Comic book heroes were a part of growing up for most boys back in the day. I’m sure OldnDazed readers will remember all these characters with affection…
Most of us grew up reading comics. We all had our favourites. Action comics like Tiger and Warlord for boys and story led comics like Bunty and Judy for girls. The sexes met with Dandy and Beano.
Whichever comics we read we had our heroes. The characters whose adventures we would also look forward to. The hero whose story we always read first.
Here’s my personal list of favourite characters. My own top 10 British comic book heroes.
Who else could be number one? Roy of the Rovers was every young boy’s hero. We all wanted to be Roy. Not only a brilliant footballer but an all round good egg. A true inspiration to his legions of fans.
I couldn’t wait for Saturday morning when dad would bring the comics home. Victor, Warlord, and Battle they were all tossed aside. It was Tiger and Roy Race I always wanted to read first.
Of course Roy had his own comic from the early seventies but I think I’m right in saying that he still pitched up in Tiger now and again.
Depending on their age comic book fans will know two different Roy Races. The one I idolised and will mostly talk about is the clean cut Melchester and England striker who was the best striker in the world.
The other Roy, who I’m guessing surfaced sometime in the nineties, was an altogether different character. One whose story became every more ridiculous. But we’ll come to that.
Back to the Roy Race I knew and loved.
He had first appeared in Tiger in 1954. He was also the cover star of the very first Tiger annual published in 1957.
Roy Race was a striker for Melchester Rovers. The club he would lead to league and European glory. He later became player-manager and then manager after hanging up his boots.
Roy also played for England. Bizarrely the stories about his England adventurers often featured real-life players.
But it was in Melchester where most of the action took place. Roy scored goals by the bucket load. And on the odd occasion another Melchester player got on the score sheet it was Roy who provided the assist.
But there were some titanic battles against the likes of Blackport, Portdean and Carford City. I remember hating Portdean with a passion.
But Melborough were the big rivals from across the city. Though I didn’t realise this for years.
Roy’s goals inspired Melchester to win plenty of trophies. Including nine league titles. They also won many FA Cups, a few League Cups, three European Cups (Champions League for younger readers) and other European trophies.
And he did it all without being a twat. Above all else Roy was a sportsman.
Towards the end of my comic reading days Roy had acquired some of the trappings of a superstar player. He had a flash sports car and had married Penny who was the club secretary.
Penny left him. This made the national newspapers believe it or not. He just survived an assignation attempt which left him in a coma. He then fell out with the board at Melchester Rovers and went to manage a rival club.
He returned to Melchester only to narrowly escape death once more. A terrorist bomb killed eight Melchester players but Roy survived with minor injuries.
In 1993 the weekly Roy of the Rovers comic ended on cliff hanger with Roy involved in a helicopter crash on the way to his final game as a player. The comic then re-launched as a monthly magazine.
Its first issue revealed Roy had lost his foot in the accident. He then took himself off to manage an Italian club. Madness.
Melchester Rovers were facing relegation and bankruptcy when Roy was tempted back to save them. Which he did of course.
Unfortunately the ridiculous storylines kept coming thick and fast. Penny was killed in a car crash and Roy’s son Rocky had fallen out with his father. Rocky returned to play for Melchester just before the shutters finally came down on Roy of the Rovers with Melchester once again poised for European glory.
Although I’ve been scathing of the more recent stories Roy of the Rovers will always be my favourite comic book character. Although he should have bowed out in the seventies.
But Roy is making a comeback. Yes another one. Read more here.
The Tough of the Track. Alf was a runner. He was also a working class hero.
‘Hard as nails’ is the usual description of Alf. But strong as a welded joint would be more apt.
Alf was a welder in Greystone. An industrial town as dreary as it sounds. He worked long hours. Was always skint and ate fish and chips. Always out of a newspaper.
