In Memoriam: IPC Managing Editor Gil Page
We’re sorry to report the passing of Gil Page, an editorial stalwart of Amalgamated Press, Fleetway, IPC and latterly Egmont, as that company’s Managing Editor. He passed away peacefully in his sleep earlier in the week, aged 79.
“Gil was extremely professional in everything he did, but this likeable man never forgot his roots,” former editor David Hunt, whose credits include Battle and Eagle, told downthetubes. “I feel certain there will many of his peers who will mourn his loss”
And not only his peers. Gil, much admired by fellow staff in the comic publishers he worked for, remembered fondly for his affable nature and globe trotting by colleagues. But he was also a tremendous help to many fans keen to know more about the history of British comics, including Steve Holland, Roy of the Rovers archivist Mark Towers, Ian Wheeler, who edited Eagle Flies Again, and Hibernia Comics’ David McDonald, who recently conducted an interview with Gil for a future Comic Archive.
“We have exchanged emails over the last few years,” says David. “He was very knowledgeable about Fleetway and IPC and always happy to answer some of my more pedantic questions.”
Gil broke into publishing, thanks to his uncle’s friend John Wheway, who Gil described in an interview for Eagle Flies Again as “a prolific schoolgirls text story writer for Amalgamated Press. An interview was arranged directly after Gil’s National Service in the RAF and he began on 4th March 1957, as a scriptwriter on the girls’ title School Friend.
Working his way up through the ranks, he worked for Fleetway Publications (later IPC Magazines), Maxwell PP and, finally, Egmont, retiring in the early 2000s. He edited a number of comics down the years, including the revived Champion, Smash! and the Stupendous Series of Fleetway Super Library starring The Steel Claw and The Spider.
During his time at IPC, working for the company’s Juvenile Group in the 1970s, Gil was also one of the team who scouted for new artists to work on the company’s then diverse range of titles, including Battle and 2000AD.
He remained Managing Editor for the group when the new Eagle was launched, witnessing many changes to the industry down the decades.
In addition to his work in British comics, he was also involved in the revival of one veteran comic hero, Janus Stark, in France, commissioning Scott Goodall and Angus Allan to write new adventures for the French market between 1982 and 1986, none of which have been reprinted, as far as I’m aware, in English.
“Gil was always smiling, he radiated cheerfulness, recalls Dez Skinn of his time working with Gil. “An ever-youthful looking individual, he exuded optimism and good humour. The sort of man who would maintain a beaming smile, peppered with laughter on all the right occasions, as you went droning on about something he probably had no interest in whatsoever.
“A charming man whose unique talent was in getting the best out of those lucky enough to work with him. With his ever-present laughter and positivity, how could you not do your best for such a man, whether he was editing Smash! when IPC absorbed the title from Odhams, or launching Scorcher – a weekly football comic popular enough to warrant him taking on a sister title in Score ‘n’ Roar.
“Like Ken Armstrong, his art editor on Smash! had been before him, Gil rose to become the international art liaison for the truly massive IPC, which on staff alone employed over 2000 journalists. As such,he was free to break away from the nine-to-five discipline of office life and travel the world to visit art agencies in search of new talent to feed the 1000+ weekly page requirement of this comics behemoth.
“Like few others around him, Gil made everybody feel happy. We are lessened by the loss.”
When editor Barrie Tomlinson proposed relaunching Eagle in the early 1980s Gil was excited at the enormous potential of such a relaunch but was aware of “the very real dangers of living up to the original title”.
“Barrie was the driving force,” Gil told Eagle Files Again in 2002. “He had been an enthusiastic reader of the original and was desperate to see it again in all its glory. As I recall, there was a great divergence at management level. Was it possible to follow the Rolls Royce of comics? In the end, the company went for it.
“Everyone ‘out there’ remembered Eagle, which had merged with Lion, and it seemed all the people in the media had been readers. There was tremendous interest and curiosity which initially generated fantastic sales. The new Eagle had extra colour and better paper and printing, as well as featuring photo-strip, but predictably upset the buffs, who had been weaned on Frank Hampson.”
