Thursday, 22 April 2021

Unknown Frank Bellamy: INTRODUCTION

FRANK BELLAMY "Unknown artworks"

Alan Davis (does he need an introduction?) has given me permission to reproduce some of the Bellamy artwork on his website, thus making it a lot easier to discuss individual pieces and see if anyone out there can help identify what they are? Yes, it's been 45 years since Frank Bellamy left us but anyone following this blog will know we have found a lot, we knew nothing about previously.  Alan has other images that are worth discussing but for now we'll get started on identifying these pieces.

INTRODUCTION

So if we use Alan's Unknown page as our starting point, I've given each image a number to help remember what we will have covered and help me keep clear in my own mind which image I'm talking about, as they have no titles. I shall blog each different image as separate entries to make it easier to update as we go.

Alan Davis' Unknown Frank Bellamy work

There are 18 images, and we now know what several of them are:

  • #1-5: "Pawley's Peepholes"
  • #6-8: The Bell and Howell advert from Movie Maker (June 1967) - I'll blog the published version soon
  • #9 is a strip but what???
  • #10 confirms that not only did Bellamy draw two strips on Walls Wonderman but also drew some 'point-of-sale' material
  • #11 is from the Radio Times article on Orville and Wilbur Wright 
  • #12 is an astronaut pulling strings and money is involved - BUT what is it???
  • #13 is a Castrol GTX advert but I've never seen it published. I'll say more about this one later
  • #14 is John Bull and the New Year 1973 BUT where was it published, if at all?
  • #15 Farnborough Air Show- I'll blog the other stuff some time soon.
  • #16 The "WSA+P bridge" was a commission for an individual who worked for W. S. Atkins and Partners - an engineering firm
  • #17&#18 I think are the two images for the early 1960s BBC TV programme Focus (16 May 1960) but again I'll say more

Have you got any thoughts on these? I'd love to see what you think? My next article will cover these in as much detail as I can round up.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Review of Comics Unlimited #5 article on Frank Bellamy

I loved Crikey! the fanzine Glenn B. Fleming and Tony Ingram and many others kept going for 16 issues from 2007 to 2010! I had them all before giving them to someone else. It was a labour of love and made me laugh out loud sometimes. The writing was spot on for a fan publication - affection, jocularity and serious research. Therefore most of its mistakes could be forgiven. Glenn wrote a 5 page article in Crikey!, Issue 1, (2007) on "My Comic Hero- Frank Bellamy" a personal view - fun and easy to read. I remember at the time thinking there were a few mistakes, but not enough to worry too much.

Now we have had 5 issues of Crikey!'s successor publication called Comics Unlimited (I've linked to Glenn as author as Amazon has no single page that I could find) and the latest has an article by Glenn about Frank Bellamy - he obviously loves Bellamy's work. 

However quite a few errors and misunderstandings are in this article and I felt I must say something as these things get perpetuated all too easily. Having recently completed the writing on the soon-to-be-published Illustrators Special on Bellamy, I know how hard these things are, writing original material, ensuring factual accuracy, and making the article interesting. Once you write something you also seem to become the authority, whether you think you are or not. 

I wrote to Glenn to talk to him about this and he kindly replied. I said I felt bad correcting his article in this way and he kindly said "The truth is the truth and doesn't care about feelings" and "I will have to fall on my sword and just say I got it wrong."

