Friday 22 December 2023

Frank Bellamy "Ghost World" soon to be reprinted

Boys' World Vol2:16 (18 April 1964) - my photo of the comic
 In case you haven't heard Book Palace are reprinting another Frank Bellamy strip - one often forgotten as it appeared in a short-lived comic Boys' World - that's "Brett Million and the Ghost World" - to give it its full title. There aren't many details yet - price and cover to follow but it's scheduled for Summer 2024. But I can tell you Geoff West asked me to supply an article on the series for inclusion in the book. Each of Bellamy's pages are in a single page format and in full colour, unfortunately not many original artworks still exist and some of those are faded, so these will be high quality scans from the comics.

It's being published in one volume together with "Wrath of the Gods" a series that's well remembered by those who loved "Heros the Spartan" by Bellamy. It was drawn by Rob Embleton and John Burns and apparently will be in foldouts - thus eliminating the problem of double page spreads being cut in two over two separate pages. I'm looking forward to seeing what this looks like.

Different colour printing!

It also be interesting to see how the colours hold up as I'm aware that even one comic printed at the same time could appear different.

John Freeman has an article with links (one being to one of my earlier blog articles)

 If you want to know more about "Boy's World" see Steve Holland's excellent history, overview and index including a complete list of artists and writers plus details of all the corresponding annuals - which unusually went on far longer than the comic!

When the book is published I shall of course highlight it here. 

May I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 


Friday 1 December 2023

Frank Bellamy and Farnborough Airshow 1970


Farnborough Poster

Did you know Frank Bellamy drew for the Farnborough Airshow in 1970? Thanks to Peter Hansen for sharing this scan of the poster which measures 21 inches high by 14 inches wide. Besides this poster, I have yet to discover exactly where this was used as the programme booklet - which was published from 1948 - in this year, 1970, has no representation inside or on the covers of Bellamy's work. Below you can read how we know the Farnborough poster by Bellamy appeared on the London Underground - which might explain why, having searched many an aviation magazine, I have not yet found a copy - other than that bought on eBay by Peter Hansen!

Three planforms - Black and White Polaroid (Thanks to Alan Davis)


On the 20 April 1970, an agency wrote an artwork order to Frank Bellamy for 

  • "A/W for handbill B&W illustration Aeroplanes as agreed 30 gns" 
  • "A/W for P/C adapted to Quad/Crown full colour illustration agreed fee 100 gns" 

It was signed Stuart Newman of Wilkinson, Scott-Turner Limited of Dover Street London W1 and the client SBAC. I wonder if this Stuart is the same who co-authored The Creative Director's Sourcebook with Nick Souter in 1988 and more recently The Poster Handbook : a guide to the world's greatest posters again with Nick Souter in 2007. If anyone knows Stuart, I'd love to track him down, - the British Library states this Stuart was born in 1947 so I guess he must be around 76 years of age!

Wilkinson Scott-Turner was a small newer agency which managed to represent some longstanding brands - such as Eau de Cologne and Ingersoll and their client, on this occasion,  SBAC is the Society of British Aerospace Companies who were very involved in the industry - but finally wound down in 2023 after submitting final accounts to Companies House. Unfortunately Frank had to chase the advertising agency and didn't pay in a cheque (for £136/10) until October 1970, six months after the commission and one month after the show took place! Considering he was getting commissions left, right and centre, Nancy and Frank must have spent hours keeping a track of due payments!


A succinct history of the Farnborough Airshow is archived here and interestingly it informs me that Concorde was on display that very year. The show is now run by Farnborough International who have an overview of the show here, and it's celebrating its 75 birthday this year. Once again I'm grateful to Alan Davis who saved so many Polaroids when clearing Frank Bellamy's studio after his death in 1976 and I've highlighted some of them previously here, including the subject I wish to focus on today.

