Thursday 31 December 2009

Original art sold

Just a quick note about a recent sale of a Garth strip by Frank Bellamy, number J70. This sold on eBay last month for $250 - which in Pounds Sterling today equates to £154, a nice sum for a well loved story.

This is an episode from The Angels of Hell Gap, which ran in the Daily Mirror from 15 January 1975 to 02 May 1975 (Numbers J12-J101). You just might be able to see the date pencilled in (presumably by the editor) of '26-3-1975'

The thing we all loved reading at that time was the opening episode, as Bellamy always did the equivalent of a comic's splash panel.

Here's the first episode of The Angels of Hell Gap

Monday 28 December 2009

Fans of Frank Bellamy: Les Edwards

I am about to steal hours of your time!

I've been reading comics, comic strips and graphic novels for approximately 50 years. But the name Les Edwards was new to me until a few years ago. If you look at his amazing artwork, ( you may be saying "who is this guy?" or if younger than me, "what kind of an idiot are you, Norman? How could you not know Les?".

It seems logical to me that we all favour and concentrate on those we get to know. Richard Bruton (no spelling mistake!) reviews new stuff on Forbidden Planet's Blog. This year he has talked about Largo Winch (amongst many others) and I'm now hooked! I will now watch out for the Belgian creators Philippe Francq and Jean Van Hamme.

I'm going to confess something here: I have never been able to read Discworld - and therefore never bought the calendars! I did read Anne McCaffrey's Pern series in the Eighties and early Nineties (thus missing Les' excellent covers in the 'Noughties'). I have never followed role-playing games. And I gave up browsing bookshop science-fiction shelves quite a while ago, and thus missed Les' fascinating covers. Anyway enough of my confessions. Les, I'm sorry to have missed your work for so long. I'm sure that a lot of people reading this will also be discovering your work for the first time! I can certainly see some Bellamy influence (compare the rockets in the above Eagle cover and Les' 'Cygnus' painting).

Les kindly offered to add to my mini-series of 'Fans of Frank Bellamy'. Over to Les:

Like most boys growing up in the 50's I was a fan of the Eagle which was streets ahead of other comics of the day in terms of quality. My main interest to begin with was Dan Dare, because it was Science Fiction and because it always had a large splash panel on the front page to grab your interest. It was also beautifully drawn by the other great Frank;- Hampson, although, if the truth be told I was too young to appreciate the artwork at first. At this time the centre pages of the Eagle were given over to the famous cut-away drawings which can still put a gleam in the eye of men of "a certain age". Whoever decided to put a double spread strip in their place deserves a medal.

I'd been aware of The Happy Warrior on the back page and Montgomery of Alamein but I considered them subordinate to the main attraction which was still the adventures of Dan and Digby and their nemesis the evil Mekon. However, when Heros the Spartan began to run in the centre pages I switched my allegiance at once. I've tried in the ensuing years to decide why I found Heros so attractive but while I have lots of "grown up" reasons I'm not sure why my twelve year old self was so hooked.

Taken from Eagle 7 Sept 1963, Vol 14 36

In my memory Heros was always very dark and richly coloured which gave it a moody and brooding atmosphere, something which I still try to replicate in my own work. In looking at panels from the strip in later years this is clearly not always the case. Indeed one of the stories, obviously inspired by Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean's magnificent film, was set in the desert and brightly lt. Still my abiding memory is of dark shadows and twisted trees, swamps and monsters and almost Neanderthal barbarians. It was a kind of proto-Sword and Sorcery, long before I'd ever heard the term.

There was plenty of action. Indeed everything in a frame of Heros seemed to be in motion, whether it was the creases in someone's clothing, an expressively gesturing hand or the sweep of a sword. Again, this rather a "grown up" appreciation and I'm sure I reacted to this strip on a much more fundamental level.

Eventually I became interested in the artist. Of course it was Frank Bellamy. I tried, without much success to imitate his style and I think there are still elements of him in what I do now.
It was an influence that followed me to Art School, to the bemusement of my tutors, and I did not, nor did I want to, shake it off. I doubt very much that I would be doing what I do today without Heros.

