Showing posts with label Eagle Annual. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eagle Annual. Show all posts

Saturday 23 September 2023

The origins of Thunderbirds by Frank Bellamy

TV21 #54 page 12 Original art
The image from "Thunderbirds" above was posted recently on Facebook by my friend Jeff Haythorpe and this sparked a few discussions about how Bellamy managed a double-page spread plus a black and white page each week, which I'm picking up here. Before i start all the heavy detail, I want to repeat this is not a published black and white page from colour, it is in fact a black and white ink wash as Bellamy originally drew it.

We need to go a bit backwards in time. Frank Bellamy drew the last "Heros the Spartan" story for Eagle which when published ended in Volume 16 No. 30 (24 July 1965). After this he drew two covers for the comic "Arms Through the Ages:The crossbow" (Vol 16:35 - 28 August 1965) and "Arms Through the Ages:The floating mine" (Volume 16: 36) published 4 September 1965 - both can be seen here. We know that the lead time (from submitting artwork to its publication) was usually 6 weeks, so Bellamy looks to have finished with Eagle circa last week of August 1965. 

"Heros The Spartan" in Eagle Annual 1966, p.89
He received a cheque from Eagle paid in on 28 June 1965 and labelled "Heros #20" for £88/0/0d. So a double spread paid £88 (no shillings and no pence - pre-decimal money). Interestingly that last story has 22 episodes but I can't see these payments. He then received the same for the two "Arms through the Ages" covers (£88) paid in on 4 August 1965. I can't find any obvious record of the "Heros" story which appeared in the Eagle Annual 1966 (and would have most likely been completed before March 1965 - and gives me an excuse to show you the first page of that story!). So we can say the last cheque from Eagle was paid in on 4 August 1965.

So the big question is what did he do then? After such a long run with Hulton - and the new comics group under the title Odhams / Longacre Press / Fleetway where did he go?

We know that Bellamy submitted a letter of application to the Royal Society of Arts in March 1965 - perhaps thinking about the ending of a comic era, he wanted to look in other directions. The letter went before the committee on May 10th and following this he not only became a member but gained the post-nominals Fellow of the RSA such was his artwork held in high esteem by his peers - most likely his non-comic work which he had been exhibiting around various places in the preceding few years. 

On the 12 July 1965 he received a response to his resignation letter. It arrived on Odhams letter headed paper from Alfred F. Wallace (Managing Editor, Juvenile Publications), confirming Bellamy was free of any commitments, and wishing him all the best for the future.

TV21 #54 pages 10-11 - the third "Thunderbirds" issue

Looking at when the first "Thunderbirds" was published (TV21 #52 dated 15 January 2066 - actually 1966 as the clever device was it was a newspaper from 100 years in the future!), we see he drew both a colour centrespread plus a black and white page - so three pages a week. This lasted from #52 to #65 (15 January 1966 - 16 April 1966) covering two stories - "Forest Inferno" and "White Rhino Rescue" - 14 weeks. 

In their interview with Bellamy, Dez Skinn and Dave Gibbons asked about how he came to be involved:

Alan Fennell, the writer of the TV "Stingray", "Thunderbirds" and so on, was the first editor of TV21. He approached me saying he was wanting to start a comic of the same quality as Eagle, but with the Century 21 look about it, more S-F orientated. Alan wanted me to draw "Stingray", the lead strip in TV Century 21, number 1. But, because I was working for Eagle at that time I wouldn't leave to draw "Stingray". I felt I had to fulfil my commitments with Eagle, which I did, and then after explaining to the Eagle editor, Alf Wallace, we parted as best of friends and I started work for TV Century 21. It was clear, at this stage, that it would be a wise move to change anyway, because in 1966 Eagle was tailing off a bit, whereas TV Century 21 was a new magazine. [It actually ended with Volume 20:17 - 26 April 1969 ~Norman]

Asked if it was hard drawing puppets in an action setting, he replied

Yes, it was a problem. Everybody had seen them on the television, and so they would think of the characters as l8"-high puppets, which they were. So I had to decide whether to make them look like the puppets they were, or the people they were supposed to be. I went for forgetting they were puppets, other than simplifying the heads, which had to be recognisable from the established versions on the television.

