Tuesday 23 August 2016

Fans of Frank: Will Brooks and Frank Bellamy

Eagle 23 January 1960 Vol. 11:4, p1
Original art scan thanks to owner
Will Brooks works with digital art  and "is a freelance designer based in Cardiff Bay. His main work is Doctor Who-based, and previous clients have included Big Finish Productions and BBC Worldwide. Currently, Will provides photo cover variants for Titan Comics’ range of monthly Doctor Who titles".  Take a look at his gallery on Deviant Art and follow his Tumblr account.  He has become a follower of Frank Bellamy's work, and so I asked him to add some words to my infrequent feature "Fans of Frank" . Over to you Will....

Will Brooks
When I was first discovering Doctor Who at the tail end of 2003, most of my knowledge about it came from great big books I’d picked up at geeky specialist shops. Things like Justin Richard’s The Legend were my absolute bible. I’d sit there for hours just staring at the pictures from all these stories that seemed so far off and distant. While I’d started picking up odd VHS tapes from the library and the same geeky shops, I knew I was really better off waiting for the DVDs in many cases, and my calculations at the time suggested that at their current release rate, I’d not have a full collection until somewhere around 2025.

Everything I knew about Doctor Who came from books like that. Even now when I think of certain stories, the first thing that comes to mind is whatever image was printed as a full- or half-page in connection to them. It was in one of these books that I first came across the work of Frank Bellamy.

Radio Times 30 Aug- 05 Sep 1975, p.6
Note the punch holes - Norman was stupid in 1975!

Specifically, it was the gorgeous 3/4 page "Terror of the Zygons" piece for Radio Times [30 Aug1975-5 Sep 1975], with a terrifying but beautiful Skarasen lurching from the bottom panel while the Doctor muses on the nature of the threat they’re facing. Just in the way that I picture specific photographs when thinking of certain Doctor Who stories, when "Terror" crosses my mind, it’s [the above] image I see.

Radio Times 30 Aug- 05 Sep 1975, p.17
Such an unusual piece!

I’ve less clear memories of when I first saw the rest of Frank Bellamy’s Doctor Who work. Over time, it’s all sort of merged into that great big Who-flavoured soup in my head. That’s not to take away from any of the other art, though, because it’s all beautiful in its own way. There’s another piece from the Radio Times for "Terror of the Zygons" - a smaller, 1/4 page affair - which is very different in style to the first, but really sells those opening moments of the story. There’s a similar piece for the previous season’s "The Ark in Space", too, which brings together the Doctor, the Ark, a Wirrn, and one of the cryogenics bays in a way that’s more beautiful than any of the subsequent covers the story received for novelisations, or on video, or DVD.
Radio Times 16-22 August 1975 p34:
"The Ark in Space"
That "Ark in Space" piece might - just might - be my favourite one of these Radio Times pieces, looking at it again. Because it’s one that really sums up what it is I love so much about Bellamy’s design work. He’s got a way with layout, with compositing the elements together, that has rarely been matched in Doctor Who artwork since. It’s the use of negative space as much as the actual art itself - in this example the way the lines break up not only the distinct elements of the design, but cut across the images too. It’s an effect I’ve tried - and always failed - to implement several times in my own work. For now, I’ve decided it’s a technique best left to the expert.

Radio Times 16-22 August 1975 p34:
Norman's copy pasted in his scrapbook from the 1970s

It’s that real genius for layout that I love the most about Bellamy’s work, and it’s as distinctively ‘him’ as that terribly long signature that adorns so much of his work. It’s present in those preview pieces for Radio Times (as well as in his single episode images that accompanied many stories in the early 1970s), but it’s perhaps more obviously on display in his work outside the world of Doctor Who.

Eagle 23 January 1960 Vol. 11:4, p1

The more my interests around archive television have expanded, the more I’ve found myself bumping into Bellamy’s earlier work, and every time it’s instantly recognisable and totally distinctive. From his work on comic strips for Thunderbirds and Star Trek, and right back earlier than that to his time on Dan Dare in the late 1950s and early 1960s, his style is totally unique, so distinctly his. It’s also, dare I say, completely timeless. The way he arranges the panels on a page in a comic strip sets my imagination alight now at 27, so I can’t imagine what it did to a generation of kids opening up their copies of the Eagle each week to check in on their favourite pilot from the future. I’ve recently had a copy of the Thunderbirds Comic Collection as a gift (which means I can stop gazing lovingly at it in branches of Waterstones), and I’m pacing myself as I work my way through, taking time to really appreciate every page.
Will Brooks' montage a lá Bellamy
from Titan Comic's Third Doctor series

Recently, as a cover for an issue of Titan Comic’s upcoming Third Doctor mini series by Paul Cornell, I was able to try and mimic a bit of Frank’s work. It’s perhaps telling that of all the covers I’ve put together for Titan (it’s a lot, and the number keeps growing!), it was the cover that homaged his work that had the biggest impact. Every element is rather shamelessly cribbed from his style - the red circle picking out the Doctor is a lift from the Radio Times cover for 1972’s "Day of the Daleks", for example, while the lightning bolt and the way images are cut off comes directly from that "Terror of the Zygons" piece which introduced him to me.
Radio Times 1-7 January 1972 Cover
Much imitated, never bettered!

His style is totally ingrained in that period of the programme, and it suits the tones of the era. It’s a crushing shame he died so young, and I can only imagine what he might have done with covers to stories like "The Deadly Assassin", or "The Talons of Weng-Chiang". I’m at least comforted by the fact that there’s still so much of his portfolio out there for me to discover.

I rather like that while I started out as a Doctor Who fan who liked the work Bellamy did in connection to the programme, I can now claim to be a fan of Frank Bellamy in his own right. One day, if I’m very lucky and I wish very hard, I might even master even half his skill with layouts…


Thanks a lot Will, for adding an entry to my Fans of Frank series where I unashamedly ask people to tell me why they love Bellamy. In return I am left to say, head over to Will's Tumblr to see his photographic collage work and follow links to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Behance, DeviantArt and even Etsy! When does he get time to work? I can't even post more than one blog article a month!

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