Tuesday 31 July 2012

New Garth story - The Women of Galba

Martin Baines has kindly sent me the first episode of the next Frank Bellamy story to be coloured by him and reprinted in the Daily Mirror..."The Women of Galba".

© Daily Mirror

This story was first printed in the Daily Mirror of 27 December 1972  and continued until 10 April 1973 (Numbers F304-G86). It has previously been reprinted in black and white in The Daily Mirror Book of Garth, 1975; Garth Book Two: The women of Galba by Titan Books, 1985 and in the fan publication Menomonee Falls Gazette #114 (18/02/1974) - #131 (17/06/1974) - 6 daily strips per issue

An interesting fact for you historians is that the Daily Mirror of 22 March 1973 (during this story) states:  "Southern editions of the Mirror didn't appear yesterday because of industrial action. Here's a double ration of strips". Britain once again was suffering from printer's strikes.

Friday 27 July 2012

Frank Bellamy and logos

The last blog entry about Thunderbirds original art led to my old friend Jeff Haythorpe writing with some information that jogged a few memory cells. He said:

"Just to give you some background on the original Thunderbirds spreads mentioned in your latest blog. I bought a couple form a guy who worked in the TV21 office in the sixties and these had the Thunderbird logo on them too. I've never bothered checking them against the comics but I suspected he added them after he got them rather than at the time of publication. The main reason I think this, is that most logos I've seen have been painted onto clear plastic – presumably for re-use. Also quite a lot of Thunderbird spreads don't have any logos on them at all. But who knows? It's all getting on for nearly 50 years ago now."
and then after he made a comparison himself with the original art he owns, he wrote:
"Further to our earlier emails have a look at these two examples of the comic compared to the art from TV21#79. Sorry about the quality of the art scan. There is a definite difference between the two so the logo seems to have been added afterwards. I have two other boards with similar logos but there is no noticeable difference."

Jeff's art from TV21 #79

TV21 #79

Fans, on receiving artwork sometimes crudely photocopy and add a logo to 'complete' their artwork, but as can be seen below, Bellamy did not add the logo, a standard overlay was used.

TV21 #209 - without logo

TV21 #209 with boring logo!

Lastly I also have stored on my computer this little addendum and here's the perfect opportunity to use it.

Logo for TV21 #215 onwards
On eBay in 2008 a seller was auctioning an original logo overlay from Thunderbirds and checking my TV21s s/he is right that it started in issue 215 to the end of the original run in 242 and is actually used in the combined TV21 and Joe 90 comics and ran in colour there in issue 1 and 2 (horizontally) but is reproduced in black and white from then onwards.

The saddest part is that Bellamy had to give up - by my calculations - 15% of the vertical in his artwork because the logo ran vertically, from issue 215!

TV21 #215 with vertical logo

The seller's description read:

This is an absolutely unique chance to obtain a small piece of British comics heritage and Gerry Anderson collectable. What is being offered is an ORIGINAL piece of artwork from the legendary 1960s "TV Century 21" comic measuring 365mm x 127mm and comprises the logo for the equally famous "Thunderbirds" comic strip as featured in "TV21" as from Issue 215, page 10 [as marked on the art itself].

To achieve the effect the artist [and we don't know for sure this was Frank Bellamy but it looks like it might be] has painted a swathe of dynamic red/orange paint on art board. This has then be overlaid by a stencil with the legend "Thunderbirds" carefully cut out so it looks like the letters have been individually painted. Very clever stuff. The stencil can still be lifted to view the colour swathe beneath.

In terms of condition this is very good with only very minor staining on the stencil. This has suffered a small measure of stress and tiny tear to the part which separates the "R" and the "D" but, as you can see, when carefully prepared looks absolutely fine.

OK, this isn't a page of actual finished comic strip story artwork but, by the same token, whilst seen many times in the comic it was only prepared once and is totally unique ! "TV21" original material is becoming increasingly hard to find and is like the proverbial gold dust ! Seize this opportunity whilst you can !

IMPORTANT NOTE: In order to make sure you see an image of the complete item we have had to pass it through the scanner twice and spliced the two images together. This has resulted in colour differences and shadow to the right of the image. This DOES NOT exist on the actual artwork itself. Must buy a bigger scanner !!!

