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)
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.


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

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

WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom - Lot #125
STARTING BID: £450 reserve
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
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
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