A spread of “Heros the Spartan” art by Frank Bellamy published in Eagle in 1963 is currently being offered on the US auction site Heritage Auctions.
The spread from the weekly comic appeared in Volume 14 (Issue 22, issue cover dated June 1st, 1963), and was previously owned by comics collector and forthright advocate of the medium Ethan Roberts, who died last year.
Roberts spent most of his life hunting down comic books, comic memorabilia and, most of all, original comic book art. He was one of the organisers of the very first US comics convention in New York in 1964 and was a a board member of the nonprofit Siegel and Shuster Society, which honours Superman and his Cleveland creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Throughout his life, his goal of collecting outstanding examples from every major artist or influence to have worked in the medium never diminished and his untimely passing after battling cancer left a gaping void in the hobby, say friends.
Much of the Ethan Roberts Estate Collection was sold by Heritage Auctions in February but this slightly toned board is one more of Roberts’ many items and a fascinating spread from “Heros the Spartan”, which was released as a limited edition collection by Book Palace Books in 2013 in one giant deluxe volume.
The spread is being offered as part of Heritage Auctions regular auctions, this current catalogue also including work by the likes of Jack Davis and Bernie Wrightson.
Frank Bellamy was asked to draw a new Roman epic strip for the Eagle in 1962, written by Tom Tully. He’d previously honed his artistic skills on “Robin Hood” and “King Arthur” in Swift (both also available from Book Palace Books) and “The Happy Warrior, the Story of Winston Churchill”, “Montgomery of Alamein”, “Marco Polo” and “Fraser of Africa”, also in the Eagle.
“At the pinnacle of his artistic skills, this new commission gave him a unique opportunity,” note Book Palace. “The new strip ‘Heros the Spartan’ was being presented on the centre double page spread of the Eagle. This enormous canvas gave Bellamy a format few comic strip artists ever achieve or even dream of. The double page format enabled Bellamy to create the greatest comic strip adventure ever presented to the public.
“He excelled himself with revolutionary page and panel design and dramatic ink line work all in glorious colour and his ink lines and colour work on this strip have yet to be equalled by any other artist on any strip.”
The strip remains a favourite among many British comic artists, many regarding it as the greatest British comic strip ever produced.
The Book Palace collection, edited by Peter Richardson, was the culmination of much behind the scenes work over nearly two years, the final release supported by dedicated Bellamy collectors from around the globe. It includes introductory chapters, which feature Dez Skinn and Dave Gibbons’ interview with Bellamy, and also includes mouth watering reproductions of key examples of Bellamy artwork that were largely sourced from high resolution scans and add an extra zing to the whole production.
UPDATE: Over on the Frank Bellamy Checklist, Norman Boyd notes two other Frank Bellamy items in current HA auctions; a second “Heros” spread from their New York auction, a spread from the last Heros story that Bellamy illustrated, “The Slave Army” which originally appeared in Eagle cover dated 5th June 1965; and a Garth strip, G188, which appeared in the Jim Edgar penned story “The Mask of Atacama” which ran from 13 July 1973 – 25 October 1973 (#G165-G254) in the national UK newspaper Daily Mirror.
“Heritage have sold two others in the past, to my knowledge, from this story and this example is lovely,” Norman enthuses.
Heros the Spartan – Collection
Authors: Tom Tully, Frank Bellamy, edited and designed by Peter Richardson
Artist: Frank Bellamy
Publisher: Book Palace Books, 2013
Number of pages: 272
Format: Hard Cover; Full Colour illustrations
Size: 11″ x 14″ (270mm x 360mm)