Starting in 1958 and continuing to 1983, James Bond, the fictional character created by author Ian Fleming, appeared in a comic strip that consisted of 52 story arcs that were syndicated in British newspapers, 7 of which were initially published abroad.
In 1957, the Daily Express, a newspaper owned by Lord Beaverbrook, approached Ian Fleming about adapting his James Bond stories as comic strips. Fleming was then reluctant, because he felt the comic strips would lack the quality of his writing, potentially hurting his spy novel series while he was still writing. To wit, Fleming wrote:
“The Express are desperately anxious to turn James Bond into a strip cartoon. I have grave doubts about the desirability of this … Unless the standard of these books is maintained they will lose their point, and, I think, there I am in grave danger that inflation will spoil not only the readership, but also become something of a death-watch beetle inside the author. A tendency to write still further down might result. The author would see this happening, and disgust with the operation might creep in.”
Regardless, Fleming later agreed, and the first strip Casino Royale was published in 1958. The story was adapted by Anthony Hern, who previously had serialised Diamonds Are Forever and From Russia with Love for the Daily Express. The illustrations were by John McLusky, who later would illustrate twelve more James Bond comic strips with his partner Henry Gammidge until 1966.
To aid the Daily Express in illustrating James Bond, Ian Fleming commissioned an artist to sketch whom he believed James Bond to look like. John McLusky, however, felt that Fleming’s 007 appeared too “outdated” and “pre-war”, and thus changed James Bond to a more rugged and masculine appearance.
The majority of the early comic strips were adapted by Henry Gammidge; however, the Dr. No adaptation was by Peter O’Donnell, years before he launched his legendary strip Modesty Blaise.
In 1962 the Daily Express abruptly cancelled their agreement with Ian Fleming when Lord Beaverbrook and Fleming disputed the rights to the James Bond short story “The Living Daylights”. Fleming had sold the rights to the Sunday Times, a rival newspaper — upsetting Beaverbrook into terminating his business relationship with Fleming. The dispute abruptly ended the comic strip adaptation of Thunderball. Actually, Thunderball never was finished; however, additional panels were added later for its syndication to other newspapers, and to expand and conclude the story. Beaverbrook and Fleming later settled their differences, and the comic strip serial would continue in 1964 with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
In 1966 Yaroslav Horak replaced John McLusky as the artist for the Daily Express comic strip series and adapted six more Ian Fleming James Bond novels and short stories as well as Kingsley Amis’ Colonel Sun with partner Jim Lawrence. The Living Daylights was also republished in the Daily Express after first appearing in the first edition of the Sunday Times magazine on February 4, 1962 and in the American magazine Argosy in June of the same year under the title “Berlin Escape.”
With the success of The Man with the Golden Gun Horak and Lawrence subsequently went on to write and illustrate twenty original James Bond comic strips for the Daily Express after being granted permission by Ian Fleming’s Trust.
Other James Bond comic strips
In 1977 the Daily Express discontinued their series of Bond comic strips, although Horak and Lawrence went on to write and illustrate several other James Bond adventures for syndication abroad in Europe, for the Sunday Express (the Sunday edition of the Daily Express), and the Daily Star. Additionally, John McLusky returned to team up with Jim Lawrence for five comic strips. One strip, Doomcrack, is unusual in that it featured artwork by Harry North, who at the time worked for MAD Magazine on its film parodies.
The 1983 strip Polestar was abruptly terminated by the Daily Star midway through its run and was not completed, although the complete story did appear in non-UK newspapers and was followed by several more complete serials before the James Bond comic strip officially came to an end.
D101 – Casino Royale
D102 – Live and Let Die
D203 – Octopussy
D204 – The Hildebrand Rarity
D205 – The Spy Who Loved Me