Monday 16 November 2020

Frank Bellamy Gerry Anderson annual covers

I wanted to add these three covers in one place and see if we can get any clarification even at this late stage as to the certainty of which are by Bellamy and which not.

If you don't know already comic annuals in the UK arrived in shops during the late summer of the year preceding the published title date. So Beano Book 1967 (which even as kids we knew was an annual!) would have been on sale late summer 1966 and I remember seeing them just in time for my birthday at the start of October.


The first Thunderbirds title here is copyright 1966 and if the date had been included in the title it would be Thunderbirds Annual 1967. I don't think there is any doubt this is completely Frank Bellamy - besides the logo, of course. I wish there was a signature but there isn't!

Thunderbirds Annual [1967]


Bellamy's last strip for the newly launched  TV21 & Joe 90 was #4 (18 October 1969) so it's interesting if Bellamy came to do this Thunderbirds Annual 1971 which was published in 1970. 

As David Jackson said to me about this cover: The 1971 copy of Frank Bellamy is a very good copy seen on its own terms, (the goodness is all originally Frank's) but compared with Frank's original there is the 'Chinese whispers' degrading with each iteration, and the opaque paint medium rules out it being Frank Bellamy himself.

Thunderbirds Annual 1971

I hunted and it didn't take long to find where this 'Bellamy' shot came from: TV21 #56

TV21 #56 with the final frame used on the Annual

 So getting my friend Paul Holder to lay the raw Thunderbird 2 at an angle, we get.....

A raw Bellamy frame added on top

Then Paul tidied it up and we see this....

If Bellamy HAD done the cover but note fin!


The picture frame seems to fit almost perfectly of shape onto the annual, except you’ll notice the fin which would go off the annual cover if they had used the exact original frame. The ‘Thunderbird 2’ lettering on the side is slightly bigger on the annual - the 2 is larger in proportion and the whole text takes up a longer space on the side. The no 2 underneath is much fatter on the annual. The "squiggly shadows" on the side windows are very similar - same style - but not same as the comic frame.
I would say that it was traced and amended slightly. The vapour trail is not pure white but looks as if white paint done on top of blue sky so not opaque. Bellamy would have not done it this way, Therefore this is not a Bellamy illustration but a copy/homage.
Also, I think it would be technically easier at that time to illustrate anew, rather than get new films made (if the artwork was available) to the size proportions required.

And David said:

What doesn't come across digitally but is obvious in print and in your hands is that this cover version Thunderbird 2 is literally that - although it's taken from FB's early T2 'look' in style and design, it looks to be rendered in opaque watercolour / gouache / poster paints.
Which is to say the whitish opaque drybrush overpaint engines jetstreams; the orange-down-to-yellow intake nacelle; the lightened greenish overpaint of the black underside around the area of the right edge red circle retro...  I don't need to go on...

Paul then pointed out to me that actually the image AND design were 'borrowed' from Bellamy


TV21 #63 with that circle + red background!

UPDATE: 5 Dec 2020:

Thunderbirds Television Story Book Title Page, © 1966

 I found this image from the Thunderbirds Television Story Book (copyright 1966) which looks to me to be another borrowing from Bellamy as TV21 #63 was published on 2 April 1966 and this was for the Christmas market 1966.

Our joint conclusion: a very clever editorial decision to use the Frank Bellamy frames from early TV21, four years after Bellamy drew it. Then use paint to amend the image slightly.


The colour cover with Fireball XL5 (awful representation!), Thunderbird 2, Stingray and a coloured left hand margin.The dispute exists as to whether Bellamy did any or some of the colour images on this cover (The left-hand marginal drawings are definitely by Rab Hamilton, who illustrated "Agent 21" strip in TV21 and "Marina" in Lady Penelope)

If I had to bet on this I'd say the Thunderbirds image is Bellamy's and maybe the Stingray. His method of doing skies (as described by his son, David, in Timeview:

Inks are a very difficult medium to work with particularly on CS10 line board which is not at all sympathetic as the inks tend to dry unevenly, yet he could wash in skies or flat areas of colour and give an almost air brushed effect. This was done so quickly with brushes, blotting paper, cotton wool and various other little tricks, it was like watching a magician, the quickness of the hand deceiving the eye. 

