The Complete James Bond: OCTOPUSSY – the Classic Comic Strip Collection 1966-1969


By Ian Fleming, Jim Lawrence & Yaroslav Horak (Titan Books)
ISBN: 987-1-78565-325-4

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Truly Traditional Licence to Thrill… 9/10

There are sadly few British newspaper strips that can rival the influence and impact of the classic daily and Sunday “funnies” from America, especially in the field of adventure fiction. The 1930’s and 1940’s were particularly rich in popular, not to say iconic, creations and you’d be hard-pressed to come up with household names to rival Popeye, Dick Tracy or Flash Gordon, let alone Blondie, Little Orphan Annie or Popeye – and yes, I know I said him twice, but Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theatre was funny as well as thrilling, constantly innovative, and really, really good. You should really read them if you haven’t yet…

What can you recall for simple popularity let alone longevity or quality in Britain? Rupert Bear? Absolutely. Giles? Technically, yes. Nipper? Jane? Garth? I’d hope so, but I doubt it. The Empire didn’t quite get it until it wasn’t an empire any more. There were certainly many wonderful strips being produced: well-written and beautifully drawn, but that stubborn British reserve just didn’t seem to be in the business of creating household names.

Until the 1950’s…

Something happened in the Britain of the New Elizabethans – and I’m not going to waste any space here discussing it. It just did. Now we’re moving on.

In a new spirit that seemed to crave excitement and accept the previously disregarded, comics got carried along on the wave. Eagle, Lion, the regenerated Beano and girls’ comics in general all shifted into visually receptive high gear… and so did daily newspapers at a time when print was everyone’s major source of staying in touch with the world…

Thanks to another canny and comforting luxury repackaging – just in time for the Christmas presents rush! – I can once more communally reminisce about one of British strip-cartooning’s greatest triumphs, since Titan Books have a new addition to their line of lavish, oversized (294 x 277 mm) monochrome compilations of Ian Fleming’s immortal James Bond.

Debut 007 novel Casino Royale was published in 1953 and subsequently serialised in the Daily Express from 1958: initiating a sequence of paperback novel adaptations scripted by Anthony Hern, Henry Gammidge, Peter O’Donnell and Kingsley Amis before Jim Lawrence (a jobbing writer for American features who had previously scripted the aforementioned Buck Rogers) signed on for The Man with the Golden Gun to complete the transfer of the authorial canon to strip format.

When that mission was accomplished, Lawrence was invited to create new adventures, which he did until the strip’s ultimate demise in 1983.

Illustration of the feature was always of the highest standard. Initially John McLusky provided art the until 1966’s conclusion of You Only Live Twice and – although perhaps lacking in vivacity – the workmanlike clarity of his drawing easily coped with the astonishing variety of locales, technical set-ups and sheer immensity of cast members…

He was succeeded by Yaroslav Horak, who also debuted on Golden Gun; instituting a looser, edgier style, at once more cinematic and with a closer attention to camera angle and frenzied action that seemed to typify the high-octane vim and verve of the 1960’s. Horak illustrated 26 complete adventures until 1977 when The Daily Express ceased carrying Bond and the then-running case suddenly switched to The Sunday Express (from January 30th until conclusion on May 22nd).

Here, however, the heady brew of adventure, sex, intrigue and death is at an all-time high in this addictively accessible fourth volume which finds the creators on top form as they reveal how the world’s greatest agent never rests in his mission to keep us all free, safe and highly entertained…

The frantic derring-do and dark, deadly last-ditch double-dealings commence once superstar screenplay writers Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (The World is Not Enough; Die Another Day; Casino Royale; Quantum of Solace; Skyfall and Spectre as well as Johnny English) share some secrets and observations in their Introduction ‘Adapting Bond’.

Then ‘Octopussy’ (Daily Express 14th November 1966 – 27th May 1967) unfolds: a classic Ian Fleming tale. Originally a short story, under the skilful hands of Lawrence & Horak, a simple smuggling caper in the West Indies blossoms into a complex tale of Nazi Gold, murdered agents and exotic deaths in exotic locales as Bond pits his wits against deplorable rogue Major Smythe….

Bowing to the wave of popularity caused by the blockbuster films of the time, there are even a few Q Branch gadgets on offer. Horak excels at the extended underwater sequences and the action is frenetic and non-stop. Moreover, thanks to the enlarged landscape pages of this edition, every picturesque detail is there to be drooled over…

The sea also plays a major role in ‘The Hildebrand Rarity’ (29th May – 16th December 1967) which details the true fate of a new Royal Navy robot weapon which seemingly fails but has in fact been stolen by flamboyant millionaire and career sadist Milton Krest. At his most dashing undercover best, Bond infiltrates the wealthy sicko’s glamorous circle in a terrific tale full of innovation and intrigue. You won’t believe how many ways there are to kill with fish!

Having exhausted Fleming’s accumulated prose canon, all-original material begins with ‘The Harpies’ (4th October 1968 – 23rd June 1969) as Bond adopts he persona of ex-copper Mark Hazard to infiltrate defence contractor Simon Nero’s factory and rescue a kidnapped scientist whilst seeking to end the depredations of a deadly gang of female flying bandits.

Here Horak’s extreme design style and dynamic lines impart tremendous energy to scenes that must labour under the incredibly difficult restrictions of the 3-panel-a-day newspaper format.

Wrapping up the sinister espionage shenanigans is Lawrence’s second addition to 007 lore – and what a cracker it is! In ‘River of Death’ (24th June – 29th November 1969) Bond must penetrate the Amazon River stronghold of a maniacal oriental scientist and former Red Chinese torturer Dr. Cat. This latest madman is supplying trained animals to international criminals for the purposes of robbery, espionage and murder…

Horak’s intense illustration is approaching a career peak here and easily copes with action, mood, cutting edge science, beautiful women and exotic locales as diverse as the Alps, sultry Rain Forests, London’s underworld and Rio de Janeiro at Carnival time.