When Bellamy moved on to do Thunderbirds for Century 21 his work became ever more accomplished. Indeed some of his renderings of non_Thunderbird hardware are absolutely stunning. But while you might argue that this is more mature work, it never quite had the resonance of Heros the Spartan for me. I look forward to the day when someone republishes the whole of Bellamy's Heros work in a large format. Maybe then I'll be able to put my finger on the element that made it so crucial to me. I'm not holding my breath, but they did it for Dan Dare and I can't be the only wanna-be legionnaire out there.

Taken from TV21 201 23 November '2068'

Thanks a lot Les. Let's hope Titan Books are listening and will publish Heros as a complete run. I hope you like the selection of Bellamy art - I was tempted to add a Hampson, but felt a Bellamy blog ought to have Bellamy and as I could see a similarity between your Cygnus and Bellamy's hardware in the Dan Dare story above... Also I could have shown the Heros 'desert' story, but felt the issue above shows that some bright colour did indeed appear in the strip despite your and my memory of it being dark! I threw in some Thunderbirds hardware and 'barbarians' too for good measure.

Monday 16 November 2009


Les Harding kindly wrote to say I'd omitted the book 'Fraser of Africa' from my book list. As I explained to him, I was very grateful as there are so many entry points into a website it's hard to ensure everything cross-references! But he is absolutely right! I had listed it in the reprint list (which I created to help those who couldn't afford the original comics) but not in the book list!

By the way, there's a great review of this book on Win Wiacek's "Now read this!" blog - just ignore the pompous commentator at the end of the review!

Secondly I have changed the TV21 entries a little as I had, for some reason, said that TV Century 21 became TV21 and TV Tornado way before it did! That appears on the comics page and is now corrected

Lastly I will at some point finally bite the bullet and change the names of the Thunderbirds stories to those commonly accepted on said page. There's a long story behind this but that will wait for another day (or two)!

Thursday 5 November 2009

More original artwork for sale

I have added the prices that these two pieces sold for. I'm amazed at how much they raised for the relevant party and pleased to see Bellamy at last become a major contender - to quote Marlon Brando!

Just wanted to alert you to the fact that right now there are two pieces of artwork by Frank Bellamy on Comic Book Postal Auctions. Look at lots #99 and 100.

The first is a double-page spread of the "Montgomery of Alamein" from - to quote the site"Eagle Vol 17 No 13 1967". Now that's the first time I've heard of this appearing so late in Eagle and as this looks like the original (note the lack of pasted title top-left) I can't imagine how they got the information. I believe it is an original of Volume 13:17 (28/04/1962). Mind you the entry does say "Gouache on board" and Bellamy always used inks for these comic pieces! And I'm not so pedantic to mention the spelling mistake in the title! Whatever the information, the estimate is a bargain in my opinion: £550-650 Let's see what it goes for as it looks in great condition. I'll add the result when it's finished

Auction ended December, 2009 at £2,849! In a recession as well! That's the highest amount paid for a Bellamy to my knowledge

Edited on 28 December 2009

The second comes from "Heros The Spartan" and appears somewhat faded, but nice. The information for this one is right: Eagle Volume 16 No 11 1966. It's episode number 3 from the story called The Slave Army. Bellamy used inks again not gouache and the estimate is £500-550

Auction ended December, 2009 at £2,262!

Edited on 28 December 2009

Friday 30 October 2009

Escape from Aquatraz Volume 3 of the new series

John Freeman kindly passed on the following information from Marcus Hearn, which I hope he won't me quoting:

We're putting the finishing touches to Volume 3 now. I don't have a press release but I've attached the contents page and the jacket so that should give you what you need. It's restored to the same standard as the first two volumes and approx half the pages are scanned from original artwork.

The latest volume contains the following stories drawn by Bellamy:
ATOLL OF DOOM #197-202

The first was reprinted once in the 1990s Thunderbirds comic (numbers 25-27 for those completists) as "Nuclear threat" and if you are Dutch in TV2000 # 1 - 3, 1969
The second was also reprinted once in the same Thunderbirds comic (#25-26) as "Hawaiian lobster menace"
And lastly Thunderbirds #42-45 had the only reprinting of the story titled "Danger in the deep".