TV Century 21 Annual [1967]

My hesitation is around the Fireball XL5, which I can't believe he did as it's so ...bad! But David Jackson felt:

Is Fireball XL5 so much of a problem?  The title (non-Frank Bellamy) graphics are not helping by crushing rendering of the vehicles.  The original art continues left and around the spine and tucks over and around overlapping the top and bottom and right-hand edges but the title graphics leave no space (ho ho) for Fireball XL5.  It is possible that the original art may have been same size and this could also have been a factor working against a bigger finish.


Interestingly the lightning flashes appear a later addition as Bellamy would do these differently and am I right in thinking the water appears above the flash? Comments received point out that the lettering for Fireball, Thunderbird 2 and Stingray look to be added on. [As Shaqui and Jeff Haythorpe point out Bellamy drew the lettering on TB2 in black (having checked,  he did, but also just left it off completely sometimes!]. Paul Green says:

The artist responsible for the cover of Thunderbirds Annual 1971 has used Bellamy's artwork as reference material and adapted it using gouache paint. During my time working on annuals adapting another artist's work or being told to copy their style was common practice. As for the TV Century 21 art - the first cover is definitely Bellamy's original art. The later cover feels like someone copying different styles as they aren't consistent. An artist probably adapted Embleton's Stingray art and Bellamy's Thunderbirds art. The Fireball XL5 may be a crude adaptation of Mike Noble's art. This isn't Bellamy's original art. Once again the medium is gouache paint.

The last thing I thought of after publishing this was that the Thunderbirds Annual [1967] - which I have no doubt is Bellamy's work - and the TV Century 21 Annual [1967] are different sizes. Is this significant in any way? 

David Jackson added:

The central frame of TB2 rolling out the pod vehicle could not have been created by anyone other than FB himself.  This of itself makes the cover in all probability a whole piece, but could possibly have been supplied as three separate images. The Stingray couldn't be by anyone else.  It is FB technique without key line and black at its most sophisticated. The area directly above the red gutter flash separating the TB2 and Stingray is the colour of the TB2 ground and although approximately a similar tone to the undersea effect in the Stingray frame, on closer comparison is nothing at all like it in colour or variation. If the Fireball XL5 had been seen in isolation it is doubtful it  would be attributed to FB, but is it not sufficiently unlike him not to be... The blue-grey space and stars effect are not unlike his usual method, in the absence of black ink. FB tended not to use 'route one' direct copying from sources even when they were available. And a decision must have been taken not to use black or ink outline and render the whole cover in watercolour wash technique.

The observations made about the craft lettering are enough to justify a suspicion that FB didn't letter them.  He would not have used process white over-paint, and XL5 tail fin is not that sophisticated and the other XL5 is in black, as is the Stingray so maybe 'too black'; the Thunderbird 2 looks like white opaque over-paint and it does not curve around the body in perspective. However, the under-wing TB2 is something only FB did. The model craft itself, and on only one wing, actually read T2.
Derek Meddings said to an outsourced sub-contractor of a Thunderbird 2 model that not only wasn't it the same shape it wasn't even the same colour! This TB2 model was eventually written off in a spectacular crash scene...

and then

The way the red zigzags are done, and the other cut and paste-up (literally back then) are not the way FB would do them. The Kid [see comments] makes perceptive observations that FB would be unfamiliar with the brief very early on, particularly in view of his method of assimilating as opposed to directly drawing from a source. 

DAVID further commented (January 2021):

