MI6 reviews Titan Books' newly reissued graphic
novel "James Bond 007: The Golden Ghost"
by Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav Horak.
"James Bond 007: The Golden Ghost"
30th April 2006
In the early 60's James Bond gripped the World. He was everywhere,
including national newspapers. This new title in Titan’s
impressive re-issue series continues with material from series
Bringing the daily Bond back to the public
in this timeless form, the strips saw Bond fighting his
foes in three panels and on the odd occasion two. Due to
the unique structure of the comic strip, each had to be
carefully crafted to clearly communicate location, plot
and character development to the reader.
Today sees the launch of the revised Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav
Horak graphic novel based on four original stories –
The Golden Ghost, Fear Face, Double Jeopardy and Star Fire.
Above: Cell from Double Jeopardy
The first of the three additional features contained in The Golden
Ghost is an introduction by Richard Kiel, best known for playing
Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Entitled Biting Back
the article is a look at how playing the role as one of the best-loved
henchmen of the film series changed his life, as well as comparing
the films he was involved in to the comic strip versions.
Above: Panel from "Star Fire"
The other two articles share a theme – James Bond's cars
– first looking at the Fleming era followed by the cars
featuring in John Gardner's books. Both articles contain box-outs
with trivia on order of appearance of Fleming’s cars and
Gardner’s modifications list to the SAAB 900.
The Golden Ghost
The story takes its name from an airship, about to take its maiden
flight. The introduction mentions the main weakness of this original
yarn, the transformation of 007 from gentleman spy to a Harry
Palmer style working class hero who sprinkles his conversation
with "mate" and "luv"!
"Moneypenny, me old luv", he says to M's secretary at
one point in the story, although he thankfully remains deferential
towards his boss, and it is difficult to read Bond’s dialogue
without Michael Caine making an appearance in your head.
The plot contains more action than any
of Fleming's stories and in some respects the plot is reminiscent
The blame for Bond's uncharacteristic words lies squarely
at the feet of writer Jim Lawrence, an American who was
clearly struggling with James Bond's identity. What is inexplicable
is that Lawrence must have seen Sean Connery in the role,
if not George Lazenby too, and to draw from the big screen
version would not only have been natural but also have provided
the public with a much more familiar version of their hero.
But perhaps the change of actors was the trigger to all
this schizophrenia – Sean Connery returned to the
role in Diamonds Are Forever the same year.
While The Golden Ghost is familiar, albeit original, Jim
Lawrence stepped firmly into the realm of science fiction
with Fear Face.
Possibly inspired by the technological leaps made for the
moon landings, as well as 2001 - A Space Odyssey in 1968,
Fear Face sees Bond investigating a series of murders, seemingly
at the hands of a faceless robot, the "fear face"
of the title.
Above: Front cover
The plot also sees Bond sheltering a double agent, on the run
from MI6, but all is not as it seems. However, we are back on
familiar territory as far as Bond’s dialogue goes –
he has given up his previous linguistic habits.
Another slightly far-fetched story in which some powerful figures
are kidnapped by SPECTRE and replaced with surgically altered
doubles. This idea was perhaps taken from the film version of
Thunderball, where Duvall‘s double was used to capture the
Vulcan bomber with atomic bombs.
The first crimes undertaken by the theft of some paintings and
a secret chemical formula, but later SPECTRE plans on upping the
stakes and wrecking relations between the Americans and Russians
in a story that takes Bond to Morocco.
When the leader of a hippy cult curses people who criticise him,
it always results in their death. James Bond is sent to investigate
what – or who – is behind this strange phenomenon.
The Complete James Bond Syndicated Newspaper
Rounding off this first reissue is a checklist of every Bond newspaper
strip including dates of print and reference numbers in a table
James Bond will return in 2006 in Trouble
Above: Cell from Fear Face
The Golden Ghost is a reasonably strong story, albeit with
strong influences from Ian Fleming’s books. However,
although the following three stories are interesting, they
are a long way from being traditional Bond plots. However,
the artwork is crisp and easily up to Horak's usual high
standards and Titan's source material is mostly excellent,
with just a few poor quality frames.
What is noticeable about all these stories is that they all have
some scenes in the UK and both Fear Face and Star Fire do not set
foot outside Britain at all, while Bond is only supposed to work
aboard unless given special dispensation, as in Moonraker. As well
as working outside MI6’s usual remit, it also breaks one of
the golden rules of the Bond stories, discovered by Fleming after
the lukewarm reception to Moonraker - always give the readers exotic
Images courtesy Titan Books and Amazon Associates.