Thursday 18 June 2009

Fans of Frank Bellamy: Mike Collins

Here's a new feature that I hope to add to occasionally

Mike Collins is a British artist who has successfully worked for DC, Marvel, Eclipse (I loved them!) and many more, as well as the famous UK comic 2000AD. He recently made a brilliantly visual comment about Frank Bellamy's art in the Garth strip:

"Frank Bellamy's art boiled my brain with its unbelievably dynamic energized art"

Taken from a (now-defunct and not archived in 2020) Alan Moore Senhor do Caos blog - which even if you don't know Portuguese, I'm sure you can translate

I plucked up the courage and emailed Mike a request to say more, and got this by return:

"I was stunned as a kid to see that artwork... it was odd things, like the way he'd draw an E Type Jag roaring down a country lane and make it look just the most dramatic thing you'd ever seen, or how he'd compose a battle scene which had you convinced you were seeing the whole of Little Big Horn or some Conquistadors getting the sharp end of his sword from horseback, or breathtaking alien or sea environments, all in these frankly tiny squares of art—and sometimes not even squares... Bellamy's brilliant design sense (which I loved on the Gerry Anderson stuff but was probably too young to realise it was the same guy) gave us panels which more resembled crazy paving images that only enhanced the kinetic drive of the work. Oh and, god, could he draw sexy women! He managed like no artist before or since to make that thin strip of art into cinescope in your head. I've worked on newspaper strips -notably Judge Dredd for three years-- and know just how hard it is to utilize that space into something eye catching and spectacular. Frank Bellamy did it with artistic verve that I can't get near for trying."

I am honoured to present this, and know that if he had said this to Bellamy himself, Frank would have replied in the same humble way about Mike's art, as he did with fans of his such as Sir William Russell Flint.

The pictures, in order, are taken from :
  • The Beautiful People K25 and K26 (one of the never reprinted stories)
  • The Beast of Ultor H50 and H51
Copyright Mirror Group Newspapers Limited

Thanks Mike for giving me an excuse to browse my Garths and fulfilling your desire to see one aspect of Garth, although you mentioned several!

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Frank Bellamy visits King Solomon's Mines

Episode #1
Terry Doyle was kind enough to remind me I hadn't blogged anything about the scans he sent me recently (OK, Terry, it was January!). I originally wrote to Terry when looking at what I knew about Bellamy's activities in 1961/1962. I was aware that Terry had an unpublished strip on the wonderful ComicArtFans site (Terry's gallery is here).

We know that in 1961 Bellamy had drawn three complete stories in the excellent "Fraser of Africa" series, the last was completed for 12 August 1961 issue of Eagle. He then did an illustration in the 26 August 1961 of a rhinoceros crushing its way through the undergrowth and also for the issue dated 18 November 1961 "Men of Action No.5 Sir Edmund Hillary" (written about here). For a story magazine about true adventures, he produced three illustrations in Wide World (Vol. 128 January 1962). He then started the series in Eagle called "Montgomery of Alamein" in the issue dated 10 March 1962.

So my question was what did he do between the dates August 1961 and March 1962?

I know he exhibited at the Summer Salon 18th Annual Exhibition at Royal Institute Galleries, but other than that I have a big gap in my knowledge. All the usual sources are not all helpful on the detail
Episode #2
Here's where Terry enters the picture. he owns one of the three unpublished double page boards showing work Bellamy did on "King Solomon's Mines".

"Unfortunately, I don't remember who it was told me the story behind the aborted KSM strips. It came from a reliable source, and was not specualation. Just can't recall. Must be getting senile . . ! [So it's not just me then Terry!] ". It appears that the proposed series was scrapped after the editorial team felt another African strip was too much. Each strip will have taken one week to produce (plenty of evidence for that fact!)and it's likely he will have been paid for the strips.

But when were these produced? Back to Terry:
"Might be worth remembering that Bellamy's pre-"Dan Dare" episodes (for the back page of Eagle) were large-sized CS10 artboards. When he took over "Dan Dare", he illustrated his pages at the same size as the printed page, which conformed to the Hampson studio's method of working. When he left "Dan Dare", he continued with same size boards for "Fraser of Africa".
The King Solomon's Mines" strips were all illustrated same size (I've seen the other two Episodes in person). When Bellamy illustrated "Montgomery of Alamein" he continued illustrating at same size. When he illustrated "Heros the Spartan", he went back to large sized artboards. So, if nothing else, it makes sense that KSM is post-"Dan Dare" and pre-"Heros"."