I didn't make a note of how much it sold for but am grateful to Jeff for raising the issue. Nothing too minute for my attention

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Original Art: Three classics pieces on eBay

I was shocked when I spotted these three pieces coming onto the open market. If these pieces were by mainstream artists they would be handled by exclusive and big name auctioneers, such as Bonhams, or Christies

I have actually seen the Thunderbirds episode from TV21 #125 up close and I tell you you will be stunned by what becomes visible when you see well preserved original art. The colour is richer and the fine lines show up. the seller says " It exhibits all the hallmarks of his classic style, explosions, movement and breaking the fourth wall." And even a crude comparison between the original and the scan shows how different Bellamy's artwork is in the original
TV21 #125 original art

TV21 #125 Click to enlarge

 Starting bid £4250

Then we also have the very first episode of Thunderbirds drawn by Frank Bellamy from TV21 #52. This is the double page spread (in the comic there was also a single black and white wash). the seller states
"A great spread which also has the original 'Thunderbirds' logo, this was done on a separate sheet and pasted on. Did Bellamy do this? It is actually executed in gouache which would have been unusual? Discuss. Sadly at some point this piece must have been out on display and unprotected and has inevitably faded a bit, but it still has enough going for it considering its iconic status as the very first spread. Fading aside it certainly has some lovely composition and an intro of some TB craft, main characters and the workings of Tracey island. I feel he was just holding back here... little did they realise the explosive nature of spreads to come"

Original art from TV21 #52

I suspect the lettering will have been done by an office artists as it will have been used again and again, and gouache was unusual but not unknown in FB's work. I agree that FB was 'holding back' This was his first attempt at these puppet characters portrayals and he hated doing them. But his professionalism shines through.

Starting bid £3500

And lastly if two originals like this are not enough, the best of the lot is included here An original Heros the Spartan spread. The seller states:
Here is a beautiful double page spread from the pages of Eagle. Over 40 years old but the colour on this is amazing. Such atmosphere. It has the iconic wolf image often cited by fellow comic book professionals (in fact I'm sure Estaban Moroto for one was thinking of this when doing some of his wolves in his great barbarian strips) It firmly exhibits the mastery of style and composition he showed in all his future work, but this character in particular. We believe some of his finest work was on the Heros.. arguably :)

Original art from the Eagle comic of Heros the Spartan

This episode (number 12 from the "Eagle of the Fifth" story by Tom Tully) comes from Eagle 25 May 1963 (Volume 16:11) and below is a scan for your comparison. I have compared both close up and found this was the piece that convinced me that Bellamy's originals were never reproduced anything like as accurately as we could do them now.

Eagle 25 May 1963 Vol 16:11 Click to enlarge
Starting bid £5250

So let me plead again...if you do have originals of Heros PLEASE get in touch so I can let Peter Richardson and Geoff West know so they can include original art as much as possible in the upcoming Heros reprint - read all about it following these links. You will be given a copy of the reprint on publication (and knowing Geoff he might get me to ruin it by signing the foreword that I wrote!)

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Heros the Spartan reprint ever nearer

Book Palace reprint cover announced!

Peter Richardson has kindly updated me (and you!) about the Heros the Spartan reprint volume that Geoff West and friends are working on.

The Book Palace Books blog has an article which I can't see needs improving, so please head over there via this link

Every time the issue of reprinting of Bellamy's double page spreads is discussed fans get a bit silly, in my opinion. Peter explains how Geoff and he considered printing 2 pages on one to avoid spoiling the view of the "gutter" - the bit where two pages meet. It's easy to read in Eagle or TV21 when you can lay them flat, but a bound book is a different matter. I loved the recent Century 21 reprints for the clarity of reproduction but felt it was a shame about the gutter! But, as Peter says
"So in the end sanity prevailed, we went back and looked at the double page spread in Ron Embleton's Wulf the Briton: The Complete Adventures (there is one from Christmas 1959) and looked at the all important gutter. The wonderful thing about Prolong is the quality of their binding, the books are bound in signatures of three sheets and open out flat with no problem whatsoever, so in the end we decided that the answer to our problem was right under our noses. In addition the book will be much easier to handle and more of a reading experience. Plus it will greatly help in keeping the cost of this book down. So all in all we decided it was by far the best route to take."
He also sent me a few pictures to share which will help those of you who haven't seen Heros to appreciate why a lot of people - including John Byrne, Walt Simonson, Barry Smith, Dave Gibbons amongst others are very excited by this venture
Heros the Spartan episode 24 from Eagle 6 April 1963 Vol. 14:14
This is the famous - oft quoted - battle scene that Barry Windsor-Smith showed the Academy of Comic Book Artists back in the early 1970s (read about here and here) . Imagine opening your Eagle comic in the early 60s and seeing this eye-popping double page spread!
Heros the Spartan episode 2 from Eagle 3 November 1962 Vol 13:43

And the latter shows us where the reprint cover has come from.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Heros the Spartan update

Crudely scanned by me to have some colour Bellamy on this page! Taken from Eagle 27 June 1964

I don't think there's any point in repeating the fact that Dave has written about the soon to be published Heros reprint book from Book Palace, so jump over there and read it yourself. Needless to say it should be fantastic especially with those gracious guys John Byrne, Dave Gibbons and Walt Simonson adding their tuppence-worth (that's 2 cents worth to you Yanks celebrating Independence Day!)

