Monday, 2 December 2013

Twist Of Fete



I've always loved comic art. The information conveyed with the least amount of time spent on shading, but a lot of time devoted to the important bits. Like the story. My comic history included The Topper, The Beezer (I wasn't allowed the Beano, probably not broadsheet enough, I suppose) and when I was seven, I found myself staring in disbelief at Dan Dare and Digby ("Suffering sputniks, Dig!...") driving Anastasia full tilt towards some hellish planet that needed a bit of firm policing. 

I can still remember the whole back page being devoted to something boring like the life of Winston Churchill or Montgomery, but the drawing was unbelievable, it was Frank Bellamy, the One True Master, wielding the steady pen, and drawing with such flair and drama that I can still remember where I was and the details. (The guns at Alamein preparing for the barrage,and a speech bubble that just said 'Blimey'). It was at the convent in East Cowes in 1957; what made the drawing extra tasty was the day before Sister Katarina had come down hard on naughty Henry Thornton who had used it. She smacked him twice on his face (they were hard bitches, all) and told him never to say it again. Yeah, right. I wonder if Jesus knew he was married to such violent, unhappy women. Maybe he should have given them more attention.

I didn't pursue the comic art thing; there were too many good people. What inspires can also be a bit over-awesome.

THE WONDERFUL AND INCREDIBLE FRANK BELLAMY
Anyway, it didn't stop me, years later, to produce an image of Semley village fete. All my Dorset mates are in there as well as a bloke in red trousers; Leo's there, Charlie from the Beckford, Sara and Juliet are in place; loads of dogs, and even though they weren't around; I put my daughters with their incredibly timid and emotional Irish Wolfhound, Pixie. Aww.

I loved doing it, and though my technique is necessarily rather laconic (it's just traced on Photoshop), the colours are fun; and importantly it's an attempt to get away from the more painterly, conservative stuff you expect to see that deals with life in the country. Also you get to take a few liberties if that's your wont (it is mine).
If you look closely you'll see Bob Dylan looking pretty in his Pierre Cardin suit and boots. He's listening to the band play Dirty Old Town, and probably thinking he should get back to his folk roots.

Hence the title.






6 comments:

  1. It's difficult to convey the influence of Frank Bellamy on grown up boys of our age. He 'invented' the space age gadgetry for which Gene Roddenberry usually gets the credit. Bellamy drew a spaceport in Florida next to the Atlantic Ocean long before Cape Canaveral came into existence. Armed only with an Eagle cutaway drawing I'm sure we could have made a reasonable fist of stripping down a Centurion Tank.

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    1. Wonderful observation, David. I remember the thrill whilst walking home in Portsmouth in 1959 seeing the new captured spaceship, the Nimbus, then walking smack into a lamp post! I suppose it was an inspirational genre for a comic artist at the height of his powers.And the cutaways! I think the principle player was L. Aswell-Wood, wasn't he?
      The work was phenomenal. I remember the Greyhound missile with its secret, unspecified warhead! Just in case any Russians were looking! Also the fantastic Space Federation submarine, the Poseidon.

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  2. All very well boys, but I must say that, much as I agree about Bellamy, if we're talking Dan Dare I prefer Frank Hampson's original characterisation. BTW, did you have to called Frank before they gave you a job at Eagle?

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    1. Do you remember Marcus Moriss's signature? It looked like it included a couple of inverted pig's trotters. Must have been at the bottom of all those Franks' contracts.
      Geoffrey Bernard did some freelance for him once, God only knows how or why. He was late getting paid and roared into his office after a couple of sharpeners at the French, and called him a sea word. Oh, happy days.

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  3. Great article Johnny. It reminds us why we still get excited by an artist that died 37 years ago!

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    1. Wasn't he great, Norman? I think I probably mis-remembered the details, but the Bellamy epiphany was at that convent, which I remember as clearly as those slappy nuns. Thanks for the comment

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