Former comics editor David Hunt pays tribute to one of the great, and largely unsung force behind the success of British comics over several decades – Gil Page, who died earlier this week.
I last saw my dear friend Gil Page a couple of weeks back. With Bob Paynter and Stan McDonald (giants of the industry it had been my privilege to be a part of since 1961), we once again enjoyed a splendid fish and chips meal in a favourite restaurant situated in the road that backed on to the our offices the Egmont company had once owned in Tavistock Road. We did this two or three times a year and it was smiles all round as the four of us initially caught up on our respective news but then, as usual, as the vino flowed, we reminisced about the many talented characters and personalities we had met in days now long gone.
The fact that Gil was always the instigator of these get-togethers speaks volumes of the man. Gil enjoyed company and was always good company to be with …
I must admit to knowing little of Gil’s earlier career at Amalgamated Press/Fleetway Publications situated in Farringdon Street. A tough little survivor of postwar England, after leaving school I know that he did his National Service in the RAF. He was always a keen sportsman and, despite lacking somewhat in height, he was a top-class amateur goalkeeper who played for the Forces at a really good level. Indeed, whilst playing, Gil must have broken just about every finger on both hands as his distorted fingers were later a testimony to. After his demob I believe he joined Amalgamated Press in the mid-50s as a scriptwriter on the girls’ title School Friend in Stewart Pride’s area.
I crossed swords with him (so to speak) when he launched Score ‘n’ Roar in the early 1970s, an IPC Magazines’ title now under the stewardship of Jack Le Grande in his boys’ adventure group. At the time I was editor of the football title Scorcher, so you can be certain our professional rivalry was always a lot of fun.
My next real association with Gil was when I was editor of Battle Picture Weekly. Gil was now head of Foreign Liaison with the task of unearthing new art talent because, with titles such as BPW, 2000AD, Action, Tiger, Roy of the Rovers, plus the ever-popular girls’ area, all proving to be hugely successful in the now-thriving Juvenile area, led by Director John Sanders, it was proving ever more difficult to fill our pages. With Gil’s excellent personable skills, plus his man to man approach, he was certainly the right candidate for the task. Gil must have flown literally thousands and thousands of miles as he trawled mainland Europe and South America for new talent.
I know, also, that he forged many friendships on his travels with some that have endured to this day. Indeed, on hearing of Gil’s demise, one of my hardest tasks on was breaking the news to the incredibly talented Spanish artist Blas Gallego who resides with his wife in Barcelona. Blas honestly saw Gil as more than just a friend and to use his words … “For forty plus years was more like a brother to me.
I believed Blas because Gil, along with the late scriptwriter Scott Goodall, who himself lived in the South of France, plus myself, we all used to meet up annually with Blas in Barcelona where, once again, the vino flowed and I witnessed first-hand the immense regard Blas had for his ‘brother’ Gil Page.
After his Foreign Liaison role, Gil’s talent was recognised more by John Sanders and later by Jon Davidge at Greater London House as he was promoted to right-hand man roles. Often, as titles died and creative emotions surfaced, Gil’s stance was the voice of reason as he diffused internal clashes.
Personally I, too, came to look on him as more of a friend than merely a working colleague. I got to know his lovely wife Jean well as we very often chatted on the phone. He was a member of Sundridge Park Golf Club and my mate Allan and myself were very fortunate to be invited by him to play at his club. First Alan Fennell and then Stan Mcdonald would partner Gil representing Kent and we would play for the pride of Essex. Happy, sunny-day memories.
Gil was extremely professional in everything he did, but this likeable man never forgot his roots. I feel certain there will many of his peers who will mourn his loss and my sincerest condolences are extended to his wife Jean, plus his daughters Allison and Caroline and their respective families. Gil always spoke fondly and proudly to me of his daughters and grandchildren.
The last time we saw Gil at the fish and chips restaurant, Bob, Stan and myself had noted the fact that this October would have been his 80th Birthday and we were planning a celebratory meal, but this time instigated by us. Sadly that cannot now take place, but rest assured the three of us will raise a glass and a smile and remember the good times we always had with our now departed friend.
We’ll miss you, Gil…