Monday 13 March 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Pop goes Bellamy with Disc!

Disc 25 May 1974
1974 was a busy year for Frank Bellamy. Marv Wolfman (of then Marvel Comics) wrote asking if Bellamy was interested in doing something for Marvel Comics, either black and white or colour or just covers in colour. "We produce eleven black and white titles, along with sixty-odd color comics", he said to which Bellamy politely declined stating he was extremely busy with his daily newspaper strip.

In April 1974 Frank appeared on TV for the first time on "Quick on the draw", a programme broadcast 19 June at 3.55pm (just in time for little Norman to be home from school!) where cartoonists like Bill Tidy, and other TV personalities (Leslie Crowther and Diana Dors on this particular show) would draw a joke from a suggestion made by Bob Monkhouse the compere. Frank was the surprise guest who demonstrates a Garth drawing without showing himself and the regulars have to guess who is behind the door from the sketch!

For the Radio Times he drew regular drawings in black and white, such as the May 1974 "The Movie Quiz Late horror show". Bellamy was also approached by 19 magazine to illustrate their feature on King Kong and he was illustrating Garth in "Beast of Ultor". (Later in 1974 he'd also illustrated Garth in "Freak out to fear" from June to September and then went onto Garth in "Bride of Jenghiz Khan"). But this article is about how, for the 25 May 1974 edition of the weekly Disc he produced an unusual piece

The charts in Disc 25 May 1974 p.1

The main cover (see top of article) of this newspaper format magazine shows Garth slicing through the page with a karate blow. The whole of the magazine is in black and white (with the exception of the centre spread pin-up) so Bellamy's colour choice here is for dramatic effect. Why was Garth, a Daily Mirror newspaper strip character on the cover of  a pop music paper?

Disc 25 May 1974 pp4-5

Lon Goddard arrived from America in 1966, worked as a reporter for Record Mirror, then moved on to become Head of Press for CBS records. And finally he became Editor of IPC's weekly Disc in 1973. Lon was and is a fan of Frank Bellamy's art and commissioned him to do this work.

When he sold the original art on eBay (of the cover and the interior illustrations) many years ago I wrote to him  and I had the presence of mind (and cheek) to ask him about Bellamy. Lon kindly wrote back to me to tell me that with Bellamy in Lon's office he "acted out the approach" for his proposed illustrations. He also confirmed Bellamy was paid £150 and Jim Edgar (Bellamy's writer on Garth) wrote some blurb but this was re-written by Brian Wesley from The Sun!

Disc 25 May 1974 p.5
The main image inside shows Garth with headphones on a keyboard-like instrument. In the 'interview' we learn he is playing music from the planet Axatel "in the Andromeda nebula" which apparently is taken from an earth song "Tie a yellow ribbon"! We also learn that Garth has almost bumped into Dan Dare and has had dinner with Octobriana, "the Russian underground heroine"

Lon's eBay description of the two head shots of Garth included in the article:
The two images of Garth each just under 3" tall and are rendered on a 12" X 7" CS10 artboard with a tracing paper cover sheet attached, exactly as Frank submitted them in the Fleet Street offices of Disc in London. How do I know this? Because I was the editor of DISC at the time and I commissioned the drawings from Frank, himself!
From the original art by Frank Bellamy
 I thought it worth checking with Lon whether he remembered anything else since the early 2000s when I last wrote, especially on the authors of the article. I managed to track him down and he wrote:

Nice work finding me. Yes, I'm busy as a street-level celeb, playing guitar and singing, plus acting in theater here in a very small town. I often ask my audience for their autographs.

Nothing really huge to add regarding the amazing Frank. That's really the story. Oh...he was dressed in a khaki safari jacket and smoked a lot...but I smoked then, as well. Didn't we all? He was obsessed with detail and lighting in his artwork, as you know, and described his intentions while acting out the Garth poses he intended for Disc, as well as the dynamic poses of other figures he had done in the past. He sure loved westerns (as do I). As a professional illustrator myself (Folio Artists and Illustrators of Holborn), following six years as PR for Phonogram Records, the point at which I left the music industry, I became even more aware and respectful of Frank's incredible attention to detail, somewhat later.
I'm trying to remember Ray Fox-Cumming's input, but that's foggy. However, he is on Facebook.
Fox-Cummings moved with Disc when it joined with the Record Mirror and then went on to the Observer. He retired from the rat race in 1995 and is now a hotelier. I wrote to the hotel, but have not received a reply to date. 

Lon added a quote from Steve Holland's excellent blog on Jim Edgar, who still remains a bit of a mystery despite having authored so many of the Garth strips. Any help on James Edgar offered gratefully received!

