Julian Germain's photographs of handpainted Subbuteo miniatures reimagined as superheroes have been published in a new book. The painstakingly painted and remodelled miniatures were created – and abandoned in an attic – by a teenage boy nearly fifty years ago.
14-year-old Nick Kidney spent most of 1974 repainting and remodelling a standard team of Subbuteo footballers into superheroes. The project went unfinished – he never got to the goalkeeper and eventually lost interest. That is until Kidney got his hands on a copy of Julian Germain's 1994 book In Soccer Wonderland twenty years later.
In Soccer Wonderland was conceived as a scrapbook collage of Germain's 'professional' photos mixed with other football-related visual ephemera including the table-top football game Subbuteo and the hugely popular football comics of the 1970s. Designed by graphic artist Andy Altmann, In Soccer Wonderland's aim was to show how football exists in the hearts and minds of the fans.
When In Soccer Wonderland found its way into Kidney's hands, Germain's many shots of Subbuteo inspired him to dust off his old creations and finish them, nearly a quarter of a century after he started them. But the story doesn't end there.
On a lark, Kidney reached out to Germain. The two hit it off, and before he knew it, Kidney had delivered his miniature team off to Germain to be photographed.
"They were tiny, carefully crafted and guaranteed to bring a smile to the face," author Harry Pearson writes in Subbuteo Superheroes, a new book featuring Germain's photographs of Kidney's creations. "Yet while the minute figures provided an instant, unashamedly nostalgic flashback to the 1970s, they also conveyed something deeper and more poignant. They spoke about being a teenager, and of the painfully slow and often awkward transition between child and adulthood, when we are clinging on to one and reaching out for the other."
Designed once again by Andy Altmann, Germain's partner on In Soccer Wonderland, this new publication combines the artful eyes of two career creatives with Kidney's earnest and nostalgia-inducing Subbuteo art. The book captures the comic and sporting influences on Kidney's creations with obvious joy and a clear appreciation for the fan culture in which Kidney's miniatures were conceived.
Subbuteo Superheroes comes almost fifty years after Nick originally crafted the figures, twenty-eight years since Andy Altmann and Julian Germain worked together on In Soccer Wonderland and twenty-five years since the Subbuteo Superheroes portraits were originally made.
While Germain's photographs of Kidney's miniatures have occasionally appeared in exhibitions around Europe, they have never, until now, made their full debut in the UK.
Dripping with nostalgia and potent creative joy, this collaboration between Kidney, Germain, and Altmann is a testament to the creative power of fandom and connection and a celebration of the visual style that dominated the comic and sports subcultures of the 1970s.
Subbuteo Superheroes is available for purchase from Julian Germaine’s website.