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Frank Bellamy

Frank Bellamy (21 May 19175 July 1976) was a British comics artist, best known for his work on the Eagle comic, for which he illustrated Heros the Spartan and Fraser of Africa. He reworked its flagship Dan Dare strip. He also drew Thunderbirds in a dramatic two-page format for the weekly comic TV Century 21. He drew the newspaper strip Garth for the London Daily Mirror. His work was innovative in its graphic effects and sophisticated use of colour, and in the dynamic manner in which it broke out of the then-traditional grid system.

Biography

Born in Kettering, Nothamptonshire, He started work at William Blamires studio, in Kettering in 1933. Bellamy met his wife Nancy whilst he was stationed near Bishop Auckland during World War II and was married in 1942. In 1944 David Bellamy was born to the couple. After the war, they lived in Kettering until 1949, when they moved to Morden in south London to be closer to publishers, most of whom were based in London. The family lived there until the early 1970s, with Bellamy working mostly from home. In the early 1970s the couple moved back to Kettering. They had one son, David.

Career

Whilst in the army, Bellamy had a weekly illustration published by the Kettering Evening Telegraph. Later, he worked in advertising (for Gibbs Dentifrice). In 1953, he began his first comic strip, called Monty Carstairs in "Mickey Mouse Weekly". Shortly after he moved to Swift where his work included Swiss Family Robinson, King Arthur and Robin Hood.

In 1957, he moved to "Eagle" and began working in colour on their back page biography strips: The Happy Warrior (the life of Winston Churchill), The Shepherd King (the life of the biblical King David), and The Travels of Marco Polo for which Bellamy only did eight episodes before moving to "Dan Dare".

Bellamy took over Dan Dare part way through the "Terra Nova" storyline, replacing creator Frank Hampson. It was an awkward set-up: the new owners of Eagle thought the strip looked dated, so gave Bellamy the brief of redesigning everything, from the costumes and spacecraft to the page layouts. Bellamy was left to draw the title page unaided (in contrast to Hampson's many-hands approach, where the drawing, inking, lettering and coloring were all separately completed by a team of artists), while two of Hampson's former assistants, Keith Watson and Don Harley, had to do the second page. Bellamy's redesigns were somewhat controversial and, after he left the strip a year later, the next artist was instructed to reintroduce the original designs.

Bellamy then went on to draw two of his most celebrated strips, Fraser of Africa and Heros the Spartan. He also drew Montgomery of Alamein (the life of Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery) and did some work for Look and Learn.

Fraser of Africa, one of Bellamy's artistic high-water marks, was not his idea but, as he was obsessed with Africa, he was the perfect choice to draw it. Bellamy used a monochromatic sepia color palette to reflect the sun and desert locale, with occasional bursts of bright color. It was a challenging and unusual approach and "Fraser" became the Eagle's most popular strip. Bellamy insisted on proper research and even had a reader living in East Africa supplying reference material.

Heros the Spartan, a swashbuckling adventure set in Roman times, was another artistic triumph. Drawn as a two page spread and usually organized around a complicated splash in the centre of the two pages, Heroes was a bravura display of skill. The battle scenes displayed a vividness and complex layout rarely seen in comics and it won Bellamy an award (for 'Best Foreign artist') from the American Academy of Comic Book Arts in 1972.

In January 1966, Bellamy left the fading Eagle to work for the new comics magazine TV Century 21, where he drew their centrespread Thunderbirds strip. Rather than faithfully draw puppets, he took the artistic license of rendering the characters as real people for a more exciting strip, as was already being done by Ron Embleton and Mike Noble in their strips. Apart from one short break, Bellamy drew "Thunderbirds" throughout its run in TV Century 21 and TV21, leaving after the third strip in the merged "TV21 & Joe 90" which had gone from colour to black and white. He also drew the colour first pages for five Captain Scarlet stories.

In 1968 Bellamy famously worked on an episode of the British TV show The Avengers called "The Winged Avenger". The story featured a strip cartoonist and Bellamy was asked to create all the illustrations used in the episode. He also designed the artist's studio set and the costume of the Winged Avenger villain.

