Friday, 28 April 2017

Original art - Garth J138 on eBay

J138 Garth strip from "The Doomsmen"
Tony Smith let me know on my Facebook page that an original Garth strip drawn by Frank Bellamy is on eBay.

The seller describes it like this:

Original Garth Newspaper Strip Panel by Frank Bellamy 
Measure 25" x 10" (matted), in very good condition

It is from a seller based in the USA so bear that in mind when bidding.

This comes from the story "The Doomsmen" which ran originally in the Daily Mirror from 3 May 1975 - 15 August 1975 - J102-J191) and was reprinted later, in 2012- 2013 coloured by Martin Baines, as well in black and white by John Dakin, in February 1981  and of course, the now defunct All Devon Comic Collectors Club.

Here are the other pictures the seller uploaded:

And just for your enjoyment here's the context of this lovely strip


WHERE?: eBay
SELLER:  sunset5000
STARTING BID: $350.00 - £271
END DATE: 1 May 2017
No of bids:
No of bidders:

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Frank Bellamy - Spring Cleaning

Over the years there have been quite a few things wrongly attributed to Bellamy along with some known forgeries! I did an article early on on this blog (which took me a while to find today!).

But today I'm presenting some things about which I have known for a while but want to open for discussion.

Gary Player / Slazenger advert
EAGLE Vol.11 No.26, 25th June 1960, p.8.
The first is a reference that David Jackson had in the checklist from way back. He recently reminded me I hadn't changed the listing to indicate I know about this. Why? Because I don't think it is Bellamy. Do I have any evidence either way? No! I said in an email to David, "I personally would say it isn't FB. Why? It looks so 'photographic' with no interpretation - just a 'fuzzy' photo made to look artistic - not an original illo, IN MY OPINION!" To which he replied:

I think you are exactly right in your analysis but completely wrong in your conclusion..! My reading of it was that FB was supplied with a photo to work from - so that is what he did. It is exactly the dot-stipple technique he had developed up to and at that time. Interestingly published in the very issue where he was experimenting with changing it in that episode of Dan Dare. Discounting the possibility it isn't someone else trying out that stipple technique over a photo...
Interestingly Player received very little for advertising the merchandise as we recently found out on his Twitter account - £5!

Over to you what do you think? Bellamy or not Bellamy?

The second one I present to the jury of Bellamy fans is Supermoose, yes! Supermoose!
Supermooose from
TV21 New Series #48 p.24 22 Aug 1971
Lew Stringer has run old comic adverts and included this one, ironically, alongside the Letraset Transfer advert that Bellamy certainly had a hand in (please excuse the pun!). He couldn't see it as Bellamy but admitted "I can't see his style in the Super Mousse one but it's possible he changed his style slightly to suit the requirements of the client. There was a regular Super Mousse strip on the back of Countdown, but that was drawn by Peter Ford I believe."

Interestingly, considering this chocolate bar is all but forgotten, demand was so high in 1970 "you'll only find it in the Midlands and South England" it said on the advert in August 1971. It would have been too hot to store in Summer anyway! On  my other blog I've uploaded all the Supermoose adventures I could find but the actual stories appear to be by Peter Ford.

Is this Bellamy or not?

Let me know your thinking!

Thursday, 20 April 2017


As I'm thinking ahead to the centenary of Frank Bellamy's birth, I wanted to update a few things round here.

The background was created in Ribbet and I rather liked it as a background. Let me know if it's too awful!

I've made sure to add the Facebook page to the list on the right. I tend to use this to highlight blog articles (where you are now) and also upload links to ephemeral or peripheral things I trip over which don't warrant a longer article.

I'm also working my way through the Checklist website, which unbelievably was started 10 years ago next month...but more on that anniversary when we celebrate Bellamy's birth...

And in order to ensure Mr Bellamy gets a look in.....this piece is used as the header for the Facebook page, but has never been used on the blog. I found out these two media are not necessarily watched by the same group of people!

Thunderbirds from TV21 #125
Click on this magnificence to appreciate how Thunderbirds should have looked when printed! Don't believe it's that good? Well, here's a scan of the TV21 page. Many thanks go to Paul Holder for letting me use his excellent photograph of the original art.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Original Art: Heros the Spartan and Garth at Heritage

Eagle 1 June 1963 Vol 14:22. Heros the Spartan

I'll keep this simple...another few pieces in a Heritage Auction from the Ethan Roberts Estate.

