Showing posts with label Montgomery of Alamein. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montgomery of Alamein. Show all posts

Wednesday 16 November 2022

ORIGINAL ART: Montgomery and Garth

Copies of Montgomery plus original artwork

Well, this has been a busy month for me. Omega Auctions (of Newton-Le-Willows, Merseyside) c/o TheSaleroom are auctioning some original art and a collector's bound copy of Heros the Spartan and also Thunderbirds in their "TV, Film and Entertainment Memorabilia with Comics" auction.


"Montgomery of Alamein" Eagle Vol.13:21

Boards from the "Montgomery of Alamein" series in Eagle are very rare and this one is in pretty good condition considering its age. The last one sold that I recorded in nearly 15 years of keeping figures, was in November 2009 (from Eagle Vol 13:17) and that raised an impressive £2,849 for Comic Book Auctions Ltd. Here we are 13 years later with the episode from Eagle 26 May 1962 (Vol.13:21). The biography of Monty ran for 18 weeks from 10 March 1962 - 7 July 1962 and is one of my personal favourites, written by Clifford Makins. 

The auctioneers descibe it thus:

An original artboard (60 x 44cm) with original art across various panels for 'Montgomery Of Alamein' by Frank Bellamy, published 26th May 1962 in 'The Eagle'. Marked to lower right hand 'Vol 13/21'. Also a set of 18 sheets of the strip from March to 17th [sic] July 1962.

I love the devices Frank Bellamy used in this series which appeared as shorthand for troop movements and the large lettering for "Operation Market Garden" (one of the airborne forces most famous operations). Then we have the cameo of Monty himself. When comparing the original as being sold I feel I must say that at this point in Eagle's 12 years of publication, the printing quality was nowhere near as good as it had been and looking at the original we can see that this well-preserved piece shines compared to the printed version. All of the text boxes which will have been glued in place by Eagle staff seem to have gone, but what a beauty! I'd love to see a hi-res scan of this, if the winner feels like sharing!

"Montgomery of Alamein" Eagle Vol.13:21 (my photo)


Garth- The Doomsmen (J180)

I suspect they do not have a comic strip expert at Omega Auctions, but nevertheless:

An original storyboard [sic] by artist Frank Bellamy, depicting a panel from a 'Garth' comic, published c 1975. Measures 54.5 x 17.5cm.

This is from a later story "The Doomsmen" and the auctioneer's estimate is £150 to £250 which suggests they haven't been reading my blog! But these are strange times so let's see!

The other three lots, of Bellamy interest, are "a large collection of Thunderbirds comic pages" described as 

"A large quantity of bound colour pages from TV Century 21 magazines with art by Frank Bellamy. One volume with pages from Jan 15th '2066' to Oct 22 '2066', one from Dec 10th '2066' to July 8 '2067', More from '2067' to '2069'."

From the images, I'm guessing you are also getting some other Bellamy cuttings such as Doctor Who and I can't see how the different sizes are bound. 

Then we have another group: "A bound collection of colour cover [sic] pages from 'Heros Of the Spartan' by Frank Bellamy, from 27th October 1962 to 26th Oct 1963. Good condition. "

It sounds like the first two Heros stories are here. I'll leave you to explore my comic listing to see what's missing from these volumes after you check with the auctioneers if required!

Then there is Dan Dare collected together and described:

A bound run of Dan Dare comics from The Eagle from 29th August [1959] to 9th July 1960. Excellent condition.

which sounds like all three Bellamy stories - but do check!

I'll update sales figures when they become known.



WHERE?: TheSaleroom / Omega Auctions
END DATE: 6 December 2022


WHERE?: TheSaleroom / Omega Auctions
END DATE: 6 December 2022

Bound copies of Heros

Bound copies of Thunderbirds

Bound copies of Dan Dare

Monday 27 September 2021

Frank Bellamy in Action comic

Eagle 21 April 1962

This is a quick blog article which shows one "Montgomery of Alamein" from Eagle Vol. 13 No. 16 - dated 21 April 1962 as reprinted in Action, an infamous comic published in the UK beginning 14 February 1976 (until 12 November 1977, with annuals continuing until Action Annual 1985!). It was Richard Sheaf and Paul Trimble who alerted me to this, for which I thank them. As Richard stated "you'll see that the images has been 'squashed' slightly for the Action cover. The tank wheels in both images are identical and the explosion is very much in the Bellamy style. In fact it was the explosion style tipped me off that this was Bellamy more than the tank wheels! Once I knew it was Bellamy that helped me narrow it down".

