Tuesday 23 March 2021

Review of Comics Unlimited #5 article on Frank Bellamy

I loved Crikey! the fanzine Glenn B. Fleming and Tony Ingram and many others kept going for 16 issues from 2007 to 2010! I had them all before giving them to someone else. It was a labour of love and made me laugh out loud sometimes. The writing was spot on for a fan publication - affection, jocularity and serious research. Therefore most of its mistakes could be forgiven. Glenn wrote a 5 page article in Crikey!, Issue 1, (2007) on "My Comic Hero- Frank Bellamy" a personal view - fun and easy to read. I remember at the time thinking there were a few mistakes, but not enough to worry too much.

Now we have had 5 issues of Crikey!'s successor publication called Comics Unlimited (I've linked to Glenn as author as Amazon has no single page that I could find) and the latest has an article by Glenn about Frank Bellamy - he obviously loves Bellamy's work. 

However quite a few errors and misunderstandings are in this article and I felt I must say something as these things get perpetuated all too easily. Having recently completed the writing on the soon-to-be-published Illustrators Special on Bellamy, I know how hard these things are, writing original material, ensuring factual accuracy, and making the article interesting. Once you write something you also seem to become the authority, whether you think you are or not. 

I wrote to Glenn to talk to him about this and he kindly replied. I said I felt bad correcting his article in this way and he kindly said "The truth is the truth and doesn't care about feelings" and "I will have to fall on my sword and just say I got it wrong."

Comics Unlimited #5 2021

Comics Unlimited #5 (2021) FAB: Frank Bellamy by Glenn B Fleming pp12-19

Page 13 of Comics Unlimited
  • p. 13 Bellamy was stationed at West Auckland and met Nancy in Bishop Auckland
  • p. 14 The Kettering Evening Telegraph was actually, at that time, the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph 
  • p. 14 "Following his demob in 1948" - it was 1946
  • p.14 In advertising he was "principally producing artwork for Gibbs Dentrifice" - actually he did a lot more but that's the most well remembered having been in Eagle 
  • p.14 "In 1949 to enable Frank to be nearer to his publishers, the Bellamys moved to London; they remained there till 1953" - they actually stayed till a year before Frank died - moving back to Kettering in 1975!
  • p.14 Swift was the intended junior companion" to Eagle "and whilst working regularly on that publication" implies Eagle not Swift and the list of strips are from Swift. maybe that's just me!
  • p.14 Hulton was sold to Odhams in 1959 "Swift merged into the Eagle" - except it didn't until 1963 as a quick check on Wikipedia would tell you!
  • p.14 It was "incumbent on" Bellamy to pick up the art chores on Dan Dare when Hampson left. Did Bellamy have a duty or responsibility to do this? I don't think so.
  • p.14 "even lettered the strip himself which was something of a radical move in the early 50s British comics scene" Bellamy's stint on Dan Dare was the late 50s (1959-1960) and many others had lettered their own strips before this! Also this paragraph implies he did all the artwork (despite inverted commas around 'complete artwork' - he didn't and Harley and Watson are mentioned coming in later anyway. This is a bit confused.
  • p.15 "Although Bellamy worked for Eagle for less than a year, leaving in late 1965" - and apparently could time travel as Glenn has already mentioned he worked on strips in Eagle way before 1964! Bellamy started with "The Happy Warrior" in October 1957 and almost worked continuously till 1965 with Eagle. He did drew Dan dare for one year, does Glenn mean that?
  • p.15 "Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Stingray were all TV favourites in the mid 60s" - I think I'd rather state "in the early 60s" but that's a bit pedantic!
  • p.15 In TV21 "The art was actually painted, not coloured later using mechanic techniques" - I think this means the artwork was completed by the artist in a single piece of work, not handed to a colourist. "Painted" implies paints and most used inks not paints to my knowledge and Bellamy certainly used inks for his comic work
  • p.16 Bellamy's first art for TV21 #52 was January not April 1966 - oh dear!
  • p.17 "as the deadlines for the artwork became ever tighter, the strip was cut down from three pages to two" - I have no evidence it was deadlines becoming tighter that made Bellamy reduce Thunderbirds, but suspect it was the sheer amount of work involved in a colour double-page spread plus a B&W wash. He had time to start at that rate of work before it was published but I'd imagine he couldn't keep that up.
  • p.18 Re Bellamy's handling of the 5 front covers he drew of the Captain Scarlet strip, "either editorial troubles or deadlines prevented Frank from producing the whole strip". This was interesting as it sent me back to look at my collection and I wonder if , after Mike Noble completed #184's strip (1 colour page plus 3 B&W pages) we then had no Noble (why, does anyone know? Was it to prepare for his run on Zero X in #197 - but he returned to Captain Scarlet in issues # 194-196?) and Bellamy was asked to do the colour cover and Harley the 3 B&W interiors for the next two weeks. Perhaps Harley felt 3 B&W plus a colour cover too much; perhaps Fennell who liked Bellamy wanted impact on these issue's covers? I don't know. But Bellamy also did three more covers #192, a free gift issue, (with Jim Watson doing the interior pages) #193 (free coupon) and much later #210 (no idea why!). So here I think any suggestions are interesting, but what does "editorial troubles" mean? And I suspect Frank was asked to do all 5 covers and didn't want or was not asked to do the interiors, otherwise "deadlines" implies Bellamy couldn't meet them not once but 5 times, which makes no sense!
  • p.18 Bellamy's last comic strip for the comic was not Joe 90 #4 but TV21 & Joe90 #4 - the combined comic.
  • p. 18 "In 1968" Bellamy provided the artwork for the TV series "The Avengers" - expect he didn't! It was 1967 that the programme was broadcast (February) so he produced it in 1966!
  • p.18 Glenn, talking about Garth, says "Bellamy would instinctively recap what had happened previously", move the story on and give us a cliffhanger. This is very flattering to Bellamy but Jim Edgar should get some credit as writer - and a quick glance will show that there is no recap in the first panel but a continuation of the story - generally speaking.
  • p.13 Captions:The first caption implies Mike Butterworth published a book called "Story of World War I" and doesn't mention Look and Learn is the place the articles started and were gathered by Book Palace into a book for the first time
  • p.14 Captions: Did Bellamy 'paint' Dan Dare? I'd say 'illustrated'
  • p.14 Captions: "Frazer" of Africa - common mistake - should be "Fraser of Africa"