Heritage describe the first as:
Frank Bellamy Eagle Magazine Vol-14 #22 "Heros the Spartan: Episode 13" Two-Page Spread Original Art (Longacre Press, 1963). Released in an issue cover dated June 1st, 1963. The two page spread featured this issue's installment of the on-going saga of "Heros the Spartan" as created by the fantastically talented Frank Bellamy in ink and watercolor over graphite on a single sheet of illustration board with an image area of 25" x 15.25". Signed by Bellamy in panel 14 (and what a great panel it is too!). The board is slightly toned, with edge/corner wear, and there is a crease running down the left side through all tiers of art. Overall in Very Good condition. From the Ethan Roberts Estate Collection. .

The piece is the 13th episode from the "Eagle of the Fifth" story  and the colour on this is visibly faded so, I doubt will fetch anywhere near the fantastic prices previously seen. having said that, what do I know!

Eagle 5 June 1965 Vol 16:23 Heros the Spartan

The second Heros spread is from their New York auction. The strip originally appeared in Eagle 5 June 1965 in the last Heros story that Bellamy illustrated, "The Slave Army". Heritage described it:

Frank Bellamy Eagle Magazine V16#23 "Heros the Spartan: Episode 15" Two-Page Spread Original Art (Longacre Press, 1965). Gorgeous colors and great detail made this serialized strip a great joy for readers in the UK. Frank Bellamy's fine line and keen draftsmanship excelled at this historical fiction tale. Created in ink and watercolor over graphite on a single sheet of illustration board with an image area of 25" x 15.5", matted out to 33" x 24". Signed by Bellamy in Panel 9. The board is slightly toned, in Excellent condition. From the Ethan Roberts Estate Collection.
It's interesting that the 'masthead' is on the piece, I wonder if this is a reconstruction, a fan did. But if one zooms in on the picture (thank you SO much Heritage for being so kind!) one can see additions to word balloons which look authentic rather than a later addition.

Garth, Daily Mirror G188

The third Bellamy for sale is a Garth strip, G188 which appeared in the Jim Edgar penned story "The Mask of Atacama" which ran from 13 July 1973 - 25 October 1973 (#G165-G254)in the national UK newspaper Daily Mirror. Heritage have sold two others in the past, to my knowledge, from this story and this example is lovely. This one is also a preview in anticipation of the coming auction. here's the strips on either side as reprinted in

Menomonee Falls Gazette 165

I'll update the prices they sell for after the auctions.

And just because I could, when checking the above Heros strip, here's Keith Watson's front cover to the Eagle comic from 52 years ago in which the latter Heros appeared! I'm feeling old!!


WHAT?  Heros the Spartan, in Eagle 1 June 1963 Vol 14:22
WHERE?: Heritage Sunday Internet Comics Auction #121717
LOT NO: 14015
No of bidders: 
END DATE (Proxy bids):

WHAT?  Heros the Spartan, in Eagle 5 June 1965 Vol 16:23
WHERE?: 2017 May 18 - 20 Comics Signature Auction - New York #7163
STARTING BID:Opens for bidding on 28 April
No of bidders: 
END DATE (Proxy bids):

WHAT?  Garth G188 from "The Mask of Atacama"
WHERE?: 2017 May 18 - 20 Comics Signature Auction - New York #7163
STARTING BID:Opens for bidding on 28 April
No of bidders: 
END DATE (Proxy bids):

Sunday, 2 April 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Frank Bellamy and Lifestyle illustrations

Frank Bellamy (unpublished?) as appearing in
Lifestyle Illustrations of the 50s
A while ago Jaime Ferguson posted on JaDoodles Art Blog a picture that attracted my attention. It was a Frank Bellamy piece I had never seen before but which resembled a few others that are mystery pieces as I don't know if they were ever published. Jaime mentioned it came from Rian Hughes' book Lifestyle Illustrations of the 50s in which the knowledgeable David Roach contributes an introduction. It's an overview of the boy/girl artwork that started as rather representational and by the end of the decade became a bit more abstract, using shapes and blocks of colour. It includes many USA artists whose work was 'syndicated' over here, providing UK publishers with artwork they could afford, compared to the original American payments to their artists. But it also has loads of UK artwork too from magazines such as Woman, Woman and Home, Woman's Journal and Woman's Home.