Also Nancy told her version - expanding a bit - to Alan Woollcombe:

Gerry Anderson wanted Frank to illustrate ‘Thunderbirds’ so Alan Fennell (editor of TV Century 21) took us over to meet Gerry and Sylvia. He showed us all round the studios, showed us how they made the scenes and the puppets work so Frank agreed to illustrate ‘Thunderbirds’. Eagle was going down the drain anyway. The only thing was, be hated drawing puppets, so he made all the puppets look more human.

Asked if Frank had models to work from, Nancy replied:

Just the heads, white heads. The funny thing was, they were ever such ghastly things, and I was always playing jokes on my son David. One night he came in really late so I had got all these heads and arranged them along the pillow on his bed, and then covered them up with the sheet. When he came in, there were all these ghostly heads grinning at him, dead white... oh, I heard him scream!

In 1992 Nancy was interviewed on local radio and this is how she related the same story:

Gerry Anderson was deciding to bring out a comic on Thunderbirds and Alan Fennell, he was the Editor, got in touch with Frank and they had a meeting with Gerry Anderson at Slough.  So I went along as well and Gerry Anderson was very kind and he showed us all around.. well, it was a sort of factory where they made the Thunderbird films and he showed how the puppets worked, how the special effects were done, and it was a very interesting day.  Also, I was very thrilled when Sylvia Anderson drove up in a beautiful shocking pink sports car because it reminded me of Lady Penelope.

Getting back to the first "Thunderbirds" strips, in the records shared with us by Nancy Bellamy, we have not only the above payment data but a very interesting payment listed on 29 July 1965 for "TV21 1" which paid £126.  When he was paid for 'series three' which went down to just a colour double-page spread, he was paid £94/10/0d - so £94.50 in modern parlance. When it changed to 2 separate pages he was paid less - £80 - which I find strange!

Later in the interview he was asked about why Thunderbirds changed from a centrespread to two separate colour pages

The reason they split the spread with a gutter was purely that they could sell two separate pages to the continental market, for reprinting, better than an awkwardly—shaped centrespread.

But did you notice that he was PAID in July 1965 for "Thunderbirds"?

So between his last "Heros" and the two 'stray' covers he was already working on "Thunderbirds". We know he kept up the double-page spreads and later the two separate colour pages so I wonder how far ahead of himself he got? Also it must be said, Ron Embleton, Mike Noble and Don Harley were able to create 2 B&W pages plus one and half colour pages around TV21 #150 onwards so what looks like a tremendous output was similarly done by others too.  So Frank Bellamy had a long lead time to get his photo reference and puppet reference before commencing on, what I consider his most read comic strip.

During the discussion of the TV21 #54 image at the top of this article, Graham Bleathman kindly shared his TV21 #52 black and white page, so let's end this here - I've added the published double-page spread of the very first "Thunderbirds" comic strip written by Alan Fennell and drawn in inks by Frank Bellamy, for your enjoyment

TV21 #52 pages 10-11 

TV21 #52 page 12 Original art  

See additional thoughts in the comments below

Thursday 14 August 2014

Frank Bellamy and the first parachute jump!

So someone is talking to you about Leonardo da Vinci's parachute design and we agree we don't know whether anyone has tried it out, and then get to wondering, but who was the first person to jump with a parachute? Imagine you are the first! That big open space and a piece of cloth on your back. Who did it first?
Eagle Annual #5 p.37

Frank Bellamy knew the answer - he illustrated a story in the fifth Eagle Annual (published in late 1955 for the Christmas market) - "Pull the ring, and you're a caterpillar!"

So who was it?

A snippet from a longer Wikipedia article:

Leslie Leroy Irvin (10 September 1895 – 9 October 1966) made the first premeditated free-fall parachute jump in 1919. Irvin was born in Los Angeles. He became a stunt-man for the fledgling Californian film industry, for which he had to perform acrobatics on trapezes from balloons and then make descents using a parachute. Irvin made his first jump when aged fourteen. For a film called Sky High, he first jumped from an aircraft from 1,000 feet in 1914. He developed his own static line parachute as a life-saving device in 1918 and jumped with it several times.

