Saturday 29 July 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Part Three: 1950s - 1960s continued by David Jackson

FRANK BELLAMY - design and technique
Part Three: 1950s-1960s continued

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

1958 reprint of Clifford Makin / Frank Bellamy strip biography

The opportunity to develop distinctive layout design innovations did not present itself until Frank Bellamy moved to Eagle to draw the back-page "The Happy Warrior" strip biography of Sir Winston Churchill in line and wash full colour. [I have to mention it appeared on the day Sputnik 1 was launched - 4 October 1957 ~Norman]

FB: "Apparently, someone on EAGLE had the idea of running a comic-strip biography of a still-living personality. They'd done biblical characters and such in the past, but never a living person. So they commissioned me from Swift, to draw the strip. And a real punishing job it was too."
FA: "Looking back over your EAGLE work, it seems you started experimenting with a few new techniques while drawing the Churchill strip."
FB: "With some adventure strips, it's often you see stunt colour effects of the lighting - for instance, a purple shadow on one side of the face - but I was nervous about treating Churchill in that way. Until one day I got a letter saying I could go to town on it and do whatever I wanted. So, I started out splitting frames with zigzags, and putting an oval frame into the middle of the page and from then on I experimented more and more. That's why it looks rather subdued at the beginning, but in the end it goes into a strip technique. But I never got to fully develop experimenting until later strips like "Fraser of Africa" and "Heros the Spartan"."

The publishers' formulaic set appearance of level banks of frames of the earlier b/w stories was gradually developed into bespoke designs allowing adjustments to be made for frame shape and importance and giving balance to the whole.
The extra dimension provided by full colour was made use of literally. Backgrounds of certain frames on the second page are early examples of creating a sense of depth perspective by means of black ink in-fill and linework for the foreground elements only.

The published pages of the series are credited but not signed, though in the frame which illustrates the WWII 'phoney' war with a figure of a relaxing soldier, the blades of grass read 'FB'.

The outline figures against the union flag background to Churchill's "Finest Hour" speech include portraits of the Bellamy family:

Eagle 11 April 1958

  • Frank himself (in a flying jacket) 
  • His mother Grace, above and right of him
  • Possibly his sister Eva slightly further right in a cap
  • His father Horace George Bellamy to the left
  • Nancy Bellamy in profile in a mop cap at left
  • Their son David is the boy in school uniform and cap. 

In the last frame of Eagle Vol.9 No.24 (numbered as p45 in the 1958 book collection, David's uncle, who was in the 8th Army, is giving the thumbs-up).

Eagle Vol.9 No.24

"The Happy Warrior" concluded with a fine full page linear portrait graphic of Sir Winston Churchill in Eagle Vol.9 No.36. Whether the subsequent film Young Winston would have been made (either, at all, or in the way that it was) were it not for FB's picture strip biography for Eagle - effectively a 'storyboard' for the movie - is an open question!
In comics - rather than hiring an entire film crew, extras, cast and stars, costumes, and building sets, props and going on location - a 'shooting script' was given instead to Frank Bellamy.

Eagle 22 November 1958

The next strip was biblical: "The Shepherd King" - the story of David, again for the Eagle back page. The title portrait frame at top left, which continued to be revised as the character matured, was first replaced between No.41 and No.42 as FB recognised the potential of his depiction of David in the lower central frame of No.41 and the frame is further developed to use as the recurring portrait-frame for the next several issues.

Eagle 25 April 1959

"The Travels of Marco Polo". Drawn by FB from Vol.10 No.16 until No.23 and taken over by Peter Jackson - who many years later wrote a few paragraphs about this: "Meeting Frank Bellamy".

"As I had never met Frank Bellamy, but only admired him from afar, this seemed as good a time as any to make his acquaintance. And since I was taking over from him I would now learn all the secrets of his technique. [...] He was quite willing to talk about his technique but there were not, as I might have guessed, any 'secrets'. Just sheer brilliance of draughtsmanship and years of hard work. The technique was there for all to see. He told me what it was that created those magical tonal values out of countless dots. Patience. Infinite patience."
From the Fantasy Advertiser interview:

FA: "One of your own personal touches, which makes your work so easily recognisable is your 'dot stipple' technique of shading..".
FB: "Funnily enough, the Radio Times people called on me and asked me to use that old technique in my artwork for them."
FA: "What made you start stippling your art?
FB: "It started when I wanted to break down an area of black into grey. I couldn't water the black into grey as it wouldn't reproduce - the printer can't water his ink. It had to be positive black or white, no in-betweens. So the only way to do it was to create an illusion of grey which I did with small black dots. And then, to supplement that I'd use the three colours together. Had they been 100% pure, they would give a white, but being impure they give a phoney grey."

