Everyone has their favourite British comics. Here is my personal top ten which will hopefully bring back some great memories for OldnDazed readers…
I loved comics when I was a kid. Every Saturday morning I would go into the kitchen to see which ones dad had brought home.
Tiger, Lion, Warlord and 2000AD were always there. Others like Roy of the Rovers, Valiant and Battle would also turn up. My comic habit received another boost during the week when big sister Gail would bring home Dandy, Beano and Cor amongst others.
So comics were a massive part of growing up. For me and many other kids I assume. For me the sixties and seventies were the halcyon days of British comics. Naturally enough my favourite comics and characters are all from that period.
I thought I would list my personal top 10 British comics and include a brief review of my favourite characters from each.
Here’s my history of British comics. Or at least my personal top ten.
Top 10 British Comics
Tiger 1954 – 1985
The daddy of them all. Tiger was surely every young lad’s favourite comic?
This was the comic which first introduced Roy of the Rovers. Along with a host of other brilliant sporting comic heroes.
Roy Race was an instant hit and went on to star in his own paper. But well before his comic Roy of the Rovers had his own annual. As did Tiger from 1958.
One of the great things about Tiger was the diversity of characters. It wasn’t just football. Cricket, speedway, wrestling and motor racing all had their heroes in the comic.
In its thirty year lifetime Tiger merged with and absorbed a number of other comics. Hurricane, Jag, and Scorcher all became part of Tiger.
The end finally came in 1985 when some of Tiger’s characters moved onto Eagle.
Roy of the Rovers was my favourite character. No surprise there. But my other Tiger heroes were:
Tallon of the Track
Shock. Horror. A girl in a boy’s comic. In the 1970s. Equal opportunities in comics arrived a lot earlier than in real life.
Jo Tallon was a speedway rider and the star of the Flying Ospreys team.
She hurtled around the cinder tracks beating all-comers. Jo’s presence in the comic was a reflection of how popular speedway was at the time. It’s sad to see the sport in decline now.
Football Family Robinson
So close to making my list of top ten comic heroes.
The Robinson’s were a large family. They had to be. They had their own lower league football team.
If you weren’t a Robinson you couldn’t play for Thatcham United. United were ran by Grandma Robinson. A fearsome old crone you didn’t want to cross. My favourite Robinson was Crash. A goalkeeper who was surely good enough to play for Melchester Rovers.
The Robinson’s greatest achievement came when Thatcham United won the League Cup at Wembley.
I think I’m right in saying Football Family Robinson also appeared in Roy of the Rovers. But I could be wrong.
Martin’s Marvellous Mini and Skid Solo
Two separate comic strips but both great motorsport stories.
Skid Solo was the glamourpuss. He was a formula 1 driver with extraordinary skill.
He had a couple of friends to support him. Sandy McGrath was a mechanic who could fix anything. And in later episodes Sparrow Smith appeared as Skid’s apprentice. He was to become a great driver.
In keeping with the no-nonsense approach of comics at the time things didn’t turn out well for Skid Solo.
Practising for the last Grand Prix of the season Skid was involved in a horrific crash. Horribly burned he battled death.
He would never drive again. The last we saw of Skid was Sandy pushing him away in a wheelchair.
Martin’s Marvellous Mini was an altogether different story.
Martin Baker owned and drove the Mini. Tiny Hill was his mechanic and constant companion. The car was George.
The guys spent most of their time racing against other Minis in rally cross. Though I’m sure I remember one storyline when Martin ended up in a Formula One car. But that may be the memory playing tricks.
Martin’s brilliant driving skills and Tiny’s wizard wrench work ensured the boys were on the winner’s rostrum more often than not.
Roy of the Rovers 1976 – 1993
The mid-seventies saw the debut of Roy of the Rovers in his own comic.
Of course England’s best ever centre forward had been around much longer than that. Roy had been the main man in Tiger since the 1950s. He deserved his own comic.
It had readership made up almost exclusively of boys aged between 11 and 15. Naturally enough the comic focused on football.
Unsurprisingly it featured Roy’s continuing adventures at Melchester Rovers. But there were also plenty of other football heroes in the comic. A fair few of whom are my top ten comic book heroes.
Billy transferred from Scorcher and rivalled golden boy Roy in the popularity stakes.
Billy Dane found a pair of Dead Shot Keen’s old football boots. They turned him from a hopeless playground player into a fearsome striker.
But he was the most careless lad in comictown. He was always losing those boots.
Hot Shot Hamish
Hot Shot Hamish was more of an acquired taste. But as a young lad fascinated by Scottish football this monster of a man with his cannonball right foot was always going to be popular with me. Not so sure about his pet sheep though.