I, for one, will be really pleased to see these stories again - especially if they contain a lot of the original artwork. The first two volumes (mentioned here) are absolutely gorgeous. Paul Holder and I spent an evening looking at each page and deciding how 1) the original artwork did not get reproduced so well in photogravure (surely the best there was at that time) and 2) deciding which pages were from the originals and which weren't. The reproduction in the first 2 volumes is so crystal clear that I couldn't believe how muddied some of the original TV21s were!

Saturday 17 October 2009

Fans of Frank Bellamy: Jon Haward

I tripped over an interview between Jon Haward and Terry Hooper with loads of fine examples of Jon's artwork, in which he praised Frank Bellamy. Click on the link and spend time there after you finish here!

I took the liberty of emailing Jon (via his website) asking if he could say more about the influence that Frank Bellamy had on him. He very kindly agreed to me publishing the following:

'What does Frank Bellamy the artist mean to me?'' Well firstly, he's my all time favourite artist full stop, he wasn't just a artist who worked for comics he was a all round illustrator who could draw beautiful nudes in stipple nib pen , he could illustrate film stars, animals, machines, planes, basically anything the Editors wanted he could draw.

He could design fantastic covers for magazines, he was a all round artist who had a terrific graphic design sense with shadow and colour and he used lettering to good effect too he was a master craftsman of his trade.

Radio Times 1st January 1972 - 7th January 1972 "Doctor Who - Day of the Daleks"

He was copied by other artists of his generation but none of them could match him , he was a one off, his work still has a freshness to it even after 33 yrs since he passed away

When I was at art college in 1981 my art history thesis special project was a book all about Frank Bellamy where I put interviews /art and my reasons why I liked his work I got a 70% pass for my efforts

Over the years as a comic pro I've been very lucky to draw Dan Dare and Thunderbirds and draw the odd Dr Who illustration all three Bellamy had drawn in his career, my work never touched his for style and impact, I admit my Dan Dare was one of my first jobs so I was a green horn learning as I went along , Thunderbirds was difficult I tried drawing it on cs10 board with coloured inks like Bellamy but it was a lot of hard work and being forced to draw the characters in puppet character proportions didn't help me either and I was never really happy with my efforts . Dr Who was a storybook so I could not go too wild with the artwork or design so you see I just couldn't match the master craftsman.

Eagle 7 November 1959 Vol 10:38 "Terra Nova"

Bellamy still inspires me I put little nods to him in my layouts with the odd character pointing to the reader and when I draw things in outer space I draw stars like Bellamy, my explosions I try and draw a Bellamy blast that breaks out of the panel box.

His work was very clever he could draw fantastic atmosphere with black figures and a one colour tone over them for background and it still looked terrific, he could draw fantastic fight
scenes and amazing battle spreads (Heros), but what hooked me first was his work on Garth a black and white story adventure strip in the Daily Mirror. As a young boy I would copy and copy the art from my brothers scrap books of the strip my all time favourite is The Bubble Man a ''Mekon'' type alien who's ship had crewmen like giant insects I'm thrilled Spaceship Away are reprinting this work for a new generation to discover, I'm also pleased Book Palace books are reprinting his Swift work which is new for me to discover being a 60's child not old enough to see it first time round.

Eagle 3 August 1963 Vol 14:31 Heros the Spartan: The Eagle of the Fifth

Bellamy never handed in a bad piece of work ,he shows that the art form can be exciting and fantastic, dynamic and to me that marks him as a all time great of the medium of Art not just comics.

He died when I was only 11 yrs old before I could send him a fan letter or one of my drawing but he'll never be forgotten thanks to the Internet, publishers and fans like me who will always marvel at his wonderful body of work . Jon Haward

I must mention Jon's involvement with the Classical Comics project. I've read both his Macbeth and Tempest as well as some others in the series, and have enjoyed them enormously. Mike Collins, who kindly contributed to this blog recently, has done a title in the series - Christmas Carol and a contemporary of Bellamy's John Burns has two titles in the series. And no, I'm not on commission! All the graphic novels are published in three simultaneous editions (see an explanation here) and are available in the usual virtual and physical bookstores.