FA: "Do you use a Rapidograph for your stippling?"
FB: "No, just a straight pen."
FA: "What nibs do you use?"
FB: "My favourite nib is a Gillott 1950. I find it very good, not too flexible or too hard."
FA: "And your brush?"
FB: "Just an ordinary sable brush."
These are from the 1950s but are still produced

FA: "Do you use a soft or hard pencil for your layouts and what kind of pencil layout do you do - a rough or finished one?"
FB: "I always use an HB moderate hard pencil. I've been using an HB since EAGLE, because, while it was easy to remove the pencil marks, if I'd used a softer pencil, the board would have started to get dirty. And it is quite a crime to put dirty board under infra-red camera. My normal way of working would be to draw in pencil and then ink in the linework with a pen. Then I would fill in the large black areas with a brush, and finally, when everything's done, I'd fill in the colour. But all of the pencil must be rubbed out before the colour is added, or it will be trapped under the ink, which is transparent. When using pure tone, not contained by line, you draw the shape lightly in pencil until you get it right, and then rub it out until it has almost vanished, so you can just see it, and then direct brushwork on the top. So, with an HB pencil you get no dirt on the CS10 and no retouch bill from the engraver."
FA: "I believe CS10 can be a difficult kind of board for colour - what brand of ink do you use?"

FB: "Yes. Ink can be a difficult medium. But I prefer it to water colour. I use waterproof inks for colouring but with the water colour technique. It's very difficult and I think it should be printed on the bottle...USE CONFIDENTLY, because that's what is needed. You've got to take a deep breath and slap it on. The actual inks I use are the German 'Pelikan' inks, because I find them to be the best inks in the world. [...] I boiled them down to one red, one yellow and one blue, and obviously, the black. I use vermillion for the red, ultramarine for the blue and straight yellow."
FA: "You mixed from the three basic colours rather than taking a shade straight from a bottle?"
FB: "I'd never take a green straight from a bottle. I'd mix my own with blue and yellow which is exactly the way it's printed. This way it has a better chance of being printed looking the same as the original."
He never used distilled water (recommended in manufacturer's instructions) to thin the ink washes.
FA: "How do you get such a flat edge to your colour work? Do you mask it?"
FB: "I use a very simple mask - a piece of Sellotape:

FA: "Of course CS10 is excellent board for this - this tape can be removed easily without damaging the surface."
FB: Yes. I stick it down, wash over with colour, let it dry and then peel it off, leaving a nice sharp edge."
Colyer & Southey's CS10 Line Board
 He used a razor blade to cut the Sellotape mask to shape.
He always said the sky effect was the most difficult to handle (in the medium - waterproof inks); sometimes when the phone would ring he'd shout down, 'TELL THEM I CANNOT POSSIBLY ANSWER YET AS I'M RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SKY!'

Taken form the reprint book "The Happy Warrior" 1958 showing skies!

David Bellamy comments in Timeview on how his father preferred working with waterproof inks - carefully mixed in a palette of about sixty sections - despite their difficulties as a medium, particularly on CS10 line board, on which the inks tend to dry unevenly, yet he could wash in skies or flat areas of colour and produce an almost airbrushed effect.

FA: "That cover you did for me, for Eureka a few years ago, I noticed the black areas were really solid. Was that ordinary ink?"
FB: "With ink it's true that you don't get a solid black area on your first coat, so, as with colour inks, I go over it again and again, as much as seven or eight times, until it is solid. I never use an air-brush, it's another trick I dislike."

His 'line and wash' work comprises solid black lines, solid black areas and optical tones created by dot stipple, scribble and crosshatch etc, all of which relates to the black being the 'key line'; this is a 'work-around' to pre-empt the possibility of out-of-register colour of some printed copies - i.e. to make such copies at least readable even if not in perfect synchrony.
With black and white letterpress newspaper printing, in any square millimetre or less, there was either a white space (the paper) or a black mark (the ink) - no 'in-between' dilute grey.

Among the items rescued from Frank's studio are pages of clipped printed frames kept as a record by the artist of how some particular effect had reproduced in print. Below a b/w frame from 'King Arthur' drawn for Swift, is the pencilled note: "THIS GREY TECHNIQUE CANNOT BE USED WITH INFR RED REPRO" [See Alan Davis' site for loads of great stuff ~Norman]

With 'line and wash' tonal originals for black and white halftone reproduction on glossier, magazine format, stock paper (such as the above - or the third page of the early "Thunderbirds") the solid black ink is overlaid with a tonal grey wash - over the same 'key line' solid black pen and brush work areas and dot stipple and line hatch technique, as if it were for full colour. In BBC TV's Edition, in 1973, presenter Barry Askew says:

BA: "Let's look at what did, in fact, change you. I mean, one of your classic periods was with EAGLE and there we have an example of Dan Dare. Now what kind of technique development did you put into Dan Dare?
FB: "The technique I used, you mean the materials?"
BA: "Yes."
FB: "The materials I use have been exactly the same in all my career as a strip artist; waterproof inks. In this case full colour waterproof inks."
BA: "What about the design techniques themselves, how were those developed?"
FB: "It was a development of mine. I was tired of seeing frame upon frame of little squared-off pictures and this was the old-fashioned idea. I wanted to bring out the page as a complete page, a spread as a complete spread, to make it a unit in its own right."

