A Christmas Comics Mystery – The Case of the Missing Garth Strip

A Garth strip has surfaced on eBay that has fans of of the Daily Mirror newspaper strip in a bit of a spin – because it suggests there may be missing, unpublished sequences from some stories out there, that were published in Scotland’s Daily Record, but nowhere else.

Frank Bellamy expert Norman Boyd drew fans to a sequence of Garth strips on his invaluable Frank Bellamy Checklist Blog, and has given us permission to share his post here, opening with the presentation of three published strips from the Garth story “The Wreckers“, written by Jim Edgar and drawn by Frank Bellamy, published in the Daily Mirror between October 1973 and February 1974.

Over to Norman…

Garth: The Wreckers - G92

Garth: The Wreckers - G93 Garth: The Wreckers - G94

Do you think the story is missing something in this sequence? How did Garth get into the chair? The caption “Interrogation” doesn’t really make sense.

But what if between G293 and G294, the guards and Garth had a fight and our hero knocked them out? Then Tallion, the villain who would interrogate Garth, might have been watching and threatened Garth. Then we might have Garth submitting and following new guards to the interrogation chamber. Then we could see G294.

Or, alternatively, take a look at this sequence…

Garth: The Wreckers - G304 - G305

Garth: The Wreckers - G306 - G307

What if, between these two banks of strips Tallion challenges Garth – and we see the two guards on the floor?

Why do I say that? Because look what I found on eBay… an unpublished Garth strip I’m calling G305.5 until I know any better!

Garth - The Wreckers - G293.5(!) or G305.5 (???)

Garth – The Wreckers – G293.5(!) or G305.5 (???)

The strip, it turns out, may not have appeared in the Daily Mirror – but it did run in Scotland’s Daily Record, published on 26th December 1973 according to a hand written note on the art board.

An episode of "The Wreckers" DR.CH.73 - Daily Record

An episode of “The Wreckers” DR.CH.73 – Daily Record

The seller (rhfl41) has been in touch and tells me that the Garth strip belonged to his father, the late Ewen Bain, who was a cartoonist whose own cartoon strip, “Angus Og”, ran in the Daily Record for 30 years. Numbered DR.CH.73., the printers’ instructions in pencil written on front include ‘Daily Record 26-12-73’. The strip is drawn in black on CS10 Line Board, art by Frank Bellamy, measuring 23 x 53 cms.

Why would this missing strip have gone unnoticed all these years – since 1973? We have seen reprints of the strip in Garth: The Wreckers, published by the now-defunct All Devon Comic Collectors Club. The Americans saw the strip (oddly missing G301-G306 inclusive) in the wonderful Menomonee Falls Gazette (#184 – #202) and, lastly in the Daily Mirror from Wednesday 13 April 2011 – Tuesday 7 June 2011, where it was coloured by Martin Baines. But none of them have this strip that is on offer!

Just to confuse me, the edition of the Daily Mirror for 6th November 1973 states “Here’s a double ration of your favourite strips”. There’s no explanation why, but presumably industrial action had again affected the paper – there were loads around that time! However, the paper appears to have been published the day before and on 6th November a reprint of the 5th November strip appeared! So our numbering sequence is fine.

If they presented the numbered sequences as above with no ‘other’ strip needing inserting, then what is the one presented here?

I think the Mirror numbered the Bellamy strips (not Bellamy), so there was a continuous sequence but I wonder if this strip was not published in the Daily Mirror.

If anyone reading this has cuttings from or access to the Daily Record for that period I’d love to know. (Email me at feedbackATfrankbellamy.co.uk)

This has consequences, as we may have other printed strips never before seen in England – and further afield, as well as original art that is unique! And I shall have to correct a note on the FrankBellamy.co.uk website that says the BBC article on Frank Bellamy states he did work for the Daily Record, where I thought he didn’t!

I then checked all that I did know and agree that 96 episodes of this story are in the reprinted versions I have between Friday 26th October 1973 and Monday 18th February 1974. But that is based on the usual lack of Sunday versions of the Daily Mirror and also no Christmas Day, and Boxing Day editions – times were different back then! However, usually, there would be a New Year’s Day edition, but the Newspaper Archive says not for 1974! So 96 only works if these conditions are true, i.e. the Archive didn’t miss one!

Now to the Daily Record reprinting the strip. The Internet and I know nothing! Help! I shall do the research when next in the British Library and let you know but we now have to conclude that this is an original Frank Bellamy never before printed, except in Scotland. My guess would be circa 26th December 1973 (for G305.5 to work) – dependent on Scotland printing on Boxing Day – as the note says on the original art.

This means that either there may be others in Scotland that were never seen in England, or Ewen Bain asked Frank Bellamy to create a Garth – and Bellamy jumped off using the story as inspiration – and John Allard it lettered as usual… which is very unlikely!

I don’t think, either, that this is a fake. We have some strong provenance – which can be checked.

The last thought I have on the matter is – did the Daily Record receive a clean version of the board – free from the usual ‘double-day’ information and also the sequential number inserted?

More on that another day, but the Scots version is clean of the London markings. Draw your own conclusions!

Norman Boyd

AUCTION SUMMARY

GARTH: The Wreckers
WHERE?: eBay
STARTING BID: £280
ENDING PRICE:
END DATE: Friday 27th December 2019

Bid on this mystery episode of Garth: The Wreckers here on eBay

• Do visit Norman’s Frank Bellamy Check List Blog – and if you can help Norman get to the bottom of this mystery, email him at feedbackATfrankbellamy.co.uk | See also the Frank Bellamy Web Site curated by Norman at frankbellamy.co.uk

Check out our introduction to the Garth newspaper strip and our episode guide to the published Garth Stories

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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