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THE JAMES BOND COMIC STRIP
Daily Express Series 1 (1958-1962) Drawn by John McLusky
WRITTEN & COMPILED BY GRAHAM RYE & KEVIN HARPER

In 1956 leading UK newspaper the Daily Express had begun to serialise abridged versions of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels in weekday instalments to coincide with their hardback publication. Adapted by staff writer Anthony Hearne, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER was the first novel to be serialised, and ran for eleven days from Thursday April 12 - Tuesday April 24, 1956. The serialisation was accompanied by stylish drawings by Andrew Robb (1907-1989), who would continue to illustrate all remaining adaptations with the exception of GOLDFINGER, the short story RISICO (under the title The Double-Take), and THUNDERBALL, which were visualised by graphic designers Raymond Hawkey & Michael Rand, and photographer Kenneth Denyer. Although Hawkey and Denyer did use an unidentified stand-in as James Bond, Andrew Robb rarely showed the face of Ian Fleming's hero in his illustrations. However, all this was about to change when in 1958 the Daily Express approached Ian Fleming with the idea of turning his James Bond novels into a comic strip. Fleming was in two minds about the whole project and consulted his close friend William Plomer (1903-1973). Despite Plomer’s opinion that it would be a grave error to accept the Express offer, Fleming chose to ignore his friend’s advice on this occasion. The Daily Express was offering a minimum payment of £1,500 per book, and with the possibility of a share in the syndication rights, Fleming could hardly have ignored this chance of a lifetime. Daily Express editor Edward Pickering (1912-2003) guaranteed the author that the transition of Bond into a strip character would be handled as a ‘Rolls Royce job’. The man chosen to adapt the stories into a daily comic strip was Express literary editor Anthony Hearne, who was still providing the abridged text for the adaptations of Ian Fleming's novels in the newspaper. After seeing a proof of the first instalment of Hearne's adaptation of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, Ian Fleming's sent a telegram to the writer which simply read: ‘SALUTE TO A MASTER BUTCHER’.

Daily Express James Bond comic strip teaser July 5, 1958

Daily Express James Bond comic strip poster/From Russia With Love book-gun’ test John McLusky

The talents of 35-year old John McLusky (1923-2006) were engaged to illustrate the comic strip. But before he was put under contract for CASINO ROYALE, McLusky was asked to draw the ‘book-gun’ sequence in FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE for Ian Fleming's approval (pictured above right). The author had provided a drawing by another artist of what he thought James Bond should look like, but when McLusky created Bond's facial characteristics he remembered Ian Fleming's sporting hero golfer Henry Cotton (1907-1987); together with the faces of contemporary movie actors such as Robert Taylor (1911-1969), Gary Cooper (1901-1961), and a dash of the Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021) - after all James Bond was a naval commander! James Bond's face from the unpublished ‘book-gun’ sequence was later used on Daily Express billboards (above left) to advertise the new strip outside newsagents the length and breadth of the British Isles.

The James Bond comic strip made its debut in the Daily Express on Monday July 7, 1958 accompanied by an introduction by Ian Fleming's friend the acclaimed American crime novelist Raymond Chandler (1888-1959). The title strip introduced the three main characters and featured a croupier who looked suspiciously like Ian Fleming! CASINO ROYALE stayed relatively close to Fleming's original, although several sequences were toned down for a more general audience. CASINO ROYALE is unique in that it does not have the rectangular credit panel in the top left-hand corner of each strip, instead the credits appear in a block above the artwork. After the 23-week adaptation of CASINO ROYALE the Daily Express saw a marked increase in sales of their broadsheet newspaper.

John McLusky GOLDFINGER serialisation illustrations 1959

ABOVE: (left) John McLusky provided a unique illustration to accompany the first instalment of the Daily Express serialisation of GOLDFINGER printed on Wednesday March 18, 1959. The drawing shows the introduction of Jill Masterton as she helps Auric Goldfinger cheat at Canasta. (right) A second drawing was published on Thursday March 19, 1959 and is actually the complete artwork from the first panel of strip #236 of MOONRAKER, although with text relating to GOLDFINGER. John McLusky would usually complete strips a few weeks ahead of their publication date, and this drawing of Bond in M's office was repurposed for the GOLDFINGER serialisation. In the published version of strip #236 from MOONRAKER printed on Friday April 10, 1959 speech bubbles cover up the smoke from Bond's cigarette as he discusses Hugo Drax with M.

Starting on Monday December 15, 1958, LIVE AND LET DIE was the first of eleven stories to be adapted by Henry Gammidge (1915-1981), who partnered McLusky on all subsequent strips in series one and two, with the exception of DR. NO, which was adapted by Modesty Blaise creator Peter O'Donnell (1920-2010). The Daily Express strip ran uninterrupted each weekday for almost four years, with stories appearing in the order of their hardback publication.