Eagle Annual #5 p.38
"The crowd thrilled with excitement as the parachutist floated earthwards."

Eagle Annual #5 p.39
"All the experience that Irvin had gained
with balloons at fairs, death dives and stunt jumps,
was put into the design for the new parachute."

Eagle Annual #5 p.40
"A body came away from the plane and hurtled earthwards."

Looking up Reginald Taylor, the author of this article, was difficult (with such a common name), but it seems fairly likely he is the same one who wrote the "Andy and..." series for Hamish Hamilton's Antelope imprint and by association I'm guessing these other Hamish Hamilton books.

Andy and his Last Parade. Illustrated by B. Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1965.
Andy and the Display Team Illustrated by Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1959.
Andy and the Mascots Illustrated by Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1957.
Andy and the Miniature War Illustrated by Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1962.
Andy and the Royal Review  Illustrated by Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1963.
Andy and the Secret Papers  Illustrated by Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1961.
Andy and the Sharpshooters . Illustrated by Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1959.
Andy and the Water Crossing, London : Hamish Hamilton, 1961.

The Boy from Hackston, N.E. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1962.
Circus Triumphant Illustrated by Tony Weare. London : Bodley Head, 1955.
A First look at Sailing. A beginner's manual Illustrated by John Robinson. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1964.
The Mad Martins Illustrated by Gilbert Dunlop. [A tale for children.] London ; Glasgow : Blackie & Son, [1953]
My Friend, my Enemy. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1965.
Wild Frontier. Illustrated by H. Bishop. London : Bodley Head, 1957.
Wings over Tewkesley ... Illustrated by Tony Weare. London : Bodley Head, 1954.

As the Andy series is about experiences in a military setting I wonder if the following references in the British Library catalogue might a) be him too and b) tell us his fuller name

Phantom was there. [A history of the G.H.Q. Liaison Regiment, 1939-1945. With maps.] Great Britain. Army. G.H.Q. Liaison Regiment. London : Edward Arnold & Co., 1951.

Something About a Soldier. [An account of the traditions of the British Army.] R. J. T. Hills, (Reginald John Taylor) London : Lovat Dickson, 1934.

As many of the illustrators listed above worked in comics or comic strips it might also be that this Reginald John Taylor Hills was also the editor of Boyfriend in the sixties, as stated on Steve Holland's Bear Alley

Lastly the first Express Annual was edited by a Reginald Taylor so could it be our Taylor too?

Interested in seeing more about Eagle Annuals? - see Ian and Sharon's fascinating Eagle Annual website

Sunday 1 June 2014

Frank Bellamy and Eagle Annual 1965

Updated 18 June 2014 see below
Eagle Annual 1965

Dan Dare's Space Annual 1963
Both the above UK annual covers have been cited as being drawn by Frank Bellamy...but are they?

In a recent Facebook discussion (which started round a completely different piece of art) mention was made of the two pieces of art above. If you really want to read the conversation you need to ask David Roach to befriend you on Facebook, but allow me to summarise:

