" (1992-93, B. Williams and Mike White)
- "The Chocolate Bar Kid" (1988, written by Gil Page)
- "City" (1987-88, drawn by Yvonne Hutton)
- "Cup Final" (1986-87)
- "Dan Harker's War" (hooliganism story by John Wagner and Alan Grant, 1985)
- "Dexter's Dozen" (85-86, Barrie Tomlinson and Mike White)
- "Dream Keeper" (1993, Ian Rimmer and Mike White)
- "Durrell's Palace" (1981-85, Fred Baker and Yvonne Hutton)
- "Family Fortune" (1989-93, imported from Hot-Shot)
- "The Football" (1976-78)
- "Football Family Robinson" (1978-79, written by Tom Tully, drawn by Joe Colquhoun, John Gillatt, Sandy James)
- "The Footballer Who Wouldn't Stay Dead" (1980-82 drawn by Tony Harding )
- "Future Ball" (1992-93, Colin Jarman and Mike Dorey)
- "Goalkeeper" (1983-90, Gil Page and Osvaldo Torta)
- "Goalmouth" (1990-92, Tom Tully and John Cooper)
- "Hammersmith F.C." (1991-92, written by B. Williams, drawn by Francisco Solano Lopez, John Cooper)
- "The Hard Man" (1976-85, Barrie Tomlinson and Doug Moxted)
- "Hot Shot Hamish" (1985-93, Fred Baker and Julio Schiaffino)
- "Jimmy" (1988-89)
- "Johnny Cougar" (wrestling strip, formerly in Tiger
- "Kevin's Chance" (1986-87, drawn by Yvonne Hutton)
- "The Kid from Argentina" (1979-81)
- "The Legend"
- "Magic Man (1989)
- "The Marks Brothers" (1980-83, drawn by Barrie Mitchell)
- "Mighty Mouse" (1979-83, Fred Baker and Julio Schiaffino)
- "Mike's Mini Men" (1976-80, written by Ian Vosper)
- "Mi££ionaire Villa" (1976-77, written by Paul Gettens)
- "Nipper" (1986, formerly in Score 'n' Roar and Scorcher, Tom Tully and Francisco Solano Lopez)
- "The Partners" (1987-88)
- "Playmaker" (1989-92, Gil Page and Barrie Mitchell)
- "Project 917" (1985-86, written by Ian Vosper)
- "Racey's Rocket" (stock-car racing strip, 1984-85)
- "The Safest Hands in Soccer" (1977-82, Gil Page and Osvaldo Torta)
- "Scazza (1991?, Dave King and Ian Ellery)
- "Simon's Secret" (1977-79, written by Fred Baker)
- "Smith and Son" (1976-78, 84, written by Paul Gettens)
- "The Son of Racey" (1989-90)
- "Space Invader" (1982-83)
- "Terrible Twins" (1988-89, drawn by Yvonne Hutton)
- "Tipped for the Top" (1978-79)
- "Tommy's Troubles" (1976-86, written by Fred Baker)
- "United" (1992)
- "Waynes Wolves" (1985-86, drawn by Yvonne Hutton)
- "The Wheelchair Wonder" (1982-83, written by Gil Page)
- "Who is Arrow?" (1983)
- "You are the Star" (1976-77)
Roy of the Rovers monthly
It was relaunched as a monthly later in the year, with Roy Race junior, aka "Rocky", as the new hero, drawn by a variety of artists, including David Jukes, Sean Longcroft, Garry Marshall and Simon Fraser, but was cancelled in 1995.
Newspapers and magazines
Roy also appeared in a short-lived daily strip in Today in 1986, drawn by Kim Raymond, and a longer-lived one in the Daily Star, which was drawn by Yvonne Hutton until her death at the end of 1991, and by Mike Western for four years after that.
The BBC's Match of the Day magazine ran a Roy of the Rovers strip, written by Ian Rimmer, from 1997-2001. Since the monthly comic had closed, Rovers had been relegated and were close to bankruptcy, Rocky was playing for a rival team, and hated his father because of a mysterious car crash in which his mother had died. Roy rejoined Rovers as manager, was reconciled with Rocky, and got the team back into the Premiership. When the magazine closed, Rovers were closing in on a Champions League place that would save their finances.
- Mike Gent, Roy of the Rovers, Down the Tubes