Whilst writing about Heros, here's a particularly odd piece of Bellamy trivia. This item appeared on eBay with a start date of 30 August 2004 and the descripion read:
Eagle comic art work glass negative for the 1960s strip Heros the Spartan, it's episode 1 and tells the story of his capture. It measures 22 inches by 18 inches and is in good condition

Glass negative of Heros the Spartan
I have never read an explanation of how the artwork was transformed into a printed product but am aware that an infra-red camera was used to separate colours. So is this the black separation? Can anyone fill me in on the detail as the size of this glass negative is larger than the published comic, but not much larger. The picture was the original eBay picture which I grabbed and stored at the time

If you happen to be the owner of this piece, do get in contact with me or Dave or Book Palace who I'm sure would be interested in seeing it and you could get a free copy of this top quality reprint as can anyone who owns some original Heros artwork and will let it be photographed/scanned.

Saturday 9 June 2012

Next Garth story is.....by Martin Asbury!

© Daily Mirror

"The People of the Abyss" has finished and today you'll notice in the Daily Mirror that the new Garth coloured strip is drawn by Martin Asbury - not Frank Bellamy. It was Asbury's first strip after he completed "The Man-Hunt" which Bellamy started before his death. This story ran from the 17 January to 29 April 1977 that's 88 episodes so that takes us upto the end of July for this reprint by my calculations.

Martin Baines, the colourist, once again has come up trumps and sent this beautiful example of the opening panels, of which he says "I personally think is one of the strongest Jim Edgar scripts so hopefully you will not be too disappointed."

Certainly not Martin, and for the fun or reading a daily strip I've decided to continue buying the Daily Mirror. However as this is a Bellamy blog I'll take this opportunity to say a few words about the previous story - any guest writers apply now! 

I liked the look of "The people of the abyss" with Garth swimming underwater, meeting octopus-like creatures and the beautiful Liuba, who always appears with a simple thong-type outfit - when not completely naked. Now those of you who knew Nancy, Frank's widow, will know she was happy to tell everyone what a great body Frank thought she had. And in my opinion and awful lot of Frank's women took their details from his wife! Liuba looked so like Nancy it highlights what a great portrait artist Bellamy was.

© Daily Mirror
And in the following scene where she is ill she appears at first with a modest blanket to cover her as she lies on the stretcher, but mysteriously it disappears in the next panel - I'm not complaining! Perhaps it was the fact that they didn't want to waste a blanket as Liuba is about to be lowered back to the deep abyss.

© Daily Mirror
One problem I had as a teenager - when I first read Garth - was the scale of his head and shoulders versus the rest of him - and this is illustrated nowhere better than in the following strip. I was used to my superheroes being drawn by Curt Swan and other DC pals. Or in that perspective foreshortened Kirby way - which exaggerated the action enough for me to like it. These days I find a lot of standard comic art uses worse exaggeration than Bellamy did in this picture

© Daily Mirror
I loved what Martin did in this second strip. The swinging action of Garth sending a live lamp at the wet frogman which Bellamy drew really hits home with Martin's colouring - wonderful.

© Daily Mirror

And here to show you what I mean is the original black and white version - scanned and cleaned up a bit. Remember back then this would have appeared on pulp paper and been nowhere as nearly as clean as this!

F281-282 © Daily Mirror
I look forward to seeing what happens after Martin Asbury's story to see if we return to Bellamy again. I will let you know

Tuesday 5 June 2012

New Frank Bellamy art found...I think!

We have discovered a new source of Bellamy's artwork but also got into a mystery! In the comic Rocket #6 (26 May 1956), there is an advert for "The Pictorial Encyclopedia" and "The Pictorial History Book" - a matching pair of titles. 