If you want to see all the (idetified so far) reprinted Bellamy artwork in Action and its later incarnation Battle Action, read my previous article

Friday 8 February 2019

ORIGINAL ART: Montgomery of Alamein on CAF and Battle Action

UPDATED September 2021

Action 4 September 1976
showing a reprint from Eagle
Eagle 21 April 1962

Original Art from Eagle 19 May 1962
(Thanks for Terry for permission to use this)

In a previous article I mentioned I think my favourite Bellamy strip is "Montgomery of Alamein" which appeared in Eagle from Volume 13:10 - 13:27 (10 March 1962 -7 July 1962).If you would all like to donate to my "Buy Norman a lovely bit of Bellamy" fund, Terry Doyle is selling a piece I would love.
Terry has an extensive gallery on ComicArtFans and the reason for writing about this to 1) make sure you're aware of CAF (where you can also see all the Bellamys that people have uploaded) and also 2) that Terry is selling one of his prize collection for £7,000. This also gave me an excuse to write about something I recently discovered. This would make this piece the most expensive Bellamy artwork sold to date (to my knowledge!) and before you react like a modern social media troll, this is a prime example kept in great condition and unfaded. To contact Terry, login to CAF and click on this link to his sale.

Battle Picture Weekly had a long history of changes, being a UK comic that existed in the time when UK comics' sales on newsstands were declining and mergers were all the rage. You can read more about it on Wikipedia. Why do I mention it? I found that some of the war stories Bellamy illustrated were 'borrowed' for this comic.

10 February 1979

Eagle Volume 13:14 7 April 1962

Look at the grey coloured panel on the left and compare it to the bottom image on Battle Action! The image of Rommel above the headline "Kill Rommel!" is a famous photograph of the German. And before we leave the above Eagle image, the soldier and the clock-face in the Eagle comic are about to make an appearance!
Battle Action 5 May 1979

The next one shows the outline of the word WAR. Bellamy used this in the first episode of "Montgomery"as you can see below. The artist on Battle Action seems to have taken inspiration from Bellamy even if the font and images inside it are not the same.
Battle Action 28 October 1978
There are several other covers scattered through the run that appear to be taken from photographic reference but that's all I could find that directly related to Bellamy. If you think you know better, please share with us!

Lastly as we are on the subject of the comic that brought us "Charley's War" and "Johnny Red" amongst others, the annual from 1976 contained a few shots taken from Look and Learn - and yes! it's Bellamy again! The images are taken from Battle Picture Weekly Annual 1976.

Art: Unknown

Battle Picture Weekly Annual 1976, p73

And here's the Look and Learn pages - crudely scanned and joined by me!
Look and Learn #452 15 September 1970

Battle Picture Weekly Annual 1976, p74

Battle Picture Weekly Annual 1976, p76
The two above come from Look and learn

Monday 4 September 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Part Four: 1960s - 1970s by David Jackson

FRANK BELLAMY - design and technique
Part Four: 1960s-1970s 

By David Jackson
[Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three] [Part Four] [Part Five]

Fraser of Africa by Frank Bellamy

Through creativity and incremental improvement, over time, Frank Bellamy had originated his unique and distinctive style, from originally when he started out not having it, or knowing what it would be - the 'Frank Bellamy look' not yet then existing - to his work eventually being entirely unmistakable. As the Northampton Chronicle and Echo article "The many faces of Frank" (Thursday 23 September 2004) says: "More than any other British artist he brought a new sense of excitement to the adventure strips of the 1950s and '60s."
Eagle Vol.11 No.32, 6th August introduced the character of 'Martin Fraser' - Fraser of Africa - in the first installment of a trilogy: "Lost Safari" "The Ivory Poachers" and "The Slavers".

After drawing weekly comics pages from 1953 to 1960, culminating in several series for Eagle in full colour, Fraser of Africa represents the full expression of Frank Bellamy at the peak of his powers, free of the developmental compromises he had necessarily negotiated up to this point.

This progress would be one of consolidation and application from then on.
Original art from Eagle Vol: 12:25 24 June 1961
Every mark is exact, controlled, descriptive, explanatory and representational, there to be 'read' and convey solidity, actuality and meaning which informs and repays the attention given to it. Details are not sketchy, generalised or approximate as either pen or brush marks, nor indeterminate, let alone meaningless, tonal areas, but as careful delineation of pattern and light and shade as such detail would be if it had been photographed. In addition to which, there are drawings which are magically better than if they had been photographs - the Fraser second episode giraffes are an example (see below).

Eagle 13 August 1960 Vol.11:33 p12

FA: "You then moved on to Fraser of Africa. Had this strip been your idea, you being such a lover of Africa?"
FB: "No, I'm afraid it wasn't. The usual thing happened. Someone up at Eagle told me of the idea of an African setting for a new strip and asked if I'd like to draw it."
FB: "As well as the artwork, they offered me the script-writing job, but Clifford Makins, then assistant editor, told me it could well prove too much, to draw and write the set."
The scriptwriting was assigned to George Beardmore. "The Ivory Poachers" sequel to "Lost Safari" takes up the trilogy, concluding with "The Slavers", exactly where the first story left off and the hitherto sparing application of full colour is developed further.