In reality Dan Dare proved to be more of a challenge in more ways than one, as outlined on this blog previously - primarily in terms of adaptation to the working conditions, the established page format, existing designs and the Dan Dare studio set-up with assistants rather than the science fiction genre as such.

FA: "On Dan Dare you were working with several other artists. How much of the strip did you actually draw?"
FB: It varied from week to week. Sometimes I'd draw half a dozen frames only, the following week I might draw both pages. But I'd always draw any frames that introduced new characters. It often depended where the awkward frames would appear. As senior artist in the studio, this was my problem. The eventual idea was that I would take over the whole strip and draw both pages by myself every week."
FA: "But you didn't want that?"
FB: "No, not really. Although, as a temporary measure, I'd have preferred to draw Dan Dare in that way, complete, as Keith Watson did later."
Eagle 14 November 1959 Vol.10:39
Vol.10 No.39: FB inside page demonstrates the above point.
Vol.11 No.9: FB produced both pages.

Eagle 30 April 1960 Vol:11:18 page 1

Eagle 30 April 1960 Vol:11:18 page2

Vol.11 No.18: inside page (page 2 above) single top left frame; FB introduces the new alien spacecraft as an 'on-screen schematic' with the rest of the page by the studio team.
The Dan Dare studio artists and FB collaborated on the front page of Vol.11 No.2 - the inside page is all Bellamy and signed - with the lower three frame sequence being by FB and the main frame by the team, might on first sight be taken to be a Bellamy page.

FB: "But the other artists were employed on a freelance basis to help me with fill-in frames and such. I never really have been happy working that way. If I look at Alex Raymond art, I like to see pure Alex Raymond, not inked by Fred Bloggs. It's okay if Fred Bloggs is helping out with some research or rubbing out the pencils, but I like the drawing to be a personal thing."

EAGLE Vol.11 No.4 front page illustrates the logic of this.
Eagle 23 January 1960 Vol:11:4 page 1

FA: "You had one restriction on Dan Dare, I believe ... You were drawing the originals printed size. Was this very difficult?"
FB: "Actually, I prefer never to have to draw a strip more than a quarter up..."
FA: "...Which is only fractionally bigger than the printed size. Why do you prefer this size?
FB: "I don't actually, I prefer never to have to draw a strip more than quarter up...
FA: But I would've thought you could get sharper lines and a tighter effect if the originals were drawn for reduction?
FB: "No. I don't want it to appear more detailed in print, just because it has been reduced a lot from the original drawing size. I'd rather present a finely drawn original in the first place, and therefore, once again, give the editor a piece of finished work ready for press, that he can look at almost exactly as it will appear in print."
 Some Dan Dare studio methods were alien to Frank Bellamy.
FB: "The Dan Dare team used to make roughs, but I always thought that if you make a highly detailed rough, you can't draw the same thing a second time, on your board, and capture as much atmosphere. There's always something lacking. There is no spontaneity or imagination in copying a rough on to board."
Keith Watson once related the following to me. One of the Hampson team was copying a rock formation from a reference photograph, FB was nonplussed and said to him, "Good God, if you can't draw a few rocks..!"

Eagle 24 October 1959 Vol.10:36 - NOTE the rocks!
 Many, possibly most, artists might have done the same. But though such a found reference would be 'realistic', it would not necessarily best meet the graphic dynamics, the 'flow', or shape required, on a particular frame or page - up to and including, depending on context, looking 'too photographic'.
What it pointed up was the difference between the long-term, comprehending, distilling and internalising, artistically, the essential structure of something, as opposed to short-term, short-cut copying what happens to be in a found reference source, which could be either ideal or not!
Interestingly, long before then, FB must have been somehow dissatisfied - possibly unconsciously but probably consciously - in the way he had been depicting rocky landscapes (though they would have appeared perfectly good enough to a reader) or gained new insight, and, over time had made refined incremental improvements in his way of rendering geology, so much so that, as his son David once rightly commented, as an aside, that the rocks look so rocky.

Eagle, Girl, Swift and Robin had been sold by Hulton Press to Odhams, publishing as Longacre Press, and Hulton's last issue of Eagle was Vol.11 No.1 dated 2nd January 1960.

Nevertheless, within the imposed limitations outlined above, experiments with page layout, innovative graphic design and dynamic panel breaks continued.

The original art from Eagle Vol:11:4

Such as the Vol.11 No.4 spectacular and vertiginous Dan Dare crash-dive cover sequence - the filmic contribution made by the altimeter numerals is in itself notable - culminating in a spectacular explosion (a Bellamy speciality).