Comics Unlimited #5 2021

Comics Unlimited #5 (2021) FAB: Frank Bellamy by Glenn B Fleming pp12-19

Page 13 of Comics Unlimited
MY COMMENTS:
  • p. 13 Bellamy was stationed at West Auckland and met Nancy in Bishop Auckland
  • p. 14 The Kettering Evening Telegraph was actually, at that time, the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph 
  • p. 14 "Following his demob in 1948" - it was 1946
  • p.14 In advertising he was "principally producing artwork for Gibbs Dentrifice" - actually he did a lot more but that's the most well remembered having been in Eagle 
  • p.14 "In 1949 to enable Frank to be nearer to his publishers, the Bellamys moved to London; they remained there till 1953" - they actually stayed till a year before Frank died - moving back to Kettering in 1975!
  • p.14 Swift was the intended junior companion" to Eagle "and whilst working regularly on that publication" implies Eagle not Swift and the list of strips are from Swift. maybe that's just me!
  • p.14 Hulton was sold to Odhams in 1959 "Swift merged into the Eagle" - except it didn't until 1963 as a quick check on Wikipedia would tell you!
  • p.14 It was "incumbent on" Bellamy to pick up the art chores on Dan Dare when Hampson left. Did Bellamy have a duty or responsibility to do this? I don't think so.
  • p.14 "even lettered the strip himself which was something of a radical move in the early 50s British comics scene" Bellamy's stint on Dan Dare was the late 50s (1959-1960) and many others had lettered their own strips before this! Also this paragraph implies he did all the artwork (despite inverted commas around 'complete artwork' - he didn't and Harley and Watson are mentioned coming in later anyway. This is a bit confused.
  • p.15 "Although Bellamy worked for Eagle for less than a year, leaving in late 1965" - and apparently could time travel as Glenn has already mentioned he worked on strips in Eagle way before 1964! Bellamy started with "The Happy Warrior" in October 1957 and almost worked continuously till 1965 with Eagle. He did drew Dan dare for one year, does Glenn mean that?
  • p.15 "Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Stingray were all TV favourites in the mid 60s" - I think I'd rather state "in the early 60s" but that's a bit pedantic!
  • p.15 In TV21 "The art was actually painted, not coloured later using mechanic techniques" - I think this means the artwork was completed by the artist in a single piece of work, not handed to a colourist. "Painted" implies paints and most used inks not paints to my knowledge and Bellamy certainly used inks for his comic work
  • p.16 Bellamy's first art for TV21 #52 was January not April 1966 - oh dear!
  • p.17 "as the deadlines for the artwork became ever tighter, the strip was cut down from three pages to two" - I have no evidence it was deadlines becoming tighter that made Bellamy reduce Thunderbirds, but suspect it was the sheer amount of work involved in a colour double-page spread plus a B&W wash. He had time to start at that rate of work before it was published but I'd imagine he couldn't keep that up.
  • p.18 Re Bellamy's handling of the 5 front covers he drew of the Captain Scarlet strip, "either editorial troubles or deadlines prevented Frank from producing the whole strip". This was interesting as it sent me back to look at my collection and I wonder if , after Mike Noble completed #184's strip (1 colour page plus 3 B&W pages) we then had no Noble (why, does anyone know? Was it to prepare for his run on Zero X in #197 - but he returned to Captain Scarlet in issues # 194-196?) and Bellamy was asked to do the colour cover and Harley the 3 B&W interiors for the next two weeks. Perhaps Harley felt 3 B&W plus a colour cover too much; perhaps Fennell who liked Bellamy wanted impact on these issue's covers? I don't know. But Bellamy also did three more covers #192, a free gift issue, (with Jim Watson doing the interior pages) #193 (free coupon) and much later #210 (no idea why!). So here I think any suggestions are interesting, but what does "editorial troubles" mean? And I suspect Frank was asked to do all 5 covers and didn't want or was not asked to do the interiors, otherwise "deadlines" implies Bellamy couldn't meet them not once but 5 times, which makes no sense!
  • p.18 Bellamy's last comic strip for the comic was not Joe 90 #4 but TV21 & Joe90 #4 - the combined comic.
  • p. 18 "In 1968" Bellamy provided the artwork for the TV series "The Avengers" - expect he didn't! It was 1967 that the programme was broadcast (February) so he produced it in 1966!
  • p.18 Glenn, talking about Garth, says "Bellamy would instinctively recap what had happened previously", move the story on and give us a cliffhanger. This is very flattering to Bellamy but Jim Edgar should get some credit as writer - and a quick glance will show that there is no recap in the first panel but a continuation of the story - generally speaking.
  • p.13 Captions:The first caption implies Mike Butterworth published a book called "Story of World War I" and doesn't mention Look and Learn is the place the articles started and were gathered by Book Palace into a book for the first time
  • p.14 Captions: Did Bellamy 'paint' Dan Dare? I'd say 'illustrated'
  • p.14 Captions: "Frazer" of Africa - common mistake - should be "Fraser of Africa"

One last comment: There are 2 pages of Thunderbirds shown, and, although the captions do make clear they are faded, I think better versions of un-faded work might do Bellamy more credit. As Glenn says, I might not have appreciated why he showed the faded art, which I accept.

