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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Reg Wootton

A friend of mine has loaned me some old copies of Knockout to read so I've had an opportunity to read some of the favourite strips of my occasional co-writer David Ashford -- and jolly fine they are, too.

Anyway, one strip I was really pleased to spot was 'Sporty' by Reg Wootton because it was a favourite of mine when it appeared in Valiant. I did a quick search and found a few examples of his artwork including nine strips from the Sunday Express (1948-49) as part of the 'Having a Laugh! The British Art of the Cartoon' exhibition hosted by Chris Beetles (you'll have to scroll down the page).

Wootton apparently joined the Sunday Express in 1931 and created the 'Sporting Sam' strip for the back page two years later. This according to Rugby Relics (and copied wholesale by Lambiek Comiclopedia) which says that in 1949, Wootton "transferred 'Sporting Sam' to the Knockabout Comic of Amalgamated Press" which isn't true. Although both strips did features sports, 'Sporty', who appeared in Knockout was a young adult (although drawn to look more like a boy) who has an adult friend Sydney and there was dialogue; 'Sporting Sam' was considerably older-looking, has a bulbous nose and appeared in a two, three or four panel pantomime strip without dialogue. Some of Sporting Sam's strips were collected in 1979.

'Sporty' began his considerable run in issue 539 (25 June 1949) and appeared until February 1963 when Knockout merged with Valiant. Sporty continued his adventures until 28 October 1972 (although not in every single issue), an almost unbroken run of 23 years. Wootton added a second string to his bow briefly with 'Tubby the All Round Sportsman' in Buster (1967-68).

I believe Sporty and Sydney became 'Mug en Mik' in the Dutch weekly Eppo but I've not been able to find any other strips by Reg Wootton.

It seems to be the received wisdom that Wootton died in 1995, in which case he may have been Reginald Clifford George Wootton, born 13 December 1908, who lived at Oak Cottage Rest Home, 4 Wilkins Green Lane, Hatfield, Herts., where he died on 19 April 1995, aged 86. If anyone can expand on this extremely thin biography, perhaps you'd drop me a line (just don't attach a snake to it first).

UPDATE -- 5 August

I've just picked up a copy of the Sporting Sam book published by Express Newspapers in 1979 which features a brief biography and a photograph. According to the notes "[Sporting Sam] has appeared in the paper [Sunday Express] ever since [1933], except for one week during the war when the drawing was mislaid! It is a most remarkable record.

"Reg, whose admiring public extends well beyond the British Isles, is, naturally, interested in ALL sports and has played most games. But cricket is his first love -- he played for Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Barnet, and Totteridge Cricket Club. He played Rugby for his school but switched to Soccer when he left and kept goal for local sides. Yes, Reg Wootton is truly a genuine sportsman, besides being a fine artist."

All this leads me to believe that Wootton was educated and lived in North London (Totteridge is in the north London borough of Barnet). He's probably the Reginald Wootton listed in the London phone book at 45 Prospect Road, New Barnet in 1952/53.

(* Sporty © IPC Media; Sporting Sam
© Express Newspapers)


  1. I don't have any info on Reg Wooton Steve, but I do know there was a paperback collection of Sporting Sam strips published years ago. If I can dig it out I'll see if there's any info in that.

    (I always liked his work by the way.)


  2. Thanks for the comment, Lew. As a follower of your blog (and comics, too, for many years) I know you and I have similar tastes in comics. I also suspect that your copy of Sporting Sam has eloped with my copy of Wes Slade...

  3. Steve,was there ever an index book done for Knockout?I became alarmingly interested in it's fifth? incarnation circa 1962 when it featured a front color illo of Kelly's Eye as seen on a thread on ComicsUK.I'm salivating as I write this :-)Sad,innit?

    Captain Storm.

  4. Hi Cap,

    The Knockout was the last title we did in the original run of the index series published by Bryon Whitworth, published in 1997. It's also one of the titles I'm now actively updating for a new edition from The Book Palace... and I do mean actively, as in I'm taking a break from it to write this!

    That doesn't mean it's going to be out anytime soon -- I'm having to do bits of updating in between compiling the new stuff or (as in this case) when I get a chance to borrow some comics or when one of the co-writers of these indexes sends me new information. Thankfully there's more than just me involved or some of these indexes just wouldn't happen -- the War Libraries has been co-written with David Roach, for instance, and the Knockout was a three-way collaboration between myself, David Ashford and John Allen-Clark. Ray Moore and Gary Armitage have also been involved over the years as well as a half dozen other people who might not make the front cover but do make the acknowledgments pages, all of whom have contributed information over the years.

    Incidentally, that first Kelly's Eye yarn from Knockout is being reprinted in the Albion Origins volume from Titan, due out in a couple of month's time.

  5. Ugh - I have only just found your site (recommended by a friend). Thing is ... is there anywhere I can buy a copy of the Sporting Sam book published by the Express in 1979? My mother Brenda nee Reynolds (recently died) was billeted with Reg's family in Barnet during WWII and it
    would make a nice keepsake of them both for me. Many thanks in advance!!
    Richard Meredith

  6. Richard,

    There are a number of copies available from dealers. A couple of cheap, reasonable-sounding copies can be found here, for instance.

  7. I am Reg Wootton's grand-daughter - discovered your site after googling my grandad after talking about him with my children!

  8. Richard Vitler15 Feb 2011, 13:37:00

    Hi Kath,

    I've been a fan of your Grandfather's Sporting Sam strips for years now. Starting in the late Seventies through to when he stopped in the mid Eighties, as a youngster I used to cut out and keep them in scrapbooks each week. I still have the scrapbooks and they still make me laugh. I finally managed to get a copy of the book, mentioned earlier, a couple of years ago after years of trying. Anyway when I recently saw your message thought you might like to know that people do remember him.

    Kind Regards, Richard

  9. Steve, hi:
    By chance I came to your site, which spoke of a Wootton. I live in Brazil, and I"am daughter of Alan Eric Wootton, who figured to be much like Reg Wootton. I know that is not the issue, but as I know little about my father's family, I thought he could be next. Do you know something about.Excuse my horrible English.

  10. Hi Mary,

    Sorry, but I don't have any information on Reg Wootton's family, so I've no idea whether Alan Eric Wootton is related.