Saturday, 9 June 2012

Next Garth story Martin Asbury!

© Daily Mirror

"The People of the Abyss" has finished and today you'll notice in the Daily Mirror that the new Garth coloured strip is drawn by Martin Asbury - not Frank Bellamy. It was Asbury's first strip after he completed "The Man-Hunt" which Bellamy started before his death. This story ran from the 17 January to 29 April 1977 that's 88 episodes so that takes us upto the end of July for this reprint by my calculations.

Martin Baines, the colourist, once again has come up trumps and sent this beautiful example of the opening panels, of which he says "I personally think is one of the strongest Jim Edgar scripts so hopefully you will not be too disappointed."

Certainly not Martin, and for the fun or reading a daily strip I've decided to continue buying the Daily Mirror. However as this is a Bellamy blog I'll take this opportunity to say a few words about the previous story - any guest writers apply now! 

I liked the look of "The people of the abyss" with Garth swimming underwater, meeting octopus-like creatures and the beautiful Liuba, who always appears with a simple thong-type outfit - when not completely naked. Now those of you who knew Nancy, Frank's widow, will know she was happy to tell everyone what a great body Frank thought she had. And in my opinion and awful lot of Frank's women took their details from his wife! Liuba looked so like Nancy it highlights what a great portrait artist Bellamy was.

© Daily Mirror
And in the following scene where she is ill she appears at first with a modest blanket to cover her as she lies on the stretcher, but mysteriously it disappears in the next panel - I'm not complaining! Perhaps it was the fact that they didn't want to waste a blanket as Liuba is about to be lowered back to the deep abyss.

© Daily Mirror
One problem I had as a teenager - when I first read Garth - was the scale of his head and shoulders versus the rest of him - and this is illustrated nowhere better than in the following strip. I was used to my superheroes being drawn by Curt Swan and other DC pals. Or in that perspective foreshortened Kirby way - which exaggerated the action enough for me to like it. These days I find a lot of standard comic art uses worse exaggeration than Bellamy did in this picture

© Daily Mirror
I loved what Martin did in this second strip. The swinging action of Garth sending a live lamp at the wet frogman which Bellamy drew really hits home with Martin's colouring - wonderful.

© Daily Mirror

And here to show you what I mean is the original black and white version - scanned and cleaned up a bit. Remember back then this would have appeared on pulp paper and been nowhere as nearly as clean as this!

F281-282 © Daily Mirror
I look forward to seeing what happens after Martin Asbury's story to see if we return to Bellamy again. I will let you know

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

New Frank Bellamy art found...I think!

We have discovered a new source of Bellamy's artwork but also got into a mystery! In the comic Rocket #6 (26 May 1956), there is an advert for "The Pictorial Encyclopedia" and "The Pictorial History Book" - a matching pair of titles. 

They appear to be the sort of title that your mother and father would approve of you purchasing with your pocket money. Until a conversation with David Driver (whose name should always be mentioned when talking about Frank Bellamy's work in the Radio Times in the 1970s)  I had no idea of the existence of these books. The British Library has no date for them but does acknowledge receipt of them in 1952 and 1954 respectively. These are the nearest we get to the actual dates. At the time Bellamy was attached to the Norfolk Studios in London producing advertising and soon he would join Mickey Mouse Weekly so this is pretty early work

David very kindly let me borrow his copy of "The Pictorial History Book" and with shaking fingers I turned each page. The contents page lists the artists (an unusual thing for these sort of reference works in my opinion!) and there is Frank Bellamy!  I quickly bought a copy of the book knowing I would want to scan whatever I found and share it - so don't worry David your copy is safe! David said to me he'd had the book for some time and that he couldn't work out which picture was Bellamy's. Now, I like a challenge like that so I have presented several scans below for you to make up your mind.

The Pictorial History Book (Editorial board: R Haddon, Charles Harvey, Lionel M Munby, E S Wolff) London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., [1954] 

Title page, list of illustrators and Contents with Doughty's portraits

It immediately looks as if artists were not given one article to illustrate as there are mixtures of styles in the book and even within articles. So how can we find Bellamy? Some the colour and black & white pictures have identifying marks / signatures - such as C. L. Doughty, who appears throughout (and in the matching book). Often when browsing a bunch of book illustrations or magazines one sees a pattern and begins to 'see' an artist's style so maybe a process of elimination might work.

For all the scans of the major artists including the possible Bellamys please follow the link to my website

Page 29 This boat looks very Bellamy to me

Page 30 This ploughman looks odd but the background and ox look Bellamy-like to me - and compares in technique to his Captain Cook

Page 51 Bellamy was shortly going to be drawing in Mickey Mouse Weekly (Monty Carstairs strip) but would do King Arthur and his knights later. Is this him? The twisted figure bottom right again looks like Doughty to me

Page 178 and Page 179 are nice colour works with no signatures but Bellamy drew World War One later for Look and Learn and also drew lots of explosions in his time
So where does this get us? Do we know which picture(s) Bellamy drew for this work? I think your guess is as good as mine. Paul Holder feels that Page 29 "The coming of the Danes" is the piece. I liked the boat so that ties in. David Driver couldn't guess and he worked with Bellamy in the 1970s so do I know the answer? - No! Get in contact if you have a copy of this book and can add anything and have a look at copies at Abebooks if you want to join in.

UPDATE: Peter Richardson and David Jackson have voted for pages 178 and 179 and I personally favour those too