In 1958, the British newspaper Daily Express began a comic strip adaptation of the James Bond stories being written by Ian Fleming--with Fleming's approval, of course. The first omnibus volume in Titan's reprints of those strips covered the eleven adaptations that ran from July 7, 1958 to February 10, 1962 (from "Casino Royale" to "Thunderball"). This second omnibus edition picks up from that point in reprinting the strips that ran from June 29, 1964 to October 3, 1968 (from "The Man with the Golden Gun" to "The Spy Who Loved Me").
Keen observers of dates will have noticed that there is a gap of 28 months and two weeks between the last strip published in volume one and the first strip published here in volume two. I don't know if the Daily Express suspended publication of the strip for nearly two and a half years or if the newspaper was reprinting older strips during that time. The reason for the gap could not have been due to a lack of material to adapt, as the last story in this volume, "The Spy Who Loved Me," first appeared as a novel in April of 1962--which means a gap of only a few months would have been more likely if they were simply waiting for Fleming to write more stories that could be adapted. (Obviously, the comic strip did not adapt Fleming's novels and short stories chronologically.)*
These strips are fun to read, and (as far as I can tell without doing a thorough analysis of plot points) they are faithful adaptations of the original prose works--which is a credit to Henry Gammidge and Jim Lawrence as the adapters of Fleming's narratives.
Illustrators John McLusky ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "You Only Live Twice" with Henry Gammidge) and Yaroslav Horak (“The Man with the Golden Gun,” “The Living Daylights,” “Octopussy,” “The Hildebrand Rarity,” and “The Spy Who Loved Me” all with Jim Lawrence) do excellent work in depicting Fleming's Bond and the world he inhabits. These black and white panels are classic British comic strip illustrations at their best.
The work of McLusky and Horak rivals the work of American comic illustrator Milt Canniff when he was at the top of his form in the 1930s to 1950s during his "Terry and the Pirates" and early "Steve Canyon" days--and they certainly surpass the work of most contemporary adventure story illustrators working in either comic strips or comic books. My only complaint with this volume is its small size--9 inches by 7.6 inches with four strips on each page.
Each strip is only 1.75 inches by 6.5 inches in size, but illustrations this great deserve to be one and a half times larger than that. Lovers of James Bond, good action-adventure strips, and exquisite comic strip illustrations should all getting this book as well as the earlier volume. Hopefully, a third volume that will complete the Daily Express is forthcoming.
* Update: It seems that the reason for the gap of 28 months and two weeks was that the owner of the Daily Express, Lord Beaverbrook, abruptly canceled the contract with Fleming while "Thunderball" was being adapted. Fleming had sold the rights to "The Living Daylights" to a rival newspaper, which angered Beaverbrook to the point of canceling his paper's business arrangements with Fleming.
The adaptation of "Thunderball" was not properly completed, though panels that brought the story to a conclusion were later added when reprints of the strip were offered for syndication.
Nearly two and a half years later, Beaverbrook and Fleming renewed their business relationship and the Daily Express once again began adapting Fleming's bond stories--including "The Living Daylights," which is contained in this volume.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!