The common British logo style through the Sixties

From its inception, Hulton's Eagle had carried the distinctive masthead (which no doubt seemed a good idea at the time) but was itself an invariable constriction, by its size and form and place on the front page, which meant, from a storytelling art and design consideration (let alone as possible collected volumes) the weekly loss of a quarter of the cover space. New owner Longacre Press lost no time in commissioning an updated new look for the Eagle masthead and front page, and particularly for Dan Dare. (Volume 11:12, 19 March 1960)

FB: "They asked me to redesign Dan Dare. The uniforms, space fleet, everything. This meant I had to make sketches of everything before I actually started drawing the strip, but I prefer to do that, anyway. I've always done so, on Fraser, Heros and so on. This let the editor know exactly what everything looked like from the start so he wouldn't get any surprises sprung on him in the middle of an instalment."
FA: "Did you have any qualms about re-vamping Frank Hampson's personal creation?"
FB: "Oh, yes. I didn't like doing that. But it was a directive from upstairs - that's what they wanted, and you can only give the client what he wants, so that was it." 
Republication of the Fantasy Advertiser interview in Warrior 22 (September 1984), with some variations, included additional art and this extra Q&A:

"Why did you get the directive to revamp the costumes and ships?"
FB: "I think it was just the march of progress. They had tended to look old fashioned, and they wanted to keep ahead of what was happening in Cape Canaveral. At the beginning of Eagle, everything looked super-futuristic, but the actual real life events were catching up extremely fast. They also wanted a 'new look' to coincide with the facelift the cover was getting. I did lots of drawings of the space fleet which were exploded drawings, showing the cabin areas, undercart, rocket compartment and that, which I'd hoped was also help an author so he wouldn't make the common mistake of having someone stepping from one cabin to another, when they are supposed to be at opposite ends of the ship. I tried to keep a realistic approach. Later, there was an exhibition, I think it was at Charter House School, showing 'the birth of the comic strip', and they used my approach, with my art, preliminary sketches, the script, pencil and ink artwork. The interest was so great that members of the American Air Force would go down, thinking these diagrams of ships were for real."
- Laughter -

Eagle Vol.11 No.12, 19th March 1960, is the 'new look' issue for which FB also produced both Dan Dare pages.

Eagle Vol.11 No.12, 19th March 1960
 Many of his pages which followed in the series stylistically prefigure TV21(for example, EAGLE Vol.11 No.15 p2).
Eagle Vol.11 No.18 cover page (see above) includes some innovative FB stars and space nebula development of his 'dot stipple' technique. This effect is further developed on the front cover of No.21. Frank's stars are distinctive and unique and appear as a pragmatic and brilliant design solution to the 'problem' (as Frank might have seen it) that the most efficient way of creating stars in pen and ink is to lay-in flat areas of black and speckle with blobs of process white - which technically, from all he has said, Frank wouldn't want to do. Hence his starfield design (requiring a thought-through understanding of its micro-component elements to produce the specific effect) which removed the need for process white.
FB also started to develop line-hatch alternatives to stipple tonals during Dan Dare which would develop over time and would lead in the 1970s to FB referring (above) to the stippling method as an "old technique" (returning to it for art editor David Driver at Radio Times). The pen-work change includes Vol.11 Nos.20-22-23 and the slight patch of tentative linework hatched along the cheekbone of Dan Dare in No.26, heralded a technique development which might then have seemed insignificant. By whatever insight, FB saw reason to experiment with what would be possible with another method.

Coincidentally or not, Eagle Vol.11 No.26, 25th June 1960, page eight, also includes an unattributed and so far unattributable depiction of Gary Player in a Slazenger sports equipment advertisement rendered in dot stipple effect.

Eagle Vol.11 No.28 front cover is the final Frank Bellamy Dan Dare, published on 9th July 1960.

Eagle Vol.11 No.28, 9 July 1960
FA: "You drew Dan Dare for exactly a year. Why did you stop?"
FB: "I'd only wanted to draw it for a year."
FA: "Have there ever been any sets you've particularly disliked drawing?"
FB: "Well, once again, Dan Dare, because I felt cramped on it, as I've said."
 Many thanks to David for this series of overviews of Bellamy's career.  In the next episode we plunge into the 1960s

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Original Art: Garth on Heritage - Freak out to fear (H148)

H148 episode of  "Garth: Freak out to fear" Drawn by Frank Bellamy
For those of you who follow this blog, you might notice there is so little time between the fast approaching Heritage auctions that I'm using a template to get them done quickly. Hope this works for you.

Heritage have another Garth for auction, this time from the story "Freak out to fear"
Heritage describe this piece:
Frank Bellamy Garth Daily Comic Strip Original Art dated 6-27-74 (Daily Mirror, 1974). Frank Bellamy drew the exquisite fantasy strip, Garth, from 1971 until his death in 1976. This ink over graphite on Bristol board daily has an image area of 21.5" x 5.25", and, aside from some light overall aging, the condition is Excellent. From the Ethan Roberts Estate Collection.
UPDATE: David Jackson pointed out to me it would very unusual for FB to use Bristol Board, his preferred board was CS10 - more of which in David's second part on Bellamy in the 1950s!

The whole story ran originally in the national UK newspaper the Daily Mirror  from 6 June 1974 to 27 September 1974 - (H132-H227)
Ir was reprinted  in Garth: Freak out to Fear by All Devon Comic Collectors Club Daily Strips: Collectors Club Editions No.17 [No date] and in America in Menomonee Falls Gazette. Lastly the  Daily Mirror once again reprinted it - this time in colour from Wednesday 1 June 2016 to - Wednesday 26 July 2016 coloured by Martin Baines.

