Friday, March 17, 2017
Comic Cuts - 17 March 2017
Legge's Eleven, on the other hand, was new to me. I don't know what you're like as a collector, but my early Valiant's weren't picked up in order, so I tended to look at them but not really take in the storylines. Once I had a run of copies, I'd read my favourites (The Steel Claw, Wild Wonders and a few others) but ignore the strips I wasn't so interested in, which would usually be the sports strips.
So I read the story of Ted Legge and his efforts to put together a football team and it was actually pretty good. Yes, it was silly in places, but it also had heart and humour. That shouldn't have surprised me... after all, it was written by Fred Baker who was behind Billy's Boots, which was a masterclass in how to keep a storyline compelling despite the repetitive nature of the plot's basic premise. Roughly every three weeks, Ted Legge would lose a team member and would have to find a replacement; the untried player would play a match and would be useless in the first half; Ted would figure out a tactic that would work for the newcomer and the match would be won... but tears turn to tragedy as Ted Legge would lose a team member and would have to find a replacement... and repeat the process ten times to make up the eleven-man team. During the football season they would battle to rise from the Fourth Division to Third... to Second... to First (the strip ran from 1964 to 1968), with a break each summer for another adventure.
You can see the same cycle in plenty of other sports strips. Billy needed his boots to play well and score, so the writer's chief job was to find ways for Billy and his boots to be separated before a vital match. For American comics' fans: it's why Kryptonite exists.
There's still a long way to go... I'm currently looking at copies from the 1964-66 period, so there's a decade of reading still to come. I have a feeling this might be the longest introduction yet because there's just so many great strips to talk about!
If you want to grab them, you can still get 25% off the cover price – here for Frontline UK and here for Arena – but only for two more weeks. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can pay by cheque – just drop me a line at the e-mail address you'll find below the photo, top left.
Quite a few of the titles published by Bear Alley Books are under license, ranging from five years to open-ended. I'll just have to write some more to fill the gaps.
As we've been talking sport and football in particular, that gave me the theme for this week's random scans. And an interesting point: there seems to be a common misconception that we Brits only call the sport football while everyone else calls it soccer. Well, here are a few books from the forties, fifties and seventies which disprove that "fact". We are, however, the only people to call it "The beautiful game".