Monday, 7 April 2014

Original Art on eBay: Garth - Angels of Hell's Gap

staylor133 from Luxembourg, is selling a Garth original by Frank Bellamy. The opening bid is £110 and the auction ends 9 April 2014.

UPDATE:  £155 (11 bids) (April  2014)

J57 Angels of Hell's Gap
This comes from the story Angels of Hell's Gap (which has been reprinted in the following:

  • Garth: The Angels of Hell's Gap All Devon Comic Collectors Club Daily Strips: Collectors Club Editions No.13 [No date]
  • Daily Mirror Monday 21 February 2011 to Tuesday 12 April 2011 - Two tier reprint coloured by Martin Baines
It was originally seen in the Daily Mirror (15 January 1975 - 2 May 1975 - J12-J101) and was written by Jim Edgar.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Frank Bellamy and High Command

An email on a mailing list made me have a look at my copies of High Command published by Dragon's Dream.

High Command - Art by Frank Bellamy

Dragon's Dream, the publisher, was founded by Roger Dean (the artist behind, too many to mention, album covers and many wonderfully strange landscapes - my favourites were the Greenslade covers). Dean's website contains his biography as well as some dazzling artwork. The history of Dragon's Dream is explained here:
"Dragon's Dream, a specialist publishing house devoted primarily to UK fantasy illustrators founded by Dean and his brother Martyn Dean; it also published under the Paper Tiger imprint. The brothers later sold the company, but remained involved in its productions." from SFE, the Encyclopedia of Science-Fiction

One date given for Dean's 'selling' is 1981 which coincidentally is the date this book was published. I own both a hardback with publishing credits in Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht (south-east of Rotterdam) and a paperback.

The paperback has no publisher on the title page, but mentions the Dragon's Dream Book was distributed by WHS Distributors. Could this mean W H Smith, the UK newsagent, had an arrangement with the company for a quantity which it sold in its chain of shops? This sort of co-publishing was not unusual in the 1980s when I was a bookseller. It made for a cheaper print run knowing a certain quantity of sales could be guaranteed (into Smith's bookshops). 
I have also found a Dutch version on the Internet but don't know any more than that. the title has been half translated. I presume editing all the captions and word balloons would have been too prohibitive, but if anyone in the Netherlands can tell me if the comics in this were in English or Dutch I'd be grateful.

UPDATE (08 April 2014) John Wigmans (who helped me with the article on Bellamy and Basil Reynolds' work for Disney), has pointed out that auction sites in the Netherlands have often got copies for sale and that the interior was indeed completely re-lettered inside.
Dutch edition: Der verhalen van Sir Winston Churchill
en General Montgomery

An interior page of the Dutch version (taken from an auction site)

For your pleasure I have reproduced below some example artwork

Robert Fitzgerald's introduction

Churchill introduction (by Fitzgerald?)

Interestingly this last episode of the original printing in the Eagle comic (seen below) was never included in the hardback reprint by Hulton in 1958 when the series ended nor here in the Dragon's Dream production.
The missing portrait

The portrait could have gone here!

Field Marshall Montgomery introduction (by Fitzgerald?)

Editors who gave Bellamy the centrespread of their comics were wise people. His complete ownership of the double page is demonstrated nowhere better in my opinion than here (well, maybe in the Heros The Spartan story!). The original series were published in Eagle:

EAGLE Vol. 8:40 - 8:52, 9:1 - 9:36. (04/10/57 -28/12/57, 3/1/58 - 6/9/58) "The Happy Warrior" by Clifford Makins
EAGLE Vol. 13:10 - 13:27 (10/03/62 -07/07/62) "Montgomery of Alamein" by Clifford Makins

Monday, 17 March 2014

Frank Bellamy and Winston Churchill - original art

UPDATE: I see the seller has reduced the price to £900 Buy It Now (27 March 2014) - sale ends 4 April

I was searching eBay and tripped over this item for sale for £1400 ('buy it now'). Why don't eBay's search alerts work properly? Seller 'fredy1237' appears as a new identity on eBay and has this rather unique piece for sale: "Frank Bellamy Original Artwork Winston Churchill Coulur [sic]Technique Experiment" . The seller states:

