Thursday 8 September 2016

Frank Bellamy and Star Trek

Thank you Gene Roddenberry!

As it's the 50th anniversary I thought it was time we celebrated Star Trek. I remember the day I found out it was due to be broadcast in the UK. I was laying some newspaper on the table where I sat, in school, with three others in anticipation of doing some painting. No idea what we were painting, but a photo (in black and white of course - no colour then-  stopped me in my tracks. What day was this auspicious day? Monday 2 June 1969. And the paper? The Daily Mirror (yes, the very same one that would be publishing the Bellamy-drawn "Garth" strip). How am I so certain of this? Well God bless the "Space Doubt" blog run by one Sham Mountebank, which I suspect is not her/his real name!

Radio Times 27 June 1970, p.49
My very own cut out copy (GULP!)
It s often reported that Frank Bellamy drew a comic strip of Star Trek in the UK. Well if you were trying to win on a TV quiz show the answer is he didn't! The above is the nearest we get to one and it was a single colour page in the bestselling TV (BBC only) listings magazine, Radio Times. Was that all the Star Trek he did? No! But people often get confused as there was a Star Trek comic strip in the comic Joe 90, as is reported better than I could do, here on Lew Stringer's brilliant blog. When I saw that newspaper piece I was interested to see the emphasis on Mr. Spock as we all had been reading Joe 90 since January 1969 when it was launched with Captain Kurt at the helm. Go visit Lew for an explanation! And Bellamy's piece shows someone somewhere wanted to emphasise Spock's looks.

I must thank the excellent Star Trek Comics Checklist site (nice name!) as I realised I don't actually have a copy of the picture below of Kirk and Spock, and thus stole this from them. Bellamy was paid £12 for this drawing and £10 for the last one on this page (on 19 October 1971)

Radio Times 3 October 1970 - 9 October 1970, p.35
The third and last illustration that Bellamy did, was the brilliant shot of Spock and the Enterprise

Radio Times 11 Sept 1971-17 September 1971, p34

I understand that the single colour page above was part of the reason Frank Bellamy got the "Foreign Comics Award" from the Academy of Comic Book Arts in 1972 - for work published in 1971 he was awarded "Best Foreign Artist Frank Bellamy (Star Trek)". I'm sure Barry Windsor-Smith had a hand in recommending him for this and I know Archie Goodwin was in contact with him. Bellamy told Goodwin that Chris Lowder had informed him the Academy had seen a sample of his "Heros the Spartan" work and judged him more than worthy of the award. therefore his actual comic work for 1971 was concocted for the purposes of giving him the award. There were communications with Marv Wolfman regarding FB doing some work for the Marvel black and white horror comics line, but this never happened as Bellamy had his daily comic strip, "Garth", to do as well as many other assignments! Imagine, what if...!

Incidentally if you are interested in the UK Star Trek strips they were recently reprinted and included Mike Noble's gorgeous work. Volume 1 and soon to be Volume 2

Monday 5 September 2016

Al Williamson and Frank Bellamy recycled

Bellamy's art on "Dan Dare"
Eagle 7 Nov 1959 Vol.10 No38

****UPDATED: February 2023****See also Part Two

I recently saw a story drawn by Al Williamson, a great artist, on 'Groovy's' brilliant blog and remembered previously writing something on Williamson's 'borrowing' of others' work.Unfortunately none of my wonderful storage methods have enabled me to recover this work, so here goes again!

Referring to the first King Comics, (a short-lived comic book imprint of King Features Syndicate), "Flash Gordon" comic, the author (Mark Schultz, no mean artists himself) states:

"Produced under an intimidating deadline, the leadoff story in particular not only borrows from a Raymond but also features panels lifted cold from instalments of Frank Hampson and Frank Bellamy's Dan Dare, a British science fiction comic.  Williamson has been open about his "swipes" of the work of others, a not-uncommon practice in the comics field and one attributable to the constant deadline pressure.  He has always willingly given credit to his sources." (p.20) - Al Williamson's Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic, (2009), Flesk Publications. ISBN-13: 978-1933865126
 Indeed he did say such things, I'd previously noted in James Van Hise book "The Art of Al Williamson", that he learned about drawing using photographs from assisting John Prentice (read more here about that work) and after this kept a 'morgue file' as artists call their clippings before the Internet made it so much easier.

I should acknowledge that until today I was not aware of Eric Mackenzie's interesting article in Spaceship Away #3 - another strange coincidence whilst researching this topic. I did see the article on BritishComicArt blog and it was then that I thought 'Crow', the blog author, 'borrowed' from my article (which I suspect was in an old Facebook profile and lost now!) but as you can read in the comments, it was a coincidence! I also remember long ago in the 1970s reading (was it in Fantasy Advertiser Dez Skinn?) an article on the same subject, but that's long gone! However I think I have remembered something of this - see below.

So let's get started.

Firstly I quote Frank Bellamy's letter to Mike Tiefenbacher and Jerome Sinkovec of Menomonee Falls Gazette
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. Taken from Bellamy's letter to Menomonee Falls Gazette  Published in no.81, July 2nd, 1973.