FB: "With Fraser, the Eagle people were trying to do something not only entertaining, but also slightly educational - with all the wild animal life and true location. Not like in some strips, in South Africa one minute and suddenly in North Africa the next. I kept it in East Africa, with the local tribes and animals of that region."
FA: "It was on this strip that you took a gamble with sepia predominating the set, most installments being mainly shades of yellow and brown..".
FB: "That's right. As I've said, I have this thing about colour. And there was a chance to try a new approach. I thought it would be an ideal strip for a monochromatic look, particularly a sepia look, being in sun-drenched, tawny Africa. But apparently, when the printers heard, they went mad - saying they could never print it. But I was sure it would print. So, I did a series of colour experiments, using the colours I wanted and gave it to them at Bemrose to put under the camera. The results were positive."
FA: "Bemrose was the engraver..." - [The Eagle's long-term printers in Liverpool ~Norman]
FB: "Yes. So the same day I handed in a report to Marcus Morris, showing the results of my experiments, and he gave me the go-ahead. The Fraser page was reproduced as a full colour page, but, hopefully, it gave the effect of a sepia page. As the set developed, I put in the occasional full colour frame, purely for impact amongst all the sepia frames."
FB: "Fraser is an example of my feeling that there is always room for development in a strip or paper. I like to think that Fraser added a bit more variety to EAGLE."
FA: "It's more than just a matter of drawing what is required, then..."
FB: "Yes. I've never classed it as an extension of a hobby. It's not an easy life; it's a very lonely one. But I prefer to be a loner in my work. That's why I didn't like the Dan Dare set-up."
FA: "Looking at you, I see you bear a resemblance to Fraser of Africa. Is this a coincidence, or anything to do, perhaps, with your frustrated boyhood dreams of being a big game hunter?"
'[Uproar of laughter]'
FB: "Yes. Probably that's about the nearest I'll ever get to it. Actually, you can sometimes see in an artist's work little bits of his drawings that are offshoots of the artist himself. I've always been a keen fan of the 'spaghetti westerns', and I like to think that, with Fraser we were able to get a near-western look in parts."
Does this look like the gentleman below?

Is Frank Bellamy Martin Fraser?

Wide World Vol. 128 (Jan 1962) pp. 2-3
"The toughest prey" written by Douglas Lockwood
FA: "Looking back over your EAGLE work, it seems you started experimenting with a few new techniques while drawing the Churchill strip. Such as the large black and white frames in the middle of a colour page."
FB: "That's part of my thing with colour. I never like to use colour just for the sake of it. As with films, I always think the best are those produced when the director is conscious of the colour, and there's a lack of the super, high-quality Technicolor world. As an example, there's an excellent film called "The Culpepper Cattle Company" [1972]. "Every frame there is like looking through an album of Matthew Brady photographs. They filmed it using colour as it really is. A subdued look, with filthy browns and a suede look about everything."

[This is a hard film to find. Apparently it's on Netflix but hasn't been seen on UK terrestrial TV for at least a decade. I remember it as The Parallax Review says: "The Culpepper Cattle Company is a cinematic curiosity that I’m not sure has occurred before or since: a coming-of-age revisionist western. It seems like an odd combination of genres, but it’s not so surprising, especially considering the time of its making [1972]" ~Norman]

Another cinematic inspiration for the visual appearance of Martin Fraser himself is a very 'Fraser-styled' Frank Sinatra in the movie Never So Few.
As chance would have it, when The Good, the Bad and the Ugly had just been released and its theme was being constantly played on the radio, not only had I not seen the film, I had never seen Fraser of Africa in EAGLE. But what I had come across in the art college library was the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers' Designers in Britain No.6 with a small b/w reproduction of the second Fraser page (posted here last year) and back then I indelibly associated the theme music of that film with this Fraser of Africa image.

David Bellamy, in Timeview, says his father found that playing tapes of film theme music conducive to a dramatic mood.

FA: "If you could draw anything at all, be it an existing strip, a film adaptation or whatever - what would you like to have a go at?"
FB: "I'd love to draw the "Dollars" films in strip form. Not just because they were big successes, but because I love 'Spaghetti Westerns'."
 Frank recognised in these movies a 'comics look' in angles and lighting. Hence the - presumably uncommissioned and unpublished - out of his own interest, 'Dollars-style' full colour original double-page spread "Hombre" and the stylistically and thematically similar three-page b/w "Swade" which was published in Alley Sloper.

