by Dave Karlen

     In 1957, five years before the first Bond film, the London Daily Express approached Ian Fleming with offers to publish a serial strip based on his world famous secret agent, James Bond. Fleming was initially reluctant to accept the generous offer because he was afraid of the quality of the writing and did not want to see his new creation cheapen in value when he was still writing more novels. Even though he had worked as a journalist for the Daily Express, he desired to keep his hero as secret as possible. He wrote at the time: "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."

      With the assurances of Edward Pickering, the Express editor, that it would be a "Rolls Royce" of a job and Fleming would have final approval on all the material, he finally agreed to sell the rights for serialization. The first novel, 'Casino Royale', was published in July 1958. It was adapted by the Express staff writer Anthony Hearne and illustrated by John McLusky.

      During the planning of the new feature, Fleming commissioned his own artist's impression of James Bond as a guide to how he saw his hero. Having seen the portrait executed for Fleming, McLusky found it too "outdated" and "pre-war" in spirit and created Bond with a more aggressive masculine look. He based the character on an amalgam of film actors like Robert Taylor, Gary Cooper, and others with a fine bone-structure face. There is a difference of opinion with Bond fans as to who helped create the face of James Bond. It has been said that it is quite possible that McLusky's drawing of Bond may well have been responsible for Sean Connery being cast as 007 in the first film. "Dr. No" was made a number of years after the first strip cartoons appeared, there was an uncanny resemblance to the actor. There are stories that Connery was sitting in his dressing room with another actor after a theatre production. This other actor was reading a copy of the Daily Express and remarked that Connery should one day play the part of Bond as he looked remarkably like the face of the strip character. Others believe Connery's agent had seen the strip and encouraged him to go for the new role. He had Sean made up for the audition "to look like the drawing McLusky created." Another view is that McLusky changed his concept of Bond during the run of the feature to fit the likeness of Sean Connery once the films became so popular.

     Whatever the case, the public must have liked the new face of Bond because of the immediate success and increased sales of the Express newspaper. McLusky's clean style and the adaptations being very close to the novels helped fuel Bond-mania. Fleming's concerns about the simplification of the narrative were not problems as he thought they might have been. Done mainly to avoid any confusion on the readers behalf and always remembering that these newspaper strips were meant to be read one strip per day, over a period of almost a year. The story must be told as clearly and simply as possible, which was part of the newspaper daily format. Even stripped of Ian Fleming's detailed-filled prose, the stories he wrote still manages to be extremely entertaining and hold up surprisingly well, when reading these comic strips version.

     John McLusky, is an artist who worked for a vast range of different employers. He illustrated for the British Royal Air Force Bomber Command during and after the Second World War. He also worked on various characters like Laurel and Hardy, The Keystone Kops, The Pink Panther and numerous Thames children's television programs. His artistic style highly emphasizes simplicity and readability, and while his character portraits on James Bond may appear rather stiff at times, they are always clearly identifiable. This was something of a necessity for a newspaper strip, where one should always be able to identify a character, even though they may not have seen him or her for several months.

     Like most strip cartoonists McLusky had a collection of drawing references to help him produce that meticulous attention to detail that artists require in a daily feature. His two young sons would every day help critique the Bond panels up until they had to be submitted to the publisher. Once when McLusky needed a quick reference for a Luger pistol and his archives were empty, one son loaned his toy Luger gun. The next day in the finished drawing, Bond was holding a weapon with a little pop-up hatch for a roll of paper caps. His two proofreaders, not to embarrass 007, suggested a return to the drawing board to white out this minute mistake.

      For the next six years, McLusky and writer Henry Gammidge worked their way, fairly chronologically, through Fleming's novels and short stories. They were slowly laying the visual groundwork for the upcoming films. Breaking off only in 1962, when the strip version of "Thunderball" was stopped due to Fleming publishing "The Living Daylights" in the Sunday Times. This angered Lord Beaverbrook, owner of the Express, who immediately dropped "Thunderball" in the middle of its story. Fleming also had legal problems with writer Kevin McClory, who contributed to the "Thunderball" storyline. Only after a lengthy settlement and reinstatement with the Express in 1964, did the daily start up again, with the adaptation of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".

After having gone through thirteen Bond thrillers, the "Licenced to Kill" agent continued with a new writer, Jim Lawrence and artist Yaroslav Horak, whose illustrative style brought a new hardness to the strip. Horak's crisp line and beautifully textured black and white designs were equally matched by Lawrence's rich and imaginative scripts. James Bond became a bit more ruthless, a bit more complex than readers had seen before. This gritty realism made villains more savage, women more beautiful, and 007 a lot tougher. The new look for 007 also lost his striking resemblance to the Scottish actor and further disassociated him from the film persona.

