Introducing… Football Comic. It’s A Comic. About Football.
As long-term readers of this site will already be well aware, we have long published the cartoons of our artist-in-residence, Ed Carter, on this site. Indeed, one of them, a faux -Bayeux tapestry match report depicting France’s elimination from the 2010 World Cup finals, remains by a long way the most-viewed piece ever to appear on these pages. So when approached me at the start of the summer and said, “Ian, I’ve envisaged a football comic (the name of which, Football Comic, is the only part of this project that I view as being completely non-negotiable) as being an adjunct to Roy of the Rovers but dealing with subjects that Roy didn’t touch upon but that football supporters pore over,” who was I to deny him his dream? So here is Ed to explain what on earth is going on.
In the beginning there was a boy and the challenge was to find something else to keep him entertained because otherwise he’d go blind. The obvious choice was to find the boy something to read but back in the day, there were only three options: The Bible, Mein Kampf and comics. Plenty of analysis has been given to the boys who chose either of the former, but the majority of boys were happier to settle with the latter option, which formed an important foundation of many an unremarkable childhood.
Boys then, as now, were fundamentally interested in three things: war, mischief and football, so it were these subjects which formed the basis of their weekly comic fix. But they were simpler times and we were simpler people. When things start to get more complex or sophisticated, one of the first victims is imagination. Children a generation ago would happily accept that Sir Alf Ramsey would take on the challenge of managing a football club whose player-coach was in a coma having been shot by a vengeful actor.
Today’s youngsters would now be among the first to whip out their iPhones and point out everything that was wrong with THAT. It’s no real coincidence that the venerable old Roy of the Rovers died off at around the same time that the icy grip of the Premier League started to really take hold. There’s no real scope for imagination there, either. Or romance. Or even basic shreds of hope. Even the most ardent Liverpool-supporting child of today would give you short shrift – and possibly a Lee Dixon-style tactical breakdown – if you were to ask them if their team could defeat all before them in the coming season.
Back in the day when all kinds of teams went into each season in the knowledge they might actually win things other than just television money was always going to be the golden age for the football comic. But I think they are still missed. Missed by me, certainly. Looking back at them now, they seem to be an antidote to a modern game that has moved on to be every bit as alien and predictable as their cartoon counterparts’ stories ever were, but without the same drama, narrative tension or basic humanity.
They were a world where fundamentally the same squad could compete at the top of the game for thirty seasons without a single player losing an ounce of ability or a yard of pace, let alone any hair. Where a man in his sixties would score 70 goals a season without you, or anyone else, really noticing. Where a 15-year old boy who lived with his strangely maternal “aunt” could rise to be the best player in Europe or where an obese, bespectacled hospital orderly could play like Michel Platini. Indeed, with a bit of luck – finding an enchanted pair of football boots in the attic here, a preternatural ability at Subbuteo there – the star could be a very ordinary schoolboy just like you or me.
That’s what Football Comic is looking to bring back. Days when football wasn’t all about transfer fees or haircuts or tattoos or famous wives or on-field racist horseplay. But as well as all the triumphs , trophies, comebacks and wins against the odds, we hope to try and get something else in there too. The teams who finish resolutely mid-table and might as well not have bothered. The man who spends an entire 90 minutes trying to retrieve a dropped glove, or pie, or child. The player who has been on the books of your team for twelve years but has only made three first-team appearances (two as substitute). Fat players, skinny players and players who are dreadful. Players who won’t play on Catholic holidays. Managers who can’t park their car.
These are the little pieces of colour, history and crushing inevitability which make following the sport truly rewarding but that Sky and BT Sport would rather were have hushed up. Maybe, in decades to come, people will refer to something that happens on the field of dreams as “real Football Comic stuff”. They almost certainly won’t, of course, but it’s that sense of inevitable defeat and plugging on regardless for another season that makes us all football supporters in the first place. Football “consumers” won’t like it at all.
The first episode of Football Comic will be produced by Ed Carter, David Squires, Simon Coxall, David Stubbs and Kevin Beeley and will go on sale as a download at the end of September. You can find out more about it at its own website, which will be keeping an updated a blog section featuring work from those involved and a lot more from this evening on. We are all very excited about it. Please buy it, and make it worth our time and effort.
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