Friday 13 March 2020

Frank Bellamy and Gerald Swan's Mighty Comic Annual

Gerald Swan publication -cover by Frank Bellamy

***UPDATE Other contents added (February 2023)***

Recently a copy of a very obscure comic annual was sold on eBay for £142 (with 8 bids). I got a shock as I bought one a few months ago for £20! Now how did this one raise so much money? I have absolutely NO idea. It was described as "The Mighty Comic Annual 1952 GG Swan Rebound remaindered comics FR (phil-comics)". I've met Phil and he's a lovely guy who tends to start most auctions at 99p and his honest reputation attracts a lot of interest.But that still doesn't explain this figure! Compal Auctions sold a copy with 4 other annuals in one lot last autumn (2019) and the lot finished at £95!

I first saw this annual as a small image in Scraps- an intermittent publication by Blasé Books and Duckling Press, in number 2. It also shows Tough Ghosts, Old Bones and an Affinity magazine cover. Bellamy did quite a few illustrations for Swan, who was known to pay on receipt of the artwork (unlike a lot of publishers who had accounting departments that like to hang onto funds). At the time he was with Norfolk Studios but we don't know - and I think it unlikely - whether the Studio had Swan as a client.

Did Bellamy do any other covers for this annual? It doesn't look likely from what Peter Hansen shared on Facebook (and thanks to him for permission to show these here):

Finally found my Swan Mighty Comic Annuals! Well three of the four I have. But what is important is the only one of the four signed by Frank Bellamy! All three have completely different material inside though. Anyway here's the proof it's Frank! The third image is one that you can't see the signature though you can see the tops of the two "l's" and the "A",
Bellamy's signature peeping out

Bellamy's signature clearly there

In investigating anything to do with Swan, it's hard to pin stuff down. As you can see the contents of this undated annual changed from buyer to buyer as Swan merely stuffed old unsold comics into a new cover. Below are some of the contents of my copy so others can compare and contrast!

My copy of the Mighty Comic Annual
Notice I also have a 'half-cut' version of FB's signature!I've combed through my copy for a date as a clue to when this was published and you'll see I think have one!


Archie Annual by Gerald Swan advert

Earthquake Ike

Archie "Spots to you"

This story looks to be from Pep Comics #69 (Sept 1948) according to the GCD

Star Dirt mentions an award on 27 April 1948

Skit - The Kat

Captain Atlas - read a complete story here

Flash Avenger

Wilbur "Hit for Hat"
Published in Wilbur #32 (Aug 1950)

Close-up of a page that's been cut
Notice in this close-up you can see that a page has been sliced - presumably to get rid of an advert or story not deemed of enough value to be bound in!

Katy Keene Fashions: Sport
Now if you look at the adverts on the right-hand page above, you'll see "The School in Space" (1947) and "Mystery of the Silver Statuette" (which was published in 1948). That gives us a publication date later than those dates, but the back cover is the best clue - especially as the contents of the Annual are bound copies of unsold materials. But the Archie Annual advertised shows a date of 1953. Is this published in 1952 as other UK annuals had the next year's date on them, or during 1953? I assume the former and think the Mighty Comic Annual mentioned above is published 1952 for Christmas 1952 sales and therefore is Mighty Comic Annual 1953.

The 1953 Edition of the Archie Annual
Geoff Harrison showed some contents of his Mighty Comic Annual for what we believe is 1951 for 1952. With his permission here they are.

Mighty Comic Annual (1951/2?)

UPDATE: After posting this Steve Holland (of Bear Alley) sent this: 

"I think - by a Swan regular called David Williams, about whom I know nothing."

Over to you!

The Last of the Mohicans

The Sub-Zero man

Blue Bolt (Jack Kirby's early work?)

Candid Charlie appeared in Blue Bolt comics and also Target Comics

T.N.T. Tom

Blue Bolt

Does anyone have any other Mighty Comic Annuals they'd be willing to share or even the contents of the 'Frank Bellamy' version? Let me know

UPDATE: Here's another offered on eBay February 2023:

Cover with no evidence of FB's signature

Inside cover with "Smuggling" and "Headline Henderson" 

Inside back cover

The inside back cover has an American reprint from Wilbur and adverts:

  • [The Great] Mirror by A. J. Burks (1952)
  • Empty Saddles by Archie Joscelyn [1952]
  • Owlhoot Triggers for the Law by T. W. Ford [1952]
  • Rainbow Trail by Cliff Campbell [1952]

These dates are taken from the British Library accession dates and are therefore a bit flexible but they confirm the 1952 date for the annual in my opinion!