Want to read more? Here are the 6 strips from the series taken from the above-mentioned Daily Mirror reprint

WHERE?: Heritage Sunday Internet Comics Auction #121731
ENDING PRICE:$382.40 inc. Buyer's premium = £293.38
No of bids:6
END DATE: 30 July 2017

Monday 17 July 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Part Two: 1950s - 1960s by David Jackson

FRANK BELLAMY - design and technique
Part Two: 1950s-1960s

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

Boy's Own Paper April 1952 pp.40-41

Probably everyone reading this has a good idea what the Frank Bellamy 'look' looks like. Yet up to the mid 1950s nobody knew this - not even Frank Bellamy.

Drawing - fine art - is considered a difficult enough and praiseworthy talent in its own right - as a sort of human-camera translating the scene before the artist into line and or tone or colour. But, for the illustrator and comics artist there is an added difficulty - there is no such scene to draw from!
It is a task which makes doing a jig-saw without a box lid look like child's play.
Or, put another way, it would be a daunting task for anybody to take a blank sheet of CS10 board and make an exact copy of any illustration, let alone comic page or strip, by Frank Bellamy - even if they were allowed to use tracing paper, never mind 'by eye'...
Frank Bellamy of course had only a script and a blank sheet of paper to start with!
With pen and ink, just controlling the tools and materials is a 'high-wire' performance and always on the edge of a blot, a drip, run, or a slip or skid of the pen, rule or brush.
As Frank said himself in Fantasy Advertiser (Vol.3 No.50):
FB: "So again, no easy way. In fact, I consider line drawing to be the most difficult form of drawing, because it is so positive. You can get away with murder with a pencil, but with a pen it isn't quite so easy."

Despite recognizable touches - seen in retrospect - overall his design and style at the mid point of the twentieth century was still to form. It was a work in progress - FB himself not then knowing what unique and distinctive originality he was developing towards; with his signature technique of pen and ink line-and-key-black with transparent waterproof ink colour washes still in his future...Two early, probably on-spec, portfolio sample try-outs (which were rescued by Alan Davis and are among early FB work on his own website) are mock-up book illustrations with what would be the printed text of a published novel represented by ruled lines, and featuring hand-drawn decorative title lettering: Treasure Island (despite FB's subsequent comments quoted below) and Colorado by William MacLeod Raine (a novel first published in 1928 and since reviewed on the web: "This book out-Westerns Westerns!").

The art materials FB was using at this time included opaque colour, on one occasion for his signature on a dark red ground. For whatever reason (and a job is a job) between 1950 and 1954, the International Artists agency found or assigned freelance romance story commissions from women's interest Home Notes magazine and other similar work, which were not at all Frank's preferred subject - as much due to the relatively static nature of the scenes to be illustrated as the romantic content of the stories.

Home Notes 27 July 1951
 As with the portfolio sample pieces, in these illustrations the treatment of graphic design elements, such as large title lettering and patterns within the scenes, required the sort of exacting drawing-instrument control which many an artist would rather avoid, but are the first component parts to be rendered with complete precision.
The figurework looks to have been drawn freehand and probably posed by Nancy and Frank.
Theoretically it may be possible to photograph posed scenes and trace-off or project these for the finished rendering, but meeting set deadlines of the day may not allow time for this.

FA: "When drawing characters or machines, do you prefer to draw from life or from photographs?"
FB: "The only time I'd use a photograph would be for convenience sake..."
FA: "...You can't get an elephant into the studio."
In theory, the advantages of a photograph is in its accuracy. Its limitations then being that the camera can only photograph what exists to be photographed. As a source of information, found reference of any three dimensional scene is reduced to two dimensions so that the true relationship between objects may not be correctly seen or understood, or outright misleading to the viewer (the family snapshot showing a lamppost apparently attached to the head of a relative being only an extreme and well understood example).
Such difficulties need to be overcome by the artist.Still today, tracing from photographs, and it's computerised equivalent, is a subject in dispute. It is a very nuanced issue and, as with anything else about art, it is easier in some way to go wrong despite it being possible to know how to get it exactly right.

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952] Page 80

1952: The illustrations for the Children's Hour story "I'm proud of my father" are strong b/w inkwork, in a 1940's style of the era depicted, and in design terms with speed line hatching tones.
The March and April Boy's Own Paper credit: SCRAPERBOARD ILLUSTRATION BY BELLAMY. Other editions featuring various genre illustrations in other media and techniques continued into the following year.