They appear to be the sort of title that your mother and father would approve of you purchasing with your pocket money. Until a conversation with David Driver (whose name should always be mentioned when talking about Frank Bellamy's work in the Radio Times in the 1970s)  I had no idea of the existence of these books. The British Library has no date for them but does acknowledge receipt of them in 1952 and 1954 respectively. These are the nearest we get to the actual dates. At the time Bellamy was attached to the Norfolk Studios in London producing advertising and soon he would join Mickey Mouse Weekly so this is pretty early work

David very kindly let me borrow his copy of "The Pictorial History Book" and with shaking fingers I turned each page. The contents page lists the artists (an unusual thing for these sort of reference works in my opinion!) and there is Frank Bellamy!  I quickly bought a copy of the book knowing I would want to scan whatever I found and share it - so don't worry David your copy is safe! David said to me he'd had the book for some time and that he couldn't work out which picture was Bellamy's. Now, I like a challenge like that so I have presented several scans below for you to make up your mind.

The Pictorial History Book (Editorial board: R Haddon, Charles Harvey, Lionel M Munby, E S Wolff) London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., [1954] 

Title page, list of illustrators and Contents with C. L. Doughty's portraits

It immediately looks as if artists were not given one article to illustrate as there are mixtures of styles in the book and even within articles. So how can we find Bellamy? Some the colour and black & white pictures have identifying marks / signatures - such as C. L. Doughty, who appears throughout (and in the matching book). Often when browsing a bunch of book illustrations or magazines one sees a pattern and begins to 'see' an artist's style so maybe a process of elimination might work.

Below are scans of the major artists including the possible Bellamys
page 16

C. L. Doughty's signature is just visible

Page 29 This boat looks very Bellamy to me

Page 30 This ploughman looks odd but the background and ox look
Bellamy-like to me - and compares in technique to his Captain Cook

Page 51 Bellamy was shortly going to be drawing in Mickey Mouse Weekly ("Monty Carstairs" strip)
but would do King Arthur and his Knights later.
Is this him? The twisted figure bottom right again looks like Doughty to me
Page 52 - and A. Pollack's signature

Page 68

Page 69
Page 85

Salomon  Van AbbĂ© signature

Page 88

The brilliant Peter Jackson's scroll!

Page 104

Page 115

Page 115 showing Winston Megoran's signature

Page 152 with Ley Kenyon's signature

Page 178
Could this be Bellamy - perhaps only the bottom right hand frame?

Page 179 are nice colour works with no signatures but Bellamy drew World War One
later for Look and Learn and also drew lots of explosions in his time
Page 187 with Cedric Chater's signature

So where does this get us? Do we know which picture(s) Bellamy drew for this work? I think your guess is as good as mine. Paul Holder feels that Page 29 "The coming of the Danes" is the piece. I liked the boat so that ties in. David Driver couldn't guess and he worked with Bellamy in the 1970s so do I know the answer? - No! Get in contact if you have a copy of this book and can add anything and have a look at copies at Abebooks if you want to join in.

UPDATE: Peter Richardson and David Jackson have voted for pages 178 and 179 and I personally favour those too 

List of illustrators
And here are the details extracted by David Jackson from the book for those who have a copy to work through which pages/panels they think are Bellamy's work. Listed artists (signed and inferred style pages where noted):