Thursday 13 February 2020

ORIGINAL ART: 2 Thunderbirds and 6 Garths!

Malcolm Philips' February/March auction at both his Compalcomics and (with better images) at  TheSaleroom  are now live and include three lots but several pieces of Bellamy artwork.

THUNDERBIRDS: TV Century 21 #162 (Page 2) + #163 (Page 1)

Thunderbirds from TV21 #162 and 163
How interesting to see these side-by-side, the last page of one issue and the first of the next. They come from the well-remembered story "Brains is dead!" in which the Hood uses Brains to get at International Rescue - shocking to this 10 year old at the time! They appear to have faded a little but what caught my eye was the employee's markings on the bottom. Bellamy always marked his work - presumably for his records as well as for the art editor at TV21. Where he wrote "TV21 No. 162 Part 1" he is referring to the story episode and the page as which of the two he intends to be published first. Someone has scribbled over "Page 2" and put which page it would be printed on in that issue. Bellamy changes the notation on the second offering here. 

The auction pieces are described as:
Thunderbirds: Two consecutive original artworks (1968) drawn, painted and signed (on the first board) by Frank Bellamy for TV 21 Nos 162 and 163
Brains and Scott touch down in New York in Thunderbirds 1 where Brains is kidnapped and booby-trapped in Hiram Blake's office. Scott, in hot pursuit, breaks down the door and Brains is tragically killed in the explosion. Grief stricken, the men of International Rescue bury the brilliant little scientist in outer space....
Bright Pelikan inks on boards. 18 x 14 ins each (2)

They are indeed consecutive but are page two of issue # 162 and page one of issue #163 (the latter would have had a masthead pasted over - see below. I have added the two scanned pages from the comic - but the colours are somewhat darker than Bellamy drew them so direct comparisons are hard as to how much colour difference there is.

Thunderbirds from TV21 #162, page 2

Thunderbirds from TV21 #163, page1

Now we have two lots of Garth strips from two different stories

GARTH: Mask of Atacama - 3 episodes

Garth episodes G169, G194, G200

Compal describe these as:
Garth: The Mask of Atacama: 3 original artworks (1973) drawn and signed by Frank Bellamy from the Daily Mirror 18th July, 16th/23rd August 1973
Indian ink on board. 21 x 7 ins (x3)
I suspect these will sell for quite a price.

and the second batch are:

GARTH: The Beast of Ultor - 3 episodes

Garth episodes H59, H96, H98
All three episodes come from "The Beast of Ultor" story which ran from February to June 1974

Garth: The Beast of Ultor: 3 original artworks (1974) drawn and signed by Frank Bellamy from the Daily Mirror 11 March, 14th/26th April 1974
Indian ink on board. 21 x 7 ins (x3)

All the Garths above are great examples of Bellamy's work in composition and use of space as well as demonstrating his techniques in shading.

All prices will be added 
when auctions end
 - and to the spreadsheet

WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom
END DATE: Sunday 1 March 2020

GARTH: Mask of Atacama 3 episodes
WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom
END DATE: Sunday 1 March 2020

GARTH: The Beast of Ultor 3 episodes
WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom
END DATE: Sunday 1 March 2020

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Frank Bellamy and John Burns draw Garth

Comparison between John Burns and Frank Bellamy
on Garth: Bride of Jenghiz Khan

Recently I was having an email conversation with Alan Davis, the famous comic artist and he was chatting to Colin Brown, who runs amongst other things, the JOHN M BURNS ART Facebook group.  Colin gave me permission to share  some artwork (which Alan constructed from stuff shared with him by Colin).

"About a year ago, I posted several Garth strips John sent me. In his accompanying letter, he mentioned that he’d submitted sample strips when Frank Bellamy died. I misread the letter and assumed that the copies of strips he’d enclosed were the submissions. I’ve recently found out that’s not the case and that they had been drawn 10-15 years later. The error is entirely mine. This has come to light due to Alan Davis, who is a huge Bellamy fan, asking John about them as part of his research into Garth. He discovered an interesting paragraph in a a huge article on [John Freeman's] Down The Tubes in November 2018. 
The relevant paragraph reads “When news of Bellamy’s death became known, several top artists (including John Burns) submitted samples, hoping to take over the strip. However, they were too late! As John Allard recalls, “The Mirror editor Mike Malloy [sic Molloy] never saw their samples because he had already appointed Martin Asbury, who had got his samples in double-quick.”
John [Burn's] memories of the time are “The actual art sent in was I believe 1 or 2 strips in black and white - I can't find the originals. John Allard phoned me and told me about Bellamy’s sad demise. I asked if I could do anything to help (art wise). John asked me to send in samples of a Garth strip (not in Frank’s style) should I be interested in taking over from Frank. There was no mention about other artists - I don't know which ones were sending in their take on Garth. But it seems Martin got in first.” For the strips done later, John used the story “Brides of Jenghiz Khan”. Alan has put together John’s strips and the originals as a comparison."