Here's an example of a comic frame where Jon might have been influenced by Bellamy's habit of shaping the frame to enhance the breaking action! For the curious, it's Ariel, Propsero's sprite in the Tempest

Jon Haward's art from The Tempest

Sunday 13 September 2009

Bellamy art for sale

Head over to ComicArtFans Galleries as Terry Doyle is selling a lot of his tremendous collection!

You'll need to hurry as despite a recession, they are selling fast!

My favourite, which I certainly can't afford, is the Churchill strip from The Happy Warrior - but £2,500 is a bit much for me!. Also King Solomon's Mines because of its uniqueness and beauty- I blogged about it a while ago - and the price is £4,000 which because of the fact it was unpublished and a full centrespread is worth that sort of order, in my opinion. I recently browsed an art fair and saw far lesser lights sell for the equivalent or more than this.

Oh, and there are lots of non-Bellamy materials

Thanks for sharing the information Terry

Saturday 12 September 2009

ADDITION - Letter from Frank Bellamy

Thanks to Richard Sheaf for forwarding scans of the cover and the letter that was published in Fantasy Advertiser Vol 3:43, May 1972, I thought it worth showing both here

The cover is not by Bellamy, but by Jim Baikie (does he really not have his own website?) who I know best for his co-creation of Skizz in 2000AD. The date of the fanzine is May 1972 - eleven years before that work!

Anway getting onto the Bellamy connection, his letter is really listed here for the purists among us. Later an interview and a portfolio of Bellamy's work appears in Dez Skinn's wonderful Fantasy Advertiser which are brilliant if you ever manage to get a copy

Tuesday 8 September 2009


Paul Holder let me know that I have got a couple of things inverted on the website, so I thought I better correct them and let you know, just in case you keep a list locally from the website

On the page listing Bellamy's appearances in newspapers, somehow I inverted the cover descriptions of the 2 Garth Annuals for which Bellamy did the covers.

To set the record straight:

Daily Mirror Book of Garth 1975, London: IPC Limited, 1975 was the one with the 'portrait' cover of Garth with the Wolfman of Ausensee

Daily Mirror Book of Garth 1976, London: IPC Limited, 1976 was the one with the 'landscape' cover of Garth swimming

Interestingly both of these contain strips which originally were published in the Daily Mirror with nudity. Obviously an editor must have decided, despite the increasingly seen nudity on TV and in literature during the Seventies (one author I read said there was far more then than now!), that some bits should be covered up!

Titan Books reprinted the strips (excuse the pun!) - more authentically.

Paul also says:
Actually on looking at my copies they have listed in the contents "Cloud of Baltus" instead of "Cloud of Balthus" (missing off the 't'), and they've even got the title wrong on the 1976 contents. "The People of Abyss" instead of "People of the Abyss". Small points I know.

Saturday 5 September 2009

Frank Bellamy font available!

I've been on the Internet since 1992 before the web browser was even available - command lines are nowhere near as pretty as the web interface! I am still constantly amazed at what drifts past my radar even after 17 years!

I received an email from one Keith Bates and after checking out his website decided to ask him why he'd created a Frank Bellamy font, The reply came back:

Hi Norman,

I've admired Frank Bellamy's artwork hugely since I was a kid in the sixties. Beautiful line quality. He seemed to love lettering as well as oozing confidence with figures and faces. Exceptional use of tone, colour and texture. Frank Bellamy exploded the boxiness of the traditional British comic page layout. He made TV21 as good as American comics. I never read Garth but I liked to look at the drawings.

I was delighted to discover "A Cowboy Story' when I bought 'Bert Fegg's Nasty Book' in 1974. It seemed as if Frank was really enjoying that project, I remember at the time thinking how great his pen lettering was.

