A scene from a "Roy of the Rovers" comic.

Over at my world-famous (ha-ha) blog, I review a hefty hardbound book collecting a long run of soccer comics starring "Hot Shot Hamish," a big palooka from the Hebrides of Scotland.

As I did  a little bit of research for the article (and believe me, I didn't do all that much research) I found only a few comics that focused on the sport of soccer/football.

  • Hot Shot Hamish
  • Mighty Mouse (not our Mighty Mouse, mind you)
  • Nipper
  • Billy's Boots
  • Roy of the Rovers

So, a few questions for the board, what have you read? What was good? Are any of them very good? Any still being published? Care to give your opinions on the lot? How were these published -- in comic books or newspapers or annuals? Are there any modern equivalents?

And a general set of questions to all, what would you want to see in a sports comic? Game action? Jokes? Celebrity player stories? The story an underdog? Behind the scenes in training? Behind the scenes from the "front office"? Stories of team comradery?

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I don't think there's really much out there.

The last great sports comic, in my opinion, was 21, the story of Roberto Clemente. Truth be told, this is far more of a biographical comic than a sports comic.

I used to be big on the idea that they could work when mixed. The more I look at it, though, the more I'm convinced it never truly works. The story becomes far less about the sport and more about the characters. And this is the same in movies. There's nothing wrong with this idea. The fact is that sports in reality are far more about the real-time action than in the people involved in them.

Of course, the stories about the people are far more interesting in a whole other level (see recent stories about the Indiana Pacers to get started), but that's on a whole other track of "entertainment"--one, I would say, that is on a far seedier and darker path of 'human' interest. (And the quotes are because I actually think of it as subhuman.)

But in the form of comics, like movies, it almost has to be about the personalities involved and how they are changed by the game, rather than the thrill of the game itself.

I think that's a huge chunk of what separates the 'entertainment' of fact and the entertainment of fiction.

One of the things I forgot to mention in my review is a neat way the writer helped explain the action.

Rather than have a player  say.... "I've run 100 yards and blown past all the defensemen!" ...  the writer instead has the faceless crowd speak. So instead of the earlier quote, a speech balloon would point to the specks that make up the crowd and say ... "Lookit old Dougie! A 100-yards and he's mowed down every defender!"

And, of course, those are both way better than the omniscient narrator!

Anyway, with the crowd "speaking," it comes across much smoother from a story telling point.

The British soccer comics I remember were written for young boys, and did not hold much interest for me. The biggest star of the genre was probably Roy of the Rovers. Wikipedia's page on him describes football (soccer) comics as one of the British industry's staples: that sounds right to me, although I can't name a long list of features. The page has a link to an article from The Observer called "The 10 best comic book footballers", here.

A comic strip called Striker ran for a couple of decades in The Sun and another called Scorer ran for a couple of decades in the Daily Mirror. You can find information on them here. These had adult content, and the pages have strip samples that require adult content warnings.

Most of the British boys sports features I've run into had adult stars. The exception is "Billy's Boots", which has its own page at Wikipedia. Wikipedia's page on Tiger, one of the comics in which it appeared, lists a number of sports-themed strips. I remember "Johnny Cougar", about a Native American wrester. Four sports features from 2000 AD are described here.

Tammy, the girls' comic my father used to buy for my sister, often had sports-themed serials, but always about school-aged girls, not adults. "Bella at the Bar", about a girl gymnast from a poor background, was one of its staples. I also remember "Temper, Temper, Tina!" (track and field), "Jolly's Hockey Stick" (field hockey), and "Belinda Bookworm" (a swot decides to get good at sports).

I have a couple of volumes of Michel Vaillant, a long-running French series about car racing which at one point appeared in Tintin.

Sports-themed mangas are common: examples I've run into are Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Ultimate Muscle.

Sports-themed American newspaper strips include Joe Palooka (boxing), Big Ben Bolt (boxing), Rusty Riley (horse racing), and Frank Frazetta's short-lived Johnny Comet (car racing; Jeff reviewed a collection here).

