Monday 22 August 2022

ORIGINAL ART: Heros the Spartan - faded

"Heros the Spartan" Eagle Vol.16:12 (20 March 1965)

 This is just a quick entry to record the sale of a "Heros the Spartan". This escaped my alerts in 2019 and therefore I didn't get to see it until now.

Drewatts Online sold it for the reserve price of £130 (and the estimate was £150) in November 2019. Their description was accurate in parts:

Double page format, circa 1962/63, framed and glazed pen, ink and tinted comic page, Episode 4 for The Eagle, lettering with corrections, signed, image 39 by 63 cm, framed and glazed with cropped mount detailing details of publication, 55 by 77.5 centimeters (2).

Status report
Fading in the sunlight, colors now very muted, unexamined outside the frame.
Boy oh boy is it faded! It has almost become an interesting outline of the blacks that Bellamy used! The date is completely wrong. It's from the fourth and last story Bellamy drew in the comic (there was one more Heros in the Eagle Annual) "The Slave Army" and it is indeed episode 4 of that story.

Want to see HOW faded it is:

"Heros the Spartan" Eagle Vol.16:12 (20 March 1965)

Faded original

You're welcome! Such a shame it has been allowed to get that faded! That central panel is just gorgeous and so memorable. And just in case anyone thinks Bellamy used "white-out", contrary to what's been said, that's the balloon letterer's mess!

Sunday 14 August 2022

ORIGINAL ART: Too many to mention but I will!


Eagle 22 November 1957 (Vol. 8:47)
The Compalcomics auction have some tremendous Bellamy original art this time. The hi-res images I have below have been grabbed from Thesaleroom where you can bid and see live bids too.


Lot 44 is a rare page from "The Happy Warrior", the story of Winston Churchill the first living person to appear in the biographical strip on the back page of Eagle. Bellamy must have had a lot of worries representing this national hero, but eventually was told Churchill approved. This is episode 8 (as Bellamy has written on the board) and appears to have preserved very well. Whoever gets it - please - do not put it in sunlight! The story ran for a year form October 1957 to September 1958.

The lot is described as:

Eagle/Happy Warrior original artwork drawn and painted by Frank Bellamy for The Eagle Vol 8 No 47 (1957). During the second Indian War at the battle of Omdurman on 2 September 1898, a young Lieutenant, Winston Churchill, with 350 men of the 21st Lancers charged what they thought were an army of 700 Dervishes. Churchill later wrote 'A deep crease in the ground - a dry watercourse - a khor, appeared where all had seemed smooth, level, plain; and from it there sprang, with a suddenness of a pantomime effect and a high-pitched yell, a dense white mass of 2000 tribesmen and a score of horsemen with bright flags who rose as if by magic from the earth...' Bright Pelikan inks on board. 21 x 16 ins.

Boy's World 28 March 1964


The 17th part of this single story from Boy' World (28 March 1964 Vol 2:13) is the next item in the auction. This was a story Bellamy drew as a one-off (there were 21 parts to the story), taking over from "C F Eidlestein" as artist on this strip, who was better known by his real name Frank Langford. The story's premise was similar to the later published Star Trek episode "Wink of an eye" Besides an illustration for a text story this is the only work Bellamy did for Boy's World. To read more about this short-lived comic you cannot do better than Steve Holland's "Boy's World: Ticket to adventure".

Anyway, the lot (#67) is described thus:

Boy's World/Brett Million and the Ghost World original artwork (1963) drawn and painted by Frank Bellamy for Boy's World Vol. 2 No 13, 1963 [sic]. Brett is captured and suddenly teleported by the Aliens as his amplifier runs dangerously low… Bright Pelikan inks on board. 20 x 15 ins 

Eagle 17 November 1962 (Vol. 13:46)


Heros the Spartan original double-page artwork (1962) painted and signed by Frank Bellamy. For The Eagle Vol. 13 No 46. Taken prisoner to the mountain Palace of Gold, inhabited by the priests of the pagan god, Diom, Heros and his cohort survivors are forced to fight duels against the wild, animal-like savages called the Magus... Bright Pelikan inks on board, 28 x 20 ins. The Heros title lettering and rectangular text boxes are laser colour editions to complete the look of the artwork and may be removed if required. *This is the final board of Heros artwork in the recent run offered for auction.