Size comparison - thanks to Terry

There are few people on this planet who own large amounts of original Bellamy artwork and I have seen some myself, so I can bear out what Terry is arguing here.

I also found that Terry published his thoughts in "Illustrated Comic Journal" #31 (1998?), a magazine for British comics enthusiasts

So it appears that these three strips are very likely to have been done in this gap period. Nancy, Frank's widow, has no recollection of this specific time period (it is after all 49 years ago and I've forgotten to publish these strips since January!). Perhaps there is more Bellamy work to turn up for the period August 1961 to March 1962.

Episode #3

Thanks to the kindness of Alan Davis I share this preparatory work on Episode #1

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Bellamy and the Wild West:

Frank Bellamy illustrated pieces in the Boy's World Annuals of 1965 and 1966. He then only appeared in 1971 edition to the best of my knowledge - (and I love being contradicted!)

In the 1965 he illustrated "A Question of Honour" by Henry Casson, various matador drawings - a subject he loved very much. His subject for 1966 was "The Raid" showing war topics - wish I'd remembered this for the essay I wrote for Steve Holland's new book Frank Bellamy's Story of World War One (for the latest on this follow Steve's blog or take a look at Geoff West's site - scroll down the page a bit). I've reproduced the cover here and would expect it to be available on Amazon fairly soon and as Geoff says, you can pre-order on his siteAnyway, getting back to Westerns and Bellamy. In the Boy's World Annual 1971 he illustrated an author my Dad loved - no, not Zane Grey this time, but J.T.Edson. Steve asked me to help out by providing an illustration or two from that annual - which I do have in my collection - for his article written by Jeremy Briggs on Edson and his stories in the Victor comic. Click here for Part One and here for Part Two. This set me thinking about a theme for the blog: Bellamy and the Wild West

Bellamy's love of Africa is well known, but he was also very keen on cowboys and the Wild West. Throughout the 1950s Bellamy produced many illustrations to accompany Boy's Own Paper stories such as "Phantom buffalo" by Gerald Wyatt, "Vivo the wild colt" by Ross Salmon and "Stormy round-up" by Ross Salmon. For the children's annual Swift 1956 he drew some pictures of a young Indian brave, and various illustrations for Lilliput magazine such as "War Party" by W.R. Burnetta and "The drifters" by John Prebble.

In the 1970s he illustrated the annual that started this article, the particular story being on pages 23-27 "Johnny Boyland and the quail hunters" by J. T. Edson, and of course, one of his most famous works "Garth" saw two great western stories - "Ghost Town" and the one he opened the series with "Sundance". "Ghost Town" was reprinted around the time of Bellamy's death whilst a replacement was found (Martin Asbury) as it was one Bellamy's personal favourites.

He also did some odds and ends during the 70s such as the cover later used after his death for the Comicon '78 cover and a sketch of "Chilli Willi" whatever that was! One interesting cowboy feature at this time was for the Monty Python team - Bert Fegg's nasty Book for Boys and Girls, published by Methuen, in 1974 (also reprinted in Dr Fegg's Encylopedia of All World knowledge 1984. The story was called "A Cowboy Story" and was in full colour. "How the west was won" was drawn to accompany the showing of that famous film, in the Radio Times

The next piece to mention is "Hombre" as we have no idea what it was. In the picture below of Bellamy in his studio, we can just see "Hombre" in the picture on the right.

The content looks very similar to the last strip he published before his untimely death in 1976 "Swade" in Denis Gifford/Alan Class magazine Ally Sloper.

Then finally I also ought to mention again "Wes Slade" which you can read all about on my website, he also produced a cover posthumously (sort of) in 1980 for Marvel Comics (UK) of all people, thanks to Dez Skinn - Marvel Western Gun Fighters.

I suppose I could also add that as Bellamy appeared on ITV and this feature is on Westerns I should mention Quick on the draw, but as the quiz show from 1974 was about cartoons and comic artists , then again I don't think I will as that pun would be too awful!

Happy Trails Pardners!

