Thursday 14 July 2022

ORIGINAL ART: Garth - a quick article

Garth: K125

Garth: K125

Garth: K125

My daughter is getting married so I'm in a hurry but wanted to let you know that Darryl Jones of Silver Acre Comics (who has been on ebay for years - and I've happily purchased from him) has  a Garth up for auction.

It's strip number K125 from the story "The Spanish Lady" which ran in the Daily Mirror originally from 17 March 1976 - 7 July 1976 - K65-K160

The starting bid is £299 and he has a minimal description so here's some subsequent strips for your pleasure

K125 - K129 Garth: "The Spanish Lady"



GARTH: Spanish Lady
WHERE?: eBay: silver-acre
ENDING PRICE:£0 - No bids
END DATE: 21 July 2022

Friday 1 July 2022

The Art of Frank Bellamy - reviewed by David Jackson

ILLUSTRATORS - The Art of Frank Bellamy written by Norman Boyd; design and layout Diego Cordoba; Publisher: Geoff West - London: The Book Palace, 2021
A Review by David Jackson.

An early draft of the cover!
Frank Bellamy, in the inspirational Fantasy Advertiser (Vol.3 No.50) interview by Dez Skinn and Dave Gibbons, says "This kind of work has been under-rated for many years. Throwaway artwork to be looked at and immediately discarded. This is a viewpoint I strongly disagree with."

Here in book form is the material repudiation of the throwaway.

Which itself was a 'here today - gone tomorrow' outlook derived from its origins in the tomorrow's fish and chip paper newspapers print industry.
And all through the half a century or so since, a book by such a title, or one like it, has been discussed by any and all of those with more than half a chance of making it happen, but without immediate success.

As it says in the Introduction, by Oliver Frey, it's been long overdue.

Though there have been many very fine books of compilations featuring single strip examples of Frank Bellamy artwork in genre overviews, as this new volume's detailed bibliography attests.

And throughout those decades these same guys responsible for this latter publication have been working away tirelessly to bring volume after volume of so much great illustration to us all.

In our enthusiasm for the abilities of great artists, the contribution made by the commissioning editors and publishers who made the existence of the work possible in the first place, is often overlooked.

The first full page image in this collection, acting as a frontispiece, is a singular choice in itself, and in its own way, unique. This is the full page portrait of Sir Winston Churchill (described on p40) which, as the footnote to the image states, appeared on the Eagle back page on the week following the concluding episode of 'The Happy Warrior'. Inexplicably [see below ~Norman] it was omitted - possibly in a simple error - when the picture strip biography was first republished in book form.

This page in its day could be seen as a kind of flag and benchmark signal of intent raised by the artist himself at the conclusion of the first stage of his arrival in the form in which he would be pre-eminent.
The Art of FB -p2
Originally published in Eagle Vol:9:36 (6 Sep 1958)

The very next week following publication of the Churchill portrait page, Bellamy's 'The Shepherd King' began the next stage of his career in comic strips as we have come to know them.

As the Introduction also notes, hitherto, for Swift, the picture strip element of the format was seen as an adjunct to the supplementary blocks of typographical text which explained the action.

And although previously 'Monty Carstairs' was in a comics page format, stylistically it was in the established industry standard for that publication at the time.

Even 'The Happy Warrior' was an example, as FB himself noted, of "non-continuity picture strip".

Its subsequent republication in book form (with special presentation format volumes for the creative team, and for Sir Winston Churchill himself), indicates the level of prestige inherent in the project.

Possibly the economics and sales failed to meet management expectations of the time. Possibly the potential market already had, and substantially had kept, their copies of the weekly instalments in Eagle. Then again, the potential for album book form collection of the comics genre, firstly to the English speaking countries abroad, was there. Or even non-English speaking countries nearer to home, as an educational tool, even, in a primarily visual medium, and with a biographical and recent historical subject as Sir Winston Churchill in the immediate post-war decade.

The potential for single-title book volumes of strips first published in portmanteau weekly instalment comics like Eagle remained unrealised by inherently short-termist publishing.

So 'The Shepherd King' which immediately followed had the same educational or improving ethos depicted in a never-bettered action adventure picture strip format. Again ideally suited, you might think, for a single title book compilation and mass market sales in any English speaking Christian country.
The Art of FB -p43
Originally published in Eagle Vol:9:48 (29 Nov 1958)

That such speculation, with twenty-twenty hindsight, is made obvious by the subsequent story of 'Marco Polo' which Frank Bellamy began but then did not complete, as that kind of stylistic consistency was simply not recognised editorially as a material consideration - and which directly led to all the events which then followed.

