Wednesday, April 07, 2010
The final fate of Billy's Boots!
Remember Billy Dane? The kid who found an ancient pair of football boots that once belonged to professional footballer Dead-Shot Keen? And how those boots magically enabled Billy to play superbly in Dead-Shot's style?
If you do remember it you'll probably know that Billy's Boots ran for years, beginning in issue one of Scorcher in 1970 (as reviewed here) and continuing seemingly forever in the pages of Tiger. As was the tradition of most comic strips, Billy never aged, remaining approximately 12 years old throughout the decades. This became increasingly bizarre for long term readers but ideal for newer generations to relate to him.
However, when the strips were reprinted over in Holland, something different occurred. There, Billy eventually grew up and his repetitive storylines actually led into a different direction, and into a conclusion.
Billy's Boots, under the Dutch title De Wondersloffen van Sjakie (The Magic Boots of Sjakie, - Sjakie being Billy) was published in Holland from 1973 to 1975 in the comic Sjors. As you can see below, some changes were necessary for a story where, in Tiger, Billy traveled to Holland on the ferry to play in a cup match. In the Dutch version, Sjakie was already living in Holland of course so UK artist John Gillatt was specially commissioned to draw a new sequence, replacing the ferry trip with Sjakie hitchhiking to the venue in Amsterdam.
Compare the original English version with the Dutch revision:
Incidentally, the drawing on the truck is a caricature of the Dutch editor, Meerten Welleman, which Gillatt was asked to include as a joke from Welleman's colleagues. The wording on the truck says "Oberon Strips kilometres leesplezier" ("Oberon Strips, kilometres of reading pleasure", a reference to Dutch publisher Oberon.)
In the final issue of Sjors in 1975 a completely new ending was devised for the strip. In the UK version Billy's adventures continued indefinitely but in Holland Oberon decided that Sjakie's story should have a definite conclusion. Therefore Billy (or rather Sjakie) signs a contract to become a professional footballer. His hard slog over the years has finally paid off, and the story ends with him giving a toast to the memory of Dead-Shot Keen.
The artwork for the final episode was by Jaap Verwey, who also drew for the Dutch version of Bunty.
Later, De Wondersloffen van Sjake was published in 33 albums from 1980 to 2000 featuring the John Gillatt strips in books 1 to 24 and Mike Western's work in books 25 to 33. Book one had 56 pages of strip and the rest had 46. A selection of the books covers with brand new artwork by John Gillatt can be seen below:
My thanks to reader Alex van Koten for supplying me with info and images about this topic.