Comic books have often delved into the world of sport to create a much-loved character and we have picked out three individuals that are still remembered to this day for their page-turning exploits.
Created and originally drawn by Alex Raymond, Flash Gordon was first published on January 7, 1934 and was seen as direct competition to the already established Buck Rogers adventure strip.
Running as a daily strip from 1934 to 1992, with the Sunday edition continuing until 2003, the series followed the life of Flash Gordon, a polo player and Yale University graduate, and his companions Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov.
Flash Gordon and Co would have several adventures on the planet Mongo, where they met and fought villain Ming the Merciless, while the trio also went up against the likes of Azura (the Witch Queen), Brukka (chieftain of the giants of Frigia), the fascistic Red Sword organisation on Earth, and Brazor (the tyrannical usurper of Tropica).
Such was the success of the comic book strip, Flash Gordon has branched out into other media forms, including motion pictures, television and animated series – even being played by Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Buster Crabbe.
Produced in collaboration with the NFL and originally written by Fabian Nicieza and artist Jose Delbo, NFL SuperPro was a short-lived series that started in 1991 and ended just a year later after 12 issues.
The series centered on Phil Grayfield, an ex-NFL player covering a story about a scientist who is creating an indestructible NFL uniform. When reporting at the lab, Grayfield survived a freak accident where he is exposed to chemicals from the lab, gaining superpowers in the process.
Grayfield wears the near-indestructible football uniform, thus becoming the NFL Super Pro, gaining the famous line of going from “sacking quarterbacks, to tackling crime”.
The series didn’t hit the heights the writers had expected, with guest appearances from Spider-Man (in issue 1) and Captain America (in issue 8) failing to kick-start things, but the NFL SuperPro is still remembered fondly despite only being around for a year.
Roy Race is, arguably, the ultimate sporting comic book character and is the name that often comes up when discussing this topic. Debuting in 1954, Roy of the Rovers first appeared in Tiger in 1954 before giving its name to a weekly (and later monthly) comic.
The strip followed the life and times of Roy, a fictional footballer and later manager who played for Melchester Rovers. Throughout the strip, Rovers were often seen competing for top English honours and on the European stage.
Roy won a number of trophies during his career with Rovers, including nine league titles, eight FA Cups, three League Cups, three European Cups, one UEFA Cup, and four Cup Winners’ Cups, and the phrase ‘real Roy of the Rovers’ stuff’ – meaning a surprising result or someone displaying great skill – is used to this day in the world of football.
However, it was not just the on-field action that had readers locked in. There was high drama off the pitch, with kidnappins, a shooting and a terrorist incident among the biggest storylines.
Real-life players also made appearances in the strip, including Emlyn Hughes, Bob Wilson, Malcolm Macdonald and former England manager Alf Ramsey, as well as Spandau Ballet duo Steve Norman and Martin Kemp.
Roy’s playing career came to an end in March 1993, the last weekly issue, when he lost control of his helicopter, crashed into a field and had to have his left foot amputated.
This comic strip is still remembered fondly and although it was never made into a television series, the show ‘Dream Team, which ran for 419 episodes from 1997 to 2007, has a lot of similarities to Roy of the Rovers.