Eagle 15 October 1960 (Vol.11:42), p22

In October 1960 Clifford Makins,(editor) reported he'd visited the show in Eagle in the comic dated 18 May 1963 (Vol 14:20)  L. Ashwell Wood drew a lovely cutaway for the Concorde

Eagle 18 May 1963 (Vol.14:20), p20 by L. Ashwell Wood


Russell Jenkins at age 12

Russell Jenkins at age 12 - Polaroids thanks to Alan Davis

 In May 1970 Bellamy completed the commission using life models I'm fortunate to have corresponded with Russell Jenkins, who tells me that:

The boy featured on the poster was me at around 11 years old. I can remember my uncle Frank taking several photographs of me looking upwards. Uncle Frank later sent me a photograph of a poster at a tube station and my sister has one of the photographs he took of me looking upwards. My Mother Lillian Jenkins (formally Caygill) was the elder sister of Nancy Bellamy.

The modelling was done at the side of the house in Morden, 26, Hatherleigh Close. Only myself and Frank there. I seem to remember Franks camera was an Instamatic but not the cheap plastic version, This one had an amount of adjustability and I think, a bellows front. [See below ~Norman].

Funnily enough, a mate of mine did a post grad Fine Art degree at Wimbledon a couple of years back and rented a room in a house in the next street to Hatherleigh close. He sent me some photos of number 26 which hasn’t changed much. I think a blue plaque would be warranted? [And David Bellamy went to Wimbledon around 1965! ~Norman]

The house was amazing. It was full of African taxidermy (dining room) and souvenirs from their trips to Spain. All very tasteful and before most people in the UK went abroad. Frank’s studio was in the back bedroom with his drawing board at the side of the window. This had an attached circular shaving mirror for facial expressions.(Hence the revolutionary circular frames. There is one of Fraser and it’s definitely Frank's face) The walls were covered in shelves with lots of military textbooks. There was also a shelf with plaster heads of all the Thunderbird characters. David had the box room which had copies of paperbacks with his cover designs on. Plus toys that looked like they’d never been played with!

This was a massive influence to me coming from a Council estate and I’m sure this helped in that I went to Art college as well. This was rarely done where I came from.

Anyway, Thanks for getting in touch and please let me know if I can help further.

Best wishes,


I'd thought Robin Bellamy, Frank's grandson might have been the model but Russ corrected me and pointed out Robin wasn't born then!  

Russell added in a later email:

[The photos] he took of me were taken outside the back door down the side of 26 Hatherleigh close. No lighting, just daylight.

The paperbacks [mentioned above] were David’s designs. He worked for various commercial art studios and I know he worked for Mary Quant for a time. He knew Jeff Beck from either school or Art school and had a friend who was keen on the circus. He later went on to buy one! This was Gerry Cottles Circus and you will note from the archive of Franks work that he did posters for this circus too.
Another memory was, we went on holiday to a caravan in Winchelsea near Rye. The caravan belonged to their next door neighbour in Hatherleigh Close. We went their for several summers around 1969, Myself, my Mum, Aunty Nancy and Frank. One time we went into a second hand bookshop in Rye and Frank bought two (might have been one?) books on anatomy. They were very large format and German I think. He was just about to start work on Garth.


The aircraft are shown in an outline of the thin nosed and basic ‘triangle’ shape of the Concorde. Concorde’s prototype was first flown in March the previous year and Concorde 002 (G-BSST) appeared at the SBAC show on the 1st September 1970 so it was wholly appropriate for Bellamy to use the basic triangular design to reflect the novelty aircraft and previous Airshow programmes had indeed included similar shaped aircraft. 

Blonde with no hairband -
Landscape art made eventually into portrait

Blonde with hairband

The existing Polaroids show two versions of Bellamy’s finished artwork – one as produced for the portrait poster (thus eliminating the two sides of sky that Bellamy painted on a landscape canvas) and the alternative – presumably not used where the blonde woman has a hairband and the gent on the right looks up.

Knowing Jeremy Briggs knew a thing or two about aircraft, I asked his opinion about these images:

Farnborough Airshow programme 1970
Your images are interesting. The planes are just generic aircraft shapes but the wing planform is based on Concorde (which made its first Farnborough appearance in 1970) whilst the four single jet engines are based on the B-58 Hustler (a favourite in the Century 21 model shops as many guest planes in Stingray and Thunderbirds amongst others use the Hustler engines).
I can see an image of the cover of the SBAC Farnborough 70 brochure with a photo into the sun of two Lightnings tanking off a Victor. It isn't unusual for air shows to use the same image for their posters and their brochures but then Farnborough is also a major trade fair so it is possible that the Bellamy image was used for posters and leaflets, or adverts in something like Flight International or RAF Flying  Review (possibly renamed Flying Review International by then). [Various ebay listings] show that the 1960s Farnborough brochures had pretty generic aircraft shapes on them so the photographic 1970 one is quite a change. 

