From the UK Avengers to Thunderbirds to Heros — and MORE…
By PETER BOSCH
The Avengers – the British TV version – did an episode featuring a character called “The Winged Avenger,” who seemed to have leapt off the comic page and into real life in order to kill people. John Steed and Emma Peel went through the normal group of red-herring suspects and the Winged Avenger, whose mask covered most of his face but still revealed that he had blue eyes, came down to one of two people. Was it the highly agitated, brown-eyed comic book writer, or was it the calm, blue-eyed artist who was starting to write his own stories and whose drawings accurately reflected that of real-life murder scenes (some before they happened)?
While this was an amusing episode, the best part was that most of the comic-book drawings used in the show were by one of the UK’s finest comic artists, Frank Bellamy (born May 21, 1917). Below are several images with drawings that were intermingled with live-action scenes. (Note his credit in the last of the four screen images in the first set.)
Bellamy’s career began in the late 1940s but accelerated in the ’50s and ’60s, illustrating British weeklies and other magazines. His artwork appeared in publications like Boy’s Own Paper — adaptations of “Swiss Family Robinson,” “King Arthur and His Knights,” “Robin Hood,” and stories of the Bible’s David. He also drew exceptional serializations about Sir Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Montgomery, and provided spot drawings for a continuing history of World War I.
One thing to note: All the painted coloring you see above and in the following images was on the original artwork and was done by Bellamy prior to publication. He also did his own lettering for the most part.
Bellamy’s major break was being called in to replace Frank Hampton, the artist of Dan Dare, a popular science-fiction strip running in the Eagle weekly. However, he wasn’t happy with taking over for another artist and said that he would be on it for a short time and that in exchange he would like to be given more prestigious projects.
Gerry Anderson, producer of many of the British hit TV marionette shows, had wanted to work with Bellamy for some time but Bellamy’s schedule didn’t permit it. Anderson grabbed him at the first available opportunity to illustrate the weekly comic strip for Thunderbirds in Anderson’s TV Century 21 tabloid magazine. (If you can see the bottom date of the strip below, you will notice it says “June 18, 2066.” Anderson dated all articles and strips in the publication 100 years in the future.)
Without any doubt, though, Heros the Spartan was Frank Bellamy’s crowning achievement. The strip, written by Tom Tully, ran from 1962 to 1965 in the Eagle weekly, with Bellamy providing the art for half of the run. (The third, fifth, seventh, and eighth stories were illustrated by Luis Bermejo. When you see the incredible detail that Bellamy put into his work, you can understand why he would need an occasional break). The 1963 two-page spread below was displayed at New York’s Academy of Comic Book Arts in 1972 and won its Foreign Artist of the Year award.
Here’s a great picture of Bellamy by a display of some of his original comic-strip paintings. Note in the bottom left corner, the original art for a cover of the UK’s Radio Times magazine, featuring Doctor Who; the final version — under this photo — can be seen in the top right of the pic.
Bellamy did other work for Radio Times, including a Star Trek page:
Bellamy’s next big project would also, unfortunately, be his last. In 1971, he undertook drawing the Garth daily newspaper strip. The strip had been around since 1943 and told of the time-traveling adventures of a larger-than-life hero. Bellamy brought his own style to the strip and his artwork was so much different, so much more exceptional, from what Garth had been before that.
On July 5, 1976, Frank Bellamy died of a heart attack. England, and the world, lost one of its greatest artists.
If you would like to see much more of Bellamy’s artwork and learn about his lengthy career, I highly recommend Illustrators Quarterly Special #11. This 144-page issue focuses completely on Bellamy. It’s available from various sellers, including Bud Plant Books (here in the U.S.) and The Book Palace (in the UK). (The Book Palace also sells a digital copy of the magazine at a lesser price.)
— The Pop Art Stylings of BATMAN ’66 MEETS STEED and MRS. PEEL. Click here.
— 13 Classic DC COMICS Characters Co-Created by JOHN BROOME. Click here.
13th Dimension contributor-at-large PETER BOSCH’s first book, American TV Comic Books: 1940s-1980s – From the Small Screen to the Printed Page, has just been published by TwoMorrows. He has written articles and conducted celebrity interviews for various magazines and newspapers. Peter lives in Hollywood.