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Frank Bellamy (1917-1976)

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Fraser2

"Fraser of Africa", from Eagle, 1960-61

Frank Bellamy (b. Kettering, Northamptonshire, 21 May 1917; d. Kettering, 5 July 1976) was a self-taught artist, who started work for William Blamire's studio in 1933. He was stationed at West Aukland during World War II, where he met his future wife, Nancy, who was working in the local branch of Woolworths. They were married in 1942. During the war he had a weekly illustration published in the Kettering Evening Telegraph.

After the war he returned to studio work, supplying illustrations for advertising. In 1949 he moved to London to be closer to publishers. His first comic strip work was an advertising serial for Gibbs toothpaste, "Commando Gibbs", which ran in the Eagle in 1952. In 1953 he went freelance, drawing "Monty Carstairs", "Secret in the Sands" and "Walt Disney's Living Desert" for Mickey Mouse Weekly.

Soon afterwards he moved to Swift, where he drew "The Fleet Family" (1954), "Swiss Family Robinson" (1954-55), "Paul English" (1955), "King Arthur and his Knights" (written by Clifford Makins, 1955-56), "Robin Hood and his Merry Men" (written by Clifford Makins, 1956-57) and "Robin Hood and Maid Marian" (written by Clifford Makins, 1957). He returned to the Eagle in 1957, providing full colour biographical strips on the back page, including "The Happy Warrior" (bio of Winston Churchill, written by Clifford Makins, 1957-58), "The Shepherd King" (bio of King David, written by Clifford Makins, 1958-59) and "The Travels of Marco Polo" (written by Chad Varah, 1959) and "Montgomery of Alamein" (written by Clifford Makins, 1962).

In 1959 the Eagle was sold to Odhams Press, who shook the title up. They took "Dan Dare" off his creator, Frank Hampson, feeling his style was dated, and gave him to Bellamy and writer Eric Eden, hoping his dynamic, modern illustration style would refresh the strip. Hampson's rounded, colourful rocketships gave way to Bellamy's sleek, silver spacecraft and costumes were redesigned, but to ease the transition Bellamy was assisted by two of Hampson's former assistants, Keith Watson and Don Harley. Bellamy's tenure on the strip was controversial. After a year he left, replaced by Watson, who reinstated Hampson's original designs.

Bellamy's next strip for the Eagle was "Fraser of Africa" (written by George Beardmore, 1960-61). The artist had a passion for Africa so the strip was thoroughly researched, and drawn in sepia tones to reflect the parched, desert environment, with occasional bursts of colour. It became the Eagle's most popular strip. He then painted the Roman epic "Heros the Spartan" (1962-63), written by Tom Tully. Each episode was a two-page spread, the panels arranged around a striking central image.

Also in the 1960s he drew for The Sunday Extra, Boy's World and Look and Learn. In 1965 he moved to TV Century 21 to draw "Thunderbirds", written by Alan Fennell and Scott Goodall. Rather than draw the puppets from the TV show, he rendered the characters as if they were real people, as Ron Embleton and Mike Noble were doing on other Gerry Anderson strips. He took a break in 1966 to work on an episode of the TV series The Avengers in which the villain was a strip cartoonist: Bellamy provided his illustrations. He returned to "Thunderbirds" for TV Century 21 afterwards until 1969, and also drew "Captain Scarlet" (written by Angus Allan, 1968) for the title, and "Joe 90" for Joe 90 Top Secret (1969).

In June 1971 he started drawing the science fiction daily strip Garth in the Daily Mirror, written by Jim Edgar. He spiced up the strip with all the graphic tricks in his repertoire and a fair amount of nudity. He worked on the strip for the next five years, fitting in other work at the same time, including the first comic strip in the Sunday Times and illustrations for the Radio Times, in particular of Doctor Who.

He moved back to Kettering in 1975, and died suddenly in 1976. He was working on plans for a western comic inspired by the films of Sergio Leone at the time, but this was destined never to see the light of day.

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