Alf Tupper, the Tough of the Track, was my favourite character in DC Thomson’s boys’ adventure comic The Victor. And I was not alone in loving the gritty long-distance runner: he was an inspiration to generations of British international runners from Ron Hill to Brendan Foster and Steve Ovett and Steve Cram.
I have six separate images of the character, and you can see them here: https://thecomicartwebsite.com/?s=tupper&post_type=product
Alf was hero to millions of British blokes who grew up in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. These included several generations of British middle-distance runners, including Ron Hill, Brendan Foster and Steve Cram. He represents all that’s best about humanity: honest and brave.
Alf was the flagship character in The Victor, which ran from 1961 until the early 1990s. He actually started life in the all-text comic The Rover in the late 1940s, but transferred to the new picture-strip comic when it launched.
There are still websites devoted to him. These are a couple of good ones.
Alf may have been from the wrong side of the tracks, but he was on the side of the angels and was indomitable – he embodied the virtues that the British liked to thing they embodied. And of course he was a working-class hero – the phrase “The Tough of the Track” was a sort of pun – it referred to his humble background as much as his gritty determination in competition.
His other signature characteristics were that he worked as a welder and lived under railway arches. He would train by running along the canal towpath.
Each story would involve Alf battling against some kind of iniquity – often at the hands of posher grammar-school boys or public-school boys. They would cheat in some way, which would disadvantage Alf but he would always bounce back and win in the end. The phrase “I run ‘im,” would end many stories.
I had a subscription to The Victor – most weeks the comic had an Alf Tupper story, which would run for several weeks. Then there would be a gap of a few weeks before the next one started again. I was always a bit disappointed if there wasn’t an Alf Tupper story.
All my screenprints are handmade, issued in limited editions, printed on cotton paper, mould-made at the St Cuthbert Mill in Wells, Somerset.
Signed and numbered in pencil by me, John Patrick Reynolds
© D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd.