Wednesday 27 December 2017

Original Art: Thunderbirds from TV21 #167

Christmas is a great time to slow down but I just caught notification of Terry Doyle selling a piece of Thunderbirds artwork by Frank Bellamy. It's in Russ Cochran's latest auction and is currently at $228!! That will surely rise quite significantly. While you follow the link to the auction, have a look at some of Terry's other superb collection for auction, including an Eagle cover by Desmond Walduck, some Al Williamson and even Frazetta!

Thunderbirds TV21 #167 page 10 Original art
You can see how well the colour has been preserved and how the original printing process in TV21 had gone down hill in the later years of that fantastic comic. In case the scan was the problem, I checked my TV21 which I still own and yes, the reproduction leaves a lot to be desired! So enjoy the original! Learn the lesson Bellamy fans! Do NOT put this artwork on your wall, no matter how much UV glass and how little light you get in that room! It will fade in any light!

Thunderbirds TV21 #167 page 10
 And as it's still Christmas here's the next page so you can read the two pages together!
Thunderbirds TV21 #167 page 11

WHAT?: Thunderbirds, from TV21 #167 Page 10
WHERE?: Russ Cochran's Auction December 28 2017
Lot No.:  4881127
SELLER: Terry Doyle
ENDING PRICE: $1,086.00 including Buyer's Fee (20%) = £803.51
END DATE: 28 December 2017
No of bids:
No of bidders:

Monday 11 December 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Frank Bellamy and the Corby Pole Fair 1947

Kettering Leader and Guardian May 30 1947
Thanks to Tony Smith for the image above


***UPDATE***I've been reminded there is a Facebook group for the Pole Fair:

"Corby Pole Fair is happening on the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday on Friday 3rd June 2022 - 8am to 8pm"


I promised something new for the last of my Frank Bellamy Centenary articles, and this comes courtesy of Tom Bingham, a "Corby-based man, well known for his connection to the arts and his hand-made guitars" - it said in a recent local article!

For those of you who don't like Bellamy's older work, be patient, immerse yourself and enjoy a good laugh, appreciating the ink work, the use of blacks and above all the imagination.

Since the 13th century a "pole fair" has been held in the Northamptonshire town of Corby (the town's name derives from 'raven' as can be seen on the coat of arms). Why a 'pole' fair? Apparently men who were to be punished would "ride the stang" or pole - "no toll- you ride the pole".  Like many British traditions there are varying accounts. In recent years two poles have appeared - one a greasy pole with a ham to be won at the top, and the 'stang' on which men ride held in place by two strong men. How the village of Corbei - now Corby, was granted its Royal Charter (in 1568) is also debatable - but one romantic origin is that Queen Elizabeth I was riding in Rockingham Forest and either her horse got stuck in a boggy piece of ground or she fell off her horse and was helped by the good men of Corbei. Or it might have been granted as a favour to Sir Christopher Hatton (an alleged lover of the Virgin Queen!). How it happened was less important than the rights given under it to escape taxes of various sorts as well as avoid conscription. I can't find why the fair did not start back in Elizabethan times, but like many things we think are traditional, it began with the Victorians since 1862. *

According to Margaret Marshall's article   

Queen Elizabeth granted that the ‘men and tenants’ of Corby should be quit of the customary dues of ‘toll, pannage, murage, and passage’, and other exemptions enjoyed by ancient demesne manors.

Though largely symbolic, the charter was a significant element in Corby ’s developing sense of community, identity, and self-governance, and may have been issued to allay villagers’ concerns at the manor’s acquisition by a powerful courtier.
Likewise, it was probably no coincidence that Corby ’s tenants successfully petitioned Charles II to confirm the charter in 1670, when the manor passed from the Hatton’s to the equally powerful Brudenells

If the fair started in 1862, and happened every twenty years, I can't find any reference for the 1882 fair. There are photographs of the Fair in 1902 and 1922. Following the pattern the 1942 fair would have occurred in the War so it appears to have been moved to 1947 and amazingly footage exists on Youtube of the 1947 Corby Pole Fair.

The appearance in this video of a couple of gentlemen dressed in full Scottish regalia might make you wonder,  but the town attracted lots of Scots workers when the post-WWII demand for steel increased.

The fair returned to its normal pattern and was again held in 1962, (although 1968 was the 400th anniversary of the granting of the charter) and was next held in 1982 and 2002. Preparations are underway now for the next one in 2022 after a court case was settled in 2006 - a man was injured climbing the greasy pole in 2002!

Corby Pole Fair 1947 A5 booklet cover

The image at the top of this article shows Frank Bellamy's review of the Pole Fair that took place on May 26 1947 which was Whit Monday (or Spring Bank Holiday as we say now!). He also illustrated a 16 page A5 sized booklet, which contained many advertisers from the local area. I have included all the pictures cleaned up here (the cover above) - see below for access to the complete work.**

A self-explanatory cartoon of welcome and warning!

Step over the Corby boundary at your peril!
Note the chimneys of the steelworks

The enthusiastic men with the pole, or stang, race to an objector!
No toll, you ride the pole!

The Danes started it by raiding up the Nene and Welland rivers!
Anyone know what the "No B-U's" comment means? Is it "No Broken Ups" as in chaper bits of unbrunt cake? Or am I trying to be too clever?
A lovely cartoon of the Danish settlements!

A long and busy day with loads of sadism and fun!

"Unsavoury missiles" adding to the punishment

Good Queen Bess bored after no assassination attempts on her life for 2 years

The stocks teach a lesson in history!

A naughty husband suggests bringing back the ducking stool too!
I've always found Bellamy's 'big foot' style of cartooning fun and it's interesting how he didn't really return to it at all in his career. And I guess he was provided with some notes or guidance as to which topics to cover in creating this artwork, imagine if we found them after all these years!. 

