Monday, 14 June 2021

GARTH STRIPS ANALYSED: SUNDANCE

To start what might become a series, David Jackson and I were discussing what involvement John Allard had in the Garth strips which Bellamy illustrated. We've looked at the first story, "Sundance". It's been fascinating examining Garth panel-by-panel and seeing that John Allard added stuff to every strip in the story (except six, we think). I should add I am not about to show you every single episode - for copyright reasons. So I should get through a 'fair use' argument if it ever comes up! 

WE COULD REALLY DO WITH YOUR HELP - can you scan any ORIGINAL artwork you have? It's so much easier to analyze the artwork if we can. 

 
"Garth: Sundance" E150 John Allard art

To start let's get the first 12 strips in this story out of the way as they are solely John Allard (E150 through to E161). In the one above we can see a trademark Allard device - the 'dashes' in the sky applied through ink but also a lack of white space.

Here's the first Bellamy drawn strip E162 with E163 and E164

"Garth: Sundance" E162-E164 Frank Bellamy + John Allard art


However, as you'll soon see, Allard's imprint is on almost all strips in the Sundance story. As David said to me, Allard appears to add:
  • Screentone: A mechanical tint to shadows, background, skies and as 'local colour' to fabrics
  • Background elements: sky-tone 'dashes'
  • Background elements: Landscapes including lines of hills; waterfalls; trees and wigwams!
Taking the three images as an example, which are the first three where Bellamy joins the strip:
  • E162 - Panel 1 and 3 have a screentone added to clothing and also the trees in Panel 3 are drawn by Allard.
  • E163 - Panel 1  and 3 have the same tone added to Garth's trousers and Panels 1 and 3 have trees and background landscape added by Allard.
  • E164 - Panel 3 has background trees added by Allard. Also Panel 3 has tone added. Having had access to the original art in the past here's my photo to show that added tone/tint/Zip-A-Tone/Letraset that Bellamy never used in his career. 

"Garth: Sundance" Panel 3 of Garth E164
 
Artwork in newspaper strips tends to be drawn in pencil, followed by ink (Bellamy tended to sketch in outlines for himself and do the detail when inking) and the process can include ways the artist wishes to lighten from dark to light (or vice-versa) such as cross-hatching, 'spattering' (with a toothbrush for example) drybrush, or, as Bellamy brilliantly did in his artwork - stippling. But another way of showing texture might be to add Zip-a-Tone or Letratone, both screentone effects. Allard used it quite often as we shall see - and even misses it on Garth's trousers in E195!
 
"Garth: Sundance" E175
E.175 is interesting in how Bellamy left blank space only to have Allard add two pieces of mechanical tint. The sky-tone tint in panel #3 solidifying the background framing device, is otherwise so minimal to be hardly worth doing. As David said to me, Bellamy could have left the vegetation out of the first panel and also the background in the third, but didn't.  I wonder if his aim was to stymie Allard, but as can be seen he didn't succeed! Also have a close look at panel #3. Bellamy appears to have drawn the 'foreground' wigwams and Allard appears to have added more behind them! - Well spotted David - who also mentioned that stray ink blob in panel #3 which we guess is a shield.

Also that framing device in panel #3, which David pointed out to me, was like a device Fortunino Matania used (for example in Great Stories from History illustrated by Fortunino Matania. Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd, 1970: pages 56-57). I can't find anything else like it in Matania's work but would love to know if anyone has seen anything similar or have you seen it in other artists' works? Bellamy uses it again in E175 #3, E180 #2, E183 #1, E186 #2, E188 #1, E190 #2, E191 #1, E205 #3, E216 #2, E234 #3. Allard added a similar effect in E194 #2 with just tint behind Falling Leaf's portrait! In E226, Bellamy adds his 'swirls' in the same framing device, presumably to stymie Allard again!


Garth: Sundance E182 - Letraset on Garth's face (or FB stippling?)
Was Bellamy able to produce any strips by himself in the Sundance story? We're pleased to say 'yes'!E180, E182, E183, E184, E185 and E203 - so that's 6 strips out of 75 - drawn by Bellamy where we can't see any Allard artwork or tone being added.  [He could also have drawn of E222 but we're not sure using the reproductions we have - again the original art may be easy to 'read' ]
 
If you've followed us to this point, you must be interested in details too We also counted 21 individual strips without the addition of Allard pen and ink drawing (- i. e. where he only applied mechanical tone and no linework) were 21
Garth: Sundance E186 - Allard hills and sky 'dashes'

In E186 frames #1 and #3 we see Allard's hand in the added hills, clashing with Garth's profile; but in the second frame the background hills by FB are overlayed by 'overspill' Letratone over the middle-ground cavalry, presumably in error. In E208 we see Allard draw tracks, and as David said to me "though looking down on the Indian tracker, from the point of view of the officer on horseback, the b/g could have been completely blank (readers don't need to see the tracks to follow the story).