Boy's Own Paper September 1953

Frank Bellamy carried out a number of commissions for Odhams Press - with more East African themed subjects (including a cover featuring a rhino) for Boy's Own Paper. At one time, presumably in the early days, being unsatisfied with a work in progress, Frank had said to his son, David, 'I wish I could draw horses!'
To which my sentiment on hearing this decades later was: 'I wish I could draw horses like he couldn't draw horses!'
FB could have traced from a photograph but what he could have meant was, he'd wanted to understand - internalise - what horses looked like - so well as to not need to.
Of course, until the invention of the camera nobody could see how horses were actually galloping at full speed.If it appears that FB was taking the long and difficult route rather than the obvious easy short-cut, the comparison is one of ends and means; it is the difference between someone copying, by sight, writing which they themselves are unable to read, as opposed to someone who has learned how to read and able to write whatever is required, off-the-cuff, without copying. The aim is authorship. Fluency. Consistency. And the articulated solid-geometry which was a distinguishing characteristic of his ability and work.
Comprehensive knowledge is needed in creating scenes which never existed in real life to make all the assembled component parts of a constructed image both fit the dynamic 'flow' of the overall design and be at the appropriate angle, perspective, lighting, etc, in terms of realism.

In comic strips, more so than in other forms of representational art and illustration, the artist is required to take responsibility for conveying to the reader some of the information which in other literary formats would be described in the text. And so drawn details in the art which are there to carry the story must be sufficiently realistic to be 'readable' and clearly decipherable as opposed to merely decorative or impressionistic. Even a 'still frame' photo from an action sequence from a movie - in which, when shown in a cinema, everything looks perfectly realistic, whole and solid - can be reduced to indecipherable blurs in the elements which were moving fastest . Comic strip frames, in their classic form, generally combine both storytelling detail and action in the same shot.

From Eagle Vol 3 No 11

The first FB work in a strip-art form was in fact a series of advertisements, 'Commando Gibbs v Dragon Decay' printed in Eagle Vol.3. Despite being no easy task to spot the Frank Bellamy 'look' - had we not known that it was -this prefigured some sort of turning-point towards action adventure picture-strip art. Onward and upward incremental developments arrived in weekly instalments from here on in!

FA: "And when did you actually get started drawing comic strips?"
FB: "Very shortly after I started doing freelance work through International Artists. Apparently they wanted to see me up at Mickey Mouse Weekly. Up until that interview, I had only done one strip, an advertisement for Gibbs toothpaste which appeared in Eagle. They offered me a weekly comic-strip for Mickey Mouse, "Monty Carstairs". So, realising I couldn't draw for Mickey Mouse Weekly and do a staff job at Norfolk Studios, in 1953 I left the studio and became a full-time freelance artist. And I've been drawing strips ever since."
FB's breakthrough as a freelance b/w pen and ink continuity picture-strip artist was a detective series for Odhams Press - taking over from Kenneth Brookes - Monty Carstairs in a "Great New Holiday Mystery-Adventure" 'The Secret of the Sands' in Mickey Mouse Weekly 25th July 1953.

Mickey Mouse Weekly 25 July 1953

A reproduction of FB's first comics page was one of the examples illustrating the interview in Fantasy Advertiser. Not mentioned in that context, Frank's son David had posed for the drawn-from-life figures of the young boy in the story. This page is signed FRANK A. BELLAMY, (as is his last page in the series, but in some issues his surname only) but if this first page had been unsigned, the style is more that of the established form than immediately recognizable as being his. Even the word-balloon shapes are wholly untypical, even though lettered by FB. The banks of panels, in rows one above another, is the standard format for all the strips in the issue and all the b/w adventure strips art and some subject matter is stylistically near-indistinguishable one from another.

Mickey Mouse Weekly also commissioned Frank to draw the colour centrespread natural history feature 'Walt Disney's true life adventures: Living Desert'. [see here and here ~Norman]
Other spot illustrations of wildlife and action adventure subjects were commissioned by Lilliput and Everybody's.In terms of the comic-strip, this year was to be the signal change. Frank breaks the banks of panels format in Mickey Mouse Weekly with a larger central frame in the 13th March issue. All the square and cornered word-balloon shapes go and by the end of April the word-balloon graphics are distinctively his own style.

Mickey Mouse Weekly 13 March 1954

FA: "And after these two strips for Odhams Press, you started work for Swift, which was published by Hulton Press..."
FB: I'd always had a feeling I'd like to get in on the Eagle/Swift/Girl group of comics..."
FA: "These papers were in competition with each other for artists and writers at the time, weren't they?"
FB: "Oh, yes. So, when it became a convenient moment to drop from Odhams, as the Hulton Press people had been making enquiries about me, I moved straight on to Swift, in 1954." 

Swift, as a companion junior title to Eagle, featured picture stories with both type-set text commentary below line and wash art, and caps-and-lower-case lettered word-balloons, intended for the younger reader. The house style standard format of the title as a whole was again banks of panels in rows one above another for all the picture stories in the issue and again the b/w adventure strips in both art and some subject matter are stylistically similar one to another.

Swift 2 October 1954
 Frank also illustrated several text stories for Swift. "The Fleet Family" in 'The Island of Secrets' one page b/w picture strip ran from Vol.1 No.22, 14th August - the opening episode being a stylistically seamless transition from the concluding pages of "Monty Carstairs".