Mike’s Mini Men
I loved this strip. As a massive fan and obsessive player of Subbuteo I eagerly followed Mike’s adventures.
Mike Dailey was a lad with a passion for table football. The game he played was obviously Subbuteo. But Fleetway obviously didn’t want to pay a licensing fee. So table football it was.
Mike played in leagues with his chums and would do anything for a game of table football. This led to some pretty grim encounters with table football hating head boys at his boarding school.
Tommy Barnes had a problem. He loved football but went to a rugby school. I can sympathise having suffered the same fate myself.
But Tommy didn’t let the rugger chaps get him down.
With his pal Ginger Collins he Barnes United. A football club which played on a pitch rented from the council.
This didn’t go down well. Waller and Swate were rugby players who hated football and Tommy in particular. They did everything they could to sabotage Barnes United.
Needless to say the footballers prevailed. They even converted Crowhurst School to football. Take that Waller and Swate.
I only read Roy of the Rovers for a couple of years. Then other more adult interests came along.
But I did occasionally see stories in the media about Roy. Stories which got more and more ridiculous.
Separation from Penny. A gunman shooting Roy. And a terrorist bomb wiping out the Melchester team.
Sometimes it’s better just to remain in the innocent seventies.
Warlord 1974 – 1986
The home of stiff upper lipped British comics heroes. Warlord was a comic unashamedly pushing the glory of war. And boys all over the UK lapped it up.
They had their very own James Bond to identify with. Lord Peter Flint, outwardly a snivelling coward, was actually an all action spy.Killer His codename was Warlord.
Priced at 5p the comic first hit the shelves in 1975. I remember collecting the paper medals they gave away with the first few issues.
Lord Peter is my list of all time comic heroes as is another Warlord stalwart.
Union Jack Jackson
I hadn’t realised but UJJ had actually appeared in Hotspur in the 1960s. Who knew?
Jack Jackson was a Royal Marine who found himself serving with US Marines in the Pacific. The memorable Sergeant Lonnigan and Marine O’Bannion were his companions.
Unusually for comics of the time Warlord included German army heroes. Most comics, notably the Commando stories, portrayed Germans as sausage munchers and Nazis.
But Warlord had at least two stories with Germans as the leading characters.
Kampfgruppe Falken and iron Annie
Both stories were set on the Eastern Front. Presumably so they could kill Russkies instead of Tommies.
Major Falken was a favourite of mine. Put in charge of a penal battalion he was a former tank commander. He led his men on many an adventure firmly putting the Russians in their place whilst also flicking the finger at his Nazi superiors.
In contrast to the mud and trenches on the ground Iron Annie featured pilot Kurt Stahlmann and his Junkers 52 transport plane.
Another flying ace to feature in Warlord was Killer Kane. He fought for the RAF and must have accounted for hundreds of German’s during his war. Across the pond Jake Cassidy was a US Navy pilot who had the Japanese Zero pilots quaking in their boots.
From what I can remember Warlord also carried a lot of features as well as comic strips. Unsurprisingly these were mostly about weapons. I seem to recall learning loads about the Thompson sub-machine gun. Different times.
Warlord merged with Victor in 1986.
Victor 1961 – 1992
The longest running boys adventure comic? Probably.
The Victor was the DC Thomson equivalent to Tiger. It gobbled up other comics. During its long lifetime Victor absorbed Wizard, Hotspur, Scoop, Buddy, Champ and Warlord.
Needless to say the comic has seen dozens of popular characters grace its pages. Including Alf Tupper. The Tough of the Track is probably as popular as Roy of the Rovers. He’s been around longer. The fish and chip eating athlete first appeared in The Rover in 1949.
You can read more about Alf Tupper here.
I remember first reading Victor at the end of the sixties or start of the seventies. I think it cost a couple of pence. The bright red masthead was always easy to spot in the paper shop.
Most of the stories involved Brits giving the Germans a damn good thrashing. One of my favourites was…
The story was based in the First World War and followed Millar right through the conflict. I think he ended up as an officer. Whilst the story was good it wasn’t on the level of Charley’s War which appeared in Battle.
Matt was a bomber pilot who flew a Lancaster. He was a bit of a maverick and thumped a senior officer on more than one occasion. George Bourne was his faithful navigator who followed him around like a love sick puppy. Happily they both made it through the war despite being having many close shaves.
Away from death and carnage on the battlefield Victor also featured sports stories. There was the Tough of the Track of course but also Gorgeous Gus and Crib Carter, Fighter. There was also Morgyn the Mighty but the less said about him the better. Let’s just say Morgyn would not fare well with today’s PC brigade.
