Thursday, 23 July 2009

Billy The Cat ( & Katie )

You'll have to bear with me on this one, as I'm really relying on 30 year old memories plus what little information I've managed to find on the net, but you really can't cover the '70's without talking about Billy The Cat ( and Katie ), so:
Billy The Cat ( and Katie ) ran in venerable british comic The Beano from 1967 to 1974, or thereabouts, and was a great fun little strip, at least as far as I remember it.
Cousins William & Kathleen Grange lived in the town of Burnham with their avuncular Aunt Mabel ( William's parents, both of whom worked for the old bill, having been killed in a car crash caused by the getaway car of a pair of bank robbers. ) Wanting to take over from Mum & Dad, William used the designs left by his inventor pop to strike terror into the hearts of, well, nobody at all really, as...Billy The Cat! He also managed to convince his strangely willing cousin to dress up in black leather with him & climb rooftops at night. Subtext, anyone?

Both kids could leap incredible distances, climb walls only Spidey would attempt, and could take on several adults with one hand tied behind their backs, as well as having their nifty backpacks utilizing all kinds of climbing equipment. And Aunt Mabel's packed lunches.
Neither Billy or Katie's incredible agility or strength was ever explained, and I doubt the readers cared much anyway, as long as they could jump all over the playground like the cavortin' catlike cousins.

Interesting that William & Kathleen were clearly the posh kids of British adventure heroes, popping along to lessons at their local academy in their smart little blazers. How different from Buster's The Leopard From Lime Street, who had to steal his costume from the school panto!

Billy returned in the '80's, in the pages of Buddy, older, minus Katie, and with considerably less powers. ( Puberty fucks you up. Fact. )

Unbelievably, the upper-crust crimefighter is still going, having appeared intermittently in The Beano's annuals, as well as the regular mag on occasion. Having not read this strip in 30 years, I'm not even sure if it was actually as good as I remember it, and I suspect maybe not. But I do remember sending in some drawings to the BBC's kid's art programme Vision On at the time, at least one of which was of Billy The Cat ( and Katie ). And I guarantee I wasn't the only kid who walked home weighed down by a heavy backpack, pretending that hidden amongst the maths homework, lay a costume of black leather, with a crash helmet with cats eyes painted on it. Hey, I still do that....


  1. sadly, pete, it was nowhere near as good as either of us remember it to be.

    a few years back, myself and a friend, were given the chance, by D. C. Thompson, to submit a treatment for an updated Billy the Cat strip. unfortunately, our thirty-plus boozed up, super-powered West Ham skinhead, and his 'shroom-munching hippie single mum cousin with a penchant for turning into a were-cat whenever she got wound up weren't exactly met with what you'd call enthusiasm by the powers that be and we were promptly shown the door. . .

    1. Made me smile anyway Joe. I kep an eye on Dennis, personally, and wonder how long Gnasher will be around, given that he's 50 this year (as of 2018) The golden age of comics is long over I'm afraid.

  2. I can nearly beat that. Back in school, me & Philbo entered a competition to come up with a new strip for The Times newspaper. Our idea? KAOS THE SLAYER!!!! A post-apocalyptic half human barbarian whose mother had been raped by mutants.....We didn't win.

  3. There's a couple of episodes of Kaos the Slayer up on my blog somewhere.

  4. Don't forget Viz' affectionate parody, Barry the Cat - "the weird tale of a strange boy acrobat".

  5. There's a Billy the Cat pic up on my blog now too. I did it for a Bristol Comic Con card set a few years ago.

  6. Just working on a new Billy strip for the 2011 Beano Annual, featuring Katie, Aunt Mabel and some subtext!
    Victorian version 'William the Cat' in the 2010 annual out soon.

  7. my friend in Burma used to have these billy the cat original from 1960's (maybe from his dad's childhood stuff).... *sigh* If only I took those comic ... howcome beano didn't make special billy the cat book?