Lifestyle Illustrations of the 50s pp.12-13
The complete artwork (of which the above is a close-up) is 520mm x 730mm (or 20.5" x 29" as it would have been in the Fifties!). The signature is an early Bellamy but the important clue is the International Artists sticker.

In 1951 Bellamy had produced these type of illustrations for Home Notes (and hated doing them according to Nancy Bellamy) (between February and November) and signed up with International Artists Limited (which was founded in 1933). The London Manager (and one of the Directors) I. H. Thompson wrote to Bellamy confirming they would be pleased to act as his agent from 10th December 1951. Presumably they had acted on Bellamy's behalf before this date as Bellamy states (see below) they gave him the Home Notes' work. So this dates the above piece as being after that date and it was submitted to the agency, presumably for publication. In the interview with Dez Skinn and Dave Gibbons, Bellamy states:

Well, towards the end of my career there [Norfolk Studios], I was doing the odd freelance job. I started getting freelance through a phone call from International Artists, who were then the biggest art agency in the country [...] everyone from Francis Marshall to Ronald Searle, they were all with the International agency. Apparently they got to see my work through some cartoons I did for advertising the Daily Telegraph in World’s Press News and Ad Weekly, full pages that I did a series of. As soon as I gave them permission to represent me, I had a commission to do two love story illustrations for Home Notes, a woman’s magazine
Interestingly Bellamy's run in World's Press began in December 1951 so I presume that Thompson et al saw these before publication but even that seems to stretch Bellamy's memories a bit - but perhaps he got the commissions before being fully represented?
Frank Bellamy Romance novel book cover?
The piece above, which is approximately 11.5 inches tall (29 cm) could be a book cover with the cottage on the left for the spine. But to date I have not found any such book. It might have been produced for his portfolio that he hawked around Fleet Street in the late 1940s. But until more information turns up that's the best I can do - except to say, having seen this artwork in the flesh, like the piece in Hughes' book - where he shows the back of the artwork - it appears to be earlier than Bellamy's use of CS10 artboard.  

Unpublished (?) Frank Bellamy

Regarding the next piece I have never seen the illustration below in real life, just many scans and photos over the years. Mike Lake originally owned it but it has since passed to others. It seems to me to be of the same style and era as the two above, but I always fancied it to be a Home Notes illustration, but after trawling through volumes of that magazine I have never found it.

Frank Bellamy romance illustration

Now, the next 'lifestyle illustration' - (wonderful term Rian and David!) should be easy to identify but again I can't find it as being published. But I wonder if that's my fault. My records show I have looked through Affinity for the years May 1946 through to April 1954 and not found it despite the date June - July being on the front! It was published by Gerald Swan for whom I know Bellamy did several jobs. More on that another day! [Amendment: My friend David Jackson pointed out that the wonderful Frank Bellamy Checklist actually says I have identified this! I checked my written notes and indeed had!! I must not rely on my memory!]

Affinity #29 June-July (1950)
What interested me, whilst reading - or rather - viewing Lifestyle Illustrations of the 50s was how some artists certainly look to have inspired Bellamy. In the above mentioned interview he was asked about inspiration and he modestly stated "I find it difficult to sort out the difference between people who influence me or impress me with their work". I wondered if elements of Pruett Carter influenced him in his solid figure work, together with colour being used as solid shapes. Jon Whitcomb appeared in many women's magazines of the Fifties, as Hughes shows. I wonder whether his technique of 'feathering' inspired Bellamy - examples of which appear in nearly all the illustrations on this page. But there are also UK artists who I suspect helped form Bellamy's work, even if he was not aware of them doing so. Eric Earnshaw and Edwin Philips seem the obvious ones to me, particularly after flicking through their work in Hughes' book. The former draws fine representational couples with angled "over the shoulder" views such as this one.
Influences can be very subtle - and here I agree with him, those that impress us do influence us. So it's natural his style will emulate that of the period. I also enjoy Bellamy's early comic work in which he manages to emulate the style of the day, quite naturally, and watching him develop his own style which in my opinion comes into its own during the 50s - for example his construction and composition in Boy's Own Paper, his black and white work leads to stippling for shading and later his colour in the Eagle comic.