But alas not by Bellamy!


Bellamy using a 100 or 101 Polaroid land camera

Facebook groups can be very useful as I found out when I asked the question about Frank's camera - described by Russell, above and seen in some of the Polaroids saved by Alan Davis. On the Historic Camera group, Victor Smith identified it as "Definitely a land camera. I would say 101 model" and Hollis Hall added "Polaroid Land Camera probably a 100 or 101"


So we know Bellamy was paid for 

  • "A/W for handbill B&W illustration Aeroplanes as agreed 30 gns" 
  • "A/W for P/C [publicity? ~Norman] adapted to Quad/Crown full colour illustration agreed fee 100 gns"

So we have yet to see the handbills - a piece of ephemera that you hope at least one Bellamy fan has stuffed away somewhere. PLEASE do let me know if you find one. 

On the website "Papersizes" I learned that:

  • Double Crown paper is also known as 1 Sheet for billboard posters, probably being called Double Crown for movie posters to avoid confusion with the One Sheet movie poster specific size.
  • Quad is also known as two sheet and may take its name from Quadruple Crown (i.e. double the size of the Double Crown paper).

Thanks to so many people - mentioned above - for their help with this article.

Sunday 12 November 2023

NEWLY DISCOVERED: Fraser of Africa artwork


Over on Facebook Dan Dare group, Douglas Kirk shared this piece of original art he owns. He mentions that 

"Fraser of Africa" Dedicated to Douglas Kirk
I was twelve when Frank Bellamy drew an original for me. The most exciting result of my nagging letters to my favorite comic illustrators. I've seen these poses by Bellamy in online posts, but these examples here are inked and coloured by him for sure.
Alas, I could never persuade Frank Hampson to do likewise, although he did sign some DD photographed artwork for me.

Douglas has promised some more information and a better scan, but I'm so excited to see a new piece, never shown before. Thanks so much to Douglas for permission to share this.

The letter from Frank to Douglas

Wednesday 8 November 2023

ORIGINAL ART : Compal Auction November 2023 - Heros, Dan Dare and a cartoon


Eagle 27 March 1965 Vol 16:13, pp10-11

This time round we have three pieces of original art and lots of comics with Frank Bellamy's art up for auction.

The latest Compalcomics auction is now live. The listings at both on Compalcomics and TheSaleroom

HEROS THE SPARTAN: Eagle 27 March 1965 (Vol. 16:13)

The image at the top of this article shows the 5th episode of the story "The Slave Army". It looks very bright compared to the printed version but that's nothing as the print versions under Longacre were a far cry from the wonderful photogravure of the earlier Eagle comics. The blues are still bright which is normally where we see these artworks fade first.

It is described as:

Lot # 114:
Heros the Spartan original double-page artwork (1965) painted and signed by Frank Bellamy for The Eagle Vol. 16: No 13
'After a revolt in the gold mines of Libya, Heros was captured by the escaped slaves - led by a Briton called Garthac - and forced to lead them across the desert. Suddenly they are attacked by an army of strange horsemen...'
Bright Pelikan inks on board. 28 x 20 ins. The Heros title lettering and rectangular text boxes are laser copy additions to complete the look of the artwork
I remember David Jackson pointing out to me an error in the story. The cry of the attacking group, the men of Raschid, is "By the Prophet!"

As Wikipedia tells us, Muhammad was born c. 570 and died on the 8 June 632 A.D., as we would have said back then. So the founder of Islam was born approximately 100 years after the initial sacking of Rome which led to the fall of the Roman Empire. But I notice that throughout Tom Tully's writings, he loves expletives - "By Mithras!" in this episode; "By the Gods!" and "By Tanarus!" in the previous one, so it's not too surprising he messed up here. I suspect if the Reverend Marcus Morris (Eagle's co-creator and first long-serving Editor) was still in post, he might have spotted this. Anyway, a lovely bright piece with a classic Bellamy battle scene.

