|The 1980 Geoff Boycott Annual was a best selling Tiger spin off. The Graham Roope Annual of 1981 fared less well.|
First published in 1954, Tiger was a popular British sporting comic for boys. The weekly collection of action strips and features predominantly concerned itself with football - most famously Roy of the Rovers - but also published strips such as Tallon of the Track (speedway), Johnny Cougar (wrestling), Harry's Magic 'Arrers (darts) and You Fat B*stard (sumo).
Cricket had been less regularly covered. The editors believed that the slower action of the summer game did not lend itself to the fast moving storylines needed for a successful strip.
Then, in 1978, all that changed. The exciting deeds of Botham, Gower, and Tavare et al created a new demand amongst the comic's young readers for cartoon-based cricketing adventures.
Tiger's regular contributors were contacted and asked to come up with strips that would appeal to the cricket-hungry kids of Britain ... with impressive results.
|Coward of the County: A traumatised Colin Coward re-lives the terrible stroke that caused him to take a Lardy Larkin bouncer on the bonce.|
The May 4th edition of Tiger saw the debut of Coward of the County: the story of Colin Coward, captain of Melchestershire County Cricket Club.
Coward was a dashing blonde all rounder with pop star good looks and a trophy wife called Penny. He led a Melchestershire side full of great players such as 'Tubby' Gray, 'Fatty' Finlay and 'Porky' Patterson. But sadly, he was Coward by name and Coward by nature. A blow on the head from fast bowler 'Lardy' Larkins of arch rivals Melboroughshire CCC caused a crisis of confidence in the previously dashing Coward, to the extent he became too scared to bat for fear of being skulled again. Things got worse when a disgusted Penny left him for swashbuckling serial hooker 'Portly' Pete Parker - the Melboroughshire opener.
The dramatic storylines of Coward of the County were a hit with the comic buying public, and its success gave Tiger the confidence to start new cricket stories.
|Billy's Boots: the ghostly footwear of Dead Shot Keen led their new owner into a life of crime.|
Next to embrace the great game was the popular football strip: Billy's Boots.
Young Billy Dane had found a pair of old football boots belonging to deceased soccer legend 'Dead Shot' Keen. These boots magically enabled Billy Dane to play in the manner of Dead Shot himself. Luckily for Dane he also found Dead Shot's old cricketing boots, which the youngster hoped would have the same effect on his cricketing performances.
Alas, it was not to be. Dead Eye's cricket career was marked by alcoholism, gambling and petty crime and, instead of helping Billy recreate batting and bowling heroics, the boots led him to numerous local pubs, betting shops and, finally, an unsuccessful attempt to rob Melchester Mini Mart with a stump. Despite telling the Melchester Youth Court of the irresistible influence of Dead Shot's footwear young Billy Dane was sent to Borstal, where he eventually hung himself with Dead Shot's old boot laces.
|Test Match Tramp: Could 'Stinking' Sid Shandy swap meths for Linseed oil?|
Test Match Tramp was a strip that told the tale of 'Stinking' Sid Shandy, England's best cricketer but also a flea-ridden 'gentleman of the road'. The story concerned England coach Dick Fenby's attempts to rescue Stinking Sid from his life of drink-fuelled homelessness and back into the test arena - much to the disgust of the straight-laced MCC.
Test Match Tramp was one of the first comic strips to consider social issues such as mental illness, substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases. The MCC had never previously been written about in such a way and were quick to let their feelings known to the comic's publishers.
|Code Name: Warlord. Sir Peter Flint fought an endless war against the Germans, Japs and petty cricket bureaucracy.|
War strips were always popular with comic fans and Tiger made sure that their readers would not be disappointed. Code Name: Warlord was the story of Sir Peter Flint - a renegade British secret agent and first class umpire - whose main enemies were the Gestapo, Japanese intelligence and the Lord's stewards.
|Gatt's Cats: Mike Gatting's crew of crime fighting cats find themselves in trouble during an investigation into the price fixing of Arrow Bars at the Melchestershire club shop.|
Flint's hatred of the Hun was only matched by his ill feelings towards those 'jobsworths' at cricket HQ. In one story line Flint became enraged after being declined admission to the Lord's pavilion after his shrapnel damaged tie was deemed unacceptable. Minutes later Flint returned at the helm of a 'borrowed' Lancaster Bomber and parachuted through the pavilion window into the Bowlers Bar, where he proceeded to sink a pint of beer, punch the Head Steward and give German spy Herman Noeballs out LBW off Gubby Allen's wrong 'un.
However, not all of the new strips were quite so serious. The more light-hearted efforts included:
War of the Roses: A story that concerned itself with a group of Yorkshire supporting gardeners who lived next door to a houseful of Lancastrian horticulturalists - with hilarious consequences.
|Knott in Front of the Children: School yard japes with the pre pubescent prodigies.|
Gatt's Cats: England batsman Mike Gatting and his gang of crime-busting felines; forever on the trail of corruption, wrong doing and tasty tit-bits.
|The TMS Gang: 'My dear old thing.' Blowers (centre) tells the Sherriff to arrest the pimping Lincolnshire umpire and his two prostitute cohorts.|
Knott in Front of the Children: Alan Knott was the headmaster of the Bosh Street Wicket keeping Academy where young keepers learn their trade whilst doing their best to wind up their renowned teacher.
The TMS Gang: Johnners, CMJ, the Boil, Blowers and their faithful dog FST combining test match ball by ball commentary with hunting down smugglers - who were usually disguised as ghosts, mummies or minor counties umpires.
Tiger maintained its cricket content into the '80s. But soon falling sales began to affect the whole comic industry and the title finally folded in March 1985.
For generations of readers the sporting derring-do of the likes of Roy of the Rovers and Test Match Tramp led to a long standing love and appreciation of sport.