JOHN EDWARD OLIVER (19 June 1942 – 26 May 2007) was a British cartoonist. He is more usually known as J. Edward Oliver or JEO, and to his friends he was Jack.
He originally achieved fame in late 1970 with a long-running strip in the UK music paper Disc (and Music Echo), later Record Mirror. The strip had many fans including John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It included characters from TV, film and music, with a large section for readers’ contributions (Win a Plastic Warthog). Jack provided other material, including a pop-based strip called The Nose, stories and numerous graphics.
One character proved particularly enduring, a dinosaur called Fresco-Le-Raye. Up to his death, J Edward Oliver continued to create Fresco strips which can be seen on his official website. (The site also features other strips, such as The Invisible Man, a staple of his Record Mirror years, with Young Julie, The Invisible Woman and more.)
In November 1977, the Record Mirror strip was deemed not contemporary enough and was ended. Oliver went to work for IPC Magazines Ltd, creating comic strips including Buster’s Master Mind (1980-1983), Cliff Hanger (1983-1987) and Vid Kid, as well as drawing The Champ in Whizzer and Chips from 1979 to 1981. Many of his strips included puzzles and games. In 1984, Oliver also wrote the words for a musical called Swan Esther which was performed at London’s Young Vic and on BBC radio.
When Buster ceased publication at the beginning of 2000, Oliver was the last artist left, and drew the only non-reprint material in the comic’s final issue (“How It All Ends”, which looked back at how all the Buster characters ended). With Buster gone, Oliver investigated other work, including newspaper strips and first day covers. In 2000, with his cousin [Steve Oliver], and together they created Phil Stamp Covers for stamp collectors. Other work included promotional art for a single by Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs.
Among Oliver’s trademarks in his strips were little signs reading “Abolish Tuesdays” and regular sightings of a tiny cube with a crank handle attached. The latter was never explained. Oliver also had something of an obsession with the British actress Madeline Smith, drawing several appearances by her into his work, which she later complained about. Oliver reacted characteristically, producing a strip about her complaint.
In 2000, a website about Oliver’s work revived interest in it. The site was originally created as a celebration of JEO’s work in Disc and Record Mirror but JEO contributed new material, as well as obscure historical stuff and a new, e-mailed (and free) weekly strip involving Fresco-Le-Raye, which eventually had hundreds of subscribers and ran for several hundred episodes, eventually developing from black-and-white to colour.
In 2007 Oliver announced he was suffering from cancer, but he continued to create new material. In March 2007 he married his girlfriend of many years, Liz Hales. He died peacefully on 26 May 2007.
JEO’s website continues, with much unpublished material finally seeing the light of day.
A rare collection of early Middle Bronze Age (c. 13th century B.C.) tools and weapons was discovered by John Oliver whilst digging the footings of an extension to his home in Tredegar Road, Dartford, in 1986. The four implements comprised two axe-heads, a knife and a tanged shaving razor and are known as the Leyton Cross Bronzes. The items were purchased by and are on display in Dartford Museum.