James Bond is the ultimate secret agent. You all know that and have – thanks to the multi-media empire that has grown up around Ian Fleming’s masterful creation – your own vision of what he looks like and what he does. That’s what dictates how you respond to the latest movie, game or novel. Here, however, is James Bond at his suave and savage best and as close to his original conception and roots as you will ever find.

Fast, furious action, masses of moody menace, sharply clever dialogue and a wealth of exotic locales and ladies make this an unmissable adjunct to the Bond mythos and a collection no fan can do without. After all, nobody does it better…

Octopussy © Ian Fleming Publications Ltd/Express Newspapers Ltd 1966. The Hildebrand Rarity © Ian Fleming Publications Ltd/Express Newspapers Ltd 1967. The Harpies © Ian Fleming Publications Ltd/Express Newspapers Ltd 1969. River of Death © Ian Fleming Publications Ltd/Express Newspapers Ltd. 1969. James Bond and 007 are ™ of Danjaq LLC used under licence by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
The Complete James Bond: OCTOPUSSY – the Classic Comic Strip Collection 1966-1969 will be published on November 24th and is available for pre-order now.

James Bond™ volume 1: VARGR


By Warren Ellis, Jason Masters, Guy Major & Simon Bowland (Dynamite Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-60690-901-0

James Bond is the ultimate secret agent. You all know that and have – thanks to the multi-media empire that has grown up around Ian Fleming’s masterful creation – your own vision of what he looks like and what he does. That’s what dictates how you respond to the latest movie, game or novel.

There are also some exceedingly enjoyable comicbook and newspaper strip versions detailing the further exploits of 007 which have never really found the appreciation they rightly deserve. This collection is just one of the most recent, compiling the first six issues of a regular comicbook series from licensing specialists Dynamite Entertainment and quite possibly one of the top ten Bond adventures ever seen in any medium…

Dumping the decades of gaudy paraphernalia that’s grown around the brand, writer Warren Ellis, illustrator Jason Masters, colourist Guy Major and letterer Simon Bowland have opted for a stripped-down, pared-back, no-nonsense iteration who is all business.

It begins after Bond’s return from a personal mission to Helsinki which culminated in the elimination of the assassin who recently killed 008. On returning to MI6, however, the infallible agent is carpeted by M.

With motions in progress to close the Double-O department, Bond is given a simple assignment: “dissuading” a small European drug dealer from distributing his latest recreational designer dope in the United Kingdom.

Of course, no job is ever simple…

The first snag is a new Home Office ruling depriving Bond of his gun whilst within British borders, but at least Q has few treats for him to use once he’s touched down on foreign soil…

Following an impromptu briefing on his contact – the Intel has come via a CIA informant used by old comrade Felix Leiter, so at least that’s reliable – Bond jets off for Berlin Station, only to narrowly escape being murdered by impossibly strong impostor-agent Dharma Reach as soon as he gets out of the airport…

Taking the near-miss in stride, 007 swiftly starts his surveillance by meeting the CIA’s asset, Serbian geneticist and medical pioneer Slaven Kurjak, who has been making astounding breakthroughs in both pharmaceuticals and powered prostheses.

The exceedingly eccentric doctor puts him on the trail of a minor local gang with a new method of processing cocaine, so Bond sets off on the trail of his new target, resolute but clearly suspicious…

Meanwhile in London, drug addicts begin exhibiting strange, horrific and ultimately fatal side-effects after their latest scores…

Kurjac obviously has his own agenda, but the methodical Bond opts to investigate this disquieting informant’s “information” first and is soon in the fight of his life after stumbling into a major drugs operation run by the huge Al-Zein cartel.

On returning – shaken, stirred but largely intact – to the MI6 office, he’s intercepted by Slaven’s most dangerous guinea pig Mr. Masters, moments after the chemically-corrupted killer has depopulated the entire Berlin Station. Attempts to lure Bond into a fresh trap have been anticipated, however, and 007 is more than ready when the killer makes his move. Masters’ agonised last words to Bond are “Vargr. Please. Vargr”…

A frustrating confrontation with Kurjac then reveals the shocking truth about the crazy doctor’s hideous plans for the tainted drugs on Britain’s streets, but ends with apparent defeat and Bond stuck in a seemingly inescapable death-trap…

Through his usual blend of ingenuity and inspired insanity Bond survives and returns to London for debriefing but is again ambushed by Dharma Reach. She inadvertently provides a clue to her boss’ whereabouts before explosively expiring…

With a clear target and destination – and determined to end the bloody shambles at any cost – Bond heads to Norway and a final confrontation with Kurjak. The resolution to the mystery of Vargr is cataclysmic and incomprehensibly bloody…

With a gallery of covers by Dom Reardon and 22 variants from Masters, Glenn Fabry, Francesco Francavilla, Gabriel Hardman, Jock, Stephen Mooney, Dan Panosian, Joe Jusko, Aaron Campbell, Timothy Lim, Dennis Calero, Robert Hack and Ben Oliver plus Concept Art from Masters featuring character designs and model sheets, this elegant espionage episode is fast, furious, dryly witty, superbly smart and impeccably stylish: in short, the perfect James Bond thriller.

Try it and see for yourselves…
© 2016 Ian Fleming Publications, Ltd. James Bond and 007 are ™ Danjaq LLC, used under license by Ian Fleming Publications, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Spectre – the Complete Comic Strip Collection


By Henry Gammidge, Jim Lawrence, John McLusky & Yaroslav Horak (Titan Books)
ISBN: 987-1-78565-155-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Truly Traditional Licence to Thrill… 9/10

There are sadly few British newspaper strips that can rival the influence and impact of the classic daily and Sunday “funnies” from America, especially in the field of adventure fiction. The 1930’s and 1940’s were particularly rich in popular, not to say iconic, creations and you’d be hard-pressed to come up with household names to rival Popeye, Dick Tracy or Flash Gordon, let alone Blondie, Li’l Abner, Little Orphan Annie or Popeye – and yes, I know I said him twice, but Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theatre was funny as well as thrilling, constantly innovative, and really, really good.

