Saturday 30 January 2010

Frank Bellamy's reprinted stories - UPDATE

In my post of the 14 August 2009 I was looking forward to Titan's reprint book. I felt that with some misleading information on the Net I ought to write a little bit for anybody that relies on this blog for news of Bellamy's reprinted material.

Rather than perpetuate any more errors, I wrote to the authority in these matters John Freeman.

"I think the confusion may have arisen because the original plan was to run Courage and Bellamy's David in the same volume. I argued Jesus and Mark would complement each other better and offer the possibility of a second volume with another well known strip, David, alongside Eagle's story of Paul. There's no planned publication date for this second volume. As you may already know from reading my blog an animated film based on the imagery of Road of Courage is in development."

John then kindly provided the following blurb, as it's called in the trade

The Road of Courage Written by Marcus Morris; drawn by Frank Hampson Ran in Eagle from volume 11, issue 12 to volume 12, issue 14 [19/03/60 – 08/04/61] (56 episodes)
  • The Road of Courage starts with Herod ordering a census. Joseph appears in episode 3, Mary in episode 4 and Jesus is born in episode 5. It features every major incident in the biblical life of Jesus: the flight from Egypt, Jesus’ early life, the battles against the occupying Romans, Jesus’ fights against the Pharisees, Palm Sunday, throwing the money lenders out of the temple, the Last Supper, Judas betraying Jesus, the confrontation in the garden of Gethsemane, the trial of Jesus, setting Barabbas free, Jesus carrying the cross and rising from the dead.
  • The Road of Courage has only been published in a collection once before (in 1981, by Dragon’s Dream) as The Road of Courage – The Story of Jesus of Nazareth. It was also published in Dutch and French. This collection is long out of print and commands a considerable premium on ebay etc. when copies are for sale.
Mark, The Youngest Disciple Subtitled “The story of John Mark writer of the 2nd gospel” Ran in Eagle from volume 5, issue 46 to volume 6, issue 26 [12/11/54 – 01/07/55] = 34 episodes [there were 53 issues in volume 5] Written by Chad Varah, who died in 2007 (follow the link for Steve Holland's excellent article) and drawn by Giorgio Bellavitis (who died very recently)
  • The timeframe over which Mark, The Youngest Disciple is told is different from every other normal back page Eagle “True Life” story. Normally, they covered a lifetime but in the case of Mark, the tale spans just over seven weeks, from Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter) until Whit Monday (seven weeks after Easter). Even then, most of the action takes place on just a few days.
  • The story is based around Mark rushing around Jerusalem getting into scrapes as he follows Jesus through this momentous time in Jesus’s life, opening with the Last Supper before moving quickly to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. It features the trial of Jesus, setting Barabbas free, Jesus carrying the cross, his rising from the dead, the founding of the Christian church and the first baptisms, ending with Peter agreeing to let Mark work with him as a missionary.
  • Throughout, Jesus is featured but his face is never seen
Shepherd Lad of Bethlehem Written by Chad Varah, drawn by Norman Williams Ran in Eagle from volume 2, issue 37 to volume 2, issue 38 [21/12/51-28/12/51] – 2 episodes
  • A seasonal tale set in Bethlehem and never before re-published.

Thanks for the information John. I have the first reprint of Road to Courage (by Dragon's Dream) and it's great to see pure Hampson, so it's well worth buying for that alone

So what does this mean to us Bellamy fans? Wait patiently and pray sales on Titans reprints encourage the reprinting of the next volume and then we might see David reprinted

Meanwhile Geoff West of Book Palace has reminded me that the shipment of his two reprints are due in the third week of February and this gives me an excuse to outline what they are about.

The Story of World War One (Hard cover Signed Limited Edition)
  • Artist: Frank Bellamy
  • Author: Michael Butterworth, Frank Bellamy, edited by Steve Holland (and that Norman Boyd too!)
  • Publisher: Book Palace Books
  • Publication Date: February 2010 First Edition.
  • Pages: 112 pages
  • Size: 9" x 12" (220mm x 297mm)
  • Format: Hard Cover
  • Illustrations: Part Colour
  • ISBN: 9781907081033
  • Territory: World
  • Synopsis: For the first time ever, Michael Butterworth's epic series of articles recounting the history of the First World War collected from the pages of Look and Learn, where it was fully illustrated each week by the incomparable Frank Bellamy. From the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand through the desperate battles fought at Gallipoli, Verdun, the Somme and Passchendaele. The story is told in a series of beautifully illustrated episodes that are suitable for children. This book is a testament to the the greatness of this famous British strip and the artists who drew it. 110 works of original art beautifully reproduced.
LIMITED TO 200 Copies with a unique numbered print of a double page spread of original art.

