There aren't enough sports comics — sorry, wrestling doesn't count — and I don't know why. There's plenty of action and inherent confict, so it seems like a subject that's perfect for the medium. The comics industry is always scrabbling for new readers and yet never seems to go after the huge number of people who enjoy sport. It's baffling, it really is. There are loads of Japanese sport comics — the irony being that a lot of them are about American sports — and there was once a proud tradition of British football comics, although the last of those have withered away in recent years.
So here comes Scoregasm from Andy Winter, the writer of Blood Psi, Septic Isle and Tim Skinner: Total Scumbag. It tells the story of Billy Foley, a talented young player for League Two side Newhampton Town, and his struggles with sleazy journalist Jake Thompson after Billy lets the excitement of the game get the better of him and reveals his preternatural footballing prowess.
I suspect there's a Billy's Boots reference in there somewhere, with the shared forename and the hint of the supernatural, although Winter is careful to keep things more grounded; his Billy is unusually fast, but his other footballing skills seem to be the result of natural talent. Billy's super-speed — is there a Billy Whizz reference in there too perhaps? — doesn't dominate the story, rather the drama arises from the cast's reactions to his lack of discretion.
The cast is small but interesting. Billy's father is forever fearful of his son being locked away and disected, a fear that leads to a number of paranoid, violent outbursts. Billy's girlfriend Stacy reveals herself to have a taste for manipulation, and although it's all in support of Billy, there are hints that there is also a selfish streak to her. Thompson the antagonist is perhaps the most interesting, an unpleasant weasel of a man who nonetheless becomes quite sympathetic as the story goes on; simple motive is to improve his lot in life, and there are a few suggestions here and there that he's not a bad man, even if he is a bit of a git. Looking at Thompson, I am reminded of Winter's Tim Skinner, who was a similar mixture of nastiness and hidden virtue. Billy himself comes off worst, with quite a bit of swagger to him and not much else; I can't tell if this is deliberate — he is a teenager, after all — or if Winter skimped on the characterisation with his lead.
Duane Leslie's art is strong, with good characterisation — there's a touch of Todd Nauck to the character designs and body language — and clear storytelling. For all the character drama though, Scoregasm is a football comic, so Winter gives Leslie plenty of sporting action to draw, and the artist rises to the challenge. The football scenes are full of energy and movement, and Leslie is not afraid of detail — there are no faceless blobs in the crowds at Billy's matches — or a difficult angle if it makes for a more dynamic scene. My only criticism is that the goals seem a bit small on occasion, but that seems churlish.
If comics companies want to attract new readers, a black Spider-Man or yet another line-wide reboot isn't going to do it. Sport fans are just as geeky and obsessive as superhero fans, and there are a lot more of them around, so it seems the height of stupidity that no one's even attempting to woo this untapped market. As such, Scoregasm is a great proof of concept, but it's also an entertaining and well-made title in its own right.
Scoregasm can be read online — for free, although donations are welcome — athttp://www.scoregasm.co
Kelvin Green erupted fully formed from the grey shapeless mass of Ubbo Sathla in the dark days before humans walked the earth. He grew up on Judge Dredd, Transformers, Indiana Jones #12, the Avengers and Spider-Man, and thinks comics don't get much better than FLCL, Nextwave and Rocket Raccoon. Kelvin lives among garbage and seagulls and doesn't hate Marvel nearly as much as you all think he does.