I recently bought a copy of Martin Baker's 'Artists of Radio Times' and was really disappointed (maybe I was outraged) that Frank only got a brief mention (p.43) and not even a single reproduction of any of the beautiful Dr Who or Biggin Hill drawings he made. I suppose that made me decide to make the Frank Bellamy fonts.

Many of K-Type's catalog are inspired by artists' lettering or handwriting, it's an honour to have Frank Bellamy amongst my greats.

Best wishes,
Keith Bates

One question....where on Earth do I put this on the website?

Friday 28 August 2009

Garth and the Bubble Man

Used with permission

In the national newspaper, the Daily Mirror, from the 16th August 1975 through to 28th November 1975, Frank Bellamy illustrated the 15th story in his 5 year run on Garth. Episode numbers J192-J281 - that's 90 daily strips, tell the story of how the Bubble Man is sent by the Warlord of the Universe to retrieve his daughter who had run away with her lover. Garth is taken aboard the spaceship (shown below) and encounters the Bubble Man. The story has all those quirks that you expect in a daily episodic newspaper strip. A highlight is that Garth meets again with Astra his immortal girlfriend whom he meets when time travelling.

Used with permission

The Bubble Man's companions are beautifully drawn and this story contains a lot of the famous Bellamy 'swirls' to shade space, in lieu of the more time consuming stippling which was a trademark. The only three other times, that I know of, when Garth appeared in colour were the two annuals, The Daily Mirror Book of Garth, with original Bellamy covers and the cover of the Disc newspaper If you click on the above picture you'll agree with me, I think, that John Ridgway has done a brilliant job on what could be seen as a controversial move. I find the projected cover somewhat busy but what do I know!

In these Internet days it's great that Rod Barzilay is still able to publish such a gorgeously glossy magazine. I recently moved my stack of the magazines and realised they must be the weightiest tomes I own - and I don't mean content. To order Spaceship Away click here, and here for the list of what's appeared in previous issues and finally here for summaries of stories.

Here for your enjoyment are 2 of the orginal non-coloured strips:

Episode: J272
Garth © 2009 The Daily Mirror

Episode: J273
Garth © 2009 The Daily Mirror

I read this was due to occur, but thank John Freeman and Lew Stringer for highlighting the new coloured strips and look forward to seeing some of this glossy version

Sunday 16 August 2009

REPRINT: Century 21 Volumes 1 and 2

Chris Bentley and friends are to be congratulated for producing an absolutely gorgeous work. This year we have seen so much Bellamy work reprinted, but the reproduction on this is amazing. The original art from the archives has been used where possible. Some of the art will appear publicly for the first time ever as it was meant to be seen. Even photogravure cannot do some of this justice and the modern digital process has been used to great benefit.

Both volumes are available via the usual sources, but if money is no object, go to the publisher's website and order a hardback with Gerry Anderson's autograph. (You'll need to scroll down the page a bit)

The cover reproductions are nice too and some of the black and white Noble work inside has a positive shine on it. Below is the page taken from Reynolds and Hearn's website but obviously a scan of a website graphic based on original art isn't doing Bellamy any justice. Trust me on this one, the two hardbacks are well worth the money even if you still have the original TV21s.

Lastly, just for fun, I've copied what was the provisional cover for one of these two books, but was not used. This was originally published in the Thunderbirds Poster Magazine No.3, I think.

Lastly which of the Bellamy strips are reprinted?

Volume 1
reprints Thunderbirds: Chain reaction and Thunderbirds: The Devil's crag as well as 2 Captain Scarlet covers #185 (3/08/68) & #186 (10/03/68). The Thunderbirds stories come from TV21 #227-234, #184-187

Volume 2 reprints Thunderbirds: Operation Depthprobe and Thunderbirds: Secret of the iceberg from TV21 #105-109, #155-161

All this information has been added to the website

Friday 14 August 2009

Frank Bellamy's David the Shepherd King

ADDITIONAL NOTE: See update by clicking link

I have just been alerted to some more exciting news - Titan are publishing Jesus & David: Tales of Two Kings: The Road of Courage & David the Shepherd King in hardcover next March (2010). Although I liked Hampson's art from his trip to the Holy Land in 1959 (shades of Holman Hunt!), it's the other half I'm excited about. After all Hampson's Road to courage has been reprinted before. There's a copy on Abebooks at the moment but don't rush as I'm not sure it's worth £932!!

