Monday 25 April 2022

Frank Bellamy and Brian Lewis and Captain Condor

Eagle Vol.11:9 (27 Feb 1960)

You may have seen adverts for Hibernia Comics latest collection in their "Fleetway Files" series. It contains three "Captain Condor" stories illustrated by another artist I like, Brian Lewis. Bellamy and Lewis were contemporaries and I always say Bellamy's demise was too soon, but Lewis was only 49 when he passed away (3 June 1929 - 4 December 1978) but he left us with some superb artwork

The character Captain Condor was created in February 1952 as a direct competition to Eagle's "Dan Dare" by Frank S. Pepper, a stalwart of story papers and Tiger and Lion - the latter is where Condor first appeared.

Hibernia Comics "Captain Condor"

I bought the Hibernia comics book and was reading quite happily in my nostalgic place when I was brought up sharp - some of these images looked similar to Bellamy's "Dan Dare" - what irony as the two were seen as competitors!

Taking each image that I spotted in order - there are likely to be a few more  as so many faces and groupings of people look very familiar but as a quick glance I couldn't find their immediate references so i thought I'd publish this and see if others can play along! 

The first I spotted was on page 5 of the Hibernia version (originally published in Lion 30 December 1961)

Lion 30 December 1961 -
scan of original comic

Compare the bottom row to the Eagle comics - firstly at the top of this article (where we see the helicopter devices strapped to Dan Dare and friends' backs) and then the following where Dan Dare is looking somewhat shocked (bottom right)!

Eagle Vol.10:30 (12 December 1959)

On page 62 of the Hibernia book we get our first glimpse of the aliens in the story "The Slave Hunters from Space", and they appear very similar (to me at least) to the aliens from the Dan Dare "Project Nimbus" story.

Lion 21 July 1962 -
scan of original comic

And here is the Bellamy version from 2 years earlier!

Eagle Vol.11:22 (28 May 1960)

Next we have (on page 93 of the new book) what some think might be a predecessor to Thunderbird 2 - which I cannot prove or disprove as I don't know if Derek Meddings - its designer -or one of his children read the Eagle comic. But I'm certain Brian Lewis did. He contributed to that comic too, drawing fill-ins on "The Guinea Pig", a long run on "Mann of Battle", and even a spoof strip "Blunderbirds" in 1966!

Lion 3 November 1962 -
scan of original comic

Eagle Vol.11:2 (9 January 1960)
A note to the unwary that only the lower row (in the above image) is by Bellamy as the main frame had been drawn up on the fly by Gerry Palmer without Frank's knowledge or consent..! [Thanks for the reminder from David Jackson]

Of course I started to see other influences - even what I thought might be based on Frazetta's cover to Famous Funnies #214 on page 94! At that point I thought I'd better stop. There's a Facebook group if you'd like to see more of Brian's work, and I uploaded some rare images of his work in "All about science" - a part work from the 70s - to Flickr.

Let me finish by quoting John Freeman from his review of the new collection:

The team at Hibernia have again done a cracking restoration job on the pages featured in this 120-page collection, treating us to three three enjoyable SF-inspired romps, "The Push Button Planet", "Slave Hunters from Outer Space" and "The Unseen Invaders".


Tony Smith said...

A fascinating article which raises a serious point about plagiarism and whether it could be applied in the comic art world. In the music arena there have been numerous court cases down the years where unknown composers have sued rock stars for a share of the royalties for allege“stealing” their work (Ed Sheehan being the most recent example). George Harrison was ordered to cough up when his mega-hit My Sweet Lord was somewhat similar to He’s So Fine by the Chiffons, and if Bach was alive today I’m sure he would be sueing Procol Harum for basing much of A Whiter Shade of Pale on his Air On A G String!

One bone of contention is whether a melody has been deliberately copied or used as “inspiration.” Noel Gallagher openly admitted many of the hits he wrote for Oasis were “influenced” by the Beatles and even the Fab Four’s Sun King (from their album Abbey Road) was said by John Lennon to have been a “homage” to Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross.

I wonder what would happen if a comic book artist blatantly copied another illustrator's work, as Brian Lewis appears to have done with Captain Condor? The ever-modest Bellamy would probably be “flattered” that Lewis should find his work worthy of being copied, rather than pursue the matter through the courts, but many artists are more precious about their work and might see things very differently in a similar situation. Legally if you copy someone’s art without consent or credit, you are stealing - even Andy Warhol was successfully sued for basing one of his “Flowers” series on a published photograph by another artist.

Tony Smith

Norman Boyd said...

Interesting thoughts Tony. In this case I think it simply an artist with a regular weekly gig needing to speed things up and borrowing from a respected contemporary colleague. The bulk is Lewis with some FB. In the case of the recent brothers (whose name I've forgotten) they are simply taking an old pulp cover and adding a modern text quip. This to me is plagiarism...unless they paid a copyright fee to amend the original image. Lichtenstein's case is awful. David Barsalou should have been around at the time as his research has been exemplary and would have shown up Lichtenstein!
Best wishes, Norman

David said...

Frank's art got copied in America as well

Norman Boyd said...

Hi David, thanks for commenting. Yes, that's my earlier article on Williamson, and Wally Wood. ~ Norman

mbc1955 said...

I know that the question would be interpreted very differently in America, where until comparatively recently the rule was that the publisher owned the characters and the copyrights and therefore officially there could be no copyright infringement unless the 'swipe' was Marvel doing DC or vice versa. I assume a similar situation applied in the UK, but I don't know for certain, and Alan Moore's experiences in the Eighties with Marvel and Marvel UK tend to suggest the opposite, not that I can see that as being workable in the period we're talking about. Further clarity on this point, if you have it, would be appreciated.

Norman Boyd said...

I'm not sure I know what you mean by "Alan Moore's experiences" - is this about the very complex story of Marvelman/Miracleman? If so, that's more about ownership, rather than 'swipes', i.e. copies of images, isn't it?