Original rare artwork by Frank Bellamy which is related to the Eagle As far I am unaware this is unpublished, I can provide a letter of provenance detailing how I purchased the artwork from Nancy Bellamy after Franks death. A mounted part page in original folder and mount. Folder size 50cm x 34cm

This is the first I ever heard about this. It's known that Bellamy often did a character outline for a new series and we know that he was nervous about drawing the first living personality to appear on the back page of the Eagle (in the seven year's of this feature). The feature was about Winston Churchill and called "The Happy Warrior". Maybe he felt he needed to show Marcus Morris, the editor, how his likeness of Churchill would look. The seller says this is a colour experiment and this actually lends authenticity as this was Bellamy's first work in colour for the Eagle comic, although this does look faded - particularly when compared to the rich colour used in the published drawings.

It is reasonable to assume that Bellamy was nervous about this commission, especially as he learned that Churchill was to get final approval (and before the comic was delivered the front cover 'Dan Dare' was removed as Churchill didn't like space adventures). Bellamy used references from the Imperial War Museum to get accuracy in weapons, uniforms etc. and found it "a real punishing job".

But if you look at the whole run of the story (from 4 October 1957 to the last episode which is often missed in the reprints, of Churchill's full face portrait (6 September 1958), you'll see Bellamy's confidence growing and his beautiful shaped panels becoming more and more like graphic designs and less like comic panels.

Episode 32

Episode 38

A recent reprint is available - I haven't yet seen a copy - of the whole Churchill saga and other repints have appeared since the first near-complete hardback reprint in 1958. Have a look at the website listing

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Frank Bellamy and BBC Children's Hour

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952]
Cover by Gilbert Dunlop
Children's Hour was broadcast from 1922 to 1964, the slim Wikipedia article tell us. The name of the radio programme (and subsequent TV series) is better known these days than any memories of the radio programme as is the name 'Uncle Mac' (or to give him his real name Derek Ivor Breashur McCulloch).

In 1951 / 1952 Bellamy was coming to the end of his Home Notes run and starting to illustrate stories for Boy's Own Paper and Gibbs tooth powder adverts which appeared in the Eagle comic. Before he took on "Monty Carstairs" for Mickey Mouse Weekly in July 1953 as a regular weekly strip we find Bellamy illustrated a story for the BBC Children's Hour Annual

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952] Page 80
Title panel illustration

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952] Page 81
Ship beached

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952] Page 82
Small plane landing

The British Library lists the BBC Children's Hour Annual as starting in 1951. This makes some sense as McCullloch resigned from the BBC in 1950 taking up a job as Children’s Editor at the News Chronicle, (1950–53) and eventually returning to the BBC to compère Children's Favourites

In the 1952 version of this annual (edited by May E. Jenkins, Head of Children's Hour at that time) Angus MacVicar compiled an interview article with Duncan Newlands, "cox'n of the Campbeltown lifeboat" and also Captain David Barclay "of the British European Airways ambulance flight at Renfrew Airport". These were part of a series called "I'm proud of my father" which, it appears, were short pieces broadcast on Children's Hour (as well as appearing here). May and Patricia are their respective daughters who help MacVicar to get their fathers onto the radio. Why? Both men are rescuers of those based in the North West of Scotland and beyond to the Western Isles. 

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952] Page 83
Photos of the people mentioned

MacVicar states "Mr Churchill, in the first volume of his War memoirs, The Gathering Storm, describes how Captain Barclay was killed!" - I should think MacVicar was glad Churchill got it wrong! Barclay was the pilot in a war-time flight accident at Kirkwall and had "a slight limp to remind him of the accident".

The author also takes a friendly tone with his audience telling them what a problem travelling around Scotland to collect material is (remember this is 5 years after the War!). He proudly places his latest script in his glove compartment and Bellamy illustrates how MacVicar's car skids on an oil patch.  

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952] Page 85
Car skids and turns a somersault
MacVicar's first thought was "What if the car went on fire and [the script] was destroyed?" and he grabbed it before exiting the upside-down car. It was broadcast 6 weeks later and "few people realised how nearly it had never been broadcast"

Angus MacVicar mentions in the article his serial (presumably on Children's Hour) called Tiger Mountain and Amazon shows us pictures of covers of his later works, and the man himself. I remember reading one of his children's Science-Fiction novels when I was a kid and enjoying it, but which title is lost in the mists of time!