DAN DARE: Eagle 12 September 1959 (Vol. 10:30)

Eagle 12 September 1959 (Vol. 10:30)
During the year in which Bellamy drew "Dan Dare" he was 'assisted' mostly by Don Harley, Bruce Cornwell, Keith Watson (and occasionally Gerald Palmer). The above page is undoubtedly Bellamy - the cover page this issue was by Harley. Bellamy hasn't signed this page but he didn't when he felt the whole thing wasn't his work and particularly while he was getting used to this peculiar work arrangement. His first signature on Dan Dare was three issues later in Eagle Vol.10:33 (3 October 1959). Take no notice in the following description where it says 'gouache'. These are all inks!

This auction is described as:

Lot # 65:
Dan Dare/Eagle original artwork (1959) by Frank Bellamy for The Eagle Vol 10, No 30 pg 2 with original comic
'As the rescue party follows along the Terra Nova Jungle trail, Dan, Sir Hubert and Digby are mysteriously given the freedom of Pax, The Novad central city ...'
Bright gouache colours [sic] on board. 15 x 13 ins

BELLAMY SKETCH: To be or not to be

"To be or not to be"
This sketch originally was in the Bob Monkhouse collection and been moved around a bit since it was first sold. The valuation, in my opinion, is correct for an original Bellamy with such provenance. 

Frank Bellamy original signed sketch (1940s) 'To Be or Not to Be' The Catering Corps Sergeant in a dilemma over the troops tinned rations menu (Probably hung in the Sergeant's Mess!) From the Bob Monkhouse archive. Indian ink and wash on card. 14 x 10 ins

I have never seen this original in person but is it really ink "and wash"? I thought the paper just looked aged - and there was a war on!

Finally check out the complete runs of TV21s and some volumes of Eagle in the auction!


HEROS THE SPARTAN: Eagle 27 March 1965 (Vol. 16:13)
WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom
STARTING BID: £2,700 (Estimate: £3,000-£3,500)
END DATE: Sunday 19 November 2023

DAN DARE: Eagle 12 September 1959 (Vol. 10:30)
WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom
STARTING BID: £1,360 (Estimate: £1,500-£2,000)
END DATE: Sunday 19 November 2023

BELLAMY SKETCH: To be or not to be
WHERE?: Compal/Saleroom
STARTING BID: £70 (Estimate: £80-£120
END DATE: Sunday 19 November 2023

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Boy's World Annual 1971 - J. T. Edson

You can subscribe to Rebellion's newsletter at their Treasury of British Comics website and that's where I saw this (with thanks to Richard Sheaf for the nudge!). Boy's World Annual 1971 had the J. T. Edson story "Johnny Boyland and the quail hunters" on pages 23-27 and Rebellion still have the original art which is a joy to see. 


Boy's World Annual 1971 p.27

Boy's World Annual 1971 p.26

Boy's World Annual 1971 p.25

Boy's World Annual 1971 p.24

Boy's World Annual 1971 p.23

 Rebellion added this short piece:

This month, the Rebellion archivists have found a quintet of stunning original Western illustrations by the legendary Frank Bellamy. Produced for the Boy’s World Annual 1971, the story 'Johnny Boyland and the Quail Hunters' was written by J. T. Edson.

Born in Kettering in 1917, Bellamy is renowned for his stunning work for Eagle and TV Century 21. With a radical approach to page layouts, and a sophisticated and innovative use of graphic effects and colours, his work truly stood out against the more staid and formulaic comics of the era. For Eagle he illustrated 'Heros the Spartan' and 'Fraser of Africa', as well as working on the lead 'Dan Dare' strip. He also drew 'Thunderbirds' and the splash center spreads [sic] of 'Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons' for TV Century 21, and the Daily Mirror's 'Garth' strip 1971 until his sudden death in 1976 at the age of 59.

Although fondly remembered, Boy's World was rather more short-lived than intended. Published from January 1963, Boy's World was meant to be an Eagle for the new decade, with full bleed magazine-style layouts and an impressive roster of creators, including writers such as Harry Harrison and Michael Moorcock, and artists like John M. Burns, Ron and Gerry Embleton, Gerald Haylock, Frank Langford, Brian Lewis Harry Bishop, and Luis Bermejo.

