Kettering, Northamptonshire is currently the location of a free ‘Comics Unstripped!’ exhibition, examining the history of comics and graphic novels and featuring works by artist Frank Bellamy, who lived in the town and includes some examples from his work for the Daily Mirror strip Garth, TV Century 21‘s “Thunderbirds” and “Dan Dare” from the original Eagle.
The exhibition also features work by Doug Braithwaite, John Byrne, Alan Davis, Glenn Fabry, Adi Granov, RM Guera, Esad Ribic, Alison Sampson, Bill Sienkiewicz and Barry Windsor Smith, as well as some of the newcomers in the business, such as Hal Laren and Karen Rubins.
Two special comic-related events are also planned, including a Super Heroes and Heroines Family Fun Day, will take place during the exhibition’s run in the Alfred East Art Gallery, part of Kettering Museum and Gallery, close to Kettering Library.
The Gallery has previously hosted exhibitions featuring Frank Bellamy’s work, who lived in the town and is best known for his work on Eagle, drawing strips such as “Fraser of Africa”, “The Happy Warrior” and “Dan Dare”, TV Century 21 (mainly, Thunderbirds) and the Radio Times.
Jeff Cahal, co-owner of the Close Encounters and the NICE convention (which, incidentally, returns 3rd – 4th September), tells downthetubes the exhibit features around 60 pieces of art supplied by him, previously owned by Ashley Salter, and more art supplied by Paul Holder.
“Ashley was a friend and customer of Close Encounters,” says Jeff who now owns the art with his brother, Bub. “When we took the collection on, we promised his dad we’d exhibit the collection rather than see it split up.”
Over on his brilliant Frank Bellamy Blog, Norman Boyd reports the exhibition has produced a tie-in souvenir booklet True Brit, written by Paul Holder and based on the brief Frank Bellamy biography he wrote for True Brit: A Celebration of the Great Comic Book Artists of the UK edited by George Khoury, utilising images taken from original art.
Also available will be prints to order printed on 300gsm heavyweight archival fine art paper to the original size (approximately 41 X 63cm). These include the Masai Warrior featured here and Frank’s study of his wife, Nancy – and postcards of other unpublished Bellamy works as well as his Thunderbird 6 film poster.
“This is another fascinating example in a long line of new and interesting exhibitions at the Alfred East Art Gallery,” enthuses Guy Holloway, Head of Corporate & Cultural Services at Kettering Borough Council. “People in Kettering, especially comic book fans, are in for a treat this summer.”
“It’s terrific to see Kettering Museum and Gallery hosting yet another family friendly set of activities for the school holidays, adding to the fantastic summer holiday programme already on offer this year in Kettering,” added Councillor Lesley Thurland, Kettering Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community & Culture.
“The Super Heroes and Heroines Family Fun Day will be a relaxed and enjoyable day for all the family in the wonderful Manor House Gardens.”
“I’m hoping it gets a good turn out,” says Jeff Cahal. “I have around another 400 pieces I’d like to exhibit.”
Kettering has some modern day comic connections. Although Kettering’s Apocalypse Comics store, run by Mario Covone, closed some years ago (the sad story of its closure documented here on Bleeding Cool), Mario has been working hard on starting a new career as a comic book writer, first writing comics for the web with artist Frank J. Right, and although he seems to have given up on his blog, he launched his first print comic, Video Nasty, back in 2014, featuring covers by Graham Humphreys , drawn by Greek artist Vasilis Logio and coloured by Sam Palmer. Video Nasty is set in Kettering in 1983 when politicians, backed by campaigner Mary Whitehouse, were trying to ban horror videos.
• Comics Unstripped runs until 20th August 2016 at the Alfred East Art Gallery, Manor House Gardens, Sheep Street, Kettering, Northamptonshire NN16 0AN. It’s easy to get to by train, bus or by car. The gallery is situated in the close to the Library and the parish church of SS Peter and Paul Opening times: Tuesday – Saturday 10.00am – 4.45pm (Last Admission 4.30pm), closed Mondays and Bank Holidays. Entry to the Alfred East Gallery is free, however charges apply for some events and activities. More details online here | Facebook
• The Frank Bellamy blog has posted images from the exhibition here
• Buy True Brit: A Celebration of the Great Comic Book Artists of the UK from amazon.co.uk – or the digital edition direct from Twomorrows, which has more content in colour
Comic Strip & Character Workshop – Saturday 23rd July, 11.00am – 1.00pm and 2.00 – 4.00pm
Learn how to create your very own comic strip and design your own characters in this two hour workshop for children aged 8 and above, run by the Cartoon Art Museum’s Steve Marchant. The workshops cost £5 per child, (£4 with Leisure Pass) and booking is essential; call 01536 534 274. Visit Kettering Borough Council’s Children’s Activities page for more details
Super Heroes and Heroines Family Fun Day – Wednesday 3rd August, 1-3.30pm
A family fun day in the Manor House Museum Gardens dressed as your favourite super hero or heroine! Come along to take part in craft activities, trails, face painting and lots more! Visit Kettering Borough Council’s Children’s Activities page for more details