David the shepherd king ran in Eagle volumes 9:37 - 9:52 and continued in 10:1 - 10:15, between 13 September 1958 and 11 April 1959. A full colour back page with some beautiful portraits by Bellamy, and these hastily uploaded pictures do NOT do him credit. Trust me the strip looks fantastic.

If you want to see how glorious the original art is head over to Terry Doyle's Gallery at ComicArtFans. In the mean time here's a better scan. I'll soon have to start listing new Bellamy books, in the Steve Holland manner if this carries on. What with the next volume of Dan Dare reprints due next year, and the World War One at the end of this year!

#Jesus & David: Tales of Two Kings: The Road of Courage & David the Shepherd King (Hardcover) by Frank Bellamy (Author), Frank Hampson (Author)
# Hardcover: 112 pages
# Publisher: Titan Books (UK) (9 Mar 2010)
# Language English
# ISBN-10: 1848565259

# ISBN-13: 978-1848565258

Thursday 13 August 2009

REPRINT: The Happy Warrior (USA edition)

I thought I'd quickly add a note, thanks to Brian for the alert, that a new reprint of the Winston Churchill biography has appeared in the USA.

The price on the Levenger website is a very reasonable $38 plus shipping, which, after several emails I have found to be, for a single copy, $68.32. So by current reckoning that's a total of £64 in UK money for this book!

If you get a copy please do contact me with more information about it. Perhaps you have a kind friend in the US who might send it to you. But at that price, I shall be hanging onto my copy of the 1958 and 1981 reprints, as well as my original Eagle comics. But I'm here as a public service, so just letting you know.

Thanks again Brian - who incidentally said he saw this whilst in the USA recently, so presumably it's in stores! Maybe a wholesaler over here might consider looking into it....are you listening Geoff?

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Frank Bellamy and the floating mine

Wham Annual 1972, p.15
Richard Sheaf has sent me a new bit of information showing a reprint of Bellamy's work which gives me a good excuse to show you some more unusual Bellamy artwork. The above piece, sent by Richard, comes from the Wham Annual of 1972, so interestingly would have been on sale while Bellamy was still alive.

He created two covers at the end of his Eagle work before moving onto his 4 year stint on "Thunderbirds" in TV21. The first was for Eagle Vol.16:35 (28 August 1965) titled "Arms Through the Ages: No. 5: The crossbow"
Eagle Vol 16:35
It was for 16:36 copy dated 4 September 1965 he created his "Arms Through the Ages: No. 6: The floating mine".

Eagle Vol. 16:36
This lovely example of a Bellamy explosion shows his professionalism - just because he was leaving didn't mean he would stint his employer. Wikipedia has a long article on the subject of floating mines, but obviously Bellamy would not have had access to the Internet in the early 1960s. He had previously visited the Imperial War Museum when researching Churchill's life so it does not seem unreasonable to assume he repeated this experience.

And here's what the cover to the Wham Annual 1972 looks like:

Saturday 18 July 2009

Frank Bellamy and Apollo 11 Moon landing

I personally have been extremely pleased to see all the programmes on the Apollo 11 Moon landing as I watched the whole thing as much as I could at the time - live. Admittedly it's great to see the crystal clear photos now compared to the grainy quality of the film we watched, but nevertheless, a wonderful positive uplifting achievement. All kids of that era wanted to be astronauts (including girls - way before their time!) and all have a story about watching the moon missions. Mine is simple and dedicated to Mr. Furnell, a wonderful Primary School headteacher who was a visionary. He said in the assembly of the morning of July 20th 1969 we could all appear in the morning tired or even not attend school, as we might want to watch the whole thing as it was a once in a lifetime thing! Imagine how powerful that was at the age of 11! He was also the guy who read BB's books and Tolkien to the class.

