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JAMES BOND
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THE JAMES BOND COMIC STRIP
Sunday Express Series 4 (1977) Drawn by Yaroslav Horak
WRITTEN & COMPILED BY GRAHAM RYE & KEVIN HARPER

After several years of undistinguished stories the single strip moved from the Daily Express on Saturday January 22, 1977 to reappear one week later as a three-strip format in the Sunday Express on January 30th. The new newspaper block had the title ‘James Bond’, but only the first strip of the trio had the title caption and drawing credits. These were restored on the syndicated single-strip version of the story seen in the Death Wing anthology in 2007 published by Titan Books, and The James Bond Omnibus Collection 005 in 2013. This new series of strips were also produced by the Jim Lawrence/Yaroslav Horak team, but the Sunday Express only ran one complete story in this format. When The Wizard Awakes ran for 18-weeks until Sunday May 29, 1977 when the James Bond comic strip left the newspaper and went into worldwide syndication. Four further stories were written by Jim Lawrence and illustrated by Yaroslav Horak and syndicated in newspapers outside the UK from 1977 to 1979. Horak had lived and worked in Spain and The Netherlands since 1973, and in 1980 moved back to Sydney to work on Cop Shop (a comic strip based on the popular Australian TV series), and his own new strip published in the Daily Mirror, featuring the sci-fi adventures of extra-terrestrial heroine Andea.

When The Wizard Awakes original story by J.D. Lawrence Sunday Express drawing by Horak

When The Wizard Awakes original story by J.D. Lawrence
Sunday January 30 to Sunday May 29, 1977 - Strip #1-#54 (18-weeks)

THE JAMES BOND COMIC STRIP
Syndicated stories (1977-1979) Drawn by Yaroslav Horak

Four further stories (and an incomplete adventure War Cloud) were written by Jim Lawrence and illustrated by Horak, and form part of the fourth series with the strip numbers following on sequentially from When The Wizard Awakes. The four completed stories were syndicated overseas but not collected or published in the UK until Titan Books included them in their Death Wing and Shark Bait anthologies in 2007/08. The stories were printed again in The James Bond Omnibus Collection 005 & 006 in 2013/14. The four complete syndicated stories marked the end of Horak's 14-year tenure as illustrator of the James Bond comic strip. He would briefly return to draw two further stories scripted by Jim Lawrence in 1983/84.

Sea Dragon original story by J.D. Lawrence drawing by Horak

Sea Dragon original story by J.D. Lawrence
Syndicated outside the UK in 1977 - Strip #55-#192 (23-weeks)

Death Wing original story by J.D. Lawrence drawing by Horak

Death Wing original story by J.D. Lawrence
Syndicated outside the UK in 1977-78 - Strip #193-#354 (27-weeks)

The Xanadu Connection original story by J.D. Lawrence drawing by Horak

The Xanadu Connection original story by J.D. Lawrence
Syndicated outside the UK in 1978 - Strip #355-#468 (19-weeks)

Shark Bait original story by J.D. Lawrence drawing by Horak

Shark Bait original story by J.D. Lawrence
Syndicated outside the UK in 1978-79 - Strip #469-#636 (28-weeks)

The Unfinished Adventure
A fifth story intended to follow Shark Bait was discovered in the Daily Express archives in 2009, whilst the final Titan Books anthology Nightbird was being prepared. Only 12 strips were completed by Yaroslav Horak before the story was abandoned and he returned to Australia. All 12 strips (#637-#648) were included as a special feature in the Nightbird anthology, and have not been reprinted since 2010. Pictured below is the title strip of the unfinished War Cloud story by Jim Lawrence and illustrated by Yaroslav Horak.