He didn’t have proper kit. Or even decent spikes. But he was a phenomenal runner. Alf would tackle any distance. A mile, 10,000 metres or even cross-country. Alf Tupper was up for the challenge.
He briefly ran for his local club Greystone Harriers. But mostly as an independent.
Alf was always the underdog. The pretty posh boys he ran against despised him. As did the toffs from the Amateur Athletics Association.
The posh boys always had the best kit. And they would do anything to beat the working class oik. Alf was often spiked or pushed during races. Or stopped getting to the start line by all kinds of dirty tricks.
But Alf Tupper wasn’t the Tough of the Track for nothing. He would always get to the race. Sometimes just as the starting gun was fired. Often having already ran for miles to get to the track. Or having rescued a damsel in distress. But he would usually win.
“I’ve ran him,” he would yell as he broke the tape. More often than not in a photo finish.
Alf Tupper first appeared in The Rover in 1949. But I remember him from the Victor. He kept running in British comics for forty years. He has since popped up in a running magazine and even came out of retirement for the Barcelona Olympics.
I loved the Tough of the Track stories in Victor. The art was dark and atmospheric. Pete Sutherland was the artist who drew Alf Tupper’s adventures.
Alf lived with his Aunt Meg in a rundown house in Greystone. His aunt was an old bag who took most of his wages. Only pennies were left for his meals and running.
He didn’t have any decent kit. And if he couldn’t afford fish and chips he would eat bread and margarine.
He didn’t have it easy but was a natural athlete. Though the Greystone Harriers threw him out. He had made a mortal enemy of Bob Richards. The toffee-nosed club secretary did everything he could to sabotage Alf’s career.
But the Tough of the Track always came through in the end. Winning races and breaking records Alf Tupper was a winner. He was also a working class lad beating the odds. And the toffs in a sport which, at the time, was seen as exclusively for them.
Alf Tupper is definitely one of the most popular British comic book heroes for those of us who remember reading his adventures when we were kids.
Charley’s War. Far better judges than I have called it the best ever comic strip. It’s hard to argue.
Writer Pat Mills and artist Joe Colquhoun were an amazing team. Mills wrote a story described as the best fictionalised account of the First World War. Colquhoun’s art brought it to grim and horrifying life.
This was a violent, insightful, and almost academic review of an awful war. Published in a comic for boys.
As a boy and then a teenager I absolutely loved Charley’s War. Firstly it was a rollicking good adventure set in a period rarely portrayed in the war films I was so fond of.
Secondly it taught me so much. About the horrors and futility of that war. How the common soldiers on both sides suffered. And how class drove society and the army. A class system which was so unfair and unjust.
It introduced periods of history I knew nothing about. How the war shifted and changed. I’d never heard of the White Russians. Nor how hundreds of British soldiers had fought in the Russian Civil War.
The storytelling was superb. The artwork incredible. If you want to know what a tank looked like in the First World War or the kit the soldiers wore take a look at Colquhoun’s work. The accuracy and attention to detail is amazing.
Much of the underlying story passed me by as a kid. But I would recommend anyone to re-read them if they can.
The Charley’s War strip covered the whole of the First World War and the Russian Civil War. Less satisfyingly it went into the Second World War but another writer had taken over by then.
Charley’s War ran until 1985 when Mills quit before finishing the story.
Rather than ending the story the publishers brought in another writer. But it lost its edge.
Dunkirk was its swansong.
In just four pages a week Charley Bourne battled his way through the mud and gore of the Western Front. Charley was an underage volunteer. But the Battle of the Somme was his baptism of fire. The story followed Charley through bitter trench warfare and harrowing street battles.
Charley was a young Londoner and brave as they come. He was loyal to his mates and grew into a man who wouldn’t stand for bullying or injustice. Which meant he often clashed with officers. Often portrayed as befuddled fools from the upper classes officers were a natural target for Charlie.
Charley had the company of some regular characters as he made it through the war. His sergeant Old Bill Tozer also survived the carnage.