Swift 9 October 1954

"The Swiss Family Robinson" one page b/w picture strip followed from Vol.1 No.30, 9th October.
Progress was one of accumulating sophistication. The episodes are uncredited and unsigned. But the distinctive style is recognizably Bellamy. Frames are small scale, ten or eleven each episode; with detail rendered in coherent graphic precision, albeit within a limiting editorial layout and genre.

FB: "I wasn't too happy on Swiss Family Robinson."
FA: "Why was that?
FB: "I think it was because it wasn't a very elastic script and the fantasy in it wasn't my type of fantasy. Everything was laid down for me and I had no way to improvise."
FA: "So, mainly you didn't like the Robinson set because it was such a famous story in the first place?"
FB: "Exactly. Can you imagine a more difficult task than having to illustrate a famous story? Imagine drawing Treasure Island. Everybody has preconceived ideas of what Long John Silver looks like, so the artist would have no scope whatsoever, and his rendition would be completely different to most people's mental picture of Long John. I've heard it said that one of the worst books to illustrate is, in fact Treasure Island."

Eagle 4 October 1957
Coincidentally, the second frame of "The Happy Warrior" illustrates a young Winston Churchill reading Treasure Island and visualizing a very identifiable Long John Silver.

Men Only was a small pocket sized publication (later better known when it turned to the 'glamour' market and published by Paul Raymond!) gave Frank work in three issues, black and white illustrations

Outspan magazine commissioned several issues of cover and/or interior text story illustrations ranging from drama, science fiction and wildlife adventure (several, including the 'Timeliner' artwork - prefiguring Apollo 11 moon landing and art - in the October issue, are reproduced in Notes to the Checklist) .

FB: "I also did a lot of story illustrations for Outspan - most of which was set in South Africa and all of those being big game illustrations. I was sticking my neck out a bit, but I've always been interested in big game. I can honestly say I've always been interested in Africa, and still am. So, as I said, you can see I was never cut out to do love strips for the IPC girl's paper. I'd have a go, but I prefer something with a bit of meat and guts."

"The Exiting Adventures of Paul English" was a one page b/w picture strip in Swift was taken over by FB from Vol.2 No.15 to No.30.

Swift 8 October 1955

"King Arthur and his Knights", "Robin Hood and his Merry Men" and "Robin Hood and Maid Marian", b/w picture strips with two pages of five or six larger frames each, continued until Vol.4 No.33 ended the run in 1957; with the episodes from Vol.3 No.44 on signed FRANK BELLAMY

FA: "In those days, the strips you were on had libretto under each frame, so you must have had little continuity from frame to frame...almost acting purely as an illustrator."
FB: "I did try to get as much continuity in as possible. Whereas a lot of my later strips have been separate frames, all totally disconnected... 'Churchill' was an example of that."
FA: "When it came to continuity, a breakdown of action, did you find this very hard to do, or did it come naturally from the start?"
FB: "Well, I must confess, it seemed to come naturally to me because, over the years, even back to the Swift days, when it was a hard format of probably nine frames per page with text at the bottom of each nicely squared-up frame, I always wanted to enlarge upon that format. I didn't like the normal, acceptable form of comic strip work, frame after frame, bank after so many daily newspaper strips stuck together to make up a page."

TO BE CONTINUED... Part Two of the 1950s - a very productive period for Bellamy

I hope David won't mind me adding an advert - all the Swift strips have been reprinted and are available at Book Palace. I don't get commission but have been given copies for my contributions over the years! ~"Honest" Norman

Friday 14 July 2017

Original art on Heritage: Thunderbirds from TV21 #146

Thunderbirds from TV21 #146 by Frank Bellamy
Heritage have had so much Bellamy for sale recently, but this is a beautiful example of Bellamy's colour work, design and composition - and this is only one age of the two he will have done for that issue of TV21 (#146)

It comes from the story, which appeared in issues #141 - 146 (30 September 2067 - 4 November 2067)  and has been called "Mr Big - The Earthquake Maker".  It's been reprinted so many times so easy to get hold of if you're curious to read it (Check out my reprint page) but due to my generous nature here are the two episodes from the comic. It's interesting to note how clear the colour came across in print but still Bellamy's original has much more subtlety that was lost - even in photogravure printing! Obviously the scan below shows some of the 'bleed through' from the previous page but still the original just 'pops' as the youth say!

Heritage's description:

Frank Bellamy TV Century 21 #146 Page 18 Thunderbirds Original Art (IPC, 1967). Things are not "F.A.B." for Brains, Virgil, and Scott on this page, but since they are British, "Thunderbirds are GO!" by page end. Gerry Anderson's International Rescue team created legions of fans on both sides of the Atlantic (and around the world as well), and Frank Bellamy's art style for this series was a bold and brilliant choice. Bellamy decided to do the strip with a more comic book/realistic style instead of drawing the puppets from the Supermarionation TV series. This also features a couple of great panels of Thunderbird 2, the fan-favorite craft from the beloved series. Signed under the image area, it is ink and watercolor on illustration board with an image area of approximately 12" x 16.25". There is production tape in the margins, however the image area is in Excellent condition. 
Of course all Bellamy's Thunderbirds work was ink not watercolour at all, but I'm still grateful to Heritage for sharing large scans!


