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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Frank Bellamy on 'Heros' : "... I wanted to give it instant impact"

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The lavish new hardcover collection 'Frank Bellamy's Heros of Spartan' features not only mouth-watering 
scans of Bellamy originals, many of which have never seen 
print, but also includes the first ever reprint of Dez Skinn’s interview with Bellamy from 1973. With permission of the publisher and with thanks to Dez Skinn, a few short passages from that interview have been excerpted below. The text is © Dez Skinn ~ Leif


DS: When drawing “Heros”, how may hours of the week, on average, do you think it took to draw a spread?

FB: It would easily take me a five day week. Sometimes six or seven days.

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Being fantasy, I didn’t have to do all the research I’d needed for sets like “Churchill”, but some frames took much longer to draw than others.

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One extreme example of this was a week when I had a big frame which covered almost the entire spread, surrounded by smaller frames – that particular page was on display, by the way, at the American Academy of Comic Book Arts.

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DS: What made you want to draw that instalment the way you did? Just the urge to have a huge battle scene, or what?

FB: No, much more than that. The script was ideal for the type of composition I prefer. Let me explain.

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In my early days, I used to watch my son, David, when he was about eight years old, reading comics. I’m sure this would not apply so much with the American type of comics, because they have longer stories, all in colour, and all based around the same person. But in English comics, with ten or more different episodes of different stories in each issue, I noticed something. David and his pals would look through the early Eagles, and when they flicked right through the whole issue, they’d go back and read some of the strips. Quite a few they would ignore and turn straight past. I asked them why and they said they didn’t like the drawings.

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So, because the art didn’t appeal to them, though the scripts could have been first rate, they’d skip them. I remembered that I used to do the same. If I didn’t like the artwork, I didn’t bother with it. But if I liked the artwork, I’d read it, no matter what the story was about.

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DS: Then you consider the artwork to be more important than the script…?

FB: Well, I might be a bit biased but I do think art carries quite a lot of the weight. It makes the whole thing look good on first impression. Another thing I’ve seen David and other boys do is pick up a comic and say “I’ve seen that one!” This gave me the clue about composition of the page. I’d like to make sure that the reader could see at first glance whether he had or hadn’t seen the spread before. Of course, I made a problem for myself here, trying to get as different a look to each instalment as possible. And so the answer to why I did a big frame, a big battle scene, is that I wanted to give it instant impact and look as different as possible.

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Tomorrow: Conclusion

* Thanks to Dez Skinn for allowing this short excerpt from his 1973 interview with Frank Bellamy. The text is © Dez Skinn. Thanks also to Alan Davis, Paul Holder, Norman Boyd, Paul Stephenson and David Ashford who provided us with the images that appear in this post.

Illustrators editor Peter Richardson has edited and designed a beautiful book entitled Frank Bellamy’s Heros the Spartan. Available in two luxurious editions measuring a gigantic 
11 x 14 inches, the deluxe limited edition of only 600 copies with 272 pages features a beautifully designed blue hard cover with embossed and varnished detailing. The leather bound and numbered edition, restricted to 120 copies, features a beautiful gold embossed red cover and slipcase, plus a tipped in numbered plate, and an additional 24 pages of some of the most stunning Heros originals, which have previously remained hidden in private collections.

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* Frank Bellamy's Heros the Spartan, from which all of today's art and text is excerpted, is now available from Book Palace Books

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