On this day, 19 September 1970: Score 'n' Roar
On this day, 19 September 1970 … League ladders! I adored league ladders – still do, in fact. I think everything unimportant in life should have its own league ladder, with detachable name tabs to move up and down according to their weekly performance. Not important public services like schools and hospitals, obviously, because I’m no fan of grubby Tory elitism, but stuff like sweets and football teams and Doctor Who stories and comic strips (as a free gift, Jackpot produced an actual league ladder with tabs for ranking all the stories in order each week).
So if I hadn’t been exactly one month old on the day Score ‘n’ Roar was launched, I’d have snapped up this first issue. Score ‘n’ Roar was IPC’s second football-only comic – Scorcher had launched earlier in the same year – and, with its mix of strips, feature articles and colour photos, seems to have been an attempt to bridge the gap between its stablemate and the junior football magazine Shoot. It looks as though that created a slightly overloaded market, as Score was absorbed by Scorcher before the end of the 1970/71 football season, but its short life did bring us one of IPC’s greatest characters in Nipper Lawrence.
There have been many, many football comic strips that follow the rags-to-riches journey to stardom of a boy from some sort of disadvantaged background, but Nipper – in my opinion – is top of the league ladder. His chippy temper and – in later episodes – his little dog Stumpy, whom Nipper saved from drowning, were part of his endearing character, but I think what really made this story a classic was the work of the first artist to work on it, Solano Lopez. Lopez was Argentinian but there’s something gloriously British – almost Victorian – about the dirty, smoggy, Midlands estuary town of Blackport that provides the backdrop to Nipper’s hard-knock life on the streets. This first instalment of Nipper’s story – which would carry him into the pages of Scorcher, Tiger and (in 1980s reprints) Roy of the Rovers – is a joy to read, and one of the few non-2000AD strips that I’m not sure I could ever tire of reading.
Score ‘n’ Roar adopted the two-rival-comics-in-one format established the previous year by Whizzer and Chips, with editorials written by ‘The Captain’ in Score and ‘The Inside Man’ in Roar. None of your Sid v Shiner antics here – these were grown men in suits and ties, urging readers to take the competition very seriously. I’m not sure which I’d have favoured; Inside Man has a full-page feature on my team Arsenal (unlikely double-winners in waiting), but Captain name-checks my other team Cambridge United at the start of their first season in the professional league, so I think he clinches it for class. The other notable aspect of the rival comics format was the running of two linked and interweaving strips about footballing brothers Jack of United and Jimmy of City – the Jose and Pep of their day.