Sunday 1 June 2014

Frank Bellamy and Eagle Annual 1965

Updated 18 June 2014 see below
Eagle Annual 1965

Dan Dare's Space Annual 1963
Both the above UK annual covers have been cited as being drawn by Frank Bellamy...but are they?

In a recent Facebook discussion (which started round a completely different piece of art) mention was made of the two pieces of art above. If you really want to read the conversation you need to ask David Roach to befriend you on Facebook, but allow me to summarise:

"Steven Austin" And Walt Howarth did paint some earlier Dan Dare Annual covers in the 60's, not sure about the 74 edition though.
"David Roach" Did Walt do the 65 Eagle annual then?
"Techno Delic" Steven, may I ask what the source of your information regarding Walt Howarth doing those two Eagle covers is please?
"Steven Austin" Hi TD, sure, I used to be a big fan of the 'new' Eagle as a kid and collected several of the 'old' annuals and the 65 annual was one that stuck in my mind because it was a fav cover as several of the others had horrible photographic covers - they've long since gone but I did seem to remember it was painted by Walt Holwarth.[sic] I wanted to double check and find the cover for here and so googled Walt Holwarth [sic] Eagle covers and found this blog
"Techno Delic" Thank you Steven. I have to confess I would not have put either of those down to Walt Howarth - the 1965 one looks like someone trying to emulate Frank Bellamy's style, and the 1963 one, possibly a cross between Frank Hampson and Don Harley. It is also odd that the 1963 annual credits all the internal illustrators but omits any mention of Howarth?
"Techno Delic" Still being unsure about the identification of Walt Howarth as artist for those Eagle/Dan Dare covers, I contacted Gary Watton, who was close to Walt Howarth and acted as an agent for commissioned pieces. Gary says: 'Walter never painted the original Dan Dare covers, but he did repaint them as private commissions. Derek Wilson didn't get all his facts right for this article.' I wonder if it was the repainted commissions which caused the confusion? I recall some people being confused by a Rifleman Annual mockup that Walt Howarth did, leading some to believe the annual was a real item, when in fact it never existed.
"Steve Holland" With regards the Eagle and Dan Dare covers: I wonder if they could have been painted by someone like Barrie R. Linklater?
"David Roach" Techno- OK, That all seems clear enough that they weren't Howarth. It would have been weird him moonlighting over at Odhams. Do we know for certain that the 65 isn't Bellamy? The painting style is very like his. That said, the Dare book is painted in a very similar style as well, though the drawing underneath is nothing like Bellamy . The 65 is a big favourite of mine- I think it's a stunning cover.
"Techno Delic" David: The man to ask about Frank Bellamy is Norman Boyd. I looked at his website: - and it doesn't list that Eagle Annual cover as being Bellamy's work. It's close but to me it does look more like someone copying a Bellamy Dare
"David Roach" It's not absolutely typical of his sort of pose, but the painting style is very like him. I'm sure we'll come up with the definitive answer soon though.
"Techno Delic" That's what I mean - an original Frank Bellamy is very distinctive in terms of figure dynamics, and he also had a very distinctive way of drawing 'space'. That has neither of those qualities.
"David Roach" Very true.

Now to save myself further embarrassment I joined in and Techno Delic had to repeat himself as I missed the pertinent point the first time! But this is what I said:

Norman Boyd BLOW! I see what you're saying. I have no other evidence to support either case unfortunately. My records that could have helped start about Sept 1964 and as this is likely to be painted before Sept 1964 (due to publication dates for annuals), I'm stuck! Sorry!

I reproduced this from Steve Penny's site Purenostalgia, in his Limited Edition prints section

Reproduction by Walt Howorth
You'll notice Howarth has extended the drawing somewhat which in itself is interesting. I also wrote to Steve Penny to ask if he knew anything more but have not to date received a reply and am awaiting a reply from Barrie Linklater.

I decided to ask a few Bellamy fans for their thoughts and was staggered to find several had never seen this cover before. But all but one came down on the side of it not being by Bellamy - although a very close imitation.