A typically bullish NCO Old Bill was a hard drinker who took care of his boys. He and Charley later fought together in the Russian Civil War.
Charley’s best mate was Ginger Jones. A hapless soldier Ginger kept everyone’s spirits up with his jokes.
But Pat Mills never shied away from the horrors of war. And Gingers death led to one of the most powerful scenes in the story.
Clutching a sack Charley stumbled through the trenches. In the sack was all that was left of his best pal.
Another popular character was Lieutenant Thomas. One of the few officers who treated his men well. He was the polar opposite of Captain D’Arcy Snell who took over after Thomas’s death. Snell saw his men as cannon fodder and was the worst of his class.
Charley Bourne and his adventures were really much too good for a boy’s comic. They deserved a wider audience. If you never had chance to read the original stories or just want to revisit old memories the books are still available on Amazon.
Well this guy was different. In a comic world ruled by soldier boy heroes, dead shot strikers and pesky schoolkids the appearance of Dredd was like a nuclear bomb going off. Needless to say the death dealing Justice from Mega-City One rocked more than a few teenage boys’ worlds. And their fathers too.
I would only read 2000AD for a couple of years but it was long enough to make Dredd one of my favourite characters. But whether you read the comic or not you couldn’t avoid Dredd. He was all over the place. And still is.
He must be the most successful British comic book character ever. Newspaper strips, magazines, books, board games and even a pinball machine. And of course there were two movies. Though the less said about the first one the better.
But franchises and Hollywood glitz were way over the horizon when Dredd first appeared. The first issue of 2000AD hit the streets in 1977. Without Judge Dredd. But he was in the second. And has been a permanent fixture ever since.
Joe Dredd was a street judge. I think it was his ability to instantly dispense justice which really appealed to me. No second chances, no bleeding heart judges and no community service. No mercy.
Dredd and his fellow judges chased down offenders. The judges convicted, sentenced, and executed criminals. On the spot.
Dredd’s amazing ‘lawgiver’ gun simply blew the guilty away. He also had plenty of other firepower. He carried a knife, daystick and enough explosives to blow up half the city.
He rode around the streets on his ‘Lawmaster’ motorcycle. The bike was equipped with a canon and machine guns.
Judge Dredd had everything he needed to patrol the streets on Mega City One.
The story lines were always hard hitting and the art superb. Dredd of course never revealed his face – a mistake made in the first movie.
He was tough and uncompromising. Dredd even arrested and jailed his corrupt brother Rico. Eventually killing him when Rico got out of prison looking for revenge.
Dredd and his brother were clones. A genetic scientist created them from the DNA of Chief Judge Fargo.
The brothers went to the Academy of Law together. Rico graduated top of his class with Joe second. But Rico cross to the dark side of the street falling foul of his brother’s zeal for law and order.
Dredd has fought and executed countless villains and saved Mega City One from destruction on several occasions.
Unusually for comic book characters Dredd has aged in real time. He’s now in his sixties but has undergone ‘regeneration treatment’ to keep him sharp.
I don’t see much of Dredd now. But I do have a few 2000AD annuals which I dust off now and again. But there are rumours of a TV series. I’ll definitely be watching that. In the meantime there are plenty of graphic novels to keep all Dredd fans happy.
Another of my all-time comic book heroes.
Ah, Billy Dane. What a guy. He was an underdog many of us could identify with.
Hopeless at football Billy found a pair of old football boots. They once belonged to Dead Shot Keen. The boots transformed Billy from a Fifth Division Sunday League footballer into Ronaldo.
Billy was probably around 12 years old. And he stayed that age throughout his career.
His greatest moments came when he played for Groundwood School and he even went on to play for England Schools.
Billy was only ever any good when he wore Dead Shot’s old boots. To inject some drama into the story the boots would often go missing. Thankfully Billy would always recover them just in time to score a match winning hat trick.