But back to Gus and Crib.
He was a strange cove. A rich boy who bought his own football club. Needless to say he played in the team and was rubbish. Apart from his cannonball shot which regularly carried goalies through the back of the net. Shades of Hot Shot Hamish.
Crib Carter, Fighter
To be honest Crib was a bit of a wally. A terrific boxer but also a born cheater. He would scheme and cheat his way to win fights. Even though he could have won anyway.
Needless to say he got his comeuppance in the end. If there was one thing comic editors hated it was a cad. And Crib was certainly one of those.
Commando War Stories 1961 – present
Achtung! Ein Englander. Take that Fritz. Bash the Bosch. It’s the Hun. Banzi. Japs.
Ah Commando stories. Full of jingoism and true Brit heroes. The Bosch were soundly bashed and the mad Japs mown down in the jungle. The Italians spent their war running away as fast as they could.
There was the occasional German hero but they always rebelled against evil Nazi’s. If they had to kill Allied troops you could be sure they would be Russians. They were cannon fodder in Commando’s world.
Each comic book featured a full length story. There were four new titles every month.
I seem to remember they were much more expensive than other British comics.
They were certainly an infrequent treat when I was a kid. Nevertheless I amassed hundreds of the things. A collection binned sometime in my teenage years.
In my forties I took great delight in buying a box full of Commando stories at a car boot sale. I spend many happy hours catching up on the exploits of heroic soldiers, fearless flyers, and salty seadogs. Great stuff.
The comic has been renamed Commando for Action and Adventure. With over 5000 issues it’s still going strong. At two quid a pop I’m not sure how many kids of today will be investing their pocket money.
But you can subscribe to the digital editions for half price. Now there’s progress for you.
Battle Picture Weekly 1975-1988
An all action weekly which spawned one of the best ever British comic book heroes.
Charley’s War saw our hero fighting through the First World War and even the Russian Civil War. A brilliant comic strip I learned so much about military history from it. The stories were brilliant and even touched on the physiological trauma suffered by the soldiers.
Groundbreaking stuff for a boy’s adventure comic.
Battle was very much of its time. Kids of today would blanch at some of the stories. Or at least their parents would. They certainly weren’t for the squeamish.
Charley Bourne was just one of the many great characters in Battle. D-Day Dawson, Johnny Red, Darkies Mob, and The Bootneck Boy were all favourites of mine.
Dawson was a hard-nosed, battle-hardened veteran. A typical comic character of the time; brave, reckless and utterly British he hid a gruesome secret.
He had a bullet lodged near his heart which could kill him at any time. No one else knew and Dawson fought on with the reckless abandon of a man with nothing to lose. Eventually he won the Victoria Cross.
But confession time. I can’t recall what happened to him. Though online research suggests the bullet finally did its job.
Danny Budd was as brave as D-Day Dawson. But he wasn’t in the mould of a typical hero.
A small lad from a ‘tough northern town’ Budd joined the Royal Marines. Known as the Bootneck Boy he spent his time taking on bigger blokes who thought he was a bit of a weed. But he was a fighter.
He probably had small man syndrome.
Like most comic strips of the time there was a message behind the story. The message here was to never give up. Always get back up.
And he did. Every week.
Darkies Mob was one of my favourite Battle stories. Set in the jungles of Burma it was a kind of Dirty Dozen scenario.
Captain Joe Darkie led a ragtag mob of soldiers behind enemy lines. Darkie definitely had a screw loose.
Each week the story revolved around Darkie and his men gunning down Japs. Apart from dying the Japanese soldiers spent most of their time shouting ‘banzi’ as they ran onto Darkies bullets.
I do remember the strip being particularly bloodthirsty.
Johnny Red was a Hurricane pilot who flew in the Russian Air Force blasting the crap out of the Luftwaffe. I liked the story because it was different from the usual fare. Most comic strips were about the army. There were some RAF stories but Johnny Red was in Russia. How cool was that?
They did bring Johnny back at one point to fly for the RAF but I believe he was back in Russia by the time Battle went under.
2000AD 1977 – present
First published just as punk music was taking off 2000AD hit a cord straight away. I’d seen nothing like it. It was ground breaking, exciting and very, very different.
Still going strong today the comic spawned one of the few British comic book heroes to make the transition to the big screen.
Judge Dredd has become a franchise in his own right. And he was destined to be a cult hero from his appearance in the very first 2000AD.
As popular with adults as with kids the comic was an instant success.
Dredd is of course in my top ten comic book characters. But there were so many brilliant stories in 2000AD.
