Friday 13 March 2020

Frank Bellamy and Gerald Swan's Mighty Comic Annual

Gerald Swan publication -cover by Frank Bellamy

***UPDATE Other contents added (February 2023)***

Recently a copy of a very obscure comic annual was sold on eBay for £142 (with 8 bids). I got a shock as I bought one a few months ago for £20! Now how did this one raise so much money? I have absolutely NO idea. It was described as "The Mighty Comic Annual 1952 GG Swan Rebound remaindered comics FR (phil-comics)". I've met Phil and he's a lovely guy who tends to start most auctions at 99p and his honest reputation attracts a lot of interest.But that still doesn't explain this figure! Compal Auctions sold a copy with 4 other annuals in one lot last autumn (2019) and the lot finished at £95!

I first saw this annual as a small image in Scraps- an intermittent publication by Blasé Books and Duckling Press, in number 2. It also shows Tough Ghosts, Old Bones and an Affinity magazine cover. Bellamy did quite a few illustrations for Swan, who was known to pay on receipt of the artwork (unlike a lot of publishers who had accounting departments that like to hang onto funds). At the time he was with Norfolk Studios but we don't know - and I think it unlikely - whether the Studio had Swan as a client.

Did Bellamy do any other covers for this annual? It doesn't look likely from what Peter Hansen shared on Facebook (and thanks to him for permission to show these here):

Finally found my Swan Mighty Comic Annuals! Well three of the four I have. But what is important is the only one of the four signed by Frank Bellamy! All three have completely different material inside though. Anyway here's the proof it's Frank! The third image is one that you can't see the signature though you can see the tops of the two "l's" and the "A",
Bellamy's signature peeping out

Bellamy's signature clearly there

In investigating anything to do with Swan, it's hard to pin stuff down. As you can see the contents of this undated annual changed from buyer to buyer as Swan merely stuffed old unsold comics into a new cover. Below are some of the contents of my copy so others can compare and contrast!

My copy of the Mighty Comic Annual
Notice I also have a 'half-cut' version of FB's signature!I've combed through my copy for a date as a clue to when this was published and you'll see I think have one!


Archie Annual by Gerald Swan advert

Earthquake Ike

Archie "Spots to you"

This story looks to be from Pep Comics #69 (Sept 1948) according to the GCD

Star Dirt mentions an award on 27 April 1948

Skit - The Kat

Captain Atlas - read a complete story here

Flash Avenger

Wilbur "Hit for Hat"
Published in Wilbur #32 (Aug 1950)

Close-up of a page that's been cut
Notice in this close-up you can see that a page has been sliced - presumably to get rid of an advert or story not deemed of enough value to be bound in!

Katy Keene Fashions: Sport
Now if you look at the adverts on the right-hand page above, you'll see "The School in Space" (1947) and "Mystery of the Silver Statuette" (which was published in 1948). That gives us a publication date later than those dates, but the back cover is the best clue - especially as the contents of the Annual are bound copies of unsold materials. But the Archie Annual advertised shows a date of 1953. Is this published in 1952 as other UK annuals had the next year's date on them, or during 1953? I assume the former and think the Mighty Comic Annual mentioned above is published 1952 for Christmas 1952 sales and therefore is Mighty Comic Annual 1953.

The 1953 Edition of the Archie Annual
Geoff Harrison showed some contents of his Mighty Comic Annual for what we believe is 1951 for 1952. With his permission here they are.

Mighty Comic Annual (1951/2?)

UPDATE: After posting this Steve Holland (of Bear Alley) sent this: 

"I think - by a Swan regular called David Williams, about whom I know nothing."

Over to you!

The Last of the Mohicans

The Sub-Zero man

Blue Bolt (Jack Kirby's early work?)

Candid Charlie appeared in Blue Bolt comics and also Target Comics

T.N.T. Tom

Blue Bolt

Does anyone have any other Mighty Comic Annuals they'd be willing to share or even the contents of the 'Frank Bellamy' version? Let me know

UPDATE: Here's another offered on eBay February 2023:

Cover with no evidence of FB's signature

Inside cover with "Smuggling" and "Headline Henderson" 

Inside back cover

The inside back cover has an American reprint from Wilbur and adverts:

  • [The Great] Mirror by A. J. Burks (1952)
  • Empty Saddles by Archie Joscelyn [1952]
  • Owlhoot Triggers for the Law by T. W. Ford [1952]
  • Rainbow Trail by Cliff Campbell [1952]

These dates are taken from the British Library accession dates and are therefore a bit flexible but they confirm the 1952 date for the annual in my opinion!


Kid said...

I think the simple explanation, Norman, is that more people who wanted that particular Annual were aware that it was for sale on Phil's auction site and therefore bid on it. That always pushes the price up, and the final bid doesn't always reflect an item's true worth. Hope you're keeping well during these trying times.

Norman Boyd said...

Thanks for the comment Kid. Yes I agree. Phil has built a good following who know what they want. And yes, I'm fine thank you for asking. I'm following you and Barry and your exploits!