Working under the title of The Best Of Roy Of The Rovers: The 1980s, you could be forgiven for thinking that Titan Books’ 208-page tome would give you a flavour of the strips that followed Britain’s finest footballer across that decade.
Only that isn’t what happens. Instead, a wiser decision has been made somewhere along the line to present roughly nearly two years’ worth of consecutive Roy Of The Rovers comic strips, culled from the comic of the same name. Thus, instead of having to dig out individual comics on eBay to catch up on two pages of the trials and tribulations of Melchester Rovers each time, you get them all brought together in one book. This is a good thing.
And to say that it proved to be an eventual time in the chronicles of Roy Race and Melchester Rovers would be an understatement. We have the Rovers’ impending relegation from the then-first division. We have Roy’s wife leaving him, and taking the kids with her. There’s a run in with the father of Kenny Logan over his son’s decision to play for the mighty Rovers, the selling of two key players to rivals Melboro’, and perhaps the biggest mystery ever to appear in the comic: who shot Roy Race? Yep, in the middle of everything else, a proper whodunit emerges, as Racey is gunned down, with five possible suspects. It’s hardly Dallas, but it’s good stuff nonetheless.
The strips in the book were written by Tom Tully, and drawn by David Sque, and while the writing is as dramatic and labyrinthine as anything that Roy Of The Rovers would offer again, the art is very much of its time (and certainly suffers in contrast to the comparably lavish work of the early 90s). It’s not helped that the reproduction quality is lacking, either. Titan was clearly working from whatever materials it could find when putting all of these strips together, and that does account for the variable production quality from page to page.
In addition to the strips themselves, the book is opened by a dry foreword from Gary Lineker (although his statements that Roy Race never got booked or questioned a ref’s decision are soon proved incorrect), and a more interesting behind the scenes page from yesteryear that looked at putting the Roy Of The Rovers story together. Should Titan produce more Roy Of The Rovers books, it’d be great if it could dig up more material such as this.
And here’s hoping they do. Because for £9.99, The Best Of Roy Of The Rovers is a fun trip down memory lane, and is really good fun to read. It also harks back to a day when British kids’ comics had character and styles all of their own, rather than ruthlessly tying into what Cbeebies is showing at the time. That alone would make it worth consideration, but the quality of the strips themselves is what earns those four stars.
The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1980s is out now.