Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Remembering James Bond. The James Bond Omnibus Volume 001

*It's 4 in the morning as I finish this so I am sure there are typos and missspelled words oh plenty. Oh well.

I have already reviewed the outstanding volume 002 here if you wish to read it as a refresher.

It's hard to imagine now since it was the big screen which made James Bond a world wide phenomenon but the silver screen was the last medium for Bond to conquer. He first appeared in the world as the main character of an escapist, adventure, spy novel Casino Royale written by the journalist Ian Fleming the 1953. The next year he would appear on American Television again Casino Royale and in 1956 he would make his radio debut in an South African broadcast of Moonraker. In 1958 James Bond would make his first appearance in Comic Strip form. Running in the Daily Express and ran, minus a 2 year stretch from 1962 until 1964, until 1983 in the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Starr and various other European newspapers. Volume 001 of the James Bond Omnibus contains the first strips from 1958's Casino Royale until the ill fated Thunderball in 1962.

If Volume oo2 is the stronger volume then volume 1 is no less essential for Bond geeks. The strips are not as strong as those in volume nor are they nearly as well structured still there is no denying that these strips had the best source material from which to choose from. Most of the best of Ian Fleming was adapted in these early strips. Most of the strips were written by Henry Gammidge. The only two that weren't were Casino Royale (Anthony Hern) and Dr. No. (Peter O'Donnell of Modesty Blaise fame) They were all drawn by John McLusky. Most fan boys find McLusky's artwork to be inferior to that of Yaroslav Horak who would replace McLusky in 1966. I not being a comic strip art critic can't see a whole lot of difference in the two to tell you the honest truth. Volume oo1 contains 11 comic strips.

Casino Royale 138 strips: *** 1/2/*****
The first thing a person reading this 53 year old strip might comment on today is how much like the 2006 movie it is. Yes there are technical differences but the story is the same. At times this strip almost appears as if it could be a story board. The art work of McLusky is here does seem to lack some direction but it gets stronger as the story progresses. The biggest negative to the icstrip is the odd decision to have Bond himself be the narrator which succeeds in killing much of the tension of the story while also giving Bond knowledge of events in the story at a point when he should have no knowledge them. The Strip also tones down the violence of the book and also the emotion of the ending.

Live And Let: Die 86 strips. ***/*****
Whether they decided that much of Flemings novel would be just too offensive or that it just didn't translated well into comic strip form, I tend to go with the later, Live and Let Die is a truncated comic strip version of Fleming's source novel only running 86 strips and again tones down the violence of the book thus robbing the story of it's best scenes. The scene where the shark maims Felix Liter for instance (Licence To Kill for you movie folk) is toned down and it's probably the best part of the book. The story however is none the weaker for not including Fleming's silly Harlem night club scenes but Solitaire is just as superfluous and weak here as she is in the book.

Moonraker: 113 Strips ****/*****
One of Fleming's best books is also a very strong comic strip. Some people do not like Moonraker because it's more personal and contains less action I personally like it for that very reason. The strip is very faithful to the book as all the early strips were. The strip does lose some points for still having Bond narrate. Great job of fleshing out Hugo Drax.

Diamonds Are Forever 146 strips **** /*****
Not for the last time one the less thought of Fleming novels makes a strong comic strip. In fact for what it is it's stronger than the book. The globe trotting plot translates well to comic strip as do the crazy villains and Tiffany Case. We begin to get away from the Bond as narrator structure thank goodness.

From Russia With Love: 95 strips ** /*****
Since books less thought of like Diamonds, Goldfinger and Golden Gun would go on to make great strips perhaps it's no surprise that From Russia With Love one of the most popular if not THE most popular novel is the weakest strip of the book and one of the weakest of the entire run. The first third of the novel doesn't contain James Bond and unlike later strips like The Spy Who Loved Me the strips had yet to experiment with the source material by adding and expanding on the story. So what you end up with is a short strip that follows much the book but doesn't seem to be any relation to it.

Goldfinger 146 strips **** 1/2/*****
The strongest strip of the book. Again it's exactly like the book which is also true of the movie so it's got a story board quality to much of it. Not much to add but well done.

Dr No: 113 Strips: **** /*****
Since "No" was written by Modesty Blaise creator Peter O'Donnell I was interested to go back and see if the story is more dialogue driven as Modesty Blaise comic strips are. The answer is yes. O'Donnell was a real pro at writing these strips. I am just now discovering and very much enjoying Modesty Blaise, so it should come as no surprise that this strip is very well done. Oddly Titan books would release some alternate art work of Dr. No. from other artist and much of it was better than McLuscky's.

Risico: 71 strips *** 1/2/*****
Since Risico was a short story in the novel For Your Eyes Only it's fitting that the strip is also quite short. The plot would be familiar to movie goers as part of the Movie For Your Eyes Only. The part about drug smuggling and Mr's Kristatos and Columbo. The strip well done but doesn't add anything to Fleming's story to flesh out a longer strip as the later adaptations of short stories would. BTW Kristatos in the strip looks a lot like Topal who played Columbo in the movie.

From A View To A Kill: 66 Strips. *** /*****
Another short story another short strip. The story has nothing to do with the movie which would more or less take it' name so don't expect any mean looking 6 foot tall women here. It's actually a straight espionage story more than anything. It's entertaining if not memorable.

For Your Eyes Only: 78 Strips *** 1/2/*****
Another short story adaptation from the book of the same name. The plot for you movie fans is the part about the murder of the Havelock family and their daughter here named Judy looking for revenge. In the short story the Havelocks live in Vermont and are friends of M which is why Bond is sent to investigate. The strip is very well done even if it too could have benefited from the tweaks they would give later stories.

Thunderball: 62 Strips Inccomplete/*****
Poor Thunderball never with out controversy. Ian Fleming had an argument with Lord Beaverbrook who ran the Express so the story was given a one strip wrap up in the middle of it's run. Meaning it's really pretty incomprehensible. Thunderball was not in my opinion one of the better books nor was either cinematic version one of the better movies. All relative of course. As we've learned that wouldn't have guaranteed a weak strip. Truth is we'll never know because of the sudden ending.

As a whole these 11 strips are not as strong as the 7 that make up Volume 002 still the book is treasure for Bond nerds like moi.

James Bond Omnibus Volume 1 ****/*****

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