In 1969, he began drawing the newspaper comic strip Garth which appeared in the Daily Mirror. This was the period in which intense competition with the new tabloid The Sun caused large helpings of nudity to be seen in British tabloids, and the strip reflected this. Bellamy's style was much more vivid than that of the original artist Steve Darling, and he was probably brought in as part of the effort to spice up the strip. The original writing team of John Allard and Jim Edgar shared byline credit with Bellamy. Bellamy applied all the graphic tricks in his arsenal from stippling and crosshatching to chiaroscuro inking to create a modern and eyecatching look for Garth unlike anything else appearing in newspapers at the time.

Drawing in black and white rather than colour gave Bellamy time to maintain a number of other regular commissions. During this period he drew the first comic strips The Sunday Times had ever run in its magazine as non-fiction journalism. He also regularly did illustrations for the BBC's Radio Times television listings magazine, in particular for the Doctor Who television programme.

Frank Bellamy died suddenly in 1976, a tragic loss to the British comics industry and indeed to the world, at the height of his powers. He had plans for many projects including a western strip he was to write himself, inspired by the "spaghetti westerns" of Sergio Leone, but none of that work survives.

Comic strips drawn by Frank Bellamy

The Eagle:

  • The Happy Warrior (Biography of Winston Churchill) (1957/58)
  • Montgomery of Alamein (1958)
  • The Shepherd King - the story of David (1958/59)
  • The Travels of Marco Polo (1959)
  • Dan Dare (1959/60)
  • Fraser of Africa (1960/61)
  • Heros the Spartan (1962/63)

TV21:

  • Thunderbirds (1966/69)
  • Captain Scarlet

Garth:

  • Sundance (second half drawn by Bellamy) (1969)
  • Cloud of Baltus (1970)
  • The Orb of Trimandias (1970)
  • The Wolf Man of Ausensee (1971)
  • People of the Abyss (1972)
  • The Women of Galba (1972)
  • Ghost Town (1973)
  • The Mask of Atacama (1973)
  • The Wreckers (1973/74)
  • The Beast Of Ultor (1974)
  • Freak Out To Fear (1974)
  • Bride of Jengis Khan (1974/75)
  • The Angels Of Hell's Gap (1975)
  • The Doomsmen (1975)
  • The Bubble Man (1975)
  • The Beautiful People (1975/76)
  • The Spanish Lady (1976)
  • The Man-Hunt (1976)

Books

  • Dan Dare Deluxe Collector's Edition Volume 10 - PROJECT NIMBUS (Hawk Books, 1994)
  • Eagle Classics: Fraser of Africa. (Hawk Books, 1990) ISBN 0-948248-32-7
  • Timeview - The complete Doctor Who Illustrations of Frank Bellamy (Who Dares publishing, 1985)
  • Garth. Book 2: The Women of Galba (with Jim Edgar). (Titan Books, 1985) ISBN 0-907610-49-8
  • Garth. Book 1: The Cloud of Balthus (with Jim Edgar). (Titan Books, 1984) ISBN 0-907610-34-X
  • High Command: The Stories of Sir Winston Churchill and General Montgomery (Dragon's Dream, 1981) ISBN 90-6332-851-6
  • The Daily Mirror Book of Garth 1976 (with Jim Edgar). (IPC Magazines, 1975)
  • The Daily Mirror Book of Garth 1975 (with Jim Edgar). (IPC Magazines, 1974)
  • "A Cowboy Story" in Bert Fegg's Nasty Book for Boys and Girls (with Terry Jones & Michael Palin). (Methuen 1974) ISBN 0-413-32740-X

References

  • Woollcombe, Alan. "Nancy Bellamy interview", archived from Speakeasy#100, July 1989. Retrieved November 28, 2006
  • Wright, Norman: "Frank Bellamy and Fraser of Africa" in Eagle Classics: Fraser of Africa, 3-10 (Hawk Books, 1990) ISBN 0-948248-32-7
  • Garriock, P.R. in Masters Of Comic Book Art, 32-41 (Aurum Press, Big O Publishing, 1978) ISBN 0-905664-05-1
  • Skinn, Dez & Gibbons, Dave: "The Frank Bellamy Interview" in Fantasy Advertiser #50, 14-31 (Derek G Skinn, 1973)

External links

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