If you wish to join in the next Pole Fair in 2022 join the Facebook group here

Lastly, many, many thanks to Tom Bingham for his generosity in sharing this.

* "The Corby 'Pole Fair' is an ancient custom held every 20 years with the fifth Pole Fair attracting crowds of 30,000 in the summer of 2002" - History of Corby [Emphasis mine as I think there is evidence for at least 7]

Monday 4 December 2017

Frank Bellamy and his studio references

Radio Times (21/12/1974 - 03/01/1975) Bridge on the River Kwai p.46
"Bridge on the River Kwai, one of the most 
Oscar-laden films ever produced is the big film for 
Christmas night on BBC1 at 8.45"

Recently in conversation with David Jackson I mentioned a scan he sent me had enabled me, for the first time, to be able to read the titles of books on Frank Bellamy's studio shelves.

Photo of Bellamy taken by Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph photographer, Kit Mallin

Now, if you click you will, at least be able to make out:

 Coincidentally David has a copy of some of these and kindly sent me this page from A Pictorial History of War Films by Clyde Jeavons - page 94. So Bellamy owned a copy and had to produce an image to accompany a Radio Times TV listing for the Christmas issue. Back then such films were a big event (remember we only had three channels!) and it would be things like Magnificent Seven, Sound of Music or Bridge on the River Kwai. I recently read A Town like Alice by Nevil Shute for the first time - a present from my retiring line manager, and was amazed how much I enjoyed it. It still reads very well. It's not about the bridge directly but about the Japanese treatment of some women who march around Malaya (the real incident was in Sumatra, states the author's afterword).

Clyde Jeavons A Pictorial History of War Films p194

It's interesting to see how Bellamy has not copied the images available to him here, but used them to inform his work.His portraiture of actors and actresses are very accurate. Below is the page on which the picture at the top of this article appeared. (The linework of Frank Spencer is by Peter Brookes whose work appeared around this time in the Radio Times).
Radio Times Dec 21-Jan 3 1974-1975 p46
Thanks again David for sparking another article!

Friday 1 December 2017

Frank Bellamy and the Mexican Bandit

Mexican bandit by Frank Bellamy
I love it when I get someone write to me with something I'm certain most people will not have seen. I also love it when I have permission to share, so here you go courtesy of Chloe Tideswell.

Chloe said:
Feel free to share the picture on your blog it would be lovely to share it with people and I am sure my Grandad would have wanted that too.

I have measured the picture it is 30cm in length and 24cm in width to be honest I have never taken it out, or seen it out of the frame. I have attached a  picture to show you this.
 It almost looks more amazing without the frame as the rest of the picture is white it is also painted on some line board? I always thought it was on paper. Amazing.
Rear - CS10 Bellamy's preferred artboard

It has been on the wall for 30 years I have always admired the picture (I'm 32) and last Christmas my Grandad, who passed away in July with a short battle with cancer, gave it to me as a gift. He always called the picture 'most unusual'  and was a fan of Bellamy's work and in his lifetime had quite a lot of Bellamy's work in his office. He would often tell me that the Mexican Bandit was an unpublished picture and was quite special.
Before his passing he gave me a typed up letter written by himself explaining the background for his Bellamy pieces and as my Nana is still alive agrees with what he wrote.
Here's the story:
In the 70s my Grandparents owned a Buy and Save Supermarket in a place called Clifton in Nottingham (where we were from) One of their regular customers was the late Frank Bellamy's sister in law. She asked if they were interested in comic strip art and arranged for them to visit Frank's widow in her bungalow in Kettering, this was around 1982, six years after he died.

She was a lovely woman, they said, and showed them a great deal of Bellamy's work and in conversation mentioned the good relationship he had had with the creators of Thunderbirds. They purchased 9 pieces that day including the Mexican Bandit which I am told was on the wall at the Bellamy's house

They also were shown a letter sent from Sir William Russell Flint some years before, congratulating him on a magazine illustration that he commented he couldn't have done better himself. Nancy was very proud of this and never wanted to part with it.

Six months later Nancy rang my Grandad offering to sell a double page picture with famous people on it including Frank Sinatra, the Royal Family, the Beatles - just to name a few for around £200 at the time. He couldn't afford this and on the bottom of the letter he gave me he said it was one of his biggest regrets .......

I'm happy to have stumbled on your web page and can finally share the story with someone
In its frame

The Sinatra, Beatles piece is one I have not yet shared - it's the Sunday Times (Colour) Magazine (5th October 1969) " A young artist dreams of success. But will he make it?" written by Robert Lacey.

I've asked Chloe about the other pieces her Grandad bought and she's kindly supplied a list most of which are known already, but I'll report back in due course.

So what is this piece of art? I have absolutely no record of it beyond the fact Alan Davis showed it on his website a while ago.  I decided to ask the two Davids about this and firstly David Slinn replied to me:
 "The attached Frank Bellamy artwork, though certainly unusual, may have been intended to be positioned to the left of a column of text, perhaps on a contents page. This would account for Frank having worked to a precise edge, and not simply included a bleed to be cropped at a production stage. However, what’s rather intriguing is the – decidedly, “un-FB-like” (uncorrected) – tiny seep from the cast shadow on the character’s throat. Nonetheless, a perfect example, of Frank’s unique instinctive design sense."
That 'seep' is so minute I missed it!

David Jackson agreed that:
I think your theory fits about why the 'Mexican Bandit' art is the way it is to accommodate text or other page layout. Thinking about it, it's even odd that the face isn't itself square-on and divided exactly in half down the middle, rather than as it is, turned away. As it is I'd have been tempted to frame it up against the picture mount/frame, leaving all the blank space to the left.

