Classic cover artists: John Gillatt
John Gillatt, who died, sadly, towards the end of last year, was the principal artist on the much-loved Billy’s Boots strip (in Scorcher and Tiger, and latterly in Eagle then Roy of the Rovers) for seventeen years between 1971 and 1988. He also had extended runs on Johnny Cougar and Football Family Robinson in Tiger, and Dan Dare in Eagle, but it is for Billy that he will be so fondly remembered by the most readers. John’s artwork must be loved in part for its dynamic and realistic realisation of some cracking, possessed-boot-themed tales of a lad with limited sporting ability (to which the vast majority of us readers could relate) making it big on the football and cricket fields, and in part for the hundreds of dramatic front cover images he produced during these years. Together, these wonderful covers comprise a record of Billy’s many, many travails (and there’s something about John’s character work that gives so many of his subjects, especially Billy, a suitably troubled, world-weary expression), and also (through their skies both dark and sunny, their streets and playing fields and back yards and schoolrooms, scruffy uniforms and colourful sport kits) a portrait of suburban, schoolboy Britain in the 1970s and 1980s that is unsentimental yet still rather magical.