Tuesday, January 20, 2015

James Bond in Comics...Day 20 of Bond 365

I’m just going to jump right in to today’s Bond 365….

John McLusky
Born this day in 1923
Artist for James Bond comics featured in the Daily Express

In the articles I have read in research for today’s entry, many indicate that John McLusky created the first face of James Bond. That isn’t actually true, if we take into account the first televised adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel, which occurred in 1954’s anthology series called Climax! In that show, Barry Nelson portrayed James Bond in a condensed version of Fleming’s first novel Casino Royale in which Bond was pitted against Peter Lorre’s Le Chiffre. However, if instead we take the first English visual adaptation, then most assuredly, we should turn to London’s Daily Express comic strip that commenced on July 7, 1958.

Example of Illustrator John McLusky's James Bond comic strip for Daily Express

It took the newspaper editor, Edward Pickering, some effort to get Fleming to agree to having his novels adapted into daily comic strips, but Pickering was able to convince the author that it would be an advantageous step for Fleming to take. Pickering said they would start with the Casino Royale story and that it would be adapted by Anthony Hearne, a staff writer at the newspaper. John McLusky was chosen to illustrate, after Fleming approved McLusky’s comic strip sample (Bond and Red Grant’s fight sequence on the train in From Russia, With Love).

McLusky created 2,250 comic strips, bringing to life James Bond to the newspaper readers on a daily basis from 1958 through 1966 (there was a gap due to Kevin McClory's suit against Fleming stemming from Thunderball). Each day, the newspaper presented just three cells of a story. They were very popular and while the Fleming prose was trimmed substantially, the adventurous nature of the stories worked well. One of McLusky’s sons, Graham, wrote an essay for the website Universal Exports in which he described the early days of his father’s work on the series and how he and his brother would provide critiques of the day’s panels.

Example of a daily three-panel comic strip readers would have read to keep abreast of the adventures of James Bond

Although the comic strips were originally published decades ago, Titan Books has been reprinting those comic strips so a new generation could find enjoyment that Daily Express readers had all those years ago. The Titan series is titled The James Bond Omnibus and Volume 6 was released this past November. I took a look through my copy and the majority of stories in this volume are indeed illustrated by McLusky, so anyone interested in getting a good feel for his artistic interpretation of James Bond, could do so with this latest volume. If you are a comic book reader, you can check your Previews for the next release or you can order from Amazon or other online book retailers.

The latest volume, released November 2014 from Titan Books

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