So let's wind this up with two books I have: Denise Robins My True Love, 1954 and Roberta Leigh Dark Inheritance, 1954 both published by the Valentine Romance Book Club. As Steve Holland, who first alerted me to these said, Roberta Leigh is the same lady who created Twizzle and Torchy the Battery Boy which Gerry Anderson filmed in the late Fifties. And that brings the decade to an end!

Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s is an accompanying volume to the above mentioned 50s volume by Rian Hughes and David Roach

Monday, 27 March 2017

Original Art: Garth on Heritage - People of the Abyss (F243)

F243 Garth: People of the Abyss by Frank Bellamy

Wayne Keil has alerted me to an upcoming Heritage Auction (thanks again Wayne!) which starts March 27 and ends April 2 for a Garth strip by Frank Bellamy from the excellent story "People of the Abyss" written by Jim Edgar - episode F243.

Heritage describe the piece:
Frank Bellamy Garth #F.243 Daily Comic Strip Original Art dated 10-14-72 (Daily Mirror, 1972). Frank Bellamy had a long and rich career before he took over the long-running comic strip Garth (1943-97) in 1971. He handled the art for this UK series until his death in 1976. Previously Bellamy had illustrated tales in Mickey Mouse Weekly, Swift, Boy's World, Look and Learn, Eagle, and TV Century 21 (where he illustrated many Gerry Anderson creations including the Thunderbirds). This piece is a wonderfully hyper-detailed study in light and shadow created in ink over graphite on Bristol board with an image area of 20.5" x 5.25". 

I wondered what else to add to this page and decided to Google the title of the story and what a surprise I got! Wikipedia informed that Jack London, H. G. Wells and London slums are all connected to this story title. In fact once I followed that thread I was reading Jack London's description of London slums with great interest. Dr. AndrzejDiniejko writes:
Jack London (1876-1916) made a significant contribution to Victorian slum literature. In the summer of 1902 he arrived in England to report the coronation of King Edward VII from the perspective of the London poorest inhabitants. Initially, he wanted to spend a few days in the slums but eventually he stayed six weeks in London’s district of Whitechapel disguised as a stranded American sailor, sleeping in cheap doss houses with the poor and destitute, and as a result of his unique investigative literary journalism he wrote the slum non-fiction novel, The People of the Abyss (1903), which was a first-hand critical account of the life of the British underclass by a foreigner. 

I'll leave you to follow the links. But I'm guessing that the phrase must have been known to Jim Edgar when he drafted the script for this Garth strip. If you know the story you'll know that the name is the only connection, as the story is about Garth visiting an undersea world where the Azlans, are fighting octopoid creatures called Homads in a war "of extinction". The fact that all the women are naked in this society is irrelevant but enjoyable to 70s Daily Mirror readers - well at least one half!

Want to read more? Here's a few strips before and after the one on sale (Thanks to "Pete the Pipster").

Garth as it appeared in Menomonee Falls Gazette #104

WHERE?: Heritage Sunday Internet Comics Auction #121714
No of bidders: 9
END DATE: 26 April 2017

Monday, 13 March 2017

Original Art: Heros the Spartan at Heritage

Heros the Spartan, in Eagle 20 June 1964 Vol 15:25
I love it when (surely) the biggest comic and illustration art auction house have a Bellamy artwork for sale as they are so generous in sharing hi-res images with us. This wonderful "Heros the Spartan" double page spread comes from the Ethan Roberts Estate.

Heritage describe it as:
Frank Bellamy Eagle Magazine Vol-15 #25 "Heros the Spartan: Episode 3" Two-Page Spread Pages 10-11 Original Art (Longacre Press, 1964). From the issue of Eagle magazine released on June 20th, 1964. The page is created in ink and watercolor over graphite on a single sheet of illustration board with an image area of 25" x 15.5". Signed by Bellamy just under panels in the second tier. The board is slightly bowed, with edge/corner wear; however, the image area is in Excellent condition. From the Ethan Roberts Estate Collection.

It appears to have held the colour quite well - always check the blue sky - and is a wonderful piece from the "Axe of Arguth" story. It has the classic Bellamy design of a hand breaking out and pointing from the panel.