     Yaroslav "Larry" Horak began his career as a portrait painter but soon switched to illustration for the larger Australian magazine publishers. His successful comic series "The Mask," which ran afoul with Victoria's state censors was soon followed by his daily outback adventure strip "Mike Steel" for Sydney's The Woman's Day. A quick talent for animation and story boards also kept him busy on many different projects. When given the Bond strip in 1965 his adaptation of "The Man with the Golden Gun" was highly praised in the new direction he approached the series. The syndicate was so pleased with the new creative team that Lawrence was given permission by the Fleming Trust to produce original stories for Horak to draw. Overall they worked on thirty-three Bond tales for the Daily Express and other various syndicates in Europe.

     A total of fifty-one stories were produced for the Bond strip. I have included a list of the creators including the one story illustrated by Harry North and Kingsley Amis's "Colonel Sun." When the series was finally stopped in 1983, it had spanned four decades and with a total output of more than 6500 individual strips. A few of the original Horak stories have been reprinted by the British Titan Books and there is a McLusky's version of The Illustrated James Bond, 007. There was also a series of Scandinavian James Bond comic books reprinting some Horak dailies and also providing some new stories. Unfortunately, these are the only appearances of the Bond strips since they originally ran in the Daily Express and Daily Star. These adventures are almost completely unavailable and largely unknown for the millions of Bond fans. However, Glidrose Publications who represents the estate of the late Ian Fleming has recently considered posting these classic James Bond newspaper strips on the Internet. Hopefully these spy stories with there lasting and intriguing appeal can one day be fully appreciated by Fleming's fans worldwide.


The James Bond Checklist

Daily Express

Casino Royale (Jul 58-Dec 58) Adapted by Anthony Hearne
Live and Let Die (Dec 58-Mar 59 )
Moonraker (Mar 59-Aug 59 )
Diamonds Are Forever (Aug 59-Jan 60 )
From Russia With Love (Jan 60-May 60 )
Doctor No (May 60-Oct 60 )
Goldfinger (Oct 60-Apr 61) Adapted by Peter O' Donnell
Risico (Apr 61-Jun 61 )
From A View To A Kill (Jun 61-Sep 61 )
For Your Eyes Only (Sep 61-Dec 61 )
Thunderball (Dec 61-Feb 62 )
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Jun 64-May 65)
You Only Live Twice (May 65-Jan 66)

The above stories are written by Ian Fleming, illustrated By John McLusky, and adapted by Henry Gammidge unless otherwise noted.

The Man With The Golden Gun (Jan 66-Sep 66 )
The Living Daylights (Sep 66-Nov 66 )
Octopussy (Nov 66-May 67 )
The Hildebrand Rarity (May 67-Dec 67 )
The Spy Who Loved Me (Dec 67-Oct 68 )

The above stories are written by Ian Fleming, illustrated By Yaroslav Horak, and adapted by Jim Lawrence.

The Harpies (Oct 68-Jun 69 )
River of Death (Jun 69-Nov 69 )
Colonel Sun (Dec 69-Aug 70 ) Written by Kingsley Amis
The Golden Ghost (Aug 70-Jan 71 )
Fear Face (Jan 71-Apr 71)
Double Jeopardy (Apr 71-Aug 71 )
Star Fire (Aug 71-Dec 71 )
Trouble Spot (Dec 71-Jun 72 )
Isle of Condors (Jun 72-Oct 72 )
The League of Vampires (Oct 72-Feb 73 )
Die With My Boots On (Mar 73-Jun 73 )
The Girl Machine (Jun 73-Dec 73 )
Beware of Butterflies (Dec 73-May 74 )
The Nevsky Nude (May 74-Sep 74 )
The Phoenix Project (Sep 74-Feb 75 )
The Black Ruby Caper (Feb 75-Jul 75 )
Till Death Do Us Part (Jul 75-Oct 75 )
The Torch-Time Affair (Oct 75-Jan 76 )
Hot-Shot (Jan 76-Jun 76 )
Nightbird (Jun 76-Nov 76 )
Ape of Diamonds (Nov 76-Jan 77 )

Syndicated in Europe

Sea Dragon (1977 )
Death Wing (1978 )
The Xanadu Connection (1978 )
Shark Bait (1979 )
The Sent of Danger (1979 )
The Snake Goddess (1980 )
Double Eagle (1980 )

The above stories are written by Jim Lawrence and illustrated By Yaroslav Horak.

Sunday Express

When The Wizard Awakes (Jan 77-May 77 )

The above story was written by Jim Lawrence and illustrated By Yaroslav Horak

Daily Star

Doomcrack (Feb 81-Aug 81 ) Illustrated by Harry North
The Paradise Plot (Aug 81-Jun 82 )
Deathmask (Jun 82-Feb 83 )
Flittermouse (Feb 83-May )
Polestar (May 83-Jul 83)

The above stories are written by Jim Lawrence and illustrated by John McLusky unless otherwise noted.

About the author:

The name is Karlen...Dave Karlen and this is Dave's second mission to make the world safe for comic art. Dave can be contacted via his shoe phone or at:


or through his website:

Dave Karlen Original Art

and also visit:

James Bond 007 Strip Cartoons