Pro football and comics are always a great combo. The game is essentially an epic battle, which means it provides much of the same scope as, say, crime fighting in Gotham for action, adrenalin and emotive storylines. Let’s look at two major football comics, both of which have a great history but both of which are very different and show how much range there can be within the comic genre.

Roy of the Rovers

Roy of the Rovers is a classic British football comic, so to clear up any confusion before we go any further, this means it’s a soccer comic because in the UK “football” means soccer and the NFL is known as “American Football”.

In Roy Race we see an absolutely archetypal hero with all the expected admirable traits. To begin at the top, quite literally, he has a very impressive, blond, flowing, leonine hair-do. (In fact, many of the most celebrated moments in Roy of the Rovers are from the 1960s and 1970s, which means he has this great long hair style typical of the period.) Then, of course, there’s the superb athletic physique and last but not least an incredibly courageous spirit, which is displayed time and again during games through his position of striker for his team the Melchester Rovers. Melchester, by the way, is a generic, unspecified location in Great Britain for maximum reader relatability.

We have to go back to 1954 to find Roy’s first adventure, which is interesting when you place it in context – right between the debut of Captain Comet in 1951 and Batwoman in 1956 (check out this cool superhero timeline from Guinness World Records). Roy was popular for decades, but in the early ‘90s the decision was made to stop running the title and poor Roy’s sporting career was ended when he lost his foot in a helicopter crash – quite the melodramatic, soap opera touch! After a few years, stories about Roy’s son, also a soccer player, of course, and featuring Roy as team manager, gained some interest; but in 2001 the legend came to a sad end. Excitingly however, interest in Roy has recently seen a revival, with a young Roy sporting an updated hairstyle and portrayed in a new animation style.

Tank McNamara

Back to the other side of the Atlantic then, Tank McNamara is about a former defensive lineman who has found a post-football career as a TV presenter. The great thing about the way that the Tank character is crafted is that it’s just so easy to imagine him having played for any of the major NFL sides – Philadelphia Eagles, The Jets, Washington Redskins… you name it. Tank makes an interesting contrast with Roy Race, however, since he’s more the hapless fool type –a kind of relatable anti-hero than helps us feel better about ourselves– than a noble role model.

As well as its entertainment value, the comic strip serves as a vehicle through which to explore contemporary social issues in professional sport, such as the problem of steroid use and athletes’ personal conduct on and off the field making the news on sites such as bettingsports.com. It’s a relief to be able to say that Tank McNamara seems more secure than Roy of the Rovers; he first reared his somewhat large head in 1974 and is still going strong today, moving with the times and responding to the professional game of football as it develops.

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Pro football and comics are always a great combo. The game is essentially an epic battle, which means it provides much of the same scope as, say, crime fighting in Gotham for action, adrenalin and emotive storylines. Let’s look at two major football comics, both of which have a...