The second one is from the first story "The Island of Darkness"and certainly looks to have retained the colour well.  A lovely picture of "the god Diom" takes up the first panel of this centrespread
Heros the Spartan, in Eagle 1 December 1962 Vol 13:48
Frank Bellamy Eagle Magazine Vol-13 #48 "Heros the Spartan: Episode 6" Two-Page Spread Original Art (Longacre Press, 1962). Released on December 1st of 1962, this weekly comic brought another installment in long-running feature "Heros the Spartan". The page is created in ink and watercolor over graphite on a single sheet of illustration board with an image area of 25" x 15.5". Signed by Bellamy in panel 13. The board is slightly toned, with edge/corner wear; however, the image area is in Excellent condition.


WHAT?  Heros the Spartan, in Eagle 20 June 1964 Vol 15:25
WHERE?: Heritage Sunday Internet Comics Auction #121712
LOT NO: 13008
ENDING PRICE:$4,600 ($5,497.00 with Buyer's Premium)
No of bidders: 11
END DATE (Proxy bids):19 March 2017

WHAT?: Heros the Spartan, in Eagle 1 December 1962 Vol 13:48
WHERE?: Heritage Sunday Internet Comics Auction #121713
ENDING PRICE:$4,800 ($5,736.00 w/BP)
No of bidders: 8
END DATE: 26 March 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Pop goes Bellamy with Disc!

Disc 25 May 1974
1974 was a busy year for Frank Bellamy. Marv Wolfman (of then Marvel Comics) wrote asking if Bellamy was interested in doing something for Marvel Comics, either black and white or colour or just covers in colour. "We produce eleven black and white titles, along with sixty-odd color comics", he said to which Bellamy politely declined stating he was extremely busy with his daily newspaper strip.

In April 1974 Frank appeared on TV for the first time on "Quick on the draw", a programme broadcast 19 June at 3.55pm (just in time for little Norman to be home from school!) where cartoonists like Bill Tidy, and other TV personalities (Leslie Crowther and Diana Dors on this particular show) would draw a joke from a suggestion made by Bob Monkhouse the compere. Frank was the surprise guest who demonstrates a Garth drawing without showing himself and the regulars have to guess who is behind the door from the sketch!

For the Radio Times he drew regular drawings in black and white, such as the May 1974 "The Movie Quiz Late horror show". Bellamy was also approached by 19 magazine to illustrate their feature on King Kong and he was illustrating Garth in "Beast of Ultor". (Later in 1974 he'd also illustrated Garth in "Freak out to fear" from June to September and then went onto Garth in "Bride of Jenghiz Khan"). But this article is about how, for the 25 May 1974 edition of the weekly Disc he produced an unusual piece

The charts in Disc 25 May 1974 p.1

The main cover (see top of article) of this newspaper format magazine shows Garth slicing through the page with a karate blow. The whole of the magazine is in black and white (with the exception of the centre spread pin-up) so Bellamy's colour choice here is for dramatic effect. Why was Garth, a Daily Mirror newspaper strip character on the cover of  a pop music paper?

Disc 25 May 1974 pp4-5

Lon Goddard arrived from America in 1966, worked as a reporter for Record Mirror, then moved on to become Head of Press for CBS records. And finally he became Editor of IPC's weekly Disc in 1973. Lon was and is a fan of Frank Bellamy's art and commissioned him to do this work.

When he sold the original art on eBay (of the cover and the interior illustrations) many years ago I wrote to him  and I had the presence of mind (and cheek) to ask him about Bellamy. Lon kindly wrote back to me to tell me that with Bellamy in Lon's office he "acted out the approach" for his proposed illustrations. He also confirmed Bellamy was paid £150 and Jim Edgar (Bellamy's writer on Garth) wrote some blurb but this was re-written by Brian Wesley from The Sun!

Disc 25 May 1974 p.5
The main image inside shows Garth with headphones on a keyboard-like instrument. In the 'interview' we learn he is playing music from the planet Axatel "in the Andromeda nebula" which apparently is taken from an earth song "Tie a yellow ribbon"! We also learn that Garth has almost bumped into Dan Dare and has had dinner with Octobriana, "the Russian underground heroine"

Lon's eBay description of the two head shots of Garth included in the article:
The two images of Garth each just under 3" tall and are rendered on a 12" X 7" CS10 artboard with a tracing paper cover sheet attached, exactly as Frank submitted them in the Fleet Street offices of Disc in London. How do I know this? Because I was the editor of DISC at the time and I commissioned the drawings from Frank, himself!
From the original art by Frank Bellamy
 I thought it worth checking with Lon whether he remembered anything else since the early 2000s when I last wrote, especially on the authors of the article. I managed to track him down and he wrote:

Nice work finding me. Yes, I'm busy as a street-level celeb, playing guitar and singing, plus acting in theater here in a very small town. I often ask my audience for their autographs.

