I’ll be honest: I don’t have a great collection of vintage Captain America comics. I didn’t know Allen Bellman for his works for Timely Comics before they became Marvel Comics. Several years ago my wife and I paused at his table at Lexington Comic and Toy Convention in Lexington, Kentucky. I’d never heard of him before, but there he was, a short, old man in Captain America suspenders at a table covered in vintage-looking Captain America artwork, his name hanging from a curtain behind him. There was no line; in fact, it seemed like no one was really paying him any mind. He wasn’t an instantly recognizable face like George Takei on the other side of the room. He didn’t have the hot-shot showman persona like Jim Steranko.
He didn’t have a blockbuster movie life story that he was trying to sell. He was just a nice old man who had some interesting stories that he wanted to tell if you wanted to listen. He wasn’t pushing anything, and he wasn’t “too good” to just have a conversation. Despite his unassuming nature, my wife and I stopped at his table to see what he was selling and, more honestly, why “Allen Bellman” was a guest at this particular convention.
He was happy to share his story with us. He got a job working for Marvel “back when they were still called Timely.” He was proud of his work, but not cocky. He was happy with the time he’d spent at Timely and seemed to have no regrets about where life had taken him afterward. His work had a classic style to it, the wide angles and heavy outlines of the golden age that could be spotted from a mile away. He was selling prints and sketches, but the look was so iconic that we knew we wanted more than just a print. He told us about his custom commissions and showed us a few examples. We took a business card, thanked him for regaling us with stories, and went on our way. That interaction has stuck with me ever since, and it brings a smile to my face any time I think about it.
During our conversation, he said, “There aren’t many people like me left,” and he was right. And today, sadly, there is one less. We never did get around to buying a custom piece, and while I’m sure he never gave us a second thought, we regularly talk about him and his work. So today we’ll take a moment to remember a great artist and, more importantly, a kind man.
Thank you, Allen Bellman, for your work, your stories, your time, and your kindness.