However, the project was beset by problems. Its original editor was replaced before launch and the first issue had to be substantially revamped in under six months. In the end, it lasted just 89 issues and in October 1964 it was folded into Eagle, the comic it had been intended to replace. The title continued as an Annual until 1972.

However, these small examples of Bellamy's work for Boy's World had a curious second life – the story and its illustrations were reprinted in exactly the same way in the Gold Star Gift Book for Boys from 1972, which reused material from the Boy's World Annuals from 1970 and 1971.

Bellamy only produced covers for five Captain Scarlet strips in TV21 - no centrespreads! It only takes a minute to count them in my index and the full details are there. The rest of those stories were drawn by Don Harley (2) and a further three drawn by Jim Watson - none on the centre pages.

Here's a link to the Gold Star Gift Book mentioned and isn't interesting that all these were reproduced at "same size" in the printed annual?

Friday 13 October 2023

Frank Bellamy on TV - Quick on the Draw

"Mikeluxy" has done us a favour. He has uploaded the complete 25 minute episode of "Quick on the Draw" in which Frank Bellamy appears.It's not a great copy but beggars can't be choosers! The video is hosted on the always busy - the link to his original is here but I've uploaded an edited version above which shows the introduction and Bellamy's bit. If you want to watch the whole programme, Bellamy appears at around 19 minutes and 24 seconds in the link to Mikeluxy's version.


The format of the 25 minute show (including an advert break) was devised by Denis Gifford and the compère, Bob Monkhouse was a close friend. The format was for Monkhouse to sketch a visual joke and then ask the three other members of the panel to do the same in a given time. Each work would then be reviewed and nominal points added. Bill Tidy, the cartoonist famous for the Daily Mirror's "Fosdyke Saga" appeared regularly and this week, we see Leslie Crowther (of "Crackerjack" fame) and Diana Dors, the actress whom Bellamy got to know well, exchanging greeting cards. Monkhouse has Diana Darvey - an ex-Benny Hill girl - assist him. 

In a letter dated 8 April 1974, Bellamy received his contract to appear on the show and on  23 April 1974 David Clark of Thames TV (Producer) thanked Frank Bellamy for his appearance and confirmed the transmission date as Wednesday 19 June 1974 at 3.55pm. Bellamy received a nominal £5 for his appearance. The programme was part of the post-school afternoon broadcasts (one wonders whether this was suitable with its seaside innuendo?) and was followed that day by "Little Big Time" at 16.20 and the very popular "Follyfoot" at 16.50. This episode's Director was Daphne Shadwell.


The transcription was rather difficult as the audio is not good in places. Any corrections, please let me know. I have only transcribed the Bellamy section (c.3 minutes 11 seconds). 

Bob Monkhouse: And this is a gentleman for whom I have the deepest possible respect. A great many of you who read one of the most popular daily papers in this country will follow the adventures in a strip there of a truly fantastic character. The character was created long ago, but only within the last three years has the finest dramatic illustrator in the British comic world taken on the job of bringing his adventures to the world. The only dramatic illustrator in fact to appear in this series, Quick On The Draw, is behind that door and I invite the panel to tell me, do you know the character that’s taking form?

PANEL : Garth

BM: Garth it is! Can you name the much celebrated……


BM: FB, indeed it is Bill,  BT: Frank Bellamy, BM: Frank Bellamy, come out Frank, you’ve been caught at it.


BM: Frank, you know, I follow you around and pick up scraps of paper, that you happen to have …used for anything, quickly if you draw on them, so you know that I’ll do anything you say. But we want to find out if the panel will do as you say. Can you set them a problem?

Frank Bellamy: Something to do with a superhero, you know the old strong man, similar to Garth.

BM: Similar to Garth. We have the Garthfield ladies in the audience tonight….


BM: Right, A strong joke please in 30 seconds, and could you give us something similar please Frank? Thank you, draw away on my board, it’s um, fun to watch.


Camera 2 is peeping at you, from over your shoulder, or trying to. Can you just err, give a little bit that way [helps position FB for the camera], thanks. Ah, now camera 3 has a view. All our panellists are working away to try and produce a joke, about strength. It seems to me that Diana’s making a nice simple clear job of it. Diana would you like to tell us what the err, what the strength of that one is? [Background music fades]

DIANA DORS: Well that’s about the strongest thing I can think of, it’s a piece of Danish blue.


