Roy of the Rovers Summer Special 2020

This is a bit of a weird one for me. I have very rarely – in my 43 plus a bit years on this planet – had any interest in sports at all, so consequently I never really read Roy of the Rovers, a comic featuring the eponymous football (sorry, that’s soccer for my American readers) player, who played for fictional team Melchester Rovers.

And yet, stuck for reading material during lockdown and already picking up all of Rebellion’s 2020 specials so far, I still thought I’d give this one a try.

Roy of the Rovers – somewhat incredibly – first appeared in 1954, in the pages of Tiger. He later had his own comic (titled, naturally, Roy of the Rovers), which was published weekly from 1976 to 1995 (I had absolutely no idea it lasted that long, in all honesty!).

The current comic is a reboot rather than a continuation, featuring Roy as a 16 year old star player for Melchester, as well as a more diverse supporting cast – including his younger sister Rocky (actually Roxanne – the nickname Rocky being the name of Roy’s son in the original comics continuity), who’s also a talented football player. Characters from the original series have also been brought back into the reboot, though in a way that ensures a more representative, modern cast.

One thing I was really impressed with in the Summer Special is that the stories make an effort to be contemporary and reflect current events – right down to making multiple references to lockdown. There’s a prose story included based almost entirely around this setup, with a frustrated Roy needing to learn that he can’t go out of the house to train due to his at-risk, disabled father. It’s all really well done and, though aimed at kids, I found it a really nicely written and easy to digest diversion.

Which goes for the Special as a whole really. The art is bold, colourful and nicely done – including a story from – and interview with – veteran Roy of the Rovers artist David Sque, which is a nice touch for readers familiar with the older comics. I even found that the on-pitch action was quite exciting and tense, despite having zero interest in real world football myself. It’s even made me want to check out some of Roy’s older adventures, as well as some of the newer reboot material (which also extends into prose novels). It’s another series and set of characters that’s found itself in a safe set of hands with 2000AD owners Rebellion. They’re doing some astonishing work with vintage British comic characters that are generally fondly remembered and highly regarded by fans of a certain age; Roy of the Rovers is a shining example of how they’re updating so many of these series for modern readers.

The Roy of the Rovers Summer Special 2020 can be purchased digitally or in softcover from Rebellion’s website, here.

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