In the first part of this Words From Beyond feature on artist Frank Langford we reprinted a rare interview with him from Tardis fanzine dated February 1976. For this second part we begin with a selection of quotes from Andersonic fanzine dated Autumn 2007.
In 1990 Andersonic writer and editor Richard Farrell, as part of a school art project on deceased comic artist Frank Bellamy, wrote to as many comic artists as he could get contact details for who were contemporaries of Bellamy and asked them about him. Richard would rework that school project into an article published in Century 21 fanzine issue 10 dated Autumn 1992 simply entitled “Frank Bellamy” without using actual quotes from the letters he received back and then used some quotes from the various letters in a further article in Andersonic 4 about the artistic crossover of Frank Bellamy and Don Harley between Dan Dare in original Eagle and Thunderbirds in TV21 entitled “Frank, Don, Dan and the Tracys.”
With Richard’s permission we can reuse those quotes here and he has also provided additional quotes as well as the logo that Frank Langford used on his own stationary in November 1990, which we assume was by his own hand, and which we have used as the heading image for this article. Whilst the letter was not about his own work, Frank Langford showed his admiration for Frank Bellamy who worked for, amongst others, Eagle, TV21, Radio Times and the Daily Mirror and is generally considered to be one of the finest comic strip artists that the United Kingdom has ever produced.
Frank Langford said, “Frank Bellamy, with his fine draughtsmanship, knowledge of the human form and flair for colour and composition, changed the face of ‘comic strip’ in this country and upgraded it to the level of Fine Art. In fact, bearing in mind his ‘Heros’ series for the ‘Eagle’ magazine, I would say – as a fellow ‘strip’ artist – that I have seen nothing else as competent either before or since, in the whole world.”
He would go one to state, “There is nobody in the whole profession for whom I had more respect. He was my inspiration. He will always be the greatest. He was an Artist’s artist!”
Unlike Frank Bellamy, Frank Langford didn’t have a comic strip career that moved consistently from strip to strip, ie as one stopped he did not immediately or almost immediately begin another either in the same or a different title as many well-known artists did. He obviously had other sources of work and that would appear to be his advertising jobs.
The earliest advertising so far found is a set of adverts for the UK Ministry of Defence advertising careers in the Women’s Royal Army Corps (WRAC) to girls in the teen comic magazine Boyfriend (and presumably other titles) which were published over a number of months in 1965. He signed these as Eidlestein, a name that we will return to later.
It appears Langford also created advertising material for Lyons Maid’s promotions for their FAB lolly, originally inspired by Thunderbirds “Lady Penelope” – and still going string today.
After his comic strip work came to an end in the mid 1970s he moved on to film advertising. In an interview about his own movie poster career, artist Brian Bysouth mentions Frank Langford as an illustrator used by the FEREF art agency in London’s Soho. This agency, which still exists today, was set up by Fred Atkins, Eddie Paul, Ray Clay, Eddie Garlick and Frank Hillary, using their initials ABBA-style as the company name, in 1968 and they had, and still do have, contracts with film companies as well as many others.
Whether Langford was on FEREF’s staff or worked as a freelancer for them remains unknown but it does show where at least some of his advertising work came from, though quite how he managed to get his signature in such a prominent position on so much of this, which is so helpful to us now, is something of a puzzle.
Whilst Sweeny! released in 1977, and based on the ITV series, is perhaps his best known UK quad size poster, and uses his action style artwork, his posters for two mid-1970s comedies are perhaps more interesting. The sex comedy Not Now Comrade! (the forgotten sequel to Not Now Darling!) from 1976, plus the 1977 film spin-off from the BBC TV series Are You Being Served? all show a previously unseen humorous caricature style of painted artwork.
The excellent Are You Being Served? poster is probably the most impressive of these caricatured posters given the sheer number of actors faces that needed to be illustrated, and the fact that the potential audience for the film would have been very familiar those faces given that they were watching them week in week out on BBC1.
However perhaps the most interesting of these UK posters for comics fans is for the 1976 animated film of The 12 Tasks Of Asterix where he ghosted the style of Albert Uderzo. Unusually he managed to sign all the posters above and his signature is also on UK advertising posters for films as diverse as Spanish Fly and Welcome To Blood City.
In the late 1970s and into the 1980s Langford’s work did continue to appear in comics but not as weekly comic strips. In addition to his film advertising posters, at that time he did a wide range of print adverts aimed at comics readers. These ranged from single image ads such as those for the Philips Video Games Club for G7000 games console owners to Waddington’s Top Trumps, the advert for which had more of a movie poster feel to it.