Good point David! I felt the "non-squared off" look was to make him lean away from the 'wall'.

I can say with certainty it was produced before August 1975 as that was approximately when the Bellamys moved from Morden back to Kettering (and the back of the board shows the Morden address) . Another mystery waiting to be solved - many thanks to Chloe for her kindness!

Sunday 26 November 2017

Frank Bellamy and How to be a Barrister

My regular correspondent David Slinn wrote to me about the Eagle comic series in which Frank Bellamy did one episode. I realised I had never mentioned it, so for your delight...!

Eagle Vol. 9:52, (27 December 1958) has a page in colour on the inside back page (the top half having the adventures of Mr. Therm, the British Gas symbol) and on the lower half, " He wants to be a... Barrister". I don't have all the Eagles published but looking quickly I can see this was a sporadic series. 

Eagle Vol. 9:52, (27 December 1958)
In Volume 9:45 "He wants to be a motor mechanic" was followed in Volume 9:46 by "He wants to be a laundry worker" illustrated by an unknown artist. As it was now getting towards Christmas 1958, I suspect the editor decided that space should go to advertisers and the number of pages was bigger too. This was until Bellamy's episode in Volume 9:52, then there are no more. However the Eagle adverts featuring many titles with the Eagle imprint show a title called I want to be...: an Eagle Book of Careers (3/6d). Ian & Sharon Hartas' excellent site show a cover of this as well as listing the contents.

And just for Anthony W. here's the cover and also the equivalent solicitor section ("Barrister" is in the index pointing here)  from this booklet

So the original 47 Eagle comic versions were so different, I felt I'd list them, here so if you have a mind to collect them all...!

  1. Carpenter - Vol.7:4, 27 January 1956
  2. Policeman - Vol.7:5, 3 February 1956
  3. Architect - Vol.7:6, 10 February 1956
  4. Engine Driver - Vol.7:7, 17 February 1956
  5. Chemist - Vol.7:8, 24 February 1956
  6. Forester - Vol.7:9, 2 March 1956
  7. Solicitor - Vol.7:10, 9 March 1956
  8. Merchant Seaman (1) - Vol.7:12, 23 March 1956
  9. Merchant Seaman (2) - Vol.7:13, 30 March 1956
  10. Commercial Artist - Vol.7:14, 6 April 1956
  11. Tile-Fixer - Vol.7:15, 13 April 1956
  12. Compositor - Vol.7:16, 20 April 1956
  13. Plasterer - Vol.7:17, 27 April 1956
  14. Book-binder - Vol.7:18, 4 May 1956
  15. Bricklayer - Vol.7:19, 11 May 1956
  16. Doctor - Vol.7:20, 18 May 1956
  17. Plumber - Vol.7:21, 25 May 1956
  18. Miner - Vol.7:22, 1 June 1956
  19. Civil Engineer - Vol.7:23, 8 June 1956
  20. Mechanical Engineer - Vol.7:24, 15 June 1956
  21. Electrical Engineer - Vol.7:25, 22 June 1956
  22. Fireman - Vol.7:26, 29 June 1956
  23. Farm Worker - Vol.7:29, 20 July 1956
  24. Accountant - Vol.7:32, 10 August 1956
  25. Dentist - Vol.7:38, 21 September 1956
  26. Surveyor - Vol.7:40, 5 October 1956
  27. Chef - Vol.7:44, 2 November 1956
  28. Veterinary Surgeon - Vol.7:46, 16 November 1956
  29. Blacksmith - Vol.7:47, 23 November 1956
  30. Civil Pilot - Vol.7:49, 7 December 1956
  31. Radio and T.V. Service Engineer - Vol.7:50, 14 December 1956
  32. Poultry Keeper - Vol.7:51, 21 December 1956
  33. Postman - Vol.7:52, 28 December 1956
  34. Foundry Worker - Vol.8:1, 4 January 1957
  35. Archaeologist - Vol.8:5, 1 February 1957
  36. Missionary - Vol.8:6, 8 February 1957
  37. Jockey - Vol.8:12, 22 March 1957
  38. Astronomer - Vol.8:13, 29 March 1957
  39. Games Master - Vol.8:16, 19 April 1957
  40. Air Steward - Vol.8:17, 26 April 1957
  41. Display Man - Vol.9:5, 31 January 1958
  42. Atomic Energy Engineer - Vol.9:8, 21 February 1958
  43. Motor Mechanic - Vol.9:45, 8 November 1958
  44. Laundry Worker - Vol.9:46, 15 November 1958
  45. Barrister - Vol.9:52, 27 December 1958 - see above
  46. Trawlerman - Vol.10:9, 28 February 1959
  47. Stockbroker - Vol.10:16, 18 April 1959

Monday 30 October 2017

Original Art: Garth on Heritage - Garth: The Spanish Lady (K89)

K89 episode of  "Garth: The Spanish Lady" Drawn by Frank Bellamy
The latest strip by Frank Bellamy that appears on Heritage comes again from "Garth: The Spanish Lady" story. My spreadsheet (here) tells me that these episodes sell for approximately £220-£250 but that all depends on what's in them! I love the ships in this one but especially the clouds done in that brilliant Bellamy "swirl". In case you're wondering Garth has time-travelled to the Elizabethan age and is called Carey - thus the mention in the opening panel.

And reading on to the next panel, we presume the 'gentleman' in the crew has gone as there is no mention of him!

K90 & K91 Garth: The Spanish Lady

Heritage describe this piece:
Frank Bellamy Garth #K89 Daily Comic Strip Original Art dated 4-14-74 (Daily Mirror, 1974). Frank Bellamy drew the exquisite fantasy/time-travel strip, Garth, from 1971 until his death in 1976. This daily, from the story arc "The Beast of Ultor", was done in ink over graphite on Bristol board [sic], and has an image area of 20.5" x 5.25". Aside from some light edge toning, the condition is Excellent. From the Ethan Roberts Estate Collection. 