I asked David about E209 as I wasn't sure that Allard drew the wigwam and waterfall as he would have had to 'grab' some space from the Bellamy drawing. He replied  
"Not that John Allard couldn't insert 'negative' white space with his use of process white.  I'd think the background marks indicating fir trees at the left edge of the first frame are John Allard (the FB figures and horse, ground and trees read clearly  without any further b/g) - the waterfall is in optical competition with the flank of the horse, so the falls would not be FB in this frame (as with middle frames of E.204 and E.207 and the first frames of E.208 and E.213) - compare the established design by FB in E.199 to E.201 and looks also to be FB (except the sky dashed tone) in E.212.
 
I wonder if Allard didn't see value in leaving white space as, a glance at earlier stories illustrated by him appear very 'cluttered' at first glance, in my opinion, where Bellamy left white space, or added circular 'cameos' to highlight, or enclose figures. Every space seems filled by something where Bellamy was a consummate designer, in the service of legibility, leaving balancing elements to his strips and illustrations. We should add that John Allard definitely did all the lettering on this strip all the way through to Bellamy's death in 1976.

David also pointed out:
I notice E179 has (seemingly, to me, redundant) the identity trope about Garth and the surname "O'Hara" in this story; although Falling Leaf calls him Garth (and Pehizizis in E191 for example) many times, as does Sitting Bull (e.g. E227).
 Some of our discussions were around how difficult it is to identify who did what - which isn't surprising. I thought in strip number E166 the left-hand side wigwams work as a composition  but on the right of this frame and the other frames' wigwams looked awful. I mentioned to David that 
"Allard did the poles in a linear frame in one of his episodes at the start of the story (E152) which appears in panel #1 of E166 and I wonder if maybe Bellamy would have emphasized the 'sundance' Indian, and so left out the wigwams on the left. However, if he did, that space would be too tempting for Allard! But then, Allard added the one on the right of the frame and maybe that linear pole frame too! Oh dear!" 
David replied
"All that, exactly spells out the problem.  It seems impossible that the same hand could have drawn the wigwams at the right and those on the left.  Same goes too for the linear poles structure in this FB frame compared to the second of JA's Sundance opening centre frame.  I doubt FB would have pencilled those in for JA to ink or as reference". 
Norman: "E222 = hills query?"
David: "Difficult.  Line and stipple hills look FB, as also dark hatch above wigwams, but vertical hatch hill at right obscure/ blend heads of soldiers as does in next frame horses and figures profile"

You get the idea, how we went back and forth!

E218 caused a lot of back and forward discussion - see below

Garth: Sundance E218

Enlarge this image (excusing the "spine curl" on the left in my scan!)  and you'll see an interesting effect, Custer and the men in the foreground are visually distanced from the rest of the column and the trees. It's  perspective shown by changing the tone, much like in a colour painting, where hills at a distance are a lighter colour than those in the foreground. To me it looks like some Letratone placed over Bellamy's original artwork. it also occurs in strips  E219 (#1), E221 (#1 and #2), [E224 (#1)?], E225 (#1) , E227 (#1) and looks to be transparent to allow the artwork through. We explored Letratone on the Internet until our eyes went all funny, but couldn't find any proof. Can you help? Was/Is there a Letratone that allows the user to place a tonal pattern over the art but not hide it completely?  We know that some Letratone was available in WHITE.

We found some awful examples where Allard added backgrounds which just weren't needed and worse detracted from a nice frame. But we also suspected there are places where Bellamy left some space after seeing how Allard performed and that's what Allard did -filled that space. We also spotted E177 #3 where the background appears to be unfinished!
 
If you want to explore further and follow along, I've created a spreadsheet showing the details with some added notes where pertinent. These are always up for debate, especially as we are working on printed copies, not originals - the best reproduction so far has been the Titan book published in 1984, Garth Book One: The Cloud of Balthus (London: Titan Books, 1984) which had 96 pages, an introduction and checklist of Garth strips. It reprinted Sundance, Cloud of Balthus, The Orb of Trimandias, Wolfman of Ausensee. In some paces we found backgrounds a bit faded, which is odd given the great reproduction elsewhere. Note that Titan reprinted the original strips (including nudity). The second Titan book is listed in detail here.

Do feedback as to whether this is worthwhile as we have started on the other stories in which Allard participated but as you can appreciate they take a lot of time and work. I must say a huge thank you to David Jackson and Paul Holder, true friends, whose eyesight is still functional enough to do such a detailed analysis! If you have any originals from this story or hi-res scans I'd love to see and share them?

2 comments:

Unknown said...

A series featuring each story would be very welcome, I remember noticing a few things in the strips that looked more Allard than Bellamy at the time they were published, you have clearly found a lot more

Norman Boyd said...

Thanks. We'll carry on then. It won't be quick!