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The Face Of James Bond by John McLusky


John McLusky obituary

GRAHAM RYE takes a personal look at the passing of an important figure in the evolution of the James Bond character. John McLusky (1923-2006).

John McLusky, the original artist who brought James Bond to life in the strip cartoons of the Daily Express and Daily Star, died aged 83 on Tuesday 5th September. John’s last wishes, which have been duly respected by his sons Graham and Sean, were that his body be donated to medical science, as John never did want to attend his own funeral!

John McLusky (1923-2006)

John McLusky photographed in October 1981 by Graham Rye.

John McLusky was a Second World War artist for Bomber Command and, until 1958 and the first James Bond comic strip, was a freelance illustrator whose sometime client was D C Thomson, the Scottish publishing giant. During a break from 007 in 1962-64, John illustrated The Beast of Loch Craggon for Longacre Press’s famed Eagle comic. After leaving James Bond with the Daily Express in 1966, John drew strips such as Secret Agent 13 for Fleetway’s June and illustrations for the groundbreaking Look & Learn, then worked for 15 years on the immensely popular TV Comic, drawing strips such as Orlando (based on the children’s TV series starring Sam Kydd), Laurel and Hardy (a personal favourite of John’s), and The Pink Panther cartoon character. In the late Sixties and early Seventies John worked on the Thames TV series Hattytown (where all the characters were hats, except for Carrots the donkey!).

John McLusky Daily Express comic strips John McLusky Daily Express comic strips John McLusky Daily Express comic strips

John McLusky illustrated the original James Bond Daily Express comic strip from 1958-1965
ABOVE: (top) GOLDFINGER [1960-61] (centre) DR. NO [1960] (left) CASINO ROYALE [1958]. (bottom left) FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE [1960] (bottom centre) ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE [1964-65].

In August 1981, Gerald Lip, the Express strip editor, asked John to return to draw new James Bond strips for the Daily Star (the last original James Bond newspaper strips to appear), which he did for three years.

John eventually retired due to ill-health and no longer cartooned, and also due to health reasons sadly had to give up playing the violin, Punch & Judy puppeteering, and his occasional art lectures.

Flittermouse #604

I first met John McLusky in 1981 during my research for the first complete history of the illustrated James Bond for a feature in 007 MAGAZINE. The last time I visited John in his artist’s studio during the Nineties (where he also lived by that time), he painstakingly prepared me a delightful meal, over which we shared a bottle of wine and chatted about the state of the world in general and his memories of the stress and pressure of producing a James Bond strip six-days-a-week every week for years at a stretch. Although it was something that paid regularly and put quality food on the table, it was also something that brought strain into his personal life.

John McLusky was also a watercolour artist of considerable talent, I remember some of his impressive work graced the walls of his studio home, many of which would have looked equally at home in the Royal Academy. During his retirement he took up an extensive programme of reading, which he said was to fill in all the knowledge gaps due to the many years of slaving over a drawing board.

John was also great character and communicator, and someone who, together with his work, I will always fondly remember. With his passing yet another important link in the evolution of the James Bond character has passed into history, however, his work lives on courtesy of Titan Books in their excellent compilation albums of his Daily Express James Bond strip cartoon work, and in the pages of 007 MAGAZINE.

John McLusky illustrates THE PARADISE PLOT

John at the drawing board illustrating THE PARADISE PLOT serialized in The Daily Star in 1981-82

THE FACE OF JAMES BOND - an exclusive excerpt from GRAHAM RYE's groundbreaking 1982 article The Illustrated James Bond.