War Cloud original story by J.D. Lawrence drawing by Horak (incomplete)

War Cloud original story by J.D. Lawrence
Story abandoned in 1979 and unpublished until 2010 - Strip #637-#648 (unfinished)

 

THE JAMES BOND COMIC STRIP
Daily Star Series 5 (1981) Drawn by Harry North

Doomcrack original story by J.D. Lawrence drawn by Harry North

Doomcrack original story by Jim Lawrence
Monday February 2 to Wednesday August 19, 1981 - Strip #1-#174 (29-weeks)

On Monday February 2, 1981 Express Newspapers Group resurrected the James Bond comic strip, but this time in the Daily Star - a tabloid newspaper originally launched in 1978 to utilise printing presses that had been running under capacity due to falling Daily Express circulation. Once again scripted by Jim Lawrence, but this time illustrated by Harry North, replacing Yaroslav Horak who had returned to Sydney in 1980 to work on his own sci-fi comic strip featuring the 400-year old extra-terrestrial heroine Andea. Unfortunately North's style was not suited to the James Bond strip, and although unhappy with the result, he was unable to withdraw from the project due to contractual obligation. The first of the new stories was entitled Doomcrack, and seemed interminable, with the plot hardly advancing each day in its single strip. Doomcrack ran for 29-weeks, and was the longest story since COLONEL SUN over a decade earlier. When the story eventually ground to an end on Wednesday August 19, 1981 it had hardly been worth the effort.

UK MAD Magazine Issue #216 Moneyraker drawn by Harry North

British Cartoonist Harry North, whose excellent work was regularly featured in the US and UK editions of MAD magazine, had earlier provided the artwork for their 1980 spoof of the James Bond film Moonraker (1979), entitled Moneyraker. Originally appearing in the US edition #213 in March 1980, with a non-Bond related cover painted by Jack Davis (1924-2016) replacing regular MAD magazine artist Mort Drucker (1929-2020). Moneyraker then appeared in the UK issue #216 published a month later, but this time with a cover also painted by Harry North and featuring his rendition of Alfred E. Neuman, the fictitious MAD magazine mascot and cover boy, in a spoof of Daniel Goozee's Moonraker poster pose, but wearing Roger Moore's yellow space suit. The cover showcased the character's distinct smiling face and parted red hair, but his gap-toothed smile now featured the metal teeth of Jaws (Richard Kiel)!

Harry North MAD Magazine

Harry North Doomcrack

As Harry North had already visualised James Bond for MAD magazine in 1980 (above left), it is perhaps no surprise that when he came to illustrate Doomcrack shortly afterwards (above right), the square-jawed facial features of 007 still resembled Roger Moore.

 

THE JAMES BOND COMIC STRIP
Daily Star Series 5 (1981-1983) Drawn by John McLusky

John McLusky at work on The Paradise Plot 1981

The next story in the Daily Star series The Paradise Plot improved, if only because it brought the return of artist John McLusky after a 15-year absence from 007. However, the story was very disappointing, stepping too far into the realms of fantasy, and also suffered from a lack of pace and flow - and once again was far too long! But the ‘old’ Bond was there, complete with the comma of hair over his right eyebrow, and trusty Beretta in hand. The Daily Star only ran a further three stories, and bowed out with Polestar, which teamed 007 with Red Doe, a Cree Indian girl. Polestar ended abruptly after just eight weeks with no explanation given in the Daily Star. John McLusky's penultimate Bond strip was completed in order it could later be syndicated, and would also appear in collected editions of the James Bond comic strips from Titan Books.

