The Complete Spectre James Bond 007 Comic Strip Returns to Print
EON Productions not only brought back James Bond to movie screens, the production company's reboot of the 007 series also brought back several familiar characters. 2015's Spectre returned the notorious terrorist organization and its leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld as Bond's primary antagonists. The new version of Spectre and Blofeld are far different from the versions appearing in the 1960's entries in the Bond films. Serious fans of 007 also know that versions of Spectre and Blofeld from Ian Fleming's original novels were dissimilar as well. With the release of James Bond: Spectre: The Complete Comic Strip Collection brings the true spirit of Fleming's heroes and villains in sequential art form.
The Literal Literature of the James Bond Comic Strip
In the 1960's, a comic strip version of James Bond's adventures appeared in British newspapers. The popularity of the movies certainly contributed to the strip being a hit that ran for several years. Interestingly, the comic strip adaptions did not follow the movie versions of 007's adventures. Instead, they created illustrated versions of the novel. The true, original, literary spirit of Ian Fleming's material is meticulously captured in these outstanding reprint collections published by Titan Books.
The collection reprints segments from Thunderball and the complete versions of The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice. Fans of the films who never read the novels may be intrigued by the original narrative. The literary version of You Only Live Twice allows Bond to find closure after the death of Tracy at the climax of On Her Majesty's Secret Service - something never done in any cinematic version.
None of the power and impact of the novels are lost in the comic strip adaption. The strips are wonderfully illustrated and scripted. The visual depiction of the events comes to life thanks to the incredible artwork of John McLusky and Yaroslav Horak. Fleming is credit as the writer, but his original works were adapted by Anthony Hern, Henry Gammidge, Peter O'Donnell, and Jim Lawrence. Never do the comic strip versions come off as weak and rushed summaries of Ian Fleming's work. The spirit of the novels lives in these works. Much of that has to do with the adult nature of comic strips.
The Spectre of Mature Themes in the James Bond Comic Strips
A number of "funny strips" definitely were designed for younger audiences. Youngsters may not have cared for the sports and business sections in their local paper and turned to the pages featuring Beetle Baily and Hagar the Horrible. Amazing strips such as Peanuts and Garfield could successfully balance appealing to both adults and kids. And then there were the more mature strips designed for older readers such as Prince Valiant and Steve Canyon.
With the James Bond newsprint series, the writing remained steadfastly mature. The violence is unflinching, and Bond's alpha male promiscuity remains ever-present. A character in the strip points out Bond's desire for "nicotine, alcohol, and sex" serves as a useless distraction and likely acts as a means of escaping pain, depression, and unhappiness.
No one was trying to tone down the material here. Even the original reason why Blofeld electrocuted a Spectre officer is retained. In the film version of Thunderball, the execution was punishment for embezzlement. In the strip, the officer's death serves as punishment for his sexual assault of a kidnap victim. The strip was not directed towards a young audience.
Much has been written about the maturation of storytelling in comic books over the years. While comic books did conduct a slow match to mature-themed works over the decades, it would not be accurate to say mature sequential art storytelling started in comic books. A grand history of comic strips reveals comic style mature works existed long before comic book went into that direction. Considering the consumers of newspapers were adults, writing strips to appeal to adult sensibilities made sense.
James Bond: Spectre: The Complete Comic Strip Collection truly shows how perfectly the comic strip style of writing can serve as a tremendous venue for mature storytelling across a wide range of genres. Comic book fans who also enjoy the 007 films may wish to purchase this hardcover book to experience an intriguing work from the glory days of Bond mania.