There has been some interest expressed in a discussion of the James Bond comic strips. To that end, I have set up this index, which I will update as we go along. Right now I am committed to go from “Casino Royale” through “You Only Live Twice.” After that, we’ll see.
IAN FLEMING / HENRY GAMMIDGE / JOHN McCLUSKY*
Casino Royale - p1
Live and Let Die
Diamonds Are Forever
From Russia with Love
From a View to a Kill
For Your Eyes Only
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
You Only Live Twice
IAN FLEMING / JIM LAWRENCE / YAROSLAV HORAK
The Man with the Golden Gun
The Living Daylights
The Hildebrand Rarity
The Spy Who Loved Me
JIM LAWRENCE / YAROSLAV HORAK*
River of Death
The Golden Ghost
Isle of Condors
The League of Vampires
Die With My Boots On
The Girl Machine
Beware of Butterflies
The Nevsky Nude
The Phoenix Project
The Black Ruby Caper
Till Death Do Us Part
The Torch-Time Affair
Ape of Diamonds
When the Wizard Awakes
The Xanadu Connection
The Paradise Plot
The Scent of Danger
*(except as noted)
THE VILLAIN: Doctor No
THE GIRL: Honeychile Rider
THE PLOT: Sabotaging U.S. missiles
COMMENTARY: This one is written by Peter O’Donnel, not Henry Gammidge. It is the first adaptation to feature objective narration. This is the story in which Bond is forced to give up his .25 Beretta for a Walther PPK (the latter isn’t even mentioned by name in the strip). Quarrel, previously seen in Live and Let Die, is killed. In the movies, because they were filmed out of order, Quarrel in the movie Live and Let Die becomes “Quarrel, Jr.” Dr. No was the most recent book when it was turned into the first James Bond movie. The movie is a faithful adaptation of the book, except for the visual depiction of the villain and the fight with the giant squid, which was (wisely, I believe) left out of the end of the movie. The most politically incorrect aspect of the novel (“Chigroes,” minor villains of mixed Chinese and Negro blood) were downplayed in the movie and not mentioned in the comic strip at all. I’ll have some more examples of what is now known as “political incorrectness” next time.
THE VILLAIN: Auric Goldfinger, Oddjob
THE GIRL: Jill Masterson, Tilly Masterson, Pussy Galore
THE PLOT: Stealing the gold from Fort Knox
ALLIES: Felix Leiter
When I first started this discussion it was my intention to limit it to treatment of the comic strips only, but almost as soon as I started I began folding in comparisons to the original novels, and after that it was just a short step to discussing the movies as well. I’ve read the entire series, start to finish, at three different points in my life (plus individual novels at odd times), and I’ve taken something different from them each time. The first time I read them all I was in junior high school, the second time I was in college, and the third time was in the ‘90s. The last time a read through all 14 I was struck by how dated they were and decided I didn’t need to read them anymore. While flipping through Goldfinger to pull a quote, I was reminded of a few other passages that struck me, in different ways and at different times, over the years.
The first quote that came to mind was Goldfinger’s philosophy on smoking. I smoked my first cigarette, on my own, when I was in the sixth grade. I didn’t like it much. I smoked my second a year later in a peer pressure situation. I didn’t like it any better then. When I came across Goldfinger’s opinion of smoking, it stuck with me, but let me give you a bit of advice: it won’t impress the average 14 year-old smoker. Goldfinger said: “Smoking I find the most ridiculaous of all the varieties of human behavior and practically the only one that is entirely against nature. Can you imagine a cow or any animal taking a mouthful of smoldering straw and then breathing in the smoke and blowing out through its nostrils? Pah!”
In the ‘90s, the one passage that convinced me the novels were hopelessly dated was from Live and Let Die (which I thought about using when I dealt with the comic strip adaptation, but was still trying not to discuss the books or movies at that time, so I’ll use it now). This is a bit of narration, taken from the same book which features Felix Leiter’s “I like Negroes” speech, which is equally dated. “It was a smart, decisive bit of driving, but what startled Bond was that it had been a Negress at the wheel, a fine-looking Negress in a black chauffeur’s uniform… Hardly anywhere in the world will you find a Negress driving a car. Barely conceivable even in Harlem, but that was certainly where the car was from.”
James Bond is one of those characters whose books, like Tarzan and Doc Savage, I was assumed would always remain in stock at bookstores. Are kids still inspired by James Bond movies to read some of the novels? Are adults? Every once in a while, usually in conjunction with the release of the latest movie, new editions of the books, with a snappy new trade dress, will appear on the shelves. What do people picking up James Bond for the first time make of passages like the one above?
My last example caught my eye just recently while I was trying to locate the smoking passage. “Bond came to the conclusion that Tilly Masterson was one of those girls whose hormones had got mixed up. He knew the type well and thought that they and their male counterparts were a direct consequence of giving votes to women and ‘sex equality.’ As a result of fifty years of emancipation, feminine qualities were dying out or being transferred to the males. Pansies of both sexes were everywhere, not completely homosexual, but confused, not knowing what they were. The result was a herd of unhappy sexual misfits—barren and full of frustrations, the women wanting to dominate and the men to be nannied. He was sorry for them, but he had no time for them.”
Interesting philosophy. I wonder what today’s LGBQT would have to say about that?
Beyond that, the violence of the book has been toned down somewhat for the comic strip, but otherwise it is a faithful adaptation. Jill Masterson’s iconic death occurred off-camera (Bond didn’t even find out about it until later). As in the book, Tilly played a larger role than she did in the movie. The famous “laser” scene of the movie remains true to its pulpy, literary roots: a buzz saw. The golf game, as in the movie, was reduced from a full 18 holes to three. Oddjob’s original death (given to Goldfinger himself in the movie version), remains intact.
My take is that the Bond novels as well as the works of ERB, and for that matter most per-1980 popular fiction books, are slowly fading into obscurity.
As for Goldfinger - the movie is one of my favorites in the Bond series, I would rank both the novel and the comic strip adaption somewhere in the middle of the pack though.