In Memoriam: “Billy’s Boots” and “Jet-Ace Logan” Comic Artist John Gillatt

A page of "Billy's Boots" by John Gillatt from Lion and Tiger, 28th September 1985.
A page of “Billy’s Boots” written by Fred Baker, drawn by John Gillatt from Lion and Tiger, 28th September 1985.

Former Fleetway editor Barrie Tomlinson pays tribute to John Gillatt, the artist best known for his work on strips such as “Billy’s Boots”, “Black Archer” and “Jet-Ace Logan” (for Comet and Tiger), who we have just learned died in November…

I was devastated to hear that my old friend John Gillatt had passed away in November, at the age of 87. He had suffered a massive stroke in May, which left him paralysed down one side and unable to speak.

I have always considered John to be one of the very best artists who worked on the comics. His detailed artwork was always so very true to life. No matter what subject he tackled, the results were always first class.

A page of "Jet Ace Logan" drawn by John Gillatt that featured  in Tiger, cover dated  2nd April 1960.
A page of “Jet-Ace Logan” drawn by John Gillatt that featured in Tiger, cover dated 2nd April 1960. “Jet-Ace Logan” was a science fiction adventure strip created by Michael Butterworth, often written by David Motton, which originally appeared in the Comet between 1956-1959 and then in Tiger (1959-1968) as well as issues of Thriller Picture Library and the 1963, 1969 and 1972 Tiger Annuals, as well as being reprinted in the first Starlord Annual.

I first met John when he came into the Tiger office at New Fleetway House in the 1960s, when John was working on the “Jet-Ace Logan” strip for Tiger. I was massively impressed with Johnʼs artwork on this story and his creation of many different creatures which threatened Earthʼs existence. It was comic artwork at its very best.

A page from "The Forest Rangers", based on a Canadian adventure show, which was shown on ITV, published in Tiger. This page from the issue cover dated 20th August 1966. Art by John Gillatt
A page from “The Forest Rangers”, based on a Canadian adventure show, which was shown on ITV, published in Tiger. This page from the issue cover dated 20th August 1966. Art by John Gillatt
"Black Archer", drawn by John Gillatt, on the cover of Tiger and Hurricane, cover dated 18th February 1967
“Black Archer”, drawn by John Gillatt, on the cover of Tiger and Hurricane, cover dated 18th February 1967

I can remember when John drew a story called “The Forest Rangers“. This was based on a Canadian television series, re-shown on ITV and I was amazed at the likenesses John achieved of the main characters. They were so good, they were like photographic images!

"Football Family Robinson" from Tiger and Jag, cover dated 29th January 1972. Written by Fred Baker, art by John Gillatt
“Football Family Robinson” from Tiger and Jag, cover dated 29th January 1972. Written by Fred Baker, art by John Gillatt. Via Great News For All Readers

Another story illustrated by John was “Football Family Robinson“, a strip he took over from Joe Colquhoun. (Two really brilliant artists illustrating this story makes it one to remember!)

Johnny Cougar Wrestling Monthly Issue Two

John had a very long run illustrating the “Johnny Cougar” wrestling story in Tiger. As always, his artwork ensured the story was extremely popular. I can remember, in 1992, John doing some cover illustrations for the Johnny Cougar Wrestling Monthly. Those covers in themselves are a true tribute to someone who was a master illustrator.

Many people will remember Johnʼs work on the “Billyʼs Boots” story in Tiger. His partnership with writer Fred Baker ensured the Billy story was always at the top of the Tiger charts. His characters were always characters you could believe in.

Speed Issue 2 - 19th February 1980 - Quick on the Draw

An episode of "Quick on the Draw" for Speed Issue 2 (cover dated 19th February 1980). Art by John Gillatt
An episode of “Quick on the Draw” for Speed Issue 2 (cover dated 19th February 1980). Art by John Gillatt

When I launched Speed comic, one of the stories I wrote was called “Quick on the Draw”. It was a Western. I asked John if he would illustrate the story and I was delighted when he said ʻYes!”. Once again, his artwork was superb and it was a joy to write the script, knowing it would be so well drawn.

The opening spread of "Dan Dare" from the first merged issue of Eagle and Battle (Issue 308, cover dated 30th January 1988).
The opening spread of “Dan Dare” from the first merged issue of Eagle and Battle (Issue 308, cover dated 30th January 1988).

John also had a stint drawing “Dan Dare” for the New Eagle, in 1988 when the comic merged with Battle. I thought his colour artwork was magnificent.

Jet-Ace Logan was revived for a one-off strip in the 1990 Classic Action Holiday Special, again drawn by John.
Jet-Ace Logan was revived for a one-off strip in the 1990 Classic Action Holiday Special, again drawn by John. Lew Stringer has more details on this special issue here

From 1989, I wrote the Scorer strip which appeared six days a week in the Daily Mirror for 22 years. The first artist was Barrie Mitchell but when he left the series quite early on, I knew exactly who I wanted to illustrate it. John Gillatt.
Scorer art by John Gillatt

Scorer art by John Gillatt
Scorer art by John Gillatt

Johnʼs Scorer illustrations were, of course, brilliant. The story needed an artist who could illustrate football action and also be able to draw beautiful women. John could do both those things and I felt honoured that my scripts could be turned into such excellent works of art which made the story so popular that it steadily increased in size on the Mirror cartoon page. When we later added photographic and computer effects, John adapted with ease and worked in close association with David Pugh, who did all the computer work. They were a great team. Johnʼs work was always delivered on time and always to the same high standard.

John continued to illustrate the Scorer story until 2003, when he suffered his first stroke, which stopped him being able to work.

Itʼs not enough just to list the stories that John worked on. What must be mentioned is John as a man. Tall, bespectacled, articulate, softly-spoken and a man who could deal with any challenge, John was a pleasure to work with and to be with. He was a perfect gentleman. For many years John was represented by Temple Art Agency, first working with Dan Kelleher, then his son Pat. I can recall many happy lunches with John and Pat.

Veteran British comic artist John Gillatt with writer and editor Barrie Tomlinson, January 2014. Photo courtesy Barrie Tomlinson
Veteran British comic artist John Gillatt with writer and editor Barrie Tomlinson, January 2014. Photo courtesy Barrie Tomlinson

John always appreciated people getting in touch with him to talk about his work on the comics. He was intensely proud of what he had done and was always thrilled that people still remembered his work. People do still remember and as long as comics are remembered, the name John Gillatt will be at the top of the list of all-time greats.

The comics world has lost a legend.

Barrie Tomlinson

Web Links

Read our 2014 feature “In Praise of John Gillatt”

• Read Lew Stringer’s tribute to John Gillatt here on Blimey! It’s Another Blog About Comics (our thanks to him for permission to include images from that item here on downthetubes)

Great News for All Readers, Bear Alley, British Comic Art and Blimey! It’s Another Blog About Comics have often featured John’s work

John Gillatt – Illustration Art Gallery Archive

• There’s an article on Jet-Ace Logan in the Eagle Flies Again SF Special, which you can read online here

• There’s a fan site dedicated to The Forest Rangers TV show, produced jointly by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/ ITC Entertainment,  here

Copyright Information

“Black Archer, “Jet-Ace Logan”, “Johnny Cougar”, “Football Family Robinson” JAG, Hurricane and Tiger © TimeUK

“Billy’s Boots”, Quick on the Draw” and SPEED © Rebellion Publishing Ltd

“Dan Dare” © Dan Dare Corporation

The Forest Rangers © Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/ ITC Entertainment


John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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