Lon left Britain for Sacremento in 1986. In an article on Peter Jones, editor of the Record Mirror, Paul Philips (author of the Car 67 single) says "Lon Goddard, an ex-pat American who became the go-to guy for your singer-songwriter updates and much more besides"

I see since these emails from the 2000s Lon's work appears all over the Internet due to his association with many famous names of pop. He not only designed a few album covers, but also now plays and sings and is no mean artist himself! Lon continues:

I have included some bits of my own art, both early caricatures for Record Mirror, a couple from Folio...and that's me in the Cleopatra poster I posed and rendered for our theater. Hollywood Producer/Director/Writer/Film Editor Elmo Williams was a close friend of mine, as a former resident of Brookings, Oregon - our aforementioned 'small town.' As host, I did 24 screening/lecture shows with Elmo in our community theater and Cleo was one (he produced). Elmo won an Oscar for editing the classic High Noon. He passed away in 2015, at 102-years. The City of Brookings asked me to design a bronze plaque as a memorial to be placed in our local Azalea Park, which was done (pictured). So, as age 70 approaches, that's where I'll eventually be going...up there with Elmo
That's about a wrap for the moment. Good to hear from you, Norman.

Cleopatra poster "starring" Lon himself!

The park in which Elmo Williams plaque sits

Elmo Williams plaque designed by Lon Goddard

James Brown art by Lon Goddard

Art by Lon Goddard

Ricky Nelson (star of Rio Bravo)  by Lon Goddard
LINKS to various things about or by Lon
  • The sound quality is rather poor on these, but here's some audio interviews with Lon
  • There's a brief biography and a list of some of Lon's articles he wrote while with the Record Mirror
  • Lon's interview with The Doors' Ray Manzarek
  • Mari Wilson enacts Psycho for Lon
Moving swiftly on, here's an addition to the Bellamy story that's been lost in time that I suspect you will enjoy. BUT BE WARNED YOU WILL spend a lot of time on the recommended site below!

Disc 6 July 1974

I can't remember when I bought the above or how I found out that Lon had commissioned the fantastic  J. Edward Oliver (known as Jack)  to do a spoof of the Garth episode above (not the tiny reproductions of Bellamy's version on both the above and below pages), but Lon wrote to me recently:
Jack Oliver (J. Edward Oliver), Disc's cartoonist, quickly took to my follow-up idea and mimicked the Garth cover with his Fresco-Le-Raye dinosaur character. The two of us had fun devising the text for the feature. Jack passed away in 2007, age 65, only weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Fresco-Le-Raye, the dinosaur cartoon character had his own fan club and a regular black and white strip in the magazine by J. Edward Oliver.  The front cover is an exact copy of the earlier Garth cover with Fresco substituting for Garth! The same occurs internally with a few witty additions!

Disc 6 July 1974 p. 7
Lon made me laugh out loud when he wrote again:
 Two bits that will forever remain in my mind, regarding the wonderfully and absolutely honestly eccentric Jack Oliver: He came into my Disc office one time, with his weekly cartoon strip, wearing his usual black cape and top hat, announcing that he had signed up for lipreading classes. He said both of his parents, with whom he resided, were fairly deaf, so he was expecting the same fate and wanted to get the jump on it. I spent time with Jack, who was perhaps ten years older than myself, and knew his folks, who always stayed in the background when I visited. A few months later, when he walked in to deliver his strip, the subject came to mind, so I enquired as to how the lipreading classes were going. He told me that he had quit after the first one. When I asked why, he replied, perfectly naturally, "Because I could hear everything they said."
I have no idea as to the degree Jack actually realised how affably eccentric he really was, but he never seemed to notice it at all.

Secondly, he always gently complained that he was underpaid. I couldn't get a raise for him within my budget, so he threatened to start leaving the last frame in his strip as a total blank. I told him that if he did so, I would fill it in personally, being a cartoonist, myself. Well...he did so. And I did so. The resulting frame is attached. 
I'm pleased to say, Lon, I found the strip on Peter Sanders' excellent site (the last one on the page - follow that link) and he highlights the strike in a special article here

Disc October 26th 1974

It says: "Now, J. Edward... I warned you I'd fill in your protest blank myself... and force you to appear in your own strip!! Neat huh!?"

I happened to notice that Garth appeared elsewhere in this issue in JEO's strip - check out the bottom right hand corner:

Fresco-le-Raye in Disc
It's obvious from browsing Peter Sanders' site that JEO loved Marvel and DC comics as well as many other media personalities as he replicates Conan ("Fred the Chartered Accountant"), Tarzan and many others very well and with great affection (and madness!). He transforms the DC Tarzan to "Tartan of the Aardvarks", one week, "Tadpoles" another and "Warthogs" a third all pastiching Joe Kubert's covers.

Check out Steve Holland again for a biographical sketch of Oliver and of course Peter Sanders site, where amongst other wonderments you can see Doctor Who make an appearance

J. Edward Oliver's "Fresco-le-Raye" meets a certain Doctor Who
And now I can confess and free my soul.....I too am a member of Fresco's club! The proof has long since disappeared. And I'm nearly as old as that dinosaur now!


Peter Sanders said...

Jack did have hearing difficulties in later life. He was fine if it was clear, but hated background noise. He often complained of films being 'fuzzy'.

Norman Boyd said...

Thanks for the further insight Peter. I still love Fresco so much. I always smile when I trip over a strip!