Even the end of the football season couldn’t stop Billy. Dead Shot Keen had also been a cricketer. Naturally enough Billy found Dead Shot’s old cricket boots.
Billy soon became a great cricketer too.
Despite never aging Billy certainly got around. Like many great characters he first appeared* in Scorcher (1970) but was also in Tiger and Valiant. But he made his name in Roy of the Rovers.
*An earlier version of Billy had appeared in Tiger in the sixties.
6Hot Shot Hamish
Hamish really captured my imagination. Hot Shot was always going to be a favourite. Scottish football fascinated me at the time.
The giant from The Hebrides had the hardest shot in the world. He would regularly break the net. Hapless goalkeepers who got in the way sometimes accompanied the ball as well.
Hamish played for unfashionable Princess Park. His shirt wouldn’t stretch over his Hebridean frame so he looked a fearsome sight on the pitch.
But Hamish was a bit of a softie really and had a pet sheep called McMutton.
Such was his prowess Hamish eventually won a call up to the Scottish national side.
Hot Shot left Tiger when it merged with Roy of the Rovers in 1985. Kevin ‘Mighty’ Mouse joined him at Princess Park when the two strips combined.
The duo moved to Glengow Rangers in the 1990s but I had long since abandoned them.
7Lord Peter Flint
James Bond and the elusive Pimpernel rolled into one. Lord Peter Flint had a stiff upper lip, extraordinary skills and was absolutely fearless.
He was outwardly a war dodging cowardly cad. A conscientious objector . But away from the public gaze he spent his time behind enemy lines on death defying missions. He was the ultimate special agent.
Lord Peter Flint was code-name Warlord.
He was of course the main character in the Warlord comic. And Lord Peter more often than not featured on the cover.
His main enemy was Karl Schaft, a German Abwehr agent. Flint and Schaft clashed all over the world. The German was just as honourable as Flint so there were plenty of gentlemanly duels. Though both always somehow walked away.
In one memorable encounter in Zombailiand (don’t ask) the two gentleman spies fought a duel. Schaft was armed with a machine gun. Flint with a short spear. Flint triumphed of course. Though Schaft lived to fight another day with only a shoulder wound.
Flint’s other great enemy was Adolf Gruber. Unlike Karl Schaft Gruber was a typical Nazi. Gruber was a Gestapo agent and a complete cad. Gruber had a limp and I’m pretty sure he was the inspiration for the Herr Flick in ‘Allo ‘Allo.
Needless to say, despite his lack of manners, Gruber was no match for Flint.
Flint appeared in Warlord for its full run of over 600 issues. The comic and Warlord ceased operations in the mid-eighties.
Apparently Flint made a comeback as the leader of a team of superheroes in the digital edition of the Dandy. I’ve no idea if that’s right but the digital Dandy didn’t last long.
But Flint will doubtless be fondly remembered by plenty of OldnDazed readers.
8Union Jack Jackson
UJJ was the cover star of the first ever issue of Warlord in 1974. But he had actually been around since 1957 when he appeared in Hotspur.
Jack Jackson was a Royal Marine Commando. While serving in the Pacific the Japanese sank his ship. US Marines rescued him. He was the sole survivor. He then joined their unit fighting the Japs for the rest of the war.
He got his nickname for obvious reasons. Including a Union Jack painted on the front of his helmet.
I loved this character. Probably because I was hooked on American war movies at the time.
To parachute a Brit into the US army really appealed to me. And UJJ was a typical Royal Marine. Brave, a hell of a fighter and a cool head who usually had to rein in the hot-headed Marines he served with.
Union Jack’s American close friends were Sgt. Lonnigan and Marine O’Bannion. O’Bannion is a typical Irish-American. Brash, larger than life and a prolific gum chewer.
Lonnigan was the tough cigar smoking sergeant who unusually for a Yank was calm under fire.
Union Jack and his buddies were often in conflict with other American units. Other Yanks always doubted the ‘Limey.’ But UJJ always won them around. Usually after he had saved their bacon.
