Tiger and Scorcher, 1st March 1975

It’s time to pick out a random issue of a comic and look at it again!

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My flash doesn’t like coloured ink on newsprint

Tiger started in 1954, and was the second of three “big cat” comics. The other two were Lion and the short-lived Jag (which merged into Tiger). Those were both general adventure comics, but Tiger had a sports theme. in 1955 Tiger absorbed the sport themed story paper Champion, which had been running since the 20’s and was one of the few Amalgamated Press / IPC publications to come through the war.

Scorcher was a football comic which began in 1970, alongside Score ‘n Roar (a “two in one” football comic). These merged in 1971 to create Scorcher and Score, which unusually retained it’s merged title right up until 1974, when it merged with Tiger to become Tiger and Scorcher.

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A kid who uses magic boots to play professional-quality football despite being talentless is in no place to talk about “sporting”!

Sport comics of the time often had a “splash” cover with one big picture, but it was still part of one of the stories inside, and was rotated. This issue it’s the turn of Billy’s Boots to take the cover. Billy Dane is a schoolboy who can’t play football, but discovers a pair of boots that once belonged to “dead-shot” Keen, a famous international. When he wears them he can play as well as “dead-shot” could, making him the best player at his school. Of course, the boots went missing on a regular basis. Here some bullies plot to steal them at half time.

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Those were the days for F1!

Skid Solo is probably the most famous British motor racing comic, which isn’t saying much! He was a driver in top-level single-seat Grand Prix cars. Of course jealous rival teams regularly sabotaged them, or the teams other equipment. Here an arrogant Argentine driver wants to force the British one in his team out of their one remaining car.

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Here’s a typical quiz page. How is your knowledge of 70’s sport?

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You’d think the artist would have got better at drawing Mini’s over time

In full colour is Martin’s Marvellous Mini, a long-running story about a couple of guys travelling around and entering races for prize money, which they can use to fund their next trip. Here they are racing against other Minis, but in other stories you get to see some great 70’s cars like Ford Capris. One other issue features a “relay race” in which they buy a Hillman Imp to use as a second car.

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More text on one of these pages than an entire Doctor Who Adventures!

Next is a special article for footballers, written by world cup legend Jack Charlton. Not every issue had an article like this, I’m surprised it wasn’t announced on the cover!

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Look up “legendary British comics” and you’ll see this picture!

And speaking of football, here’s probably the most famous football strip of all time! Roy of the Rovers was already over 20 years old at this point, and wasn’t slowing down! The following year he would get a football-filled comic all to himself (Taking Billy’s Boots and Nipper with him). Even today, commentators describe amazing comebacks as “Roy of the Rovers stuff”.

And facing it, an advert for issue 1 of another legendary comic, Battle Picture Weekly (later Battle, then Battle Action… then Battle Action Force, but we don’t like to talk about that). This was IPC’s response to DC Thomson’s Warlord, which began the previous year. Battle would go on to host Charley’s War, Darkie’s Mob, Major Eazy, Johnny Red, The Bootneck Boy and many other famous strips.

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Quick Wiki research shows they got to the FA Cup 3rd round, and 13th in the First Division

On the centre pages, a football team pin-up. These would also migrate to Roy of the Rovers before long. No doubt other issues of Tiger featured rugby or motor racing teams.

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And I thought my own “A Sting in the Tail” was the first Speedway strip

Popular fiction has it that the first successful female character in a British boy’s comic was Halo Jones. The truth has it that Tallon of the Track, about Jo Tallon, manager of a speedway team, ran in Tiger for many years through the 70’s and 80’s. Of course she may have been written out of history because she managed a speedway team – all those horrible, polluting motor vehicles! Also in this story the team are on tour in the Soviet Union, though the politics are not really mentioned.

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Great artwork in this

The popularity of professional wrestling rises and falls like a yo-yo (or like the popularity of yo-yo’s). In the mid 70’s TV was full of British professional wrestling, with stars like Big Daddy and, erm, no, can’t think of any others. Of course, this also spilled over into comics in the form of Johnny Cougar, the redskin wrestler. This is another story that runs and runs through the issues I have. He seems to do a lot of touring around America, taking on various wrestlers and their crooked promoters. This is “legit” wrestling, rather than the pre-written “kayfabe” stuff!

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And I thought the Phoenix Fanfare was disappointing for kids, they make their own 10 page epic and all that gets into the comic is the cropped, unreadbly-tiny first page! Here the whole editorial section is only half a page. The editor here talks about references to Roy of the Rovers in football commentary. Perhaps we ought to start ‘promoting’ modern British comics in a similar way… not that you see too many pirates riding on dinosaurs around.

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 Nice Wolsely Hornet there

Hot-shot Hamish is a comedy Scottish footballer who remained with Tiger into the 80’s, when most of the others had defected to Roy of the Rovers. He plays for Princes Park, and usually shoots so hard the ball and the goalkeeper go tearing through the back of the net! Here his friend has won a bet, and they go to collect, the loser thinks they want to take his house, so starts firing at them with cannons. This whole scene wouldn’t have looked out of place in Captain Hurricane!

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These sorts of caricatures always look awkward.

The usual factual strip, this one about the history and successes of Aston Villa.