John McLusky model reference/Goldfinger/For Your Eyes Only photo reference

Although the stories were now set in the 1980s, John McLusky's Bond still often looked like the artist had referenced his earlier artwork from the 1960s, even down to the rather outdated double-breasted dinner suit. John McLusky's workbench was littered with all manner of reference photographs and film stills of actors for him to draw upon for inspiration. A friend of the artist would often pose for him (above left), enabling McLusky to draw Bond in every conceivable position. However, some illustrations appear to have been too slavishly copied from other reference photographs. A panel from Flittermouse (above centre) is clearly based on a still of Gert Frobe in Goldfinger (1964); whilst another panel (above right) showing James Bond in firing stance from Deathmask, is the same Roger Moore pose seen on the film poster and publicity materials promoting For Your Eyes Only (1981). The four John McLusky Daily Star comic strips do not have a credit panel; instead the credits now appear in a block above the artwork as they had done in the first Daily Express comic strip CASINO ROYALE back in 1958. Curiously The Paradise Plot also credits the original story to ‘James Lawrence’ rather than ‘J.D.’ as was the case with all other non-Fleming stories with the exception of Fear Face in 1971 and Doomcrack in 1981.

The Paradise Plot original story by James Lawrence drawn by John McLusky

The Paradise Plot original story by James Lawrence
Thursday August 20, 1981 to Friday June 4, 1982 - Strip #175-#378 (34-weeks)

Deathmask original story by J.D. Lawrence drawn by John McLusky

Deathmask original story by J.D. Lawrence
Monday June 7, 1982 to Wednesday February 2, 1983 - Strip #379-#552 (29-weeks)

Flittermouse original story by J.D. Lawrence drawn by John McLusky

Flittermouse original story by J.D. Lawrence
Wednesday February 9 to Friday May 20, 1983 - Strip #553-#624 (12-weeks)

Polestar original story by J.D. Lawrence drawn by John McLusky

Polestar original story by J.D. Lawrence
Monday May 23 to Friday July 15, 1983 - Strip #625-#673 (8-weeks)*

*Polestar ended after just eight weeks in the Daily Star, this time with no explanation or final concluding strip. John McLusky did complete the artwork for the story which included a further 46 strips (#674-719) that were later syndicated outside the UK. The full story appears in the Polestar anthology published by Titan Books in 2008, and was reprinted in The James Bond Omnibus Collection 006 in 2014.

THE JAMES BOND COMIC STRIP
Syndicated stories (1983-1984)
Drawn by John McLusky & Yaroslav Horak

Following the cancellation of the strip in the Daily Star, writer Jim Lawrence would write three more original James Bond stories that were only syndicated outside the UK, but later published as part of the Polestar anthology by Titan Books in 2008. Titan would later include these four rarely seen stories in The James Bond Omnibus Collection 006 in 2014, which completed their publication of all James Bond comic strips. The first of the three syndicated strips was The Scent of Danger drawn by John McLusky, but returning as illustrator for the final two stories was Yaroslav Horak (now credited with his full name on the title strip), who once again had to use his imagination to flesh out Jim Lawrence's very brief scripts, which were unusually far shorter than anything he had written before. Despite their brevity these three final stories sadly did little to enhance the world of 007.

The Scent of Danger original story by J.D. Lawrence drawn by John McLusky

The Scent of Danger original story by J.D. Lawrence (Drawn by John Mclusky)
Syndicated outside the UK in 1983 - Strip #720-#821 (17-weeks)

Snake Goddess original story by J.D. Lawrence art by Yaroslav Horak

Snake Goddess original story by J.D. Lawrence (Art by Yaroslav Horak)
Syndicated outside the UK in 1983-84 - Strip #822-#893 (12-weeks)

Double Eagle original story by J.D. Lawrence art by Yaroslav Horak

Double Eagle original story by J.D. Lawrence (Art by Yaroslav Horak)
Syndicated outside the in UK 1984 - Strip #894-#965 (12-weeks)

THE JAMES BOND COMIC STRIP
The Express reprint (1997-1998) Drawn by Yaroslav Horak
The Express reprint (1999-2000) Drawn by John McLusky

On Monday December 8, 1997 THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS was reprinted to coincide with the release of Tomorrow Never Dies - Pierce Brosnan's second James Bond film which had its premiere at the ODEON Leicester Square on the following evening. As part of a marketing campaign designed to increase circulation, the Daily Express had been renamed The Express in 1996 (with the Sunday Express becoming The Express on Sunday). Despite having no connection to Pierce Brosnan, or the new film, The Express probably chose to reprint THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS as it was the shortest strip, running just nine-weeks, and would coincide with the cinematic life-cycle of Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

