Friday 25 December 2020

Frank Bellamy and Swift Annual


The Swift Annual cover - needless to say NOT by FB!

As I have just finished reading "Damascus" by Christos Tsiolkas, given to me by my daughter and it mentions a runaway slave and it's nearly Christmas, the time when we received annuals as kids, that reminded me to look up Frank Bellamy's version of the tale. 

The Swift Annual #2 was published in Autumn 1955 for the Christmas market and here are the authors and artists for those who want to know:

Writers and artists in Swift Annual #2

We'll leave Raymond Sheppard for my other blog, but let's start with "Running Buffalo" - no, nothing to do with the slave I mentioned! 

The story of young Grey Eagle and how he was in the right place and the right time to save Dark Hawk, his brother when the buffalo run. Bellamy's three black and white washes are not reproduced with any clarity (and scanning them loses more!) but one can see compositions with action and tension. His signature can be seen on 2 of the 3 images. Unfortunately due to the alphabetical order of writers and artists shown above, I don't know who wrote this tale.

"Running Buffalo" in Swift Annual #2, p.8

"Running Buffalo" in Swift Annual #2, p.9

"Running Buffalo" in Swift Annual #2, p.10

 The second story drawn by Bellamy is in the usual comic strip format. It's interesting to note that at this time (c. Spring 1955, allowing for production times) Bellamy was on his second strip for Swift, "The Swiss Family Robinson" which was first published between 9 October 1954 and ended in the 16 July 1955 issue. He also took over "Paul English" before moving onto "King Arthur and his Knights". In other work he drew some illustrations for Swift but had been a regular for Lilliput and Boy's Own Paper so he was known for both his comic work and his illustration work too.  

Now to the runaway slave whose name was Onesimus.  He had run away from his master Philemon who it is generally assumed to have lived in Colossae. His reason for leaving has been deduced from verse 18 of Paul's letter. "If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me". Paul, at the time he wrote the letter to Philemon was a prisoner to the Romans (although not easy to date it is widely assumed to have been 61AD). Paul plays with the Greek name Onesimus in verse 11 "Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me." - Onesimus means 'useful'. He sends the slave with his letter back to his master, his brother in Christ. 

And here is the two page adaptation and imagining of the incident by Chad Varah, the founder of The Samaritans and author of another Bellamy illustrated strip in Eagle, "The Travels of Marco Polo" :

"Runaway Slave" Swift Annual #2 p100

"Runaway Slave" Swift Annual #2 p101

 Interesting to see the mention of the theft of money "caused" by his master's beating! No excuse but interestingly interpreted.

Of course this wasn't the only Bible story that Bellamy illustrated - David The Shepherd King was another.

 I'll close by wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!