Sunday 19 August 2012

Fans of Frank: Andy Walker

By Andy Walker
In my continuing series (where I unashamedly ask fans of Frank to tell me why they are) I had my attention drawn to this interesting piece on eBay which at first glance made me think of Orson Welles and then I realised it was in a style like Bellamy's. I wrote to the seller - Andy himself - and he replied:

I have just listed my Frank Bellamy inspired comic strip artwork on eBay. I think I first encountered his amazing artwork in the form of reprints of his THUNDERBIRDS comic strip in the pages of Polystyle's COUNTDOWN comic. The artwork that really struck me however were the illustrations he did based on DOCTOR WHO for the RADIO TIMES in the early to mid 1970s. He was one of those very gifted artists who had that almost indefinable extra something that always shone through all of this work. This artwork of mine is a humble nod to an amazing talent that has inspired an entire generation of artists across the globe!
 His description on ebay explains a bit further:

"THE TRAVELLER" ORIGINAL COMIC STRIP ARTWORK SIGNED BY UK ILLUSTRATOR ANDY WALKER. This is a high quality, full colour double page comic strip rendered in black Indian ink, coloured inks and gouache on thick watercolour board. It was originally commissioned in 1987 as a promotional piece of artwork for the "Traveller" series of books which failed to be published. My brief was to produce a double page comic strip splash in the style of the hugely popular British comic strip artist Frank Bellamy. "The Traveller" books were a series of 5 novels that sadly remains unpublished, however all 5 covers won me many future commissions and formed a crucial part of my original portfolio.The 5 stories concerned the journeys through time of a mysterious character known only as "The Traveller". Sound familiar? Perhaps that's why they remain unpublished!
Take a look at Andy's other sales to see more of his more mature artwork including another Traveller artwork which shows he had Brian Blessed rather than Orson Welles in mind (in my opinion!)UPDATE: and of course have a look at his website which I almost forgot to mention!

So for Andy here's the first Bellamy story form Polystyle's Countdown comic which was the 1970s answer to TV21 in which Frank Bellamy's Thunderbirds strips were reprinted (and Don Harley drew new art for Thunderbirds stories too). The editor was the former Art Editor of TV21, Dennis Hooper. Read more about it on Lew Stringer's ever interesting blog. I have reproduced the reprint of the first part of the story from TV21 #59 (5 March 2066). Presumably the reprint was cheap, but after hacking Bellamy's artwork from 3 pages to 2 and in black and white, surely it would have been easier just to reprint as was!

Countdown, #24, 31 July 1971

Countdown, #24, 31 July 1971

Andy mentions his love of Doctor Who too so here's a set of those famous cameos that were printed at size12/16 inch width by 1 inch tall - yes I checked! The paper of the Radio Times at that time was of a pulp feel and therefore reproduction wasn't superb. Here are three of the Doctors up to that point - from left to right Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton, William Hartnell
Radio Times - various

Lastly, just because we mentioned Countdown here's the cover of the issue that saw Bellamy's reprint start which shows, what I think must be Roy Cross artwork for the Airfix Saturn V - let me know if I'm wrong. A very iconic image for little boys my age - and covered later by Mike Noble on a cover of Look-In (where the former TV21 editor Alan Fennell was resident!)

Art by Roy Cross?

Monday 13 August 2012

Fans of Frank: Tim Keable

My tentacles stretch far and wide throughout the Internet and my contacts are really good to me. Richard Sheaf alerted me to some look-a-like art that I may be interested in.  Off I went to Justyce Served: A Small Start with a Big Finish

Tim Keable's 'Justyce Served'
It looked so much like Bellamy I had to ask the artist about it. Sure enough it turns out Tim Keable's influences certainly include Bellamy. But I also felt that this looked like something I'd seen by Kelly Freas, the famous American SF artist. Why did I think this?

Kelly Freas 'Lorelei of the mist' borrowed from

I'd seen the above many years ago and thought although obviously not Bellamy it had an aspect of his work and this helped me to think about FB's work in better terms.Look at the square thumb, the hairy arm, the impressionistic 'slashes' of lines and the shadowy implied figure, oh, and there's a naked woman.

