Friday 8 July 2011

Bellamy and the British comic conventions

It's really hard work classifying the work that Frank Bellamy created. I  have followed the original layout by David Jackson, myself and many more in placing work in one of these categories:
Comics are straight forward, or you'd think so. What about Look and Learn - was it a comic or a children's magazine? This category includes reprints (as do the others) so that should someone want to check the list (thus the name 'checklist') they will find any comic - whether reprint or original. But what about comic strips in annuals? 
Annuals section contains those uniquely bound hardbacks the UK have been producing for decades. Bellamy produced some comic strips but otherwise illustrations to support a story.
Magazines is where Bellamy did many single or multiple illustrations - some he loved and was proud of (Everybody's) and some he found a burden to do (Home Notes). But what is a magazine? One definition states the origin comes via French for the Arabic for a storehouse (and thus the military use). But I'm thinking of the OED definition:

magazine, n.

A periodical publication containing articles by various writers; esp. one with stories, articles on general subjects, etc., and illustrated with pictures, or a similar publication prepared for a special-interest readership.The use of the word (rather than periodical) typically indicates that the intended audience is not specifically academic.

Third edition, March 2000; online version June 2011. <>; accessed 25 June 2011. An entry for this word was first included in New English Dictionary, 1904.

If we accept a periodical (i.e. regular appearance) do we include annual/semi-annual comic convention brochures? Libraries, the experts in classification, debate the point. When is a standing order different from a journal subscription?. We'll come back to this in a minute.
Newspapers - that should easy but even here, is the Sunday Times Colour Supplement a magazine or newspaper? I go for the former
 Aren't annuals books? Not for purposes of this classification, otherwise yes, books are books including reprints
Advertising This category is a tough one. I could list every instance of one advert (Walls Wonderman), and I just might, if any more come forward; Should I list an instance where a fan uses a Bellamy comic convention logo and adjusts the year - yes, I think so.
Media This is for any TV or Radio appearance of Bellamy, his Thunderbird 6 film poster is under 'advertising'
Unpublished a mix of all sorts. I am aware that some of these have been 'published' - for example in fan magazines, and the Internet if nowhere else but felt this category allows me the nearest to miscellaneous! I have seen all these but some remain 'hidden' at the owner's request
Unseen Bellamy solely an excuse to highlight a major exhibition that features large in Bellamy lore. It also allows me to list items, some of which have never been published, and helps us to identify pieces - for example by Jeff Haythorpe and Tim Barnes who were at the event
Articles and books about Bellamy the final category that shows some obsessive tendencies. It includes some large articles on Bellamy but also some peripheral mentions of his art. I could add loads to this and when I have free time I do! Hopefully the descriptions help people select what they need and avoid any really peripheral mentions!

I wanted to clear up one massive mess I have helped perpetuate. But thanks to Dez Skinn's sterling efforts, I have now re-classified some of the comic convention programme covers, adverts etc. I have used Dez's web pages ( and wonder now, shouldn't I be adding a category of published webpages (but, oh dear, what about Twitter feeds, Facebooks notations?), no, that way lies madness! But let me know what you think.

Enjoy my cut down version of Dez's webpage (used with permission of the kind guy) with the emphasis obviously on Bellamy. Read the full story from the eyewitness accounts Dez shares

Skinn states:
"Frank Bellamy came along with stacks of his old Eagle artwork and gave an amazingly in-depth talk on the trials and tribulations of working on Dan Dare and Garth as well as his enjoyment on Fraser of Africa and Heros the Spartan."

"Frank Bellamy was so chuffed to be the guest of honour at Comicon 71 that he produced five new colour visuals for us to auction off. [The photo below left] shows a bearded young Dez holding one of them" - this is mentioned as "Fantasy figure"in the 'Unknown' part of the checklist and to our knowledge never been published. And yes, I have asked Dez but he can't remember the other pieces (however, Dez's note accompanying 1978 states we do know one more)

"Below is one of the stunning pieces of art Frank Bellamy created especially for the event. It was unexpected and too late for a place in the convention booklet, although all of them did finally make it into print in later years."

Not used in 1971

The emboldening is mine and explains one of those mini-mysteries, how the artwork states '71' yet didn't appear anywhere with this.See 1981 below

The famous Doctor Who artist Andrew Skilleter, wrote a review of the 1971 convention and focussed on Bellamy. Nancy Bellamy accompanied Frank - I wonder how she enjoyed it? I know she has mentioned it in the past as being impressive.

Skilleter gives an insight into Bellamy's working practice when he reports on a Q&A session in which Bellamy says "how he would read through the script, marking frames 'Large', 'Medium' or 'Small', ignoring the scriptwriter's notes as to 'long shots', 'close-ups', etc. and then starting work on the layout pencils, trying for as much dramatic effect as possible."  

The piece below was designed by Bellamy for the 1973 convention which never took place.  Fortunately the '3' could easily be changed to a '5' - see below

Not used until 1975

1973 logo slightly amended

Skinn: "Something of a recovery began with Comicon 75. Rob [Barrow] used (yet another) Bellamy visual for its promotion, a superb piece of design actually created for the aborted Comicon 73" .

Bellamy died in July 1976 and unfortunately this meant the publicity for the 76 con would not in fact appear. Skinn says: "Unfortunately, the artwork promised in the progress report by Frank Bellamy and Jim Steranko was noticeable by its absence". The flyer included the piece produced for Comicon'73, and the promise of material by Bellamy.

The actual booklet (with a wraparound cover by Trevor Goring) only mentions Bellamy on one page:  "In memory Frank Bellamy 1917-1976"

In 1976 Gifford also ran the Comics101 event to celebrate the 101st birthday of British comics (based on Ally Sloper's Half Holiday (1884)).  Bellamy managed to provide Gifford not only with his final comic strip - for his newly launched "Ally Sloper" but also this piece for his Comics101 convention booklet

Skinn mentions that the cover for the 1978 Comicon brochure by Bellamy is "Another Frank Bellamy visual (one of those he had produced for the 1971 convention auction) finally surfacing as the cover of Rob Barrow and Colin Campbell’s Comicon ‘78 booklet". So that accounts for another piece from the 5 he produced in 1971 mentioned above

And finally one that Dez hasn't mentioned ...yet!

The very kind Ewan Browlow provided this scan of the 1981 Comicon wraparound cover - seen in 1971 above! Skinn wrote:
.. "half of the piece that Bob Monkhouse owned which I have had photographed and was for Comicon 71. The bottom right corner (under claw) has been blocked in to read '81' whereas before it said '71'".

The 1971 logo used here in 1981

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