Sunday, 13 May 2007
Frank Bellamy was one of the leading British adventure strip artists of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. I’ve wittered on about his Doctor Who art before, but he was also well-known for the dynamic and dramatic artwork he provided for the likes of Dan Dare, Heros the Spartan and Fraser of Africa for the Eagle, Thunderbirds for TV21 and Garth for the Daily Mirror. But I have never really associated him with comedy. I had forgotten Bert Fegg’s Nasty Book for Boys and Girls.
I stumbled across my copy recently while rearranging my bookshelves (yes, that was a thrilling day at Gad, Sir! Towers, I can tell you). Bert Fegg was a pseudonym for Terry Jones and Michael Palin, and various bits of 1974’s Bert Fegg’s Nasty Book for Boys and Girls later resurfaced in their post-Monty Python work. The chapter “Across the Andes by Frog”, for example, would be developed into an episode of Ripping Yarns.
Most of the illustrations in the book were by the cartoonist Martin Honeysett. The example above is from “The Famous Five Go Pillaging: An Exciting Tale of Children Caught Up in the Danish Invasions”. But Frank Bellamy also contributed artwork for a two-page strip, “A Cowboy Story”. Click the pages below to enlarge them to legible size.
It seems to me that Bellamy’s art here serves the same purpose as the voiceovers on Monty Python’s fake trailers, adverts and slideshow lectures. It creates a set of genre expectations which can then be subverted by deadpan absurdity. It is important that Bellamy should draw this exactly as he would if it were a serious adventure strip: the faintest hint of silliness in the art would be fatal to the joke.
The whole book is quite a hoot. If you ever come across a copy at a reasonable price, snap it up.