Sunday 28 February 2010

Far from quiet on the Western Front!

"Far from quiet on the Western Front"... or ... "Stormin' Norman goes to war" - both titles suggested by my family as titles for this blog entry.

This week for me has been a rollercoaster ride. It started with a hospital visit to review some test results with my best friend (all clear, thank God), picking up one of my children from her one and a half year visit to the Far East (M25 rush hour, two major roadworks, and raining on the way to Heathrow!) but ended on such a high note!

Yesterday morning at Geoff West's BookPalace, a bunch of us unpacked some of the boxes from China containing three exciting titles. If you had told the teenage Norman that he would be signing books to which he would contribute a couple of pages (1518 words to be exact), he might have quietly thought you were mad and then dismissed the comment!

When (not, if!) you buy a copy of the excellent "Story of World War One" illustrated throughout by Frank Bellamy, you will have the choice of a signed hardback or an equally excellent paperback. Both have lovely covers but the hardback limited edition has, firstly a limited edition print inserted in the book and also Steve Holland's and my signatures. When you have a copy in your hand I can guarantee the signature is mine as I signed 175 copies of the book yesterday morning.

Open it and gaze at the Bellamy illustrations but take a moment to congratulate Stuart Williams for the design. I did wonder how one would reproduce a three page article including a double page spread in such a book. I was prepared for the blank fourth page. However Stuart has taken the cameos of the major players in the First World War (which were drawn by Bellamy and incorporated in the illustrations he did) and placed them on those empty fourth pages. The text has been completely reset and pictures cleaned up (by Steve Holland).

This resource would be brilliant in schools and gives a great general introduction for those studying World War One in Key Stage Three (Years 7 - 9) - the prime target of the original Look and Learn from which this comes.

Steve Holland, being more geared up for this sort of occasion, brought his camera along to the event and we had on hand a photographer, (well my wife!). Steve kindly sent me this picture - I insisted we hide behind the books - from left to right - Geoff West, Norman Boyd and "the famous" Steve Holland, (as I named him yesterday) after he called me "Bellamy expert"

You will have already seen the books Steve is holding (on the right) I'm proudly displaying the above title and finally Geoff is holding a very thick leather bound and very limited Complete Swift Stories volume in which you get all the adventures that Bellamy illustrated in that young people's comic. I've yet to sit down and read through the whole lot and check the contents (a natural bibliographer!) but they haven't forgotten the Swift Annual story which often gets overlooked! I very much doubt these will ever be reprinted again, so my advice is get over to Book Palace and order a copy - you will not be disappointed and you need to support such work so that the future projects can be produced.

I ought to also say the pictures I have scanned are not indicative of the quality of the above books, they are lot better but I thought it would be good to show some detail other than the spreads I have used in the past

Sunday 14 February 2010

Heros the Spartan art for sale

I have added the price below that was realised for this piece. I'm beginning to wonder whether I might, through all my blog and web activity, be the cause for the large sums that Bellamy art now fetches! Rightfully so too.

Just a quick post to let you know that another poiece of rare Eagle artwork is up for auction. It's at Comic Book Postal Auctions Spring 2010 auction - Lot #160 . Before you click the link make sure you have a couple of thousand pounds to bid. See my last mention and the winning prices!

The piece's description is:
Heros The Spartan original colour artwork drawn and signed by Frank Bellamy. From The Eagle centre page spread Vol 16: No 20 (1965) Heros is saved from The Living Dead by Zathran, ex-commander of the Black Guard … Some of the blue colour faded, reds still strong. Poster paint on board. 19 x 28 ins Estimate: £1,000-1,400

Auction ended March, 2010 at £2,421
Edited on 22 March 2010

It is the 12th episode of the story "The Slave Army" and Eagle issue dated 15 May 1965. The story tells of Heros accompanying a caravan to the Libyan gold mines. Remember this is 1965 storytelling and the Internet was not to hand. Libya has no gold mines, but does have the very modern resource of oil in abundance (their neighbour to the south, Chad, has gold). Bellamy’s depiction of desert light and Berber buildings in this his last Heros comic story are wonderful, and his detailed Arab faces, and weaponry are amazing. Several classic Bellamy devices appear in this particular episode

I'll update the page once the final price is released

Friday 12 February 2010

Frank Bellamy and Patricia McCormick bullfighter

Taken from Men Only March 1955

In his interview with Dez Skinn and Dave Gibbons Bellamy mentions he illustrated stories in Men Only, which produces a laugh, as the interviewers think of the risqué 'top-shelf' magazine which Paul Raymond bought from Leonard Matthews in 1971. But as Bellamy explained, they're thinking of the 1970s magazine, not the one he drew for in the 1950s!

Recently I was looking through Picture Post magazines from the 1950s, looking for information and art on my other passion, Raymond Sheppard, and came across some photos of a bullfighter (27 September 1952).
Nothing unusual there, but it was a woman bullfighter that was being highlighted. Her name was Patricia McCormick. I remembered one of the Men Only illustrations was of Ms McCormick.

The accompanying caption in Picture Post reads:
"Perhaps 22 year old American girl Pat McCormick was teethed on Papa Hemingway; perhaps she just resented male monopoly of a dangerous trade. Whatever the reason she abandoned brush and palette for cape and sword - the art of painting for the art of killing. Now, in Mexico, in bright sanded ring instead of college campus, she practices technique and dreams of the bulls to die. The reward? Dust in honey-blonde hair, blood on the blade, a black bull dead at her feet - and the crowd's roar."

Cover of Men Only March 1955

In the March 1955 issue of Men Only, McCormick wrote the article "Alone she fights the bull……." which included some of her drawings but also Bellamy's. On pages 85 and 89 we see the two black and white illustrations of McCormick as Matadora fighting a bull and McCormick being thrown by the bull. Both, you will notice are signed 'Bellamy' in a cursive style - whereas his later signature became more flat and linear, matching, in my opinion his more graphical style .

Men Only p.85

Men Only p.89

The article by Patricia McCormick has not only Bellamy's accompanying drawings but also photographs of McCormick. None of Bellamy's drawings are based on the photos, but one wonders if he had reference material beyond shots of bullfighters. Here he shows a woman, is it based on Pat McCormick photos? To be honest it doesn't matter as the original publication fitted inside a pocket and was printed on cheap paper.

If you'd like to read more, Michael Gage kindly sent me an article in PDF form from True Woman's Adventures (May 1956, Volume 1 Issue 1) which was published by 148 Publishing Corp, at 147, East 50th Street, New York 22

Serendipity plays a large underrated part in research for this sort of information - note Michael's scans and the Picture Post, but to finish this article I suddenly thought to Google McCormick's name and lo and behold she has a website, where you can see some of her own art as well as a video of her glory days! It works best in Internet Explorer, something I wouldn't usually highlight as I'm a Firefox fan). This lady really did buck the male stereotypes thrust on her in the earlier less enlightened age! Unfortunately the contact link doesn't work but if anyone out there knows Pat I'd love to let her know of this blog entry

And finally I ought to return to Frank Bellamy and say he did a great job too!