Saturday 26 October 2013


My Eagle has landed!
Remember how Google Scholar used to have "resting on the shoulder's of giants" as their strapline? By pure accident I'm sitting on the same bench with them!! I'm in a published book with John Byrne, Dave Gibbons, Walt Simonson, Ken Steacy, John Watkiss and it's designed by Peter Richardson! Published by Geoff West at Book Palace Books. How did that happen?

Exciting endpapers

In July 2011, Peter was working on "a new magazine called Illustrators. We are going to be focussing on UK and European illustrators of the last century along with some contemporary ones, with access to a lot of amazing original artwork - so all in all it's very exciting but a 
lot of work!"
He asked me about my interest in Raymond Sheppard, and that led to an article in Issue 2 which went very well.

In early 2012, the Denis McLoughlin book was more or less completed, and by then he has persuaded me that an introduction to the latest Bellamy reprint from Geoff West's brigade   would be a great thing. I sent the finished draft article on Heros the Spartan  on, of all days, 1st April 2012. And in a subsequent email I stated to Peter "My wife said it used quotations very well and she was actually gripped by it....and she is usually just supportive!". Geoff and Peter came back enthusiastic...and together with my wife that made three people who liked it!

A great spread by Bellamy

He subsequently wrote:
I spoke with Geoff about it yesterday and he was equally excited. The way you have sourced the information and constructed the piece sheds a lot of light on Bellamy's involvement with Heros and greatly helps the reader contextualise this fabulous strip in terms of both the Eagle as well as Bellamy's own career.
Black Sails and Dark Tales

Then Peter surprised me by naming my piece  "Black Sails and Dark Tales: an introduction to Frank Bellamy's graphic novel masterpiece" which I think is inspired!

2 pages of the introduction

 Shortly afterwards Geoff and Peter got permission to include the famous interview that Dez Skinn and Dave Gibbons ran with Frank Bellamy only three years before his early death. It is not the only interview but is certainly the most comprehensive and interesting. And Peter has added all sorts of art in full colour that wasn't present in the original interview and some of which I have never seen before. Peter was worried that I had used lots of quotes from it already, but actually I agree with his assessment that my piece actually says something different.

Page 28-29 showing various Bellamy artworks
So that's all I'm saying about my part in this venture. So what's in the book that I've been raving about for months and months?

Firstly there are two versions:

Authors: Tom Tully, Frank Bellamy, edited and designed by Peter Richardson
Artist: Frank Bellamy
Title: Frank Bellamy's Heros the Spartan
Publisher: Book Palace Books, October 2013
Number of pages: 296
Format: Hard Cover; Full Colour illustrations
Size: 11" x 14" (270mm x 360mm)
ISBN: 9781907081200

Price: £265.00

Only 120 have been published of this version
This version is a leather-bound numbered edition limited to 120 copies with embossed slipcase. It comes with an additional 24 pages of meticulously scanned reproductions of original Bellamy Heros artwork never before seen in public.


Authors: Tom Tully, Frank Bellamy, edited and designed by Peter Richardson
Artist: Frank Bellamy
Title: Frank Bellamy's Heros the Spartan Publisher: Book Palace Books, October 2013
Number of pages: 272
Format: Hard Cover; Full Colour illustrations
Size: 11" x 14" (270mm x 360mm)
ISBN: 9781907081194
Price: £95.00
Only 600 copies have been published

Animated view of the editions
1) Foreword by
  • John Byrne (p8)
  • Dave Gibbons (p.10)
  • Walt Simonson (p.12)
  • Ken Steacy (p.14)
  • John Watkiss (p.15)
2) Black Sails and Dark Tales: an introduction to Frank Bellamy's graphic novel masterpiece by Norman Boyd (p.16)

3) Lighting the darkness: an insight into the life and work of Frank Bellamy (p.24)

4) The Voyages of Heros the Spartan (p.61)
***Book 1: Island of Darkness (p.62)
***Book 2: Eagle of the Fifth (p.102)
***Book 4: Axe of Arguth (p.172)
***Book 6: Slave Army (p.214)
***Book 7: Cormog and the Wolfman (p.262)

 [Books 3,5 and 8 are by Luis bermejo and not in this volume]

5) Acknowledgements (p.272)

Lastly I need to tell you that many pieces of high quality scans have been used throughout the book that are hard to show here in jpeg format, but are beautiful to see

Isn't it time we nominated these guys for an award for services to 'comickind'? Let me know how and I am happy to provide a testimonial. But let me say a big thanks to Geoff, Peter and all at Book Palace Books. Now what's next?

