Sunday 13 July 2014

Frank Bellamy and Countdown comic

I am not scared sometimes to include oblique references to Frank Bellamy if I think it does some good. For example Steve Holland had published his latest UK comic index: Countdown to TV Action.

Bear Alley books' Countdown to TV Action

As usual his scholarly precision leaves me feeling inadequate but what enjoyable material. My memory of the Countdown comic was that it was great to see the Anderson strips after the slow and painful death of TV21 in 1971. I'd abandoned the title way before that as the merger with Valiant was of no interest to me, at that time.

And here was a shiny new comic printed on very shiny paper (and tatty edges!). The artwork by Jon Davis and John Cooper (who I always get confused) never appealed to me and browsing through the comic I can't see why I kept ordering it until very late in its run, but I did. Don Harley's art was perfect to my eyes and that John Burns art with its heavy colour shadows made no sense - sorry John! Now I can appreciate Gerry Haylock, John Burns and others.  I do remember really appreciating the space news. It was the time of Apollo and Skylab which I found thrilling and as a teenager I was not averse to the flying saucer material either - after all I did watch UFO, didn't I?

I sold all my original copies to David Nightingale for £100 in the 1980s and was glad for the money. But enough of my life story.

Countdown #24 (Saturn V art by Roy Cross)
Read the story of how this art was used in Countdown Steve's book
The Frank Bellamy strips reprinted from his 'Thunderbird' run in TV21 appeared in Countdown #24 - 30 (each 3 page instalment reduced to 2 black and white pages - see example below). The 'cutting up' of Bellamy's art was produced in such as a way that unless you knew it had been done, it was hard to spot. 

Countdown #24

Countdown #24

TV21 #59 pp.10-11

TV21 #59 p.12

Secondly TV Action & Countdown #71 - 77 reprinted in colour this time and in the centre pages as they originally appeared, the 'Thunderbirds' story from TV21 issues 52-58, the first Thunderbirds story in TV21. As Steve explains in his book, these reprints saved costs in the production of the comic but new art was still being commissioned e.g. Gerry Haylock's 'Doctor Who' cover for issue 71 shown here

TV Action & Countdown #71

TV Action & Countdown #71

TV Action & Countdown #71
'Thunderbirds' also appeared in other Polystyle productions (the publishers of Countdown) such as the Thunderbirds 48 page Holiday Special (1971). I no longer have this one so rely on Shaqui's excellent website for more details. 

Thunderbirds Holiday Special 1971
But in reading Steve's Countdown to TV Action book I discovered he'd missed a Holiday Special.

Thunderbirds Holiday Special (1984) (Unknown artist)
If you're curious as to what the contents are, then allow me to help you.

To give the publishers credit they did reprint these stories as they were published - as a centrespread...but lost some of the captions in the gutter! The Holiday Special contains the stories from TV21 #66 through to #82 and #99-104 but with awkward additions.

Shaqui sums this up well "The mastheads from the original Thunderbirds strips are redrawn by an unidentified artist to make the stories complete compilations".

He is kinder than me and actually whoever was given the job of filling the headers that Bellamy drew, summed it up him/herself in this scan, where I think they mean to intimate "Danger" but it comes out as "Anger"!

You can see here how awful the black and white version of Bellamy's gorgeous colour is and also how the 'header' or masthead is filled in.

TV21 #75

None of this diminishes the work that Steve has done. The history of the company and the set up of Countdown under Dennis Hooper is worth the price of admission! But you also get lots of Brian lewis, Gerry Haylock, John Burns, Peter Ford artwork. To see more go to his page dedicated to the book which has pricing postage and far more details than covered here

Cover wraparound


Shaqui said...

In fact, Steve omits a few publications: The Persuaders Annual 1973, The Dr Who Holiday Special for 1974 (which may not have been by the same editorial team), and if you think the Thunderbirds Holiday Special (which was the penultimate of five Countdown/TV Action related specials published in the 1980s) then there are two earlier Thunderbirds, a Stingray, and the Zero G Holiday Specials - the latter featuring the standalone SF strips and the Countdown text story from the Countdown annual 1972.

Details of all these specials can be found in my weblink with this comment...

Norman Boyd said...

Thanks for writing Shaqui. Yes Steve has written to tell me that he omitted the later specials because they are "out of scope" but he might add a note to Bear Alley.