Roy Race is a fictional British comic book footballer who first appeared in “Roy of the Rovers” in 1954. The comic strip was published in Tiger, a boy’s comic book until 1976, when it was transferred to its own new comic owned by IPC and Fleetway. The new Roy of the Rovers comic ran until 1993, when it was canceled after more than 850 issues.However, a retooled version in a monthly format was launched in that same year and ended in 1995. A new version of the story was revitalized in 1997 in Match of the Day and ran until May 2001. This story cast Roy in the role of the coach with the star player being his son, Roy Junior.
Roy Race was created by author Frank S. Pepper (1910-1988) and artist Joe Colquhoun (1926-1987). Colquhoun took over writing as well after four issues when Pepper departed due to other writing commitments. At the time of Roy’s inception, sports comics were extremely popular amongst young boy. To appeal to their target audience, Roy was originally depicted as a young boy during his initial debut. Throughout “Roy of the Rovers’” long run, Roy grew up with his audience rather than remain the same age (as was common in other comic strips). As a result, Roy could participate in more mature plots in his later years.
Roy Race was the star player of the Melchester Rovers, a fictional team in the comic’s universe. He is most well known as having a famous “rocket” left boot and an honest disposition. After playing on his team for many years, he lost his foot during a helicopter crash that was written into his comic in 1993.
“Roy of the Rovers” was a cross between a soap opera, sports event, and action comic. Though there was never any violence (besides Roy getting his leg amputated), the action of the sports game was plenty thrilling for young readers, as was the story arch featuring an assassination attempt on Roy’s life. In addition to the sports, the comic also followed his personal life, as he married Penny and had children. At one point the family even attend a royal wedding.
A typical “Roy of the Rovers” comic would take place on the field and tackle real-life issues at the same time. The negative changes that occur when a person achieves fame was a common theme in the comic. The writers also explored the concept of football violence many times (both from the fans and the players), but in almost every instance Roy remained honest and an example of what an ideal footballer should look like. To mix things up, the team (or just Roy) would sometimes go on vacation to exotic destinations and meet up with other teams. Later issues focused on Roy’s personal life, his family, and then his son’s experience following in his footsteps. Roy Race inspired many young people and was even the subject of a documentary entitled Roy (2009) directed by Luke Dormehl.
— Michael Baker
- Pilcher, Tim, and Brad Brooks. The Essential Guide to World Comics. London: Collins & Brown, 2005.
- Race, Roy. Roy of the Rovers: The Official Autobiography of Roy of the Rovers. London: Random House, 2014.