Monday 21 October 2013

Frank Bellamy and THUNDERBIRDS The Comic Collection

Some stories are reprinted over and over. Some stories are not often reprinted in any form!Some get skipped in the run!

Egmont's Thunderbirds the comic collection

Although the news of this publication came out of the blue a few months ago, it was a pleasure to finally see a copy. I have updated the website with the listing of these reprints from TV21. While I was doing it I noticed how the run of reprinted stories skips some stories.

  • TV CENTURY 21 141 - 146 "The Earthquake Maker"
  • TV CENTURY 21 147 - 154 "Visitor from space"
  • TV CENTURY 21 155 - 161 "The Antarctic menace"
  • TV CENTURY 21 162 - 169 "Brains is Dead"
  • TV CENTURY 21 170 - 172 "Space cannon"
  • TV CENTURY 21 173 - 178 "The Olympic plot"
  • TV CENTURY 21 179 - 183 "The Barracuda awaits"
  • TV CENTURY 21 184 - 187 "Devil's crag"
  • TV CENTURY 21 188 - 191 "Eiffel Tower demolition"
  • TV CENTURY 21 192 - 196 "Nuclear threat"
  • TV CENTURY 21 197 - 202 "Hawaiian lobster menace"
  • TV CENTURY 21 203 - 208 "The Time machine"
  • TV CENTURY 21 209 - 217 "Zoo Ship"
  • TV CENTURY 21 218 - 226 "City of doom"
  • TV CENTURY 21 227 - 234 "Chain reaction"
  • TV CENTURY 21 235 - 238 The Amazon Fire Pit
  • TV CENTURY 21 239 - 242 Subsmash Rescue
  • TV 21 & Joe 90 1-4 Volcano Oil Search
First of all we start with a reprint from TV21 #141 and I suspect this is because this was the first issue in which Bellamy no longer had the double page spread (because some guy called Ron Embleton started illustrating something called "Captain Scarlet"!) and therefore these strips are easier to reprint being two single pages - no problem with the gutter between pages.

The Zoo Ship

After this first story, we follow the published order from TV21, until issue 178's ending of the story "The Olympic Plot". We skip #179-183 (a story variously known as "The Jupiter Revolt", or in Thunderbirds Holiday Special [1993] as "Mission to Moonbase"  or "The Barracuda awaits"  in  Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson: Menace from Space by Chris Bentley (2012)) and go onto "The Devil's Crag from issues 184-187. We then carry on from #188-202.

It's then that we carry on into un-reprinted territory...well, sort of....

Devil's Crag

In issue 203 (7 Dec 2068) we get "The Time Machine" which has only been reprinted (to my knowledge - and please correct me) in the reprint title of the 1990s Thunderbirds (issues #27-32 [Parts 1 in # 27, 2 in #28, 3 in #29, 4 in #30, 5 in #31, 6 in #32]) to be far too exact. "The Time Machine" ran in TV21 until  #208 (11 Jan 2069) and this volume from Egmont carries on into unreprinted territory (except in that 90s comic Thunderbirds!). We see issues 209 through to 226 of TV21 and then we move onto John Cooper's artwork from the second series TV21 & Joe 90 with two stories "The Big Bang" and "The Mini-Moon" before reprinting the excellent Lady Penelope. As a 8 year old I loved these stories drawn by Eric Eden - especially the one about the Isle of Arran riddle.

