Wednesday 24 December 2014

Frank Bellamy and Place of the Gods

IT'S CHRISTMAS! so my dear friend Martin Baines, here's a treat for you. You asked what this looked like and I've gone to town for you for Christmas!

Launched on 25 May 1940, Reveille was originally the official newspaper of the Ex-Services' Allied Association. It was bought by the Mirror Group in 1947, after which it was printed and published by IPC Newspapers Ltd. It was relaunched in the mid-1970s as New Reveille, but  Tit-Bits, its better known 'cousin', absorbed it circa 1980.

This tabloid style newspaper (magazine?) was a weekly and in 1964 Frank Bellamy found some work with them. Before we jump in let's a have a look at the content of this strange paper

It was well illustrated with line drawings by various artists I have not tripped over in all my explorations.  But that's not that unusual as groups of artists tended to stick to the area they knew.

 Reveille often had sensational quirky stories and advice columns jazzed up to make them readable

 The adverts from that time say a lot about the audience. Especially when the festive season is close. So I thought I'd copy the Currys advert below for you so you can reminice and compare prices from 1964 to 2014

 A nice play on the Disney film title!

Now you have the context you might wonder what on Earth Bellamy illustrated....

Stephen Vincent Benét, Yale College Class of 1919, pictured in the college yearbook.
Retouched by MarmadukePercy
Stephen Vincent Benét’s story “Place of the Gods” was first published in the Saturday Evening Post of 31 July 1937 and later became known as "By the Waters of Babylon". It's a very short tale of what soon becomes obvious is a post-apocalyptic society which mingles a fear of the old ways and the religion taught by the elders in this new world. The narrator is the son of one of the priests and he himself has a vision in which he see the 'Gods' walking in the old places. This tale of his coming of age progresses to his visit and feelings of those who used to inhabit the city.

To think Benét wrote this in 1937 two years before the Second World War - aware of the rise of European fascism - and 8 years before the 1945 Hiroshima bombing, seems prescient of him, but this sort of literature was prevalent during the pulp magazine era and even has a Wikipedia entry under Post-Apocalyptic fiction.  It's one of my favourite genres in which a lot of modern burdens are forgotten and man strips his world back to surviving and then outlining how social structures cope in the new worlds. My personal favourite is Earth Abides by George Stewart. Henry Wells' (1) contemporaneous obituary described Benét thus:

"[A]s a man of letters Benét has been more than a historian or editor; he has for nearly ten years been a propagandist and a prophet. As befits a poet who is also a historian, he looks with vision not only to the past but to the future, fulfilling one of the oldest and most revered functions of the poet, that of prophecy. His devotion to American history led him to belief in political ideals which he early found menaced by the rise of fascism. Considerably before such fears were widely felt in this country, he recognized the military tyrannies of Eu- rope and Asia as perils to our life and national integrity"

Benét is likely to be best remembered now for "John Brown's Body" considered by many to be a lasting contribution, despite its failings, to epic poetry and literature. He also wrote the short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster", a short story in the Saturday Evening Post, a New Hampshire take on the Faustian myth. And I was astounded to learn he wrote the words "Bury my heart at Wounded Knee" which I assumed were uttered by a Native American as the book of that title published in the 1970s really moved me when I read it!

Reveille 1964 November 19-25, pp30-31

If you want to read the full text (and it isn't long at 5,642 words) go over to Tom's Place or enlarge the picture above. If you'd like to see a video of the story head over to YouTube

Bellamy has two illustrations for this short story. The first shows a 'cro-magnon' type man carrying a bow and wearing a quiver, struggling through ruins. The figures' head is very similar to other man-type creatures Bellamy drew  - see below

Place of the Gods - drawn by Frank Bellamy
Eagle Vol 13:51, 22 December 1962 - Heros the Spartan

TV21 #201 - Thunderbirds

The second picture shows the man firing his arrow at a crouching leopard. The incident is not in the story but wild cats are mentioned.

Place of the Gods - drawn by Frank Bellamy

There are lots of study notes on this short story (tribute in itself!) and the one I liked best is here

Finally for those perfectionists out there, I have moved the Reveille entry on the website from 'Magazines' to 'Newspapers' and uploaded these pictures there too. How's that for perfectionism!

So there you go a new Bellamy released into the world! Have a very Happy Christmas and a great New Year,

Wells, Henry W. (1943) Stephen Vincent Benét, College English, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Oct., 1943), pp. 8-13  


Anonymous said...

I'd love to know more about reveille. Frank hampson had work published in it after he left eagle, I'm sure there must be more goodies in there to unearth! Thanks for the article

Richard sheaf

Norman Boyd said...

Hi Richard
Yes an exploration of Reveille (and Tit-Bits) for that matter would be very interesting. I checked around the date of FB's work in Reveille but didn't identify anything from other artists - but le me know if you do find anything!