Football's Comic Book Heroes, by Adam Riches

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The Independent Culture

While graphic novels such as 'Maus' and 'Watchmen' have given the comic form legitimacy as an adult medium, children's comics have plunged in popularity since the 1950s, when some 350 million were sold annually in Britain.

Fans of Manford City, Modchester United and Melchester Rovers have been starved of action, so this lavishly illustrated paean to the genre will delight devotees. The formula has always been unashamedly escapist: player/team battles through adversity to overcome underhand opponents/crooked chairman and win cup/league.

Adam Riches charts the change in emphasis over the years from school based stories to the professional game, reminding us of the frankly unbelievable players such as the Left-Footed Chicken, Billy Binns and his Wonderful Specs, Limp-Along Leslie and Charlie "Iron" Barr (who looked as if he could have been Wayne Rooney's ugly brother).

In this more cynical age it's hard to take any of their tales seriously, but then who wants to be serious all the time?

Published in large-format hardback by Mainstream, £19.99

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