What can you recall for simple popularity let alone longevity or quality in Britain? Rupert Bear? Absolutely. Giles? Technically, yes. Nipper? Jane? Garth? I’d hope so, but I doubt it. The Empire didn’t quite get it until it wasn’t an empire any more. There were certainly many wonderful strips being produced: well-written and beautifully drawn, but that stubborn British reserve just didn’t seem to be in the business of creating household names.

Until the 1950’s…

Something happened in the Britain of the New Elizabethans – and I’m not going to waste any space here discussing it. It just did. Now we’re moving on.

In a new spirit that seemed to crave excitement and accept the previously disregarded, comics got carried along on the wave. Eagle, Lion, the regenerated Beano and girls’ comics in general all shifted into visually receptive high gear and so did newspapers.

Those facts and the canny repackaging of some classy classics which tie in to current Bond Blockbuster SPECTRE – just in time for the Christmas presents rush – means I can happily go on about one of British strip cartooning’s greatest triumphs as Titan Books release a splendidly lavish and sturdy oversized (294 x 277 mm) monochrome compilation of all the canonical adaptations of Fleming’s novels featuring the SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion…

The first 007 novel – Casino Royale – was published in 1953 and diligently serialised in the Daily Express beginning in 1958, beginning a run of book adaptations (by Anthony Hern, Henry Gammidge, Peter O’Donnell and Kingsley Amis) before eventually Jim Lawrence, a jobbing writer who had scripted the aforementioned Buck Rogers, came aboard with The Man With the Golden Gun to complete the transfer of the Fleming canon to comics format, thereafter staying to create all new adventures, which he did until the strip’s demise in 1983.

The art was always of the highest standard. John McLusky provided the gripping illustrations until 1966 and the conclusion of You Only Live Twice. Although perhaps lacking in flash or verve, the workmanlike clarity and solidly rugged drive of his drawing easily handled an immense variety of locales, technical set-ups and sheer immensity of cast members, whilst accomplishing the then-novel conceit of advancing a plot and ending each episode on a cliff-hanging “hook” every day.

He was succeeded by Yaroslav Horak, who like Lawrence debuted on Man With the Golden Gun, bringing a looser, edgier style to proceedings, at once more cinematic and with a closer attention to camera angle and frenzied action which seemed to typify the high-octane, all-action 1960’s.

Horak illustrated 26 complete adventures until 1977 when The Daily Express ceased carrying Bond and the then-running case suddenly switched to The Sunday Express (from January 30th until conclusion on May 22nd).

None of which is relevant for this stand-alone edition which commences with fond memories and keen insights in the Introduction ‘The Threat of Spectre’ by playwright, film producer and current 007 screenwriter John Logan…

The strip ‘Thunderball’ (11th December 1961-10th February 1962) adapted the ninth novel and proved to be both calamitous and controversial at the time of publication. The plot involves the theft of nuclear bombs by millionaire treasure hunter Emilio Largo, fronting an unsuspected terrorist group called SPECTRE …

Inexplicably for the paper, the tale was censored and curtailed at the direct demand of the Daily Express’ owner Lord Beaverbrook. Five days worth of strips were excised (and for the full story you’ll need to read the book or track down Titan’s 2007 paperback album edition which provided an ancillary text feature detailing what was cut).

Nevertheless, what remains by Henry Gammidge & McLusky is still pretty engrossing comics-fare and at least some effort was made to wrap up the storyline before the strip ended.

It was then dropped for almost a year before Bond triumphantly returned with an adaptation of eleventh novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Here however there’s latitude to print the strip adaptation in proper chronological order so next up is ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (which appeared from 18th December 1967 to 3rd October 1968).

The action goes into overdrive as the ongoing strip saga reaches the point where Fleming’s last work is adapted, promptly to be followed by all-new adventures. The story is also generously fleshed out (Fleming’s novel was written from the viewpoint of damsel in distress Vivienne Michel and Bond doesn’t show up until the last third of the text).

What we have here is a complex and intriguingly taut battle of wits as Bond and Vivienne combat a duo of deadly arsonists and hitmen with the super-agent’s foray against the revived SPECTRE mob in Canada providing a tense battle of wits and suitably gratuitous just deserts all around…

Arguably the two best novels were then adapted back-to-back. After the falling out with the Express’ owner, the Bond strip was absent from the paper’s pages from February 1962 until June 1964. The gap was explained as Bond’s year-long search for arch villain Ernst Blofeld

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – by Gammidge & McLusky – ran from 29th June 1964 to 17th May 1965) and depicted how the hunter finally discovered his worst enemy and his own ideal woman in a coolly suspenseful and blistering action-drenched extravaganza set primarily in the Swiss Alps. Closely adhering to Fleming’s script – as did the George Lazenby film version – it all ends with the wedding day murder of Bond’s bride Tracy (Draco) di Vicenzo, an atypically downbeat conclusion that directly led into ‘You Only Live Twice’ (18th May 1965 – 8th June 1966, by Gammidge & McLusky) wherein the shattered hero degenerates to the point of almost being fired by M until despatched to Japan on a milk-run to assassinate Dr Guntram Shatterhand and realises his target is actually despised monster and wife-killer Blofeld…

These stories are a must for not only aficionados of 007 but for all thriller fans; stunning examples of terse, gripping adventure uncluttered by superficial razzamatazz, jam-packed with adventure, sex, intrigue and sudden death and starring the world’s greatest clandestine operative who never rests in his vital mission to keep us all free, safe, shaken, stirred and thoroughly entertained.

Get back to basics and remember that classic style is never out of fashion in this, the Greatest Bond Film You’ll Ever Read…
Thunderball © Ian Fleming Publications Ltd/Express Newspapers Ltd 1961. The Spy Who Loved Me © Ian Fleming Publications Ltd/Express Newspapers Ltd 1962. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service © Ian Fleming Publications Ltd/Express Newspapers Ltd 1963. You Only Live Twice © Ian Fleming Publications Ltd/Express Newspapers Ltd 1964. James Bond and 007 are ™ of Danjaq LLC used under licence by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The James Bond Omnibus 006


By Jim Lawrence, John McLusky, Yaroslav Horak & Harry North (Titan Books)
ISBN: 987-0-85768-591-9

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Most Traditional Licence to Thrill… 9/10

It’s annoying to admit but there are very few British newspaper strips to challenge the influence and impact of classic daily and Sunday “funnies” from America, especially in the field of adventure fiction.