One last comment: There are 2 pages of Thunderbirds shown, and, although the captions do make clear they are faded, I think better versions of un-faded work might do Bellamy more credit. As Glenn says, I might not have appreciated why he showed the faded art, which I accept.

He then asked: "How were the other 92 pages??!!"

So before anyone starts thinking I'm an old curmudgeon (which might be the truth) I paid £10.50 for this issue (I also have #1). I enjoyed much of both issues and don't want you to be put off buying this great fan publication. Its square-bound with full colour throughout all 104 pages with glossy covers. I read all of it and I found some articles of not much interest; some fascinating; and most enjoyable. Some are about things I know already, and the different perspective was interesting, and some were about comics after I stopped following the Marvel and DC universes. To put such a thing together is incredible and I applaud such efforts.

Watch the video for a glimpse of how well presented Comics Unlimited is, and here's a list of the Contents that Glenn kindly sent me after I mentioned my thoughts.

4-11 :  John Celestri : The Master Animator
John tells us, in his own words, about his desires, his own self inflicted deadlines and how he finally achieved his goal and finally broke into the animation business…
12-19 :  FAB : Frank Bellamy
Frank Bellamy’s talent was nothing if not unique; Glenn B Fleming tells us why…
20-25 : Spider-Man v. The Comics Code
Stephen Hooker takes us into the darker side of comics…
27-29 :  Adventures in the New DC Universe
The 1985 series Crisis on Infinite Earths had one purpose-to streamline and simplify the DC Universe. Unfortunately, the results were not quite what were expected. Tony Ingram presents part 2 of a rough guide to DC’s many worlds past and present.
30-33 :  A Miracle in Time
Scott Free escaped the hell of Apokolips, but he didn’t escape scot-free.  Michael Mead let’s us in on the great escape…
34-35 :  Quasar : The Cosmic Avenger
The 1990’s, when grim n’ gritty was the ‘in thing’ with comics writers desperate to show how ‘adult’ their books were. Tony Ingram, pregnant with knowledge, tell us about it…
36-41 :  Zero-X
Over half a century ago Zero-X burst upon our screens in the film Thunderbirds Are Go!. Glenn B Fleming takes a closer look one of Anderson’s most beloved creations, this time in its strip form.
42-45 :  There’s a Star Man, Waiting in the Sky…
The name ‘Starman’ goes back a long way in comics. All the way back to 1941, in fact, although it wasn’t really until 1994 that the name – and the latest character to use it – became a force to be reckoned with. Ziggy, er, Tony Ingram tells us more…
46-47 : Collecting Comics in the 70s
Stephen Hooker talks about his personal Bronze Age rampage.
48-51 :  The Defenders
The final chapter in the original Defenders with Tony Ingram.
52-55 :  Beowulf & Grant Lankard
Grant Lankard had a dream. A dream to write and draw comics… he’s doing that now.
56-59 :  Truth is Forever
On this, the 50th anniversary of publication of each issue of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, Forever People, New Gods and Mister Miracle, Michael Mead gives us new insights into  Jack Kirby's Fourth World comics…
61-65 :  The Quest to be in Demand
Not unlike the rest of the world, comics or otherwise, creator Joe D McFee has had quite a decade. In this article, he tells us about his trials, troubles and ultimately his success…
68-73 :  The Greatest Story Ever Told
Glenn B Fleming tells us about the greatest story ever told in a comic book. Ever.
74-75 :  Like a Hurricane
In October 1970, Stephen Hooker, at the heady heights of eight, decided his comic book reading needed to go up a gear or two…
76-81 :  The Comics Unlimited Interview : Donald Glut
If you remember the days of Gold Key Comics, Donald Glut is a name you should know. Wally Monk reminds us…
82-87 :  Annual adventures in the DC Universe
DC Comics have never really prioritised the British market in the same way that Marvel have. Tony Ingram talks about it…
88-89 :  Yancy Street Escapee becomes The King of Comics
Escape is a powerful desire. The urge to be someplace better than where you are, or simply someplace else. Micheal Mead tells us how Jack Kirby became the legend he is.
99-95 :  Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends
Spider-Man was always an outsider, an outcast, almost an anti-hero… well, in J Jonah Jameson’s eyes anyway. In the first part of two, Steven Laming talks of Spidey’s not so friendly friends…
96-97 :  Hatch
Our space hermit decides to build an ancient Egyptian helicopter. Yeah.
98-100 :  The Sin Killer
M├írio Vasconcelos shows us why he is one of the best Indie creators around…

