James Bond 007

Authors: Ian Fleming and Henry Gammidge
Artist: John McLusky
Titan Books
RRP 11.99
ISBN 1 84023 908 5
Available 17 December 2004

Having foiled a gambling scam by the millionaire Auric Goldfinger, James Bond is coincidentally assigned to investigate the same man's suspected gold-smuggling activities. In Chicago, they have a saying: "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action."...

Titan's fourth volume of James Bond newspaper strips steps back even farther in time than the last one: back to Goldfinger and the short stories Risico, From a View to a Kill, For Your Eyes Only and Thunderball. There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to the order of the release schedule. However, I see that the next volume is due to go right back to the beginning, with Casino Royale, which will hopefully herald a chronological sequence.

But back to Goldfinger. As usual, Henry Gammidge's script adheres closely to Ian Fleming's original novel. Indeed, all its implausibility has been left intact. The movie version of Goldfinger is unique in being more, rather than less, plausible than the novel which inspired it, because it overcomes the coincidental nature of Bond's first meeting with the villain, and the fact that it would have been practically impossible for Goldfinger's team to have transported the sheer weight of all the gold in Fort Knox.

The strip adaptation does seem a bit tame in places, though. Jill Masterson's gold-plated demise is absent. Instead her death is reported to 007 after the fact. Pussy Galore's lesbianism is even less evident in the comic strip than it is in the movie. A scene in which Bond confronts a knife-wielding Oddjob is redrawn to remove the weapon. The original artwork for this scene is presented at the back of the book, reproduced from a syndicated Swedish edition.

However, a couple of panels are missing altogether - from the story's original opening, which saw Bond saying goodbye to Honey Rider from Dr No. These panels appeared in the Daily Express but were omitted from some syndicated versions.

There's a real mixture of lettering styles in this story, sometimes even within the same panel, which suggests to me that there may have been a number of last-minute re-writes.

The comic-strip Goldfinger looks remarkably like the actor Gert Frobe, even though, of course, he wouldn't appear in the role until three years after the end of the strip's run. Ironically (as Paul Simpson observes in his accompanying text), artist John McLusky's rendition of Kristatos in Risico looks more like Topol, the actor who played his arch rival Colombo in the film For Your Eyes Only. Meanwhile, Colombo more closely resembles Gabriele Ferzetti, who played Draco in the movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Like Risico, the plot to the short story For Your Eyes Only formed part of the 1981 Roger Moore Bond film. Several sections of dialogue remain virtually unchanged in the transition from prose and comic strip to movie, including Bond's cover story as a fiction writer in Risico and his warning to Judy Havelock in For Your Eyes Only about digging two graves before seeking vengeance. Collected together in the same volume, Judy's revenge plot seems unfortunately similar to that of Tilly Masterson in Goldfinger.

In contrast to the other short stories, From a View to a Kill has little in common with the movie A View to a Kill, apart from its French setting. More of a detective story than a spy thriller, it is rather slow moving. It really drags during the panels 962-965, during which it takes Mary Ann Russell almost an entire page to agree to issue a report to M on Bond's behalf!

Though based on a full-length novel, the strip version of Thunderball ends up running no longer than a short story, due to the fact that it was prematurely halted by Daily Express proprietor Lord Beaverbrook, who was angered by the publication of Ian Fleming's The Living Daylights in a rival publication. No sooner has the treacherous Giuseppe Petacchi hijacked the armed aircraft than Bond and Felix Leiter are suddenly in Nassau and the enemy has been defeated, with two-thirds of the story wrapped up in just one week's worth of comic strip!

The original artwork that would have appeared that week, had the strip not been cancelled, appears near the end of the book, again reprinted from a foreign newspaper, this time Norwegian. A translation would have been nice, though.

With an introduction by Shirley Eaton, who played Jill Masterson in the movie Goldfinger, this volume also includes an essay on the impact of Bond behind the Iron Curtain.

This isn't the best collection to be released to date, but it's still a very enjoyable one, with some fascinating extras.

Richard McGinlay

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