The 1930’s and 1940’s were particularly rich in popular, not to say iconic, creations. You would be hard-pressed to come up with home-grown household names to rival Popeye, Dick Tracy, Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon, let alone Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon, or the likes of Little Lulu, Blondie, Li’l Abner, Little Orphan Annie or Popeye and yes, I know I said him twice, but Elzie Segars’s Thimble Theatre was funny as well as thrilling, constantly innovative, and really, really good.

What strips can you recall to equal simple popularity let alone longevity or quality in Britain? Rupert Bear? Absolutely. Giles? Technically, yes. Nipper? Jane? The Perishers? Garth? Judge Dredd?

I’d like to hope so, but I doubt it.

The Empire didn’t quite get it until it wasn’t an empire any more. There were certainly very many wonderful strips being produced: well-written and beautifully drawn, but that stubborn British reserve plus a completely different editorial view of the marketplace (which just didn’t consider strips an infallible, readership-attracting magnet, as our American cousins did) never seemed to be in the business of creating household names… until the 1950’s.

Something happened in ‘fifties Britain – but I’m not going to waste any space here discussing it. It just did.

In a new spirit that seemed to crave excitement and accept the previously disregarded, comics (as well as all “mere” entertainment media from radio serials to paperback novels) got carried along on the wave. Just like television, periodicals such as Eagle, the regenerated Dandy and Beano and girls’ comics in general all shifted into creative high gear …and so at last did newspapers.

And that means that I can happily extol the virtues of a graphic collection with proven crossover appeal for a change.

The first 007 novel Casino Royale was published in 1953 and was subsequently serialised – after much dithering and nervousness on behalf of author Fleming – as a strip in the Daily Express from 1958. It was the start of a beguiling run of paperback book adaptations scripted by Anthony Hern, Henry Gammidge, Peter O’Donnell and Kingsley Amis before Jim Lawrence, a jobbing writer for American features (who had previously scripted the aforementioned Buck Rogers) came aboard on The Man With the Golden Gun to complete the transfer of the Fleming canon to strip format. Thereafter he was invited to create new adventures, which he did until the strip’s demise in 1983.

The art on the feature was always of the highest standard.

Initially John McLusky handled the illustration until 1966’s conclusion of You Only Live Twice and, although perhaps lacking in verve, the workmanlike clarity of his drawing easily coped with the astonishing variety of locales, technical set-ups and sheer immensity of cast members, whilst accomplishing the then-novel conceit of advancing a plot and ending each episode on a cliff-hanging “hook” every day.

He was succeeded by Yaroslav Horak, who debuted on Man With the Golden Gun offering a looser, edgier style, at once more cinematic and with a closer attention to camera angle and frenzied action that seemed to typify the high-octane 1960’s.

Horak illustrated 26 complete adventures until in 1977 The Daily Express ceased running the Bond feature (with the then-running adventure suddenly switching to The Sunday Express (from January 30th until conclusion on May 22nd).

Later adventures had no UK presence at all, only appearing in syndication in European papers. This state of affairs continued until 1981 when British paper The Daily Star revived the feature with ‘Doomcrack’.

Titan books have re-assembled those scarce-seen tales – a heady brew of adventure, sex, intrigue and death – into the last of their addictively accessible monochrome Omnibus Editions, wherein a dedicated band of creators on top form prove how the world’s greatest agent never rests in his mission to keep us all free, safe, shaken, stirred and thoroughly entertained…

The frantic derring-do and dark, deadly diplomacy commences with Lawrence & Horak’s final (UK-embargoed) exploit ‘Shark Bait’ – originally running abroad from 1978 to 1979 – finding Bond up to his neck in hot water after boldly abducting Soviet scuba diver Katya Orlova from the Coral Sea.

That high-bodycount encounter is, however, only the starting point in 007’s mission and, after brutally deprogramming her in the searing Australian Outback, they become moving targets for KGB hit-teams as he builds trust before completing his overall game plan: tracking down a colossal shark which has swallowed a stolen computer carrying NATO nuclear secrets.

With the Russians inexorably closing in on the prize, the infallible agent is prepared to do whatever it takes to stop them…

When The Daily Star began their Bond serial with ‘Doomcrack’ (February 2nd to August 19th 1981) Lawrence was still in command of concocting stories but the illustrator was a rather controversial one.

Harry North was a regular and prolific contributor to both the US and UK iterations of Mad Magazine and, whilst his renditions of the regular cast caught the likenesses of the filmic Bond, M, Moneypenny and others, his action and suspense scenes couldn’t escape his comedic preferences and often hinder or even destroy all dramatic effect.

If you can get past that though, the tale of KGB killers, East German intrigue and defector Dr. Vlad Sinescu is a gripping if convoluted one. The avaricious genius wants to sell to Britain his new super weapon – capable of exploding brains at a distance, bringing down aircraft and shaking down cities – but his communist former masters are prepared to do anything to stop the sale.