Comparing this original art to the comic it's hard to tell if this is faded (which wouldn't surprise me) but I can see the blues in it. However Malcolm does mention  the title lettering and text boxes have been added so who knows. It's full of action and comes from the first story of Heros - "The Island of Darkness" which ran for four months over 1962/1963

Lots #102, 104 and 109 are all Garth strips. The first comes from "The Wolfman of Ausensee" (F162) and shows Garth worried about Gloria as she stands on a ledge, for the film crew.  I remember as a teenager trying to copy how Bellamy drew rocks and mountains.

Garth: The Wolfman of Ausensee" G162

Garth: 'The Wolfman of Ausensee' original artwork (1972) drawn by Frank Bellamy for the D. Mirror 8.7.'72. Indian ink on board. 21 x 7 ins

The second is from the story "The Women of Galba" (G84) and has some lovely Bellamy 'swirls' as I call them. These are the things that attracted me to Bellamy's 70s work - his design sense. In an alternate universe I think I'm a graphic designer rather than a retired Librarian! 

Garth: The Women of Galba (G84)

Garth 'Women of Galba' original artwork (1973) drawn by Frank Bellamy for the D. Mirror 7.4.'73. Indian ink on board. 21 x 7 ins

The third is from the story "The Mask of Atacama" (G225) and again we see those Bellamy 'swirls' shading the dark sky in the third panel. Garth is off stage at this point in the story but nevertheless a lovely piece of classic Frank Bellamy artwork.

Garth: The Mask of Atacama (G225)

Garth: 'The Mask of Atacama' original artwork (1973) drawn and signed by Frank Bellamy for the D. Mirror 21.9.'73. Indian ink on board. 21 x 7 in

That's a lot of gorgeous Frank Bellamy artwork coming to light. Best of luck with any you go for.  I'll update the spreadsheet as usual after the auction. Happy Bidding!



WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom
STARTING BID: £900 (Estimate: £1000-£1500
END DATE: Sunday 28 August 2022


WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom
STARTING BID: £1080 (Estimate: £1200-£1600)
END DATE: Sunday 28 August 2022

WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom
STARTING BID: £4050 (Estimate: £4500-£5000)
END DATE: Sunday 28 August 2022

GARTH: The Wolfman of Ausensee

WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom
STARTING BID: £200 (Estimate: £220-£260)
END DATE: Sunday 28 August 2022

GARTH: The Women of Galba

WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom
STARTING BID: £230 (Estimate: £250-£300)
END DATE: Sunday 28 August 2022

GARTH: The Mask of Atacama

WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom
STARTING BID: £230 (Estimate: £250-£300)

END DATE: Sunday 28 August 2022

Wednesday 3 August 2022

Frank Bellamy and lettering Garth comic strips

Garth: The Beast of Ultor (#H56)

I want to write something about lettering in relation to Frank Bellamy's work. In the Skinn and Gibbons' interview Bellamy answered the guys' question:

I should imagine your experience in making movie billboards stood you in good stead for the “splash” frames in your “Churchill” strip……
FB:  Yes. I did my own display lettering. I like to do my own lettering wherever possible. I always try to give a completely finished piece of artwork, on clean white board, camera-ready. The right size, bleed marked, something that an editor can send straight off to the engraver. This is getting on to technique, but I’ve seen artwork which goes so close to the edge of the board that there’s not even enough room to fit the reduction indication anywhere. I like to give a client a piece of board with a working area, where he can put any notes down the side – “Urgent”, “Infra-red” or whatever.