With The Express now printed in colour, the black-and-white Bond strip would have looked out of place in the comic block alongside Dilbert, The Gambols and Garfield. The strip was therefore colourized and instead of the moody cold war classic first seen in 1966, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS was now reduced to a garish cartoon. Although the James Bond comic strip had been colourized in overseas publications since the 1960s, the inappropriate colour choices always distracted from the highly stylized artwork of John McLusky and Yaroslav Horak, whose drawings lost the sense of reality so expertly captured in black-and-white.

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS short story by Ian Fleming adapted by James Lawrence 1997 Express reprint drawing by Horak

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS short story by Ian Fleming adapted by James Lawrence
Monday December 8, 1997 to Saturday February 7, 1998 - Strip #210-#263 (9-weeks)*

*Strip #223 was omitted from The Express reprint.

The Express November 23, 1999 masthead

To tie-in with the release of The World Is Not Enough (1999), The Express then reprinted the very first James Bond comic strip CASINO ROYALE, where it replaced the long-running cartoon strip The Gambols on the letters page of the newspaper. This time printed in black-and-white, CASINO ROYALE ran from Monday November 22, 1999 to Saturday April 29, 2000. As had been the case with the reprint of THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, one strip was omitted (#27 due to appear on Wednesday December 22, 1999) presumably to retain the traditional Monday start and Saturday end days as was the case when the strip originally appeared in the Daily Express. As both reprints were running over the Christmas/New Year period, this meant that there would be one day when the newspaper was not printed due to a public holiday. Express Newspapers was sold to publisher Richard Desmond in 2000, and the titles reverted to Daily Express and Sunday Express. The two newspapers were subsequently sold to Trinity Mirror (now Reach plc) in 2018.

CASINO ROYALE by Ian Fleming adapted by Anthony Hearne 1999 Express reprint drawing by John McLusky

CASINO ROYALE by Ian Fleming adapted by Anthony Hearne
Monday November 22, 1999 to Saturday April 29, 2000 - Strip #1-#138 (23-weeks)*

*Strip #27 was omitted from The Express reprint.

THE JAMES BOND COMIC STRIP
Sunday Express reprint (2021) Drawn by John McLusky

To tie in with the release of Daniel Craig's oft-delayed final outing as James Bond in No Time to Die, the Sunday Express published a double-page overview of the origins of the comic strip and once again began a reprint of CASINO ROYALE, with the first two strips appearing on September 26, 2021 - two days ahead of the world premiere of the 25th James Bond film. Daniel Craig's debut as 007 in 2006 was in the successful new interpretation of Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel. CASINO ROYALE therefore became the first and last story to be published in the Express - an astonishing 63 years apart. The complete collection of James Bond newspaper strips are still available from Titan Books, and form an important part of the history and development of the character, bridging the gap between the literary and visual world of Ian Fleming.

Sunday Express September 26, 2021

CASINO ROYALE by Ian Fleming adapted by Anthony Hearne
Reprinted in the Sunday Express from September 26, 2021 - Strips #1 & #2 featured as part of a double-page article, with strip #3 printed as a standalone feature on Sunday October 3, 2021.

Sunday Express October 3, 2021

Sunday newspapers traditionally used to print multiple strips in order that readers could experience a complete story within a shorter timescale. The Sunday Express unusually chose to present CASINO ROYALE in the single strip format from October 3, 2021. CASINO ROYALE continued to appear as a single strip each Sunday, and will not conclude until May 2024 - two-and-a-half years after it began, making it the longest-running single story in any publication.

 

Collected editions of the James Bond comic strips (English  language versions)


James Bond News

The complete checklist of all strips first published in Express newspapers,
and those syndicated outside the UK

FACT FILES