As well as drawing the daily comic strip for LIVE AND LET DIE, John McLusky also provided two unique and rarely-seen illustrations (pictured above) printed on Wednesday 18 & Thursday March 19, 1959 as part of the Daily Express serialisation of Ian Fleming's GOLDFINGER. The 11-part serialisation of the seventh James Bond novel was adapted by Anthony Hearne, and featured stylized illustrations by Raymond Hawkey, who had recently joined the Daily Express as design director. Hawkey, along with graphic designer Michael Rand, would revolutionise the use of illustrations to accompany stories published in the Daily Express. Michael Rand joined the rival Sunday Times in 1962, and would serve as design director on the colour supplement from 1963-1993.

John McLusky also provided an illustration (pictured left) to accompany an advertisement for the Daily Express comic strip which appeared in the Goldfinger world premiere brochure in 1964.

Daily Express 1964 comic strip advertisement Goldfinger premiere brochure

Early stories started with an introductory strip containing no story narrative, and usually showed the novel title in the same typeface as seen on the Jonathan Cape hardcover first edition. Starting with DR. NO, story narrative was included from the first panel of each new adventure, but reverted back to an illustrated introductory strip for the final three stories of the first series. When the James Bond comic strip later went into international syndication, the title strips were often omitted when they contained no actual story material. In the case of GOLDFINGER, a revised title strip was created for the syndicated version omitting the reference to Bond's farewell to Honey Rider at Miami airport. As most stories were published out of sequence when the strip went into syndication, any reference to an earlier adventure was removed. Strips were frequently reformatted and translated into other languages for syndication. Several strips featuring implied female nudity (although very tame compared to modern standards) were also omitted from syndicated stories. The James Bond comic strip went into worldwide syndication from 1960 and continues to be offered for publication to this day. On September 26, 2021 the strip made a return to the Sunday Express with a reprint of the original James Bond story CASINO ROYALE - 63 years after its original publication.

The title strips pictured in this article are how they originally appeared in the Daily Express. Additional ‘A-strips’ are also illustrated when they uniquely appear in either the English or Scottish editions of the Daily Express.

CASINO ROYALE by Ian Fleming adapted by Anthony Hearne drawn by John McLusky

CASINO ROYALE by Ian Fleming adapted by Anthony Hearne
Monday July 7 to Saturday December 13, 1958 - Strip #1-#138 (23-weeks)

LIVE AND LET DIE by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge drawn by John McLusky

LIVE AND LET DIE by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge
Monday December 15, 1958 to Saturday March 28, 1959 - Strip #139-#225 (15-weeks)

MOONRAKER by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge drawn by John McLusky

MOONRAKER by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge
Monday March 30 to Saturday August 8, 1959 - Strip #226-#339 (19-weeks)

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge drawn by John McLusky

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge
Monday August 10, 1958 to Saturday January 30, 1960 - Strip #340-#487 (25-weeks)

FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge drawn by John McLusky

FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge
Monday February 1 to Saturday May 21, 1960 - Strip #488-#583 (16-weeks)

DR. NO by Ian Fleming adapted by Peter O'Donnell drawn by John McLusky

DR. NO by Ian Fleming adapted by Peter O'Donnell
Monday May 23 to Saturday October 1, 1960 - Strip #584-#697 (19-weeks)

GOLDFINGER by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge drawn by John McLusky

GOLDFINGER by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge
Monday October 3, 1960 to Saturday April 1, 1961 - Strip #698-#849 (26-weeks)*

*GOLDFINGER as it appeared in the Daily Express is significantly different to the later syndicated and collected versions of the story. The opening three strips were truncated to remove Honey Rider from the narrative, as this linked the story to the previous adventure DR. NO. For the syndicated version of GOLDFINGER strip #699 was omitted completely and a new composite title strip created by merging artwork of Oddjob and Goldfinger from the original strip #698, and removing the first panel from strip #700. Many of the strips detailing Goldfinger's planning and raid on Fort Knox also have different captions to the original Daily Express versions; with others censored to remove Oddjob attacking Bond with a knife, and some with alternate artwork. Some syndicated and later collected foreign language versions of GOLDFINGER did print the original Daily Express version but with the text translated as required. Pictured below are strips #699 & #700 as they originally appeared in the Daily Express version of GOLDFINGER.

GOLDFINGER original opening as seen in the Daily Express.

The original presentation of GOLDFINGER also included an additional strip drawn by John McLusky. #773a (pictured below) was published in the English edition of the Daily Express on Monday January 2, 1961. As this day was a public holiday in Scotland no newspapers were printed. In order to keep the story in synch, this additional strip only appeared in the English edition and does not affect the storyline.

GOLDFINGER strip 773a drawing by John McLusky

A further strip #819a (not pictured) was later inserted into the syndicated version of GOLDFINGER to compensate for the loss of several panels at the start of the story due to the removal of Honey Rider from the narrative, and truncation of the first three strips. #819a did not appear in the Daily Express and is merely a recap of the story adding no new information.

