Billy dispatches a typical foe. Artist: Harry E. Homan.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: United Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1934
Creator: Harry E. Homan
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The heyday of fantasy humor/adventure comics with kid protagonists, in American newspapers was the first decade or two of the 20th century. That's when George McManus (Bringing Up Father) was doing Nibsy the Newsboy in Funny Fairyland, Harry Grant Dart …

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… (Boys Will Be Boys) was doing The Explorigator and Johnny Gruelle (Raggedy Ann) was doing Mr. Twee Deedle. The exemplar was, of course, Little Nemo in Slumberland, by Winsor McCay (Gertie the Dinosaur). Those were all gone, and most virtually forgotten, by the time Billy Make Believe came along.

Billy was a better fit with the fantasy adventures that had come before, than was their near-contemporary (and his own near-namesake), Bobby Make-Believe, whose make-believe adventurers tended to be more mundane. Billy's took place in magical and mysterious realms, where monsters, wizards and other fantastic menaces abounded. He was closer to Terr'ble Thompson, which came along a few years later, than to Bobby.

Billy was created by cartoonist Harry E. Homan, whose other work in comics seems to be sparse, but who also did Billy's topper, How to Make It (which described amateur craft projects for its juvenile audience). The distributor was United Feature Syndicate (Gordo, Garfield), which launched it as a Sunday-only feature on July 22, 1934.

Billy's end date is less well known. Comics historian Allan Holtz (the discoverer of Bobby the Boy Scout) has speculated that it may have lasted less than a year, despite the fact that United Feature appears to have promoted it as late as 1938. World Color Printing (Major Ozone's Fresh Air Crusade), which Holtz notes was known for buying up and reprinting short-run comics, distributed reruns of it as recently as 1940, but that seems to have been the last of it.

It was also reprinted in an occasional comic book such as Comics on Parade, one of several that specialized in United Feature strips like The Captain & the Kids and Fritzi Ritz. But that was the extent of its media penetration.


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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Gus Arriola.