  • J Allan [ALVAN]  182
  • Barbosa
  • AE Batchelor
  • Henry Barnett
  • Frank Bellamy
  • Victor J Bertoglio
  • BS Biro  82-83
  • Douglas Bowness
  • Drake Brookshaw
  • R Burgess
  • Cedric Chater  8  9 10 11 12 13 14 15 102 103 143 144 187
  • Leo Davy [Davey]
  • CL Doughty  4 6 7 14 16 26 27 28 30 44 45 51 52 53 72-76 80 87 88 89 100 101 104 105 109 121 122 153 124-125 152 153 166 185 
  • S Gale
  • Grace Golden  65-67 84? 155-157
  • LG Goodwin
  • J Harman
  • Peter Jackson  87-89 103  114 120 121
  • RW Jobson
  • CJ Johnstone
  • L Kenynon  151 152
  • JF Lewsley
  • Winston Megoran  114 115 116
  • Will Nickless
  • Patrick Nicolle   37 40-41 106-107 110
  • Walter Pannett
  • A Pollack  47 52 106
  • Wilfred Savage  34-35 123
  • RM Sax
  • E Sears
  • WH Shepherd
  • SA Smith
  • Derrick Smoothy
  • Cicely Steed
  • E Tansley
  • Saloman Van Abbe [ie not "F"] 84 85 86
  • Eric Wade
  • Richard Ward  145
  • W With
  • B Young
Lastly some thoughts and other information noted in page order:
-    pp1-3
p 4  C L Doughty style.
-    p 5
p 6  C L Doughty style.
p 7  C L Doughty style.
p 8  Cedric Chater style.
p 9  Cedric Chater style.
p10  Cedric Chater style.
p11  Cedric Chater sig.
p12  Cedric Chater style.
p13  Cedric Chater sig.
p14  Cedric Chater style.
       C L Doughty sig b/w frame.
p15  Cedric Chater sig.
p16  C L Doughty sig b/w frame.
-    pp17-29
p30  C L Doughty sig b/w.
-    pp31-33
p34  Wilfred Savage sig on main frame.
p35  Wilfred Savage sig on main frame
p36  Patrick Nicolle (inf as fol).
p37  Patrick Nicolle sig.
-    pp38-39
p40  Patrick Nicolle sig.
p41  Patrick Nicolle (2pp spread).
-    pp42-43
p44  Two frames signed CL Doughty '49.
p45  CL Doughty sig frame lower right.
-    p46
p47  Frame centre left sig AP (A Pollock).
-    pp48-50
p51  CL Doughty style.
p52  CL Doughty style;
       'AP' (A Pollock) lower left.
p53  CL Doughty style.
-    pp54-64
p65  Grace Golden.
p66  Grace Golden.
p67  Grace Golden sig.
p68  CL Doughty style (some).
p69  CL Doughty style (some) (inf as op).
p70  CL Doughty style (some).
-    p71
p72  CL Doughty sig.
p73  Main frame signed CL Doughty.
p74  Top colour frame signed CL Doughty.
p75  Top (b/w) frame sig CL Doughty.
p76  Two colour frames signed CL Doughty.
-    pp77-79
p80  CL Doughty signed frame top left.
-    p81
p82  BS Biro.
p83  BS Biro.
p84  Possibly G Golden
       S van Abbe (op fol).
p85  Two frames signed S van Abbe (F van Abbe, credit)
p86  Colour frame signed S van Abbe.
p87  CL Doughty sig;
        Peter Jackson initials.
p88  'PJ' top frame in colour;
        CL Doughty frame b/w;
         [Battle graphics and lettering and map].
p89   CL Doughty sig at top;
        PJ sig at lower right.
 -    pp90-96
p97  [Relates to pp98/99].
p98  [Relates to pp97/99].
p99  Orb symbol on spinning wheel frame (style as p137).
100  One signed C L Doughty.
101  C L Doughty style.
102  Probably Chater per p103.
103  Chater sig at top right
        PJ sig (b/w).
103  One b/w frame marked 'PJ' - Peter Jackson
104  C L Doughty style.
       Other style lowest frame (and across 'gutter' to p105).
105  CL Doughty sig.
       Other style lowest frame (across 'gutter' from p104).
106  AP (A Pollack) on b/w frame;
       Patrick Nicolle inf fol.
107  Patrick Nicolle sig.
108  ['Plan of Battle' graphics].
109  C L Doughty two frames, top signed.
110  Patrick Nicolle inf from sig style
 -    pp111-113
114  Bottom left frame PJ monogram of Peter Jackson.
       Remainder possibly Winston Megoran as foll.
115  Bottom right corner signed Winston Megoran.
116  Winston Megoran style.
 -   pp117-119
120  Peter Jackson sig.
121  C L Doughty style.
       Peter Jackson style.
122  C L Doughty style.
       [Map - note: in b/w using dot-tonal].
123  Wifred Savage sig.
124  C L Doughty sig on main frame.
125  C L Doughty sig on main frame.
-    pp126-136
137  [Same style as pp98-99.  Large map on page].
-    pp138-141
142  C L Doughty sig.
143  Maps + graphics - signed by Cedric Chater.
144  Cedric Chater style.
145  Richard Ward sig top frame.
 -   pp146-149
150  ['pastimes'] - motifs in colour;
       CLD style b/w frames (and poss one other).
151  L Kenyon style as fol.
152  L Kenyon sig lower right;
       C L Doughty sig b/w.
153  Top frame possibly signed (but small/illegible).
-    p154
155  Grace Golden "GG" (to left of "The Court of...").
156  Grace Golden.
157  Grace Golden.
-    pp158-163
164  [merchant navy].
165  [merchant navy].
166  Two frames signed C L Doughty.
 -   pp167-177
178  [aircraft]
179  [aircraft]
 -   pp180-181
182  Map graphic signed 'ALVAN' / Credit 'Allan.'
-    pp183-184
185  C L Doughty top of lower frames but right cut off at top.
-    p186
187  Cedric Chater sig.
 -   pp188-191