Original Art: Garth on Heritage - The Bride of Jenghiz Khan (H230)

H230 episode of  "Garth: The Bride of Jenghiz Khan" Drawn by Frank Bellamy
Heritage have another Garth for auction, this time from the story "The Bride of Jenghiz Khan"
Heritage describe this piece:
Frank Bellamy Garth Daily Comic Strip Original Art dated 1-10-74 (Daily Mirror, 1974). A landslide has our hero in a heap of trouble on this high contrast thriller, numbered H230. Frank Bellamy is one of the celebrated titans of British comic strip art. This daily has an image area of 20.5" x 5.25", and the art is in Excellent condition. From the Ethan Roberts Estate Collection. 
The whole story ran originally in the national UK newspaper the Daily Mirror from 28 September 1974 - 14 January 1975 (H228-J11). It was reprinted in Garth: Bride of Jenghiz Khan by the now-defunct All Devon Comic Collectors Club (No.1 [No date]), in Garth: Bride of Jenghiz Khan  (Daily Strips No. 1). London: J. Dakin, P. Hudson & G. Lawley. and latterly in the Daily Mirror from  Tuesday 19 February 2013 to Wednesday 10 April 2013 -  coloured by Martin Baines.

Want to read more? Here are the 6 strips from the series taken from the above-mentioned Dakin reprint

Drawn by Frank Bellamy

WHERE?: Heritage Sunday Internet Comics Auction #121730
ENDING PRICE:$454.10 inc. Buyer's Premium = £348.34
No of bids: 4
END DATE: 23 July 2017

Sunday 9 July 2017

Original Art: Garth on Heritage - The Wreckers (G274)

G274 episode of  "Garth: The Wreckers" Drawn by Frank Bellamy
Heritage have another Garth for auction, this time from the story "The Wreckers"
Heritage describe this piece:
Frank Bellamy Garth Daily Comic Strip G274 Original Art dated 11-17-73 (Daily Mirror, 1973). This daily strip displays the fantastic chiaroscuro artwork of Frank Bellamy, from the end of his career. Produced in ink over graphite on illustration board with an image area of 20.5" x 5.25". Slight edge toning and a crunched bottom right corner, away from the image area; otherwise in Excellent condition.
I don't know if it's an oversight but this one does not say from the Ethan Roberts Estate Collection.

The whole story ran originally in the national UK newspaper the Daily Mirror from 26 October 1973 - 18 February 1974 (G255-H41). It was reprinted in Garth: The Wreckers by the now-defunct All Devon Comic Collectors Club (No.23 [No date]), in Menomonee Falls Gazette #184 (23 June 1975) - #202 (27 October 1975)  and latterly in the Daily Mirror from Wednesday 13 April 2011 - Tuesday 7 June 2011 coloured by Martin Baines.

Want to read more? Here are the 6 strips from the series taken from Menomonee Falls Gazette #187

Jim Edgar and Frank Bellamy from
Menomonee Falls Gazette#187
WHERE?: Heritage Sunday Internet Comics Auction #121729
ENDING PRICE:$501.90 (inc. Buyer's Premium) = £387.67
No of bids:5
END DATE: 16 July 2017

Tuesday 4 July 2017

Original Art: Garth on Heritage - The Beast of Ultor (H91)

H91 episode of  "Garth: The Beast of Ultor" Drawn by Frank Bellamy
Here's another of the Ethan Roberts Collection to be auctioned on Heritage this time from the Garth story "The Beast of Ultor".  Heritage Auctions decided not to hide this behind a sing-in verification despite the art's explicit drawing (very common in the early seventies on TV and newspaper strips!)
Heritage describe this piece:
Frank Bellamy Garth Daily Comic Strip Original Art dated 4-18-74 (Daily Mirror, 1974). Astra "suspends" two blood-thirsty assassins in this high contrast thriller, numbered H91. Frank Bellamy is one of the celebrated titans of British comic strip art. This ink over graphite on illustration board daily has an image area of 20" x 5.25", and the art is in Excellent condition, with pinholes in the corners. From the Ethan Roberts Estate Collection. 
The whole story ran originally in the national UK newspaper the Daily Mirror from 19 February 1974 - 5 June 1974 (H42-H131). It was reprinted in The Daily Mirror Book of Garth (London: IPC Limited, 1976) and the American stripzine, Menomonee Falls Gazette #202 (27 October 1975) - #218 (16 February 1976)  and re-published in colour in the Daily Mirror from Thursday 11 April 2013 to - Saturday 1 June 2013 coloured by Martin Baines

Want to read more? Here are the 6 strips from the series taken from Menomonee Falls Gazette #211

Jim Edgar & Frank Bellamy from
Menomonee Falls Gazette#211
WHERE?: Heritage Sunday Internet Comics Auction #121728
ENDING PRICE:$501.90 (inc Buyer's premium) = £387.92
No of bids: 5
END DATE: 9 July 2017