“I had the office next to him for six months in 1991,” recalls Brian Clarke, formerly editor of the comics magazine Crikey! “We had some great chats. Really nice guy.
“It was not a happy time at the old cigarette factory,” he continues, alluding to the decline in comic sales that had begun to hit the industry. “Gil just wanted to get back to good solid comics for kids. Dave Hunt was at the desk island outside his office and they would talk about the solid principles of good editorial discipline. Roy of the Rovers was in trouble and he and Dave saw its approaching demise as a symbol of the old versus new comics.”
“I met Gil when I first made contact with Egmont about Roy of the Rovers,” recalls comics archivist Mark Towers, who ran the character’s official site for several years. “He was the last of the old school and was a fantastic help and support for a number of years. His values about comic characters resonated with mine and he had a wealth of knowledge and some great stories. He will be greatly missed.”
“A Constant Traveller”
“I first got to know Gil when we shared an office together in New Fleetway House, when we were both editors,” recalls former editor Barrie Tomlinson. “He later moved on to take charge of our dealings with the many foreign artists who were employed by Fleetway, from Spain, Italy and South America. He was a constant traveller to foreign parts, building up contacts with foreign artists and agents.
“At about the time I became a Group Editor of the Boys’ Sport and Adventure Department, Gil was promoted to Managing Editor, which wasn’t always an easy task, having to deal with group editors like me as well as having to work closely with management and executives in and outside the comics industry. It was great that Gil let me get on with my job, without any management pressure.
“Gil and myself worked very closely together when I produced Scream comic, he continues. “Each week, we would take the finished Scream issue to show to a senior executive and each week it would be heavily criticised. This is something we weren’t used to, having always produced comics without any problems. Scream was short-lived but it was a shared experience, which we often spoke about. We both thought Scream deserved a longer life!
“Being invited to Gil’s office for a drink was always quite an experience. His measures of gin were exceptionally large! We also had many lunches together, when we tried to put the world to rights and have a good natter about editorial matters.
“When I set up my own company, to produce the boys’ comics on a freelance basis, Gil was my editorial contact and we worked closely together to ensure the new system was successful. It was, but only for a short while.
“A final recollection: Gil introduced me to extra strong mints. They have become a habit with me. I always have a packet of mints in my pocket!”
Helping Comic Fans
“What I remember about Gil was his generosity,” comics archivist and publisher Steve Holland told downthetubes. “He spent a great deal of time answering my questions over a span of decades. He was the first editor I met, although by the time I met him he was in a managerial role. Working his way up through the ranks, he edited the Stupendous Series of Fleetway Super Library starring The Steel Claw and The Spider. As these were two of my favourite characters, you can imagine I was a little bit starstruck to meet the man who helped create those stories.
“Gil was small, neat, quietly spoken. I popped into his office occasionally when he was working as syndication manager in the 1990s, which kept him in touch with all the agencies throughout Europe and South America. He used to take an annual trip to Barcelona to meet up with Blas Gallego, with Scott Goodall coming down from France, although, sadly, Scott was too ill to attend their last get-together.
“During the summer he’d play golf. It seemed to me that, every time I phoned, he was playing golf, about to play golf, had just played golf, or, during the colder months of the year, was looking forward to when he could play golf. I’m sure I’m massively overstating this, but that’s how it felt.
“Gil was active right up to the end and remained friends with many of his former co-workers. He was off to see Bob Paynter the last time we were in touch (mid-April), although I also had a brief message from him on the 28th. Sad to think that it will be the last.”
“A very nice man has left the scene,” notes comic artist Ian Kennedy, “With many pleasant memories – what more can one say.”
We extend our sympathies to Gil’s family and friends at this time.
• David Hunt, former comics editor and friend of Gil Page pays tribute to him here
• The story of Hurricane and Champion has been documented by Steve Holland, with help from Gil Page in his book Hurricane and Champion: The Companion Papers to Valiant
Our thanks to Alison Bonner, Jeremy Briggs, Steve Holland, David Hunt, Ian Kennedy, Dez Skinn, Barrie Tomlinson, Mark Towers and Ian Wheeler in the compilation of this tribute