BM: That’s strong. Out of 5 Frank?

FB: Three

BM:  Just three points for that. Bill Tidy, can you tell Frank what you’ve done?

BT: Yes, this is the strong lady, at the circus and the, err circus chief is saying to the clown, as he watches her struggling with his giant barbells, “By Jove, she’s come on a bit since “Plucky Postmistress Foils Nine Masked Intruders””.


BM: Maximum marks for that one don’t you think…[FB: Yeh].  That’s a definite five. Leslie, what have you got for us?

LESLIE CROWTHER: Well, this, is, .. is designed to show the strength of the animal world, as you can see, it’s the zoo,  this giraffe, but what you can’t see is the zoo keeper inside the house, who’s saying, “Shut that door. There’s a tremendous giraffe in here!”


BM: Your job

FB: Um, er..4

BM: Another 4, another 4, and what have you done for us here Frank?

FB:  Well, I haven’t time to draw Garth so I’ve just drawn his chest.

BM: That’s his chest.


BM: Frank Bellamy thank you so much [for being here]

FB: Thank you so much, thank you



Finally, more on the TV Show on NostalgiaCentral and Denis Gifford created a book Quick on the draw!  with a cover and caricatures by Chas Sinclair. It was published Arrow Books, in 1978 in conjunction with Independent Television Books.

Saturday 23 September 2023

The origins of Thunderbirds by Frank Bellamy

TV21 #54 page 12 Original art
The image from "Thunderbirds" above was posted recently on Facebook by my friend Jeff Haythorpe and this sparked a few discussions about how Bellamy managed a double-page spread plus a black and white page each week, which I'm picking up here. Before i start all the heavy detail, I want to repeat this is not a published black and white page from colour, it is in fact a black and white ink wash as Bellamy originally drew it.

We need to go a bit backwards in time. Frank Bellamy drew the last "Heros the Spartan" story for Eagle which when published ended in Volume 16 No. 30 (24 July 1965). After this he drew two covers for the comic "Arms Through the Ages:The crossbow" (Vol 16:35 - 28 August 1965) and "Arms Through the Ages:The floating mine" (Volume 16: 36) published 4 September 1965 - both can be seen here. We know that the lead time (from submitting artwork to its publication) was usually 6 weeks, so Bellamy looks to have finished with Eagle circa last week of August 1965. 

"Heros The Spartan" in Eagle Annual 1966, p.89
He received a cheque from Eagle paid in on 28 June 1965 and labelled "Heros #20" for £88/0/0d. So a double spread paid £88 (no shillings and no pence - pre-decimal money). Interestingly that last story has 22 episodes but I can't see these payments. He then received the same for the two "Arms through the Ages" covers (£88) paid in on 4 August 1965. I can't find any obvious record of the "Heros" story which appeared in the Eagle Annual 1966 (and would have most likely been completed before March 1965 - and gives me an excuse to show you the first page of that story!). So we can say the last cheque from Eagle was paid in on 4 August 1965.

So the big question is what did he do then? After such a long run with Hulton - and the new comics group under the title Odhams / Longacre Press / Fleetway where did he go?

We know that Bellamy submitted a letter of application to the Royal Society of Arts in March 1965 - perhaps thinking about the ending of a comic era, he wanted to look in other directions. The letter went before the committee on May 10th and following this he not only became a member but gained the post-nominals Fellow of the RSA such was his artwork held in high esteem by his peers - most likely his non-comic work which he had been exhibiting around various places in the preceding few years. 

On the 12 July 1965 he received a response to his resignation letter. It arrived on Odhams letter headed paper from Alfred F. Wallace (Managing Editor, Juvenile Publications), confirming Bellamy was free of any commitments, and wishing him all the best for the future.

TV21 #54 pages 10-11 - the third "Thunderbirds" issue

Looking at when the first "Thunderbirds" was published (TV21 #52 dated 15 January 2066 - actually 1966 as the clever device was it was a newspaper from 100 years in the future!), we see he drew both a colour centrespread plus a black and white page - so three pages a week. This lasted from #52 to #65 (15 January 1966 - 16 April 1966) covering two stories - "Forest Inferno" and "White Rhino Rescue" - 14 weeks. 

