Wednesday 19 November 2014

Frank Bellamy in the Eagle Times


Alan Vince, who I first came across when he interviewed Frank Hampson (Dan Dare's talented creator) in Doug Gifford's fondly remembered Thing fanzine, has written another article for the Eagle Society magazine the Eagle Times. And Howard Corn, the Editor, and team have pushed the boat out and focussed on Frank Bellamy in this Autumn 2014 issue.

Howard and Alan are happy for me to reproduce the article IN FULL! So let's jump in!

Alan, who met many of the great British comic artists, never met Bellamy and mentions that he wrote to him but received no reply. I know that Bellamy did reply to many fans (imagine how many letters that was - no emails back then!) and am not surprised to hear he might have missed Alan's letters. The title of the article is "Frank Bellamy - trademarks and techniques" and Alan gives us a 8 page overview of a lot of Bellamy's career, naturally focussing on his Swift and Eagle work. I'm guessing that he doesn't mention all Bellamy's Swift work as space was limited, for example the "Paul English" strip is omitted.

I have studied Bellamy's artwork for years and have read all the published information on him, the man. I have seen videos of him appearing on television and still have yet to produce a portrait of Bellamy the man in my head. He was self-deprecating and shy, talented as everyone knows, self- taught, loved outgoing hobbies - such as flamenco dancing and bullfighting, but as he admitted in many letters preferred drawing by himself rather than speaking at public events. So Alan and I agree, "nothing beats a face to face with someone". People who did meet him and have been asked, use the words 'nice', 'shy'  and 'nattily dressed'.

The Eagle Times front cover shows one of the set of three photos that Nancy Bellamy donated to the Society and I'm pleased they have chosen to share them with us.

Frank Bellamy on the Eagle Times cover
In the background we can see an unpublished piece (to my knowledge) by Bellamy of "Fraser of Africa". He drew the strip from 6 August 1960 through to 12 August 1961, producing three stories in all. The image behind Bellamy shows Fraser's head placed in a map of Africa. Were these part of a photoshoot for Eagle? We know that happened because a piece was published in Eagle Vol. 11:48 (26 Nov 1960) but what Bellamy is wearing is different. Anyone know?

Eagle 26 Nov 1960

I concur with Alan that the man could also be a contradiction - did he look forward to drawing Dan Dare or not? - but who isn't a contradiction? Alan repeats a story picked up from a comment Bellamy made to Dez Skinn and Dave Gibbons regarding the lack of holidays, which until I met Nancy, his widow, I too inferred from that interview. But from family photos I have seen, they certainly got around Europe a lot considering the package holiday was just starting in this country in the 1950s, making it as far as Morocco at one point.

This issue also has three photos of Bellamy at his drawing board and also a one page review of the Heros the Spartan reprint.

The back cover is in the form of a Fraser of Africa strip with photos inserted into panels. I had it drawn to my attention that "Kettering does not lie on the Northern Line". When I re-read all the articles I hadn't a clue what my friend was telling me until he explained that the first panel on the last page states Bellamy, in these photos, is working in his Kettering studio. He was in fact at this time (1960-1961) in Morden, Surrey and only returned to Kettering in 1975, a year before his death.

Frank Bellamy in Morden
If you'd like to buy an individual copy of the Eagle Times (which is normally available by subscription - see the Eagle Times blog for details)

By the way does anyone know what happened to Doug Gifford mentioned above? Note: not Denis Gifford who passed away in 2000.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Frank Bellamy and Egmont Thunderbirds reprints

Collage from Volume 5

I have finally got copies of the books which Egmont list as being published in September and Egmont themselves haven't caught up yet by adding them to their Classic Comics website. I've grabbed the covers and details from the publicity available in their main catalogue. However note that the cover for Volume 2 changed on publication - which often happens. The correct cover appears below.

Interestingly Amazon has some strange ways of cataloguing this data (Thunderbirds Comic: Volume V has a Roman numeral and not a Latin numeral). Volume 1 has the sub-title of Garen Ewing's excellent Rainbow Orchid comic (see Footnote) Volume 2 has the correct published cover which is a cropped image of the comic cover - for obvious reasons they want to highlight only TB2!
Art by Graham Bleathman

