Friday 23 June 2023

Frank Bellamy interview for BBC Look East and - About Anglia TV

We've just got over the excitement of the Frank Bellamy "Edition" interview and Alan has uploaded two more interviews. Alan Hayes has a website, called Hidden Tiger which will be of interest to anyone who likes 'Cult TV'.

1976 ITV: ANGLIA TV: ABOUT ANGLIA: Chris Young Interview 1976

Chris Young interviewed Frank Bellamy in Geddington where he moved to in his last year of life. Geddington is near Kettering and famous for being one of the places where Queen Eleanor's body when rested on its route to Westminster Abbey from Nottingham and subsequently it had a cross placed at the spot. It can still be seen today. If you're visiting, have a look at the Star Inn too as it appeared in one of Bellamy's "Garth" strips, "The Spanish Lady"

The interview starts with an introduction,  and leads to the interviewer Chris Young taking to Frank and seeing examples of his work. We can date the interview from the internal evidence that Bellamy has illustrated Garth for 5 years (he began in 1971).



Frank Bellamy gives millions of people all over Britain a brief dose of escapism, over the Cornflakes or perhaps on the way to work. It’s his pen that creates the daily adventures of that durable veteran cartoon superman Garth, hero of a thousand adventures in the Daily Mirror. Chris Young visited Frank and Garth at their home in Kettering.

For nearly 5 years, Frank Bellamy has lived every one of Garth’s extraordinary adventures, in his studio, first in his house in Surrey, now at his new home, a bungalow at Geddington near Kettering. The monsters and other baddies that Garth has done battle with, and of course beaten, were created solely by him before being committed to paper for the regular enjoyment of the Daily Mirror’s several million readers. The strip is also syndicated and is actually seen in many countries throughout the world. Frank Bellamy’s first published works were cartoons of local footballers in the Kettering Evening Telegraph. Just after the war he moved to Fleet Street, working in an advertising studio and in 1953 went freelance when he was offered the first comic strip of his very own in Mickey Mouse Weekly. Later he spent 8 years on the Eagle comic during which time he helped draw the almost legendary figure of Dan Dare. By himself, on the same comic he illustrated the entire Field Marshall Montgomery and Sir Winston Churchill stories. He’s also done regular work for the Sunday Times and the Radio Times and three years ago was judged the best foreign artist by the American Academy of Comic Book Artists. But Frank all his career had dreamt of drawing Garth a story which first appeared more than 30 years ago. Now work on the strip is a full time job, as it appears six days a week.

Chris Young: Now, looking closely at this original Garth drawing, Frank, how difficult is it to get action into such a small space?

Frank Bellamy: Well, it is very difficult because it is, as you can see, quite a small space, that’s why he’s chopped off  [a lot there] the point [here and there] for example, is to show violent action. Someone being shot instead of sagging down er…gracefully dying, being shot out of the picture you see. That’s why I have this little composition he’s forward from that I hope The same here he’s too being shot. This is violence in a western once again illustrating the…how Garth can be a detective one minute, he can be a Sheriff, he’s as a Marshall actually, the next minute in this.

CY: OK, so let’s move on, because you don’t only do Garth, in the past you have done all sorts of other things, haven’t you?

FB: Yes, this

CY: This is what?

FB: This is Thunderbirds. And this is a development of mine, to stop the usual treatment of a strip, which was picture after picture after picture, to give a composition to a complete double page spread including one frame, which is right the way across. This is showing the entrance to the Atlantic Tunnel. There’s an aircraft taking off here [an airfield]

CY: And this is all your imagination?

FB: This is purely and simply imagination and I was saying before, getting involved, feeling mentally about it, and that’s what actually makes me draw pictures in that way…

CY: It would take a long time to draw that.

FB: It would, this is a case of having to draw one of these every week, regularly.

CY: Alright , let’s look at the next one. Now we’re getting a bit more serious aren’t we?

FB: This is to show, er, heart attacks and treatment, non-photographically, purely pictorial journalism this and er..showing what happens during a heart attack. I’m afraid it’s rather a quick jump from comics. But, is exactly the same treatment, same approach on Thunderbirds, Garth or this.

CY: And that was in the Sunday Times?

FB: This was in the Sunday Times colour supplement, yes.

CY: Alright, and beneath that?

