Monday 3 April 2023

Frank Bellamy and Garth numbering and dates


I was recently alerted to the fact I have never stated anywhere what the hand-written numbering and dates on Garth original art mean. It's flattering when people think I know everything to do with Frank Bellamy and his run on the Daily Mirror's Garth strip from 1971 to 1976.

So let's have a go at presenting my thoughts and see whether anyone can add anything.

Here's an example of the printed page (scanned very poorly) which shows one episode of the strip "Garth" (H118) published on page 24 of the Daily Mirror 21 May 1974 from the story "The Beast of Ultor". 

For those who haven't seen how these strips first appeared in print, this gives you some idea. However over the 6 years Bellamy drew "Garth" there might be more strips on this page. "The Perishers" strip appeared later in the run on this same page, as did "Andy Capp" and "Little Joe" - and that page may appear in different places day-by-day. I remember a kind friend of my Dad's cutting the page out for me, so I got to know the recently departed Bill Tidy's work too.

Daily Mirror Tuesday 21 May 1974 p.24
Garth: The Beast of Ultor (H118)

I have a scan of the following day's original artwork and the original shows, around the border, two things usually in pencil: two days and a date and secondly a single letter from A-F.

Daily Mirror 22 May 1974.
Garth: The Beast of Ultor (H119)

On this artwork we can see the pencilled "Tues-Wed 22 May 1974" and the letter "F". But notice the "Mon-Tues 21-5-74" is crossed out. I think this is where there was a jump in days and date because the Daily Mirror dated Wednesday 8 May was not actually published according to the Newspaper Archive. I infer that the "double day" notation plus date had to be moved as a result until the art editor had caught up, usually three weeks later - why 3 weeks? - see below.

Hand notations

But why write two days and then publish the strip on the second day - H119  was published on Wednesday 22 May 1974 - I double checked. it seems likely that the first day is the 'preparation' day and the second the publication day. This seems the most likely. I did wonder if this had anything to do with Northern editions or Scottish editions (remember my matching strip numbers in the Daily Record?) but it's not, that I can see.

 Here's a second example:

Daily Mirror 2 September 1972, p.18

You can just about see an episode from "The Wolfman of Ausensee" - episode F207. This page comes from the Daily Mirror Saturday 2 September 1972 and here is the original art with the corresponding numeration

Handwritten notations

This shows the "Fri-Sat" note plus date which matches publication. Also we have the letter "B" which to my mind is Bellamy's notation to the Art Editor that this is the second one of the 6 strips he delivered every week. 

We have never seen any other letters besides A, B, C, D. E and F and the Daily  Mirror was not published on a Sunday and the sequence rotates -A-F.

A friend and I lined up several originals and saw all of them are different sizes from top to bottom where Bellamy cut single boards from a bigger CS10 board. 

Here's another example:

F206 with notes and stamp

Daily Mirror 1 September 1972 p.20
Here we see "Thur-Fri 1 Sept"  (not shown on this image but the letter "A" appears on the original board) but also a red sticker - which is seen infrequently on the boards - with "1972 VIII 8 13:57" which logically tells us the date the piece arrived at the Daily Mirror offices. If this is correct it also gives a clue as to the lead time for Bellamy to produce the strips and them being published - from and including: Tuesday, 8 August 1972 to and including: Friday, 1 September 1972 = 25 days. This is not always the case as one would expect. Do the "received" stamps/stickers only appear on the "A" boards?

There are also anomalies where we see dates crossed out and alternatives given in these pencil notations, as mentioned above.Checking some of the published Daily Mirrors there were strikes -two messages included in two papers:

  • Daily Mirror 22 March 1973: "Southern editions of the Mirror didn't appear yesterday because of industrial action. Here's a double ration of strips"
  • Daily Mirror Tuesday 6 November 1973: "Here's a double ration of your favourite strips" 

No explanation is given for the latter but presumably industrial action again! And notice the differentiation between Northern and Southern editions.   

The problem putting this article together is that anyone who frames the strips is likely to hide/cut off the notations. Also some people who have originals may rub out the pencil notations. So thank you Paul Holder for his assistance in analysing these obscure ephemera!

So to conclude:

  • The two days are 1) 'prep' day and 2) publication day
  • The date is the publication date
  • The letter (from A-F) indicate the order of any one strip in the 6 delivered each week
  • The date and time stamp show date of receipt

One other notation is to the internal production team that a strip should be reproduced at a certain size. J154 has "Wed-Thu  3-7-75"; a receipt date and time of "1975  VI 11 16:19" and a note to say "197mm" - the width of the published image -one episode is approximately 21.5 inches by 8 inches as drawn by Bellamy


Any questions, or observations?


David Jackson said...

I remember David Bellamy saying there had been a jokey ironic exchange backstage on 'Quick on the Draw' between Frank Bellamy and Bill Tidy contrasting that 'The Fosdyke Saga' entire week's strips were drawn on Mondays...

Anonymous said...

I can imagine them both getting on. Bill appeared to be a very witty character!