Of all the compilations of classic British comic reprints that have appeared over the last few years this book is easily my favourite, - and I don't even like football! What makes The Bumper Book of Roy of the Rovers a standout volume is the attention given to its production. Editor (and ex-Oink! contributor) David Leach has lavished care over the book so that it actually looks and feels like an early 1970s Fleetway annual. From the hardback glossy cover, with its retro spine design, to the interior pulp paper stock, the book looks like it's just fallen through a time portal from the Seventies.
The contents are a selection of Roy of the Rovers strips and features from old annuals dating from 1958 to 1971. Considering the theme is solidly football, there's still a great variety of material here: several Roy strips, illustrated features, the Bobby Charlton Story, "Footer Giants of Foreign Teams", and even Roy Race explaining the offside rule from 1960. (A disclaimer in the indicia points out "football rules are not those of the present day".)
For added period charm Leach has included various advertisements from the weekly comics of the day, including one of those anti-smoking strips by Tom Kerr and a Wall's Shoot ice cream competition to "Win a Year's Free Comics!". It's a sign of the times that none of the six comics displayed exist any more, nor does Wall's Shoot. Whilst these ads never actually appeared in the annuals, their addition to this book is a welcome part of its nostalgia.
Unlike previous Titan reprint books which bleached out any defections and "tanning" from the old comics (and subsequently lost some of the finer lines in the artwork too unfortunately) The Bumper Book of Roy of the Rovers preserves the "tanning" in order to keep as much of the linework as possible. Some pages have also been toned deliberately I believe, but with subtlety. This, to me, is a bonus as it adds to the retro aspect of the book and actually makes it look like it's decades old. This technique has been used on some other books (such as the recent Eagle Cutaways one) but not so effectively and natural looking as it is here. These strips were designed for pulp paper and to have used a slick higher grade stock with defections bleached out would have ruined the presentation and defeated the object of it being a nostalgic item.
At £12.99 The Bumper Book of Roy of the Rovers is about twice as expensive as this year's annuals, but because of its retro authenticity is worth every penny. (I'm sure you'll find it cheaper online anyway.) I should also mention that the colours of the strips have the same sort of vivid style as those of 1950s annuals, - a printing technique I thought was almost impossible to achieve in modern books. I hope it proves to be a winner for Titan Books and that similar items in this format will follow.
The Bumper Book of Roy of the Rovers. 120 pages. RRP £12.99 Published by Titan Books.