Wednesday 24 February 2021

Fans of Frank: Mark Farmer


Garth: G250 from "The Mask of Atacama"

I wrote to Mark Farmer a while ago. His credits on the Grand Comics Database state he was penciller for 43 items but an inker on 1,728 - I have not counted any publishers outside the UK and USA. Nevertheless you can see why he's known now as an inker! Why did I write to him? 

Well, I was tidying the data which I transferred from my old Bellamy website to this blog and found the files pertaining to a 'competition' in the Daily Mirror.

Daily Mirror 1 June 1974, p.9

The Daily Mirror of 1 June 1974 has the headline, (in the Junior Mirror section) "Is there a comic in the house?" It shows the Hulk, Spider-Man and a tiny cameo of, I think, Super-Humanoid from The Incredible Hulk #116, who says I don't work hard! The blurb states:

Fancy yourself as a comic artist? If so, draw us a strip featuring your own characters, funny or dramatic, and we will publish the best one. How about that. Fun and fame...all for the price of a postage stamp!

It doesn't say it's a competition but later we discover the winners earn an original Garth drawn by Frank Bellamy! 

In the Daily Mirror of the 15 June 1974, under the banner "Titan the Terrible!" the winners are announced for the competition including Mark Farmer, the renowned comic book artist!

Daily Mirror 15 June 1974, p.9

I wrote to him, having known this was THE Mark Farmer for quite a while. I asked him if he could add anything to "this tiny backwater of Bellamy history" and sent him copies of the relevant pages. He replied very politely:

 Hi Norman,

Strangely enough, in the process of sorting "stuff" out during lockdown, I found my own old clipping and scanned it for my records, but thanks for your scans in any case.

All I remember of this event is that my Mom sent the drawing in without my knowledge and the first I knew about it was getting a call from the Daily Mirror telling me the piece would be printed in Saturday's edition and that I was to get a piece of original Frank Bellamy's Garth artwork as a prize. When I saw the image in the paper I quickly realised that they'd cut off one of the arms and a leg and pasted them at a weird angle in order to fit in with the columns and edges of the page. All very crudely done and a foretaste of my future where art is altered without the artist's consent, though at this time I was just delighted to see my work in print. My Mom and Dad were very proud but I don't think I even told my mates at school. The Bellamy artwork was much more exciting to me.

When the artwork arrived I was amazed at how big it was .... it was the first piece of original comic artwork I'd ever seen or held. It was on CS10 board (long gone, I'm afraid) and the ink looked really black and the white gleamed. It wasn't a great piece of Bellamy art but I've since added two other Garth strips by Mr. Bellamy and I have all three framed together .... the two other pieces are much better examples of what he could do with half tone stippling and extreme lighting and shadows, but they are all pretty special to me, originals by the greatest British comic artist ever to have lived.

I hope this is of use, Norman. Any questions, just send me a message.

Cheers, Mark.
"Of use?" I am over the Moon. After thanking him, I asked which episode he received. G250 was the reply - see the top of this article

Lastly David Jackson shared this photocopy of his Bellamy scrapbook with me in the late 1970s and I've just noticed that he had a bigger article on comics than I saw down south! Another instance of different editions of the same daily paper (as we saw with the Daily Record!)

The same article BUT different!

Thursday 11 February 2021

ORIGINAL ART: Garth, Garth, Garth and Garth!

Garth:  G32 and G34 "The Women of Galba"

This month sees not just one Frank Bellamy artwork up for auction but 8 Garth strips! These come via Compalcomics. Malcolm Philips offers a listing at both his Compalcomics and TheSaleroom

GARTH: The Women of Galba - 2 episodes: G32 and G34

Garth: 'Women of Galba' two original artworks (1973) by Frank Bellamy for the Daily Mirror 6/8 February 1973.
Indian ink on board. 21 x 17 ins (x 2)
That's the description for these two near consecutive strips in Lot #122 reads. The original story ran in the Daily Mirror from 27 December 1972 - 10 April 1973. The reserve price of £450 has been met - actually while I was typing this note!

GARTH: The Wreckers - 2 consecutive episodes: G308-G309

Garth: The Wreckers G308-G309

Here are two consecutive strips from the story "The Wreckers" - you might remember I discovered an unseen episode - in England at least - previously.  These two show Garth and Andromeda being brainwashed and demonstrate beautifully how to vary panels in just a small space! The lot is described as:

Garth: 'The Wreckers'. Two original consecutive artworks (1973) by Frank Bellamy (one signed) for the D. Mirror 29/31 December 1973. Indian ink on board. 21 x 17 ins (x 2)

At this time of writing the reserve has not been met but I suspect that will happen today or tomorrow!