Unpublished "Hombre" strip as seen in photograph of Bellamy in his studio

FA: "Do you do any work for yourself - portraits, landscapes, sculptures..?"
FB: "Very little. I used to do quite a bit of artwork to submit to the Society of Graphic Artists, of which I am now a member. But over the last few years I've been doing less and less. Mostly the subjects have been figure work in pastels or drawings, not paintings. I've never done any oil paintings."
FA: "As well as being a member of the Society of Graphic Artists, I believe you are also a fellow of the Society of Industrial Artists. Could you tell us how you achieved that?"
FB: "Well, I sent them lots of samples of my artwork, hoping to be accepted as a member by the Society of Industrial Artists & Design council, and then, quite a few weeks later, I got two letters from them. When I opened the first one, I was very surprised and pleased to find they had accepted my work as being of a high enough standard for me to be accepted as a member. But when I opened the second one, I couldn't believe it, they'd also elected me to immediately become a Fellow of the Society.
FA: "(Editor's Note): Only Frank Bellamy and one other artist have ever been elected for immediate fellowship."

"King Solomon's Mines" art by Frank Bellamy

1962 Following the conclusion of the 'Fraser of Africa' series, FB completed three double-page original centrespreads for an adaptation of 'King Solomon's Mines' but, for whatever reason these remained unpublished. Some have speculated that the similarity of location and themes may have been an editorial consideration. At any event, the next published series also had the similarity of being full colour double-page centrespreads.

The first episode of Montgomery of Alamein written by
Clifford Makins Eagle Vol. 13:10 (10 March 1962)
Montgomery of Alamein.
This second living person picture-strip biography appeared in Eagle from Vol.13 No.10 to No.26, as a full colour double-page spread, with an additional frame occasionally on the front page. In design terms, graphic symbolism features strongly from the first episode and the closing panel comprises of the illustrated frame-word "WAR" (see above). These graphics continue to feature throughout the series and reappear in later work for Radio Times.
FA: "Occasionally, while drawing 'Churchill', you used symbolism instead of realism in your storytelling. Such as the swastika grabbing at Sicily, rather than showing a troop invasion...
FB: "I've always liked using the graphic approach instead of the ordinary comic strip way. Almost a sort of pictorial journalism. My work for the Sunday Times Magazine in particular was pictorial journalism. I used this graphic technique for the juvenile market - though many of Eagle's readers were adults - because I've never believed in drawing down to the reader. If I was drawing for a seven year old, I'd still be as conscious of what I was doing as if it was a cover for the Radio Times."
Frames in Vol.13 No.13 further develop the aerial perspective effect (black inking of foreground forms only) which first appeared in "The Happy Warrior".

Eagle 31 March 1962 Vol.13:13 pp8-9

Eagle 30 June 1962 Vol.13:26 pp.10-11
 In Edition, Barry Askew says:

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 again is breaking up this 'square frame, one on top of another' and to bring out important frames. The one in the centre there was just to give a monochrome look to associate with the monochrome films of the second world war."
 The same frame also discussed in the Look East programme:
FB: "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, there's a German infantryman there, firing his rifle, there's a 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."
The signed central frame in Vol.13 No.19 is singled out for special mention in the above TV interview.

Eagle 12 May 1962 Vol.13:19 pp.10-11
 I'd speculate that the reason such a 'deliberate mistake' would come about would be due to the black ink line drawing being done at an earlier time from the addition of colour washes (therefore not a continuous train of thought) with the resulting incongruity consequently not noticed.
Such an incongruous impossibility could actually occur in a photograph if entirely coincidentally a flare of light in optical close proximity to a gun barrel made it appear to fire.
It is potentially misleading information like this which is an inherent risk in a reliance on second-hand 'found' reference.

Eagle 22 September 1962 Vol.13:38
(Thanks to David Roach for scans of original art)

Only the Brave.
Vol.13 No.33 - No.38. Single page b/w half-tone wash picture strip, with an extra colour frame on the covers of 33 and 34. Documentary style dramatic reconstructions of real-life events resulting in awards of the George Medal: saving a trapped pilot; fighting-off armed bank-robbers; a lion attack; a runaway ANTAR tank-transporter; PC foils gunsmith robbery; PC who clung on to a recklessly driven car.

