Thursday 20 October 2011

Frank Bellamy and King Kong

King Kong 1933
I love the simple story of King Kong, whether told by Merian C. Cooper, John Guillermin or Peter Jackson. I remember my teenage eyes moistening after seeing Jessica Lange looking at Kong dying and I also remember some of the people I went with laughing at me! But I didn't care. I'm still touched by the story - stop motion, monkey suit or CGI, don't care. It's a simple old story wrapped in a monster theme which goes back to Beauty and the Beast if not further

DC Comics used to use loads of ape covers as the DC editors believed that sales increased whenever there was a giant ape on the cover of a comic. Twomorrows published "Comics gone ape!" in 2007 and featured comments by several DC creators such as Infantino, and Cardy who used the ape motif many times in their cover careers.

So what does this have to do with Bellamy? Well, by now you'll have learned my style is to not get straight to the point.

King Kong 1976

The excellent MagForum site, about magazines and magazine publishing, is written by Tony Quinn, founder of he tells us:

19 magazine was published by IPC, monthly, from 1968 - May 2004
Young women’s glossy aimed at 16- to 19-year-olds. The established magazines in this sector all steadily lost sales after 1980. 19 was the last survivor of the three big IPC titles: Honey merged with 19 in 1986 after circulation almost halved in five years; a similar fate befell Look Now in 1988. These mergers helped 19, but its sales were still down by about a fifth in 1990 over the decade. When it finally closed, IPC said: 'Over the last few years, the face of the teenage market has changed. The boundaries between the teen market sub-sectors have become blurred and sales patterns suggest that readership at the older, young women’s end appears to have migrated to the fashion and celebrity markets.' Final editor was Helen Bazuaye. The publisher launched Teen Now, a spin-off from its celebrity weekly Now in spring that year and in March Emap had closed The Face and J-17 (Just 17) Taken from: and used with permission 
King Kong 2005
When I flicked through every issue from the start, trying to find an illustration I knew to exist, I was stunned by how it changed over the 6 years I browsed. The end of the 1960s was a liberating time - especially regarding sex and sexuality. 19 appeared to me to be mostly about fashion, and short articles of interest to the 19 year olds it was named for. However as time went on and I turned more pages I found articles on sex and attracting a mate more numerous. It was a real journey through the transition in time - the editor must have been very 'with it'. I liked the short story illustrators - among many others - Jill Watkins, Margaret Power, Julian Allen, Mick Brownfield, and Alan Cracknell. The latter two were also prolific in the Radio Times of the period (for whom Bellamy also illustrated). Chris Achilleos's early work appeared here - Achilleos was obviously hugely influenced by Bellamy when creating his classic Doctor Who covers for Target Books (have a look at this page to see what I mean)

The contents page of the February 1975 issue of 19 contained the black and white image from the main double page spread Bellamy drew. Keith Jones, was the Assistant Art Editor for IPC magazines at that time who paid Bellamy £86.40p for the colour spread commissioning it in May 1974. Bellamy's King Kong appears on the celluloid which is melting, and twisted strands of wire is shown in the background of the montage. A hand carefully pulls the 'i' from Kong's name. I've read the article and can't see what this represents so would love to generates some comments below

Cropped contents page

19 "King Kong", pp.66-67
Another coincidental link to Bellamy (and if anyone can find these it's me - just ask my family!)  is that 19 magazine carried an article in March 1976 on Gerry Cottle's Circus for whom Bellamy drew three posters


To read about the history of the films - (I didn't realise Linda Hamilton did one!) see KiKn (Kong is


Norman Boyd said...

Bill Storie wrote to me and I thought I'd add his comment here.

Hi buddy!! Lovely and much appreciated latest item about Kong - my interpretation of the piece suggests that it's the hand of (evil) mankind symbolically removing Kong from the island where he is king and thus he is from then on no longer the "King" and the twisted wires could be simply those used to tie him up after capture (altho one wonders if chains might have been more appropriate?) or perhaps a symbol of the "twisted minds" of the humans who used him for money-making ventures - ?
This therefore begs the question - hopefully Keith Jones might know - did Frank have free reign with the commission or did he have guidelines imposed? If he had free reign then it gives us (perhaps) an insight to the way Frank worked on a commission - he could have simply done a movie-style poster or an action shot but instead he chose to place a symbolic message in the piece, effectively telling the story of the movie in a similar way to his Radio Times war illo's and the eagle war strips where he used graphics and symbolic arrows pointing to illustrate events. Suggests Frank was not only a very intelligent man (as are most artists imho) but perhaps much more willing than many artists of the time to push the boundaries of graphic art - but kudos also to the editor who sought him out to create the piece for a magazine which one would normally not associate with such fantasy art.
Many thanks again!!!

Tim Keable said...

Hi Norman,

Maybe the wire represents the "skeleton" of the stop motion figure of Kong himself. Also the hand could be his operator. Possibly not removing the I but actually putting it in after adjusting something? That's how I've always interpreted it.

Whatever was intended I think it's among the very best of his illustrations!


Norman Boyd said...

It's certainly one of the busiest pages as far as visits to the blog goes Tim. Thanks for your thoughts