Garth: Bride of Jenghiz Khan
One of the commentors on the Facebook page asked if these weren't to get the work  were these strips drawn and Colin confirmed "John Burns says he did them just to see if he could". Looking at them, we can see John Burns has amalgamated, omitted and even re-imagined some scenes, as you would expect. I'd love to see what John would do if he had the original scripts to work from, as we know Bellamy changed things to suit the needs of his designs.

Garth: Bride of Jenghiz Khan

Garth: Bride of Jenghiz Khan

Garth: Bride of Jenghiz Khan

Garth: Bride of Jenghiz Khan
And as Colin has been so kind to allow me to share the above, I've also borrowed the image below, drawn by John too, featuring UK artists whom he respects. This is a rough copy of the original which is owned by a collector.
Sydney Jordan (Jeff Hawke), Ron Embleton (Stingray, Captain Scarlet etc.)
Frank Hampson (Dan Dare), Frank Bellamy, Ron Turner (Nick Hazard),
and Don Lawrence (Trigan Empire etc.) and of course John Burns seated

Wednesday 25 December 2019

Frank Bellamy and the Kettering Leader and Guardian

 MERRY CHRISTMAS - here's my gift to the world!
Kettering Leader and Guardian 26 December 1947 p.6

According to the Newspaper Directory (1946-1947, p. 127) the Kettering Leader and Guardian newspaper was established in 1882 and "is characterised by its original articles, the fullness and accuracy of its reports, and the excellence of its illustrations" [emboldening mine]

The reason I'm looking at the KLG is because of a cutting I found among some papers that Nancy Bellamy loaned to me and because of the kindness of Tony Smith, who interviewed Frank Bellamy several times [CORRECTION: "for the record, I only interviewed Frank the one time, not several, but I have the honour of being the last journalist to do so before he died in 1976"]. The cutting has been pinned down and appeared in 1955 (you can see below) and Tony set me on a search which saw a LOT of Bellamy material never seen before - well, other than by the people who read KLG in the 1940s!

Kettering Leader & Guardian 11 November 1955, p.3
It says "Swift", "Girl" and "Lilliput" -
to my knowledge Bellamy did not have any work in "Girl"

Bellamy produced many cartoons for the Pink 'Un, the sport extra - which was published by the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph for whom he also did illustrations.  I've browsed microfilm of the 1947 Kettering Leader and Guardian (and Northamptonshire Advertiser - to give it its full name) a weekly newspaper that appeared on Fridays and contained many local stories including issues made up of local opinions and anecdotes. The picture at the top of this article and the following come from a double page called "In peace or in war these are the Christmases remembered best of all" in which locals submit stories. This would be the first Christmas at home for many returning to Kettering after the war.

Kettering Leader and Guardian 26 December 1947 p.7

But there was a regular feature that Bellamy illustrated which began 14 March 1947 through the whole of 1947 missing only a few weeks: gardening tips! Here's the one for Boxing Day 1947 from the same issue as the images above.
Kettering Leader and Guardian 26 December 1947 p.9
Why Bellamy shows a pawnbroker polishing his three balls, I don't know
[UPDATE: If you'd like to see the visual jokes Bellamy created to accompany the column, written by 'Riston', I've added them to the blog]. Bellamy uses phrases from the script and makes a joke or pun around them.

Kettering Leader and Guardian 6 June 1947 p.12

I asked Tony about the name Riston (or "Ristone" as he becomes from 30 May 1947 most of the time!) and he replied:
No idea who Riston was - probably code for the real writer’s name, which they tended to do that in those days (usually when the column was not written by a bona-fide journalist). Even in my day, one of the Evening Telegraph’s compositors, Bill Crabb, wrote the racing column giving tips for the day under the byline Billet - (Bill ET, get it?).
If anyone knows, please get in contact.

Tony shared this with me.

