Throughout the last four Bond movies (with Daniel Craig as 007), there was this underlying theme that the double-0 program was outdated, that the program was behind-the-times. There were even comments from various characters on the matter. (And, of course, there were so many winks and nods to the previous Bond films — the Aston Martin DB5, for example.) Whether you believe that Bond and his fellow double-0s represent an old guard in need of changing or not, you might want to check out the source material first if you’ve never read one of Ian Fleming’s original Bond tales. They’re… different. The Bond in the books is NOT the Bond in the movies. Not even close.
I will admit, however, that the books never really won me over. The books are a product of their time and period, and I found myself having to push to finish them. It’s not that they’re bad stories… it just made me feel like I was back in middle school slogging through my first read of Shakespeare and not quite understanding what all the fuss was about.
But I didn’t get that feeling as I read through SPECTRE: The Complete Comic Strip Collection, a reprint of the Daily Express comic series from the 60s. Reprinted by Titan Books in an oversized hard cover, this 268 page book provides access to four of Fleming’s SPECTRE stories — Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice. (Other Fleming stories done as comics are published as separate books by Titan Books.)
Here, you’ll get the original Fleming stories told in short three-panel comic strips that were printed daily and revealed a more human version of Bond — one not quite as cold as Craig’s version. This Bond smokes, gambles, drinks and fights… but isn’t always the winner. And he most certainly doesn’t bounce back as fast in a fight. The black and white strips captured my interest in many ways:
- the artwork is amazing given that each three-panel strip had to do so much with so little space…
- the dated nature of the speech, slang, and even technology made me smile
- the villains are always over-drawn and often almost insultingly stereotypical, something that probably wouldn’t fly today but just reminds you that these stories were a product of a 60s culture
There are scenes here that are almost perfectly mirrored in a few films… but there are also scenes that wouldn’t have included in the movies probably for pacing purposes — remember, a daily strip could take a week or more to get to an action sequence, so in between was a lot of exposition that would kill a movie.
As I said, I’m not the biggest fan of the Fleming books, but I easily finished these four tales wanting more. Fans of the most recent movies may or may not likes these older, original versions of Bond, but true Bond fans will likely enjoy getting a glimpse of how readers in the 60s viewed Bond (or at least before Sean Connery’s Bond hit the screen).
Note: SPECTRE: The Complete Comic Strip Collection is now available. I received a review copy from Titan Books.