Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Billy the Cat and Katie. Beano Book 1973.

Billy the Cat and Katie, Beano Book 1973
As we all know, the American comic book industry's always been the natural venue for the super-hero yarn. Maybe it's the brashness of American culture, or the epic scale of New York but somehow super-heroes have always felt more at home there.

However, in the 1970s, British comics did give readers the occasional chance to see some home-grown super-heroics. I've already mentioned the late lamented Vulcan comic and its oddball battlers, in this post from June, and now it's time to acknowledge the existence of The Beano's very own stab at the form, in the shape of Burnham Academy's answer to Daredevil and the Black Widow - the crime-fighting pair of youngsters known as Billy the Cat and Katie.

Billy the Cat and Katie, Beano Book 1973, schoolbusBilly the Cat and Katie were William and Kathleen Grange, two cousins who fitted in fighting crime around their school work. How they got their incredible powers of agility and athleticism, I don't know. Where they got their leather costumes and crash helmets from, I don't know. Who wrote them, I don't know. Who drew them, I don't know. I only know that with them around no crook was safe.

In The Beano Book of 1973, Billy the Cat and Katie tackle a pair of escaped convicts by the name of Wat Graham and Jake Carson who hijack the local school bus.

Well, those crooks might think they're being smart in taking on a bunch of kids but what they don't know is it's none other than the bus that Billy the Cat and Katie use to get home on. Within mere pages, after much bouncing round on the rooftops, our heroes have the crooks all tied up and helpless, with no one any the wiser as to their true identity.

Beano Book 1973, Biffo the Bear and Dennis the Menace
It has to be said that, compared to the life-or-death, angst-ridden adventures of Marvel's heroes, it's all rather pleasant stuff, packed with a sense of cosy Englishness and drawn in a way that evokes little sense of drama or urgency, even when the bad guys start waving guns around.

This is a good thing. This is The Beano after all, a comic noted for its feel-good escapism, not its nail-chewing melodrama.

Most of all, what the story does do is make you want to be Billy the Cat and/or Katie. If only I too could leap around on the rooftops. If only I had one of their metal cat claws attached to a piece of line. If only I had a crash helmet with a set of whiskers on it.

Oh well. Maybe one day. Maybe one day.

4 comments:

R. W. Watkins said...

So that's where contemporary pop artist Raymond Pettibon got his inspiration for the cover art on Black Flag's My War album!

By the way, whatever became of that great upholder of British justice, Bananaman...?

Kid said...

Ah, Billy the Cat. Memories. Now do a piece on Tri-Man.

R. W. - Bananaman is still in The Dandy. I was never much of a fan. I think I even prefer the new, current version.

Steve W. said...

I'm afraid I've never heard of Tri-Man. Were there three of him? Was he Britain's answer to Triplicate Girl?

Kid said...

He was a superhero character in Smash! Much in the Peter Parker mould. So, I suppose, in that way, there were similarities between him and The Leopard from Lime Street.

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