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.


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.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hi Steve,

In my limited experience with DC Thomson Annuals, this is hands down my favorite Beano cover. Somehow it just sums up Dennis the Menace perfectly.

Anyhow, last year when I went to C2E2 with Marti, Red, and Doug from BitBA we met in advance for breakfast and I showed them some of the Annuals since they had no familiarity. This was one of the some.

I suspect they may not have been inspired to seek it out on their own as the Annuals probably are a culturally acquired taste best tasted first in one's youth. Ah well...

P.S. it is yet another grey, cruddy day in Chicago. So, as I eat my clam chowder (everyone else is at the grocery store this Saturday) I figured I would check out some of your other postings. They are pretty cool. I enjoyed your single-issue reviews like Atlas comics Destructor.

You could do some reviews of Valiant, Victor, Hotspur and such since war comics are pretty universal? (Not that I am telling you what to do, LOL, as I am sure blogging already is a time intensive effort!)

Steve W. said...

Charlie, you have my sympathy. Over in Britain, we've been having something of a heatwave, with temperatures above 70 degrees.

Sadly, apart from the odd Beano, Space: 1999 and 2000 AD annuals, I currently have no British comics in my possession

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hey - I'm now sitting on my duppa again, watching a little TV (been a busy afternoon). BBC America is showing non-stop X-Files reruns for the next several hours. I'm watching one for a few minutes just to chill. Haven't seen X-files in a good 20(?) years!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

B.t.w. You can acquire all sorts of Brit Annuals at a very reasonable price on ebay! They would make a handsome addition to any household!

Anonymous said...

awesome to see billy the cat im from the UK too and i have been looking for the comic strip i think in the beano or dandy with the 2 chinese youths that where spies/crime fighters i cant find that strip anywhere

Steve W. said...

That's intriguing. I'm afraid I can offer no info about those two youths, as I have no recollection of them at all.