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Willy Wonty Superstar is the only ‘proper’ comedy strip in the comic. Readers would send in suggested storyline ideas, and the one used would receive £3. Here Willy and his “manager” have to try and score goals against each other.

Facing the strip is an advert for Look and Learn, a factual magazine featuring incredible paintings which are still being re-used in books today. This advert announces it’s merger with another magazine called World of Wonder. The most famous thing about Look and Learn (and the only reason kids bought it) was of course the “Roman”/sci-fi epic The Trigan Empire. This remains fondly remembered, and can be re-bought in hideously expensive hardback volumes. Rumours of a Hollywood film version continue to rumble on…

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 Distinctive, gritty artwork for this one. It would have suited a horror story!

Nipper was yet another football strip, this time about a back street lad working his way into top-flight football. Here he has been selected for the England under-23 team against Italy, and can do nothing right in the eyes of a snob in the team – not even when he scores!

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And the back cover sports star photo. This page also takes suggestions from readers, but only pays out £1 if theirs is used. I suspect the editors already had a list of pictures they were going to use, and awarded the prizes to anybody who was lucky enough to choose from the list. I doubt they specially ran around looking for the stars!

Roy Race gets tough on hooligans

With the “recent” (well recent by the standards of how often I update this thing) riots in Britain I thought this might be timely, I was going through a big pile of comics I got the other week and discovered an issue of Roy of the Rovers from 1980 dealing with “the British disease” of football hooligans. The days of mass brawls on the terraces (in fact, the days of terraces full stop!) are so long gone it’s kind of hard to believe they ever existed… showing things can improve! But when this comic came out hooliganism was at it’s height and people must have wondered if things were ever going to get better.

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Roy race, as well as being the star of the main story in the comic, was also it’s “editor”.

A full page has been given over to an editorial “by” Roy Race, who for the purposes of the comic “really” existed! He even mentions how his own club, Melchester Rovers, is tackling the hooligan problem. Many of the measures mentioned were being adopted by real teams, and the FA in general – for instance creating all-seater grounds (at the time only one existed in Britain), encouraging the whole family to come and watch the game and banning people convicted of violence. There’s also several harsher suggestions including locking hooligans in their own fenced-off section, and even concentration camps(!)

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Boers, Hooligans… same thing!

Another feature of the comic in those days was Roy’s Talk In. There was a phone number that readers could ring and “actually” talk to Roy Race! (or at least a bewildered temp at IPC who has been thrust into a room with a phone and the odd back issue of the comic). Here it’s given a two-page spread with various suggestions recieved from people.

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But wait, what’s that down the bottom?

Down the bottom of the page is a picture of a stadium that was to become one of the most infamous names in British football – Hillsborough. Various anti-hooligan measures such as fencing-in the crowds resulted in a fatal crush in 1989 when Liverpool fans crammed into one area of the stadium, and several suffocated. This disaster was also initially blamed on hooligans, with one ambulance driver being told “They’re still fighting” when he tried to drive in. It was this disaster that was the final nail in the coffin for the terraces.

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 Several of the suggestions made on this pages did end up being put in place over the years.

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The fences didn’t work but the “identity cards” did, in that various ways are in place to keep convicted hooligans out of future matches.

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Five years later English clubs were in fact banned from European competitions because of hooliganism. They were not allowed back until 1990!

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Unfortunately Sheffield Wednesday didn’t keep the standing areas closed off. It’s a difficult balancing act between people kicking off outside because they can’t get in and risking violence inside. The balance has thankfully been achieved with a tough “no ticket – no entry, so don’t bother coming!” policy.

Apart from the all-seater stadiums, better crowd control, ticket allocations and CCTV, one of other main reasons that hooliganism died out was that it was made unfashionable. Once hooligans were treated with a “boys will be boys” attitude, but nowadays anybody boasting about starting a fight among decent football fans will find themselves in Coventry pretty quickly! I bet “Roy” didn’t see that coming despite jokingly suggesting it.

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One place hooligans aren’t mentioned in this issue is the Roy of the Rover strip itself! That features Roy trying to get hold of a new goalkeeper. However the manager of the other team wants a whole two million for his best custodian, which is way too much!

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“The curse of inflation, Roy!”

Hooligans had featured in the strip before though, in 1977…

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Almost doubled in price in 3 years! Now that is inflation.

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“Sixty thousand people didn’t pay to watch you lot running around the pitch!”

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“Some day Titan will reprint my first year in the team as a collected book. Get that down in writing, officer!”

Murder in Melchester!

Everybody remembers where they were when they heard Roy Race had been shot. For instance i distinctly remember not being born yet.

But who remembers the other high profile attempted murder case from that “large, old fashioned town” located “about sixty miles from London“? The attempted murder of the chemist Leonard Jardine by the town’s respected doctor Edward Sharlaw? This case, as it developed in 1928, caused no end of sensation in the newspapers of Amalgamated Press Land. After an investigation by the famous detective Sexton Blake the doctor was cleared of the charge, as the chemist had been injured by accident and confessed all after the doctor’s son, himself a spinal expert, saved his life.

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Despite the naming coincidence, i’d say it’s pretty unlikely that anybody involved in Roy of the Rovers, despite the fact it was published by IPC which was a descendant of AP, had ever read this story. It’s just one of those things… (also it seems fairly likely that the Melchester of Roy of the Rovers is supposed to be a lot further north).