"Steven Austin" And Walt Howarth did paint some earlier Dan Dare Annual covers in the 60's, not sure about the 74 edition though.
"David Roach" Did Walt do the 65 Eagle annual then?
"Techno Delic" Steven, may I ask what the source of your information regarding Walt Howarth doing those two Eagle covers is please?
"Steven Austin" Hi TD, sure, I used to be a big fan of the 'new' Eagle as a kid and collected several of the 'old' annuals and the 65 annual was one that stuck in my mind because it was a fav cover as several of the others had horrible photographic covers - they've long since gone but I did seem to remember it was painted by Walt Holwarth.[sic] I wanted to double check and find the cover for here and so googled Walt Holwarth [sic] Eagle covers and found this blog
"Techno Delic" Thank you Steven. I have to confess I would not have put either of those down to Walt Howarth - the 1965 one looks like someone trying to emulate Frank Bellamy's style, and the 1963 one, possibly a cross between Frank Hampson and Don Harley. It is also odd that the 1963 annual credits all the internal illustrators but omits any mention of Howarth?
"Techno Delic" Still being unsure about the identification of Walt Howarth as artist for those Eagle/Dan Dare covers, I contacted Gary Watton, who was close to Walt Howarth and acted as an agent for commissioned pieces. Gary says: 'Walter never painted the original Dan Dare covers, but he did repaint them as private commissions. Derek Wilson didn't get all his facts right for this article.' I wonder if it was the repainted commissions which caused the confusion? I recall some people being confused by a Rifleman Annual mockup that Walt Howarth did, leading some to believe the annual was a real item, when in fact it never existed.
"Steve Holland" With regards the Eagle and Dan Dare covers: I wonder if they could have been painted by someone like Barrie R. Linklater?
"David Roach" Techno- OK, That all seems clear enough that they weren't Howarth. It would have been weird him moonlighting over at Odhams. Do we know for certain that the 65 isn't Bellamy? The painting style is very like his. That said, the Dare book is painted in a very similar style as well, though the drawing underneath is nothing like Bellamy . The 65 is a big favourite of mine- I think it's a stunning cover.
"Techno Delic" David: The man to ask about Frank Bellamy is Norman Boyd. I looked at his website: - and it doesn't list that Eagle Annual cover as being Bellamy's work. It's close but to me it does look more like someone copying a Bellamy Dare
"David Roach" It's not absolutely typical of his sort of pose, but the painting style is very like him. I'm sure we'll come up with the definitive answer soon though.
"Techno Delic" That's what I mean - an original Frank Bellamy is very distinctive in terms of figure dynamics, and he also had a very distinctive way of drawing 'space'. That has neither of those qualities.
"David Roach" Very true.

Now to save myself further embarrassment I joined in and Techno Delic had to repeat himself as I missed the pertinent point the first time! But this is what I said:

Norman Boyd BLOW! I see what you're saying. I have no other evidence to support either case unfortunately. My records that could have helped start about Sept 1964 and as this is likely to be painted before Sept 1964 (due to publication dates for annuals), I'm stuck! Sorry!

I reproduced this from Steve Penny's site Purenostalgia, in his Limited Edition prints section

Reproduction by Walt Howorth
You'll notice Howarth has extended the drawing somewhat which in itself is interesting. I also wrote to Steve Penny to ask if he knew anything more but have not to date received a reply and am awaiting a reply from Barrie Linklater.

I decided to ask a few Bellamy fans for their thoughts and was staggered to find several had never seen this cover before. But all but one came down on the side of it not being by Bellamy - although a very close imitation.

Interesting info you keep turning up! There are a couple, or three, reasons why I didn't include the EAGLE ANNUAL 1965 and DAN DARE'S SPACE ANNUAL 1963 covers in the Checklist: Firstly I'd never before set eyes on them; Secondly, nobody else included them in any of their lists; Thirdly they don't look like Frank Bellamy in even basic elements of materials / technique which you would expect to see (being just not there); someone already mentioned his "very distinctive way of drawing 'space'" for instance.  And no signature.

The stars are not FB stars. Frank's stars are distinctive and unique and are (I reason) a pragmatic and brilliant design solution to the 'problem' (as I think Frank would have seen it) that the most efficient way of creating stars in pen and ink is to lay-in areas of black and speckle with blobs of process white - which technically, Frank wouldn't want to do. Hence his starfield design (necessitating a thought-through understanding of its micro-component elements) which obviated any requirement for process white.
Also note that FB's 1969 real life moon landing work for the Daily Mirror had, also uniquely, no stars in it whatsoever - though drawn before it was established by the actual landing that no stars could be seen from the daylight surface of the moon, despite the 'ink black' daylight sky there. I can recall media prior-speculation as to whether or not stars would in fact be seen .. And FB's moon landing astronauts stylistically look far better than they did in real life.
The EAGLE ANNUAL 1965, not only has no such star clusters but also - at least in the web reproduction, and even photographic film reproduction can be very misleading - the black sky isn't wholly black either; and, as is established, Frank would created really black areas of black in his original art even it meant going over it half a dozen times.
The metallic cable to the Dan Dare figure is FB-like, though the spacecraft is not - and 'scrubbed' or 'drybrush' in the application of colour. Again, although the face is reminiscent of FB this could, like any FB-ish elements, similarly be a result of the artist using FB published art as inspiration. The boots, on the other hand [heh], are as you say, very unlike FB in every aspect. The most telling aspect against it being FB is in the non-FB DD spacehelmet and suit and the rendering of it - which lacks FB's solid-geometry which was a distinguishing characteristic of his ability and work.
The same could more or less be said for Dan Dare's Space Annual 1963 except for less apparent Bellamy influence.