...A recent revival , in a comic book , of JOE PALOOKA was mentioned here .

  It was in name only , covering a contemporary MMA fighter Joe Palooka and his gf Ann Howe , and was played more straight-faced/" tough " than Fisher's original . A six-issue mini-series was announced of which I only saw two .

  The strip TANK MACNAMARA deals with a jock-turned-sports reporter . 

Luke Blanchard said:

Most of the British boys sports features I've run into had adult stars. The exception is "Billy's Boots", which has its own page at Wikipedia. Wikipedia's page on Tiger, one of the comics in which it appeared, lists a number of sports-themed strips. I remember "Johnny Cougar", about a Native American wrester. Four sports features from 2000 AD are described here.

Tammy, the girls' comic my father used to buy for my sister, often had sports-themed serials, but always about school-aged girls, not adults. "Bella at the Bar", about a girl gymnast from a poor background, was one of its staples. I also remember "Temper, Temper, Tina!" (track and field), "Jolly's Hockey Stick" (field hockey), and "Belinda Bookworm" (a swot decides to get good at sports).

I have a couple of volumes of Michel Vaillant, a long-running French series about car racing which at one point appeared in Tintin.

Sports-themed mangas are common: examples I've run into are Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Ultimate Muscle.

Sports-themed American newspaper strips include Joe Palooka (boxing), Big Ben Bolt (boxing), Rusty Riley (horse racing), and Frank Frazetta's short-lived Johnny Comet (car racing; Jeff reviewed a collection here).

I remember seeing Roy of the Rovers when I was a kid, and Football Family Robinson, which was about a soccer-playing family.  I also remember a feature about a a guy who found some old stereoptikon (sp?) cards and when he put them into the machine, the players sprang to life and played for him.

I've not read any, but I'm pretty sure there are a few manga offerings out there about soccer.



Randy Jackson said:

I've not read any, but I'm pretty sure there are a few manga offerings out there about soccer.

 

 

I gather one of the more famous ones is CaptainTsubasa, though I've not seen it, myself.

I recall a former student of mine, who I was tutoring at the time, telling me once that he had read an awesome manga series. It really surprised him that it was so awesome because it was about tennis. "Tennis?" I asked.

"Tennis," he said.

It wasn't long after that when I realized that in the manga world, there is a whole genre of just "sports comics". I have never read any of them, but I would have to think that soccer would be one of the featured sports. Being Japanese, I would guess that baseball would be in there as well. (And karate--I may have to look into those...)

I think the idea of telling a story with a sport as a backdrop is quite compelling. You have the main story and the idea of the competition and preparation as a sub-plot.

Not so sure I would be interested in a story that is literally about the progress of a game though.

Confession time: I once had dreams of having a long-form comics series that was about the lives of a team of super-heroes, but was really more about the LIVES of these super-heroes, with the super-heroics as a background to the real story.

In this series, eventually, the "owner" of the super-team (think former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent meets Bill Gates) buys an expansion baseball team.

One of my long-form stories was going to be called "Baseball". It would revolve around a GM who knew two of his players were using steroids, with all kinds of shades of grey in there, but chose not to reveal it. Of course, this backfired as one of them started facing critical medical issues, which leads to media relations, etc.

The second story was about one of the super-team's members, as he volunteered to coach his son's Little League baseball team. (Super-hero by day, Little League coach by night.) In this story, the super-hero realizes that being a super-hero is easier by far than being a coach, as he deals with league commissioner rulings, parent backlash, asshole coaches he has to compete with, etc.

At the chapter breaks, I was going to have real quotes by the likes of Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Sparky Anderson, Whitey Ford, and Al Kaline, along with a black and white picture of them in the middle of the page.

The point being, I totally agree with Lumbering Jack. Sports are a great backdrop to far more human stories. It's not the action of the sport (which is #1 in the sport-follower's book), but the human side (which is a close #2).

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