The reprint volumes still available from the Book Palace

Heros the Spartan.
Close on the sandaled heels of the big box-office Spartacus in the cinemas, 'Heros' stepped onto the cinemascopic full colour centrespread of Eagle.
FA: "In October, 1962, you started on what must be your best remembered and most acclaimed strip, the two-page colour centrespread for EAGLE...Heros the Spartan."
FB: "The EAGLE people phoned to offer me the set, telling me that Heros would be about the swashbuckling adventures of someone who would be a cross between a Roman warrior and an ancient Greek soldier . I had the first script, by Tom Tully, a few days later."
FA: "Could you tell us more about how you started on a Heros instalment, right from receiving the script?"
FB: "My usual method would be that I'd read the script through, imagining the words in pictures and noting down 'L', 'M' and 'S' - large, medium and small - by the writer's frame descriptions. That is, as I've said, I would ignore the writer's remarks about close-ups and long shots. Then I can see which are the important frames and which are the fill-ins. There would always be one very large frame that would sum up the whole spread, so I'd put a large cross by that one. Then I'd work out a thumbnail layout. Generally, I'd set it out in banks of three or four frames across. From there it would soon build up around the one or two main frames. Then I'd go straight on to the board, never making roughs."
FA: "One thing I've wondered about, looking at your Heros spreads. When you were composing them, did you ever find the big event of the instalment would fall in an awkward part of the composition - at the bottom corner, or edge, instead of fairly central?"
FB: "That could happen. Sometimes I could juggle with the frames a bit, but I was always aware of the composition. I always want the frame at the top left to be compensated by the frame at the bottom right, to balance the whole spread. But that took an awful lot of working out."
FA: "When you'd worked out the frame layout for a Heros spread, would you ink in your frame borders on the drawing board and then fill them in?"
FB: "Oh, no. I'd never draw the borders first. I'd probably draw them halfway through the job. You see, sometimes I find a frame can be more effective without a border, vignette shape, and that doesn't happen when you're doing things in pencil."
FB: "One other thing is that when you're actually putting it down on board, a complication comes in - where to put the speech balloons. This is top priority. So, when I've established the rough shape that I want, in the context of the composition of the whole spread, I might discover that the balloons might take up an enormous amount of space. And this would alter the whole composition. So the balloons are the first things which have to be pencilled in with any degree of certainty."
FA: "How many hours of the week, on average, do you think it took to draw a spread?"
FB: "It would easily take me a five day week. Sometimes six or seven days. Being fantasy, I didn't have to do all the research I'd needed for sets like "Churchill", but some frames took much longer to draw than others. One extreme example of this was a week when I had a big frame which covered almost the entire spread, surrounded by smaller frames - that particular page was on display, by the way, at the American Academy of Comic Book Arts."

This particular Heros (Vol.14 No.14; 6 April 1963) exhibited in the 1970s at the American Academy of Comic Book Arts helped win FB the AACBA 'Best Foreign Artist' (as seen from America).
EAGLE editor, Bob (L R T) Bartholomew, wrote to FB, 6th March 1963: "I have just seen your last Heros and felt I had to write to say the battle scene was the finest thing I have ever seen in juvenile publications." and Bellamy himself said "I must admit, I thoroughly enjoyed drawing Heros, and if I got the chance, I'd drop everything and start drawing Heros tomorrow." 

Eagle 6 April 1963 Vol.14:14

A technology development of particular interest to the illustrator was featured in Eagle Vol.15 No.14 (4th April 1964) - the back page is a full page cutaway of the Polaroid Land camera, which FB will have seen no doubt, even if he did not know of Polaroid before.

Following a b/w drawing illustrating a WWII text story in Boys' World (Vol.No.9, 23 March 1963), FB took over a science-fiction strip series (previously drawn by Frank Langford under the pseudonym "C F Eidlestein")."Brett Million - The Ghost World"  began 7th December 1963 in full colour on the back page of Vol.1 No.46, and ran until 25th April 1964, Vol.2 No.17, in Boys' World published by Odhams Press. The publication had undergone a change from a magazine look format to a decidedly more 'Eagle-looking' comic. As science fiction, stylistically, it seems like a way-station between Dan Dare and a job application for TV21.

Boy's World 11 January 1964
[Brett Million and ] The Ghost World
TV21's Alan Fennell had phoned, resulting in a guided tour of the Slough production studios for Frank and Nancy Bellamy with Gerry Anderson himself - as Nancy retold to Jon Johnson in a series for Eagle Times in the mid 1990s (part 15).

Dennis Hooper, art editor of TV21 says (in Strips '78 booklet): "Heros must rate highly ... but this strip ignored two of Frank's greatest gifts. His conception of geometric form and his vision of the future."
FA: "Heros was the last strip you drew for EAGLE before moving over to Century 21 publications, wasn't it?"
FB: "Yes. 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."
FA: "Did you find it a problem strip - having to draw puppets in an action-packed set?"
FB: "Yes, it was a problem. Everybody had seen them on the television, and so they would think of the characters as 18" 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."

From a later TV21, July 29 2067 #132 - original art

Thunderbirds began in TV21 spectacularly as a full colour double-page centrespread with a third page in b/w monochrome wash half-tone featuring inspired and innovative technical design invention on a weekly basis.

FA: "When you were drawing Thunderbirds, it started out as a colour centrespread, but soon changed to two separate colour pages, but still in the centre of the comic. Do you have any idea why?"
FB: "Yes. 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."
The odds and scraps salvaged from Frank's studio (see Alan Davis' website) included some 'work-in-progress' photos, one of which being of the submarine rescue from Thunderbirds in TV21 # 241, second page. The photo isn't of sufficiently high-definition to appreciate the art for its own sake but is informative in terms of the order in which the sequence of frames was completed. Which is to say, not in any order which might have been guessed at or expected. The idea that an entire page or spread would have been drawn in pencil, then inked - first linework, then areas of black ink filled in - is confounded here, with completed frames and a partly inked frame and faintly pencilled frames, effectively not drawn at all, all on the same page at the same moment in time. The technique of ruling thick borders around certain frames was not done with any special ruling pen just outlined with 'Gillotts 1950' nibs (or by masking with Sellotape cut with a razor blade) and then filled-in.

