007 MAGAZINE - The World's Foremost James Bond Resource!




Collected editions of the James Bond comic strip (English language versions)
The Menomonee Falls Gazette 1971-1978

Although a handful of the early James Bond comic strips drawn by John McLusky had been published in several US newspapers when the series went into syndication in the mid-1960s, none of the more recent original stories from writer Jim Lawrence and artist Yaroslav Horak had yet been seen in America. The Menomonee Falls Gazette subtitled “The international newspaper for comic art fans” was a weekly tabloid (11.5" X 16" approx) that reprinted popular newspaper comic strips from the USA, UK and Australia. Comic strips reprinted in this Wisconsin based publication normally fell into the adventure and soap opera category. Humorous strips were collected in a sister publication, The Menomonee Falls Guardian. Typically a full weeks’ worth (six strips) of a particular story were collected on a single page of The Gazette. Although their readership was relatively small The Menomonee Falls Gazette was the only North American newspaper printing James Bond comic strip throughout the 1970s, but after ten weeks the publication was already in financial difficulty.

Menomonee Falls Gazette James Bond masthead

The Menomonee Falls Gazette was available via newsstand distribution, but the bulk of sales came from worldwide subscriptions. The first issue was published on December 11, 1972 and featured the opening week of six strips from ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE drawn by John McLusky. Each subsequent week saw the next six sequential strips of the story until October 30, 1972 when the final four were printed. ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE was therefore published over 46 weekly issues mirroring the length of time the story originally appeared in the Daily Express in 1964-65. The Menomonee Falls Gazette benefited from very good quality reproduction in its loose paged offset printed format. Newspapers with a larger circulation traditionally used the web-offset method of printing. Unlike many other syndicated versions The Menomonee Falls Gazette presented the strips exactly as they were seen in the Daily Express, without any reformatting or removal of the title stat (the block of text containing the credits ‘JAMES BOND BY IAN FLEMING DRAWING BY HORAK pasted onto each strip). One reader had commented via the letters page in Issue #13 that OHMSS was essentially the same as the book (and had been printed in several newspapers in the USA in 1966) and of little value when new stories with better art were now available. The Gazette replied they had hoped to present one of the more recent Jim Lawrence scripted stories but promised the next story would be illustrated by Horak. However they stuck with Ian Fleming source material and instead printed THE HILDEBRAND RARITY as their next James Bond story, although still their first Horak strip (OCTOPUSSY had been first published over three issues of Cartoonist Showcase the previous year). The Menomonee Falls Gazette publication of THE HILDEBRAND RARITY in comic strip format also coincided with the US television debut of 007 in Goldfinger (1964) broadcast on September 17, 1972 on the ABC Network. In their editorial printed in the November 27th Issue #50 The Menomonee Falls Gazette commented:

...Everyone knows that when a movie is shown on TV, its usually butchered. But the classic example of that has to be one of the cuts made on Goldfinger. When Bond is trying to dissuade Goldfinger from using a nerve gas on Fort Knox, saying it'll kill 60,000 innocent people, Goldfinger replies, “So What? American motorists kill that many people every 2 years.” that was cut because the sponsor was Chevrolet...

The Menomonee Falls Gazette Issue #52 THE HILDEBRAND RARITY

Horak artwork for the James Bond strip did not feature on the cover of The Menomonee Falls Gazette until issue #51 published on December 4, 1972 with a panel from strip #586 of THE HILDEBRAND RARITY showing Bond in a typical dynamic action scene, although the sequence would not appear in the story for another five months. John McLusky's art from the introductory strip for OH HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE had also featured on the cover of Issue #31 six months after the story had started!

The Menomonee Falls Gazette Issue #76 THE SPY WHO LOVED ME

Horak's James Bond made the cover of The Menomonee Falls Gazette once again on May 28, 1973 to mark the start of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME in Issue #76. Among the original material supplied by the Daily Express was the recap strip #796A originally printed in the newspaper to remind readers where they were in the story after a five-week gap due to industrial action in August/September 1968. Although strip #796a had appeared in the original Daily Express narrative, its inclusion in Issue #108 of The Menomonee Falls Gazette is somewhat redundant. Curiously strip #608A which would have appeared sequentially after first six panels of the story (illustrated above) was not supplied, and was therefore only seen in the Scottish edition of the Daily Express on Tuesday December 26, 1967. The Menomonee Falls Gazette presentation of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME also included strip #721 in Issue #95 published in October 1973. Strip #721 was missing from the materials supplied to Titan Books when they collected the story in 1989. The missing strip did appear in their subsequent 2005 softcover anthology and The James Bond Omnibus 002 in 2011, and in the most recent hardcover collection Spectre: The Complete Comic Strip Collection published in 2015. However, the strip now slightly differs from the Daily Express original pictured below, and has digitally created text in Vivien Michel's thought bubbles.

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME Strip #721 drawn by Horak as it appeared in the Daily Express

From Issue #95 The Menomonee Falls Gazette had doubled its size to 48-pages and now included 50 different comic strips. From this issue onwards the header at the top of the James Bond page was also inexplicably changed to read ‘Ian Fleming's James Bond by Larry Horak and Jim Lawrence’. The name ‘Larry’ had not been used by the artist whilst living in England 1962-73. Stories written by Jim Lawrence for Captain Easy and his own Friday Foster comic strip also appeared in The Menomonee Falls Gazette for the first time in Issue #95. Writer Jim Lawrence gave a telephone interview with The Menomonee Falls Gazette in late 1975 and he informed the publishers that ‘Larry’ Horak was actually Yaroslof (sic) Horak! The artist was then living in Europe and very little was known about him at the time. Work published outside his native Australia had always just been credited to ‘Horak’.