Bellamy's pictures here are rather bound to the time in which they appear and his style has more of his 1940s large linework than his later subtleties. However, having browsed a lot children's literature from this time I can see his work is very clear and shows kids what they need to see in the story

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Original art on eBay: David the Shepherd King

UPDATE: £800 (Feb 2014) 

Bill Storie (a fellow Mike Noble fan) was kind enough to let me know that there is another piece of original art by Frank Bellamy on eBay being sold by s.o-s and I'm glad he did. (Ebay take note: your alert system misses things!)

This comes from 22 November 1958 issue (the seller states 12th November) and interestingly comes with a letter of provenance "detailing how my father purchased the artwork from Nancy Bellamy after [Frank's] death The artwork extends to 18 inch high by 14 inch wide approx"

This is offered as a 'Buy It Now' at £800 or 'Make an offer' and ends on the 24 February

I've included a scan of the originally published page for your pleasure along with the seller's pictures

You can see it's faded, but as Bill says "the linework still looks wonderfully sharp and clear"

Eagle 22 November 1958

Frank Bellamy and Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection

Just as I wrote about a future reprint of Frank Bellamy' "Happy Warrior", I received my first five volumes of my subscription to the new Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection.
#1-5 of Eaglmoss' under-advertised Gerry Anderson reprints

You might have seen a TV advert over the New Year from Eaglemoss, the publishers of the Marvel Chess partwork. The company (according to their site) had a global turnover (in 2011) estimated "to reach €230M generated across more than 150 collections published in 35 markets and in 20 different languages. More than 50% of the group turnover arises outside the EU. We dominate the Eastern European and Russian language markets and invest to become leading publishers in Japan and the other BRIC countries. We are launching approximately 80 collections every year as independent publishers or in partnership with other publishers". [Link supplied by me as it was a new term to me!]

On October 12 (2013) I discovered this series was due to be published. The website (which was[now mysteriously gone! Now here] showed some of the publicity I have reproduced below. My parcel (well plastic bag actually!) contained issue 1 and a second parcel had the other 4 issues, two of which had shrinkwrap and a backing card, which I imagine was used to make it stand out in newsagents. I have heard that there might have been three areas in the country that had this appear in the newsagents - as a trial - and that might explain the strange marketing going on here! Issue 5 came with this note:

Suspension notice!
I suspect this went out in the trial copies - but you would think if, (and I state if  because there is no other communication!) this was the case then someone would have taken these out to ensure idiots like me didn't think 5 was the total number of the whole subscription...and there there is the question of what will I be charged?, where are the free gifts mentioned? etc etc. The blurb in issue 5 mentions the start of the Fireball XL5 reprints in #6.

Each issue is a hardback and the complete set with its series of spines makes a lovely collage mirroring the endpapers (by Andrew Skilleter) but in full colour

Endpapers by Andrew Skilleter

Each of the five covers is by Lee Sullivan - I love the Captain Scarlet issue (#4) which I'm sure was influenced by one of his favourite artists, Mike Noble. The comic contents of all 5 are from TV21 and I'll concentrate on Issues 1,2 and 5, all Frank Bellamy stories presented in chronological order. If the series continues this will be the first time, since they were published, they appear chronologically  despite many reprints since 1966.

So the big question is how did they do with Bellamy's double page spreads? Well, that's interesting. The lovely brochure included with the books states that in reprinting these, "where possible, pages have been reproduced from the original artwork". I think I can see this in "Operation Depthprobe" but am not very sure. Then they mention:
  • Step 1: Scanning is done "by archive restoration experts"
  • Step 2: Colour correction "the yellowing of pages is eliminated"
  • Step 3: Retouching
This sounds brilliant but using the example - see below - of TV21#63 I can't see the lines (shown in the publicity brochure)  on my copy and scanning doesn't add them. However, some of the touching up can be a bit clumsy

Eaglemoss excellent publicity

TV21 #63 cropped from my scan
In this panel from #109 - even with my camera flash - I think you can see the retouching has gone for a clumsy compromise of making Bellamy's clouds (admittedly not well produced in TV21) a single white colour

Eaglemoss retouching

My scan of #109
But let's be positive now! I really like the sympathetic colouring of Bellamy's black and white washes. For the issues #52 to #65 Bellamy did both a double page spread and also a black and white single page in each issue. Below you can see issue 52 "colourised" as Eaglemoss call the process, together with the original TV21 page.