Oh he certainly was Frank! The page above contains the following panel which we will see was a definite favourite of Williamson's!

Bellamy foliage from Eagle 7 Nov 1959 Vol.10 No38

Al Williamson's Flash Gordon #1, 1966 p.4
Note the shape of the foliage

Williamson à la Bellamy

UPDATE: I thought that was it until Bill Storie mentioned he'd see Bellamy's explosion appear in another Williamson work and he's sent it to me!

Al Williamson Star Wars

Al Williamson's Flash Gordon #5, 1967 p.28
Below an enlarged panel

Hmm, that foliage looks familiar
The most frequently spotted of Williamson's 'recycled' Bellamy pieces is the spaceship "Nimbus 2" Bellamy created in the "Dan Dare" story "Project Nimbus". Frank Hampson (Don Harley, Gerald Palmer, Keith Watson inter alia) created "Dan Dare" over a 10 year period before Bellamy, Harley and others took over. Bellamy, unfairly I think, gets a lot of criticism by those who were reading "Dan Dare" at that time because he was asked to upgrade things. Fortunately he agreed from the start to do it for one year and that's what his contract stated.

Bellamy's art on "Dan Dare"
Eagle 16 April 1960 Vol.11 No16

Al Williamson's Flash Gordon #1, 1966 p.1
...and Bellamy's Nimbus 2!

Williamson loved the craft so much he used another panel
Bellamy's art on "Dan Dare"
Eagle 7 May 1960 Vol.11 No19

Enlarged panel by Bellamy
Al Williamson's Flash Gordon #1, 1966 p.15 - see below for full page

An interview mentioned in Gopherville Argus (a short-lived fanzine on Bellamy, put out by Bill Storie and Terry Doyle) quotes an interview with Williamson (original source unknown)

From Gopherville Argus #3
Off I went...tanks?...Tanks...Ah, TANKS! Take a look at the tank on the right in the first panel and then....

The well renowned Blazing Combat (1965) #2
take a look at the tank on the right above Monty's profile - to the right of the page!
Eagle 21 April 1962

While I was researching this article, I found something very interesting. Remember I said I thought there was an article in Fantasy Advertiser, Dez Skinn's fanzine of the 70s, well my memory says it included this page by Bellamy but you know what memory is like - especially after 40 years!

Bellamy's art on "Dan Dare"
Eagle 9 April 1960 Vol.11 No15
Here's the panel in question I wish to highlight

Bellamy's unique hardware
Well whilst re-reading Flash Gordon comics I tripped over this page by the wonderful Wally Wood

The Phantom #18, 1966
"Flash Gordon and the Space Pirates"
One moment what's that hardware there? It looks familiar! So Wally Wood copied Bellamy, or did Williamson sketch for Wood to ink his work. Personally I don't think this looks like a Wood original despite the excellent Grand Comics Database entry. The figure of Gordon does not look 'Wood-y' enough for my liking.
Wally Wood copies Bellamy
 And before we round off Williamson's recycling of Bellamy art, I should point you to Bellamy's art above which shows the launch of the Nimbus 2. The first panel of that page looks very similar to this one:
The Phantom #18, 1966
"Flash Gordon and the Space Pirates"

The figure here certainly looks like Wally Wood's work but the spacecraft? I don't think it was his original idea!

UPDATE (17 May 2022): Lastly "HarryDobermann Esq" pointed out a later image I missed completely in the same Wood story! Look closely at the bottom right hand panel! Thunderbird One is go!

The Phantom #18, 1966
"Flash Gordon and the Space Pirates"
TV21 #77 has the following image which I'm guessing formed the basis for Woody's image. But who knows? TB1 launches with wings 'in', maybe that's why this copy doesn't look too true to the original. 

TV21 #77 cropped

Bear with me as I round off this article with two more examples of Williamson's use of the Eagle comic, although I must emphasize this is not Frank Bellamy artwork. the first is one of my favourite comic covers of all time by the UK's other Frank...Hampson.

Frank Hampson's art for Eagle 28 March 1959 Vol.10 No13
"The Galactic Galleon"
Take note of the rounded base of the craft. Williamson used the bottom of this craft as positioned in the above image, below!

Frank Hampson and Don Harley's art for Eagle 12 March 1960 Vol.11 No11

Al Williamson's Flash Gordon #1, 1966 p.15 -
see above for enlarged panel by Bellamy
and Hampson's gorgeous ship
Notice these three panes are all 'recycled'!

The craft, "Tempus Frangit" is so iconic in later "Dan Dare" stories as drawn by Keith Watson, I thought it worth showing this recycling by Williamson too. Take a look at the following - my post . Some of this is also mentioned here

Eagle Vol 14:41 12 Oct 1963
Keith Watson artwork

Creepy #112
Al Williamson art
Thanks to Eric Mackenzie's article in Spaceship Away #3 I also see now I have a copy, that Willimason borrowed from Don Harley and Bruce Cornwell

Eagle Vol 11 #52

One of a few adverts which Williamson
drew for various magazines for Union carbide

If you can add anything, let me know! And I must emphasise that I love a lot of Williamson's work and am in no way criticising his practice. Even Bellamy used reference photographs...more on that another day.