WHERE?: Heritage Sunday Internet Comics Auction #121745
LOT #11014
ENDING PRICE:$382.40 (incl. Buyer's Premium) = £291.82
END DATE: 5 November 2017

Sunday 22 October 2017

Original Art: "Heros the Spartan", in Eagle 12 September 1964 Vol 15:37 on ComicLink

This is the first time I have seen any Bellamy artwork appear on Comiclink despite following its fantastic selections of original artwork for many years!

"Heros the Spartan", in Eagle 12 September 1964 Vol 15:37
I dug out my copy of the original comic to see how it looked printed before commenting on how faded this piece looks.

You can make up your own mind:

The cover of Eagle Vol 15:37 - Keith Watson artwork

Heros the Spartan as published in 1964.

The story "The Axe of Arguth was published in the Eagle Vol. 15:23 - 15:42 (6 June 1964 - 17 October 1964)  and was written by Tom Tully. This close up view of the first panel shows the usual Bellamy detail!

Detail of the first panel
Oh and if anyone wants to bid on those lovely Neal Adams pieces in the same auction, and present them to me for my 60th as an apology for the lack of a birthday card earlier this month, I will not object!

WHERE?: fall Featured Auction
SELLER:Comic Link
ENDING PRICE:$2,101 = £1,559.43
START DATE: 15 November 2017
END DATE:30 November 2017

Original Art: Garth on Heritage - Garth: The Spanish Lady (K129)

K129 episode of  "Garth: The Spanish Lady" Drawn by Frank Bellamy
Here's the latest strip by Frank Bellamy that appears on Heritage which comes from "The Spanish Lady" story again.

Heritage describe this piece:
Frank Bellamy Garth #K129 Daily Comic Strip Original Art dated 1-6-76 (Daily Mirror, 1976). Frank Bellamy's meticulously-drawn strips were always vibrant and full of life. In 1971, he began drawing the time-traveling adventures of Garth in the Daily Mirror, which he drew until his death in 1976, just six months after this strip was published. This ink over graphite on Bristol [sic - CS10 in actual fact] daily has an image area of 20.5" x 5.25", and is in Excellent condition. From the Ethan Roberts Estate Collection..

I love this one as the smoke from the 'fireship' sent towards the Spanish is so vibrant and the black  (almost) silhouette of Sir Francis is highlighted too and leads the eye to the right! A discussion recently on a Neal Adams Facebook page was debating the merits of how he drew a specific X-Men page and how a figure on the right side of the page was turning 'into' the left thus causing - to summarise- a jolt to the 'left to right' reading ability. Here FB shows how to make it work.

 I'm adding sales figures when they appear and the previous "Spanish Lady" episode is due to end today (Sunday 22/10/2017). And I see the next one from Ethan Roberts extensive Garth collection is from "The Beast of Ultor" story.

WHERE?: Heritage Sunday Internet Comics Auction #121744
LOT #36003
ENDING PRICE:$358.50 inc. Buyer's Premium = £272.91
END DATE: 29 October 2017

Tuesday 17 October 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Part Five: 1970 - 1976 by David Jackson

FRANK BELLAMY - design and technique
Part Five: 1970-1976  

By David Jackson
[Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three] [Part Four] [Part Five]


One day in the early 1970s the Bellamy's telephone rang and the voice asking to speak to Frank Bellamy was Paul McCartney. As David Bellamy later remarked, there was always some joker who'd ring up and say they're 'Elvis', but no, it really was. Word had it that Ringo Starr was also a fan. The outcome being a meeting with Paul and Linda and a commission for concept artwork (unpublished) around the idea of a winged figure and/or for the cover of a solo album by Linda under the project title of "Linda and the Red Stripes". According to an article titled "Seaside Woman by Suzy and the Red Stripes", Paul called the group Suzy (Linda) and the Red Stripes (Wings) and they signed with Epic under that name. The name Red Stripes is from one of Paul and Linda's favorite drinks.

[The above summary is from a description by Nancy Bellamy in her own words, transcribed from a radio interview on this blog on 26 May 2007].

Wall's Wonderman by Frank Bellamy
Wall's Wonderman by Frank Bellamy

Lintas Advertising Agency contacted Frank Bellamy to draw "Wall's Wonderman and the Bridge of Terror" and "Wall's Wonderman and the Martian Inferno", two b/w full page ads which appeared in Smash and in Valiant comics.

The Book Palace reprint of Bellamy's WW1 work

FA: "You also did five months of work for IPC's Look and Learn..."
FB: "Yes. Illustrating a First World War series, mostly filling a spread, for Jack Parker. I tried a variety of techniques on this one - something I'm eternally grateful to Jack Parker for allowing me to do."
Look and Learn #452

The Great War series appeared as interior illustrations in Look and Learn from June to November 1970, (No.437 to No.462), and the cover of No.452. In terms of the variety of techniques, the cover and interior art of that issue, and immediately subsequent issues, are rendered in minimal linework with a sort of scrubbed drybrush effect. Despite not being in the continuity picture-strip format, the artwork is mainly comic-strip style rendering but - with what would be relatively small single frames in any comics page - actually at full-page size.

Look and Learn #455
Radio Times commissioned a number of covers and full colour interior pages and b/w spot illustrations on a broad range of BBC output, from sf, fantasy and horror, to military ceremonial and movie stars.