Strange goings on!
TV21 #52

TV21 #53

So I love the left hand page of the above example in Eaglemoss' publication, but wait....why, oh why, have they chosen to cut up the next double page spread (see above)?? In some instances they have added a single page of nostalgic adverts (or TB1 launch sequence etc) to ensure they don't need to cut up the double page spread but I can't see a pattern to why they decided to do it this way.

I ought to mention the extra features. Graham Bleathman's cutaways feature in these hardbacks and there are newly written character profiles (Scott Tracy gets two pages in issue 1). Gerry Anderson gets two pages of his life story too in Issue 1
A brief Frank Bellamy biography (Part One) appears in Issue 1 and Part Two in Issue 2 where it is stated erroneously by an anonymous contributor (who Eaglemoss label "industry experts"), "When Frank Bellamy joined the Eagle in 1957 he initially worked on the religious and historical strips that were the comic's mainstay". He actually moved from Hulton Press' younger comic Swift to Eagle to start the "Happy Warrior" strip in October 1957 and then moved onto historical and religious strips. But if I asked you what the mainstay of the Eagle was, I suspect you might mention one "Pilot of the Future" not 'David the Shepherd King' or 'Marco Polo', but I think I'm getting too picky.

In Issue 2 you also get the whole of the story that appeared in TV21 #83-98 called "Solar Danger" in which Bellamy illustrates the first ten week's episodes and then the artwork is handled by Don Harley.

The last point I want to make is an interesting decision. When speech bubbles or captions appear in the original comic to cut into the middle of a double page spread Eaglemoss have digitally moved the caption.

TV21 #66

Note my arrows on this Eaglemoss scan
showing shifted captions
For those who want to know:
Issue 1 (All Bellamy):
  1. Blazing danger
  2. Mission to Africa 
  3. Talons of the Eagle
Issue 2 (Bellamy and Harley):
Atlantic Tunnel
Solar danger
The big freeze
Issue 3: Stingray: The monster jellyfish, Curse of the Crustavons, The Atlantic kidnap affair, and The haunting of Station 17 (all Embleton)
Issue 4: Captain Scarlet: We will destroy Unity City, We will destroy the Observatory network, We will destroy earth communications and Secret Mission

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Frank Bellamy and Winston Churchill reprint

The Happy Warrior: The Life Story of Sir Winston Churchill as Told Through the Eagle Comic of the 1950's (Eagle Comics) is due to be published in March/April by Unicorn Press

Paperback published by Unicorn Press
I previously wrote about the hardback American edition. David Britton, a great supporter of the Eagle Society, let me know he bought a copy of the American edition.

"The original [reprint in 1958 published shortly after the original series finished] had 64 pages with black & white photographs, which apart from the final page, only deals with Churchill. 
There is a lot more about Eagle in this version than in earlier versions. It is about 100 pages long, has the preface by the publishers "The Eagle That Dared", a slight pun, as it makes significant references to Dan Dare and presents the cover of the copy of Eagle when the story started and appears to have been written by Colin Frewin. It covers the origins and history of Eagle over 8 pages. Then the article by Richard M. Langworth (14 pages) "The Lion Still Roars" is a synopsis of Churchill's life followed by the strip, broken up into sections. Finally there is the epilogue and bibliography under "Why the Happy Warrior?". Overall it is a much more sophisticated book than the earlier [1958] version, perhaps to appeal to a wider and possibly an adult American audience."

To read a bit more go to the Unicorn Press site  - Amazon states it's a paperback of 96 pages so it does look similar (23.5 x 19 x 0.8 cm)
Let's hope they haven't made the same mistake that the 1981 reprint "High Command" and the 1958 reprint did, of omitting the final portrait that appeared in Eagle Vol 9:36 (6 September 1958)!

Thanks to Lew Stringer and John Freeman for spotting this and David for his permission to use his information