In their interview with Bellamy, Dez Skinn and Dave Gibbons asked about how he came to be involved:

Alan Fennell, the writer of the TV "Stingray", "Thunderbirds" and so on, was the first editor of TV21. He approached me saying he was wanting to start a comic of the same quality as Eagle, but with the Century 21 look about it, more S-F orientated. Alan wanted me to draw "Stingray", the lead strip in TV Century 21, number 1. But, because I was working for Eagle at that time I wouldn't leave to draw "Stingray". I felt I had to fulfil my commitments with Eagle, which I did, and then after explaining to the Eagle editor, Alf Wallace, we parted as best of friends and I started work for TV Century 21. It was clear, at this stage, that it would be a wise move to change anyway, because in 1966 Eagle was tailing off a bit, whereas TV Century 21 was a new magazine. [It actually ended with Volume 20:17 - 26 April 1969 ~Norman]

Asked if it was hard drawing puppets in an action setting, he replied

Yes, it was a problem. Everybody had seen them on the television, and so they would think of the characters as l8"-high puppets, which they were. So I had to decide whether to make them look like the puppets they were, or the people they were supposed to be. I went for forgetting they were puppets, other than simplifying the heads, which had to be recognisable from the established versions on the television.

Also Nancy told her version - expanding a bit - to Alan Woollcombe:

Gerry Anderson wanted Frank to illustrate ‘Thunderbirds’ so Alan Fennell (editor of TV Century 21) took us over to meet Gerry and Sylvia. He showed us all round the studios, showed us how they made the scenes and the puppets work so Frank agreed to illustrate ‘Thunderbirds’. Eagle was going down the drain anyway. The only thing was, be hated drawing puppets, so he made all the puppets look more human.

Asked if Frank had models to work from, Nancy replied:

Just the heads, white heads. The funny thing was, they were ever such ghastly things, and I was always playing jokes on my son David. One night he came in really late so I had got all these heads and arranged them along the pillow on his bed, and then covered them up with the sheet. When he came in, there were all these ghostly heads grinning at him, dead white... oh, I heard him scream!

In 1992 Nancy was interviewed on local radio and this is how she related the same story:

Gerry Anderson was deciding to bring out a comic on Thunderbirds and Alan Fennell, he was the Editor, got in touch with Frank and they had a meeting with Gerry Anderson at Slough.  So I went along as well and Gerry Anderson was very kind and he showed us all around.. well, it was a sort of factory where they made the Thunderbird films and he showed how the puppets worked, how the special effects were done, and it was a very interesting day.  Also, I was very thrilled when Sylvia Anderson drove up in a beautiful shocking pink sports car because it reminded me of Lady Penelope.

Getting back to the first "Thunderbirds" strips, in the records shared with us by Nancy Bellamy, we have not only the above payment data but a very interesting payment listed on 29 July 1965 for "TV21 1" which paid £126.  When he was paid for 'series three' which went down to just a colour double-page spread, he was paid £94/10/0d - so £94.50 in modern parlance. When it changed to 2 separate pages he was paid less - £80 - which I find strange!

Later in the interview he was asked about why Thunderbirds changed from a centrespread to two separate colour pages

The reason they split the spread with a gutter was purely that they could sell two separate pages to the continental market, for reprinting, better than an awkwardly—shaped centrespread.

But did you notice that he was PAID in July 1965 for "Thunderbirds"?

So between his last "Heros" and the two 'stray' covers he was already working on "Thunderbirds". We know he kept up the double-page spreads and later the two separate colour pages so I wonder how far ahead of himself he got? Also it must be said, Ron Embleton, Mike Noble and Don Harley were able to create 2 B&W pages plus one and half colour pages around TV21 #150 onwards so what looks like a tremendous output was similarly done by others too.  So Frank Bellamy had a long lead time to get his photo reference and puppet reference before commencing on, what I consider his most read comic strip.

During the discussion of the TV21 #54 image at the top of this article, Graham Bleathman kindly shared his TV21 #52 black and white page, so let's end this here - I've added the published double-page spread of the very first "Thunderbirds" comic strip written by Alan Fennell and drawn in inks by Frank Bellamy, for your enjoyment

TV21 #52 pages 10-11 

TV21 #52 page 12 Original art  

See additional thoughts in the comments below