Saturday, March 06, 2010

Classic Bible Stories


When I first wrote about the Bible art of Frank Hampson I received emails from a number of people all asking if I knew where they could obtain a copy of 'Jesus: The Road of Courage' from. My answer was always the same, "Sorry, copies are very hard to find." That was the case up until now!
A few weeks ago, John Freeman, who works for Titan books, left a blog comment on the Frank Hampson post informing readers that, at the end of this month (March), Titan books will be releasing 'Classic Bible Stories' which combines both 'Jesus: The Road of Courage' and 'Mark: The youngest Disciple'. John says that "Both strips have been scanned from good quality issues of Eagle.......the collection will also include Hampson's beautiful Nativity illustration from the 1957 Eagle Annual".

(Before you rush to order a copy, you might want to read the Update/Review below). I haven't seen any of the artwork from 'Mark: The youngest Disciple' as yet, or Hampson's Nativity art, so I'm really looking forward to seeing this new book.
For me, the visual interpretation of Jesus, (see cover) is my only complaint. Some of Hampson's character designs look very 'British' and his interpretation of Jesus would perhaps fit better in a 'Robin Hood' graphic novel than in one based on the New Testament. Having said that, most of his other character designs are superb!
if it's dynamic, lavishly illustrated Bible artwork you're looking for, it doesn't get better than this! Does anyone know if Hampson illustrated any of the Old Testament stories for Eagle comic?

Update/Review:12 March 2010
Just received my copy of 'Classic Bible stories' and I have to say I'm disappointed. I need to quickly clear up a couple of misleading comments in the post above. Firstly, I was led to believe, by John Freemans's post comment, that there was additional Frank Hampson artwork, based on the Nativity, that had been included in this book. There isn't! The 'Road of courage' already includes the Nativity story, which I should have realized!
Secondly, you will notice on the book cover above, which appears on Amazon, the name 'Frank Hampson'. Well, that name doesn't appear on the cover of the actual book, and there's a good reason why it doesn't. The story of 'Mark: The youngest disciple' isn't illustrated by Hampson! It's illustrated by Giorgio Bellavitis. While Bellavitis' work is pleasant, it's not in the same league as Hampson's. So, if you're a Hampson fan, and you already own a copy of 'The Road of Courage' and you were hoping to find some new Hampson Bible Art in this book, (as I was), you will be disappointed.

That wasn't what disappointed me most about the book though. The worst thing about this book is the print quality. My copy of 'The Road of Courage' published by 'Dragon's Dream' was printed 29 years ago in the Netherlands and it's superb! All Hampson's fine line work and his subtle color work is all there to be admired. In this new version however, the fine black line work has filled in to a solid black and the subtle colors are harsh or bleached out! I'm not sure if it's the scanning or the printing, or both, that's at fault, but whoever O.K.'d the printing proofs was not a Hampson fan! I would certainly not have passed them!
The question remains, "If you don't already own a copy of 'The Road of Courage', should you buy this one?" I hate to say no but, If you really want to appreciate Hampson's Bible art, then you need to see an earlier version! If this book was produced for fans of Hampson's art, or the Eagle comic, no expense should have been spared when reproducing the original art.

15 comments:

beocai said...

Amazon.com/uk has two in stock.

Bible artist said...

Many thanks Beocai! I didn't realize they were available yet.

Paul Green said...

Hampson's physical interpretation of Jesus has no relation to the gospels. A blonde haired Jew?
Other than this the Road To Courage contains excellent artwork. I only wish Frank Bellamy was commissioned for the strip rather than Hampson. His style was more fluid and natural than Hampson's and his coloring more creative and inventive.

Bible artist said...

There are some similarities in the styles of Frank Hampson and Frank Bellamy. Both use dramatic lighting and lots of black shadow, and both use a very effective combination of line work and pure color for the less prominent facial features.

I'm hoping that a publisher might consider re-printing the other Eagle biblical strip 'David :The Shepherd King' by Frank Bellamy, in a similar format to this book.

Paul Green said...

True Graham. I find Hampson's style more formal and dated, while Bellamy's layouts and use of color was more dynamic.
When I was a kid reading "TV Century 21" my favourite artist was Mike Noble (Fireball XL5, Captain Scarlet). Bellamy illustrated "Thunderbirds". Noble later worked for "Look-In", but I'm not aware if he illustrated any Bible strips.

Bible artist said...

Update/Review:12 March 2010
Just received my copy of 'Classic Bible stories' and I have to say I'm disappointed. I need to quickly clear up a couple of misleading comments in the post above. Firstly, I was led to believe, by John Freemans's post comment, that there was additional Frank Hampson artwork, based on the Nativity, that had been included in this book. There isn't! The 'Road of courage' already includes the Nativity story, which I should have realized!
Secondly, you will notice on the book cover above, which appears on Amazon, the name 'Frank Hampson'. Well, that name doesn't appear on the cover of the actual book, and there's a good reason why it doesn't. The story of 'Mark: The youngest disciple' isn't illustrated by Hampson! It's illustrated by Giorgio Bellavitis. While Bellavitis' work is pleasant, it's not in the same league as Hampson's. So, if you're a Hampson fan, and you already own a copy of 'The Road of Courage' and you were hoping to find some new Hampson Bible Art in this book, (as I was), you will be disappointed.