…And then, amidst all the carnage and chaos, insidious criminal cabal S.P.E.C.T.R.E. steps in, grabbing the boffin and his weapon before extorting the world by destroying national monuments. With the situation hopeless it’s no wonder 007 quits and joins the opposition…

Veteran artist McLusky returned to steady the ship for the next explosive epic wherein devious cult leader Father Star uses psycho-chemicals, brain surgery, artificial angels and ghostly special effects to control the actions of bereaved billionaires, generals and politicians. The hunt for the brilliant mastermind with plans of ruling this world, if not the next, takes James around the planet and into many a salacious dive before he can finally crush ‘The Paradise Plot’ (August 20th 1981 to June 4th 1982)…

An insidious millionaire murder-maestro with a revolting terror-weapon turns up in ‘Deathmask’ (June 7th 1982 – February 2nd 1983), leaving a trail of hideously deformed corpses in his wake. It takes the combined efforts of Bond and fellow agent Suzie Kew to defeat deranged Ivor Nyborg’s legion of mechanical monsters, broach the fiend’s astounding undersea lair and prevent a genetically engineered plague devastating humanity…

A policy switch to shorter, less complex stories was instigated with ‘Flittermouse’ (February 9th – May 20th 1983) as vengeful maniac Dr. Cat returned with another diabolically ingenious method of murder before the indomitable super-agent sent him to his final reward, after which ‘Polestar’ (May 23rd – July 15th 1983) saw the end of Britain’s connection to the espionage ace.

The James Bond strip had been a problem for the Star since its resurrection and was abruptly dropped midway through this adventure. The story concluded only in the ever-reliable European syndication market, and thankfully it’s here in its entirety for us all to enjoy.

The short, sharp saga finds 007 in the subzero wilds of Artic Canada discovering a woman frozen to death and exhibited as a macabre scarecrow.

He’s in territory owned by Polestar Petroleum to locate the origin point of rogue missiles which have been launched against Russia and America, but before he can investigate further he is attacked a rabid wolf…

Rescued by native woman Red Doe, James learns the sordid history of Polestar’s megalomaniacal owner Robert Ayr: ruthless tycoon, potential global dictator, serial abuser and killer of Red Doe’s mother.

Soon Bond has infiltrated the company as a fugitive rocket engineer to scupper plans to subject the world to nuclear blackmail whilst the vengeful Cree woman enjoys a long-anticipated meeting with Ayr…

Again working solely for continental readers, Lawrence & McLusky’s final comics collaboration was ‘The Scent of Danger’ (1983), with Bond lured to a yacht off the Italian Riviera and a near-fatal rendezvous with a ravenous shark. The perpetrator is old enemy Madame Spectra who wants the agent out of the way before she uses a (narcotically addictive) high-end fashion perfume to enslave firstly wives and lovers but eventually every politician in Britain. Happily the unkillable hero and ferociously determined journalist Liz Villiers have a plan to stop her…

Despite every effort the strip was clearly nearing its end when Yaroslav Horak returned for the last two adventures beginning with ‘Snake Goddess’ (1983-1984). At the peak of his flamboyant form the illustrator added a superb frisson of tension to the tale of a mystery killer who used serpents to assassinate military men and operatives involved in the deployment of atomic weapons in Europe.

After the snake killer turned his attention to Moneypenny, Bond’s involvement was assured and his subtle investigations led him to Swedish cult rock star Freya. However, the sultry serpentine peace campaigner was only another target for the true culprit: fanatical fan Mr. Vidyala, a billionaire with money to burn and the brilliance to build a huge nuclear sea-serpent submarine.

He planned to provoke World War III and rule the ruins with his unwilling Snake Queen Freya but utterly underestimated the ruthless ingenuity of the British agent he so easily captured…

This astounding dossier of espionage exploits ends in ‘Double Eagle’ (1984): a baroque plot by German agents on both sides of the Berlin Wall planning a spectacular stunt to promote reunification of their sundered country.

Unfortunately the notionally worthy scheme precluded a number of necessary deaths – by robot giant eagles and merciless KGB and Stasi agents – and risked turning the simmering Cold War red hot…

Following a trail of bodies and dodging numerous assassination attempts Bond eventually finds himself in the invidious position of wanting – just this once – to fail…

Fast, furious action, masses of moody menace, sharply clever dialogue and an abundance of exotic locales and ladies make this an invaluable adjunct to the Bond mythos and a collection no fan can do without. After all, nobody has ever done it better…
All strips are © Ian Fleming Publications Ltd/Express Newspapers Ltd 1987. James Bond and 007 are ™Danjaq LLC used under license from Ian Fleming Publications Ltd. All rights reserved.

The Secret Service: Kingsman


By Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons and Matthew Vaughn with Andy Lanning & Angus McKie (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78116-703-8

We Brits know everything about the spy-game and think we’ve probably seen it all, from Bond to Smiley, Harry Palmer to Johnny Worricker and Spooks to Carry On Spying.

So it’s not often we get a look at a fresh take, but that’s what’s on offer here as comicbook legends Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons team up with film director/producer Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, Stardust, Layer Cake, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) to update the genre in a wickedly sly, cynically funny and irreverential thriller which nevertheless harks back to the glory-days of the “great game” of gentlemanly cloak-and-dagger as it was called when were still an empire, as well as the swinging superspy sagas of the 1960s and 1970s…

The original 6-issue miniseries The Secret Service was released as part of Millarworld’s unfailing hit-factory deal with Marvel Comics’ Icon sub-imprint, and this slick, sharp and wickedly tongue-in-cheek pastiche mixes all the favourite trappings and spectacle of big budget movie blockbusters with an archly satisfying class-war aesthetic that finds full expression following the traditional all-action opening attention-grabber, which finds actor Mark Hamill (almost) saved from abduction by an armed gang by an unlucky British secret agent…

The scene then switches to the urban wasteland of Peckham where Gary Unwin – known to his no-hoper wannabe-gangsta pals as “Eggsy” – is again at odds with the cheap thug who’s shacked up with his mum.

Dean is a former soldier. He’s also a bully and a brute: a typical South London Chav who thinks he’s hard and takes it out too often on Gary and his little brother Ryan as well as their long-suffering mother Sharon.