Anyway you're here for Bellamy not me! What did Bellamy have to do with this - simple! In the Daily Mirror dated 11 July 1969, Bellamy illustrated it! Mirrorscope was the name of the centre pages of the Daily Mirror which covered a single topic. On this occasion it was the future (10 days in the future) moon landing. He had been illustrating the space adventures of Thunderbird 3 and 5 for TV21, but this was something else. I remember turning the page in my Daily Mirror and seeing a great small picture in the middle of the page - there was Bellamy, fantastic!

But then, I turned the page again!

Pages 14-15, the middle pages, had the whole tabloid centrespread taken up with Bellamy art. (please forgive my crude copy - one day I'll master Photoshop and get these scans to join properly and look better).

Alan Davis has a copy of a rough sketch of the Lunar Module by Bellamy on his interesting website. He also has a cleaned up copy of the above picture. The excitement of following Armstrong's first walk and Aldrin's photos and thinking about the loneliness of Mike Collins in orbit were stirring stuff. Seeing Frank Bellamy illustrate the event...from down here, was stunning!

As a footnote to this, the same Daily Mirror actually mentions Bellamy on page 11:
Space craft

Readers of today's Mirrorscope who feel they have seen the drawings for the 'Footsteps On The Moon' feature somewhere else a long time ago are in good company. They gave the artist the same I've been here before feeling.

Frank Bellamy first blasted of into Space ten years ago when he did a stint, of drawing for that excellent comic strip Dan Dare, which was created by Frank Hampson. Bellamy did only about a year on Colonel Dare's staff but has been in orbit With various science-fiction strips almost ever since.

The Mirrorscope drawings are the first Bellamy has done from fact (as opposed to imagination). He is rather pleased to find that over the years he has guessed so close to the scientists. " In fact." he says. " I found myself tempted to put in speech balloons for Mirrorscope."

A nice way to end a blog entry!

Monday 6 July 2009

Mickey Mouse Weekly, Frank Bellamy and Basil Reynolds

John Wigmans from the Netherlands, together with our very own Phil Rushton have been corresponding with me regarding the "True Life Adventures" series in the 1954 copies of Mickey Mouse Weekly, and particularly the "Living Desert" episodes. This comic series was based on Disney's pioneering wildlife documentaries - we take it for granted these days, but in the 1940s-1950s these were unique - witness the award won on the Living Desert. I remember in the days before home video watching The Wonderful World of Disney on Saturdays in the early 1970s and Disney Time on Bank Holidays in the UK -the only chance, back then, to see some of these Disney films, or at least snippets of them. Junior Express - Basil Reynolds
Basil Reynolds illustration in Junior Express 4th June 1955
Anyway, as John said:
I am doing some research on Basil Reynolds (1916-2001), and the true life or nature features he drew for a number of magazines: Mickey Mouse Weekly (1952-1954), Junior Express/Express Weekly etc. (1955-1961) and Playhour Annual (1957-1958).
He came across my site where I had referenced the phenomenal Inducks database - all things Disney in comics! After much discussion and debate we concluded I needed to make an amendment to the site. But the thrill is in the nit-picking detail. Firstly, Bellamy's comment from the Skinn/Gibbons interview:
WHEN YOU WERE DRAWING "MONTY CARSTAIRS" FOR MICKEY MOUSE WEEKLY, DID THIS TAKE UP MOST OF YOUR TIME, OR WERE YOU ALSO TAKING ON OTHER FREELANCE JOBS? FB: I was still doing some advertising work and illustrations for Boy's Own Paper at the same time. It did help that Boy's Own Paper was a monthly, though. But not only did I draw "Monty Carstairs" in Mickey Mouse, I also got my first colour strip work, Walt Disney's "Living Desert" in the centrespread. But unlike on "Monty Carstairs", I couldn't sign "Living Desert" with my own name. I had to sign it 'Walt Disney'. Which, by the way, you have to write upside down because if you don't, you get your own handwriting instead of his. DIDN'T YOU FEEL SOMEWHAT CHEATED,HAVING TO SIGN HIS NAME AFTER ALL THE WORK YOU PUT INTO THE SET EACH WEEK? FB: Well, yes really, because it was hard work drawing such a thing as "Living Desert", which was my first experience of what I'd call a NON-continuity strip. There was no flow from picture to picture.
Unfortunately the dates are not very specific, but at least we do know that at the same sort of time he did Carstairs, he also did some "Living Desert". John takes up the tale:
Mickey Mouse Weekly 736 [using the Inducks method of numbering] is the issue with a cover date June 19, 1954, this issue contains Basil Reynolds’ last True Life Adventures in the series The Living Desert. After years of drawing series after series of True Life Adventures Reynolds suddenly quit drawing them, and handed The Living Desert over to Bellamy to finish this series. MMW-737, cover date June 26, 1954, not only contains Bellamy’s first TLA in the series, The Living Desert, but it also features his last episode of Monty Carstairs.
At this point I remembered how Paul Holder and I came about listing what we thought was Bellamy in this comic - laying comics on the table and arguing that 'this rock looks like his but this shading doesn't' etc. etc. It was obvious that the latter Carstairs strips were rushed compared to earlier ones, and now we know why. John:
Dear old Basil did most of the TLA's, from the early 50's up to number 736. His work can be recognized by looking at the dots at the end of almost every caption or balloon. The three (or more) dots are open... There are more clues that will point to Reynolds (like his lettering), but the open dots are easiest to spot. Even in Schoolfriend he showed this peculiar habit, and in the artwork he did for Express Weekly and the Express Annuals they can be spotted as well.