He then asked: "How were the other 92 pages??!!"

So before anyone starts thinking I'm an old curmudgeon (which might be the truth) I paid £10.50 for this issue (I also have #1). I enjoyed much of both issues and don't want you to be put off buying this great fan publication. Its square-bound with full colour throughout all 104 pages with glossy covers. I read all of it and I found some articles of not much interest; some fascinating; and most enjoyable. Some are about things I know already, and the different perspective was interesting, and some were about comics after I stopped following the Marvel and DC universes. To put such a thing together is incredible and I applaud such efforts.

Watch the video for a glimpse of how well presented Comics Unlimited is, and here's a list of the Contents that Glenn kindly sent me after I mentioned my thoughts.

4-11 :  John Celestri : The Master Animator
John tells us, in his own words, about his desires, his own self inflicted deadlines and how he finally achieved his goal and finally broke into the animation business…
12-19 :  FAB : Frank Bellamy
Frank Bellamy’s talent was nothing if not unique; Glenn B Fleming tells us why…
20-25 : Spider-Man v. The Comics Code
Stephen Hooker takes us into the darker side of comics…
27-29 :  Adventures in the New DC Universe
The 1985 series Crisis on Infinite Earths had one purpose-to streamline and simplify the DC Universe. Unfortunately, the results were not quite what were expected. Tony Ingram presents part 2 of a rough guide to DC’s many worlds past and present.
30-33 :  A Miracle in Time
Scott Free escaped the hell of Apokolips, but he didn’t escape scot-free.  Michael Mead let’s us in on the great escape…
34-35 :  Quasar : The Cosmic Avenger
The 1990’s, when grim n’ gritty was the ‘in thing’ with comics writers desperate to show how ‘adult’ their books were. Tony Ingram, pregnant with knowledge, tell us about it…
36-41 :  Zero-X
Over half a century ago Zero-X burst upon our screens in the film Thunderbirds Are Go!. Glenn B Fleming takes a closer look one of Anderson’s most beloved creations, this time in its strip form.
42-45 :  There’s a Star Man, Waiting in the Sky…
The name ‘Starman’ goes back a long way in comics. All the way back to 1941, in fact, although it wasn’t really until 1994 that the name – and the latest character to use it – became a force to be reckoned with. Ziggy, er, Tony Ingram tells us more…
46-47 : Collecting Comics in the 70s
Stephen Hooker talks about his personal Bronze Age rampage.
48-51 :  The Defenders
The final chapter in the original Defenders with Tony Ingram.
52-55 :  Beowulf & Grant Lankard
Grant Lankard had a dream. A dream to write and draw comics… he’s doing that now.
56-59 :  Truth is Forever
On this, the 50th anniversary of publication of each issue of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, Forever People, New Gods and Mister Miracle, Michael Mead gives us new insights into  Jack Kirby's Fourth World comics…
61-65 :  The Quest to be in Demand
Not unlike the rest of the world, comics or otherwise, creator Joe D McFee has had quite a decade. In this article, he tells us about his trials, troubles and ultimately his success…
68-73 :  The Greatest Story Ever Told
Glenn B Fleming tells us about the greatest story ever told in a comic book. Ever.
74-75 :  Like a Hurricane
In October 1970, Stephen Hooker, at the heady heights of eight, decided his comic book reading needed to go up a gear or two…
76-81 :  The Comics Unlimited Interview : Donald Glut
If you remember the days of Gold Key Comics, Donald Glut is a name you should know. Wally Monk reminds us…
82-87 :  Annual adventures in the DC Universe
DC Comics have never really prioritised the British market in the same way that Marvel have. Tony Ingram talks about it…
88-89 :  Yancy Street Escapee becomes The King of Comics
Escape is a powerful desire. The urge to be someplace better than where you are, or simply someplace else. Micheal Mead tells us how Jack Kirby became the legend he is.
99-95 :  Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends
Spider-Man was always an outsider, an outcast, almost an anti-hero… well, in J Jonah Jameson’s eyes anyway. In the first part of two, Steven Laming talks of Spidey’s not so friendly friends…
96-97 :  Hatch
Our space hermit decides to build an ancient Egyptian helicopter. Yeah.
98-100 :  The Sin Killer
M├írio Vasconcelos shows us why he is one of the best Indie creators around…



Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Fans of Frank: Mark Farmer

 

Garth: G250 from "The Mask of Atacama"

I wrote to Mark Farmer a while ago. His credits on the Grand Comics Database state he was penciller for 43 items but an inker on 1,728 - I have not counted any publishers outside the UK and USA. Nevertheless you can see why he's known now as an inker! Why did I write to him? 

Well, I was tidying the data which I transferred from my old Bellamy website to this blog and found the files pertaining to a 'competition' in the Daily Mirror.

Daily Mirror 1 June 1974, p.9

The Daily Mirror of 1 June 1974 has the headline, (in the Junior Mirror section) "Is there a comic in the house?" It shows the Hulk, Spider-Man and a tiny cameo of, I think, Super-Humanoid from The Incredible Hulk #116, who says I don't work hard! The blurb states:

Fancy yourself as a comic artist? If so, draw us a strip featuring your own characters, funny or dramatic, and we will publish the best one. How about that. Fun and fame...all for the price of a postage stamp!

It doesn't say it's a competition but later we discover the winners earn an original Garth drawn by Frank Bellamy! 

In the Daily Mirror of the 15 June 1974, under the banner "Titan the Terrible!" the winners are announced for the competition including Mark Farmer, the renowned comic book artist!

Daily Mirror 15 June 1974, p.9

I wrote to him, having known this was THE Mark Farmer for quite a while. I asked him if he could add anything to "this tiny backwater of Bellamy history" and sent him copies of the relevant pages. He replied very politely:

 Hi Norman,

Strangely enough, in the process of sorting "stuff" out during lockdown, I found my own old clipping and scanned it for my records, but thanks for your scans in any case.

All I remember of this event is that my Mom sent the drawing in without my knowledge and the first I knew about it was getting a call from the Daily Mirror telling me the piece would be printed in Saturday's edition and that I was to get a piece of original Frank Bellamy's Garth artwork as a prize. When I saw the image in the paper I quickly realised that they'd cut off one of the arms and a leg and pasted them at a weird angle in order to fit in with the columns and edges of the page. All very crudely done and a foretaste of my future where art is altered without the artist's consent, though at this time I was just delighted to see my work in print. My Mom and Dad were very proud but I don't think I even told my mates at school. The Bellamy artwork was much more exciting to me.

When the artwork arrived I was amazed at how big it was .... it was the first piece of original comic artwork I'd ever seen or held. It was on CS10 board (long gone, I'm afraid) and the ink looked really black and the white gleamed. It wasn't a great piece of Bellamy art but I've since added two other Garth strips by Mr. Bellamy and I have all three framed together .... the two other pieces are much better examples of what he could do with half tone stippling and extreme lighting and shadows, but they are all pretty special to me, originals by the greatest British comic artist ever to have lived.

I hope this is of use, Norman. Any questions, just send me a message.

Cheers, Mark.
"Of use?" I am over the Moon. After thanking him, I asked which episode he received. G250 was the reply - see the top of this article

Lastly David Jackson shared this photocopy of his Bellamy scrapbook with me in the late 1970s and I've just noticed that he had a bigger article on comics than I saw down south! Another instance of different editions of the same daily paper (as we saw with the Daily Record!)


The same article BUT different!

Thursday, 11 February 2021

ORIGINAL ART: Garth, Garth, Garth and Garth!