James Bond by Larry Horak and Jim Lawrence masthead

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME concluded with the final four strips appearing in Issue #111 published on January 28, 1974 along with the first two strips from Jim Lawrence's debut original James Bond story The Harpies, and replicated how they would have been seen in the Daily Express throughout the first week of October 1968. James Bond made the cover again with Issue #128 of The Menomonee Falls Gazette which now had been reduced to 40-pages as the costs of producing the publication were by now far outweighing what was received in subscriptions. Publisher Street Enterprises (made up from the initial letters of the surnames of co-founder Jerry Sinkovec and Editor Mike Tiefenbacher) revealed in this issue that the Daily Express charged $10 for a weeks worth of James Bond strips alone, which was more than double the price charged for the American comics. The cover image of Issue #128 was actually a panel from strip #1113 of River of Death - the next original Jim Lawrence story in the series that would not debut in the publication for another four months!

The Harpies strip #970 drawn by Yaroslav Horak

One eagle-eyed reader noted that strip #970 (pictured above) from The Harpies was missing from that weeks’ strips in Issue #137. The Menomonee Falls Gazette explained that the strip was not provided by Knight Features (then syndicating the James Bond comic strip) and was missing from their archive. The strip was also missing from the 2005 Titan Books anthology when The Harpies was paired with THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. It does however appear in later anthology versions from Titan Books. Strip #970 originally only appeared in Scottish editions of the Daily Express on Good Friday April 4, 1969. Unusually the Express did not initiate an additional unique ‘A-strip’ for Scotland, and #970 was omitted from the narrative in the English/Welsh editions of the Express (although no essential story information was lost), and as a result never incorporated into the materials supplied to Knight Features for syndicated editions of The Harpies.

The Menomonee Falls Gazette Issues #128 & #166

Further confusion arose on January 13, 1975 when a weeks’ worth of strips from COLONEL SUN (#1179-#1184) appeared in Issue #161 in place of the expected River of Death narrative. The missing week was printed in place of one of the other comics along with correct weeks’ worth of River of Death strips in Issue #162. Six weeks before the conclusion of River of Death James Bond once again appeared on the cover of Issue #166 of The Menomonee Falls Gazette, in an action panel from strip #1164, although this part of the story would not actually appear in the publication for another three weeks. The publication had now increased in price to $1 to help cover the spiralling production costs. The Menomonee Falls Gazette was published weekly until March 1, 1976 when the publication admitted that the cost of licensing strips was becoming prohibitive and were consequently struggling to survive with mounting debts, and not enough subscribers to cover the costs of production. A year after its debut The Gazette had 780 subscribers in 47 US states (along with Midway Island and Puerto Rico) and ten other countries. By August 1976 the circulation had grown to around 1,300, but this was still not enough to make it financially viable. From April 1976 the publication appeared monthly, although this format ceased with the November 1976 issue and the newspaper was not published again until June 15, 1977. James Bond appeared on the cover of Issue #206 to announce the start of the next story The Golden Ghost which started the following week. The panel is was taken from strip #1482 which would not actually appear in the story until Issue #222, by which time the publication was then being printed monthly.

The Golden Ghost Strip #1494 missing from Menomonee Falls Gazette

Strip #1494 (pictured above) of The Golden Ghost was omitted from the narrative and would also be missing from the Titan Books anthology first printed in April 2006. This strip was not printed in Daily Express in January 1970, so was probably missing from their archives when materials were supplied to The Menomonee Falls Gazette. One day of strike action by a newsprint union on Tuesday December 8, 1970 meant that the Daily Express was not printed that day, although the newspaper did not omit a strip from the story at that point in time, and the correct sequential strip #1486 appeared as usual on Wednesday December 10th. It is possible that strip #1494 was later omitted from the newspaper the following week as it adds nothing to the narrative as the story nears its conclusion. The missing strip was evidently located and appears in the version of the story presented in The James Bond Omnibus 003 published by Titan Books in March 2012.

The Menomonee Falls Gazette Issues #226 & #221

Issue #221 in April 1976 also had a James Bond cover but this time not using Horak's artwork, instead featuring a newly commissioned illustration by legendary comic book artist Jim Aparo (1932-2005). The Menomonee Falls Gazette then appeared sporadically for five further issues, and eventually ceased publication with Issue #232 (actually printed as #234 on the cover) on March 3, 1978. The James Bond strip Fear Face written by Jim Lawrence and illustrated by Horak therefore abruptly ended mid-story. The Menomonee Falls Gazette was an important publication in so far as it kept the James Bond comic strip available with reprints of the original English language version of the stories. By mid-1975 the strip was syndicated in 37 countries in 77 different newspapers, but The Menomonee Falls Gazette was the only publication to feature the series in the USA. Although the James Bond strip was printed in Australia and New Zealand at this time, every other country would have translated the dialogue and often reformatted the artwork for local publication. The strip was extremely popular in Latin American countries, with a handful of European newspapers still syndicating the stories in the 1970s. The rise in popularity of the colourful self-contained superhero comic books in the 1970s led to the demise the daily narrative strip format and were discontinued in many newspapers, with only humorous standalone strips still printed. With an amazing back catalogue of material, many publishers took to reprinting daily comic strips in a collected format, and these are still popular today, with the James Bond comic strip being no exception. With the character still being reinvented in numerous comic book series, James Bond long ago parted company with the original works of Ian Fleming, which are best enjoyed on the printed page, or superbly visualised in the comic strip format by John McLusky and Yaroslav Horak.