Monday 13 April 2009

Frank Bellamy Lifetime Achievement Award (Part 3)

On Tuesday, 18 September 2007, I first mentioned I had learned about the "Frank Bellamy Lifetime Achievement Award" and my good email friend Richard Sheaf added a bit of information on Friday, 11 January 2008.

Subsequently Richard has sent me several scans from various fanzines which have articles on this award. Although not directly related to Bellamy, except in name, I felt this pieces of history might interest a few people.

Eagle Times #22:1 (Spring 2009)

James Slattery of Dragon's Dream for 'Most outstanding contribution to strip illustration' says Alan Vince in his interesting article just published in this quarter's ET. The magazine celebrates its 21st birthday this year and long may it continue. Alan's memories of 1970s/80s comic conventions, when Embleton, Hampson, Lewis et al were still with us are really interesting. Who is James Slattery? He worked on the reprints from the Eagle, including Bellamy's never since reprinted "High Command" which had the brillaint Churchill and Montgomery strips in full colour

Comics International #127 (Christmas 1992) - Alberto Breccia - interesting choice as he's not really appreciated much in the English language
Comic World 12 February 1993 - same announcement in a different form

Comics International #139 (February 1994) - Jack Kirby, whom I think you will all know!

Comics International #153 (March 1995) - Alex Toth, again you should know him!

Comics International #178 (February 1997) - Julius Schwartz, and if you're as old as me he needs no introduction either.

Want to add anything, please comment below...till next time

Sunday 5 April 2009

SWIFT Cover update


See my post and notes on the website regarding the Swift comic cover in question. I bounced a few emails to Steve Holland at the time and I don't now how but I missed the full story. Fortunately, having visited and met Steve for the first time a few weeks ago, I plied him with food and beer and found out the following. Steve kindly said I could quote him which helps me post this a bit quicker than normally do!

GUEST: Steve Holland:


Frank Hampson had finished working on "The Road of Courage" in Eagle in early 1961. It takes a few weeks to get the finished comic through the printing process so there's usually a lead-in period. The last episode of "Road" appeared in the issue dated 8 April 1961 but was probably completed by Hampson in February at the latest. This was shortly before the Fleetway took over the Odhams/Hulton group of comics. The deal was officially brokered on 22 March 1961.

To quote "Living with Eagles", "In May Leonard Matthews wrote that he would be 'taking up residence' at Longacre the following week." So you can see that various changes would have occurred during the summer of '61.

Hampson, meanwhile, was still drawing a regular paycheque from what was now Fleetway Publications. New editors and sub-editors began to arrive and the various titles began to reflect these changes. In September 1961, a new style of covers began to appear on Swift, each cover based around an event (the first Sputnik, the Battle of Hastings, the Gunpowder Plot, etc.). Some were new, some were reprints of old Thriller Picture Library covers.

Again, lead time for printing dates the decision to change the covers to around June/July 1961. Someone, possibly Alf Wallace or (more likely) Val Holding, who had been installed at Odhams by Matthews, realised that Hampson was still on their books and commissioned three covers from him.

The first (General Custer) was delivered and published in December 1961 (it would have been painted by Frank in September or October). Frank then fell ill and could not complete the second commission. This was passed on to Frank Bellamy who painted the cover featuring Amundsen reaching the South Pole which appeared the week after Hampson's General Custer cover on 16 December 1961. Hampson recovered and was able to complete the third cover (the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth I) which appeared in January 1962 and was probably painted in November 1961. This has been confirmed by David Slinn who was working for Eagle and Swift at the time, although the rough dating of events is mine.


Thanks Steve for clearing that up.

Click on "The Lost Characters of Frank Hampson" by Alistair Crompton & Wakefield Carter to see the Hampson covers mentioned above. Now how can I illustrate the blog without repeating a previous picture, well here's a bonus for you. An odd black and white picture from earlier in the year, but around the same period of time published in the Eagle 26 August 1961

Saturday 28 March 2009

Reprinted Bellamy illustrations - Thunderbirds Extra 1966

The 48 page 1966 Thunderbirds Extra was published in March of that year by City Magazines Ltd who produced the weekly comic TV21 in cooperation with Century Publishing Limited. It contains a lovely Thunderbird strip illustrated by Brian Lewis - a far too neglected artist, and a strip by Don Harley, (Dan Dare and later Thunderbird artist, most famously in Countdown) and finally Ron Turner best known for his colour back cover on TV21's Dalek strip and later Anderson annuals.