ILLUSTRATORS - The Art of Frank Bellamy is a comprehensive overview of the artist's stylistic development and life, fully illustrated with colour reproductions (where so in the original publication), many either mostly unseen since originally published and fully deserving to be known more widely. All of which is the product of so much dedicated research by the author and without which so much of the work presented here for the first time would simply be unknown, even to the dedicated fanbase.

The full colour reproductions are particularly fine in every sense. Especially the selection of large-scale frame details, and previously unpublished sketches, and the full size, almost full original pages, facsimile reproductions from the original art boards.

Page after page of full colour artworks makes up the greater part of this volume, one succeeding another as if to outdo it in demonstrating invention and versatility.

The accompanying text covers the events of the artist's professional and personal life reported in the public domain through the artist himself, colleagues and family members.

The idea that if you personally know something about any subject reported in the media, you will invariably know some reported detail to be mistaken. This has even applied to much of previous, and otherwise excellent, published commentary on this same subject. 
In terms of examples of the early days of Frank Bellamy's developing technique, most of us, who first encountered his work later on, fully formed, would be hard put to have identified any of these various 'industry standard' styles (political/sporting newspaper cartoons, romance illustrations, scraperboard), as being the same artist's work at all!

The publishing philosophy context of the contemporary picture strips (not fully comics as such) - in contrast to the material of concern then seen in America - is explained.

On page 32 some might read a seeming contradiction with Frank Bellamy's explanation for his use of stipple gradation that 'a printer cannot water his printing ink' (see p108) - with the use of colour or monochrome greys watered inks by the artist - the former being in relation to black or white newspaper print reproduction, in contrast to the half-tones used in Swift or the monochrome third page of the early 'Thunderbirds' in TV21.

As the numerous examples here show, the identifiable Bellamy style developed week by week. over time, within the genre of his early action-adventure picture strips.

There is a beautifully enlarged stipple and colour frame of Churchill (p38) indicating the precision of the original.

On page 48, continued on page 58, (also see p108) Don Harley and Peter Jackson air some personal opinion of the dot stipple pen and ink technique; examples of which feature in the frame detail enlargement on the cover, and in the state of the art full page Churchill portrait graphic. An application which can also be found in Ronald Smith's 'Teach Yourself To Draw' (1942/1954), if possibly not by the same means. As R. Smith showed in words and examples, the pre-existence of raised-surface technical boards is a more likely origin, from FB’s studio experiences, for the stippling technique. FB's method found limited application among the 'Dan Dare' studio team but subsequently can be seen in the work of many other artists, and also the stipple effect has even been created by special applications in black and white photography.
The Art of FB -p50
Originally published in Eagle Vol:11:1 (2 Jan 1960)

Among the classic original pages included for facsimile reproduction in this volume, are some Bellamy 'Dan Dare' front pages, and of the rather wonderful alien view of the city of Lantor. Author Norman Boyd asks readers to be the judge of the practicality of some of the futuristic designs, reflecting some of the reader reaction at the time, which has been brought to light since, and specifically in relation to some of the schematic forms drawn to the given Eagle editorial revamp brief. And possibly overlooking FB's own words which were not included in the FA #50 interview but appeared in the subsequent reprint in Warrior:

New owner Longacre Press lost no time in commissioning an updated new look for the Eagle masthead and front page, and particularly for 'Dan Dare'.

Frank Bellamy: "They asked me to redesign Dan Dare. The uniforms, space fleet, everything. This meant I had to make sketches of everything before I actually started drawing the strip, but I prefer to do that, anyway. I've always done so, on Fraser, Heros and so on. This let the editor know exactly what everything looked like from the start so he wouldn't get any surprises sprung on him in the middle of an instalment."

Fantasy Advertiser: "Did you have any qualms about re-vamping Frank Hampson's personal creation?"

FB: "Oh, yes. I didn't like doing that. But it was a directive from upstairs - that's what they wanted, and you can only give the client what he wants, so that was it."
Republication of the Fantasy Advertiser interview in Warrior 22 (September 1984), with some variations, included additional art and this extra Q&A:
"Why did you get the directive to revamp the costumes and ships?"

FB: "I think it was just the march of progress. They had tended to look old fashioned, and they wanted to keep ahead of what was happening in Cape Canaveral. At the beginning of EAGLE, everything looked super-futuristic, but the actual real life events were catching up extremely fast. They also wanted a 'new look' to coincide with the facelift the cover was getting. I did lots of drawings of the space fleet which were exploded drawings, showing the cabin areas, undercart, rocket compartment and that, which I'd hoped was also help an author so he wouldn't make the common mistake of having someone stepping from one cabin to another, when they are supposed to be at opposite ends of the ship. I tried to keep a realistic approach. Later, there was an exhibition, I think it was at Charter House School, showing 'the birth of the comic strip', and they used my approach, with my art, preliminary sketches, the script, pencil and ink artwork. The interest was so great that members of the American Air Force would go down, thinking these diagrams of ships were for real."