Kettering Leader and Guardian 27 June 1947 p.1
This appeared on the front page taking up most of the cover. Unfortunately I couldn't read the story of the old cabbie as the microfilm was unfortunately not at all clear, the story appearing in the newspaper gutter. Well that's 1947 done, now to travel backwards and forwards! Happy New Year to you all!

Saturday 21 December 2019

ORIGINAL ART: Garth on ebay - TheWreckers (G305.5!)

If you read this:
G292 of The Wreckers
Then read this:

G293 of The Wreckers
Then this:
G294 of The Wreckers
Do you think the story is missing something? How did Garth get into the chair? The caption "Interrogation" doesn't really make sense.

But what if between G293 and G294, the guards and Garth had a fight and our hero knocked them out? Then Tallion, the villain who would interrogate Garth, might have been watching and threatened Garth. Then we might have Garth submitting and following new guards to the interrogation chamber. THEN we could see G294.



What if between these two banks of strips Tallion challenges Garth and we see the two guards on the floor? Why do I say that?

G293.5(!) or G305.5(???)
Where did I find what I'm calling G305.5 until I know any better? On eBay!

An episode of "The Wreckers" DR.CH.73 - Daily Record

The seller (rhfl41) has been in touch and tells me that
The Garth strip belonged to my father, the late Ewen Bain, who was a cartoonist. His own cartoon strip, Angus Og, ran in the Daily Record for 30 years [UPDATE DECEMBER 2020: Rhona has created a website now]
She describes the Garth strip like this:
Original Frank Bellamy Garth cartoon strip. From the Wreckers numbered DR.CH.73. Printers' instructions in pencil written on front including 'Daily Record 26-12-73'.
Drawn in black on CS10 Line Board.
Measures 20 x 53 cms, outer area, 13 x 52 dimensions of drawing.
(The Daily Record is a Scottish newspaper).
Why would this have gone unnoticed all these years - since 1973? We have seen reprints of the strip in Garth: The Wreckers published by the now-defunct All Devon Comic Collectors Club. The Americans saw the strip (oddly missing  G301-G306 inclusive) in the wonderful Menomonee Falls Gazette (#184 - #202) and lastly in the Daily Mirror from Wednesday 13 April 2011 - Tuesday 7 June 2011 where it was coloured by Martin Baines. But NONE of them have this strip that is on offer!

Just to confuse me the edition of the Daily Mirror for 6 November 1973 states "Here's a double ration of your favourite strips" - no explanation why, but presumably industrial action again - there were loads around that time! However the paper appears to have been published the day before and on 6 November a reprint of the 5 November strip appeared! So our numbering sequence is fine.

If they presented the numbered sequences as above with no 'other' strip needing inserting then what is the one presented here? I think the Mirror numbered the Bellamy strips (not Bellamy) so there was a continuous sequence but I wonder if this strip was NOT published in the Daily Mirror.

If anyone reading this has cuttings from or access to the Daily Record for that period I'd love to know.
This has consequences as we may have other printed strips never before seen in England - and further afield, as well as original art that is unique! And I shall have to correct a note on the website that says the BBC article on FB states he did work for the Daily Record, where I thought he didn't!

I then checked all that I did know and agree that 96 episodes of this story are in the reprinted versions I have between Friday 26 October 1973 and Monday 18 February 1974. BUT that is based on the usual lack of Sunday versions of the Daily Mirror and also no Christmas Day, and Boxing Day editions - times were different back then! However usually there would be a New Year's Day edition BUT the Newspaper Archive says not for 1974! So 96 only works if these conditions are true, i.e. the Archive didn't miss one!

Now to the Daily Record reprinting the strip. The Internet and I know nothing! HELP! I shall do the research when next in the British Library and let you know but we now have to conclude:
  1. This is an original Bellamy never before printed except in Scotland - and my guess would be c. 26 December 1973 (for G305.5 to work) - dependent on Scotland printing on Boxing Day - as the writing says on the original
  2. There may be others in Scotland that England have not seen
  3. Ewen Bain asked Bellamy to create a Garth - and Bellamy jumped off using the story as inspiration - and John Allard lettered as usual - VERY UNLIKELY!
  4. This is a fake - which I don't believe! We have some provenance - which can be checked

The last thought I have on the matter is - did the Daily Record receive a clean version of the board - free from the usual 'double-day' information and also the sequential number inserted? More on that another day, but the Scots version is clean of the London markings. Draw your own conclusions!


GARTH: The Wreckers
WHERE?: eBay
END DATE: Friday 27 December 2019