On this day, 13 July 1974: Tiger and Jag
On this day, 13 July 1974 … Skid Solo …. Yep, Skid Solo … Just allowing a couple of pauses there for all the laughter. It’s unfortunate name, for sure, but with a comics career spanning over eighteen years (all in the pages of Tiger bar his first year in mid-1960s Hurricane), no one can deny that Skid left his mark.
Ahem. Seriously though, it’s a classic story, fondly remembered by many. Motor racing and cars in general have never really been my thing but in the couple of years or so that I read Tiger, I always found the Skid Solo stories interesting enough which is testament to the abilities of writer Fred Baker and artist John Vernon (who looked after Skid for the entirety of his run) to tell a good story. Skid was the Roy of the Rovers of motor sport, journeying through the years from boyhood dreams to world championships, in the company of his pals Sandy McGrath and Sparrow Smith (who would be killed mid-series) tinkering with their crankshafts and occasionally blushing behind their helmets in the company of women. John Freeman has some early pages from the strip on his site as part of a tribute to Fred Baker, and Skid’s final scenes (from May 1982) following a near-fatal racing accident can be seen below. It’s a poignant end (echoed thirteen years later when Roy Race also had to adapt to life in a wheelchair following his helicopter crash), and interesting that we don’t see Skid’s face after his car exploded – presumably he has been badly scarred.
Tiger, like most sport in the early 1970s, was very much a boys’ domain. So it’s a refreshing surprise to discover in this issue Tallon of the Track – a rarity in its day in that it featured a strong female central character. Jo Tallon was a motorcycle stunt rider hired to become trainer of the Flying Ospreys speedway team and from the various episodes I have read from her two-year run in the comic between 1973 and 1975 she seems to have been a well-written character – representing herself, and not just ‘a woman in a man’s world’ or other clichés one might expect from a boys’ comic in this period.
Sadly the same can’t be said of the current Roy of the Rovers storyline. Roy and Blackie Gray are spending their summer holidays in a small rural village in Spain, accompanied by two women (one of whom is Roy’s future wife Penny) who are described in the script only as ‘their girl-friends’ and ‘the girls’. I’ve checked a few of the other issues from this adventure and the same is true there. Ah well. Fittingly, Roy and Blackie are ambushed by the local scheming councillor’s thugs and forced to wear the heads of two enormous asses in what must count as one of the strip’s most surreal and nightmarish sequences.