David Jackson commented to me: The graphics aspect - ruler-straight lines and title deign lettering and all large-scale compound curve lines (which many, particularly ‘fine’ artists would run a mile from - is the single aspect which FB had nailed first.

Bellamy began in a advertising studio in Kettering, his home town. It was here he learned the craft that he would follow for the rest of his life. When it came to comic strips in comics in the 1950s there would be an author who wrote the script; the artist who laid out, pencilled, inked, and maybe coloured his artwork. In later years the letterer would add text into balloons which might have been left empty by the artist or he (mostly 'he') might actually add balloons and then letter. I have read that some of the Eagle balloons were on adhesive film which was lettered and then added to the artwork. 

All three would have to understand each other. If the author produces reams of text, the artist knows it can't work in a panel. If the artist places a balloon such that the letterer has no room to create complete words - but hyphenated ones only, the letterer knows it won't work. And so on. A collaboration.

In an interview with Barry Askew for BBC TV (the film is lost but we have an audio recording) he was asked again about his method of working.   

BA: Tell me how one sets about drawing a Garth strip. Can you show me?
FB: Well, yes. In this way; there is a piece of board exactly the same way I would use for the Garth strip. Set it out in pencil in this manner and once again you’ll notice I break up the frames. I’ll show you on this one here. For the start, of course, there’s the balloon and stuff to go in, it’s about the most important piece of all.
BA: Does the scripting give you a problem? How do you relate the script to your your work?
FB: I keep in general to the script. Occasionally you get little things that on a typewritten script don’t work visually. Then it’s up to me to er.. re-draw, or re-think, or present it in a different manner.
BA: How long would it take you in fact to do a complete Garth strip?
FB: Ah, that’s a difficult one. All I can say is that I have a complete bank of six a week and come what may, a deadline is a deadline, it’s a religion to me. And they have to have one every week.

From the outset, a lot of the strips Bellamy drew he lettered the boards himself. For "Thunderbirds" which was syndicated abroad, he left the boards with space for captions and balloons.

Bellamy poses with his completed artwork
for the "Thunderbirds" episode from TV21 #74

Thanks to Alan Davis rescuing many Polaroids of the original artwork from Bellamy's studio after his death, we can see the completed 'clean' artwork just waiting for captions and balloons.  

Garth was drawn to an established scale to accommodate the word-balloon lettering. The strip which ran in the Daily Mirror from July 1943, was created by Steve Dowling and Gordon Bushell. Bushell moved on to concentrate on his work as a producer for the BBC and therefore Dowling took an assistant, the 15 year old John Allard, who Dowling in a later interview said "I have my assistant John Allard to help me now and he supplies all the backgrounds and lettering". The word 'now' is interesting as Allard was there from the start - in Allard's own words: “I started work there as an assistant to Steve Dowling a few months before the creation of Garth in July 1943." Allard is certainly a great influence on this long-running strip.  

Dowling and Allard formulated a method of working whereby Allard would sketch out the strips which Dowling would then correct, inking in the main figures, leaving Allard to complete the inking of the backgrounds and do the lettering, a system which continued essentially the same for 25 years, with a break between 1946 to 1948 when Allard was called up for his national service in the R.A.F. and the task of inking fell to Dowling’s other occasional assistant, Dick Hailstone.

Allard remained Dowling’s assistant until 1969, when Dowling retired to run a farm and riding school [...] Allard took over the strip full-time, working with writer Jim Edgar until 1971, when Frank Bellamy was invited to take over the strip and Allard found himself relegated to drawing backgrounds for some months before Bellamy took over the strip full-time.

From Steve Holland's blog

In 1971 John Allard began the story "Sundance" and after 12 episodes, Bellamy came on board as the main artist, possibly in competition with the sophisticated decorative linework of the new rival 'Scarth' in the revamped Sun newspaper. However, here is where it gets hard to describe who did what (although we have attempted to distinguish things a bit in a series "Garth strips analysed").  But it seems clear that Bellamy left the lettering to John Allard from the start although there appear to have been some clashes here.

