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
  • 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…


Tony Smith said...

Oh dear! I intended buying a copy of this issue to add to my collection, but see little point having read the numerous corrections you have helpfully pointed out. As a journalist for 50 years, I'm a stickler for accuracy and although I'm not immune to the occasional typo or incorrect date down the decades, I feel there is no excuse for getting the basic details wrong if an article is properly researched. I shall await the arrival of your Illustrators book, Norman, with my red-ink pen at the ready!

Norman Boyd said...

If you're only buying it for the Bellamy article, then I agree, but don't not buy it for the other stuff!
And if you have to use any red ink on my work, I shall be sad but grateful!

Kid said...

I can't help but mentally correct errors in articles as I read them, NB, so your desire to correct mistakes is a good thing in my view. We all make mistakes of course, and if I make one (or a few) I don't mind being told about it (or them). Some people can take it as a personal affront, so nice to see that the author in this instance has been better than that.

Norman Boyd said...

Thanks Kid. I felt awful but felt I had to say something. I was pleased to see Tessa Bellamy (David's wife) gave it a Like on Facebook, particularly as I messed up Bellamy's birthday myself last year so publicly!