Considering what a global phenomenon James Bond has become, it’s difficult to imagine a world without him. The books are never out of print and the films keep hitting the box office jackpot and never seem to be off TV. But in simpler times, he offered a thrilling escape, a hint of the exotic, of intrigue, of danger and adventure over a morning bowl of corn flakes and sticky marmalade fingers. His exploits were told in a daily newspaper strip, the tale making progress three or four panels at a time.
This first bumper volume collects those early strips that, unlike the films, adapt the novels in chronological order. An introduction by Sir Roger Moore sets the scene. So we’re introduced to Bond in Casino Royale, trying to outwit the international gambler, Le Chiffre moving through another ten adventures.
As a novel it was first published in 1953, but this strip made its appearance in the Daily Express in 1958. Many of them have appeared in separate volumes but now Titan is reprinting them in more compact omnibus editions, so that Bond’s exploits are told in the right order, adapted by writers Anthony Hern and Henry Gammidge, with Peter O’Donnell taking on Dr No.
It enables readers to see the growth and development of the strip, too, in particular the art of John McLusky, who manages to build the tension and drama at a measured pace and with draughtsmanship economy. It may seem at odds with much of the dynamic visuals of modern comics, but the accumulative effect of reading each tale is in its uninterrupted whole rather than the anticipation of the continuing story next day.
Knowing how thorough Miss Moneypenny is with her filing (despite her absence from these tales), the adapted stories in this volume are: Live And Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, From Russia With Love, Dr No, Goldfinger, Risico, From A View To A Kill, For Your Eyes Only, and Thunderball.
Much closer to the original novels, they indicate Bond’s growing popularity and early exploitation away from the written page. High on espionage, and Boy’s Own-style global adventure but with grittier, more brutal villains, these strips appeared before Connery and Ursula Andress first hit the screen (and yes, the beach scene appears in the strip but with more modesty), and whilst the Cold War was heating up. They feel like condensed storyboards for those cinematic exploits which are reimagined differently, but they are still the stories we’re familiar with complete with exotic locations, hi-tech gadgets (in moderation) and beautifully coiffured women.
Just create your own theme tune as you read each strip and you’ll be in 007 heaven once more.
The James Bond Omnibus: Volume 1 is out now in flexi-bound paperback.