It has to be readily conceded, this Dan Dare illustration is especially difficult to attribute. While I’d take a great deal of convincing that it’s Frank himself – you’re one of the few people who will understand? – the actual treatment of the space-suited figure shares the, unaccountable, awkwardness also present in the Look and Learn illustration of Captain James Cook’s coming ashore. Forgive me for assuming nobody else has asked the obvious question: although, unfortunately, I’ve never seen a copy of the book itself, is it possible this “unknown” artist is amongst those who contributed to Dan Dare’s Annual 1963.

For what it's worth my current opinion is that it doesn't quite reflect FB's style from circa 1964/65 era - it's not quite dramatic enough IMHO and the suit doesn't look as sleek and "Bellamy-style-futuristic" as it should - too clunky around the hips , knees and boots - and the pose is just not ...well not like the way I'd imagine FB would have done it.

Also the starscape looks a bit sparse - Frank tended to add in lots of extra details in his colour starscapes instead of just plain white dots - especially on large pieces like covers.

On closer inspection it also looks like it's been painted in gouache, not FB's beloved coloured inks and the Eagle Masthead is actually quite "rough" when you look at it close-up - you can see the brushstrokes in the lettering which is highly unlike Frank - of course it could have been an overlay by someone else but to me it does kinda look like it's painted over the space background ie part of the actual art - it would be handy to inspect the original but no doubt it's long gone..
These guys (and Paul Holder) inspired me to work a bit harder (and the previous embarrassment mentioned above!) and I trawled through my Eagle comics to see where this unusual spaceship was used...and guess what?

Eagle 12 Oct 1963 Vol. 14:41 Art by Keith Watson
The above illustration shows the spaceship, the fins on the trousers and the connecting line to the ship that are all featured on the 1965 Annual cover. I'm not suggesting the Annual art is by Watson but his art is obviously the inspiration for the cover whoever drew it! And it's gorgeous too!

And just in case anyone says but where's the Bellamy art on this blog, here's a page from 1959 - Frank Bellamy's version of Dan Dare (including his version of a glove David J.!).

Eagle 12 September 1959 Vol. 10:30

As an aside David Jackson mentioned the following incident:

I remember David Bellamy saying that, before FB had worked for EAGLE, they had been looking together at a copy of EAGLE and Frank had commented favourably on the drawing of a glove; at least one possible [quite Bellamy-ish!] candidate for this may well be that of the 1954 Vol,5 No.26 inside page - as compared to and in contrast with, say, the rendering on the reprise of the same scene on the cover of the following issue. [Artwork in both by Frank Hampson and team)

Eagle Vol 5:26

Eagle Vol 5:27

In his usual thorough way David goes on to say:
I happened on the example above by complete chance, so it leaves room for the possibility there may be other, possibly more likely, candidates for this but to find such I'd have to look through all the Dan Dare pages published before Frank joined EAGLE.

So do you have any knowledge or thoughts on this topic - get in contact!

UPDATE 19 June 2014

Having read this article David Slinn got back to me and mentioned he wondered whether the comment regarding "gloves" were in fact about these images by Frank Hampson and team:

EAGLE Vol.6 No.21 27 May 1955
EAGLE Vol.6 No.21 27 May 1955

EAGLE Vol.6 No.20 20 May 1955 [i]
EAGLE Vol.6 No.20 20 May 1955

David also sent me the endpapers of the 1963 annual mentioned which featured art by Barrie Linklater