Radio Times 1-7 January 1972 Cover

Radio Times (11 May 1974 - 17 May 1974)
"The Movie Quiz Late horror show " p.54

Some of the Doctor Who cameos accompanying listings

"Star Trek" featured in the Radio Times as a full colour page in comics format and, later, small b/w illos.

Frank Bellamy Doctor Who artwork for Radio Times became the benchmark style for illustrations of the series, launching the collection with a three page picture-strip.

Radio Times (16 December 1972 - 29 December 1972)
Doctor Who and the Sea Devils [Omnibus edition], p.82

There is an interesting similarity in terms of Frank's interpretations being actual improvements on the reference sources from real life - the same way reference was improved upon in FB's depictions of the Apollo 11 moon landing [see the previous part of David's article ~Norman] is also evident in his interpretation of The Sea Devils: "..ENJOY YOUR REVENGE!". In both instances the innovative dynamic quality put into the art does not exist in the source material to be copied from in the first place, never mind accurately..!

Timeview by David Bellamy

Frank's Doctor Who illustrations for Radio Times were later collected in Timeview with a commentary by David Bellamy. He notes the contrast between his father's method and approach and that of the generality of other artists who normally use tracings and try-outs in a series of steps towards assembling the final image. And he described seeing his father colouring the background of the illustration for the Loch Ness storyline "WE ARE DEALING WITH A MONSTER THAT IS NOT OF ORDINARY FLESH AND BLOOD" It was really whizzed in!

Radio Times (29 May1971 - 4 June 1971)

"The Movie Crazy Years" front cover featured FB's own 'director's chair' in the foreground as a visual reference 'prop'.

Radio Times 7-13 July 1973
"Saturday Night Theatre: The Ministry of Fear"

Daily Mirror  Garth: Ghost Town G152

Another of Frank's self-posed photo shots, salvaged from his studio and, as noted by Alan Davis, was used both as reference for Radio Times (7 July 1973) "Saturday Night Theatre: The Ministry of Fear" and for Garth: "Ghost Town" G152 centre panel.

Frank Bellamy was interviewed in the BBC TV programme about journalism, Edition, presented by Barry Askew, broadcast on Friday 30th November 1973.

Edition began with a close-up on a Bellamy drawing of Barry Askew in a hectic pose, at his desk, paper strewn about, above him is the legend "POW!" [Unfortunately this is not known to exist in film or paper form ~Norman]

BA: "Edition... POW! That's one man's view of me sitting here in the Edition studio. The only thing he hasn't drawn are my tortured tonsils, for which, my apologies at the outset! Frank Bellamy, whose cartoons have a unique, unchanging quality, stretching from Dan Dare in the EAGLE, to Garth, which he now does in the Daily Mirror..".

John Allard's artwork on the first 2 episodes of "Garth: Sundance"

Frank Bellamy's first 2 episodes on "Garth: Sundance"

Garth. The newspaper strip represented a change in format, both in terms of the scale and quantity of the original artwork and its visual and narrative themes targeted at the newspaper readership.

Having expressed a preference in the Fantasy Advertiser interview for drawing at same-size and not more than a quarter-up, the lettering by John Allard had established that originals were drawn at two and a half times printed size (original image area 5ins x 20½ins).

It also unavoidably represented a return to working with an art assistant, John Allard, who had been the Daily Mirror editorial assistant to Garth creator Steve Dowling from the strip's beginning and creditably succeeded him for a time as the artist on Garth in his own right.

John Allard, in addition to lettering the strip and applying mechanical tints, continued to draw backgrounds and some fill-in frames, for the early stories; but again, as with Dan Dare, where the art assistant contributes to the actual drawing, there is a marked incompatibility in individual art styles when they are mixed and not matched.

Fantasy Advertiser asked Frank Bellamy what he thought of artist's aids like zip-a-tone, letrafilm and mechanical tint.

FB: "I can't comment on them because I've never used them."

FB: "Another thing I've never used is process white. I'm not showing off here, but I'll give you a prize if you can find any correction done with process white on any of my work. It's a bit more purism, but if you slap a piece of process white or process black on a piece of artwork, over a mistake, on the way to the engraver it could flake off, or the camera could pick up the grey unevenness. But in the first place - although it sounds hard - you shouldn't have had to use process white in the first place."
The Newspaper Strip Society Newsletter No.4, February 1981 features "In Conversation with John Allard" by John Dakin covering his time as art assistant from the beginning of the Garth strip and concluding with his working with FB under Mirror editor Mike Molloy:

"... John Allard was told at very short notice that he would revert back to assistant artist on the strip. After just two weeks of illustrating Sundance, John stepped down and Frank Bellamy began in mid-story [28 Jun 1971]. Under the terms of the agreement John Allard continued to do much of the background artwork and he even drew the occasional complete panel (the last panel of Sundance for example). This situation continued until the end of Ghost Town.
Last strip in "Garth: Sundance"
 Beginning with his eighth story Frank Bellamy drew the strip entirely on his own. The title strip of Mask of Atacama [12 Jul 1973 G165] is the first Garth strip to bear the famous Bellamy signature.

With sex and violence becoming commonplace in the media, to coincide with the change in artists it was decided at editorial level to make several changes. Now Garth would kill, sometimes quite viciously; and although there had always been a certain amount of nudity in the strip, it would now become more sensual by the inclusion of bedroom scenes. As John Allard recalls with amusement the sexual element was included partly to dispel some of the unsavoury rumours, that had been circulating around the newspaper offices, about Garth's relationship with Professor Lumiere. As well as these changes there was also the more realistic Bellamy style to turn the strip into something very different. Garth himself looked broader in the shoulder with slimmer hips and a more contemporary hairstyle; and his features were more strongly defined.
All this led to a completely unexpected occurrence, the Daily Mirror offices were flooded with letters complaining about Garth's changed appearance. Charles Roger, the then head of the Mirror's strip department asked Frank Bellamy to adapt his pencils to the old style in which Garth had been drawn. Understandably Bellamy angrily refused, and there the matter was left, never being taken as far as editorial level. John says it was the only time he ever saw Frank Bellamy lose his temper. John had lunch with Frank a few times and found him to be nervous, quietly spoken, courteous and proud of the recognition his work received."