FB: In other words they accept the comic strip medium

CY: Even in a er…serious newspaper

FB: This one is the pre the first moon landing. I must tell you it’s the first strip that I have ever drawn minus balloons [WHAT?]. It would have been lovely to say I made it, [WHAT?] but it is the first time drawing a strip minus balloons and in this case for real because I’ve been drawing for years science fiction, it seems funny to draw it naturally happening.

CY: But that was done before the moon landing?

FB: This was done before the actual moon landing

CY: Were you fairly, er, accurate?

FB: All the way through, I understand. Yes.

CY: It all came true

FB: Yes. Ha ha ha !


The talent of one of Britain’s top illustrators Frank Bellamy

[4 minutes 38 seconds]


1976 BBC: LOOK EAST 9 March 1976

The second interview comes from the regional show Look East (BBC East Anglia) and is an article that has been recorded (obviously). To date the film has not been found  The Interview takes place again at Frank's house in Geddington. We suspect, from what's said Frank Bellamy drew his interviewer. Interestingly I have a copy of the letter sent commissioning this interview.  George Milner-Smith wrote on 23 February 1976 on BBC Norwich letter heading and he apparently enclosed a photo and symbol for Look East. He states the transmission date “is due to be” Tuesday 9 March 1976 - dependent on the day's other news stories - presumably a rail disaster might supersede the interview. Milner-Smith requested a cartoon (is this because of last line of the interview?)





….Northamptonshire, and he now draws one of the top newspaper cartoons, Garth in the Daily Mirror. In Look East tonight he talks about his work.


…and behind the comic strip in today’s paper [BAD CUT ON TAPE] …a cartoon is one of the biggest selling points of any newspaper. Now, one of the most successful cartoons is Garth in the Daily Mirror. It’s drawn by an artist from Northamptonshire, Frank Bellamy. Now, today Garth is engaged in a life or death struggle on a cliff top. It’s the strip Frank Bellamy was drawing when we talked to him in his home in Kettering.

Garth, for the uninitiated, is the ageless hero of many adventures in time and space. And this is only one of many commissions which fill the day of one of Britain’s top illustrators. Frank Bellamy has been drawing all his life and his work is in demand all over the world. But he’s never been to art school.

During the heyday of British comics Frank worked for the Eagle since it ceased publication several issues have become collector’s items. He’s been drawing the Garth strip for the last five years, responsible for every drawing of each day’s issue. But what sort of a challenge does it all present?


FB: It’s difficult to say what sort of challenges. The only challenges I can really say are challenges on your inventiveness and being able to churn out the work in a given time, because,…for my money a deadline is absolute religion, of course, I must stick to those things which separates me from the weekend painter. I’m having to do a thing to a given format and a given time. Each one has its own problems. My er.. contribution is to present this visually and I like, if possible, to present it in a different way each day, not repeat what’s happened previously or the way a presentation, in fact, keep it flying all the time. It sounds very easy but I can assure you it isn’t at all.

Accuracy is very important because the readership of, for instance, the Daily Mirror could be between 13 and 14 million. Somewhere along the line, if I’m drawing a western there’s someone there who’s probably a buff on western arms and ammunition and clothing, I must be correct because they always like to write in and say you’ve made a mistake. For instance, there’s a job over there for the old Eagle I was rather pleased with the presentation, the whole thing, it went through the editors, all the process engravers all these various people seeing this particular work, no-one noticed, other than the readers when it happened. You’ll notice that I have a German infantryman there firing his rifle, there’s the flash from the muzzle, but I’m afraid the bolt is up in the air instead of down. All the readers write in, spot that deliberate little mistake, which wasn’t so deliberate, it was an absolute mistake on my part, it’s bound to happen every now and again.

I started Eagle the famous Eagle, which I’m sure is the ultimate in children’s comics in 1957. I spent a number of years, enjoyable years, drawing for Eagle because it was a cut above any comics that had ever been known in this country before. This Montgomery is one of Eagle’s, and from there in later years they approached me to see if I would draw Dan Dare. I wasn’t over keen on drawing Dan Dare because I hadn’t originated the characters. However, I did the drawings for a year, exactly a year, and they then wanted me to go ahead and draw a centrespread, which is in full colour, which was Heros the Spartan, which I drew for a number of years, I forget how many. He was a cross between a Greek warrior and a Roman warrior and is what we call sword and sorcery. Could be up to all sorts of things; mysterious islands, monsters, queer beings, all sorts of things with this historical element running through the whole thing. It was a very adventurous story, bags of battles, lots and lots of hard work for me I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  And it was an unusual type of strip on the British market. They were usually science fiction, westerns, basically school stories, police, cops and robbers, this was historical with a lot of fantasy which was first class for strip cartoons. 