Garth:  G32 and G34 "The Women of Galba"

This month sees not just one Frank Bellamy artwork up for auction but 8 Garth strips! These come via Compalcomics. Malcolm Philips offers a listing at both his Compalcomics and TheSaleroom

GARTH: The Women of Galba - 2 episodes: G32 and G34

Garth: 'Women of Galba' two original artworks (1973) by Frank Bellamy for the Daily Mirror 6/8 February 1973.
Indian ink on board. 21 x 17 ins (x 2)
£500-600
That's the description for these two near consecutive strips in Lot #122 reads. The original story ran in the Daily Mirror from 27 December 1972 - 10 April 1973. The reserve price of £450 has been met - actually while I was typing this note!

GARTH: The Wreckers - 2 consecutive episodes: G308-G309

Garth: The Wreckers G308-G309

Here are two consecutive strips from the story "The Wreckers" - you might remember I discovered an unseen episode - in England at least - previously.  These two show Garth and Andromeda being brainwashed and demonstrate beautifully how to vary panels in just a small space! The lot is described as:

Garth: 'The Wreckers'. Two original consecutive artworks (1973) by Frank Bellamy (one signed) for the D. Mirror 29/31 December 1973. Indian ink on board. 21 x 17 ins (x 2)

At this time of writing the reserve has not been met but I suspect that will happen today or tomorrow!

GARTH: Freak out to Fear - 2 consecutive episodes: H135 and H136

Garth: Freak out to Fear H135-H136
I love these two as they portray the Swinging 60s-type environment in London (yes, I know they were published in the 70s!). Guy St. Clair appears to be a junkie - it can't be his unkempt hair that clued Garth in as Garth has a mirror nearby! And Guy ends up in hospital! A nice pair of consecutive strips, again showing Bellamy's command of black and white and how to vary images to grab attention.

Lot #127 is described as:

Garth: 'Freak Out to Fear', two original consecutive artworks (1974) both signed by Frank Bellamy for the D. Mirror 10/11 June 1974. Indian ink on board. 21 x 17 ins (x 2)

GARTH: The Bride of Jenghiz Khan - 2 episodes: J4 and J6


Garth: The Bride of Jenghiz Khan J4 and J6

This time we have two almost consecutive strips from "The Bride of Jenghiz Khan" story, which ran in the Daily Mirror from 28 September 1974 - 14 January 1975 - H228-J11. Garth is with Professor Lumiere in China on a dig. Bored he heads off  and as a result of a landslide discovers a skeleton with a necklace which he strangely remembers as belonging to "Crystal Sky". Touching it he becomes Kailim, guard captain to Feng, warlord of a Chinese province.  These two strips come right near the end of the story. Lot #129 is described as:

Garth: 'Bride of Jenghiz Khan', two original consecutive [sic] artworks (1975) both signed by Frank Bellamy for the D. Mirror 6/8 January 1975. Indian ink on board. 21 x 17 ins (x 2)

If you want information on reprints of the strips travel to the menu on the website "Garth Reprints" and I'll add these to the spreadsheet, where I record sales of original art by Frank Bellamy.

AUCTION SUMMARY

GARTH: The Women of Galba - 2 episodes: G32 and G34
WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom -Lot #122
STARTING BID: £450 reserve
ENDING PRICE: £800
END DATE: Sunday 28 February 2021

GARTH: The Wreckers - 2 consecutive episodes: G308-G309 

WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom - Lot #125
STARTING BID: £450 reserve
ENDING PRICE:£780
END DATE: Sunday 28 February 2021

GARTH: Freak out to Fear - 2 consecutive episodes: H135 and H136
WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom - Lot #127
STARTING BID: £450 reserve
ENDING PRICE: £680
END DATE: Sunday 28 February 2021
 

GARTH: The Bride of Jenghiz Khan - 2 episodes: J4 and J6
WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom - Lot #129
STARTING BID: £450 reserve
ENDING PRICE: £740
END DATE: Sunday 28 February 2021

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Don Harley (1927-2021)

Eagle Vol:10:28 (29 August 1959)