Mechanical design innovations not only involved puzzling out the narrative and visual elements into a coherent whole, but also the technical aspects of the various craft which were a feature of the series. These could be existing vehicles from the show or 'one-off use' inventions required to look convincingly functional in order to fulfil a particular role.

FB's own interests were 'historical' over 'futuristic' (despite being able to depict it so convincingly).

He could draw the inside of a top secret space-station like it would be - totally convincing - but, according to his son David, Frank wasn't a mechanically-minded person in terms of being able, for instance, to fix his car..!

FB had sometimes bought construction kits to see how they worked (rather than complete making the model).

Derek Meddings, special effects director and conceptual artist and designer of the Thunderbirds craft, etc says in S.I.G. No.11, 1984: "Thunderbird 2 ... I think that's my favourite, I think it's every artist's favourite, like Frank Bellamy. It was his favourite, he used to draw that thing and he'd really make it look great."

In tandem with Thunderbirds, Frank Bellamy also produced a selection of TV21 front covers of the Captain Scarlet strip and also a colour half page depiction of an astronaut in an advert for Letraset.

Advert that appeared in many comics during late 1969
Once, somehow or other - who knows how - Frank got time off..! Finding himself, at last, on the continent of Africa with his Leica camera he photographed his desert-booted foot on African soil.
FA: "I noticed that for a few weeks another artist was drawing some of the frames in THUNDERBIRDS...
FB: "Ah, that was for me to get a holiday. This is the type of job that doesn't give you much time for holidays."
FA: "In fact you have to do twice your normal output one week to have a holiday the next."
FB: "Precisely. At one time, I worked for five years without a holiday."
FA: "Do you try to work a normal seven or eight hour day, starting at nine and finishing at five?"
FB: "No. I have great discipline about the production of my work but I don't start at a given time and I never hear a whistle blow at five and drop the pen. I've never damaged a nib on that account. I work anytime."
FA: "Is there any particular time of day that you prefer to work?"
FB: "No, not really."
Despite which, in his commentary for Timeview, David Bellamy says that frequently working late meant getting up late in the morning and leaving the evening as his favourite time for working, when, as David once said, the phone didn't ring.
FA: "For the John Steed / Diana Rigg Avengers TV series, I believe you did some artwork for one episode..?"
FB: "Yes, it was at the time when I was working for TV21. The episode was called The Winged Avenger and was one of those bolt-out-of-the-blue jobs. I went to see the ITV people and they explained that the story was about a strip cartoonist, and they asked me to do the artwork for it. I also designed the costume for the Winged Avenger and the artist's studio."
FB: "...But I thoroughly enjoyed my part in it all. One difficult job I set myself was because I suggested they used the technique of holding on close to one of my drawings of the Winged Avenger and then dissolve into live action with the cartoonist in costume. But it was a terrible job to do, because they had to shoot the live action first and then I'd to draw exactly what was happening."
David Bellamy mentioned he possessed thirty Polaroids of the Winged Avenger artwork, in a conversation and he believed only one illustration subsequently remained as original artwork, as at the time, he owned it. (see below) [See all the art used in that episode here ~Norman]

Elma Peem = "Emma Peel". This does not appear in the final cut of
The Avengers episode "The Winged Avenger"

FA: "You also did some work for the Daily Mirror, before you started Garth, I believe?"
FB: Yes. The first job I did for them was a centrespread at the time of, and about, the first moon landing."
The salvaged studio photos of a model lunar lander [see Alan Davis' site], in themselves, have none of the dynamic and nuanced special qualities of the finished drawings, and, whatever visual references of NASA astronauts were provided for this task, again by some inspired means FB brilliantly envisioned and realized what was not there in the reference pictures, and rendered the spacesuits in action on the moon infinitely better than they ever actually looked in real life!

Daily Mirror 11 July 1969 pp14-15
When Anglia TV's Chris Young interviewed him, Frank said:
FB: "This one is pre-the first moon landing. I must tell you it's the first strip I've ever done minus balloons. It would have been lovely to say 'We made it' but it is the first time drawing a strip minus balloons, and in this case for real, because after drawing for years science fiction, seemed funny to draw it actually happening."
CY: "But that was done before the moon landing?"
FB: "Before the actual moon landing."
CY: "And were you fairly accurate?"
FB: "All the way through, I understand."
CY: "It all came true...ha ha!"
Daily Mirror 11 July 1969 p13
His Apollo 11 moon landing work for the Daily Mirror had, 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 - I can recall the media prior-speculation as to whether or not stars would in fact be seen - despite the 'ink black' daylight sky there.