Nothing really huge to add regarding the amazing Frank. That's really the story. Oh...he was dressed in a khaki safari jacket and smoked a lot...but I smoked then, as well. Didn't we all? He was obsessed with detail and lighting in his artwork, as you know, and described his intentions while acting out the Garth poses he intended for Disc, as well as the dynamic poses of other figures he had done in the past. He sure loved westerns (as do I). As a professional illustrator myself (Folio Artists and Illustrators of Holborn), following six years as PR for Phonogram Records, the point at which I left the music industry, I became even more aware and respectful of Frank's incredible attention to detail, somewhat later.
I'm trying to remember Ray Fox-Cumming's input, but that's foggy. However, he is on Facebook.
Fox-Cummings moved with Disc when it joined with the Record Mirror and then went on to the Observer. He retired from the rat race in 1995 and is now a hotelier. I wrote to the hotel, but have not received a reply to date. 

Lon added a quote from Steve Holland's excellent blog on Jim Edgar, who still remains a bit of a mystery despite having authored so many of the Garth strips. Any help on James Edgar offered gratefully received!

Lon left Britain for Sacremento in 1986. In an article on Peter Jones, editor of the Record Mirror, Paul Philips (author of the Car 67 single) says "Lon Goddard, an ex-pat American who became the go-to guy for your singer-songwriter updates and much more besides"

I see since these emails from the 2000s Lon's work appears all over the Internet due to his association with many famous names of pop. He not only designed a few album covers, but also now plays and sings and is no mean artist himself! Lon continues:

I have included some bits of my own art, both early caricatures for Record Mirror, a couple from Folio...and that's me in the Cleopatra poster I posed and rendered for our theater. Hollywood Producer/Director/Writer/Film Editor Elmo Williams was a close friend of mine, as a former resident of Brookings, Oregon - our aforementioned 'small town.' As host, I did 24 screening/lecture shows with Elmo in our community theater and Cleo was one (he produced). Elmo won an Oscar for editing the classic High Noon. He passed away in 2015, at 102-years. The City of Brookings asked me to design a bronze plaque as a memorial to be placed in our local Azalea Park, which was done (pictured). So, as age 70 approaches, that's where I'll eventually be going...up there with Elmo
That's about a wrap for the moment. Good to hear from you, Norman.

Cleopatra poster "starring" Lon himself!

The park in which Elmo Williams plaque sits

Elmo Williams plaque designed by Lon Goddard

James Brown art by Lon Goddard

Art by Lon Goddard

Ricky Nelson (star of Rio Bravo)  by Lon Goddard
LINKS to various things about or by Lon
  • The sound quality is rather poor on these, but here's some audio interviews with Lon
  • There's a brief biography and a list of some of Lon's articles he wrote while with the Record Mirror
  • Lon's interview with The Doors' Ray Manzarek
  • Mari Wilson enacts Psycho for Lon
Moving swiftly on, here's an addition to the Bellamy story that's been lost in time that I suspect you will enjoy. BUT BE WARNED YOU WILL spend a lot of time on the recommended site below!

Disc 6 July 1974

I can't remember when I bought the above or how I found out that Lon had commissioned the fantastic  J. Edward Oliver (known as Jack)  to do a spoof of the Garth episode above (not the tiny reproductions of Bellamy's version on both the above and below pages), but Lon wrote to me recently:
Jack Oliver (J. Edward Oliver), Disc's cartoonist, quickly took to my follow-up idea and mimicked the Garth cover with his Fresco-Le-Raye dinosaur character. The two of us had fun devising the text for the feature. Jack passed away in 2007, age 65, only weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Fresco-Le-Raye, the dinosaur cartoon character had his own fan club and a regular black and white strip in the magazine by J. Edward Oliver.  The front cover is an exact copy of the earlier Garth cover with Fresco substituting for Garth! The same occurs internally with a few witty additions!