The news of Don Harley's death arrived the other day and it spurred me on to sharing a letter he sent to Richard Farrell (the creator and publisher of Andersonic and all round brilliant caricaturist). Richard used some of the letter in quotations in his article "Frank, Don, Dan and the Tracys" (way back in Andersonic Episode 4 Dateline (Autumn 2007) pp.4-8) and has given me permission to use whatever information I find useful from his letters from Harley and Keith Watson here for the first time. The topics covered by both artists are Frank Bellamy and the changeover at Hulton during a massive upheaval - the subject of an earlier article by David Jackson and here too. I also shared the drawing, with permission, of Bellamy by Don Harley way back in 2009 and another article in 2010

In Don Harley's letter (from 9 March 1991) Richard is given advice by Don on drawing and Don goes on:

"Both Frank Hampson and Frank Bellamy were skilled draughtsmen. Frank Hampson learned his skills at Southport art school and through working in a commercial art studio, but Frank Bellamy was self-taught, as was Keith Watson also, although the last two were self-taught, they aimed for perfection in their work. Frank Hampson's style of drawing was much more subtle and sensitive than Frank Bellamy's he paid much more attention to detail even small objects were drawn with great care. Frank Bellamy on the other hand relied much more on design and contrasting tones, he also aimed for great movement and impact achieved through the heavy use of black. 

Kieth (sic) Watson and I never saw Frank Bellamy at work as he worked at home and at this time, 1959, Kieth (sic) and I with other members of the Dan Dare team were working in Hulton House, Fleet Street. Frank would deliver his part of the work and we tied it in with what we were doing and as the two styles were so different it looked like two different strips. 

Frank Bellamy was secretive about his methods of working although he did reveal to us that he did not mix colours on the palette but applied washes of diluted ink using primary colours only, red, yellow and blue therefore he made green by putting a wash of yellow on top of blue to make a darker green he would add more blue and a touch of red to prevent the green from becoming too acidic the colours were pelican (sic) inks he rarely used watercolour. The board he used was CS10 which is normally extremely difficult to paint upon, it had a surface like scraperboard    he was able to obtain trick effects by scraping out colours with a razor blade and then flowing other colours over the scraped out bit."

Richard also had a reply from Keith Watson who drew Dan Dare solo from Eagle volume 13:10 to 18:1! An incredible run.

"I remember Frank Hampson telling me that Frank Bellamy's work "stood head and shoulders above that of other Eagle artists" and he had advised Marcus Morris to engage Bellamy as chief Dan Dare artist following his (Hampson's) departure. However many people, including Bellamy himself , were not entirely happy with the new Dan Dare. In my view Hampson's super clean crisp style fitted the futuristic world of Dan Dare like a glove but was not so suited to historical subjects like the "Road of Courage" [the life of Jesus].

The reverse was true of Frank Bellamy. In my opinion it was a case of the right men doing the wrong jobs. Hampson's hardware was the product of much time spent studying the latest in spacecraft or aircraft engineering and then trying to push it forward a generation. It looked functional and convincing. It looked as if it could work. Bellamy's designs were a quick flash of artistic imagination and looked like it.

It is all subjective of course but I'm glad to say that the Eagle editor received a flood of mail welcoming back the Hampson-type Dan Dare"

He went on...

"Bellamy used to tell me he didn’t approve of Hampson’s methods, too much use of references, photos, models, etc. But the truth is that when the cake is so good there can’t be much wrong with the recipe".

 

I must thank Richard for sharing his letters, and  I added a scan of the first Bellamy-illustrated "Dan Dare" story above as the first shot of Dan Dare's head is the one Don Harley was asked to re-draw. I am quite sure this is the ONLY one he re-drew. 

As a child I loved Don Harley's work as it mirrored my favourite artist Mike Noble as it was straight 'representational' art. In fact I loved the time Bellamy took a break to do The Avengers TV series from illustrating Thunderbirds in TV21. So here's the last episode of a very long story before Bellamy took the break followed by Don Harley's continuation. Harley drew 6 issues before Bellamy returned to draw Thunderbirds.


TV21 #92
Thunderbirds - drawn by Frank Bellamy

TV21 #93
Thunderbirds - drawn by Don Harley

Other thoughts on Don Harley