Frank Bellamy: Radio Times17 June - 23 June 1972, p.12
Compare the above to Tim's drawing and you see immediate inspiration. The above was drawn by Bellamy to accompany The Quatermass experiment a programme about Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Hammer Horror films. "The blob that won the Queen's Award" was the byeline under the picture - sorry for the awful photocopy.

Frank Bellamy: Radio Times 11 - 17 May 1974, p.54
Another Bellamy extended arm, in this piece to accompany  The Movie Quiz Late horror show "Can you escape the icy grip of the Movie Quiz late horror show: 11.12?"

After asking Tim about this, he kindly wrote back to me regarding this work:
The brief was to do a Doctor Who illustration that couldn't have the Tardis or Daleks or anything that might be deemed as copyright material. That's why that box with the light on top might just be a rectangular spaceship passing in front of a big star! As to my influences you're right. Frank's RT horror pix are among my very favourite of his illustrations. Yes, Kelly Freas too.  I did the art on white scraperboard which allowed me to scrape away highlights much as Kelly Freas did.I think Frank used this technique and surface for some of those early magazine illustrations he did in the 1950s There's a pic of a lizard that springs to mind [Norman: see FB and Lilliput].I was also influenced by another Analog artist called called George Schelling. If you Google him you'll see that he shares a similar approach to his work that Frank had.

Frank Bellamy: Radio Times 29 May - 4 June 1971
 Frank Bellamy was extraordinary in so many ways. Firstly, as a comics artist the number one priority is clarity of storytelling. Frank always achieved this and then delivered a page that always had so much design going on there too.Then there is the impeccable draughtsmanship. Second to none in my opinion. He always knew when to apply the "less is more" principle and in most cases his drawings are much simpler than they look.This applies to his colour work as well. Often he used a very limited palette to achieve his desired result. Take the RT cover "Movie Crazy Years": Mostly brown but with a touch of green in there with very little red, yellow or blue to be seen. Add to this the speed at which he (and his contemporaries to be fair) had to work. There are few around today who could deliver this quality of work within the time frame. Often when I'm struggling I'll ask "How would Frank have got over this problem?" and it always helps! Once again Norman I'd like to congratulate you on a wonderful site. Keep up the good work! Kind wishes,Tim.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions Tim and to allow me to add some new pictures to the blog.

Friday 10 August 2012

Original Art: Garth on eBay - The Orb of Trimandias

F98 The Orb of Trimiandias

Tweedacademy has added a Garth original to his three large colour artworks that are currently up for grabs.The opening bid is 99p and the auction ends 19 August 2012.

This comes from the story The Orb of Trimandias (which has been reprinted in the following: The Daily Mirror Book of Garth, London: IPC Limited, 1975,  Garth Book One: The cloud of Balthus London: Titan Books, 1984  and in the fan publication Menomonee Falls Gazette #67 (26 March 1973) - #83 (16 July 1973) but was originally seen in the Daily Mirror (28 January 1972 - 22 May 1972 - F24-F121)and was written by Jim Edgar.

The story has Garth appearing as Lord Richard Carthewan in the time of the Borgias and having his portrait drawn by Leonardo da Vinci! Leonardo also shows Lord Carthewan a portrait of a beautiful woman which of course is Garth's old time travelling companion Astra.

Tweedacademy's description:

Now here is an outstanding example of the black and white strip work that Frank Bellamy did for the Daily Mirror on 'Garth', a great action piece from 1975 (strip number F98). This from a story called 'The Orb of Trimandias' where Garth gets to meet Leonardo da Vinci and the Borgias in 17th century Florence. A nice very touch here, the fact that the central panel is wordless and is a wonderful example of Garth in all his historical glory. As you can see he's having a little trouble with the locals, time for a bit of swashbuckling eh!

UPDATE:  £233.01 (23 bids) (August  2012)

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.