For those of you saddened by the lack of surviving comic art by lead Misty comic artist Shirley Bellwood, downthetubes has kindly been given permission to share this newly-discovered watercolour by its current owner.
The art was originally used on the cover of the 1980 Misty Summer Special, an offshoot of one of Britain’s many now long extinct weekly girls comics, and inside as a poster. It miraculously somehow survived the destruction of most Misty comic art in 1984 – and was sold at auction by Southend-based Chalkwell Auctions last year. The auction house could not be drawn on the identity of the previous owner at the time of the estate sale.
A carefully restored version of the printed poster was used as the cover of 2000AD publisher Rebellion’s first Misty collection, released in 2016 – sadly, the same year the much-loved artist passed away, aged 84. She had been ill for some time.
The original art is far more subtle than the as it was published in 1980.
“I recognised the Misty cover is because of seemingly similar work on some portraits and still lives I picked up on a whim last year,” the collector tells us. “They were also by an artist called Shirley Bellwood – who turned out to be a different lady to the comics illustrator and, disappointed in their quality, I disposed of them.
“Of course that meant I went off on a tangent looking at the Misty work etc – and so couldn’t believe it when this painting turned up. An odd coincidence indeed!”
A highly-accomplished illustrator and painter, Shirley Bellwood’s work on girls’ comics began in the 1950s, initially, it is believed, on on C Arthur Pearson’s Glamour Library; going on to work on titles such as Valentine, Romeo, Mirabelle and Roxy.
Later, she would work on Sally, Jinty and, of course, Misty, making the character’s fictional editor her own – indeed, the character was based on her own likeness – on both covers and in internal illustrations, some used as posters.
Despite the quality of her work, particularly on Misty, very little has survived down the years, her art going the way of other greats such as Frank Hampson and lost in company clear outs, office moves – or to deliberate destruction. Until now, the only well-known surviving piece of work was believed to be an introductory illustration for Misty comic, since restored artist David Roach.
As well as her memorable comics work, Shirley illustrated for many publishers, including the Folio Society, including He Knew He Was Right in 1989 and Ralph the Heir and La Vendee, all written by Anthony Trollope in the 1990s. She was also one of the illustrators who worked on a series of Dennis Wheatley story collections published by Heron Books between 1972 and 1977, providing art for Three Inquisitive People in 1973.
• A Resource on Jinty: Shirley Bellwood posts
• The Official Misty web site: www.mistycomic.co.uk
• The Bronze Age of Blogs looks back on Misty here
• UK Comics Wikia: Shirley Bellwood