GARTH: Freak out to Fear - 2 consecutive episodes: H135 and H136

Garth: Freak out to Fear H135-H136
I love these two as they portray the Swinging 60s-type environment in London (yes, I know they were published in the 70s!). Guy St. Clair appears to be a junkie - it can't be his unkempt hair that clued Garth in as Garth has a mirror nearby! And Guy ends up in hospital! A nice pair of consecutive strips, again showing Bellamy's command of black and white and how to vary images to grab attention.

Lot #127 is described as:

Garth: 'Freak Out to Fear', two original consecutive artworks (1974) both signed by Frank Bellamy for the D. Mirror 10/11 June 1974. Indian ink on board. 21 x 17 ins (x 2)

GARTH: The Bride of Jenghiz Khan - 2 episodes: J4 and J6

Garth: The Bride of Jenghiz Khan J4 and J6

This time we have two almost consecutive strips from "The Bride of Jenghiz Khan" story, which ran in the Daily Mirror from 28 September 1974 - 14 January 1975 - H228-J11. Garth is with Professor Lumiere in China on a dig. Bored he heads off  and as a result of a landslide discovers a skeleton with a necklace which he strangely remembers as belonging to "Crystal Sky". Touching it he becomes Kailim, guard captain to Feng, warlord of a Chinese province.  These two strips come right near the end of the story. Lot #129 is described as:

Garth: 'Bride of Jenghiz Khan', two original consecutive [sic] artworks (1975) both signed by Frank Bellamy for the D. Mirror 6/8 January 1975. Indian ink on board. 21 x 17 ins (x 2)

If you want information on reprints of the strips travel to the menu on the website "Garth Reprints" and I'll add these to the spreadsheet, where I record sales of original art by Frank Bellamy.


GARTH: The Women of Galba - 2 episodes: G32 and G34
WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom -Lot #122
STARTING BID: £450 reserve
END DATE: Sunday 28 February 2021

GARTH: The Wreckers - 2 consecutive episodes: G308-G309 

WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom - Lot #125
STARTING BID: £450 reserve
END DATE: Sunday 28 February 2021

GARTH: Freak out to Fear - 2 consecutive episodes: H135 and H136
WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom - Lot #127
STARTING BID: £450 reserve
END DATE: Sunday 28 February 2021

GARTH: The Bride of Jenghiz Khan - 2 episodes: J4 and J6
WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom - Lot #129
STARTING BID: £450 reserve
END DATE: Sunday 28 February 2021

Tuesday 2 February 2021

Don Harley (1927-2021)

Eagle Vol:10:28 (29 August 1959)

The news of Don Harley's death arrived the other day and it spurred me on to sharing a letter he sent to Richard Farrell (the creator and publisher of Andersonic and all round brilliant caricaturist). Richard used some of the letter in quotations in his article "Frank, Don, Dan and the Tracys" (way back in Andersonic Episode 4 Dateline (Autumn 2007) pp.4-8) and has given me permission to use whatever information I find useful from his letters from Harley and Keith Watson here for the first time. The topics covered by both artists are Frank Bellamy and the changeover at Hulton during a massive upheaval - the subject of an earlier article by David Jackson and here too. I also shared the drawing, with permission, of Bellamy by Don Harley way back in 2009 and another article in 2010

In Don Harley's letter (from 9 March 1991) Richard is given advice by Don on drawing and Don goes on:

"Both Frank Hampson and Frank Bellamy were skilled draughtsmen. Frank Hampson learned his skills at Southport art school and through working in a commercial art studio, but Frank Bellamy was self-taught, as was Keith Watson also, although the last two were self-taught, they aimed for perfection in their work. Frank Hampson's style of drawing was much more subtle and sensitive than Frank Bellamy's he paid much more attention to detail even small objects were drawn with great care. Frank Bellamy on the other hand relied much more on design and contrasting tones, he also aimed for great movement and impact achieved through the heavy use of black. 

Kieth (sic) Watson and I never saw Frank Bellamy at work as he worked at home and at this time, 1959, Kieth (sic) and I with other members of the Dan Dare team were working in Hulton House, Fleet Street. Frank would deliver his part of the work and we tied it in with what we were doing and as the two styles were so different it looked like two different strips. 

Frank Bellamy was secretive about his methods of working although he did reveal to us that he did not mix colours on the palette but applied washes of diluted ink using primary colours only, red, yellow and blue therefore he made green by putting a wash of yellow on top of blue to make a darker green he would add more blue and a touch of red to prevent the green from becoming too acidic the colours were pelican (sic) inks he rarely used watercolour. The board he used was CS10 which is normally extremely difficult to paint upon, it had a surface like scraperboard    he was able to obtain trick effects by scraping out colours with a razor blade and then flowing other colours over the scraped out bit."

Richard also had a reply from Keith Watson who drew Dan Dare solo from Eagle volume 13:10 to 18:1! An incredible run.

"I remember Frank Hampson telling me that Frank Bellamy's work "stood head and shoulders above that of other Eagle artists" and he had advised Marcus Morris to engage Bellamy as chief Dan Dare artist following his (Hampson's) departure. However many people, including Bellamy himself , were not entirely happy with the new Dan Dare. In my view Hampson's super clean crisp style fitted the futuristic world of Dan Dare like a glove but was not so suited to historical subjects like the "Road of Courage" [the life of Jesus].