RISICO short story by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge drawn by John McLusky

RISICO short story by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge
Monday April 3 to Saturday June 24, 1961 - Strip #850-#921 (12-weeks)

FROM A VIEW TO A KILL short story by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge drawn by John McLusky

FROM A VIEW TO A KILL short story by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge
Monday June 26 to Saturday September 9, 1961 - Strip #922-#987 (11-weeks)

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY short story by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge drawn by John McLusky

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY short story by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge
Monday September 11 to Saturday December 9, 1961 - Strip #988-#1065 (13-weeks)

THUNDERBALL by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge drawn by John McLusky

THUNDERBALL by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge
Monday December 11, 1961 to Saturday February 10, 1962 - Strip #1066-#1117 (9-weeks)*

*THUNDERBALL had the unfortunate distinction of running for only nine weeks when it was stopped abruptly due to a dispute between Lord Beaverbrook [William Maxwell Aitken (1879-1964)] - who owned the Express at that time - and Ian Fleming. Lord Thomson’s Sunday Times launched its colour magazine on February 4, 1962 with the Ian Fleming 007 short story THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. Beaverbrook held newspaper rights for Ian Fleming's Bond novels, but apparently not the short stories. Although THUNDERBALL had already begun as a comic strip it was ordered to finish forthwith, and readers were astonished to find three-quarters of an extremely complicated plot dismissed in eight lines of text on the composite strip #1117 published on Saturday February 10, 1962. The notoriously mercurial Beaverbrook interpreted Fleming’s sale of his short story to the Sunday Times as disloyalty, and felt the Express should have exclusive rights to Fleming’s work, as not only were they running Bond in strip format, but had also been serialising his novels since 1956.

THUNDERBALL James bond comic strip #1117 ending Daily Express drawn by John McLusky

Artist John McLusky had actually drawn six further strips at the point at the story ended in the Daily Express, continuing Giuseppe Petacchi's hijack of the R.A.F. Vindicator Bomber with its nuclear payload. For the syndicated version of THUNDERBALL these strips (#1117-#1122) were hastily redrawn by John McLusky, with a new sequence in M’s office which explains how Bond ended up in the Bahamas where he meets up with CIA agent Felix Leiter. Many of these panels were made up from strips already drawn by John McLusky for earlier stories in the series. As the artist had his work returned after publication, the original full-sized strips would be in his possession allowing him to easily cut out and paste elements to create these new less-detailed composite versions.

A further six strips were also drawn by McLusky which effectively illustrate the explanatory text on the composite strip #1117 (pictured above and seen only in the original Daily Express version in English). These six strips conclude the story and explain how Bond finds the missing bombs, briefly battles Largo underwater, and ends up in a Nassau hospital where Felix Leiter fills in the gaps. Some syndicated foreign language versions of THUNDERBALL substituted these new versions of strips #1117-#1122 with those originally drawn for the Daily Express but not published; whilst others continued the hijacking scene as it was originally intended, and tacked on the six explanatory strips at the end. It is this version of THUNDERBALL that appears in the Titan Books anthology editions. Consequently there are two sets of strips labelled #1117-#1122, and therefore no definitive English language version of the story. The syndicated version of THUNDERBALL also includes an additional strip #1081a not published in the Daily Express, and presumably inserted into the narrative to compensate for the loss of the unique concluding strip #1117 which only appeared in the Express, and some early foreign language syndicated versions of THUNDERBALL.

THE JAMES BOND COMIC STRIP
Daily Express Series 2 (1964-1966) Drawn by John McLusky

Daily Express James Bond comic strip returns 1964/John McLusky photographed in 1981

It was not until Monday June 29, 1964 - just three weeks after the death of Lord Beaverbrook, that James Bond returned to his weekday strip in the Daily Express, with an epic 46-week adaptation of ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. The newsagent's billboards heralded the return with a two-colour poster, while John McLusky was back with pencil, pen and ink. The 15-month enforced sabbatical from Bond worked wonders for the artist. The story looked fresh and exciting and ranks beside YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE as McLusky's Bond masterworks. With superb visualisations of the story, and extraordinarily detailed backgrounds, these strips were Fleming's novels brought to life! McLusky's James Bond now began to look more like Sean Connery (1930-2020), whose first two James Bond films had become spectacular hits during the time the James Bond comic strip was absent from the Daily Express. Alas, with the completion of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE in 1966, both John McLusky and Henry Gammidge parted company with the strip, although the artist would return to illustrate five original stories written by Jim Lawrence in 1981-83, when the strip was then being published in the Daily Star.

ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge drawn by John McLusky

ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge
Monday June 29, 1964 to Saturday May 15, 1965 - Strip #1-#274 (46-weeks)
*

ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE strip #248a drawn by John McLusky

*ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET included an additional strip #248a (pictured above) printed only in the Scottish Daily Express on Good Friday April 16, 1965. This unique single panel strip did not appear in any later syndicated versions of the story, and adds nothing to the narrative other than briefly extending Bond's escape from Piz Gloria. The story resumed in the English Daily Express on Saturday April 17, 1965 with strip #249.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge drawn by John McLusky

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE by Ian Fleming adapted by Henry Gammidge
Monday May 17, 1965 to Saturday January 8, 1966 - Strip #275-#475 (34-weeks)

 

Part 2 - THE JAMES BOND COMIC STRIP 1966-1977


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