But here it's the text stories that are of interest to Bellamy fans and one in particular: Thunderbirds: Flight to Destruction

Three pages of text are accompanied by what are obviously Bellamy illustrations, but it takes a fanatic to track them down. And I have! Shaqui gave me the idea for this blog post, so again thanks Shaqui.

Here are the pages from which the above illustrations are taken

TV21 51 pp.10 &11:
TB5 is from the 3rd B&W page in TV21 #51
The portrait of Jeff Tracy is from the same TV21
TV21 51 pp.12
TV21 56 pp.10 & 11
Scott's portrait is from the above

TV21 60 pp.10 & 11
Jeff and Brains' portraits are from the above

TV21 60 p.12
TB1 comes from the above

Saturday 7 March 2009

Only the brave, George Medal and Frank Bellamy

After his successful run illustrating a full colour double-page spread on Field Marshall Montgomery in Eagle, Bellamy created 6 single black and white page stories in the Eagle series "Only the brave". His episodes ran from Eagle volume 13:33 to 13:38 with dates 18th August 1962 to 22nd September 1962.

Background to the series: Only the brave told the true life stories of recipients of the George Medal (as opposed to the George Cross) and the British Empire Medal. Wikipedia has an excellent article on the George Medal which was "instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI". I re-read the stories for this blog and was amazed how moving they are after all these years and how Bellamy managed to fit excitement and pathos in the series taking only one page! Bellamy illustrated part of the covers of the 2 Eagles in which he did his first 2 black & white pages. The cover at that time was divided up in illustrative panels. For the curious, this is directly before the Eagle decided to create single image covers of racing drivers "Kings of the road". The name is not to confused with the exciting Gerry Haylock drawn series - but I digress!)

Which names are covered by Eagle?
No. 24 Flt Sgt John Goldsmith I February 1941 Flight Sergeant John Goldsmith was driving his ambulance when he spotted a plane in difficulty. He sprang to the rescue of the pilot stuck in the wreckage despite the danger of a likely fuel tank explosion

No. 25 John Edwards John Edwards, a bank manager in Birmingham, stopped a robbery in his bank, facing up to two masked men. "After the gunmen had stood trail the judge left his bench to congratulate Mr. Edwards"
No. 26 Lilan Daka in 1958, a Ngomi tribesman in Northern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) rushes headlong into a hut where a woman is screaming, as a lion heads towards her baby. He forgets that he has not loaded his rifle yet fights the lion bear-handed

No. 27 Malcolm Bignall In June 1957 Bignall drove a 50 ton transporter (with a tank on board) for the Royal Army Service Corp through the towns and villages of Hampshire. The brakes failed on a hill and he was heading for Hurstbourne Tarrant where villagers were unaware what was coming. Despite personally being injured as the transporter's flywheel hit him he managed to steer the transporter and tank into a nearby field and was awarded a British Empire Medal

No. 28 PC Verth of Manchester P.C. Archibald Verth of Manchester stops a robbery in a gunsmiths and is awarded a BEM. (see the Third Supplement the the London Gazette Fri 23rd May 1958 for further details - or read the Eagle!)

No. 29 PC Tom Young P.C. Tom Young hangs onto a car when he discovers a petrol thief. He's taken for a ride on the bonnet and travels at 70 miles per hour (could cars go that fast before 1962?) Eventually the car runs out of petrol and Young chases the criminal. Later he too is awarded the British Empire Medal

These were the reprinted:
  1. WHAM #95 (09/04/1966) "World of Adventure" Bomb Burglar (PC Verth of Manchester)
  2. WHAM #96 (16/04/1966) "World of Adventure" Death ride (PC Tom Young)
  3. LOOK AND LEARN #545 (24/06/1972) - 549 (22/07/1972) titled the series as Bravest of the Brave
  • #545 - "Lionheart" (Lilan Daka) (24 June 1972, p.18)
  • #546  - "Crash Landing" (John Goldsmith) (1 July 1972, p.18)
  • #548  - "Runaway Tank" (Col M Bignall)  (15 July 1972, p.18)
  • #549  - "Maniac Bomber" (P C Verth)  (22 July 1972, p.32)