One thing I've noticed and commented on in the 'printing' context it is that transparency and opacity of the original materials (ink, paint etc) 'prints through' in print.  On first consideration it might not seem likely or even possible but it does - you can see it.  Or I think I can see it - the difference between opaque and transparent in printed works.
The blue skies in both THUNDERBIRD 2 covers (the TV21 pod vehicle and the THUNDERBIRDS 1, 2 and 4) are unmistakably FB transparent wash skies. As is the rock foreground.  All the flat and shadowed foreground in front of the red vehicle pod immediately above the red zigzag and THUNDERBIRD 2 design is reliably early Bellamy in style.  The STINGRAY 'undersea b/g' looks like an FB scraped-back effect.
Any other artist would have to have been some sort of miracle worker to be this, similar to  early FB this early on in T'Birds without copying something FB had himself previously originated.
The lettering on the craft  is an issue, including the 'THUNDERBIRD 2' on the THUNDERBIRDS ANNUAL craft also.  I think this was overlooked hitherto.And the scans are not of a scale to compete informatively with the printed volumes. Lettering at any time by anyone is always a technical test to get 'right'.  And only more so when drawn in perspective.  Art gallery painters can 'get away' with brush mark indications of signage when readable proper lettering could dominate such a framed painting.  But graphic artworks can demand more accurate, meticulous, literal and readable, representational rendering.
Having subsequently since made a quick overview of the FB episodes of T'BIRDS, I now notice that I'd never really noticed, that more often than not, Frank Bellamy would omit the Thunderbird craft lettering, or elements of it, wherever he thought it was not necessary to put it in.  So it was always, over the entire run, always as graphic requirements allowed.
THUNDERBIRDS being about conveying action and speed.

A good comparison of the TV CENTURY 21 ANNUAL pre-FB is is the (c)1965.  STINGRAY, FIREBALL, My Favourite Martian and Burke's Law.  Unmistakeably nothing like FB; in opaques, from the model STINGRAY, and the more pointed nosed Fireball XL5.  And inside only the one model still shot, of Fireball, in b/w.

Further thoughts by David Jackson:

I’ll also add to the previous observations on the opacity (process white, gouache, poster paints, body-colour, designers colours - all various names for essentially the same thing - or in oils even - anything using a solid white in the palette) or transparency (watercolours or waterproof inks - no solid white in the mix) of the original materials ‘printing through’ in printed reproductions,

Both blue skies in both THUNDERBIRDS frames on the TV21 ANNUAL and the THUNDERBIRDS ANNUAL being characteristically FB to look at. Apart from which their method of creation 'prints through' in terms of what I would call ‘molecular effects' - the actions of the materials used - which is clearly seen as being created by the spread of colour diluting (‘bleeding’ as they say) into a puddle of water on dampened board - I.e. transparent wash. An effect which couldn’t have been obtained any other way.

Close examination of the THUNDERBIRDS ANNUAL sandstone rocks (another FB speciality) along, say, the almost horizontal edge in the lower left hand corner, the broken edge shadow indentations were clearly formed with ‘blobs’ of transparent brown wash.

Re the Thunderbird craft lettering, Not only was this frequently omitted in depictions of the craft as they appeared in the strip, when they were included it would be as part of the black key line.

(This leaves the possibility of some lettering omitted by FB may have been found lacking editorially and added later in-house)..

THUNDERBIRD 1 is in black lettering although white lettered on TV.  ‘THUNDERBIRD 2’ where written out in full, can be smaller / less visible than in photographs of the model. The good reference of TB3 on the cover of the first Thunderbirds episode FB seems not to have had for that spread. THUNDERBIRD 4 lettering is also in black in the actual model. THUNDERBIRD 5 lettering is clearly created using ‘negative space‘ - i.e. the surrounding area filled in in black leaving the lettering - as opposed to ever being an area of black overpainted in an opaque white. Such uses of negative space being another positive identifier of  transparent as opposed to opaque materials and methods.

Thunderbirds from TV21 #77

Thunderbirds panel from the 3rd page TV21 #64

#77 has examples of such, and I found more than I was looking for - the first FB "T2" underwing marking correction. TV21 #64 had the last “TB2” underwing marking - (the use of which identifies both ANNUAL covers depictions of TB2 as being originated at some point by FB).

Significantly, possibly, when the third b/w line and wash pages ended, starting with the TC193 story, that third page was used for Thunderbirds launch schematics by another artist and TV21 #69 has THUNDERBIRD 2 with its T2 (not TB2) underwing mark visibly displayed. TV21 #77 had the first “T2” corrected underwing marking actually by FB.
TV21 #69: The T2 logo - Eric Eden

 What do YOU think? I'd love to hear your thoughts. I hunted through two years (Bellamy will have done several months of Thunderbirds by the time this was drawn) and found no similar panel to match the Thunderbird 2 image. What about the Fireball image? Is there corresponding reference?


Kid said...

