Saturday 1 February 2014

Original art on eBay: David the Shepherd King

UPDATE: £800 (Feb 2014) 

Bill Storie (a fellow Mike Noble fan) was kind enough to let me know that there is another piece of original art by Frank Bellamy on eBay being sold by s.o-s and I'm glad he did. (Ebay take note: your alert system misses things!)

This comes from 22 November 1958 issue (the seller states 12th November) and interestingly comes with a letter of provenance "detailing how my father purchased the artwork from Nancy Bellamy after [Frank's] death The artwork extends to 18 inch high by 14 inch wide approx"

This is offered as a 'Buy It Now' at £800 or 'Make an offer' and ends on the 24 February

I've included a scan of the originally published page for your pleasure along with the seller's pictures

You can see it's faded, but as Bill says "the linework still looks wonderfully sharp and clear"

Eagle 22 November 1958

Frank Bellamy and Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection

Just as I wrote about a future reprint of Frank Bellamy' "Happy Warrior", I received my first five volumes of my subscription to the new Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection.
#1-5 of Eaglmoss' under-advertised Gerry Anderson reprints

You might have seen a TV advert over the New Year from Eaglemoss, the publishers of the Marvel Chess partwork. The company (according to their site) had a global turnover (in 2011) estimated "to reach €230M generated across more than 150 collections published in 35 markets and in 20 different languages. More than 50% of the group turnover arises outside the EU. We dominate the Eastern European and Russian language markets and invest to become leading publishers in Japan and the other BRIC countries. We are launching approximately 80 collections every year as independent publishers or in partnership with other publishers". [Link supplied by me as it was a new term to me!]

On October 12 (2013) I discovered this series was due to be published. The website (which was[now mysteriously gone! Now here] showed some of the publicity I have reproduced below. My parcel (well plastic bag actually!) contained issue 1 and a second parcel had the other 4 issues, two of which had shrinkwrap and a backing card, which I imagine was used to make it stand out in newsagents. I have heard that there might have been three areas in the country that had this appear in the newsagents - as a trial - and that might explain the strange marketing going on here! Issue 5 came with this note:

Suspension notice!
I suspect this went out in the trial copies - but you would think if, (and I state if  because there is no other communication!) this was the case then someone would have taken these out to ensure idiots like me didn't think 5 was the total number of the whole subscription...and there there is the question of what will I be charged?, where are the free gifts mentioned? etc etc. The blurb in issue 5 mentions the start of the Fireball XL5 reprints in #6.

Each issue is a hardback and the complete set with its series of spines makes a lovely collage mirroring the endpapers (by Andrew Skilleter) but in full colour

Endpapers by Andrew Skilleter

Each of the five covers is by Lee Sullivan - I love the Captain Scarlet issue (#4) which I'm sure was influenced by one of his favourite artists, Mike Noble. The comic contents of all 5 are from TV21 and I'll concentrate on Issues 1,2 and 5, all Frank Bellamy stories presented in chronological order. If the series continues this will be the first time, since they were published, they appear chronologically  despite many reprints since 1966.

So the big question is how did they do with Bellamy's double page spreads? Well, that's interesting. The lovely brochure included with the books states that in reprinting these, "where possible, pages have been reproduced from the original artwork". I think I can see this in "Operation Depthprobe" but am not very sure. Then they mention:
  • Step 1: Scanning is done "by archive restoration experts"
  • Step 2: Colour correction "the yellowing of pages is eliminated"
  • Step 3: Retouching
This sounds brilliant but using the example - see below - of TV21#63 I can't see the lines (shown in the publicity brochure)  on my copy and scanning doesn't add them. However, some of the touching up can be a bit clumsy

Eaglemoss excellent publicity

TV21 #63 cropped from my scan
In this panel from #109 - even with my camera flash - I think you can see the retouching has gone for a clumsy compromise of making Bellamy's clouds (admittedly not well produced in TV21) a single white colour

Eaglemoss retouching

My scan of #109
But let's be positive now! I really like the sympathetic colouring of Bellamy's black and white washes. For the issues #52 to #65 Bellamy did both a double page spread and also a black and white single page in each issue. Below you can see issue 52 "colourised" as Eaglemoss call the process, together with the original TV21 page.

Strange goings on!
TV21 #52

TV21 #53

So I love the left hand page of the above example in Eaglemoss' publication, but wait....why, oh why, have they chosen to cut up the next double page spread (see above)?? In some instances they have added a single page of nostalgic adverts (or TB1 launch sequence etc) to ensure they don't need to cut up the double page spread but I can't see a pattern to why they decided to do it this way.

I ought to mention the extra features. Graham Bleathman's cutaways feature in these hardbacks and there are newly written character profiles (Scott Tracy gets two pages in issue 1). Gerry Anderson gets two pages of his life story too in Issue 1
A brief Frank Bellamy biography (Part One) appears in Issue 1 and Part Two in Issue 2 where it is stated erroneously by an anonymous contributor (who Eaglemoss label "industry experts"), "When Frank Bellamy joined the Eagle in 1957 he initially worked on the religious and historical strips that were the comic's mainstay". He actually moved from Hulton Press' younger comic Swift to Eagle to start the "Happy Warrior" strip in October 1957 and then moved onto historical and religious strips. But if I asked you what the mainstay of the Eagle was, I suspect you might mention one "Pilot of the Future" not 'David the Shepherd King' or 'Marco Polo', but I think I'm getting too picky.

In Issue 2 you also get the whole of the story that appeared in TV21 #83-98 called "Solar Danger" in which Bellamy illustrates the first ten week's episodes and then the artwork is handled by Don Harley.

The last point I want to make is an interesting decision. When speech bubbles or captions appear in the original comic to cut into the middle of a double page spread Eaglemoss have digitally moved the caption.

TV21 #66

Note my arrows on this Eaglemoss scan
showing shifted captions
For those who want to know:
Issue 1 (All Bellamy):
  1. Blazing danger
  2. Mission to Africa 
  3. Talons of the Eagle
Issue 2 (Bellamy and Harley):
Atlantic Tunnel
Solar danger
The big freeze
Issue 3: Stingray: The monster jellyfish, Curse of the Crustavons, The Atlantic kidnap affair, and The haunting of Station 17 (all Embleton)
Issue 4: Captain Scarlet: We will destroy Unity City, We will destroy the Observatory network, We will destroy earth communications and Secret Mission