The reverse was true of Frank Bellamy. In my opinion it was a case of the right men doing the wrong jobs. Hampson's hardware was the product of much time spent studying the latest in spacecraft or aircraft engineering and then trying to push it forward a generation. It looked functional and convincing. It looked as if it could work. Bellamy's designs were a quick flash of artistic imagination and looked like it.

It is all subjective of course but I'm glad to say that the Eagle editor received a flood of mail welcoming back the Hampson-type Dan Dare"

He went on...

"Bellamy used to tell me he didn’t approve of Hampson’s methods, too much use of references, photos, models, etc. But the truth is that when the cake is so good there can’t be much wrong with the recipe".


I must thank Richard for sharing his letters, and  I added a scan of the first Bellamy-illustrated "Dan Dare" story above as the first shot of Dan Dare's head is the one Don Harley was asked to re-draw. I am quite sure this is the ONLY one he re-drew. 

As a child I loved Don Harley's work as it mirrored my favourite artist Mike Noble as it was straight 'representational' art. In fact I loved the time Bellamy took a break to do The Avengers TV series from illustrating Thunderbirds in TV21. So here's the last episode of a very long story before Bellamy took the break followed by Don Harley's continuation. Harley drew 6 issues before Bellamy returned to draw Thunderbirds.

TV21 #92
Thunderbirds - drawn by Frank Bellamy

TV21 #93
Thunderbirds - drawn by Don Harley

Other thoughts on Don Harley

Friday 25 December 2020

Frank Bellamy and Swift Annual


The Swift Annual cover - needless to say NOT by FB!

As I have just finished reading "Damascus" by Christos Tsiolkas, given to me by my daughter and it mentions a runaway slave and it's nearly Christmas, the time when we received annuals as kids, that reminded me to look up Frank Bellamy's version of the tale. 

The Swift Annual #2 was published in Autumn 1955 for the Christmas market and here are the authors and artists for those who want to know:

Writers and artists in Swift Annual #2

We'll leave Raymond Sheppard for my other blog, but let's start with "Running Buffalo" - no, nothing to do with the slave I mentioned! 

The story of young Grey Eagle and how he was in the right place and the right time to save Dark Hawk, his brother when the buffalo run. Bellamy's three black and white washes are not reproduced with any clarity (and scanning them loses more!) but one can see compositions with action and tension. His signature can be seen on 2 of the 3 images. Unfortunately due to the alphabetical order of writers and artists shown above, I don't know who wrote this tale.

"Running Buffalo" in Swift Annual #2, p.8

"Running Buffalo" in Swift Annual #2, p.9

"Running Buffalo" in Swift Annual #2, p.10

 The second story drawn by Bellamy is in the usual comic strip format. It's interesting to note that at this time (c. Spring 1955, allowing for production times) Bellamy was on his second strip for Swift, "The Swiss Family Robinson" which was first published between 9 October 1954 and ended in the 16 July 1955 issue. He also took over "Paul English" before moving onto "King Arthur and his Knights". In other work he drew some illustrations for Swift but had been a regular for Lilliput and Boy's Own Paper so he was known for both his comic work and his illustration work too.  

Now to the runaway slave whose name was Onesimus.  He had run away from his master Philemon who it is generally assumed to have lived in Colossae. His reason for leaving has been deduced from verse 18 of Paul's letter. "If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me". Paul, at the time he wrote the letter to Philemon was a prisoner to the Romans (although not easy to date it is widely assumed to have been 61AD). Paul plays with the Greek name Onesimus in verse 11 "Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me." - Onesimus means 'useful'. He sends the slave with his letter back to his master, his brother in Christ. 

And here is the two page adaptation and imagining of the incident by Chad Varah, the founder of The Samaritans and author of another Bellamy illustrated strip in Eagle, "The Travels of Marco Polo" :

"Runaway Slave" Swift Annual #2 p100

"Runaway Slave" Swift Annual #2 p101

 Interesting to see the mention of the theft of money "caused" by his master's beating! No excuse but interestingly interpreted.

Of course this wasn't the only Bible story that Bellamy illustrated - David The Shepherd King was another.

 I'll close by wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!


Monday 16 November 2020

Frank Bellamy Gerry Anderson annual covers

I wanted to add these three covers in one place and see if we can get any clarification even at this late stage as to the certainty of which are by Bellamy and which not.

If you don't know already comic annuals in the UK arrived in shops during the late summer of the year preceding the published title date. So Beano Book 1967 (which even as kids we knew was an annual!) would have been on sale late summer 1966 and I remember seeing them just in time for my birthday at the start of October.


The first Thunderbirds title here is copyright 1966 and if the date had been included in the title it would be Thunderbirds Annual 1967. I don't think there is any doubt this is completely Frank Bellamy - besides the logo, of course. I wish there was a signature but there isn't!

Thunderbirds Annual [1967]


Bellamy's last strip for the newly launched  TV21 & Joe 90 was #4 (18 October 1969) so it's interesting if Bellamy came to do this Thunderbirds Annual 1971 which was published in 1970. 

As David Jackson said to me about this cover: The 1971 copy of Frank Bellamy is a very good copy seen on its own terms, (the goodness is all originally Frank's) but compared with Frank's original there is the 'Chinese whispers' degrading with each iteration, and the opaque paint medium rules out it being Frank Bellamy himself.

