Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Frank Bellamy and Barry Windsor-Smith

Heros the Spartan from Eagle Vol. 16 No. 27
Photographed from Book Palace reprint - few copies still available

David Jackson has sent me on a quest, this time it concerns BWS, or Barry Smith or Barry Windsor-Smith, yes, he of Conan, Valiant Comics, etc etc fame!

My first contact with BWS was in the Power Comics of the mid to late 1960s, although at that time I didn't know he did the pin-ups of Marvel superheroes in Fantastic and Terrific . Kid Robson has shown some of Thor and others. I was aware of his work on Conan the Barbarian being praised by many at the time, but Britain's importing of Marvel comics was sporadic at best so I didn't see it until later! However I did see his Gorblimey Press work advertised and actually paid for some of them. I now proudly own Pandora's Box (with a specially-made octagonal frame!). You cans see lots of Barry's work on his site.

In an interview for Comic Book Artist (Vol1, No.2) Jon B. Cooke did with BWS he mentioned his connection with Bellamy:
CBA: Any favorite British cartoonists, such as Frank Bellamy?
Barry: I was quite awestruck by Bellamy, his "Heros the Spartan" was simply magnificent. I was never particularly influenced by him, however. Britain had a clutch of exceptionally gifted comics artists during the '50s and '60s but the subject matter of the strips often disinterested me. I liked "Dan Dare" and Heros, I think that's all. I named the lead male character in my "Young Gods" series Heros in homage to Bellamy.
The first notion I personally had was when I bought a book called Masters of Comic Book Art, (a brilliant review is on the Comics Journal site). Written by 'Doc' P. R. Garriock, - who I would love to talk to should anyone have his email or phone number - it featured long pieces on:
  • Will Eisner (Creator of The Spirit)
  • Harvey Kurtzman (Mad magazine etc.)
  • Frank Bellamy
  • Richard Corben (Warren Magazines etc.)
  • Barry Windsor-Smith
  • Jean Giraud (AKA Moebius)
  • Phillipe Druillet (Creator of Loane Sloane)
  • Wally Wood
  • Robert Crumb
  • Victor Moscoso (Zap Comix)
A fantastic mix of people from various countries - and BWS and FB were included. Again Bellamy and Windsor-Smith not only have features in Twomorrows' True Brit, but the introduction, by George Khoury states:
Here in America, very little is known of the British creators prior to Barry Windsor-Smith. Artists like Frank Bellamy, Leo Baxendale, and Sydney Jordan are far from household names; a tragedy, really, because when you see their art, it will seduce you.
To understand how popular BWS' (and of course Roy Thomas') Conan was, in the same year of FB's award - see below - the 1971 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards ("for material published in 1971; awarded in 1972") had:
Best Continuing Feature  Conan the Barbarian (Marvel)
Best Individual Story 
  • "Devil Wings over Shadizar," by Roy Thomas & Barry Smith, from Conan the Barbarian #6 (Marvel) 
  • "Tower of the Elephant," by Roy Thomas & Barry Smith, from Conan the Barbarian #4 (Marvel)
 I don't often quote myself, but this is from my Star Trek article...
I understand that the single colour page [of Star Trek] was part of the reason Frank Bellamy got the "Foreign Comics Award" from the Academy of Comic Book Arts in 1972 - for work published in 1971 he was awarded "Best Foreign Artist Frank Bellamy (Star Trek)". I'm sure Barry Windsor-Smith had a hand in recommending him for this and I know Archie Goodwin was in contact with him. Bellamy told Goodwin that Chris Lowder had informed him the Academy had seen a sample of his "Heros the Spartan" work and judged him more than worthy of the award. therefore his actual comic work for 1971 was concocted for the purposes of giving him the award.
So what, you ask?

The Avengers and Savage Sword of Conan #100 Splash page (UK publication)
 Take a look at this from the Marvel British reprint (The Avengers and Savage Sword of Conan #100) of Conan The Barbarian #21. Strangely the story title has been changed  to "The Menace of the Monoliths" but when it was published it was the "Monster of the Monoliths"! Does it look familiar? It should, you saw it at the top of this article! On the Grand Comics Database website, there are some interesting notes as to how BWS appears not to have drawn much of this particular issue.

Detail from Eagle Vol16. No. 27 (Frank Bellamy)
Now, with Dan Adkins (who often 'borrowed' from others), P. Craig Russell and Val Mayerick involved, we can't be sure, who 'borrowed' Bellamy.

However it's not that simple. Because of the nature of multiple stories from various comics being split to fill one UK reprint, we have another anomaly. The comic itself contains Conan, The Avengers (Smith too!) and Master of Kung Fu in 36 pages (with a letters page too!).

The Avengers and the Savage Sword of Conan #100
Week ending August 16 1975
The Conan story in TAATSSOC #100 starts with the above splash page of horse riders. However, the original published in the American Marvel Conan #21 has 10 pages before the second page of the UK reprint, excluding this splash page....which I don't think is Smith, Adkins, Craig Russell or Mayerick!

Often the early Marvel UK reprints would blow up and extend a panel from the story concerned, in order show some continuity between stories that had been split across weekly issues, but I can't find any of the component parts in any Conan upto #25! I own the Essential Conan - a Marvel black and white reprint of the first  25 issues of the comic in America. It contains the whole of the above story and I can't see anywhere where it appears - even if it was a compilation from various shots by BWS! Conan hardly rides a horse until the last page of #8! In #14 and #15 he starts to (in these 'Elric' issues) and going all the way through to #25 there are hardly any shots of the rear end of horses as drawn here!

So not only do we not know who 'adapted' Bellamy's "Heros" panel but we don't know who did the other two riders (including that trademark BWS shot of Conan's medallion flying away from him!). I know many of the youngsters of the Bronze Age did work on the UK reprints, including Ron Wilson, Jim Starlin, Keith Pollard, John Romita Jr. etc. So I'd be tempted to name someone like that, but that's still odd that they used FB here!

Can anyone help? I couldn't find any index of the USA artists' original art in UK Marvel reprints, but remembering being amazed by this 'newcomer' Jim Starlin, whose 'compressed' figures were easy to spot!