Thursday, 12 January 2012


I was looking for some biographical information on a well-known
comicbook artist a couple of days back, and duly typed his name (or so I
thought) into the search box at the top of the screen. Being the impatient
kind, I picked the first one on the proffered list and hit the key - only to
discover that it wasn't the individual I was looking for.

My mistake, but - many years
ago - I had a friend whose name
was incredibly similar to that of
the artist, and, in my haste, I had
unconsciously typed his name -
BOB BILLENS - instead of the
intended BOB BILLINGS. (Names
changed to protect the guilty, but
they really are that similar.) The
face of what appeared to be a total
stranger stared out at me from the
screen, and I was about to back-
space to the previous page when
something made me look again
more closely.

Wonder of wonders. It was
    the actual former friend of nearly half my life ago, apparently doing very
well in the world - if his self-penned many fine words in tribute to himself and
his achievements can be taken at face value. Not that it matters much - he was
always his own biggest fan. And anyway, what's a blog for if not to blow
one's own trumpet? (And, in his case, generate a little work.)

What struck me, however, was
just how old he looked, which is
why I hadn't recognised him at
first glance. Being the nostalgic
sort, I couldn't stop my mind
from rewinding back through the
years to when I'd first met 'Bob',
sometime in 1979. As I have to
fill this blog with something, I
may as well tell you about it now.
Hopefully, I'll contrive some way
of making it seem interesting
before we reach the end of the

Starting in February of 1979,
I worked in my local Central
Library for about six or seven months. Quite a few of the 'head' librarians
were given to looking down their noses at those who worked under them, and
to boasting about the extent of their overdrafts. (As banks only give money
to those who have money, they considered it some sort of status symbol to
be accorded the 'honour' of owing loads of dosh.) They really were a tedious
bunch of pretentious, insufferable poseurs.

I'd only been at the library for
perhaps a couple of months,
when a fellow worker one day
exclaimed,"You sound just like
Bob Billens...", before going
on to explain - in response to
my predictable enquiry - that
'Bob Billens' was someone who
worked in the library during the
Summer months.

Anyway, before too long, I got
to meet Bob Billens, and - sure
enough - he did sound a little
like me. Amazingly, he was also
a dyed-in-the-wool comicbook
geek like myself, and we soon hit
it off - talking comics and swapping opinions on what we thought about the
new SUPERMAN movie with CHRISTOPHER REEVE (which at that time
was still only a few months old). We also indulged in a fair amount of secret
sniggering at the pomposity and pretensions of our library 'masters'.

I eventually grew discontented
and quit the job, but our friendship
continued. However, shortly after,
Bob and his wife (in a pre-planned
career move) 'upped-sticks' and re-
located to England. We kept in touch
for a few years until, gradually, his
new life claimed him completely
and his already steadily-waning
inclination to maintain contact
finally evaporated.

When shot-on-location photos
of Superman IV he'd taken and
promised to send never turned up -
with no word from him in the weeks
or months that followed - it became
clear that there was little likelihood of him ever getting in touch again. Not
being one to impose myself on people, I didn't pursue the matter, although
I found it slightly puzzling.

Perhaps he'd simply concluded that, being hundreds of miles distant, I
could serve no further possible practical purpose in his day-to-day life
(especially after I'd given him my highly collectable SUPERMAN THE
MOVIE poster) and was therefore surplus to requirements.

Also, I probably just didn't
measure up to his 'sophisticated'
new circle of posh friends and
colleagues down South. He'd
once 'hinted' as much on a brief
visit home, when he looked at me
and said, "I dread to think what
the folks at work would say if they
could see you." He tried to say it
in a 'jokey' way, but was obviously embarrassed by what he considered
my lack of sartorial elegance and less than fashionable appearance. (You
can judge for yourselves from the photo. I think I look rather saintly.)

The irony of him becoming
the same kind of status-seeking,
social-climbing snooty snob as
the librarians he had so often
claimed to despise and regularly
heaped scorn upon is not lost on
me. It would be on him 'though,
but that's usually the way of
such things.

That reminds me - I really must
track down a replacement for that
Superman movie poster one day.
One that doesn't look quite so old
and as tired as Bob Billens.

(And 'Bob' - if by some remote
chance you ever happen to read this - I'm sure 'Big Rosa' would want to
send you her regards.)


Anonymous said...

He sounds a bit of a bastard to me.

H A R R Y G O A Z said...

Have a SUPER week, Kid!

Kid said...

And you Harry.