The Story of World War One (Signed Limited Edition)
  • Artist: Frank Bellamy
  • Author: Michael Butterworth, Frank Bellamy, edited by Steve Holland
  • Publisher: Book Palace Books
  • Publication Date: February 2010 First Edition.
  • Pages: 112 pages
  • Size: 9" x 12" (220mm x 297mm)
  • Format: Soft Cover
  • Illustrations: Part Colour
  • ISBN: 9781907081002
  • Territory: World
LIMITED TO 1250 numbered copies

Frank Bellamy's Complete Swift Stories Deluxe Edition (Limited Edition)
  • Due February 2010.
  • This book brings together every strip and illustration produced by Frank Bellamy for the classic British children's comic Swift, Frank Bellamy's Swift contains the complete adventures “Robin Hood”, “King Arthur and His Knights” and “Swiss Family Robinson”, plus his contributions to other strips (“The Fleet Family”, “Paul English”) and the Swift Annual.
  • As a bonus, the book is issued with a Limited edition Robin Hood print.
  • 380 pages. Hard Cover Part Colour 9" x 12" (220mm x 297mm)
  • (ISBN-13: 9781907081026)
Deluxe Slipcased Limited Edition of 200 copies. With bonus Limited edition Robin Hood print.

Sunday 10 January 2010

Myths debunked

I was reminded of the above piece as I watched, for the first time, the film "The Battle of Britain" over the last week. Over the years there have been many artists who have imitated Bellamy and some of his techniques and I'm sure he would be very flattered. But those who know his work don't generally argue over the provenance of original art. (There have been a few). The reason for this is that with his regular commissions in comics taking most of his time (and therefore easily accounted for) and also his clear style it's rare something comes up to argue over, and Nancy his widow, is still with us too to corroborate some works. There are two pieces 

I'd like to bring to your attention. The first is above. This comes from the excellent Look and Learn website (search for LL0036-013-99) but also from an enquirer to my website asking where this piece by Bellamy was published. I had to inform him that this wasn't by Bellamy. 

I have also seen a piece from the strip "Montgomery of Alamein" from the Eagle called "the Battle of Britain" and sold as a print, but this seems to have now disappeared so maybe this was another mistake that someone buried before the lawyers moved in! 

On enquiry Steve Holland said he knew this was Neville Dear (I totally agree) and that this link gives the right attribution, which it does The second piece which was forwarded to me by, I think Shaqui, is the following game

Taken from Look-in Annual 1971

The figure in the centre of a Masai is 'borrowed' from TV21 issue 59, p12 (the Thunderbird strip "Mission to Africa") 

The elephants come from the same story (issue #60, p.10)- here's the original The rhino comes from - again the same story - #63, page 11 - here's the original again for you to compare Where do the gorilla and lion come from? I can't find them so I'm guessing either copied from photos of the time, or 'borrowed' from elsewhere. If you can trace a Bellamy antecedent, let me know. Now why was this hotch-potch of images used, when Bellamy could have been approached to create something in 1971? Especially as, at that time, Alan Fennell, his old friend, was the Editor of the Look-In comic (before Colin Shelbourne took over from his position of Art Editor)? Well, at that time Bellamy did contribute one piece, - more of which at a later date. But I suspect he was trying at this point to break away from comics (despite creating Garth for the Daily Mirror every day) and therefore was reluctant to 'go backwards' But why did the creator of the game above rip-off another publisher's material? Another mystery that may never be solved

Thursday 31 December 2009

Original art sold

Just a quick note about a recent sale of a Garth strip by Frank Bellamy, number J70. This sold on eBay last month for $250 - which in Pounds Sterling today equates to £154, a nice sum for a well loved story.

