A rare copy of a 1931 edition of Daring Comics No. 1, the first comic featuring iconic British superhero Fortyman, has sold for £1 million, beating the previous record for a British comic book. The cover of the issue, showing the original price of sixpence, features the so-called ‘Man of Tarmacadam’ driving to another improbable rescue down the Empire’s finest trunk roads in his elegant trademark goggles and flat cap, his Woodbine smoke and scarf trailing in the wind.
Fortyman, so named because of his fearless ability to drive his 2-litre Rover Coupe at 40 miles per hour regardless of traffic, speed limits or road conditions, gained a wide following for his carefree disregard for authority and his own safety. Translated into German, Vierundsechzigkilometerprostundemann became a rallying figure for opponents of the Nazi regime later in the decade.
Fortyman’s ability to drive everywhere at unthinkable speeds averted many a potential disaster and saved countless damsels in distress. There was never any violence, just a cheery, ‘Hope I didn’t keep you waiting,’ on arrival at the scene, followed by his catch phrase, ‘Hop in, love,’ before he double-declutched his way into the sunset.
Sadly, as roads and cars improved in the post war years and road safety became a major issue, Fortyman’s popularity slowly waned, and his last adventure, Exeter Bypass, was published in 1963. His creators tried to update the character, for example by allowing him to speed up on motorways, and appear ‘virtually half-naked’ without driving gloves, but these innovations came too late.
Despite his demise, his legion of fans continued to wear the costume and drive their Rovers, and latterly Hondas, everywhere at a strict 40 mph, whether on fast roads or in congested urban areas, and many can still be found throughout Britain today. While other drivers find such behaviour infuriating, devotees remain unaware of a problem, largely because they share Fortyman’s disdain for using mirrors.
When one adherent was challenged recently, he said, ‘The blighters will have to catch me first!’ before driving over a busy pedestrian crossing and going the wrong way down a slip road at forty to make good his escape with a cheery beep of his horn.