Interesting info you keep turning up! There are a couple, or three, reasons why I didn't include the EAGLE ANNUAL 1965 and DAN DARE'S SPACE ANNUAL 1963 covers in the Checklist: Firstly I'd never before set eyes on them; Secondly, nobody else included them in any of their lists; Thirdly they don't look like Frank Bellamy in even basic elements of materials / technique which you would expect to see (being just not there); someone already mentioned his "very distinctive way of drawing 'space'" for instance.  And no signature.

The stars are not FB stars. Frank's stars are distinctive and unique and are (I reason) a pragmatic and brilliant design solution to the 'problem' (as I think Frank would have seen it) that the most efficient way of creating stars in pen and ink is to lay-in areas of black and speckle with blobs of process white - which technically, Frank wouldn't want to do. Hence his starfield design (necessitating a thought-through understanding of its micro-component elements) which obviated any requirement for process white.
Also note that FB's 1969 real life moon landing work for the Daily Mirror had, also uniquely, no stars in it whatsoever - though drawn before it was established by the actual landing that no stars could be seen from the daylight surface of the moon, despite the 'ink black' daylight sky there. I can recall media prior-speculation as to whether or not stars would in fact be seen .. And FB's moon landing astronauts stylistically look far better than they did in real life.
The EAGLE ANNUAL 1965, not only has no such star clusters but also - at least in the web reproduction, and even photographic film reproduction can be very misleading - the black sky isn't wholly black either; and, as is established, Frank would created really black areas of black in his original art even it meant going over it half a dozen times.
The metallic cable to the Dan Dare figure is FB-like, though the spacecraft is not - and 'scrubbed' or 'drybrush' in the application of colour. Again, although the face is reminiscent of FB this could, like any FB-ish elements, similarly be a result of the artist using FB published art as inspiration. The boots, on the other hand [heh], are as you say, very unlike FB in every aspect. The most telling aspect against it being FB is in the non-FB DD spacehelmet and suit and the rendering of it - which lacks FB's solid-geometry which was a distinguishing characteristic of his ability and work.
The same could more or less be said for Dan Dare's Space Annual 1963 except for less apparent Bellamy influence.

It has to be readily conceded, this Dan Dare illustration is especially difficult to attribute. While I’d take a great deal of convincing that it’s Frank himself – you’re one of the few people who will understand? – the actual treatment of the space-suited figure shares the, unaccountable, awkwardness also present in the Look and Learn illustration of Captain James Cook’s coming ashore. Forgive me for assuming nobody else has asked the obvious question: although, unfortunately, I’ve never seen a copy of the book itself, is it possible this “unknown” artist is amongst those who contributed to Dan Dare’s Annual 1963.

For what it's worth my current opinion is that it doesn't quite reflect FB's style from circa 1964/65 era - it's not quite dramatic enough IMHO and the suit doesn't look as sleek and "Bellamy-style-futuristic" as it should - too clunky around the hips , knees and boots - and the pose is just not ...well not like the way I'd imagine FB would have done it.

Also the starscape looks a bit sparse - Frank tended to add in lots of extra details in his colour starscapes instead of just plain white dots - especially on large pieces like covers.

On closer inspection it also looks like it's been painted in gouache, not FB's beloved coloured inks and the Eagle Masthead is actually quite "rough" when you look at it close-up - you can see the brushstrokes in the lettering which is highly unlike Frank - of course it could have been an overlay by someone else but to me it does kinda look like it's painted over the space background ie part of the actual art - it would be handy to inspect the original but no doubt it's long gone..
These guys (and Paul Holder) inspired me to work a bit harder (and the previous embarrassment mentioned above!) and I trawled through my Eagle comics to see where this unusual spaceship was used...and guess what?

Eagle 12 Oct 1963 Vol. 14:41 Art by Keith Watson
The above illustration shows the spaceship, the fins on the trousers and the connecting line to the ship that are all featured on the 1965 Annual cover. I'm not suggesting the Annual art is by Watson but his art is obviously the inspiration for the cover whoever drew it! And it's gorgeous too!

And just in case anyone says but where's the Bellamy art on this blog, here's a page from 1959 - Frank Bellamy's version of Dan Dare (including his version of a glove David J.!).