Menomonee Falls Gazette #157 showing the start of FB's signature
now it was all his own work
It must have been a feeling of deja-vu all over again - flashback to Dan Dare when FB not only began work part way into an already running story, "Sundance", but again, as with Dan Dare, some readers noticed the change and wrote in..!

But, quite avoidably, it might be assumed, had management dealt with staffing issues more adroitly, the situation had created something of a turf war, or, given the western-themed first story, a range war, albeit with the shooting only on paper.

Having brought in Frank Bellamy he had then not given a free hand to do his work in the way he saw fit. The resulting problems were still in evidence even after he was drawing and signing the work as his own. Examples from "The Mask of Atacama" and "The Wreckers" (and, thanks to Alan Davis, now online) demonstrate there still existed a quite remarkable situation where the lead artist was being expected to fill-in the actual drawing as best as could be done, in and around whatever space was left by the previously set-out lettering panels and word-balloons. These comparisons show him reworking a particular strip to make better use of its layout possibilities, including breaking-up the dialogue to improved dramatic effect, as only he could have visualised it.

That the scripted visuals were also subject to revision by the excising of extraneous elements unnecessary to the dialogue is demonstrated by a comparison of the scripted directions with the finished strip for "The Women of Galba" [Again see Alan's great site ~Norman].

Scriptwriter Jim Edgar, who lived not far from Frank Bellamy's home in Northamptonshire, was interviewed by John Dakin in The Newspaper Strip Society Newsletter (No.2 July 1980):

JD: "Did Frank Bellamy have any say in the scripting or plotting of Garth?

JE: "Frank Bellamy had little or no say in the scripting or storyline of Garth. However, some of the stories emerged from discussions between myself and Frank. He certainly was fond of the western aspect and accordingly several westerns were written. Frank usually worked tightly to the scripts which were always written by me."

In Edition, presenter Barry Askew questions Frank Bellamy about the scripts.

BA: "Does the scripting give you a problem - I mean how do you relate the script to your work?"

FB: "I keep in general to the script. But occasionally, you get little things on a typewritten manuscript don't work visually. Then it's up to me to, er, re-draw, or re-think, or present it, in a different manner."

BA: "If you find a script that you're not, yourself, in sympathy with, can you draw to that or not?"
FB: "Well yes but er..".
BA: "If you don't actually 'feel' the script?"
FB: "Well, I try to make myself feel it and it's much better if I can get one that I am interested in in the first place. For instance, the western one, I was thoroughly interested in drawing a western because I wanted to get the little bits of authenticity into it, instead of it just being a cowboy story."

"A Cowboy Story" was, coincidentally, a two page western spoof in full colour for Bert Fegg's Nasty Book for Boys and Girls, aka The Nasty Book by Terry Jones and Michael Palin, republished as Dr Fegg's Encyclopeadia of All World Knowledge.

FB: "But I do find that when starting a new story, it takes a while to get into it, so I can feel about what I'm drawing. There's nothing worse than just getting the first script, and not knowing anything more about what's going on than a reader would. Like an actor I need to understand the character I am drawing. If I was drawing a western, for instance, I'd feel like I was walking around with bow legs, and a .45 strapped down low."

When interviewed for Look East, Frank said:

FB: "There's one thing while drawing a strip, I get very, very involved, I must get involved. ... Well, I have to. All my strip career I've tried to get involved in the characters, whether it's war, space or whatever; you must get excited about it, get the old adrenalin going. There's much more to it than just drawing the thing. It's not a hobby. It's a serious business. That's how I treat it. I shall always do so. And any development that I can think of I can assure you I shall put them in."

FB: "Accuracy is very important, because the readership - for instance The Daily Mirror, could be between thirteen and fourteen million - somewhere along the line, if I'm drawing a western, there's someone there who is probably a buff on western arms, ammunition, clothing, and I must be correct because they always like to write in and say, 'You've made a mistake'.

In Edition, Barry Askew said:

BA: "But to bring it right up to date, of course, you are, I suppose, most famous for Garth and here we have one or two examples of Garth. I think the first one is from last April."

Reprint from Menomonee Falls Gazette #135
FB: "Yes. In fact it is a western strip. Previous to the first one, which was of course taking place in the present day, he arrives in a ghost town and gradually changes off into the old west."
BA: "He's a remarkable character there, isn't he?"
FB: "You see in the second episode there, he is a western marshal."

[Camera then cuts to (est.G.282 / G.283) strips from The Wreckers].

Garth: The Wreckers G282

Garth: The Wreckers G283
 BA: "And then we bring him right up to date, if we look at, for example, yesterday's and today's. What's he doing here?"
FB: "This is, er, what we usually call a 'suit story' - where we have people walking around in suits, this is espionage sort of thing. I can't tell you further because that would be giving the show away on a present running story.
BA: "How long has that got to run?"
FB: "They usually run about seventeen weeks, it varies one way and another."

Day to day, the newspaper strip (the clue is in the name), being effectively a single bank of panels, is a limited format in terms of design options per se, let alone in comparison with a full colour centrespread.

Within these limits, the "Sundance" story makes early use of the design idea of figures which stand in front of, as distinct from within, a panoramic landscape frame background, in a 'tip-of-the-hat' to classic illustrator Fortunino Matania.