Thunderbirds Annual 1971

I hunted and it didn't take long to find where this 'Bellamy' shot came from: TV21 #56

TV21 #56 with the final frame used on the Annual

 So getting my friend Paul Holder to lay the raw Thunderbird 2 at an angle, we get.....

A raw Bellamy frame added on top

Then Paul tidied it up and we see this....

If Bellamy HAD done the cover but note fin!


The picture frame seems to fit almost perfectly of shape onto the annual, except you’ll notice the fin which would go off the annual cover if they had used the exact original frame. The ‘Thunderbird 2’ lettering on the side is slightly bigger on the annual - the 2 is larger in proportion and the whole text takes up a longer space on the side. The no 2 underneath is much fatter on the annual. The "squiggly shadows" on the side windows are very similar - same style - but not same as the comic frame.
I would say that it was traced and amended slightly. The vapour trail is not pure white but looks as if white paint done on top of blue sky so not opaque. Bellamy would have not done it this way, Therefore this is not a Bellamy illustration but a copy/homage.
Also, I think it would be technically easier at that time to illustrate anew, rather than get new films made (if the artwork was available) to the size proportions required.

And David said:

What doesn't come across digitally but is obvious in print and in your hands is that this cover version Thunderbird 2 is literally that - although it's taken from FB's early T2 'look' in style and design, it looks to be rendered in opaque watercolour / gouache / poster paints.
Which is to say the whitish opaque drybrush overpaint engines jetstreams; the orange-down-to-yellow intake nacelle; the lightened greenish overpaint of the black underside around the area of the right edge red circle retro...  I don't need to go on...

Paul then pointed out to me that actually the image AND design were 'borrowed' from Bellamy


TV21 #63 with that circle + red background!

UPDATE: 5 Dec 2020:

Thunderbirds Television Story Book Title Page, © 1966

 I found this image from the Thunderbirds Television Story Book (copyright 1966) which looks to me to be another borrowing from Bellamy as TV21 #63 was published on 2 April 1966 and this was for the Christmas market 1966.

Our joint conclusion: a very clever editorial decision to use the Frank Bellamy frames from early TV21, four years after Bellamy drew it. Then use paint to amend the image slightly.


The colour cover with Fireball XL5 (awful representation!), Thunderbird 2, Stingray and a coloured left hand margin.The dispute exists as to whether Bellamy did any or some of the colour images on this cover (The left-hand marginal drawings are definitely by Rab Hamilton, who illustrated "Agent 21" strip in TV21 and "Marina" in Lady Penelope)

If I had to bet on this I'd say the Thunderbirds image is Bellamy's and maybe the Stingray. His method of doing skies (as described by his son, David, in Timeview:

Inks are a very difficult medium to work with particularly on CS10 line board which is not at all sympathetic as the inks tend to dry unevenly, yet he could wash in skies or flat areas of colour and give an almost air brushed effect. This was done so quickly with brushes, blotting paper, cotton wool and various other little tricks, it was like watching a magician, the quickness of the hand deceiving the eye. 

TV Century 21 Annual [1967]

My hesitation is around the Fireball XL5, which I can't believe he did as it's so ...bad! But David Jackson felt:

Is Fireball XL5 so much of a problem?  The title (non-Frank Bellamy) graphics are not helping by crushing rendering of the vehicles.  The original art continues left and around the spine and tucks over and around overlapping the top and bottom and right-hand edges but the title graphics leave no space (ho ho) for Fireball XL5.  It is possible that the original art may have been same size and this could also have been a factor working against a bigger finish.


Interestingly the lightning flashes appear a later addition as Bellamy would do these differently and am I right in thinking the water appears above the flash? Comments received point out that the lettering for Fireball, Thunderbird 2 and Stingray look to be added on. [As Shaqui and Jeff Haythorpe point out Bellamy drew the lettering on TB2 in black (having checked,  he did, but also just left it off completely sometimes!]. Paul Green says:

The artist responsible for the cover of Thunderbirds Annual 1971 has used Bellamy's artwork as reference material and adapted it using gouache paint. During my time working on annuals adapting another artist's work or being told to copy their style was common practice. As for the TV Century 21 art - the first cover is definitely Bellamy's original art. The later cover feels like someone copying different styles as they aren't consistent. An artist probably adapted Embleton's Stingray art and Bellamy's Thunderbirds art. The Fireball XL5 may be a crude adaptation of Mike Noble's art. This isn't Bellamy's original art. Once again the medium is gouache paint.

The last thing I thought of after publishing this was that the Thunderbirds Annual [1967] - which I have no doubt is Bellamy's work - and the TV Century 21 Annual [1967] are different sizes. Is this significant in any way? 