Unfortunately, Eagle, after its tremendous success gradually did fold and I’m afraid television took over. And here’s an example, when I left Eagle going into draw Thunderbirds. Here’s an example of the difference between drawing Dan Dare which was fiction which seemed years ahead, we were in a scientific age and it had caught up and it made extra problems for me to invent, particularly in things - sequences such as this.
[5 minutes 37 seconds] 

There are more interviews to come! Alan and I have been communicating about them.

Friday 16 June 2023

Frank Bellamy interview - Edition on the BBC


Radio Times 24 Nov - 30 Nov 1973 p.4

We got a nice surprise in 1973 when opening the weekly Radio Times (24 November 1973 - 30 November 1973). On page 4 there's an article which includes a photo of Frank Bellamy surrounded by his artwork. The title of the piece "Modest strip artist" has a half page article on Edition where Barry Askew interviews Bellamy for the programme broadcast on 30 November 1973. The photo - much used - was credited to Jeremy Grayson with a bye-line "Frank Bellamy: suffers agonies of diffidence bringing work to Radio Times".

 The article text:

Frank Bellamy must be the world's most modest strip artist The Eagle strips he created for schoolboys in the late 50s and 60s - Fraser of Africa, Marco Polo and The Happy Warrior - are legendary now. Garth, his Daily Mirror strip, is a cult hero.
But he still suffers agonies of diffidence when he's bringing in a piece of art work for RADIO TIMES. He's diffident, too, about appearing in Edition (Friday 11.40 pm BBC2).
"I never had an art school training", he says, "And I still remember my first day's work in an advertising studio: I made tea and cut myself on the guillotine machine. Never touched a pencil."
He says he sees figures as a camera might. "And I never cheat at drawing. If I'm in doubt, I use myself as a model. I know I've occasionally caught myself snarling in the mirror".

The corresponding page in the TV listings (page 51) shows:

Radio Times (24 Nov 1973 - 30 Nov 1973) Page 51

Bill Storie, a friend of the blog and keen Bellamy fan previously wrote on this blog:

In my view Barry Askew held the opinion that comics were ephemeral and hardly worth mentioning and the usual BAM, POW, CRASH were mentioned - a good indicator that someone's view of comics is stuck in the 60s Batman show. The programme, Edition, went out as the last programme of the evening (yes, TV used to be less than 24 hours a day!) and states "Frank Bellamy, the artist who draws 'Garth' in the Daily Mirror and the Daily Record [...]"

 Bill goes onto say:

The Radio Times "Modest Strip Artist" reference mentions that (erroneously) FB drew for the Daily Record - this is technically accurate inasmuch as he was never (as far as I know) commissioned to do art for that paper but his work did appear there quite often in the form of Garth and various other spot illustrations such as the moon landing piece. Back in those days the Daily Record was basically the Scottish version of the Daily Mirror (the Mirror did not have a large Scottish readership and much of the Mirror's daily output was simply re-jigged into the Daily Record). [See much more on this issue here ~Norman]

You can now hear the whole interview thanks to Alan Hayes (hiddentigerculttv) and he has this description on the audio:

Comic artist Frank Bellamy (1917-1976), who is famous for his work on publications such as The Eagle, TV21 and Radio Times, interviewed on the BBC2 late night programme 'Edition', hosted by Barry Askew.

Bellamy is highly thought of, particularly by fans of comic art, Gerry Anderson and Doctor Who, but also of The Avengers, for which he supplied on-screen artwork for the 1967 episode 'The Winged Avenger'.

Soundtrack only - a rare off-air recording. Originally transmitted on Friday 30th November 1973.

It's 8 minutes and 18 seconds long (including the intro and 'outro' plus station ident - I sound as if I know what I'm talking about!) I transcribed the version I had and have included it below so the text is searchable, but Bill is right. It's not the best interview! But Bellamy was paid £40 ""to provide own drawings and to be interviewed". As an ex-librarian I had the privilege of going behind the scenes at the BBC Archives and checked with an expert - the programme was another victim of the tape wiping that has caused many a Doctor Who fan to weep! If it ever appears, Frank's estate is due a re-broadcast fee!


