'Incredible' artist who illustrated children's characters dies aged 82

Bill Titcombe on the beach

Bill Titcombe in 2019 - Credit: Claire Thomas

A prolific artist, illustrator and cartoonist, who worked on more than 65 franchised cartoon characters during his career, has died at the age of 82. 

A talented comic strip artist, Bill Titcombe, who lived in Beccles, was best known for his work on Look-In and TV Comic, but his long career has spanned both illustrating children’s comics and books, as well as paintings of birds and wildlife.  

Born William Thomas Roland Titcombe in September 1938, Romford, Essex, he was the son of commercial artist Stewart Titcombe and Edith née Littler, who married in 1927.  

He was educated at various schools in London and South Africa, and when he left at the age of 15, he began working at London publisher Amalgamated Press, where his career in British comics began. 

Under mentor Nobby Clarke, he drew a cartoon strip called Our Ernie for the comic Knockout, progressing over the next five years to work on a variety of characters for the same publication, including Sinbad, Space Age Kit and Billy Bunter. 

During his early 20s, he worked as an artist at TV Comic, where he became best known for creating The TV Terrors and drawing many comic strips based on television shows.  

During the mid-1960s, he joined TV Century 21 comic, where he illustrated Bewitched, My Favourite Martian and Get Smart.  

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His talent and versatility soon attracted the attention of Polystyle Publications, which contracted him on a freelance basis to draw Tom and Jerry for TV Comic, which he did for the next 20 years. There are claims that in the UK, Hanna-Barbera insisted at one point that only Mr Titcombe draw the characters, which also featured on merchandise in the 1970s for a Shreddies cereal promotion and on lolly wrappers. 

Mr Titcombe went on to work for Look-In magazine from the late 1970s, drawing strips for Benny Hill, Charlie’s Angels, Cannon and Ball and Dad’s Army. And it was during his time there that he first started to work in colour, most notably on Dogtanian and Scooby Doo.  

Before retiring in the mid-1990s, to concentrate on painting, he accepted a job with the BBC’s Fast Forward magazine, regularly drawing famous faces such as David Jason, Dawn French, and Anneka Rice. He also worked on style-guide drawings for children’s shows Teletubbies and Tweenies, providing guidance for other artists on how to draw each character. 

Although he generally drew strips of characters that already existed, there was one that he created himself from scratch - The Perils of Page 3 Pauline, which appeared weekly in the News of the World from 1988 to 1995. 

In his personal life, he married Audrey Taylor in 1959, in Harrow, London, having met her on a bus going to Romford, only six months before. She paid for his bus fare. 

They lived together for 51 years, and had two daughters, Claire and Charlotte. The couple first lived at Stanningfield, before eventually moving to Beccles, Suffolk. 

Together, the couple collaborated on the book series, Tat the Cat, which featured on children’s television show Rainbow during the 1970s, and also on the book, Morgan, the Absent Minded Mallard. In both cases Audrey provided the words. She died in 2010 aged 79.  

From his studio in Beccles, Mr Titcombe became a highly regarded painter of wildlife, particularly birds, a passion he shared with his late brother Harry. 

And in 2015, together with David Baxter, Miles Fairhurst and Stephen Govier, he opened The Art Gallery at the 18th century Earsham Hall, near Bungay. Some of his acrylics of birds and animals are on display there. 

Alongside his comic strip work, he became an active member of the Society of Strip Illustrators in the 1970s. 

His family paid tribute and said: “He is greatly loved by his family and friends. He will always be remembered for his incredible artwork, quick wit, strong handshake, bow ties and his loving and sociable nature.” 

Mr Titcombe died in February 2021 following an illness and is survived by his daughters, grandchildren Daisy, Arthur, Felix and Florence, and great-granddaughters, Poppy and Mabel.  

Donations in memory of Mr Titcombe can be made to St Martin-in-the-Fields Trust and sent to Rosedale Funeral Home, 63 Victoria Road, Diss, Norfolk, IP22 4JE. 

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