Frank would create really black areas of black in all his original art even it meant going over it half a dozen times.

Included among the pieces of studio scraps rescued by Alan Davis was a first attempt version of the lunar lander, abandoned midway, for some reason and left incomplete despite all the work that had already been put into it. As visualized by FB, the blast-off of the LM Ascent Stage, the scene is remarkably prescient as to what it turned out to be in reality when the return launch of a later mission was filmed by the automated camera left on the lunar rover.
FA: "I remember you also did a political cartoon for the Mirror...
FB: "That's right, with a long crocodile. I also did one which they rejected, as being too cutting. It's St George and the Dragon, with George McGovern and Richard Nixon. They accepted a re-drawn version of that one."
Daily Mirror 3 July 1972 - Nixon and McGovern
In the late 60s and early 70s, Frank Bellamy began to be commissioned for what at the time might have seemed improbable prospects for comicbook style illustration. It would seem though, that some commissioning editors and art directors had strong memories of being, only a decade or so earlier, comics readers and were still Bellamy fans!

Northampton Chronicle & Echo later quoted Nancy Bellamy: "Frank had so much natural talent and he was a complete perfectionist," she said. "I'm glad so many people still seem interested in his work after all these years – he deserved it."

Frank said in his interview with Look East:

FB: "From the children's comics... into pictorial journalism for The Sunday Times... I mean, I get a telephone call, asking me to draw a cover and three pages in The Sunday Times colour magazine - strip cartoon format..! So I immediately pick myself up, brush myself down... and get on with it. But that approach, and the actual hardware of the job itself is exactly the same as years ago when I was drawing for EAGLE. From The Sunday Times into the Radio Times - "Doctor Who", there's an example, exactly the same, the comic strip format, showing "Doctor Who" for the cover of Radio Times - ten or fifteen years ago, it'd been unheard of."
Sunday Times Magazine 5 October 1969
Artist posed by David Bellamy
 The Sunday Times Magazine commissioned a series of comic strip art pictorial journalism features: A young artist "Weary Pilgrimage of Fred Blenkinsop" (5 Oct 69); Playwright's progress (16 Nov 69); Last of the Great Inventions (23 Aug 70; Call the heart squad (13 Sep 70); Jam Today - Supertrafficman! picture strip (11 Oct 1970); A Discreditable Exercise about credit checking (6 Dec 70); Inside Racing (25 Apr 71).

FA: "For those who haven't seen any of your Sunday Times work, could you give a run-down on the type of subjects covered?"
FB: "Well, some were about things like the problems of putting on a play at the Royal Court Theatre, heart attacks, the struggling artist, the traffic problem at Charing Cross Road and Centrepoint and so on."

The Sunday Times Magazine front cover posed by Frank's son David as an aspiring artist sitting with his portfolio on a train with a pop art montage above. He also posed talking to Frank and with Nancy in the interior panels.

Some of the reference shots used for some Sunday Times pieces, salvaged by Alan Davis and now on his website, cast light upon the process of creating this artwork.

It is interesting the extent to which this finished art only superficially derives from the source references.

Another piece of artwork rescued from Frank's studio is the part-completed first attempt at the inside horse racing spread, originally titled "Devious Ways to Win". For whatever reason, the published version is entirely unlike the abandoned piece - even the frames illustrating the tactics are completely dissimilar to the original version of same frame. Surprisingly the effort invested by FB in originally creating the frames, including those brought almost to completion, was not saved and recycled (it might be expected that an artist would trace-off such an image and re-use the work). Even a frame which is most closely similar to the previous version is not exactly the same. Rather, they have been, apparently effortlessly or as easily, totally re-imagined and redrawn!

NEXT: The 1970s!

Sunday 26 February 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Frank Bellamy and Montgomery of Alamein

In May this year Frank Bellamy will have been 100 but or his early death So in honour of Kettering's most famous son I want to try to publish some longer articles with a few more pictures than usual. 

Eagle 21 April 1962 Vol.13:16 p.1
If you asked me what is my favourite Bellamy strip I would struggle and say things like "I can't decide" but then I would suddenly declare "Montgomery of Alamein" from the Eagle comic. Why? It's so...Bellamy! It has stippling, 'Bellamy swirls', it has the figures breaking out of panels, it's a composition across a double page - hard to reprint in a book - and his brilliant use of colour. It uses graphic devices to tell the story, it uses maps and finally it's just beautiful.

The first of appearance of Bellamy's 'Montgomery'
I was five when the above appeared* and no doubt had a copy in our house (thanks to older brothers!) but I would have headed to Reg Parlett's "Fidosaurus" at that point in my life! "Dan Dare" was a vestige of his greatness, only having a panel on the front cover in colour - although Keith Watson's black and white two pages were certainly not to be sneezed at!