The one mistake I have found in this reprint is that Bellamy is wrongly credited on the contents page with illustrating "The Isle of Arran" which is drawn by Eric Eden (pp250 - 267). But this is a minor criticism

For Dan Dare fans I should mention Frank Hampson's outing with Lady P is reprinted here too. The art is not as crisply reprinted as I'd like, but the whole book looks to be taken from reprinted material and not original scans that's not too surprising. Before I close this long ramble of factual material I should also give credit to Graham Bleathman's cutaway art of the Thunderbirds as well as Tracy Island, FAB1, Creighton-Ward stately home. All in all a fantastic book to own especially if, like me, you're always grabbing the Ravette paperbacks or Bentley and Marcus Hearn's series of reprints and getting frustrated that you have to jump around the volumes so much. This book will be in easy reach so when I search for stories I can find them quickly.

The funky wallpaper, sorry endpapers

Oh and I think I ought to mention the beautiful endpapers which would have made an 8 year old Norman some fine wallpaper back in the day!

Brains is dead

Christmas is coming so get this on your wishlist, the ISBN for Thunderbirds Comic Collection is 9781405268363

Where to now Egmont? Well they have also released some interesting boxes of postcards, follow the links for more information.I enjoyed seeing the Thunderbirds: 100 F.A.B. Postcards (Classic Comics Postcard Collection) full of photos and screen grabs. The others in this series are 70s Girls Comics: 100 Postcards (Classic Comics Postcard Collection) and Battle: 100 Postcards (Classic Comics Postcard Collection)

Other's opinions
Lew Stringer review
Win Wiacek review
John Freeman's review on Downthetubes
Steve Holland's review
Forbidden Planet's review 

Friday 11 October 2013

Frank Bellamy and Boy's World

Brett Million & The Ghost World Part 1

Think of a UK comic in photogravure that ran in the 1960s for just 89 issues before you saw that terrible notice "Your Editor announces exciting news for you!" This usually translated in this little boy's mind as "Goodbye" as another great comic died by merging a few strips into an existing comic, normally with some pedigree. In this case we are talking about Boy's World which on 3 October 1964 disappeared into Eagle.

Steve Holland's cover for Boy's World: ticket to adventure

Steve Holland (with help from many others  has produced another invaluable comics bibliography: Boy's World: ticket to adventure. I have always loved the way Steve writes his checklists by providing a long introduction covering many details about authors and artists as well as editors and those who have connections to the comic in question. The book is lavishly illustrated and as before I found I had  to get my post-it notes and mark where the introduction finishes and the sections ended. Steve chooses here to outline the Picture Stories; Text Stories; Cartoon Strips; Features; Supplements; and the Annuals - I presume we never saw a Summer Special or we'd see it listed here. And there was a Fishing Annual in the series - who knew?

The comic was a great influence on many writers and artists who draw today and no wonder. It had writers such as Harry Harrison (Bill, the Galactic Hero) and Michael Moorcock (Elric of Melniboné) as well as Willie Patterson (Jeff Hawke) and Tom Tully (author of too many UK comic stories to mention!). The artists roster is no less impressive: John M. Burns, Ron and his brother Gerry Embleton, Gerald Haylock, Frank Langford, Brian Lewis Harry Bishop ('Gun Law' in the Daily Express for 21 years) and fellow to Frank Bellamy 'Heros the Spartan' artist for the Eagle, Luis Bermejo.

But this blog is about Frank Bellamy who in March 1963 drew a black and white illustration for a war story in Boy’s World, “Desert Duel” which shows a German tank meeting a ‘desert rat’.

Ghost World -  Episode 15
Art by Frank Bellamy
from Boy's World
Shortly after that he took on the latest incarnation of a strip called “The Angry Planet” – a story about a character called Brett Million, who attends a training survival school on the planet Pyrrus. The planet has nasty creatures and poisonous plants everywhere. In December 1963 the double page feature was on the back cover page (“Wrath of the Gods” taking back its centre pages). In the 7th December issue Bellamy started his next regular weekly assignment with “Brett Million and the Ghost World”. The story has our hero going to the planet Eisen, a mining planet, where people and things are disappearing. Needless to say, it is not ghostly activity, but Million discovers the planet’s natives are moving faster than humans can. The story ends after 21 episodes in which Bellamy shows even with one page he can create dynamic panels. Many trademark Bellamy devices are here from space shots to futuristic hardware similar to his Dan Dare creations.

