Reg Wootton (Died 1995)
As a newspaper strip cartoonist, Reg Wootton remains best known for the creation of ‘Sporting Sam’.
The known details of the life of Reg Wootton remain scant and uncertain. Steve Holland (on his blog, Bear Alley) has suggested that he may be Reginald Clifford G Wootton, who was born on 13 December 1908 and died in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, in 1995, aged 86.
More certainly, Wootton grew up in Barnet, Hertfordshire, on the northern edge of London, and attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, for which he played cricket, rugby and soccer. As a keen sportsman, he also played for Totteridge Cricket Club.
Wootton first worked in the print industry as a lithographer and etcher, drawing cartoons in his spare time. He produced sport and news sketches for the Express group from 1931, and two years later created his famous strip, ‘Sporting Sam’. The strip appeared in the Sunday Express every week over decades, with the exception of one occasion during the Second World War, when the artwork was mislaid.
After the war, Wootton continued as a freelance artist, creating the characters of ‘Sporty’ (Knockout Comic, from 1949, and then Valiant, from 1963) and ‘Tubby the All Round Sportsman’ (Buster, 1967-68).
Sporting Sam was the much- loved pint-sized British hero, with perfectly brylcreamed hair, pin-prick eyes, button nose and determined stance. Throughout his comic-strip fame the sportsman never broke his silence, relying instead on timeless visual gags reminiscent of silent movie slapstick. He was, perhaps, the Charlie Chaplain of the cartoon world.
Unfortunate yet irrepressible, Sam became a working-class hero, and was to football fans chasing the dream what Reg Smythe’s ‘Andy Capp’ was to many a hen-pecked husband, complaining down the local about ‘’er indoors’.