Dan Dare drawn by Keith Watson in Eagle Vol. 13:10 (10 March 1962)

Fidosaurus by Reg Parlett in Eagle Vol. 13:10 (10 March 1962)

But back to Bellamy...

The first episode of Montgomery of Alamein written by
Clifford Makins Eagle Vol. 13:10 (10 March 1962)

Look at the panel below. Bellamy seems to have loved doing crowd scenes. He could have emphasised one man in close up and blurred, or intimated a crowd beyond through the use of perspective colouring. He knew what he was doing so why the detail? I think it was pride in his work. I have never claimed to be able to handle Photoshop but I wanted to have a go at showing how Bellamy's panels could be wild in shape when looked at alone!

One panel by Frank Bellamy from
"Montgomery of Alamein" Eagle 19 May 1962
That's too cluttered for you? Well try the simple composition at the top of this article which is full of action, the colour alone being stunning. Bellamy uses perspective colouring to indicate depth. The colours in the foreground more distinct, as if he has photographed this and focused on the aircraft and blurred the background out. And do I have to mention the explosion? Bellamy must have loved doing those as they appear in many of his strips.

Here's another whole double page (of 18 episodes) for your delight.
Eagle 4 April 1962 Vol.13:15 p10-11
There was no clue on the cover that Bellamy was pulling out all the stops in the Eagle that week as his work didn't appear on the cover. Let's look at this piece of artwork which could be purchased for just 5d (5 pence so small it's not worth comparing to today, but a normal postage stamp cost 4d -"First class and second class services were introduced in September 1968 at 5d and 4d respectively")*

Eagle 4 April 1962 Vol.13:15 p10-11

Eagle 4 April 1962 Vol.13:15 p10-11
The dark colours used for the soldier and the clock are blown apart by the explosive artillery in the next panel that stretches across the battlefield of Alamein. take a close look at the stippling on the face!

Eagle 4 April 1962 Vol.13:15 p10-11
Here we see Bellamy's use of  a sepia colour to portray the sandy desert environment with all the British pointing inwards in the panel towards the Germans adding force to the 2 dimensional space. 

Eagle 4 April 1962 Vol.13:15 p10-11

Eagle 4 April 1962 Vol.13:15 p10-11
The above portraits remind us that in 1962 communication satellites were about to be launched in space for the first time, (and the Internet was a far away thing!) and Bellamy will have had to consult many sources to check out details. I imagine his research in the Imperial War Museum for the earlier series on Churchill will have helped.he also shows very good protraits of other leaders in the warfare including Hitler!

My other favourite part of this strip is the visualisation of troop movements and battles. I often wondered if the title sequence from the British comedy series Dad's Army was inspired by Bellamy's drawings.

Eagle 19 May 1962 Vol. 13:20 p10-11detail
Eagle 26 May 1962 Vol.13:21 p10-11detail

Bellamy appeared in a lost BBC programme called Edition where he was interviewed by Barry Askew (broadcast on Friday 30th November 1973):
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. 

Montgomery of Alamein, written by Clifford Makins, ran in the Eagle comic from Vol. 13:10 - 13:27 (10 March 1962 -7 July 1962). The following covers had Bellamy content (usually a third of quarter of the cover) during the run of this story:
Vol. 13:12 (24 March 1962)
Vol. 13:13 (31 March 1962)
Vol. 13:14 (7 April 1962)
Vol. 13:16 (21 April 1962)
Vol. 13:18 (5 May 1962) half cover
Vol. 13:19 (12 May 1962)
Vol. 13:22 (2 June 1962)

Montage of the Eagle covers with Bellamy's "Montgomery of Alamein"

The whole story has been reprinted in High command: the Stories of Sir Winston Churchill and General Montgomery [Netherlands]: Dragon's Dream, 1981 and  as a fan effort by Desmond Shaw (2010). Here's what Norman Wright and David Ashford (the former I met many years ago in a Comic fair, and the latter I met just recently!) said about this series:

Frank Bellamy’s first full-colour centre-spread for Eagle was Montgomery of Alamein, an eighteen episode biography which began in March, 1962. As with “The Happy Warrior”, it required a great deal of research and a degree of co-operation from Montgomery himself. Unlike the Churchill strip, Frank began it with confidence and a determination to make it something outstanding. Once again he experimented with colour, conveying the feel of individual frames with carefully-chosen tints and tones. He became even bolder in the way he broke up his pages, using shaped panels to depict movement, wide panoramic frames to portray battles and jagged-edged illustrations to draw reader’s attention to important events. If anything the work was an even greater success than “The Happy Warrior” and ranks as one of the best strip biographies of all time. [Norman Wright & David Ashford, (2002)."Frank Bellamy" (Great British Comic Artists No. 5) Book And Magazine Collector No 222]
Eagle 7 July 1962 Vol.13:27 p08-09 The last of the 18 episodes

* The picture of the cover for the new Eagle appeared a week before on the inside cover of the Eagle