FB: "I've often been asked if people have influenced me. I find it difficult to sort out the difference between people who influence me or impress me with their work One person who did impress me was Fortunino Matania, an artist who specialized in highly detailed work on Greece, Ancient Egypt and World War One. I have a great admiration for him."

Apart from the restrictions placed on the artist in terms of available space - being at one and the same time drawn over-size but reproduced very small - also there was also the loss of colour, and the strip was rendered in pen and ink very much in a way to take this fact into account - never imagining let alone intending that it ever would be coloured.

Garth: The Cloud of Balthus E275
Black and white letterpress newsprint was never more limiting than the second Garth script - "The Cloud of Balthus" requirement to depict the detonation of a rocket vehicle in space. The newsprint format made technically difficult that which would be more straightforwardly rendered in colour. Although the creation of spectacular explosions on paper had long since been a Bellamy signature effect, the methodology of their creation involved colour washes of waterproof inks for photogravure, or even halftone, not b/w letterpress reproduction. None of which proved to be any sort of impediment whatsoever! As the innovative graphic realisation of that frame in b/w line ultimately demonstrated.

[As David mentions colour, we can take a look at how Martin Baines handled the explosion ~Norman]
Daily Mirror 15 March 2012 coloured by Martin Baines

The innovative design of the aliens (the eponymous Balthus and his minions) is compelling. It would be interesting to compare such strikingly original visuals with their scripted descriptions. Even the matching costume designs worn by Garth and his female companion (revealed on removing their spacesuits - technically convincing outfits in themselves), are both sleek and inventive, particularly so considering their tops in fact consist of two sets of running contoured parallel lines!

Garth: The Cloud of Balthus E272

Otherwise, in costume design terms, Frank Bellamy invariably depicted a distinctive tapering sleeve and the folds they produce - purely as a visual improvement - irrespective of whether any official reference sources provided had this design or not.

Consistencies in Bellamy design forms, as part of a thought-through repertoire, such as the previously described sandstone geology landscapes, also included Scots pine trees - a design element which the artist had completely understood and internalised and could be produced to match whatever was required to fit a given design space. The effect of light on distinctive cracked bark and spiked greenery has a extremely pleasing design aesthetic. A possible further consideration may have been, being an evergreen, it also avoided any necessity of having to keep in mind seasonal considerations which might be set out in a script.

The Newspaper Strip Society Newsletter (No.2 July 1980) interview with Garth scriptwriter Jim Edgar concludes:

JE: "Frank lived in the village of Geddington. He was the ultra-perfectionist, the only artist I ever met who worried over getting the right shade of black. Garth was the first national strip he ever handled, and I think it was Frank's first true bid for recognition as an artist. I think his chief failing was that he never quite learned to relax on the job. This is a failing of other fine artists I have worked with. Maybe it is endemic to the profession."

But what the readership got was five years of day after day of inventive unrelenting quality.

The Fantasy Advertiser interview was recorded in May 1973. In the introduction to its later re-publication in Warrior (1984) Dave Gibbons gives an account of Dez and he seeing the episode of Garth which Frank was working on that day, and (as with the 'work-in-progress' page of Thunderbirds described previously above) Dave reports:

"He had already inked the first two pictures but the third was a loose, expressionistic pencil 'doodle'. Again, he seemed embarrassed by its sketchiness, unused to others seeing this usually private stage of the work. To our amazement, he told us that it was his practice to then go straight to ink, without further pencilling. He seemed unmindful of the incredible boldness and skill that this represented, particularly in view of the deft crispness of his finished work.

"Finally, as Dez and I were just about to leave, we asked if he ever had the chance to do anything purely for his own pleasure. Again, Frank rushed off, this time reappearing with several huge sheets of his favourite CS10 board. Evidently he'd been missing colour during his Garth years, for here were the most stunning full-colour fantasy drawings, surpassing even his Heros the Spartan work in vigour and excitement. Despite our entreaties, he was unconvinced that anyone else would be interested in seeing them, let alone publishing them and so they went back to the privacy of his studio."
Frank Bellamy being unconvinced that anyone else would be interested in seeing the above work might be thought at this distance as being entirely self-effacing but today is another age. The conception of such work up to that time was wholly commercial. And Frank had already had the lived experience of even his best efforts failing to help save Eagle or TV21 from their eventual commercial failure.

The market at that time consisted of a readership who, it may seem odd to realise, were not fans! Comics fans were, then, a minority interest group - within a minority of fantasy fans - within a minority of science fiction fans. I seem to recall from the time that someone estimated there were about a thousand comic fans, reading fanzines, attending comic marts. The actual readership of comics as such (of whom the sf and fantasy readers were another minority), generally had no idea who drew, let alone who wrote, the stuff - their interest was genre character led, plus the dictates of their age and fashion generally meant a limited shelf-life.

That such commercial work could be in any sense a form of self-expression of an 'author' published in their own right, was then an idea in the minds of only a very few.

Unpublished - from Bob Monkhouse's collection
An unpublished 'Heros' type themed montage spread which has since come to light was in the FB collection of Bob Monkhouse.

Garth: Wolfman of Aussensee F130 - note the flowery-shirted David Bellamy

Some 'guest-appearances' in the Garth strip include his son David, in a flowered shirt, at the party in the "Wolf Man of Ausensee" story. Previous to this, Garth is driving Frank's Datsun 260Z Sports. And, (assuming Garth's adventures are related in chronological order, which they may not be), it is subsequently destroyed by an alien spacecraft in "Women of Galba" - and replaced (presumably from the insurance write-off payout) with RYK 274L, which features in "Freak Out to Fear". The Star Inn at Queen Eleanor Cross, Geddington appears as a location in "The Spanish Lady" (K.67 and K.76). David Bellamy has said the place is exactly as quiet as the postcard of it itself. This location also appeared in an episode of David Dimbleby's "Seven Ages of Britain" (shown Sun 7th Feb 2010).

