Artwork by Peter Sutherland.
August 2012 - Added three more episodes about Alf winning a gold medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
February 2011 - A short fact file about Alf Tupper from the 1992 annual has been added, see below.
July 2010 - the first Tupper picture episode to appear in the Victor has been added to this page.
February 2010 - A complete listing of Tupper's appearances in the Victor weekly comic has now been posted. Please see below. Note - I still have several Victor annuals and Summer Special's to view.
Writer:- The Victor editorial team. Artists:- Peter Sutherland, Ted Rawlings, Josep Marti and unknown others.
Main cast:- Alf Tupper, The Tough of the Track.
Time period:- early 1960's through to the late 1990's.
The inside front cover of the 1992 Victor annual published a short fact file about Alf.
See The Victor (Note - years refer to the Victor annuals);
A special thanks to Derek Marsden for providing me with a complete Alf Tupper list of all the Victor issues the runner appeared in and artists.
Note - Unless otherwise stated, artwork is by Pete Sutherland.
Alf Tupper is probably the most famous and popular character to have ever appeared in The Victor. Morgyn the Mighty and Braddock are probably the only two other characters who could challenge The Tough of the Track for the top spot in the popularity stakes.
Three views of Alf Tupper as drawn by Peter Sutherland. On the left an early view of Alf, in the centre the Alf most readers probably remember and on the right the runner as a young lad.
So what is it about this sporting character that makes him so popular? There’s no guns, explosions or much in the way of danger and on the face of it adventures about running, aren’t that exciting. But you would be wrong in thinking this is a boring series. Far from it. The Tupper series has some classic picture stories adapted from the original text stories and in artist Peter Sutherland, the ideal artist (for me anyway), who brought the series to life. For many Sutherland is the artist who is most closely associated with the character. Later other artists drew the character, but none in my view came close to surpassing Sutherland’s artwork. Below is a potted history of the great runner, to be expanded upon over the coming months.
Alf, a working class lad, is always down on his luck, never having enough money for a decent meal or pair of running shoes and living in poor sleeping quarters. Orphaned at an early age, his dad died when he was young and his mother perished in a house fire when he was twelve. Alf was brought up by his rough, tough, uncaring Aunt Meg. His childhood years were difficult he was always being targeted by bullies, usually boys who were older and taller than he was. But Alf is a fighter and he usually gave as good as he got. If he had enemies, he also had many friends, in policemen, teachers, fellow runners and so on. But no matter what is happening to Alf, he lives to run and enjoys the race whether he wins, loses or on rare those occasions, draws. The Tough of the Track always won many races, but he also lost plenty as well. And he was always gracious in defeat.
He learned his trade as an welder and in the beginning usually worked for bosses who were lazy and couldn’t always pay his wages. Alf though gained a reputation for completing jobs on time no matter how hard the work was or how long it took him. Often he would complete a job after having worked all night and then rush off to run in a race and usually ‘he run ‘em’ that is, he won.
In later adventures Alf worked as a welder for motor racing, airline and railway companies. Later still, he was called up to do his National Service in the Royal Artillery and was a fireman for the Brassingford Fire Brigade. He always though, took every opportunity to run in races. He always encountered snobbish runners and bullies, those who were against a runner from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’. Alf treated them with distain and if the situation demanded it, a upper cut to the chin or a bloody nose usually sorted out the problem.
Three other pictures of Alf Tupper as drawn by on the left by Ted Rawlings, centre Josep Marti and on the right, Jim Bleach.
Tragedy struck Alf when he was involved in a hit and run ‘car accident’ which robbed the runner of his sight. (In fact, he had been deliberately targeted by a runner with a grudge against him). Not one to wallow in self-pity, Alf began to learn to walk again and then to run. The runner later regained his sight and the villain was arrested. Alf also represented Great Britain at the Mexico Olympics winning a gold medal. (Tupper learned later that he was born on Tristan da Cunha, a remote volcanic group of islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. This was good news for him as he wasn’t selected to run for England in the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games. So instead he represented Tristan da Cunha at the Games. (As told in the ‘Edinburgh or Bust’ story).
Despite the difficulties The Tough of the Track faced, he was always cheerful, never letting anything get him down. Alf is also fondly remembered for his catch phrases. ‘I run ‘em’ and ‘blooming ada’ and for his endless enthusiasm for eating fish and chips. None of this eating healthy food nonsense for our Alf! (Although, in an early story he was found to be eating a plate of jellied eels).
An unknown artist's view on the left of the Hornet's version of Tupper, Bernard Briggs and on the right, Alf Tupper.The Tough of the Track also made an appearance in The Hornet alongside Bernard Briggs which was that comic’s answer to Alf Tupper. Briggs main sport though was being a football goalkeeper, although he wasn’t adverse to playing other sports. Briggs and Tupper's relationship was very turbulent, one minute they were the best of friends, the next fighting each other. It was in this series that a female friend of Alf’s and Bernard's called Ada, was nicknamed ‘Blooming Ada’ by Alf.
Incidentally, the Briggs/Tupper story King Bernard is well worth tracking down as it is an entertaining read and to my mind a classic story.
Note - Bernard Briggs occasionally used the expression ‘blooming ada’ in his stories.
Below is the very first picture episode to appear in the Victor featuring Alf. This story is from issue 71. Other episodes from the first series below, are from issues 73 and 76 respectively. Further stories of the Tough of the Track will be posted as time allows.
The next four adventures below are of Alf's and "Flapper" Farmer's attempts to win medals at the Mexico Olympic games as members of the British Olympic team.
The below stories are from the series Alf Tupper's Castle. This series sees Alf (aged thirteen) living in Malton Castle.
The following Alf Tupper adventure is from the 1973 annual.