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.

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