The Transcript:

ANNOUNCER: “Now we close the evening here on Two with Edition.”


BARRY ASKEW: “Edition POW!, that’s one man’s view of me sitting here in the studio. The only thing he hasn’t drawn are my tortured tonsils, for which my apologies at the outset. Frank Bellamy, whose cartoons have a unique unchanging quality, stretching from Dan Dare in Eagle to Garth which he now does in the Daily Mirror. Later in Edition we look at his work in the world of comics.

BA Frank Bellamy, I suppose you’re best known for your work on Garth in the Daily Mirror, currently. Having looked at that film where mainly we saw American comics, in fact. What kind of comics did you grow up on, as a boy, yourself?

FB Well, the first ones were things such as Chips or Rainbow and then gradually getting Sunday supplements from the United States which contained Tarzan and that type of thing. There you see the American comic as you see it in the, er.. film, was non-existent in this country. There were comics, [little types] , for sort of eight year olds, right down to six and five…

BA Things like Beano and Dandy which I grew up on?

FB Yes. I’m afraid they didn’t affect me at all, I never used to read those sort of things.

BA Let’s look at what did, in fact, affect you. I mean, one of your classic periods was with Eagle and there we have an example of Dan Dare. Now what kind of technique development do you put into Dan Dare?

FB The technique I used, you mean the materials?

BA Yes.

FB The materials I use are exactly the same during all my career as a strip artist; waterproof inks. In this case, full colour waterproof inks.

BA What about the design techniques themselves, how were those developed?

FB That was a development of mine. I was tired of seeing frame upon frame of little, squared off pictures which was the old fashioned idea. I wanted to bring out the page as a complete page or a spread as a complete spread, make it a unit in its own right.

BA You also I think had special thoughts on colour, didn’t you?

FB Oh yes.

BA If we look at, for example, we have Fraser of Africa there, which is another Eagle piece of work. Tell me about the colour that goes into that.

FB You’ll notice on this one it’s sepia run through it. The idea originally was to develop a different type of strip to the others, which were either full colour or black and white monochrome. This had to be reproduced in full colour, I gave them colour experiments which they put under the process cameras, all proved positive and that’s the net result; producing that sepia look and a different er..look to the page in the Eagle.

BA With something again for the Eagle, like Montgomery of Alamein, there’s an interesting example there of the way that you use frames and shapes in different ways.

FB Well, there once again is breaking up this square frame, one on top of another and to bring out important frames. For instance, the one in the centre there, was just to give a monochrome look to associate with the monochrome films of the second world war.

BA Yes, er..TV21, which was a magazine, that a completely different technique, or is that just a development of the one we’ve seen?

FB It’s just a development, the materials, as I said in the first place, it’s exactly the same here as the first, say, Dan Dare ones we had Eagles, which is going back to the 1960s.

BA Yes, and of course there we have Star Trek that I think is er.., is er.. the Radio Times

FB Yes, a full page in the Radio Times, once again, exactly the same technique.

BA This seems to imply that your technique hasn’t changed very much at all over the years. Is that so?

FB Er.. very little. It’s intentional because I’m always conscious of the printer and their limitations. It gives me limitations but I’m prepared to accept it.

BA What kind of limitations, if we are looking, for example, at that Sunday Times Colour Supplement front cover there, what kind of limitations do you have to bear in mind for the printer, in producing that?

FB I give him pure colour so that it will reproduce purely. There’s the red, there’s no black or anything, I use one red, one yellow, one blue. [So that you do] not confuse the process people with umpteen different colours on the original you see.

BA But to bring it right up to date, of course, you are I suppose, obviously most famous for Garth and here we have one or two examples of Garth. I think the first one in fact, is from last April, isn’t it.

FB Yes, yes, it’s a western strip, actually. Previous to the er..first one, which was of course taking place in the present day, he arrives in a ghost town and gradually changes off into er.. the old west.

BA He’s a remarkable looking character there, isn’t he?

FB Suddenly you see on the second episode there, he is er..a western Marshall.

BA And then you bring him right up to date, if we look at, for example, yesterday’s and today’s. What’s he doing here, what’ve you made him here?

