Sunday, 17 May 2015

Frank Bellamy and Menomonee Falls Gazette

Menomonee Falls Gazette 1972 September 04 No38

Menomonee Falls Gazette was published by Street Enterprises (who also published the cartoon strip equivalent Menomonee Falls Guardian) from 13 December 1971 - 3 March 1978. As a fan publication it changed size, number of pages, quality throughout its run but was always interesting. It had concurrent runs of approximately six daily strips for each title so you could read several days' worth of newspaper strips at once. The Wikipedia article lists some of those comic strip titles. There were also factual columns which had some interesting facts as well as interviews - when space allowed, I suspect.

They not only included American adventure and soap opera strips (and some Australian) but also British ones too. They were James Bond with art by McLusky, Sydney Jordan's excellent Jeff Hawke, O'Donnell and Holdaway's Modesty Blaise, Paul Temple (by Durbridge and Phil Mendoza), Scarth A.D. 2195, John Burns (and Les Lilley) The Seekers, Peter O'Donnell and Alfred Sindall's Tug Transom.
Menomonee Falls Gazette 1973 January 29 No59

Mike Tiefenbacher and Jerome Sinkovec (MFG's editors) wrote to Bellamy in the early 1970s asking for clarification regarding John Allard's part in producing Garth, which they began reprinting in their Gazette (#40, 18 September 1972). Bellamy in his usual generous way replied and the two creators of MFG included it in the Gazette:
Letter to Menomonee Falls Gazette
Published in no.81, July 2nd, 1973

A few weeks ago, the London MIRROR Syndicate told us that Frank Bellamy, illustrator of GARTH, would like to see a copy of the GAZETTE. We dashed off a letter to him and this was his reply:
First, I do hope that you will accept my apologies for the delay in writing to you. I have had, and still have, so many deadlines to meet that I have found it very hard to get away from the drawing board. I am sure that you will understand and I do hope that I am forgiven.

Secondly, very many thanks for writing to me and for sending a copy of the GAZETTE.

I can tell you that I was more than pleased to see a copy at last. I must congratulate you both on an excellent production. It's great. May I say here and now that I feel most honored to be included in the GAZETTE with such illustrious company.

Thank you for the complimentary remarks about my work. You are very kind. It means a lot to me to find acceptance in the United States. I was very interested to read about Al Williamson. As I am a great admirer of his work it gives me great pleasure to know that he is familiar with at least some of my work.

You ask about the functions of Jim Edgar and John Allard. Well Jim Edgar is the scriptwriter. John Allard was on the strip for a number of years before I was called upon to draw it. He sometimes letters the balloons. However, I now do all the drawing, but the credits remain. Sounds confusing... it is!

I will do my best to see if it is possible to let you have an original GARTH. The fate of the originals remains with the newspaper. In any case I would be pleased to draw a cover for you, when I can get the time to fit one in!

It's a pity that most of my strip work from the 50s until two years ago was in full colour gravure. It would probably have interested you. That 50s bit alone makes me sound very old! I guess that I am! When I was in the army during the war I was at one time next to a U.S. Unit. My home was surrounded by the U.S. 8th Air Force. Yes, I have a soft spot and affection for the United States, hence my thanks to you for looking at my work.

I would love to receive the GAZETTE and would like to thank you for your most generous offer.
May I think you both again for your kindness and consideration and trust that one day we will meet.
Take care and with many good wishes to you.
Yours sincerely,
Frank Bellamy

Interesting that Bellamy mentions the fate of the originals as his family eventually had these returned and thus they are scattered to the four winds in collectors' hands now. Anyway continuing the MFG letters.....

Menomonee Falls Gazette 1973 August 13 No87
Thank you, Frank, for doing such an incredible job on GARTH. Many of us remember your color work on such strips as THUNDERBIRDS and STAR TREK for the English weeklies also. We hope you continue GARTH for a long time.

In this article I've linked all the covers that featured Garth (different characters featured on the cover spot starting in issue #17) and a page of strips. The benefit of these reprints at the time was the clarity of reproduction which was on better paper than the Daily Mirror in the Seventies.

The reason for writing this article was that I saw a copy of MFG #158 (December 16 1974) and noted that the last two episodes of Bellamy's favourite of his Garth work, the story  "Ghost Town" were included with the first four of "The Mask of Atacama" story. When I looked at #159, I noticed that the Garth strips were missing! I then checked #160 and it reappeared and then #161 had none again! Strange goings-on indeed! Steve Rubin pointed out to me a while ago that "Freak out to fear" also had a strange publishing schedule in MFG. Jerry, Mike, do you want to add anything? To see my list of what was reprinted when, take a look at my reprint list.

If you want to see full copies the Friardale website has copies in 'cbz' form - most contributed kindly by 'Pete The PIPster' and if you just want to see the covers - ComicVine has them including the wrongly numbered last issue #232 which appears printed as #234

And here are the final covers featuring Garth

Menomonee Falls Gazette 1974 July 01 No133

Menomonee Falls Gazette 1974 July 01 No133 page 16
Menomonee Falls Gazette 1975 March 24 No171
Menomonee Falls Gazette 1975 November 17 No205