David Jackson added:

The central frame of TB2 rolling out the pod vehicle could not have been created by anyone other than FB himself.  This of itself makes the cover in all probability a whole piece, but could possibly have been supplied as three separate images. The Stingray couldn't be by anyone else.  It is FB technique without key line and black at its most sophisticated. The area directly above the red gutter flash separating the TB2 and Stingray is the colour of the TB2 ground and although approximately a similar tone to the undersea effect in the Stingray frame, on closer comparison is nothing at all like it in colour or variation. If the Fireball XL5 had been seen in isolation it is doubtful it  would be attributed to FB, but is it not sufficiently unlike him not to be... The blue-grey space and stars effect are not unlike his usual method, in the absence of black ink. FB tended not to use 'route one' direct copying from sources even when they were available. And a decision must have been taken not to use black or ink outline and render the whole cover in watercolour wash technique.

The observations made about the craft lettering are enough to justify a suspicion that FB didn't letter them.  He would not have used process white over-paint, and XL5 tail fin is not that sophisticated and the other XL5 is in black, as is the Stingray so maybe 'too black'; the Thunderbird 2 looks like white opaque over-paint and it does not curve around the body in perspective. However, the under-wing TB2 is something only FB did. The model craft itself, and on only one wing, actually read T2.
Derek Meddings said to an outsourced sub-contractor of a Thunderbird 2 model that not only wasn't it the same shape it wasn't even the same colour! This TB2 model was eventually written off in a spectacular crash scene...

and then

The way the red zigzags are done, and the other cut and paste-up (literally back then) are not the way FB would do them. The Kid [see comments] makes perceptive observations that FB would be unfamiliar with the brief very early on, particularly in view of his method of assimilating as opposed to directly drawing from a source. 

DAVID further commented (January 2021):

One thing I've noticed and commented on in the 'printing' context it is that transparency and opacity of the original materials (ink, paint etc) 'prints through' in print.  On first consideration it might not seem likely or even possible but it does - you can see it.  Or I think I can see it - the difference between opaque and transparent in printed works.
The blue skies in both THUNDERBIRD 2 covers (the TV21 pod vehicle and the THUNDERBIRDS 1, 2 and 4) are unmistakably FB transparent wash skies. As is the rock foreground.  All the flat and shadowed foreground in front of the red vehicle pod immediately above the red zigzag and THUNDERBIRD 2 design is reliably early Bellamy in style.  The STINGRAY 'undersea b/g' looks like an FB scraped-back effect.
Any other artist would have to have been some sort of miracle worker to be this, similar to  early FB this early on in T'Birds without copying something FB had himself previously originated.
The lettering on the craft  is an issue, including the 'THUNDERBIRD 2' on the THUNDERBIRDS ANNUAL craft also.  I think this was overlooked hitherto.And the scans are not of a scale to compete informatively with the printed volumes. Lettering at any time by anyone is always a technical test to get 'right'.  And only more so when drawn in perspective.  Art gallery painters can 'get away' with brush mark indications of signage when readable proper lettering could dominate such a framed painting.  But graphic artworks can demand more accurate, meticulous, literal and readable, representational rendering.
Having subsequently since made a quick overview of the FB episodes of T'BIRDS, I now notice that I'd never really noticed, that more often than not, Frank Bellamy would omit the Thunderbird craft lettering, or elements of it, wherever he thought it was not necessary to put it in.  So it was always, over the entire run, always as graphic requirements allowed.
THUNDERBIRDS being about conveying action and speed.

A good comparison of the TV CENTURY 21 ANNUAL pre-FB is is the (c)1965.  STINGRAY, FIREBALL, My Favourite Martian and Burke's Law.  Unmistakeably nothing like FB; in opaques, from the model STINGRAY, and the more pointed nosed Fireball XL5.  And inside only the one model still shot, of Fireball, in b/w.

Further thoughts by David Jackson:

I’ll also add to the previous observations on the opacity (process white, gouache, poster paints, body-colour, designers colours - all various names for essentially the same thing - or in oils even - anything using a solid white in the palette) or transparency (watercolours or waterproof inks - no solid white in the mix) of the original materials ‘printing through’ in printed reproductions,

Both blue skies in both THUNDERBIRDS frames on the TV21 ANNUAL and the THUNDERBIRDS ANNUAL being characteristically FB to look at. Apart from which their method of creation 'prints through' in terms of what I would call ‘molecular effects' - the actions of the materials used - which is clearly seen as being created by the spread of colour diluting (‘bleeding’ as they say) into a puddle of water on dampened board - I.e. transparent wash. An effect which couldn’t have been obtained any other way.

Close examination of the THUNDERBIRDS ANNUAL sandstone rocks (another FB speciality) along, say, the almost horizontal edge in the lower left hand corner, the broken edge shadow indentations were clearly formed with ‘blobs’ of transparent brown wash.

Re the Thunderbird craft lettering, Not only was this frequently omitted in depictions of the craft as they appeared in the strip, when they were included it would be as part of the black key line.

(This leaves the possibility of some lettering omitted by FB may have been found lacking editorially and added later in-house)..

THUNDERBIRD 1 is in black lettering although white lettered on TV.  ‘THUNDERBIRD 2’ where written out in full, can be smaller / less visible than in photographs of the model. The good reference of TB3 on the cover of the first Thunderbirds episode FB seems not to have had for that spread. THUNDERBIRD 4 lettering is also in black in the actual model. THUNDERBIRD 5 lettering is clearly created using ‘negative space‘ - i.e. the surrounding area filled in in black leaving the lettering - as opposed to ever being an area of black overpainted in an opaque white. Such uses of negative space being another positive identifier of  transparent as opposed to opaque materials and methods.