There aren't many UK series of comics I have but Boy's World is one. I don't have a complete run of Bellamy's work but the issues I do have are great. However even if you own none of them, Steve's book is worth buying as his histories of UK comics are not available anywhere else. Many thanks to Steve for the artwork scan for episode 15 above and also the cover of his book!

Original art for Part 3

Sunday 6 October 2013

Original Art on eBay: Red Devil Dean and Radio Times

Just a quick note to let anyone who doesn't already know that the owner of the recently reviewed original art "Red Devil Dean" has put it up for sale at £1,900 or Best Offer on eBay

Here are the accompanying pictures:


Complete artwork (without tracing paper addition)

Tracing paper addition

He also has for sale (offered at £450 or best offer) another piece of artwork by Frank Bellamy, which originally appeared in the Radio Times magazine for 22 July 1972 - 28 July 1972) as part of the "Grand strategy" series. This one (#3 appearing on page 34) shows Frank bellamy's interpretation of the attack on Pearl Harbour. It was these graphic dispalys in the radio Times that got me hooked on Bellamy. They were so inventive and exciting - even when reproduced on that ghastly cheap pulp paper.

Friday 4 October 2013

Frank Bellamy and "The Missing Lynx"

When trawling through books, magazines and comics, in the hunt for Frank Bellamy artwork (or my other favourite, Raymond Sheppard for that matter) every so often I detect traces of his style in an illustration, but can't decide with any certainty whether he drew it or not. The earlier we go back in his endeavours, the more difficult it becomes, together with a rapidly diminishing likelihood of any authentic connections to Frank’s career. So it's fantastic when such a breakthrough occurs and helps us add to the list of Bellamy's known works. Therefore imagine my reaction when, in the course of the exchanges related to ‘Red Devil Dean’, the following account quite unexpectedly unfolded before me. AND today's my birthday!

As before, I’ll leave David Slinn to chronicle the circumstances:

“While it’s generally thought the “Commando Gibbs” advertisements, appearing in Eagle at the beginning of 1952, brought Frank to the attention of the Hulton Press, his earlier illustration work for Home Notes, two years before, had not gone unnoticed by the art editor, Arthur Roberts. During 1951, both he and Jodi Hyland, from Woman’s Own, left George Newnes to play a major role in the launch of Hulton’s Girl that November.

The distinguished judges of the painting competition including
Marcus [Morris], John Betjeman and art editor Arthur Roberts (third from right)
Taken from Living with Eagles, p.179

Home Notes illustrators, notably Ray Bailey, Stanley Coleman, Roy Newby, Philip Townsend and, later, Stanley Houghton were to draw strip features for the new girls’ title – together with, of course, Raymond Sheppard. Interestingly, Frank’s debut on an adventure serial wasn’t until 1953, with ‘Monty Carstairs’ for Odhams’ Mickey Mouse Weekly. However, the development of his strip illustration technique was closely monitored by Arthur Roberts with a view to persuading him to join the Hulton children’s magazines – eventually, the arrival of Swift, widened the practical possibilities of this coming about.

“The immediate impact achieved by Eagle and again, though to a lesser extent, with the advent of Girl and Robin, was unfortunately not repeated on Swift’s spring launch in 1954. While intended to attract younger readers from both sexes, by far the best picture-stories – Harry Bishop’s western strip, ‘Tom Tex and Pinto’, and ‘Paul English’ drawn by Giorgio Bellavitas – were clearly aimed at boys. ‘Nicky Nobody’, nicely handled by Leslie Otway, Eric Dadswell’s ‘The Fleet Family’ and ‘Sally of Fern Farm’, drawn by Girl regular Roy Newby, provided the counterbalance; together with Patrick Williams on Chad Varah’s, ‘The Boy David’; plus various cartoon strips from John Ryan, Dennis Mallet and the ubiquitous Roland Davies.