This is an episode from The Angels of Hell Gap, which ran in the Daily Mirror from 15 January 1975 to 02 May 1975 (Numbers J12-J101). You just might be able to see the date pencilled in (presumably by the editor) of '26-3-1975'

The thing we all loved reading at that time was the opening episode, as Bellamy always did the equivalent of a comic's splash panel.

Here's the first episode of The Angels of Hell Gap

Monday 28 December 2009

Fans of Frank Bellamy: Les Edwards

I am about to steal hours of your time!

I've been reading comics, comic strips and graphic novels for approximately 50 years. But the name Les Edwards was new to me until a few years ago. If you look at his amazing artwork, ( you may be saying "who is this guy?" or if younger than me, "what kind of an idiot are you, Norman? How could you not know Les?".

It seems logical to me that we all favour and concentrate on those we get to know. Richard Bruton (no spelling mistake!) reviews new stuff on Forbidden Planet's Blog. This year he has talked about Largo Winch (amongst many others) and I'm now hooked! I will now watch out for the Belgian creators Philippe Francq and Jean Van Hamme.

I'm going to confess something here: I have never been able to read Discworld - and therefore never bought the calendars! I did read Anne McCaffrey's Pern series in the Eighties and early Nineties (thus missing Les' excellent covers in the 'Noughties'). I have never followed role-playing games. And I gave up browsing bookshop science-fiction shelves quite a while ago, and thus missed Les' fascinating covers. Anyway enough of my confessions. Les, I'm sorry to have missed your work for so long. I'm sure that a lot of people reading this will also be discovering your work for the first time! I can certainly see some Bellamy influence (compare the rockets in the above Eagle cover and Les' 'Cygnus' painting).

Les kindly offered to add to my mini-series of 'Fans of Frank Bellamy'. Over to Les:

Like most boys growing up in the 50's I was a fan of the Eagle which was streets ahead of other comics of the day in terms of quality. My main interest to begin with was Dan Dare, because it was Science Fiction and because it always had a large splash panel on the front page to grab your interest. It was also beautifully drawn by the other great Frank;- Hampson, although, if the truth be told I was too young to appreciate the artwork at first. At this time the centre pages of the Eagle were given over to the famous cut-away drawings which can still put a gleam in the eye of men of "a certain age". Whoever decided to put a double spread strip in their place deserves a medal.

I'd been aware of The Happy Warrior on the back page and Montgomery of Alamein but I considered them subordinate to the main attraction which was still the adventures of Dan and Digby and their nemesis the evil Mekon. However, when Heros the Spartan began to run in the centre pages I switched my allegiance at once. I've tried in the ensuing years to decide why I found Heros so attractive but while I have lots of "grown up" reasons I'm not sure why my twelve year old self was so hooked.

Taken from Eagle 7 Sept 1963, Vol 14 36

In my memory Heros was always very dark and richly coloured which gave it a moody and brooding atmosphere, something which I still try to replicate in my own work. In looking at panels from the strip in later years this is clearly not always the case. Indeed one of the stories, obviously inspired by Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean's magnificent film, was set in the desert and brightly lt. Still my abiding memory is of dark shadows and twisted trees, swamps and monsters and almost Neanderthal barbarians. It was a kind of proto-Sword and Sorcery, long before I'd ever heard the term.

There was plenty of action. Indeed everything in a frame of Heros seemed to be in motion, whether it was the creases in someone's clothing, an expressively gesturing hand or the sweep of a sword. Again, this rather a "grown up" appreciation and I'm sure I reacted to this strip on a much more fundamental level.

Eventually I became interested in the artist. Of course it was Frank Bellamy. I tried, without much success to imitate his style and I think there are still elements of him in what I do now.
It was an influence that followed me to Art School, to the bemusement of my tutors, and I did not, nor did I want to, shake it off. I doubt very much that I would be doing what I do today without Heros.

When Bellamy moved on to do Thunderbirds for Century 21 his work became ever more accomplished. Indeed some of his renderings of non_Thunderbird hardware are absolutely stunning. But while you might argue that this is more mature work, it never quite had the resonance of Heros the Spartan for me. I look forward to the day when someone republishes the whole of Bellamy's Heros work in a large format. Maybe then I'll be able to put my finger on the element that made it so crucial to me. I'm not holding my breath, but they did it for Dan Dare and I can't be the only wanna-be legionnaire out there.