Union Jack Jackson starred in Warlord from the first issue to the last. I always think of him storming into action with his Lee Enfield rifle held across his chest.
I’m not sure where his adventures left him after I finished with comics at the end of the seventies. But I’m amazed I haven’t seen him on the big screen yet.
Union Jack Jackson the Movie anyone?
Good old Winker. Although The Dandy wasn’t one of my all-time favourite comics, I loved the adventures of Winker Watson.
Winker has come in for some abuse over the years. Those cads at Viz even parodied him. Wanker Watson indeed. Is nothing sacred?
Winker made his dandy debut in the early sixties. So we kind of grew up together. A public schoolboy at Greytowers Boarding School Winker was a pupil in the third form.
I loved the way Winker wangled his way out of things. Despite Mr Creep’s best efforts Winker always got out of his homework or unpleasant tasks.
Creepy was Winkers teacher in Form 3. The class he stayed in throughout his schooldays.
It wasn’t only Mr Creep Winker had to use his wits against. Beastly older boys would often pick on him and his best chum Trotty. But Winker always got the better of them.
I seem to remember Winker was particularly fond of sausages. And stories would often end with the school cook – imaginatively called Cookie – tricked out of a slap up supper of sausages by Winker and his chums.
Surprisingly old Mr Creep never whacked Winker Watson. Or if he did I can’t recall it.
Remember I’m talking about the sixties and seventies. Comics regularly featured caning. Look at poor Dennis the Menace for example.
Winker’s adventures were different to most other stories in the Dandy. They were long running sagas told over several weeks.
But Winker was also a stalwart of the Dandy Annuals. And I believe he still appears in the yearly book.
Do kids still ask for their favourite annuals at Christmas?
10Jimmy of City and Jack of United
You can’t have one without the other. The Chelsey brothers were equally talented. Jimmy was a free scoring striker. Jack was an uncompromising defender. The problem was they played for different teams in the same town. Deadly rivals Castleburn United and Castleburn City.
Their story began in Scorcher in 1973 and ended in Tiger when the comic giant fell by the wayside in the mid-eighties. Later on they appeared in Roy of the Rovers annuals.
Jimmy and Jack played in a trial match at Castleburn United. Jack was a success and impressed the watching United manager who quickly offered him a deal.
Jimmy wasn’t so lucky. Given the hook at half time he was disconsolate.
But fortune favours the brave and Jimmy joined in a game of park football on his way home. He smashed in seven goals and, as luck would have it, caught the eye of an interested spectator. He was Ian Clark the manager of Castleburn City. Who quickly snapped Jimmy up for his club.
It was at this point that the story split and became two separate comic strips. But they ran in parallel.
Jimmy of City was always at the front of the comic and Jack of United at the back. And never the twain shall meet.
Actually they did. Quite often. City and United were in the same division after all and the cup had the uncanny knack of drawing them together as well. So the lads weren’t strangers to each other.
The two stories running together was unique. And made things even more interesting.
Apart from that the stories followed the usual formula of the brothers being the heroes in just about every match. Jimmy scored a hat-trick every other week and even Jack scored more goals than most strikers.
The brothers made their debuts in the same match. A City v United derby. It ended in a hard fought 1-1 draw. And I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you who scored the goals.
City won the return 3-2 with Jimmy cracking in two. But Jack and United got their revenge in the cup with a 4-3 win. Naturally Jack scored the winner.
Eventually the brothers ended up at the same club though I can’t remember if Jimmy left City or Jack quit United. In any event the story became a single strip called ‘Jack and Jimmy.’
In a little twist younger brother Clive also joined his brothers before the comic gods decided the adventure had gone on for far too long.
So there you go. That’s my top 10 British comic book heroes. I’m sure you’ve got your own list. Let me know in the comments below. Or tell me your own memories of the heroes I’ve listed above.