On Alan Davis' site he shows two examples of how Bellamy took Polaroids of what Allard suggested as a layout with balloons completed and how Bellamy wanted to see the layout - thanks to Alan for permission to use these images. Now I have to say I cannot prove this, but it seems the most likely explanation to me as to why Bellamy took the photos. He wanted to communicate this to a third party, is my theory.

Bellamy and Allard layouts for Garth: The Mask of Atacama (#G165)

The published version of G165

"The Mask of Atacama" story is significant in that it's the first of the seven stories Bellamy had drawn to date where he added his very recognisable signature. So it does not seem unreasonable to assume that he might have been presented.with the image above - Allard's drawn layout with completed balloons. Bellamy has drawn his version of the opening strip with pencilled balloon lettering to show the Cartoon Editor how he sees the script being interpreted. I suspect this is where they settled the confusion over Allard's part in "Garth" and Bellamy was left to complete the strip without fully lettering it.

I prefer Bellamy's layout here, as we have the intro panel first, followed by Garth's comment, whilst holding the mask, we see Professor Lumière and then the speaker of the second balloon - reading left to right. I find Allard's layout OK, but clumsy, as we have to read 'around' Garth's back to see who's talking.

Bellamy and Allard layouts for Garth: The Wreckers (#G279)

The published version of G279
In this second example I wonder why Allard laid out the completed balloons as it would appear to have already been settled who did the artwork (proof being FB signed the previous story as well as this one). But the choices Bellamy makes - in breaking up the dialogue - are illustrative of his design sense. There was too much talk in one balloon and the shorter "Next month!" aids the flow, in my opinion.

There are a few other things I'd like to mention regarding the lettering and corrections in the Bellamy version of "Garth". In The Beast of Ultor (#H56) - shown at the top of this article - there are firstly the pencilled words in the second panel visible under the inked version and secondly overlays of inked text stuck on, saying "Professor Lumière activated". What's underneath isn't easy to see, but I'd love to know.

Also in the example owned by and used with permission of Jonathan Wilson, H3, we can see a few overlaid pieces of text. In the first panel it looks like Allard might have misspelled 'instructions' and in the third panel 'beneficial'. Bellamy was proud of the fact he never used process white, 'white-out' or correction fluid, but in many original boards and balloons we can see Allard has resorted to this. Even perhaps unnecessarily,over tiny overlap lines which would have in any case been unnoticeable when reduced in reproduction.

Garth: The Wreckers (#H3)

In an email with me in 2015, Ant Jones had just interviewed John Allard and asked him something for me.

"In the strips department there was a guy called Ken White who did the lettering but sometimes he could be unreliable, so John would end up doing the lettering. John Allard does the lettering on F194 (and all the other strips in that story that aren't Ken). When John started on Garth, Stephen Dowling's main priority was to train John to develop his lettering so it could be used in Garth."

Garth: The Wolfman of Ausensee (#F194)

Garth: The Wolfman of Ausensee (#F193)

I wonder if John meant F193 was John's work and F194 was NOT - but that of Ken White - compare the two and see what you think. 

Lastly Dez Skinn presented a strip (G274) which again shows completed lettered balloons and Bellamy's version in his book Sez Dez (p78), following the same lines as we have discussed above. 

Garth: The Wreckers (#G274)

Just for completeness sake, I should say that, if anyone is wondering, John Allard did not do the lettering on the "Perishers" strip that also ran in the Daily Mirror, as Maurice Dodd explained that Dennis Collins, the earlier artist, did it - The Perishers Omnibus No.3 - Thanks to David Jackson for reminding me!

I have yet to say anything about the markings and dates on the original artwork borders but that's for another time.