Hot on the heels of the launch of a community group celebrating the life and work of Misty artist John Armstrong comes the auction of a comics rarity – some of his original artwork featuring “Bella at the Bar” from the weekly Tammy comic.
On offer is are a number of pencil pages, including preparatory character sketches and what are presumably unfinished work or pages that John later revised before sending to Tammy‘s editor during his long run on the comic.
As virtually no artwork from the published strip survives, these boards are something of a rarity and a wonderful chance to own art by the character’s original creator, who died last year.
John’s family tell me a few items were put up for sale via Millers Auctioneers in Newcastle, because they came across some of John’s art work in their final part of his house clearance. It’s these items are now appearing on eBay, offered for £160.
IPC’s Tammy, published between 1971 and 1984. Always a title keen on a good weepy, Tammy rivalled DC Thomson’s Bunty in sales terms. Capitalising on the huge following for gymnastics spurred by the young Soviet female gymnast Olga Korbut at and following the 1972 Olympics, “Bella at the Bar” (also known as “That Barlow Kid”, or simply “Bella”) ran in Tammy from June 1974 to June 1984, drawn by John Armstrong, written by creators that included Jenny McDade, John Wagner, Primrose Cumming and Malcolm Shaw.
Perhaps the most popular character in the comic, her look was inspired by artist John Armstrong’s niece and a collection of her early stories was published by Rebellion last year, which John was delighted to see before he passed away.
Also being offered is a separate watercolour of a girl and horse risers, also by John.
The new Facebook group focusing on John Armstrong is the latest of many dedicated to individual British comic artists on Facebook, which also features groups dedicated to 2000AD artist John Michael Burns, Commando artist Ian Kennedy and 2000AD artist Ron Smith.
• In His Own Words: The Comics Career of John Armstrong – a biography prepared in advance of Raptus 2003
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With thanks to Sue di Murro, Mark Hetherington and Richard Sheaf
Bella at the Bar and Tammy © Rebellion Publishing Ltd.