No wonder the jobless, shiftless teen spends all his time playing computer games, doing drugs, nicking cars and making mischief with his mates. Tonight is no exception, except for the part where the hapless joyriders crash their purloined ride and end up in police cells…

Meanwhile in the swank part of town, two movers-&-shakers in Intelligence are discussing a wave of mysterious abductions: actors from Star Wars, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek have all disappeared, as have scientists, sporting legends and other notables. There is clearly some major scheme afoot…

Jack London (I gather they’ve changed his name in the film version) is a self-made man. He escaped his lowborn origins and remade himself into a suave, sophisticated international man-of-mystery and Great Britain’s top operative: the spy who never fails. Nobody does it better. He’s also Sharon’s brother and is once again forced to apply his influence to save his nephew from the consequences of his actions…

He’s had to step in before but he swears it’s the last time and, after an unpleasant confrontation, determines to get Gary out of the toxic environment he escaped from decades ago…

As a mass wedding in Hawaii is turned into a bloodbath by a mysterious mastermind’s hi-tech secret weapon, in Peckham Uncle Jack is telling Eggsy the unbelievable truth. He gets a chance to prove his outrageous claims when Dean’s loutish cronies pick a fight…

Jack, plagued with guilt for neglecting his shameful family, then offers his nephew a chance to better himself by joining the Secret Service training program that made him one of the deadliest men alive…

The boy jumps at the chance to get away and is soon an outcast amongst the cream of Britain’s posh-boy private school and military college recruits, doggedly learning unarmed combat, ballistics, weapons training, tactics, computer science, seduction techniques, languages, piloting any vehicle and every skill and trick needed to keep the world safe from invasion and subversion…

Despite his background and lack of social skills Gary thrives – and even excels – in many of the less salubrious exercises (such as killing drug-dealers on a live fire exercise) even as Uncle Jack returns to his mystery kidnapping case. He slowly makes progress across the world, tracking a certain mad young billionaire with dreams of saving the planet from the plague of humanity. Doctor James Arnold is also extremely keen on preserving his childhood heroes from the Armageddon he’s about to trigger…

At precisely the wrong moment Gary drags Jack back to London again. When the pauper student overhears his well-meaning but privileged comrades condescending and pitying him, Eggsy steals Jack’s gadget-laden, weaponised sports car and goes for an explosive drunken joyride with his real mates from the estate.

Now the super-agent is forced to take extreme measures to sort him out…

Gary wakes up in Colombia with nothing but his underwear and is told he has 24 hours to return to Britain. The Resource Test is the final stage of an agent’s training and is make or break: neither the agency nor his uncle will have anything to do with him if he fails…

He passes with flying colours, and even destroys a drug cartel in the process, leading Jack to take him on as an apprentice, offering style tips and a chance for a palate-cleansing final confrontation with Dean and his mates in Peckham before setting off together to foil Dr. Arnold’s deadly scheme.

…And that’s when it all goes terribly wrong, leaving Gary to cope with imminent world collapse all on his own…

The film was in production simultaneously with the creation of the original six-issue miniseries with Millar, Vaughn and illustrator Gibbons (aided by inker Andy Lanning and colourist Angus McKie) frequently cross-fertilising and amending the print and movie iterations to produce a stunningly clever, outrageously rip-roaring, high-octane read which will astound all us paper-jockeys and no doubt be satisfactorily mirrored in the upcoming filmic extravaganza.

But why wait? Grab some popcorn, hit your favourite chair and experience all the thrills, spills and chills you can handle right now just by picking up this fabulous action comics classic in the making…
© 2012, 2013, 2014 Millarworld Limited, Marv Films Limited and Dave Gibbons Ltd. All rights reserved.

The James Bond Omnibus volume 005


By Jim Lawrence & Yaroslav Horak (Titan Books)
ISBN: 987-0-85768-590-2

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Traditional Licence To Thrill… 8/10

There are sadly very few British newspaper strips to challenge the influence and impact of classic daily and Sunday “funnies” from America, especially in the field of adventure fiction. The 1930’s and 1940’s were particularly rich in popular, not to say iconic, creations. You would be hard-pressed to come up with home-grown household names to rival Popeye, Dick Tracy, Buck Rogers, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Flash Gordon or Steve Canyon, let alone Terry and the Pirates or the likes of Little Lulu, Blondie, Li’l Abner, Little Orphan Annie or Popeye and yes, I know I said him twice, but Elzie Segars’s Thimble Theatre was funny as well as thrilling, constantly innovative, and really, really good.

What can you recall for simple popularity let alone longevity or quality in Britain? Rupert Bear? Absolutely. Giles? Technically, yes. Nipper? Jane? The Perishers? Garth?

I hope so, but I doubt it.

The Empire didn’t quite get it until it wasn’t an empire any more. There were certainly very many wonderful strips being produced: well-written and beautifully drawn, but that stubborn British reserve just didn’t seem to be in the business of creating household names… until the 1950’s.

Something happened in ‘fifties Britain – but I’m not going to waste any space here discussing it. It just did.

In a new spirit that seemed to crave excitement and accept the previously disregarded, comics (as well as all entertainment media from radio to novels) got carried along on the wave. Eagle, the regenerated Dandy and Beano, girls’ comics in general: all shifted into creative high gear, and so did newspapers. And that means that I can go on about a graphic collection with proven crossover appeal for a change.

The first 007 novel Casino Royale was published in 1953 and subsequently serialised in the Daily Express from 1958, beginning a run of paperback book adaptations scripted by Anthony Hern, Henry Gammidge, Peter O’Donnell and Kingsley Amis before Jim Lawrence, a jobbing writer for American features (who had previously scripted the aforementioned Buck Rogers) came aboard with The Man With The Golden Gun to complete the transfer of the Fleming canon to strip format, thereafter being invited to create new adventures, which he did until the strip’s ultimate demise in 1983.

The art on the feature was always of the highest standard. Initially John McLusky provided the illustration until 1966’s conclusion of You Only Live Twice and, although perhaps lacking in verve, the workmanlike clarity of his drawing easily coped with the astonishing variety of locales, technical set-ups and sheer immensity of cast members, whilst accomplishing the then-novel conceit of advancing a plot and ending each episode on a cliff-hanging “hook” every day.

He was succeeded by Yaroslav Horak, who also debuted on Golden Gun with a looser, edgier style, at once more cinematic and with a closer attention to camera angle and frenzied action that seemed to typify the high-octane 1960’s.

