Wednesday 20 May 2009

Frank Bellamy visits King Solomon's Mines

Episode #1
Terry Doyle was kind enough to remind me I hadn't blogged anything about the scans he sent me recently (OK, Terry, it was January!). I originally wrote to Terry when looking at what I knew about Bellamy's activities in 1961/1962. I was aware that Terry had an unpublished strip on the wonderful ComicArtFans site (Terry's gallery is here).

We know that in 1961 Bellamy had drawn three complete stories in the excellent "Fraser of Africa" series, the last was completed for 12 August 1961 issue of Eagle. He then did an illustration in the 26 August 1961 of a rhinoceros crushing its way through the undergrowth and also for the issue dated 18 November 1961 "Men of Action No.5 Sir Edmund Hillary" (written about here). For a story magazine about true adventures, he produced three illustrations in Wide World (Vol. 128 January 1962). He then started the series in Eagle called "Montgomery of Alamein" in the issue dated 10 March 1962.

So my question was what did he do between the dates August 1961 and March 1962?

I know he exhibited at the Summer Salon 18th Annual Exhibition at Royal Institute Galleries, but other than that I have a big gap in my knowledge. All the usual sources are not all helpful on the detail
Episode #2
Here's where Terry enters the picture. he owns one of the three unpublished double page boards showing work Bellamy did on "King Solomon's Mines".

"Unfortunately, I don't remember who it was told me the story behind the aborted KSM strips. It came from a reliable source, and was not specualation. Just can't recall. Must be getting senile . . ! [So it's not just me then Terry!] ". It appears that the proposed series was scrapped after the editorial team felt another African strip was too much. Each strip will have taken one week to produce (plenty of evidence for that fact!)and it's likely he will have been paid for the strips.

But when were these produced? Back to Terry:
"Might be worth remembering that Bellamy's pre-"Dan Dare" episodes (for the back page of Eagle) were large-sized CS10 artboards. When he took over "Dan Dare", he illustrated his pages at the same size as the printed page, which conformed to the Hampson studio's method of working. When he left "Dan Dare", he continued with same size boards for "Fraser of Africa".
The King Solomon's Mines" strips were all illustrated same size (I've seen the other two Episodes in person). When Bellamy illustrated "Montgomery of Alamein" he continued illustrating at same size. When he illustrated "Heros the Spartan", he went back to large sized artboards. So, if nothing else, it makes sense that KSM is post-"Dan Dare" and pre-"Heros"."

Size comparison - thanks to Terry

There are few people on this planet who own large amounts of original Bellamy artwork and I have seen some myself, so I can bear out what Terry is arguing here.

I also found that Terry published his thoughts in "Illustrated Comic Journal" #31 (1998?), a magazine for British comics enthusiasts

So it appears that these three strips are very likely to have been done in this gap period. Nancy, Frank's widow, has no recollection of this specific time period (it is after all 49 years ago and I've forgotten to publish these strips since January!). Perhaps there is more Bellamy work to turn up for the period August 1961 to March 1962.

Episode #3

Thanks to the kindness of Alan Davis I share this preparatory work on Episode #1

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Bellamy and the Wild West:

Frank Bellamy illustrated pieces in the Boy's World Annuals of 1965 and 1966. He then only appeared in 1971 edition to the best of my knowledge - (and I love being contradicted!)

In the 1965 he illustrated "A Question of Honour" by Henry Casson, various matador drawings - a subject he loved very much. His subject for 1966 was "The Raid" showing war topics - wish I'd remembered this for the essay I wrote for Steve Holland's new book Frank Bellamy's Story of World War One (for the latest on this follow Steve's blog or take a look at Geoff West's site - scroll down the page a bit). I've reproduced the cover here and would expect it to be available on Amazon fairly soon and as Geoff says, you can pre-order on his siteAnyway, getting back to Westerns and Bellamy. In the Boy's World Annual 1971 he illustrated an author my Dad loved - no, not Zane Grey this time, but J.T.Edson. Steve asked me to help out by providing an illustration or two from that annual - which I do have in my collection - for his article written by Jeremy Briggs on Edson and his stories in the Victor comic. Click here for Part One and here for Part Two. This set me thinking about a theme for the blog: Bellamy and the Wild West

Bellamy's love of Africa is well known, but he was also very keen on cowboys and the Wild West. Throughout the 1950s Bellamy produced many illustrations to accompany Boy's Own Paper stories such as "Phantom buffalo" by Gerald Wyatt, "Vivo the wild colt" by Ross Salmon and "Stormy round-up" by Ross Salmon. For the children's annual Swift 1956 he drew some pictures of a young Indian brave, and various illustrations for Lilliput magazine such as "War Party" by W.R. Burnetta and "The drifters" by John Prebble.

In the 1970s he illustrated the annual that started this article, the particular story being on pages 23-27 "Johnny Boyland and the quail hunters" by J. T. Edson, and of course, one of his most famous works "Garth" saw two great western stories - "Ghost Town" and the one he opened the series with "Sundance". "Ghost Town" was reprinted around the time of Bellamy's death whilst a replacement was found (Martin Asbury) as it was one Bellamy's personal favourites.

He also did some odds and ends during the 70s such as the cover later used after his death for the Comicon '78 cover and a sketch of "Chilli Willi" whatever that was! One interesting cowboy feature at this time was for the Monty Python team - Bert Fegg's nasty Book for Boys and Girls, published by Methuen, in 1974 (also reprinted in Dr Fegg's Encylopedia of All World knowledge 1984. The story was called "A Cowboy Story" and was in full colour. "How the west was won" was drawn to accompany the showing of that famous film, in the Radio Times

The next piece to mention is "Hombre" as we have no idea what it was. In the picture below of Bellamy in his studio, we can just see "Hombre" in the picture on the right.

The content looks very similar to the last strip he published before his untimely death in 1976 "Swade" in Denis Gifford/Alan Class magazine Ally Sloper.

Then finally I also ought to mention again "Wes Slade" which you can read all about on my website, he also produced a cover posthumously (sort of) in 1980 for Marvel Comics (UK) of all people, thanks to Dez Skinn - Marvel Western Gun Fighters.

I suppose I could also add that as Bellamy appeared on ITV and this feature is on Westerns I should mention Quick on the draw, but as the quiz show from 1974 was about cartoons and comic artists , then again I don't think I will as that pun would be too awful!

Happy Trails Pardners!