Taken from TV21 201 23 November '2068'

Thanks a lot Les. Let's hope Titan Books are listening and will publish Heros as a complete run. I hope you like the selection of Bellamy art - I was tempted to add a Hampson, but felt a Bellamy blog ought to have Bellamy and as I could see a similarity between your Cygnus and Bellamy's hardware in the Dan Dare story above... Also I could have shown the Heros 'desert' story, but felt the issue above shows that some bright colour did indeed appear in the strip despite your and my memory of it being dark! I threw in some Thunderbirds hardware and 'barbarians' too for good measure.

Monday 16 November 2009


Les Harding kindly wrote to say I'd omitted the book 'Fraser of Africa' from my book list. As I explained to him, I was very grateful as there are so many entry points into a website it's hard to ensure everything cross-references! But he is absolutely right! I had listed it in the reprint list (which I created to help those who couldn't afford the original comics) but not in the book list!

By the way, there's a great review of this book on Win Wiacek's "Now read this!" blog - just ignore the pompous commentator at the end of the review!

Secondly I have changed the TV21 entries a little as I had, for some reason, said that TV Century 21 became TV21 and TV Tornado way before it did! That appears on the comics page and is now corrected

Lastly I will at some point finally bite the bullet and change the names of the Thunderbirds stories to those commonly accepted on said page. There's a long story behind this but that will wait for another day (or two)!

Thursday 5 November 2009

More original artwork for sale

I have added the prices that these two pieces sold for. I'm amazed at how much they raised for the relevant party and pleased to see Bellamy at last become a major contender - to quote Marlon Brando!

Just wanted to alert you to the fact that right now there are two pieces of artwork by Frank Bellamy on Comic Book Postal Auctions. Look at lots #99 and 100.

The first is a double-page spread of the "Montgomery of Alamein" from - to quote the site"Eagle Vol 17 No 13 1967". Now that's the first time I've heard of this appearing so late in Eagle and as this looks like the original (note the lack of pasted title top-left) I can't imagine how they got the information. I believe it is an original of Volume 13:17 (28/04/1962). Mind you the entry does say "Gouache on board" and Bellamy always used inks for these comic pieces! And I'm not so pedantic to mention the spelling mistake in the title! Whatever the information, the estimate is a bargain in my opinion: £550-650 Let's see what it goes for as it looks in great condition. I'll add the result when it's finished

Auction ended December, 2009 at £2,849! In a recession as well! That's the highest amount paid for a Bellamy to my knowledge

Edited on 28 December 2009

The second comes from "Heros The Spartan" and appears somewhat faded, but nice. The information for this one is right: Eagle Volume 16 No 11 1966. It's episode number 3 from the story called The Slave Army. Bellamy used inks again not gouache and the estimate is £500-550

Auction ended December, 2009 at £2,262!

Edited on 28 December 2009

Friday 30 October 2009

Escape from Aquatraz Volume 3 of the new series

John Freeman kindly passed on the following information from Marcus Hearn, which I hope he won't me quoting:

We're putting the finishing touches to Volume 3 now. I don't have a press release but I've attached the contents page and the jacket so that should give you what you need. It's restored to the same standard as the first two volumes and approx half the pages are scanned from original artwork.

The latest volume contains the following stories drawn by Bellamy:
ATOLL OF DOOM #197-202

The first was reprinted once in the 1990s Thunderbirds comic (numbers 25-27 for those completists) as "Nuclear threat" and if you are Dutch in TV2000 # 1 - 3, 1969
The second was also reprinted once in the same Thunderbirds comic (#25-26) as "Hawaiian lobster menace"
And lastly Thunderbirds #42-45 had the only reprinting of the story titled "Danger in the deep".

I, for one, will be really pleased to see these stories again - especially if they contain a lot of the original artwork. The first two volumes (mentioned here) are absolutely gorgeous. Paul Holder and I spent an evening looking at each page and deciding how 1) the original artwork did not get reproduced so well in photogravure (surely the best there was at that time) and 2) deciding which pages were from the originals and which weren't. The reproduction in the first 2 volumes is so crystal clear that I couldn't believe how muddied some of the original TV21s were!