Titan books have re-assembled the heady brew of adventure, sex, intrigue and death into a series of addictively accessible monochrome Omnibus editions and this fifth compilation finds the creators on top form as they reveal how the world’s greatest agent never rests in his mission to keep us all free, safe and highly entertained…

The frantic derring-do and dark, deadly diplomacy commences with ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ which first ran in the Daily Express from July 7th to October 14th 1975. Solidly traditional 007 fodder, it found Bond assigned to kidnap/rescue Arda Petrich, the comely daughter of a foreign asset, and keep vital intelligence out of the hands of the KGB.

This pacy thriller is most notable more for the inevitable introduction of the eccentric gadgets which had become an increasingly crucial component of the filmic iteration than for the actual adventure, but there are still thrills and flesh aplenty on view.

Hard on the heels of that yarn is brief but enthralling encounter ‘The Torch-Time Affair’ (October 15th 1975 – January 15th 1976), wherein the hunt for a record of all Soviet subversion in Latin America leads to bodies on the beach, a mountain of lies and deceit, breathtaking chases on roads and through jungles, and an astonishingly intriguing detective mystery as Bond and female “Double-O” operative Susie Kew must save the girl, get the goods and end the villain.

But which one…?

‘Hot-Shot’ (January 16th – June 1st) finds the unflappable agent assisting Palestinian freedom fighter Fatima Khalid as she tries to clear the name of her people of airline atrocities committed by enigmatic Eblis terrorists. Their cooperative efforts uncover a sinister Indian billionaire behind the attacks before Bond recognises an old enemy at the heart of it all… Dr. No!

In ‘Nightbird’ (2nd June – 4th November) sporadic attacks by what appear to be alien invaders draw 007 into a diabolical scheme by a cinematic genius and criminal master of disguise apparently in search of military and political secrets and weapons of mass destruction. However a far more venal motive is the root cause of the sinister schemes and reign of terror…

Despite surreal trappings, ‘Ape of Diamonds’ (November 5th 1976 – January 22nd 1977) is another lethally cunning spy exploit as a deadly maniac uses a colossal and murderous gorilla to terrorise London and kidnap an Arab banker, leading Bond to a financial wild man determined to simultaneously destroy Britain’s economic prosperity and steal the Crown Jewels. Happily for the kingdom, Machiavellian Rameses had completely underestimated the ruthless determination of James Bond…

‘When the Wizard Awakes’ finds bad guys employing supernatural chicanery, when the body of a Hungarian spy – dead for two decades – walks out of his tomb to instigate a reign of terror that eventually involves S.P.E.C.T.R.E., the Mafia and the KGB until the British Agent unravels the underlying plot…

In 1977 the Daily Express ceased publication of the Bond feature and the tale was published only in the Sunday Express (from January 30th -May 22nd 1977). Later adventures had no UK distribution at all, only appearing in overseas editions. This state of affairs continued until 1981 when another British newspaper – the Daily Star – revived his career. Presumably, we’ll deal with those cases in another volume.

The first of those “lost” stories are included here, however, beginning with ‘Sea Dragon’, produced for European syndication: a maritime adventure with geo-political overtones wherein crazed billionairess and scurrilous proponent of “women’s liberation” Big Mama Magda Mather tried to corner the World Oil market using sex, murder and a deadly artificial sea serpent.

In ‘Death Wing’ Bond is needed to solve the mystery of a new and deadly super-weapon employed by the Mafia for both smuggling contraband and assassination. Despite a somewhat laborious story set-up, once the tale hits its stride, the explosive end sequence is superb as the undercover agent finds himself used as a flying human bomb aimed at the heart of New York City. His escape and subsequent retaliation against eccentric hit-man Mr. Wing is an indisputable series highpoint.

This astounding dossier of espionage exploits ends in ‘The Xanadu Connection’ (1978) as the daring high-tech rescue of undercover agent Heidi Franz from East Germany inexorably leads the super spy down a perilous path of danger and double-cross.

When Bond is tasked with safeguarding the wife of a British asset leading resistance forces in Russian Turkestan, the mission inevitably leads 007 to the Sino-Soviet hotspot where he is embroiled in a three-sided war between KGB occupation forces, indigenous Tartar rebels and their ancestral enemies of the Mongol militias led by insidious, ambitious spymaster Kubla Khan.

Deep in enemy territory with adversaries all around him, Bond is hardly surprised to discover that the real threat might be from his friends and not his foes…

Fast, furious action, masses of moody menace, sharply clever dialogue and a wealth of exotic locales and ladies make this an unmissable adjunct to the Bond mythos and a collection no fan can do without. After all, nobody does it better…
© 1975, 1977, 1977, 1978, 2013 Ian Fleming Publications Ltd/ Express Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.

James Bond 007: Deathwing

James Bond 007: Deathwing 

By Jim Lawrence & Yaroslav Horak (Titan Books)
ISBN: 1-84576-517-6

The turbulent printing history of the James Bond newspaper strip leads to a novel bonus for British fans as two of the stories reprinted here are technically appearing for the first time.

‘When the Wizard Awakes’ ran originally only in the Sunday Express (January 30th – May 22nd 1977) and the next two tales had no UK home. These Bond adventures (which we’ll presumably see in the next book) only appeared in overseas editions. Finally a new British daily newspaper revived his career, and in 1981 the series returned in the Daily Star. We’ll deal with that in due course. This volume, however, features the first two ‘lost’ stories, ‘Sea Dragon’ and ‘Death Wing’.

Sadly, the disruption caused in production seems to have put the supremely talented creative team off their stroke somewhat, as these tales are far below the quality we have come to expect. ‘When the Wizard Awakes’ returns to the theme of the criminal masquerading as the supernatural, when a the body of a Hungarian spy, dead for twenty years walks out of his tomb and begins a reign of terror, that eventually involves S.P.E.C.T.R.E., the Mafia and the KGB. This is a, taut, action packed mystery, but somehow Horak’s usual graphic spark is not working, and the art seems tired and cluttered.

