MI6 looks back at the 25 year history of the 007's newspaper comic strip adventures, which began with "Casino Royale" in 1958...

History of 007's Newspaper Strips
15th September 2004

Four years before Sean Connery would bring 007 to the silver screen with "Dr No", Daily Express readers in the UK got their first sight of James Bond in 1958.

Although initially reluctant, Ian Fleming finally granted permission to the London Daily Express to create a syndicated series of comic strips based on his novels. Despite having been a journalist for the Express himself, Fleming hesitated to accept the offer because he was worried that his creation would devalue, and had concerns about other writers transposing his stories to the new format.

"The Express are desperately anxious to turn James Bond into a strip cartoon. I have grave doubts about the desirability of this... Unless the standard of these books is maintained they will lose their point and I think there I am in grave danger that inflation will spoil not only the readership but also become something of a death-watch beetle inside the author. A tendency to write still further down might result. The author would see this happening, and disgust with the operation might creep in." - Ian Fleming, 1957

Edward Pickering, then editor of the Express, persuaded Fleming that the comic strips would be a "Rolls Royce" of a series with Anthony Herne to adapt the series, who had previously serialised some of Fleming's novels for publication in the Express.

Pickering also gave Fleming the final vote of approval on the material before it would go for publication. Fleming agreed to these terms and sold the rights of his novels for syndication.

Right: Daily Express 1958 advertisement preparing its readers for the introduction of James Bond in "Casino Royale".


Fleming's first James Bond novel "Casino Royale" would also become the starting point for the newspaper series, with the first strip published on July 7th 1958. Staff writer Anthony Hearne adapted the novel, and John McLusky was brought in to illustrate.

Above: The opening panel of "Casino Royale"

Initially sticking closely to Fleming's source material, the strips created by Hearne and McLusky were an instant success and boosted sales of the newspaper. Fleming's concerns were eased when the flow of the stories, although only read at a rate of three cells a day, kept readers hooked despite losing a lot of Fleming's detailed prose from the original material. The punchy, fast-paced style and daily "cliff-hangers" suited Bond's adventures perfectly.


McLusky teamed up with writer Henry Gammidge for the following seven years, recreating Fleming's novels and short stories in the graphic form almost chronologically (except for a one-off partnership of writer Peter O'Donnell with McLusky for 1960's "Dr. No" adaptation).

Trouble broke out in 1962 however, when Fleming published his short story "The Living Daylights" in rival newspaper The Sunday Times. Express owner Lord Beaverbrook was angered and abruptly curtailed the publication of the current strip "Thunderball", which was only two months into syndication. Kevin McClory, a thorn in the side of many future Bond productions, also began his first legal action against Fleming for rights on "Thunderball", which he co-wrote. Eventually a settlement was bashed out between Fleming and McClory, allowing the Express to continue publication of Fleming's other works in 1964 - restarting with "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".

Left: Daily Express 1964 advertisement celebrating the return of James Bond.

Above: The opening panel of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"

Thirteen adventures since the Express began publishing Bond strips back in 1958, Gammidge and McLusky stepped aside for the new team of Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav Horak as writer and artist respectively. The new style had a harder edge, with Horak's sharp line art complimenting Lawrence's creative work adapting the remaining, weaker, Fleming material. 007's latest comic strip incarnation, starting with "The Man With The Golden Gun" in 1966, broke away from the image then synonymous with Sean Connery on the silver screen, as Bond returned back to his cold-hearted, ruthless and dangerous roots.

Above: The opening panel of "The Man With The Golden Gun"

The new team proved so popular with the Fleming Trust that Lawrence and Horak were given the nod to add their own elements to any existing Fleming material, and then continue with their own - original - adventures. The duo would have 33 comic strip stories published in UK newspapers in all, along with six adventures syndicated outside of the UK.

Right: "The Spy Who Loved Me" was the last Fleming title to be adapted, first published on December 18th 1967.


In addition to these two long running partnerships, a one-off pairing of writer Jim Lawrence with artist Henry North created original story "Doomcrack" in 1981 for the Daily Star (part of the Express newspaper group). Lawrence was then paired with original 007 strip artist John McLusky for a further four adventures for the newspaper, and finally "The Scent of Danger " which was published outside the UK. The dream team of Lawrence and Horak came back for two final adventures ("Snake Goddess", "Double Edge"), again unpublished in the UK.

Journey's end for James Bond in the UK serialised newspaper comic strip format would come on 15th July 1983, upon the publication of strip #673 of "Polestar" in the Daily Star (the story actually ended on strip #719). In total, 45 adventures had been syndicated in UK newspapers over the previous 25 years, with an additional 7 adventures published abroad. An amazing 6,500+ strips had been produced between 1958 and 1983.

Today, James Bond's classic comic strip adventures are being brought back to life by Titan Books, who began remastering and republishing the stories starting with "The Man With The Golden Gun" in February 2004.

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