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 I was aware that Terry had an unpublished strip on the wonderful ComicArtFans site (Terry's gallery is here).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 he owns one of the three unpublished double page boards showing work Bellamy did on "King Solomon's Mines".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

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