Disc 6 July 1974 p. 7
Lon made me laugh out loud when he wrote again:
 Two bits that will forever remain in my mind, regarding the wonderfully and absolutely honestly eccentric Jack Oliver: He came into my Disc office one time, with his weekly cartoon strip, wearing his usual black cape and top hat, announcing that he had signed up for lipreading classes. He said both of his parents, with whom he resided, were fairly deaf, so he was expecting the same fate and wanted to get the jump on it. I spent time with Jack, who was perhaps ten years older than myself, and knew his folks, who always stayed in the background when I visited. A few months later, when he walked in to deliver his strip, the subject came to mind, so I enquired as to how the lipreading classes were going. He told me that he had quit after the first one. When I asked why, he replied, perfectly naturally, "Because I could hear everything they said."
I have no idea as to the degree Jack actually realised how affably eccentric he really was, but he never seemed to notice it at all.

Secondly, he always gently complained that he was underpaid. I couldn't get a raise for him within my budget, so he threatened to start leaving the last frame in his strip as a total blank. I told him that if he did so, I would fill it in personally, being a cartoonist, myself. Well...he did so. And I did so. The resulting frame is attached. 
I'm pleased to say, Lon, I found the strip on Peter Sanders' excellent site (the last one on the page - follow that link) and he highlights the strike in a special article here

Disc October 26th 1974

It says: "Now, J. Edward... I warned you I'd fill in your protest blank myself... and force you to appear in your own strip!! Neat huh!?"

I happened to notice that Garth appeared elsewhere in this issue in JEO's strip - check out the bottom right hand corner:

Fresco-le-Raye in Disc
It's obvious from browsing Peter Sanders' site that JEO loved Marvel and DC comics as well as many other media personalities as he replicates Conan ("Fred the Chartered Accountant"), Tarzan and many others very well and with great affection (and madness!). He transforms the DC Tarzan to "Tartan of the Aardvarks", one week, "Tadpoles" another and "Warthogs" a third all pastiching Joe Kubert's covers.

Check out Steve Holland again for a biographical sketch of Oliver and of course Peter Sanders site, where amongst other wonderments you can see Doctor Who make an appearance

J. Edward Oliver's "Fresco-le-Raye" meets a certain Doctor Who
And now I can confess and free my soul.....I too am a member of Fresco's club! The proof has long since disappeared. And I'm nearly as old as that dinosaur now!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Frank Bellamy and Montgomery of Alamein

In May this year Frank Bellamy will have been 100 but or his early death So in honour of Kettering's most famous son I want to try to publish some longer articles with a few more pictures than usual. 

Eagle 21 April 1962 Vol.13:16 p.1
If you asked me what is my favourite Bellamy strip I would struggle and say things like "I can't decide" but then I would suddenly declare "Montgomery of Alamein" from the Eagle comic. Why? It's so...Bellamy! It has stippling, 'Bellamy swirls', it has the figures breaking out of panels, it's a composition across a double page - hard to reprint in a book - and his brilliant use of colour. It uses graphic devices to tell the story, it uses maps and finally it's just beautiful.

The first of appearance of Bellamy's 'Montgomery'
I was five when the above appeared* and no doubt had a copy in our house (thanks to older brothers!) but I would have headed to Reg Parlett's "Fidosaurus" at that point in my life! "Dan Dare" was a vestige of his greatness, only having a panel on the front cover in colour - although Keith Watson's black and white two pages were certainly not to be sneezed at!

Dan Dare drawn by Keith Watson in Eagle Vol. 13:10 (10 March 1962)

Fidosaurus by Reg Parlett in Eagle Vol. 13:10 (10 March 1962)

But back to Bellamy...

The first episode of Montgomery of Alamein written by
Clifford Makins Eagle Vol. 13:10 (10 March 1962)

Look at the panel below. Bellamy seems to have loved doing crowd scenes. He could have emphasised one man in close up and blurred, or intimated a crowd beyond through the use of perspective colouring. He knew what he was doing so why the detail? I think it was pride in his work. I have never claimed to be able to handle Photoshop but I wanted to have a go at showing how Bellamy's panels could be wild in shape when looked at alone!

One panel by Frank Bellamy from
"Montgomery of Alamein" Eagle 19 May 1962
That's too cluttered for you? Well try the simple composition at the top of this article which is full of action, the colour alone being stunning. Bellamy uses perspective colouring to indicate depth. The colours in the foreground more distinct, as if he has photographed this and focused on the aircraft and blurred the background out. And do I have to mention the explosion? Bellamy must have loved doing those as they appear in many of his strips.