I’ll list a few of my standout characters from the 70s/80s. But I could have included a dozen more.
The writers of the comic really let their imaginations fly and the result was amazing stories backed up by stunning artwork. You really could cut the stories out and stick them on the wall. The drawings were amazing.
2000AD was also a stepping stone for several of its writers and artists. Their work helped them graduate to the major league American comic books.
My personal favourite stories included:
AKA Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter played on my love of American gumshoe detectives. The film noir feel of the strip grabbed me but the stories were brilliant.
Sam was a bounty hunter who hunted down rogue robots. Though he did have a robot of his own. Stogie was a cigar robot and Sam’s constant wise cracking companion.
Robo-Hunter dipped in and out of the comic over the years. Instead of one-off episodes each story was along running affair and real page turners. In common with all 2000AD strips the art was superb.
Strontium Dog Rogue
This story continued the bounty hunter theme. A catastrophic nuclear war saw Britain’s population decimated. The years which followed saw huge numbers of mutants being born because of the effects of Strontium 90. Needless to say the mutants faced persecution from the ‘normals.’
Johnny Alpha was a mutant too. But he became a Strontium Dog. They were a unit of bounty hunters hunting down mutant criminals and renegades.
Johnny was later to lead a mutant uprising and even nipped back in time to kidnap Adolph Hitler and bring him back for trial.
Rogue was brilliant. Literally on a different planet to the army characters I was used to reading in Battle or Warlord.
Rogue had blue skin and was a genetically created super soldier. He was a serious dude. And virtually impossible to kill. Which was handy considering the scrapes he got himself into.
Rogue was on a mission. It was to hunt down a traitor general. The man who caused the annihilation of Rogues regiment. Rogue was the only survivor.
Rogue’s quest took place during the war on Nu-earth between the Norts and Southers. The story featured some great battle scenes from the futuristic war.
Very much a lone wolf, Rogue nevertheless had three constant companions. The biochips on his equipment. Gunnar was on his rifle, Bagman on his pack and Helm on his helmet. All had personalities and had a full role in the stories.
My comic reading days ended in the mid-eighties. But 2000AD. There is also a monthly Judge Dredd comic too.
Scorcher 1971 – 1974
Short, sweet but brilliant. Such was the life of Scorcher. A short-lived comic which was crammed with great football stories.
It lasted only three years. By 1974 it had merged with Tiger. But it soon disappeared off the masthead. A fate met by all other titles absorbed by the titan Tiger.
But while it was a comic in its own right Scorcher produced some enduring characters.
Billy’s Boots and Hot Shot Hamish made their debuts in Scorcher.
Bobby of the Blues
One of my favourit. Bobby Booth played for the brilliantly named Everpool City. Everpool were nicknamed The Blues.
The stories were beautifully drawn. Illustrated in blue they looked great.
In common with most comic book centre forwards Bobby scored around 100 goals a season. And his goals helped Everpool to glory. The won the league and the European Cup. Everpool were one of Melchester Rovers great rivals.
A very different type of story. There were plenty of LOLs with the lags. A story unlike any other at the time.
The lags were a bunch of prisoners banged up in Bankhurst Prison. Willie Smith (Brilliant Genius) was the super-crook behind the team. And a scheme to bust out of the nick.
The plan was to escape during an away match but the lags enjoyed their football too much to let Brilliant Genius go through with the plan.
Jimmy of City and Jack of United
Jimmy and Jack of were brothers who played for rival clubs. The story was a bit of a soap opera. And very good it was too. The lads are in my top ten comic book characters. They went on to star in Tiger after the comics merged.
Unlike other comics Scorcher concentrated exclusively on football. As well as the stories there were regular features and photos of current stars and their teams.
It even had a jokey editorial with Pete and much of its content was aimed a little higher than at the usual 7-13 year old demographic.
It was a shame when the comic disappeared but at least most of its best characters lived on in Tiger.
The Beano 1938 – present
We read both The Dandy and The Beano in our house. But The Beano was my preferred comic every time. It had far funnier and interesting characters.
It’s incredible to think The Beano has been going for nearly 80 years.
Closing in on 4,000 issues the Beano has outlasted the Dandy. Finally axed in 2013 The Dandy had struggled along for a while as a digital comic.
The Beano though goes on. But Christ knows how many years it is since I’ve read it.
As I was writing this post I went to the newsagents to buy a copy but couldn’t see one in any of the three shops I visited. Maybe they still sell out quickly.
Anyway, on to my favourite characters. Most of the best stories starred ‘naughty’ boys or girls. And although we all rooted for them they usually got their comeuppance. We all remember Dennis’s dad and his slipper. Or irate teachers caning any number of characters.