If we look at scans (provided by the guys mentioned above) we see some differences. The first taken from MMW 693 August 22 1953. MMW-693 August 22 1953 ...and then a blown up panel showing the 'dots' The 'Reynold's dots' are clearly there. Now skip forward to MMW-736 of June 19 1954, his last strip in the Living Desert story before Bellamy takes over. MMW-736_June_19_1954 and then one panel of text expanded: It's obvious that these are one and the same letterer, but because John assures us that this is Reynold's trademark art/lettering we now know what to look for. Now take a look at the very next episode, what I now consider to be Bellamy's first colour comic strip work (remember the interview above?) from MMW 737 June 26 1954: Now if you are still with me I want to move this up a couple of notches. Let's look at the blown up panel below: The dots are definitely more 'on the line' rather than floating in mid line and are not so hollow looking. So then who lettered this? Well, we agree when Bellamy did his last "Monty Carstairs" - 26 June 1954 - the same published date as the "Living Desert" above. If we look at this particular Carstairs we find something rather interesting. ...and here's the blown-up panel - the very last Bellamy Carstairs. Now look at the following letters in the "Living Desert" and the "Monty Carstairs" above and decide if it's the same letterer. The letters 'S', 'G', 'R' and 'H' are particularly interesting! The 'G' has a weighting at the top, and almost appears like a '6'; the 'S' almost looks like a number '5'. The 'R' always starts its 'foot' from the circular bit and lastly the 'H' has a 'stump' at the left. There are other letters to look at ('Y', 'P', 'A' and so on), but the 'F' certainly draws my attention as it's Frank's first initial and we have seen his (post-1950) signature many times in his work! I believe this proves which episodes of the "Living Desert" are by Reynolds and which by Bellamy, I have amended the website entry under Mickey Mouse Weekly accordingly. 

Here are the rest of Bellamy's 'Living Desert' strips.

Mickey Mouse Weekly #738, 3 July 1954
Mickey Mouse Weekly #739, 10 July 1954

Mickey Mouse Weekly #740, 17 July 1954
Mickey Mouse Weekly #741, 24 July 1954

Mickey Mouse Weekly #742, 31 July 1954

Thanks to John Wigmans for help with the scans

Something still puzzles me: what did Bellamy mean about the Walt Disney signature? As far as I can see he never signed any of the "Living Desert" strips either with Walt's or his own signature! I wonder if he was merely repeating a story that he'd heard Lastly a BIG thank you to Phil and especially John for the scans and the opportunity to close down one more mystery... that is until other evidence arises! 

NEXT TIME: Alan Davis adds to the question of lettering with a unique photograph!