FB This is what.. we, er.., loosely call it a suit story – this is when people are walking about in suits, this is espionage and all that sort of thing. I can’t tell you any further because that would be giving the show away on a present running story.

BA How long has that got to run?

FB Um.. they usually ..[run] about seventeen weeks, it varies one way and another, usually about seventeen weeks.

BA Right. You can’t give them any kind of sneak preview?

FB Er, ooh, all I can say is that with one mighty heave he gets out of it as usual.

BA I see. Tell me how one sets about drawing um..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. [scratching sounds of pencil  on board] 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, [scratching sound on board] [mumbling] 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, [scratching sound] or re-think, or present it in a different manner.

BA If.. if you find a script that you’re not, yourself, in sympathy with, I mean, can you draw to that or not?

FB Well, yes, but er….

BA If you don’t actually feel the script?

FB More often than not, I try to make myself feel it and it’s much better if you, I can get one that I’m interested in in the first place. For instance, the western one, I was thoroughly interested in drawing a western because I want to get these little bits of authenticity in a western instead of just a cowboy story.

BA How long would it take you in fact to do a complete Garth strip?

FB Agh, that’s a difficult one. All I can say is that I have to complete bank of pen’s running out… six a week and come what may, a deadline is a deadline, it’s a religion to me. And er..they have to have one every week.

BA Well there we see it, the end of a complete live Garth strip, specially for Edition. And Frank Bellamy thank you very much indeed for that example of your technique.

FB Oh, thank you.

BA From Edition now it’s goodnight


Many thanks to Richard Farrell for alerting me to the fact there was now a public version to hear online!

Monday 12 June 2023

Frank Bellamy inspired the Italian UFO

Shaqui Le Vesconte, a long-time friend of this blog, forwarded me some scans which I'm sharing in this quick article. He states:

Here's a scan from UFO - Paura Dallo Spazio from Italy in November 1975. The strip is abridged from one originally in UFO - Verso La Morte in 1974

"UFO - Paura Dallo Spazio" November 1975
Published by Edifumetto

In the excellent reprint of all the original British UFO comic strips, UFO Comic Anthology Volume 2, Shaqui tells the history of Italian versions of fumetti (comics) based on the Gerry Anderson series UFO. On page 220 he talks about the comic artist who handled these strips:

[Vladimiro] Missaglia obviously had access to copies of TV Century 21 or Countdown. Some issues featured craft based on Fireball XL5, Stingray or Thunderbird 1 with Marineville appearing as an alien base at the end of Base Luna Non Risponde, Others were cribbed from Dan Dare, the Gold Key Star Trek comics and Garth, drawn by ex-Thunderbirds comic artist Frank Bellamy. Biffìgnandi's covers, when not referencing UFO, used images from 200I: A Space Odyssey, TheTrigan Empire and, on one cover, Mechani-Kong from the 1967 Japanese film King Kong Escapes, even if these had nothing to do with the contents. [Emphasis mine]

The comic ran apparently "for over two years of original strips, totalling 37 issues. Releases were monthly during 1973 but there was a new issue nearly every two weeks at the height of its popularity during 1974." (p.220). 

UFO #12 - "Verso La Morte" [Artist unknown]

 The example above comes from the third series of "UFO" fumetti, #11 published in 1975 - "Paura dallo Spazio" ["Fear of Space"] which, as Shaqui says, was an edited version of the second series of UFO #12 (1974) title "Verso La Morte" ["Facing death"]. 

This was also reprinted later in French in "Sunny Sun" #30 with the title "Mission impossible" (which needs no translation!) in 1980. "Sunny Sun" itself ran for 54 issues (1977-1986) starting as a fortnightly publication before moving onto being a monthly.

Now this is interesting to me as I guessed the artist couldn't have been copying from John Tornado, the German reprints of "Garth", nor the French or Italian reprints of Garth which seems to suggest he was following the Daily Mirror as it was published, or more likely the American Menomonee Falls Gazette where the story was published between issues #52 - #67 (11 December 1972 - 26 March 1973).

The images in question come, of course, from "The Cloud of Balthus" story (12 October 1971 - 27 January 1972 - E237-F23)

Shaqui wondered if the spacesuits were taken from anything Bellamy drew but I couldn't spot that coincidence. If you can do let us know!