Thursday 15 September 2022

Frank Bellamy and Mike Noble

"Thunderbirds" by Frank Bellamy from TV21 #138
It was only at his memorial service in January 2019, I found out Michael Kenneth Noble had a middle name! Of course he was known to one and all as Mike Noble

Back in the mid-60s I recognised this man's art style in TV21 on "Fireball XL5", "Zero X", "Captain Scarlet", but it was only when he drew "Timeslip" in Look-In, that I knew his surname was "Noble" and mysteriously his (/her?) first name began with "M." Frank Bellamy, of course, signed his name all over the place and his distinctive signature made it easy to know this artist's work. Eventually as time went on I learned that "M. Noble" was Mike Noble! Mike was born on the 17 September 1930  and sadly passed away on 15 November 2018 in Balcombe, West Sussex. I was privileged (like many people I found out later!) to interview him and my thoughts from that interview were published in True Brit. which is still available in digital form. 

The story about a Space Mirror that appeared in TV21 #137-140 was a short one, perhaps ended very quickly due to the change in the "Thunderbirds" strip's position - from centrespread to two separate colour pages from issue #141. These are the photos, scanned by myself from the collection Alan Davis kindly shared.  How he came to have these is outlined here on his site. These show the finished artwork before Bellamy sent them off to the publisher - and more to the point - without captions and balloons

"Thunderbirds" from TV21 #137

"Thunderbirds" from TV21 #138

"Thunderbirds" from TV21 #139

"Thunderbirds" from TV21 #140

They make a fascinating study in themselves and I so wish that Bellamy had better technology at the time to record these things. Polaroids were some of the best colour film at the time that allowed him to capture what he no longer had and for us to now enjoy them thanks to Alan..

The reason for the focus here is that Bellamy's episode  in TV21 #138 (the second episode) was re-drawn by Mike Noble for school children! Jeff Haythorpe shared these on a Facebook group in 2019 - whoever said I was fast! And they make interesting viewing. My memory from Mike's tale was that he was asked by the local school to do a talk on comic art. He used Bellamy's comic as an example and showed the very fortunate children the stages of creation.


Mike Noble - Pencil art

Mike Noble - Inked art

Mike Noble - Coloured art

Frank Bellamy's original version

ANIMATION of Mike (and Frank)'s work, because I wanted to see what it looked like! Hope you enjoy it too!


Kid said...

Mike Noble's pages always looked 'alive' and not just frozen images like those of some other artists. I'd say he was Britain's answer to Jack Kirby when it came to comic strips. I liked Graham Coton's five episodes of Fireball XL5 in TV21 (Alan Fennell didn't), but it has to be admitted that Mike was THE Fireball artist.

Norman Boyd said...

No arguments from me and few thousand others! Mike's work was always consistently perfect. His colours, linework and characters were brilliant.

Kid said...

Have you ordered the Fireball XL5 book from Anderson, NB, containing not only all of Mike Noble's Fireball art, but also the original 5 instalments illustrated by Graham Coton from TV21 #s 1-5, which have never been reprinted (certainly not in the UK anyway) before? It also has strips from Countdown, plus a brand-new one drawn by Lee Sullivan. I'd say it's a must-have.

Norman Boyd said...

Hi Kid, Yes I'm on top of that project! I hadn't realised that Coton's had never been reprinted. I like their unique style and remember those bat creatures, as well as I remember the snowmen by Mike!

Kid said...

I once asked Alan Fennell why he hadn't used the Coton strips when Fireball was reprinted in one of the IPC Anderson mags in the '90s and he said because he didn't think the art was good enough. I was a bit surprised by this because, like you, the bat creatures stood out in my mind. I featured the Coton strips on my blog a few years back because I didn't think it was fair that his strips were ignored. No doubt, though, that Noble was the right man for the job.