I doubt scenes of corporal punishment are shown in today’s version of the Beano.
I reckon OldnDazed readers of a similar vintage will remember all these with fondness.
Dennis the Menace
Dennis first appeared in 1951. He is the longest continuously running strip in the comic. His trademark was of course his red and black stripped jumper. And his sore backside from always getting slippered.
Dennis’s companion was Gnasher the dog. Who was just as naughty as Dennis. Dennis of course hated softies. In particular Walter. But Walter usually finished on top as Dennis inevitably came a cropper.
Minnie the Minx
One of the comic’s longest-running characters. Minnie made her debut in the early fifties. I have to admit it wasn’t until I wrote this I realised her real name was Hermione Makepeace.
Minnie was the girl equivalent to Dennis. Her jumper was very similar too.
She even had her own nemesis like Walter. But Soppy Susan was the girl who always riled Minnie.
Minnie was always up to mischief. She just loved to minx. A real tom boy she was never slow to dish out a slap when needed.
Minnie was hyperactive. ADD would be today’s diagnosis.
A much loved character there is even a statue of her in Dundee.
Bash Street Kids
Class 2B of the Bash Street School in Beanotown. What a crew. They ran riot in the classroom and playground. And terrorised poor Teacher.
There was a hard-core of ten kids with Danny very much the leader. The other Bash Street Kids were:
- Plug (what a hero)
- Cuthbert (boo)
Cuthbert was a goody two-shoes. And Teachers pet. Naturally enough he was often the target of the other kids’ antics.
But most of the stories revolved around the kids and Teachers constant battle to keep them in line.
I suspect we all had our own favourite. Mine were Plug and Wilfred. Plug went on to star in his own comic for a couple of years in the mid-seventies.
Roger the Dodger
This was always the first story I read. Not as naughty or mischievous as most of the other characters Roger was a slippery customer. He did everything he could to get out of his chores or schoolwork.
It was all in vain of course. But Roger was a rebel. Albeit a smartly dressed one.
He wore a chequered jumper, shorts and a shirt and tie. He did get a pair of long trousers in the seventies.
Roger had a number of dodge books in which he kept all his best dodges.
A veteran from the very first issue. Lord Marmaduke of Bunkerton was a toff. Snotty lived in a castle but all his friends were normal kids.
The Gasworks Gang were Snooty’s sworn enemies but the toff and his friends always came out on top. I think it was The Telegraph which once compared David Cameron to Lord Snooty. But I know which one of them I would trust more.
Not the usual Beano fare. General Jumbo was an adventure story.
Alfie “Jumbo” Johnson had a remote control army. He controlled soldiers, boats, and aircraft. All created by Prof. Carter.
I loved this story but I don’t think many others did. Jumbo and his army would fight crime and rescue those in need.
He was an all-round good egg who used his troops for good.
The remote controlled soldiers and vehicles fascinated me. They put my Airfix collection to shame.
Whizzer & Chips 1969 – 1990
Two comics in one. Double the fun for half the money. Whizzer & Chips was revolutionary. And great fun.
Like The Beano it had so many great characters. But didn’t reach the heights of its rival.
Nevertheless it ran for over 1,000 issues.
I’ve no idea why the publishers decided on two comics. But it worked. Chips was a pull out within Whizzer.
Looking back now it was Whizzer which had most of my favourite characters.
So I was definitely a Whizz-kid. If you preferred Chips you were a Chip-ite.
Each week a character from Whizzer would invade a Chips story. Or vice-versa.
The Bumpkin Millionaires
Like the Beverley Hillbillies on TV the Bumpkins were a country yokel family. Who just happened to be incredibly wealthy.
I think Ma and Pa won the pools but they weren’t happy about it. They and their kids, Billy and Daisy, hated the money and wanted to return to their simple life.
So they tried to give it all away. Unsuccessfully. Every week the Bumpkins would try and get rid of their cash. Only for them to end up with even more than they started with. It was a hard life for them.
Tiny appealed to the prepubescent entrepreneur in me.
He was a school kid with his eye on the main chance. He always had a money making scheme on the go. And each stories usually ended with Tiny happily juggling a handful of coins.
I like to think Tiny grew up to be a billionaire.
The 12½p Buytonic Boy
This was a bit bonkers. Steve Ford was a schoolboy with superpowers. Steve got his powers after drinking Professor Nutz’s tonic which he bought for 12½p.
Steve became an agent for the Everso Secret Service. Every week he battled the dastardly coves from NME.
So there you go. If you read all the way through thank you for sticking with me.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments box below or better yet let me know your own top 10 British comics.