I have listed all these in the reprint list on the website.Graham Bleathman drew 4 out of 5 of these covers back in the early 1990s for the Thunderbirds comic edited by Alan Fennell
  • Volume 1 came from Thunderbirds the comic #13
  • Volume 2 came from Thunderbirds the comic #2
  • Volume 3 came from Thunderbirds the comic #8
  • Volume 4 came from Thunderbirds the comic #11
  • Volume 5 came from Thunderbirds the comic #22 (Cover by Steve Kyte)
Interestingly, and it seems appropriate to mention it here, Graham's excellent cutaway drawings are published now as well. The book (shown below) Inside the World of Gerry Anderson retails at £17.99 and Graham has written a foreword - and being a fan of TV21 and a collector himself he notes the differences between the cutaways published here and those that haven't been, the history of how got into this work and how Alan Fennel hired him. A nice little history and a lovely hardback and when I asked Graham about it earlier in the year, he said "There is no direct Bellamy connection, except for the fact that a couple of cutaways are of ships or locations that Bellamy designed (notably ‘The President’ liner)."
Thanks Graham!

Graham Bleathman's "Inside the worlds of Gerry Anderson"
Anyway back to Frank Bellamy, who is yet to appear in this article! All 5 volumes contain the materials mentioned in the previous article on "Thunderbirds the comic collection but with some differences in packaging

Firstly the back covers with nice silhouettes of the craft - and matching colours....

Then each title page has a piece of art and a silhouette.....

 And then each contents page has artwork selections......

Volume One

Volume Two

Volume Three

Volume Four
Volume Five

Although Egmont credit John Cooper (on the story pages) correctly with having done two out of the three stories in Volume 5, they make the same mistake on the contents page as they did on the hardback Collection. So the stories "The Big Bang" and "The Mini Moon" are not illustrated by Bellamy.

Lastly I should say the presentations are really nice and the feel of the covers (matt) is very pleasant. Also to make up the page count someone used some imagination and created a collage of Bellamy and Cooper art - nice touch - see picture at top of this article!

So stop ignoring your Christmas shopping and get these books for friends who have never heard of Frank Bellamy. A nice series.

FOOTNOTE: Trust me! The Complete Rainbow Orchid (The Rainbow Orchid) by Garen Ewing is great fun to read and is better than Herge's Tin-Tin, in my opinion! Egmont will love me for mentioning this!

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Frank Bellamy's MANHUNT reprinted

Tuesday 4 November 2014 © Daily Mirror
Martin Baines is a great guy as I'm sure I've been telling you since 2011, when the Daily Mirror newspaper first reprinted Frank Bellamy's run of 'Garth' stories and asked Martin to colour them. I've been waiting to see whether the only two stories drawn by Bellamy not yet reprinted in colour in the Daily Mirror  - 'Freak Out to Fear' and 'Manhunt' - would appear, and here's the first of the two...The Manhunt.

K239 Original art
I wonder why they've chosen to colour over the ladies' cleavage in this story (compare the colour to the black and white strips above) and not the previous stories, which have shown plenty of cleavage. Fans of Bellamy will want to see unadulterated artwork - some don't even like them being coloured - but why reprint a story and change the artwork? The reason I think, is that it shows how much society has changed since the Seventies - forty years ago!

The Daily Mirror has done this before when they reprinted a group of Bellamy's 'Garth' in annual form in 1975. This, I think was understandable, as in the 1970s only children bought annuals that had comic strips in them - the old argument, "comics are only children's ephemera". However, very strangely the Daily Mirror, at that time, issued a second annual (1976) , but left it uncensored in terms of naked ladies - see my previous thinking on this!
The story was previously reprinted in Mirror Classic Cartoon Collection, edited by Mike Higgs, London: Hawk 1998

Here's an example of Martin Asbury's art - having taken over from Bellamy due to his death in 1976, in which we see an example of what's on show. It will be interesting to see where this goes and whether a story on drugs ('Freak Out to Fear') appears which I for one think it should. This is a really great story that is very similar in tone to the Garth story 'The Chiller Connection' that was run in the Mirror recently last year. Come on Daily Mirror let us have the last story to be reprinted by Frank Bellamy....PLEASE!.

K268-K269 Art: Martin Asbury

Anyway getting off my soap box and back to Bellamy's art, he drew 15 episodes for the story before his early death. Martin Asbury took over, doing a great job of emulating Bellamy's style for a while, before signing his own artwork and starting to lose some of the restrictions of following another artist.

Bellamy's last signed strip is K254 (25 October 1976), however the credit above the strip as printed in the paper is Martin Asbury. Bill Storie asked Martin about this and wrote (in the Gopherville Argus #1 June 1992 in his John Allard interview),

"Martin has since confirmed to me that Frank left no pencils or unfinished artwork and Martin took over 'from scratch', although he admits to drawing the first few strips in the Bellamy style"

It will be interesting to follow this story and see how fans react!

Once again MANY thanks for Martin's generosity in sharing this work with us