On this day, 24 September 1988: Gary Lineker's Hot-shot
On this day, 24 September 1988 … As Starlord was to 2000AD, as Lindy was to Jinty, and as Score ‘n’ Roar was to Scorcher, so Hot-shot – or, to be precise, Gary Lineker’s Hot-shot – was to Roy of the Rovers. This was the latest attempt by IPC/Fleetway Publications to create a slightly more more sophisticated comic than one of its bestselling titles with, one has to assume, every intention of merging it and its throng of loyal new readers into the original within just a few months.
Hot-shot certainly looked the part, in its large format and eye-catching painted covers of the First Division stars of its day. I’m not sure who the artist was, but this John Fashanu action portrait captures the terrifying physicality of the player and indeed of that whole Crazy Gang Wimbledon team. The comic had been launched in August 1988, and that Lineker – still a Barcelona player at this time – was considered a strong enough name to carry the title was an early sign of just how large the Goldballs brand was to become. Inside, he has an editorial, a column and a letters page written in his name, and is featured on page two modelling on what looks to be a quintessentially late-eighties urban wasteland.
There is good comic strip content in here, if all very familiar to anyone who has read IPC football comics from 1970 onwards. Three of the six stories – Red Hot Shott, The Louts of Liberty Hall and Family Fortune (‘The football-mad family from the rough side of town!’) – are typical against-the-odds tales; Striker, about the son of a rich businessman who pays the struggling club every time his boy scores, has echoes of Roy of the Rovers’ Millionaire Villa and Scorcher’s King of Football; and Magic Man is an attempt to reflect a trend of the modern game in featuring a Brazilian superstar signing for an English club. Star of the comic, however, is the full-colour Barrie Mitchell-drawn Andy Steel, Playmaker, about a kid making it big at a top club. The strip was so hot that it was sponsored by real-life footie boot manufacturers Quasersport. I guess you could call it ‘real Roy of the Rovers stuff’, which is exactly what it would be when Hot-shot was taken over by Roy’s own comic just four months later.