“Other artists from Hulton’s companion children’s titles, including Richard Jennings, Harry Winslade and Will Nickless, also contributed illustrations to a weekly series of complete short stories. These appeared on the page opposite ‘The Fleet Family’ which, from the issue dated 14 August 1954, I’d spotted was now being drawn by the ‘Monty Carstairs’ artist who signed that strip, “Frank A. Bellamy”. While his arrival in Swift’s pages was the key to Frank’s long-term future, within less than a month a little flurry of related coincidences also occurred.

“For, the very week Junior Express and, incidentally, Junior Mirror first hit the bookstalls on 4 September 1954, I attended an interview in Shoe Lane with Arthur Roberts, now senior art editor on the Hulton Press children’s titles. Once my, over-optimistic, teenage creative struggles with ‘Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future’, ‘Belle of the Ballet’ colour-strips and other specimen drawings had been thoroughly perused and put to one side, I was kindly shown various examples of finished artwork. Amongst these was the first episode of ‘The Swiss Family Robinson’, due to appear in Swift dated 9 October.

Arthur Roberts particularly drew my attention to the balloon-lettering and the title-piece, pointing out that both had been done by the illustrator himself – he offered the sage advice that, becoming proficient in those skills, would considerably improve the prospects for any burgeoning strip-artist. Also on the desk was the short story illustration for “Jumping Wildcat” – though, I recall, my eye wandering to the unlettered cover artwork, drawn by Harry Bishop for ‘Tarna – Jungle Boy’, as I endeavoured to take in as much as possible. A few weeks later, “Caught” was published in Swift, 25 September; “David’s Good Deed”, on 2 October; with the story, about a lynx missing from a travelling circus, appearing in the 30 October issue.

Swift vol.1no.33 30 Oct 1954

“Clearly, the natural assumption that, in the intervening, close to sixty years, someone else was bound to unearth their existence, turned out to be seriously flawed. Even, despite the illustrations being positioned a blink away from any researching eyes, forensically examining the ‘The Fleet Family’ picture-story on the adjacent page, for clues as to when it changed hands. Moreover, the ‘Red Devil Dean’ connection and the title of the second Swift story, only add to the bizarre coincidences?”

Heeding Mr Roberts’ initial advice, his subsequent guidance and encouragement, eventually led to David working freelance for the Hulton Press on Eagle, Girl, Swift and Robin; also with Express Weekly, TV Century 21 and other children’s titles. I took the opportunity to ask if he knew anything regarding the circumstances of Frank Bellamy taking over ‘The Fleet Family’ from Eric Dadswell.

Swift vol.1no.28 25 Sep 1954

“This came about when Eric Dadswell landed a national newspaper strip, based on the BBC serial ‘The Grove Family’; an early television “soap” – that, incidentally, included the Reverend Morris’s sister-in-law, Ruth Dunning, in the cast. What I’ve always half-suspected, however, is that Frank was originally approached by the Hulton Press to join Swift for the planned autumn “re-launch” in 1954.

“It was Hulton’s usual practice to give a new artist – which, of course, Frank was at the time – something akin to those short-story illustrations, as a try out before a major assignment like ‘The Swiss Family Robinson’ strip feature. Cecil Orr, who’d drawn ‘Monty Carstairs’ prior to Frank’s tenure, had also been enlisted to contribute ‘The Rolling Stones’ circus adventures.

“In the event, as he would still have been drawing ‘The Living Desert’ for Odhams, Frank’s propensity for working well-in-hand, will have enabled him to meet the editorial request to take on ‘The Fleet Family’ at short notice. This would also account for his last feature in Mickey Mouse Weekly, being so close to his first episode appearing in Swift two weeks later.”

Many thanks to David for providing the missing links! To finish, here’s the last of the three newly added pieces of Bellamy artwork and my little pun to complete David’s own pun in our title above!

Swift vol.1no.29 2 Oct 1954