Thursday, 10 December 2015

Melchester in the Middle East

Well, I guess it's one of those obligatory blog openings that starts "I can't believe it's been 18 months since I posted anything here!" time certainly flies! 

I thought - with the current political climate in the Middle East, and arsehole terrorists trying to scare the world by murdering people - that I'd point out that, actually, not much has really changed over the last 30 years.

I came across this little gem while rummaging through local comic dealer and new chum, Lorne Brown's collection of stuff. It's Roy of the Rovers dated 12 July, 1986. Roy Race and Melchester Rovers find themselves hostages in the fictional country of Basran (presumably based on the city of Basra in Iraq). The SAS are sent in to rescue the team and the cover looks like they're desperately trying to appeal to the Battle readers, rather than football fans! And Battle stalwart - the recently departed John Cooper - drew this strip. Have a read...
(Please excuse my poor Photoshop skills!)
The shocking suicide bomber story at the end (remember this was a "kid's comic") had profound effect on the team with eight team members: Noel Baxter, Vic Guthrie, Carl Hunt, Neville Jones, Steven Naylor, Kenny Logan, Jimmy Slade and Trevor Cassidy all being killed. 

What I think is truly fascinating about this story is the braveness of British comics back then to tackle serious and difficult issues in a publication aimed at 8-12 year-olds. Plus, the fact that, despite our perceptions, the world is probably the same as it ever was: violent, with morons killing themselves and others. It's good to remember that when certain parties on all sides of the political/religious/social spectrum are utilising fear to control populations that we remain calm and not descend into knee-jerk reactions and lash out, only exacerbating the situation. After all, Melchester Rovers didn't subsequently bomb Basran. No, they rebuilt their team, beat Stambridge City in the League Cup, and dedicated the win to the lost players.

Obviously this all has interesting connotations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar (if it ever happens).