Interesting. The Fireball and Stingray don't look like Bellamy to me, but it should perhaps be remembered that when Frank first drew Thunderbirds, his interpretation of the craft, especially TB2, were hardly 'on-model'. I sometimes wonder if he was using a Dinky TB2 for reference, rather than photos of the TV version. My point being that if he was as equally unfamiliar with Fireball and Stingray, then that could explain why they're a bit 'off' on the annual cover. However, I'm no Bellamy expert, so will bow to superior knowledge on the subject.

Norman Boyd said...

Yes similar thinking when I first saw it. I await other's thoughts. Thanks Kid

Martin Cooper said...

For years, as a kid, I was disappointed with Bellamy's Thunderbird vehicles: the rest of his art just fascinated me. But I was enamoured by Mike Noble's precision back then. But as time advanced and I enjoyed Gerry Haylock's work, as well as John Burns, I began to admire what he had done to them. In my eyes he had 'beefed up' TB1 and 2. Certainly his renditions seemed to inject steroids into TB 1, making it look more powerful.

Gain with TB2, his enlarging of the wings and exhaust nacelles (and sometimes his slimming down of the body) made it look more 'business like. My opinion now is that he was giving us his interpretation of what they were capable of, if that makes sense. As an author uses words, so Frank Bellamy used art.

Shaqui said...

The key might be the use of process white. Frank Bellamy was noted for never using it, and one has to wonder if the XL5 on the 1967 annual is his, as the stars have a 'painted on' look rather than his usual stipple technique to painting in black with dots to suggest starscapes? The 2 on Thunderbird 2 also has a slight 'process white' feel to it.

What do other shades think?

Unknown said...

Why is Stingray 'off'?
Every miniature of Stingray was different anyhow.

quillerpen said...

Interesting post: I shall now go and look at my annual collection with a fresh eye!

Norman Boyd said...

Interesting thoughts Martin, I appreciate you taking the time to write. I was the same - much preferred Noble as a kid - I put it down to primary colours being more attractive than Jeff Tracy having a green shadowy face!

Norman Boyd said...

Hi Shaqui
Yes the stars have a feel of Bellamy but I'm not sure and the Fireball is so way off I can't believe it's him. As Paul Green says on Facebook, artists were told to copy other art styles for the annuals
Thanks for the thoughts

Norman Boyd said...

Hi 'Unknown'
Yes, I see what you mean, there might be no authoritative version of any single craft as many versions had to be built in differing scales. And in addition the individual one had to be patched after explosions etc.
You didn't comment on the Fireball which is far more 'off'.
Thanks for dropping a line,

Norman Boyd said...

Welcome Quillerpen! Yes and do report back on your thoughts

Kid said...

Looking again at Stingray, it looks like the way artist John Cooper used to draw it in the '90s comics, so could the cover be by him, drawn (under instruction) in a style similar to Frank's?

Bill Storie said...

Definitely all FB in it's original version imho - but "adapted" by some unknown hand, no doubt at the request of an editor. The process white element mentioned by Shaqui is of course correct FB when drawing an angle like this had the big 2 in the underside outlines in white on black but the side lettering he would always draw in black this has been "gone over" at editorial to make it consistent with the studio model version. The red flash at the botton is also an editorial addition as pointed out you can see the original FB jagged line between the water and sand areas is still visible. XL5 - FB had not drawn this ship before to my knowledge so I think he maybe took Ron Embleton's XL5 from TV21 issue 149 as his model - note the very pointed nose cone which Ron drew in his version is very similar. The red/yellow nacelles look similar as well but the exhaust trails are defintely FB's as are the stars/space - although again there may have been editorial adjustments made there; Mike Noble complained about the botch up job they made on his cover for TV21 issue 176 where for some reason they decided to move a text panel he had placed and - well you can see the results for yourself! They also changed a few panels on his XL5 Damocles story with similar horrendous results.

Norman Boyd said...

That's an interesting thought Kid, as he was around TV21 at the time - roughly - and also, as you say drew the Stingray comic in the 90s too. I shall have a closer look!

Norman Boyd said...

Hi 'Unknown', Thanks for those additions. Yes, the flashes certainly look crude compared to what Bellamy would do. The Embleton thought is interesting but that particular issue (149) was dated November 25, 2067 and the annual would have been created early 1966, but I see exactly what you mean - the pointed nose in particular.
Thanks again