Garth: Wolfman of Aussensee F127 - note the Datsun 260Z Sports

As with the previously mentioned parallel inspiration and motifs found in contemporary movies, there is a 'Garth'-look Robert Redford (in a sequence while clean-shaven) of the movie Jeremiah Johnson, which may possibly have influenced FB's subsequently revised styling of the character - assuming it isn't a complete coincidence (worldwide premiere at Cannes 7 May 1972 - the US premiere was not until the December) - which I would very much doubt!

It likely wouldn't have been entirely gone from FB's mind that he had taken over Dan Dare and Garth mid-story and readers had noticed and commented on the abrupt stylistic change. So once again another stylistic change by FB was not conveniently between stories break point. And FB resorted to subtlety - or, out and out subterfuge - (seeing that the style change is extraneous to the context of the storyline) - by gradually, unnoticeably, adapting Garth's Greek god statue type close cropped hairstyle (as FB had inherited it - as originally depicted - and up to the Wolf Man opening scene) to 'Jeremiah Johnson' style - over several banks of daily strips in 'The Wolf Man of Ausensee': from/between F.125 to F.143. This final form is as appears on the 1975 annual cover

Daily Mirror Book of Garth 1975
The covers of the Garth Book collections gave FB two opportunities for Garth in colour.

Original art for Daily Mirror Book of Garth 1976
[I wasn't clear on why David said this and put together a montage to ask him for further details and David, true gentleman that he is added this paragraph~Norman]

Garth morphs under FB's pen. I added Redford as a comparator

In Frank's first daily strips, Garth's close-cropped, Greek god statue style, is long down his neck but otherwise short curls in outline devoid of internal linework detail (no bulk to the hair) (E.162-E.166 and so on, such as last frame E.185, E.229 - E.235; Balthus E.240, and still sort of ad hoc indeterminate in definition to F.109 first frame, say and the end of Orb, to Wolf Man F.125), at which point it is still a 'moveable feast' as it were but this time, I surmise, with intent, to F.175 for example and mutating to F.194 and F.208 and from then on: i.e. the outline of the top of the head transmutes from short curls (almost 'spikey') to a smooth wavy cut, as you say, outline depicting bulk.

DISC music magazine also featured a distinctive colour full page cover of Garth - an example that areas can sometimes be more effective without a border, vignette shape - plus some b/w interior illustrations and interview with Garth by Fox-Cumming and scriptwriter Jim Edgar.

Two posters in comics line and full colour style for Gerry Cottle's Circus: one of the sensational Cimarro Brothers high wire act and one featuring Khalil Oghaby "Mighty strongman from Persia". Probably not coincidentally, Gerry Cottle was in the same class at school as Frank's son David - then already knowing that Cottle wanted to run his own circus when he left school.

From Once Upon a Time by David Larkin
Plate # 13: "Lord of the Dragons Unpublished Illustration 1975".

Once Upon A Time - some contemporary illustrators of fantasy - edited and the artists introduced by David Larkin (A Peacock Press/ Bantam Book, 1976) includes, "Lord of the Dragons" unpublished illustration and a reprint of the Doctor Who 'Loch Ness monster' interior colour illustration for Radio Times. There is no further information on the reasons for the original creation of "Lord of the Dragons" but it is self-evidently an exemplar demonstration of fine line and wash pen control.

Frank Bellamy's dynamic depictions of hands and fists are another recurrent signature design motif.

In contrast to the anecdotal stories of certain artists so unconfident of their attempts to render the complexities of the human hand, that they resort to posing their subjects with their hands in their pockets or behind their backs to avoid dealing with the problem!

In the words of John Constable, "We see nothing truly until we understand it."

The hand is so anatomically complex that ad hoc observation alone - without knowledge and understanding - is generally not sufficient to bring to an artist's attention the actual form of the structures they are looking at.

Garth: Wolfman of Aussensee F128 - note the fists and hands

It needs to be known and understood for example that the webs of skin between the fingers are half-way along the finger joint and not at the knuckle-joints themselves.

A characteristic aesthetic of Frank Bellamy hands and fists is the particular notice he must have taken of the slight convex curve along the backs of curled fingers for this to become such a distinctive feature in his work.

FA: "One famous Bellamy trademark has always been the hand, with its fingers pointing out of the frame at you..."

FB: "Yes, this is another little thing of mine. I like to give another dimension to my artwork, a sort of 3D effect. The fingers pointing out are just a part of this development. I've always had a great regard for professionalism. One of the best things that was ever said to me was when I was called a "professional's professional". And this just underlines what I mean. I'm a great believer in doing a professional job. This kind of work has been under-rated for many years. Throwaway artwork to be looked at and immediately discarded. This is a viewpoint I strongly disagree with."

Garth: The Women of Galba G11 - note the 3D effect of the pointing finger

FA: "How much comic strip work do you think you have done to date?"
FB: "A rough estimate would be about 20,000 frames - most of them being in full colour."
FA: "And that's since 1953?"
FB: "Yes. It might not sound much, but it has been a lot of very hard though enjoyable work."
Well, that's it! Many, many thanks to David Jackson for this excellent overview - he certainly challenged me to provide images to accompany  the five parts of this overview of FB's life. I've written roughly 35,000 words of a biography myself and when retired will add more but until that time I am so grateful that we have an extensive biography on these pages. But more than that David has challenged me to look more closely at FB's work.

So that's another article added in this the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Frank Bellamy's birth. Is there anything more to add? YES. I have plenty more surprises up my sleeve!

If you would like to write an article, I'd be extremely happy to add it to this blog, just let me know