Here's another whole double page (of 18 episodes) for your delight.
Eagle 4 April 1962 Vol.13:15 p10-11
There was no clue on the cover that Bellamy was pulling out all the stops in the Eagle that week as his work didn't appear on the cover. Let's look at this piece of artwork which could be purchased for just 5d (5 pence so small it's not worth comparing to today, but a normal postage stamp cost 4d -"First class and second class services were introduced in September 1968 at 5d and 4d respectively")*

Eagle 4 April 1962 Vol.13:15 p10-11

Eagle 4 April 1962 Vol.13:15 p10-11
The dark colours used for the soldier and the clock are blown apart by the explosive artillery in the next panel that stretches across the battlefield of Alamein. take a close look at the stippling on the face!

Eagle 4 April 1962 Vol.13:15 p10-11
Here we see Bellamy's use of  a sepia colour to portray the sandy desert environment with all the British pointing inwards in the panel towards the Germans adding force to the 2 dimensional space. 

Eagle 4 April 1962 Vol.13:15 p10-11

Eagle 4 April 1962 Vol.13:15 p10-11
The above portraits remind us that in 1962 communication satellites were about to be launched in space for the first time, (and the Internet was a far away thing!) and Bellamy will have had to consult many sources to check out details. I imagine his research in the Imperial War Museum for the earlier series on Churchill will have helped.he also shows very good protraits of other leaders in the warfare including Hitler!

My other favourite part of this strip is the visualisation of troop movements and battles. I often wondered if the title sequence from the British comedy series Dad's Army was inspired by Bellamy's drawings.

Eagle 19 May 1962 Vol. 13:20 p10-11detail
Eagle 26 May 1962 Vol.13:21 p10-11detail

Bellamy appeared in a lost BBC programme called Edition where he was interviewed by Barry Askew (broadcast on Friday 30th November 1973):
BA: With something again for the Eagle, like "Montgomery of Alamein", there’s an interesting example there of the way that you use frames and shapes in different ways.
FB: Well, there once again is breaking up this square frame, one on top of another and to bring out important frames. For instance, the one in the centre there, was just to give a monochrome look to associate with the monochrome films of the Second World War. 

Montgomery of Alamein, written by Clifford Makins, ran in the Eagle comic from Vol. 13:10 - 13:27 (10 March 1962 -7 July 1962). The following covers had Bellamy content (usually a third of quarter of the cover) during the run of this story:
Vol. 13:12 (24 March 1962)
Vol. 13:13 (31 March 1962)
Vol. 13:14 (7 April 1962)
Vol. 13:16 (21 April 1962)
Vol. 13:18 (5 May 1962) half cover
Vol. 13:19 (12 May 1962)
Vol. 13:22 (2 June 1962)

Montage of the Eagle covers with Bellamy's "Montgomery of Alamein"

The whole story has been reprinted in High command: the Stories of Sir Winston Churchill and General Montgomery [Netherlands]: Dragon's Dream, 1981 and  as a fan effort by Desmond Shaw (2010). Here's what Norman Wright and David Ashford (the former I met many years ago in a Comic fair, and the latter I met just recently!) said about this series:

Frank Bellamy’s first full-colour centre-spread for Eagle was Montgomery of Alamein, an eighteen episode biography which began in March, 1962. As with “The Happy Warrior”, it required a great deal of research and a degree of co-operation from Montgomery himself. Unlike the Churchill strip, Frank began it with confidence and a determination to make it something outstanding. Once again he experimented with colour, conveying the feel of individual frames with carefully-chosen tints and tones. He became even bolder in the way he broke up his pages, using shaped panels to depict movement, wide panoramic frames to portray battles and jagged-edged illustrations to draw reader’s attention to important events. If anything the work was an even greater success than “The Happy Warrior” and ranks as one of the best strip biographies of all time. [Norman Wright & David Ashford, (2002)."Frank Bellamy" (Great British Comic Artists No. 5) Book And Magazine Collector No 222]
Eagle 7 July 1962 Vol.13:27 p08-09 The last of the 18 episodes

* The picture of the cover for the new Eagle appeared a week before on the inside cover of the Eagle