That wasn't what disappointed me most about the book though. The worst thing about this book is the print quality. My copy of 'The Road of Courage' published by 'Dragon's Dream' was printed 29 years ago in the Netherlands and it's superb! All Hampson's fine line work and his subtle color work is all there to be admired. In this new version however, the fine black line work has filled in to a solid black and the subtle colors are harsh or bleached out! I'm not sure if it's the scanning or the printing, or both, that's at fault, but whoever O.K.'d the printing proofs was not a Hampson fan! I would certainly not have passed them!
The question remains, "If you don't already own a copy of 'The Road of Courage', should you buy this one?" I hate to say no but, If you really want to appreciate Hampson's Bible art, then you need to see an earlier version! If this book was produced for fans of Hampson's art, or the Eagle comic, no expense should have been spared when reproducing the original art.

Paul Green said...

When I read the line "scanned from good quality issues of The Eagle"
I wondered what the quality might be Graham. Sorry to hear the print quality is poor.
I've seen the bleached out quality on certain reprint books I own. Place them next to the original strip and it looks like the strip has faded in the sunlight.
With the technology we have today there's no excuse for bleached colours or bleeding lines.
Everyone is familar with Photoshop tools that restore colour to faded photographs or correct colour cast faults.
Titan Books usually produce quality work so this lapse in quality is disappointing as you say Graham.

Bible artist said...

I remember when I was doing illustrations for magazines in the mid seventies. They were printed using the 'Gravure' printing process and I always looked forward to seeing the finished results. The illustrations were always enhanced.

In the eighties I remember some really poor quality, low cost printing methods coming into use. Your illustrations had to be on a flexible surface like watercolor paper, not board, as they were wrapped around a cylinder. The finished result was very poor!

Today, with digital printing, we seem to have the same mixture of excellent and poor quality results, I suppose it's down to money! Some of the graphic novels today have superb crystal-clear images with rich color. 'The Road of Courage' should have been printed in this way.

Paul Green said...

Yes I remember the dreadful 1980s Graham. :)) I was freelancing for the "Rainbow" comic and had to apply my paint on the back of watercolor paper on a lightbox. I hated it. One - the lightbox stopped you from seeing your true colours when you applied it and two - it was like working back to front.
I soon tired of it. The freelance rate of pay was far too low to have to spend hours at this tedious task that in all honesty should have been done my the printer.

Bible artist said...

Wow! I never had to do that Paul! I can remember though, in my D.C.Thomson days, artists adding color to the strips on tracing paper overlays. Ahh, those were the days!

I've just noticed a type of disclaimer in the front of the book which says:
"Much of the comic strip material used by Titan in this edition is exceedingly rare. As such, we hope that readers appreciate that the quality of reproduction achievable can vary."

The quality of reproduction should only vary if the quality of the original comics vary, but this would mean that at least some of the pages should be good, whereas the whole book is consistently poor quality. Also, this type of problem with colors is more consistently seen in poor quality scanning.
Having said all that, I've never seen any of the original 'Road of Courage' strips in the Eagle comic itself, maybe they were printed badly then! If that was the case though, how could the 'Dragons Dream' edition be so good?

Paul Green said...

Why not scan the Dragon's Dream pages if the original comic pages were in such a poor condition? If they own the rights to reproduce the strip then scanning the Dragon's Dream pages would be fine.
It sounds like they didn't have access to the Dragon's Dream book. And to think when I bought my copy of that book in Manchester they were at a low sale price.

JPT said...

You have an interesting blog - I've added you to my list.

Bible artist said...

Paul:
Yes they were down to £1.99! Many thanks for buying me one at the same time Paul. It's always been one of my favorites. I agree, they should have scanned the 'Dragons Dream' edition!

JPT:
Thanks Jim, great photography blog you have, I love Wales!
It's refreshing to see a blog having a go at the anti-christian BBC too! Good job!

H.T said...

Guys, please support the Digital King James Bible..now only at $9.99

Thank you in advance.

John Freeman said...

Just read your review of this book I edited. Sorry the reproduction proved a disappointment; as you and your readers have guessed, the strip was scanned from the best quality copies of Eagle available whereas the Dragon's Dream edition was, as I understand it, scanned from original art.

In fact, I did discuss the use of art from "Road of Courage" for this production with Frank Hampson's son, but unfortunately Titan Books chose not to take up the opportunity, and planned additional editorial material was dropped.

Nevertheless, for those of you who have never read "Mark: The Youngest Disciple", this collection remains the only presentation of that story, and Italian fans of artist Giorgio Bellavitis welcomed its inclusion as many were unaware of its existence.

All the work on the second volume was done, featuring "The Shepherd King". I still have all the scans.