Eagle 12 September 1959 Vol. 10:30

As an aside David Jackson mentioned the following incident:

I remember David Bellamy saying that, before FB had worked for EAGLE, they had been looking together at a copy of EAGLE and Frank had commented favourably on the drawing of a glove; at least one possible [quite Bellamy-ish!] candidate for this may well be that of the 1954 Vol,5 No.26 inside page - as compared to and in contrast with, say, the rendering on the reprise of the same scene on the cover of the following issue. [Artwork in both by Frank Hampson and team)

Eagle Vol 5:26

Eagle Vol 5:27

In his usual thorough way David goes on to say:
I happened on the example above by complete chance, so it leaves room for the possibility there may be other, possibly more likely, candidates for this but to find such I'd have to look through all the Dan Dare pages published before Frank joined EAGLE.

So do you have any knowledge or thoughts on this topic - get in contact!

UPDATE 19 June 2014

Having read this article David Slinn got back to me and mentioned he wondered whether the comment regarding "gloves" were in fact about these images by Frank Hampson and team:

EAGLE Vol.6 No.21 27 May 1955
EAGLE Vol.6 No.21 27 May 1955

EAGLE Vol.6 No.20 20 May 1955 [i]
EAGLE Vol.6 No.20 20 May 1955

David also sent me the endpapers of the 1963 annual mentioned which featured art by Barrie Linklater


Norman Boyd said...

Andrew Skilleter wrote:
"Hello Norman!

Of course this is Bellamy painting in inks on CS10! And the 1963 Dan Dare Space Annual cover is by Don Harley.No doubts. End of.

Interesting how Bellamy was inhibited by having to base his art on Keith Watson's brilliant work. Maybe this is why it causes to confusion?

But I've never had a jot of doubt since the 1960s when I had these!"

Norman Boyd said...

Andrew Skilleter wrote:
"It's a good point to raise. No problem with the Eagle annual cover but I've now had a chance to study the actual 1963 Space Annual cover I have and it is more problematic than I thought last night! Why the odd helmet? The design and modelling of the suit and gun is more FB than Don Harley, yet the face is very traditional Dan Dare/Harley not FB...And as someone else said, FB wouldn't do the space in blue like that. To play the Devil's advocate, why would Harley deviate the design from the traditional look?From my experience as an illustrator we could speculate that FB was given a very specific brief to make it very Dan Dare/Harley? (the space station is too traditional for FB) Was Harley involved collaboratively? He worked with and got on very well with FB. Gasp! I think a phone call is necessary!"

We wait with bated breath!

Kid said...

Fascinating stuff, Norman. Top blog.

Phil Rushton said...

An intriguing discussion. On the whole (in best Call My Bluff style) I'm inclined to plump for the 1965 Annual being a genuine Bellamy - though it's something I've hummed and Hawed about for years. It's worth remembering that Frank was always ready to experiment with new techniques, so the undoubted peculiarities of this piece shouldn't automatically disqualify it from the canon. For example, the lack of a signature applies equally to his covers for the 1967 Thunderbirds and TV Century 21 Annuals; and while those do seem to have been executed with his usual range of coloured inks it's noticeable that the latter in particular deliberately avoids black lines, giving it a more painterly look than his weekly 'Thunderbirds' episodes.

This is still only a tentative 'plump' mind you. I fully accept that there are some remaining discrepancies that seem hard to reconcile with his work elsewhere. Funnily enough the stars in the background remind me of another well-known comic artist and painter who worked on most British SF heroes (including Dan Dare) at one time or another: the late, great Brian Lewis. And while Dan's pose doesn't seem quite right for him he could have easily painted some parts such as the face.

Another possibility - both here and on the 1963 Annual (which clearly isn't 100% Bellamy) - is the idea that the covers could have been painted by someone else over Frank's pencil layouts. This was common practice at DC Thomson (eg Ken Reid's brilliant 'Jonah' designs for the front and back covers of the 1962 Beano Annual), while at Odhams Jack Kirby's Thor was certainly recreated in paint for the 1968 Fantastic Annual.

Norman Boyd said...

Thanks for your thoughts Phil. I appreciate what you're saying and loved Brian Lewis' work too. Perhaps it's time I added this to the list with a query and pointer to this article!