‘Sea Dragon’, produced for European syndication, is maritime adventure with geo-political overtones as crazed billionairess ‘Big Mama Mather’ tries to corner the World Oil market with sex, murder and Sea Serpents. Whilst the art seems to recover some of its verve, this time the script is a little lacklustre, with less tension and much more skin on show for those more cosmopolitan foreign readers.

‘Death Wing’ continues this lamentable gradual decline as Bond is needed to solve the mystery of a new and deadly super-weapon employed by the Mafia for both smuggling and assassination. However, although the story set-up might be below par, the climactic end sequence is superb, as the undercover agent finds himself trapped, a flying human bomb aimed at the heart of New York City. His escape and destruction of the eccentric hit-man ‘Mr. Wing’ is an undoubted series highpoint.

Despite the regrettable diminution of quality, Bond still remains a highly enjoyable strip, and there is still a huge amount to admire and enjoy in this splendid spy spectacular. And besides you do want a COMPLETE set of these great books don’t you?

© 1977, 1978, 1987 Glidrose Productions Ltd/ Express Newspapers Ltd. All Rights Reserved

James Bond: Octopussy

James Bond: Octopussy 

By Ian Fleming, Jim Lawrence & Yaroslav Horak (Titan Books)
ISBN 1-84023-743-0

Octopussy is a classic Ian Fleming tale. Originally a short-story, under the skilful hands of Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav Horak, this smuggling romp in the West Indies blossoms into a complex tale of Nazi Gold, murdered agents and exotic deaths in exotic locales. Bowing to the wave of popularity caused by the films, there are even a few Q Branch gadgets on offer. Horak excels at the extended underwater sequences and the action is frenetic and non-stop.

The sea also plays a large part in the concluding story in this volume. The Hildebrand Rarity tells of a new Royal Navy robot weapon that seemingly fails but has in fact been stolen by flamboyant millionaire and career sadist Milton Krest. Undercover, Bond infiltrates his glamorous circle in a terrific tale full of innovation and intrigue. You won’t believe how many ways there are to kill with fish!

Top tales of adventure and absolutely captivating reading thrills. Get them all!

Strip © Express Newspapers Ltd. 1987. All Rights Reserved.

James Bond: Man With the Golden Gun

James Bond: Man With the Golden Gun 

By Ian Fleming, Jim Lawrence & Yaroslav Horak (Titan Books)
ISBN 1-84023-690-6

By the time of the first story reprinted here (1966), the comic strip Bond had been running for some eight years. Lawrence and Horak had been surpassing themselves almost daily and the super agent had become a World phenomenon, so it’s no surprise that this tale of subversion and assassination was a masterpiece of periodical adventure.

After leaving the Heaven on Earth of a peasant’s life on a Japanese island, Bond is drawn back into the Intelligence game. Brainwashed, he attempts to murder “M”, and while being reconditioned he first encounters the power of Francisco Scaramanga, the world’s deadliest assassin and the top target of all the ‘good’ spy organisations on Earth.

Bond’s make or break mission to destroy the Man with the Golden Gun is a classic duel and captivating reading, which bears little resemblance to the lame film adaptation.

The follow-up tale was also poorly served by the movie industry. The Living Daylights is a tense Cold War thriller that is a metaphor for the conflict itself. Bond is dispatched to the Western side of the Berlin Wall to play a waiting game. A Red sniper is picking off valuable escapees as they try to cross the barrier and 007 is the only man capable of settling the matter. This sniper duel across the Wall is enlivened by the usual double-dealing and there is – naturally – a sexy blonde involved.

These espionage tales from masters of their craft deliver as much punch now as they ever did and should rank alongside the classics of British adventure fiction.

Strip © Express Newspapers Ltd. 1987. All Rights Reserved.

James Bond: The Golden Ghost

James Bond: The Golden Ghost 

By Ian Fleming, Jim Lawrence & Yaroslav Horak (Titan Books)
ISBN: 1-84576-261-4 ISBN-13: 9781845762612

Jim Lawrence went from strength to strength as the premier Bond scripter with these tales from 1970-1971. The eponymous lead feature sees the British super-agent risking a deadly double cross as the head of Spectre offers to sell information of a potential disaster that leads Bond on a trail involving psychics and assassins and an attempt to destroy British prestige and end our country’s Nuclear Airship Programme. As usual there are thrills and glamour in abundance in a plot that presages modern summer blockbuster movies.

The Golden Ghost is followed by Fear Face, a tale of robotic assassins that might have been influenced by the “Cybernaut” episodes of that era’s other spy sensation, the TV series The Avengers. 007 is embroiled in a complicated plot when 0013 Briony Thorne, a disgraced agent, comes to him for help in clearing her name after a communist scheme has made her appear a traitor to the Realm. They are soon in contention with not only mad scientists, killer robots and ruthless gangsters but also their own secret service comrades.

Double Jeopardy is an early example of that now commonplace scenario, the replacement of prominent figures by flawless duplicates who steal, blackmail and kill. A deadly variation is the death of each duplicate and the original to close off the trail. Luck as much as skill is necessary to defeat a plot to sabotage a peace conference, by having the delegates murder each other.

The final story, Star Fire, is an enticing change of pace, full of ploy and counter-ploy as the leader of a ‘hippie cult’ unleashes what appears to be a plague of fireballs randomly incinerating anyone who mocks his beliefs. Just how that leads Bond to the death of a government scientist and the loss of secret plans for a top-secret British aircraft is a marvel of fast-paced storytelling, and the eventual resolution is bloody, thrilling, and a tribute to the real world roots of this most fantastical of espionage adventures.

Whilst tapping in to the contemporary fascination with the spiritual and supernatural, Lawrence and Horak never strayed too far from the basic solid grounding of the action-adventure. Sexy women and evil men litter the streets, cafes and bedrooms, evil organisations and enemy powers work their wiles and always the outcome depends on the determination and skill of the right man in the right place. These timeless thrillers are a joy to read and a pleasure to return to again and again.

© 1970, 1971 Glidrose Productions Ltd/ Express Newspapers Ltd. All Rights Reserved.