I am about to steal hours of your time!
I've been reading comics, comic strips and graphic novels for approximately 50 years. But the name Les Edwards was new to me until a few years ago. If you look at his amazing artwork, (www.lesedwards.com) you may be saying "who is this guy?" or if younger than me, "what kind of an idiot are you, Norman? How could you not know Les?".
It seems logical to me that we all favour and concentrate on those we get to know. Richard Bruton (no spelling mistake!) reviews new stuff on Forbidden Planet's Blog. This year he has talked about Largo Winch (amongst many others) and I'm now hooked! I will now watch out for the Belgian creators Philippe Francq and Jean Van Hamme.
I'm going to confess something here: I have never been able to read Discworld - and therefore never bought the calendars! I did read Anne McCaffrey's Pern series in the Eighties and early Nineties (thus missing Les' excellent covers in the 'Noughties'). I have never followed role-playing games. And I gave up browsing bookshop science-fiction shelves quite a while ago, and thus missed Les' fascinating covers. Anyway enough of my confessions. Les, I'm sorry to have missed your work for so long. I'm sure that a lot of people reading this will also be discovering your work for the first time! I can certainly see some Bellamy influence (compare the rockets in the above Eagle cover and Les' 'Cygnus' painting).
Les kindly offered to add to my mini-series of 'Fans of Frank Bellamy'. Over to Les:
Like most boys growing up in the 50's I was a fan of the Eagle which was streets ahead of other comics of the day in terms of quality. My main interest to begin with was Dan Dare, because it was Science Fiction and because it always had a large splash panel on the front page to grab your interest. It was also beautifully drawn by the other great Frank;- Hampson, although, if the truth be told I was too young to appreciate the artwork at first. At this time the centre pages of the Eagle were given over to the famous cut-away drawings which can still put a gleam in the eye of men of "a certain age". Whoever decided to put a double spread strip in their place deserves a medal.
I'd been aware of The Happy Warrior on the back page and Montgomery of Alamein but I considered them subordinate to the main attraction which was still the adventures of Dan and Digby and their nemesis the evil Mekon. However, when Heros the Spartan began to run in the centre pages I switched my allegiance at once. I've tried in the ensuing years to decide why I found Heros so attractive but while I have lots of "grown up" reasons I'm not sure why my twelve year old self was so hooked.
Taken from Eagle 7 Sept 1963, Vol 14 36In my memory Heros was always very dark and richly coloured which gave it a moody and brooding atmosphere, something which I still try to replicate in my own work. In looking at panels from the strip in later years this is clearly not always the case. Indeed one of the stories, obviously inspired by Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean's magnificent film, was set in the desert and brightly lt. Still my abiding memory is of dark shadows and twisted trees, swamps and monsters and almost Neanderthal barbarians. It was a kind of proto-Sword and Sorcery, long before I'd ever heard the term.
There was plenty of action. Indeed everything in a frame of Heros seemed to be in motion, whether it was the creases in someone's clothing, an expressively gesturing hand or the sweep of a sword. Again, this rather a "grown up" appreciation and I'm sure I reacted to this strip on a much more fundamental level.
Eventually I became interested in the artist. Of course it was Frank Bellamy. I tried, without much success to imitate his style and I think there are still elements of him in what I do now. It was an influence that followed me to Art School, to the bemusement of my tutors, and I did not, nor did I want to, shake it off. I doubt very much that I would be doing what I do today without Heros.
When Bellamy moved on to do Thunderbirds for Century 21 his work became ever more accomplished. Indeed some of his renderings of non_Thunderbird hardware are absolutely stunning. But while you might argue that this is more mature work, it never quite had the resonance of Heros the Spartan for me. I look forward to the day when someone republishes the whole of Bellamy's Heros work in a large format. Maybe then I'll be able to put my finger on the element that made it so crucial to me. I'm not holding my breath, but they did it for Dan Dare and I can't be the only wanna-be legionnaire out there.
Taken from TV21 201 23 November '2068'
Thanks a lot Les. Let's hope Titan Books are listening and will publish Heros as a complete run. I hope you like the selection of Bellamy art - I was tempted to add a Hampson, but felt a Bellamy blog ought to have Bellamy and as I could see a similarity between your Cygnus and Bellamy's hardware in the Dan Dare story above... Also I could have shown the Heros 'desert' story, but felt the issue above shows that some bright colour did indeed appear in the strip despite your and my memory of it being dark! I threw in some Thunderbirds hardware and 'barbarians' too for good measure.