The 'Fraser of Africa' section of the Illustrators volume features some engaging contemporary photos of Frank at his desk and with his collected Africana.

The 'Montgomery of Alamein' graphics and pictorial journalism ‘non-continuity’ picture-strip examples are spectacular widescreen cinemascopic spread format with side-to-side single frames, as used to advantage later in 'Heros the Spartan'.

The example of 'Only the Brave' is again pictorial journalism which faces a facsimile of the original page with its printed page opposite for direct comparison.
Art of FB p.69
The 'Heros the Spartan' pages include a large scale b/w reproduction of a sheathed dagger; one of the historical artefacts FB used as title-decorations in the series. Although it is not possible to tell from a printed reproduction, knowledge of Frank Bellamy's avoidance of process white and other opaque means of creating 'negative space' means that all the clever overlapping white space detail of the dagger must have been allowed for and created in the application of the ink..!

The 'Heros' frame detail enlargements and spectacular double-page spreads includes the American Academy of Comic Book Arts award winning episode, exhibited in New York in 1972. [pp.72-73~Norman]

The 'Ghost World' science fiction series for Boy's World comic, seen in retrospect, looks like an inadvertent job application to draw 'Thunderbirds' for TV21.

In the many examples of 'Thunderbirds' double-page spreads and frame enlargements, it is difficult now to appreciate how technically detailed, novel and convincing these were and are. Authentic looking technical interiors and equipment and the like were noticeably more often than not absent from TV and cinema of the time. Even the drawn explosions, which regularly featured as special effects in Gerry Anderson TV series, were always an identifiably Bellamy trademark, unmatched by his contemporaries.
'Garth' and the Apollo 11 Moon Landing are strong black and white works for the readership of Mirror newspapers.
The Art of FB -p138
Close-up of panel in "Garth: Wolfman of Ausensee", originally published in Daily Mirror

The large facsimile frame detail of the Wolf-Man (from 'Garth') is referenced in terms of the cast shadow scribble tonal. A Frank Bellamy technique first tried in Mickey Mouse Weekly 'Monty Carstairs' series. All of which indicates a developing stylistic technique and not one found previously ready-made or in use in other art. The problems of pen and ink which scribble tone solves is firstly the 'antique' appearance of line and hatch/crosshatch - unless an antique look is what is wanted. And this necessity of hatched tones either following the form, or not. Another problem involves the weight of the lines (hatch) and the possibility of their being adjusted later if too light, or then being too fine and too many. These sorts of problems being the wrong ‘look’ for superhero comic books and what to avoid is well demonstrated in ‘How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way’ comparing their normal look for colour comics b/w with more overworked hatching of the same frame and how wrong crosshatch looked in that context.

Any number of examples of mostly full colour illustration commissions for 'The Winged Avenger', some technically experimental rendering of World War One for Look & Learn, Radio Times, Sunday Times and advertising, etc, may prove unfamiliar to even the most informed fans.

This volume draws to a conclusion with a portfolio of naturalistic life class figure studies in pencil and chalk.

Interestingly - at least to me - the final image in the volume is a fine pencil sketch of Robin Hood’s Bay - as I had also sketched the self same scene, from that exact same spot, but in the summer of another year. 
~David Jackson
Art of FB p.144: Robin Hood Bay

Thanks to David for his kind words and tying up a lot of what I put in this long overview of Frank Bellamy's life and work. But despite his kindness, errors did creep into the text which I've kept up to date on the page where I first told folks about my magnum opus one year ago!


Many thanks to David Jackson for providing such a fulsome review. After reading it David Slinn reminded me of a previous conversation which explained the lack of Churchill's portrait - 

The 48 episodes provided convenient signatures of the colour pages [although this meant Frank’s impressive final full-page portrait wasn’t included], with a further 8 black & white pages of editorial and photographs.  From: Downthetubes


The Art of Frank Bellamy can be purchased from Book Palace. Details are:

Authors: Norman Boyd, Oliver Frey (intro)
Artist: Frank Bellamy
Publisher: Book Palace Books, July 2021
Number of pages: 144
Format: Soft Cover; Full Colour illustrations
Size: 9" x 11" (216mm x 280mm)
ISBN: 9781913548087