|Biljo White, born William Joseph White, died Wednesday February 26th, 2003 at the age of 73, only a week after being diagnosed with Burkett's Lymphoma, and 3 weeks after retiring.|
Biljo was one of early comics fandom's most active fan writers and artists. Beginning with Komix Illustrated in 1962, living in Columbia, Missouri, by the name of Bill J. White. Just about everyone called him Biljo-or, Capt. Biljo for fun.
Biljo was a huge influence on early fandom and well known by all involved in it in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Other accomplishments include being co-creator of “The Eye”, creator of “The Fog”, Art Director of fanzine Alter Ego, as well as publisher of The Comiccollector for a time, and The Stripper, a magazine for fans of comic strips.He drew many such strips but his most famous was The Eye, a freakish crimefighter with an eyeball for a head, far weirder than any evil-doer he vanquished.
By day, White was a hero in his own right — a fireman in Columbia, MO — and one with a lifelong interest in comics. He actually purchased Batman #1 off the racks in 1940 and amazingly, his mother didn't throw it out. In fact, he amassed a truly splendid collection of comics with the emphasis on the Caped Crusader.
White owned a near-complete run of the Golden Age Batman comics, which he kept under lock and key in "The White House of Comics." This “white house” was simply a cinderblock building behind his home that stored, besides his Batman collection, the thousands of Golden Age comics that he had mostly acquired right off the news stands as a kid.
Having grown up reading comics in the '40s, he naturally reserved his greatest admiration for the days when Bob Kane had worked on the strip, and when Batman had been truly a creature of the night. Kane was one of White's idols, alongside artists Alex Raymond, C.C. Beck, and Hal Foster.
An aspiring artist showing considerable potential, Biljo had begun drawing as a youth, and had continued honing his skills during a stint in the military in Germany, doing a regular cartoon for the base newspaper called "The New Bunch." Soon after his discharge, he wrote a letter to Bob Kane c/o DC Comics, asking for hints about getting into the comics field, and received a gracious three-page handwritten reply, in which Kane suggested: "You can even go up to see my outfit [DC] and mention my name. Ask to see Jack Schiff, one of the editors."
Circa 1955, he traveled to New York City to show his portfolio to Schiff, hoping to gain a Batman assignment. Unfortunately, the DC editor didn't offer encouragement. "Mr. Schiff left me with the knowledge that, when artists were needed, it was an easy matter to obtain them through the area art schools," White recalled recently.The experience was discouraging enough to un-inspire him — at least on comics as a profession. Thereafter, he did them only for fun, and it showed.
Unbeknownst to the powers-that-be at DC Comics, the fledgling comics fandom movement of the early 1960s was about to weigh in with support for the Caped Crusader that was so perfectly timed, and so effective, that it must be given some degree of credit for the resurgence of interest in Batman and Robin (and the "New Look")-in fandom, at least.
In July 1964, Bill J. "Biljo" White launched the first fanzine devoted exclusively to one costumed character, coining the term Batmania for its title-no doubt inspired by the Beatlemania that had swept the U.S. earlier in the year. Some might understandably have felt that assigning the term "mania" to anything relating to Batman at this point in time was the sheerest wishful thinking.
"I felt it was time for someone to stand up for Batman," White stated in a recent interview. "I thought, `Why not me?'"
Biljo's part in the “batmania” craze, as well as his many other accomplishments will not be forgotten.
I would like to thank Bill Schelly for letting me use his books as source materials for this tribute page.
Below are some art and pics provided by Bill Shelly (via his books),I all hope you enjoy and we do plan to add what we can as often as possible.
1-6) Besides The Eye, Bijo did a lot of other great characters, here are a few.
1) Sample of his "New Bunch" strip for the Army division newspaper, 2) Captain Alter Ego he did for Roy Thomas, 3) a cover of the great fanzine Alter-Ego #7. and 4) Cover of the first Batmania cover, besides The Eye this was Biljo's other historical contribution to Fandom
1-2) Most famous of Biljo's work was The Eye! I will have more examples but here are two.
1) Biljo with fellow Fandom great Ron Foss, 2) While in the Army, 3) during the 70's, 4) This was taken in 1998