Thunderbirds from TV21 #77

Thunderbirds panel from the 3rd page TV21 #64

#77 has examples of such, and I found more than I was looking for - the first FB "T2" underwing marking correction. TV21 #64 had the last “TB2” underwing marking - (the use of which identifies both ANNUAL covers depictions of TB2 as being originated at some point by FB).

Significantly, possibly, when the third b/w line and wash pages ended, starting with the TC193 story, that third page was used for Thunderbirds launch schematics by another artist and TV21 #69 has THUNDERBIRD 2 with its T2 (not TB2) underwing mark visibly displayed. TV21 #77 had the first “T2” corrected underwing marking actually by FB.
TV21 #69: The T2 logo - Eric Eden

 What do YOU think? I'd love to hear your thoughts. I hunted through two years (Bellamy will have done several months of Thunderbirds by the time this was drawn) and found no similar panel to match the Thunderbird 2 image. What about the Fireball image? Is there corresponding reference?

Friday 6 November 2020

ORIGINAL ART: A plethora from Comic Book Auctions - Thunderbirds, Life Study, Masai, Garth


Thunderbirds from TV21 #172 (page 2)

Compal, or if you prefer Comic Book Auctions Limited are offering some lovely Frank Bellamy original artwork in their November 2020 auction. and you can bid live on The Saleroom 

The first auction lot is the second page from the Thunderbirds story in TV21 #172. I see that Malcolm has mentioned the fading but interestingly, for a change, it's not the blue! Take a look at the horribly printed version below and I see greens missing, which Bellamy will have mixed with yellow and blue!  This page comes from the shortest Thunderbird story (3 episodes from #170-172)!

Printed version

This is the auction description:

Lot: 105   

Thunderbirds original artwork (1968) drawn, painted and signed by Frank Bellamy for TV21 No 172. A neutron cannon developed by Brains has crashed into the Thames. The crash has activated the firing mechanism and a neutron particle is aimlessly fired every ninety seconds destroying everything in its path... Pelikan inks on board with some fading to grey. 15 x 18 ins £1,200-1,500

Masai Warrior

The second lot is a gorgeous pastel. Bellamy did a few of these and they are so hard to appreciate unless seeing them out of their glass, being so difficult to photograph. BUT I have seen some of these photographed well, and love them. The auction description:

Lot: 106   

Maasai Warrior drawn and signed by Frank Bellamy (1960s)
Terracotta pastel on black cartridge paper. 23 x 20 ins £300-400

Life study (rear view)

And another 'life study' as I call them! 


Nude study drawn and signed by Frank Bellamy (mid 1960s)
During this time Frank Bellamy ran and organised life drawing classes at the Studio Club in London's Piccadilly Crayon on paper. 15 x 12 ins No Reserve

Then we get three sets of Garth strips which sell very well - especially as two of three lots are consecutive pairs of strips.


F251-F252: Garth: People of the Abyss
They show no markings or scribblings by Daily Mirror staff - which is unusual but I'm guessing they are mounted with a passe-partout or something similar.

Lot 116 description: 

Garth: 'The People of the Abyss'. 2 original consecutive artworks (1972) by Frank Bellamy for the Daily Mirror 24/25 Oct 1972 Indian ink on board. 21 x 7 ins (x2) £500-600  

The next lot is also from the same story, so if you are collecting the whole of this story, good luck! I don't know anyone who has a complete story of any Garth by Bellamy as they're scattered to the four winds!

F278: Garth: People of the Abyss
Notice, here we can see a sticker and some faint notations.

Lot 117 description:

Garth: 'The People of the Abyss' original artwork (1972) by Frank Bellamy for the Daily Mirror 24 Nov 1972 Indian ink on board. 21 x 7 ins £250-300
G41-G42 Garth: The Women of Galba

 The final Bellamy lot  is another pair of consecutive strips
 Lot 120  description:

Garth: 'The Women of Galba’ 2 original consecutive artworks (1973) by Frank Bellamy for the Daily Mirror 16/17 Feb 1973 Indian ink on board. 21 x 7 ins (x2) £500-600


WHERE?: Comic Book Auctions
STARTING BID (with reserve): £1,080.00
Auctioneer's estimate £1,200 - £1,500

END DATE: Sunday 22 November 2020

GARTH: F251-252 (People of the Abyss)
WHERE?: Comic Book Auctions
STARTING BID (reserve): £450 
Auctioneer's estimate £500 - £600
END DATE: Sunday 22 November 2020

GARTH: F278 (People of the Abyss)
WHERE?: Comic Book Auctions
STARTING BID (reserve): £230.00
Auctioneer's estimate £250 - £300
END DATE: Sunday 22 November 2020

GARTH: G41-42 (Women of Galba)
WHERE?: Comic Book Auctions
STARTING BID (reserve): £450.00
Auctioneer's estimate £500 - £600
END DATE: Sunday 22 November 2020

LIFE STUDY (Back view)
WHERE?: Comic Book Auctions
END DATE: Sunday 22 November 2020

WHERE?: Comic Book Auctions
STARTING BID (with reserve): £270.00
Auctioneer's estimate £300 - £400

END DATE: Sunday 22 November 2020