After playing video games or trump cards, the comics reader could have feasted on Nestle’s Smarties, Chivers Jelly, KP Outer Spacers or even Trebor Captain Hurricane Chew Bars, all with Frank Langford’s signature on their adverts.
Indeed some of these snack adverts were multi-page and sometime even multi-week comic strip stories with Nestle taking two pages to request ten tokens in exchange for a Smarties Zapper, while KP Outer Spacers ran a six page story over three weeks promoting free spaceship toys and posters presumably when a certain number of empty packets were sent in.
His range of adverts also catered for more traditional toys with Palitoy’s Action Man, Revell’s Robotech plastic kits, and Corgi vehicles including the X-Ploratrons, that Carlos Ezquerra did the box art for, and the Batmobile, Batboat and Batcopter.
This Batvehicles advert is interesting considering that in the Tardis interview Frank Langford said that he had drawn Batman for NPP/DC Comics but, given that this advert appeared over a year after the interview was published, this was not what he was referring to. So what Batman work he had done at that point remains mysterious.
Away from comics and straight advertising, June 1985 saw his illustrations in a Cue feature in Vogue entitled “Modesty Blazed” featuring four glamorous comic style heroines – “The pneumatic Amazons of comic strip lore range from supernatural sirens like Vampirella to the coyly criminal Cat-woman. Embodied by Jane Fonda in Vadim’s Barbarella, and made art by Roy Lichtenstein in the sixties, the image and proportions of these superwomen continue to haunt the imagination, and have made themselves felt in the work of summer’s most adventurous designers.”
This editorial illustration work for publisher Conde Nast opens out the possibility of more non-advertising work in upmarket magazines in the 1980s, something which will no doubt prove difficult to explore.
Also dating from the 1980s is this unusual advertising poster aimed at the American market for the airline British Caledonian’s cargo service. This promotes the airline’s direct transatlantic flights from Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and New York and, presumably given that it was for the US market, Langford added “UK” to his signature.
While all these adverts and posters have “Frank Langford” boldly signed in sometimes quite prominent positions, the artist we know as Frank Langford was actually born Cyril Judah Eidlestein on 2 June 1926 in Stepney in London.
He changed his name by deed poll at some point in the 1960s with the Langford coming from his wife’s maiden name, he married Hilda M. Langford in Hampstead in London in 1953. Where the Frank came from remains a mystery but we can see from the Gaumont British Animation information that he was being referred to as Frank Eidlestein in the late 1940s. The initials on the 1963 The Angry Planet panel from Boys World above could read CFE or CFL and that, probably deliberate, merging of FE/FL may suggest that he considered himself to be Cyril Frank Langford at that point. His niece, Karen Goldman, in a 2008 comment on Bear Alley refers to him as “Uncle Cyril” so perhaps he chose the Frank as a professional name.
In addition to the advertising work mentioned above, his niece told Bear Alley readers that he also worked on adverts for Barclays bank, McDonalds, Marks & Spencer, Rowntree Mackintosh’s Yorkie Bar, and Kellogg’s Rice Krispies featuring the characters of Snap, Crackle and Pop.
Frank Langford died in Enfield in Middlesex in early 1996 at the age of 69 and perhaps the last word should be left to his niece who, in that Bear Alley comment in 2008, said of her ‘Uncle Cyril’, “He was a lovely man with a great sense of humour – and I miss him dearly. I’m glad that he had a following and that fans still remember his work.”
We do indeed.
With thanks to Jeremy Bentham, Gordon Blows, David Brunt, Ray Carnes, Richard Farrell, John Freeman, Steve Holland, Paul Scoones, Richard Sheaf and Lew Stringer.
Richard Farrell’s Andersonic fanzine is available from the Andersonic website
There are more details of Frank Langford’s comic strips in the following books:
• Boy’s World: Ticket To Adventure, compiled by Steve Holland, published by Bear Alley Books
• Countdown to TV Action, compiled by Steve Holland, published by Bear Alley Books
News, reviews, interviews and features for print and on-line: Spaceship Away (since October 2005), Bear Alley (since February 2007), downthetubes (since June 2007), and Eagle Times (since October 2008). Plus DC Thomson’s The Art Of Ian Kennedy, Titan’s Dan Dare and Johnny Red reprints, Ilex’s War Comics: A Graphic History and 500 Essential Graphic Novels, and Print Media’s The Iron Moon and Strip magazine.