James Bond: Review: SPECTRE – The Complete Comic Strip Collection

Spectre comics

Sadly not a comic strip version of the new film, but the original newspaper strips featuring Ian Fleming’s agent battling the forces of SPECTRE…

This is a great collection of the classic newspaper strips, prefaced with a very interesting short essay by John Logan, whose screenplay was the starting point for the new movie currently raking in the cash at cinemas. In it he talks of his love of the newspaper strip (for those who don’t know about it, it ran in the Daily Express and then the Daily Star for around 25 years, adapting Fleming’s stories and then creating a load of new tales), and how he went back to Fleming’s original character for inspiration when writing both Skyfall and SPECTRE. His comments on how Fleming informed the 21st century SPECTRE are certainly illuminating on certain elements of the movie…

That’s only two pages of this collection though. The rest comprises the comic strips, starting with Thunderball, which is suddenly curtailed, for reasons that go unexplained in this book. I had expected Titan to have used the notes I wrote for the original reprint a decade ago here, explaining that Fleming and the owner of the Express fell out over the publication of the short story ‘Trigger Finger’ (which eventually became known as ‘The Living Daylights’) in a different newspaper, so the strip was stopped for a time. The final three panels are a… ludicrously failed attempt to wrap things up. At some point, someone (yes, I do mean you, Titan!) should commission a proper completion of the story… although I guess if the Dynamite versions of the Fleming books do ever happen, we’ll see it there!

That’s followed by the next story in chronological publication order of Fleming’s books, The Spy Who Loved Me. However, that isn’t where it appeared in the comic strip; again, although the dates are given, there’s no explanation as to why this didn’t arrive until four years after OHMSS and You Only Live Twice – or how SPECTRE is involved (which it isn’t in Fleming’s book), and just who Madame Spectra is. The reality was that Jim Lawrence was writing his own stories by this point and incorporates the SPECTRE he’s resuscitated, with a new boss, into the plotline – this doesn’t follow Thunderball and should be read after You Only Live Twice.

Then we get the excellent versions of both On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice, with the former showing just how close Peter Hunt and team hewed to the original story in the 1969 movie; the latter demonstrating just how little Roald Dahl and Lewis Gilbert bothered about anything connected to the book for the 1967 film!

The artwork is treated reverently in this coffee-table sized book and it’s a shame that a little more explanation wasn’t provided to put the stories in context in the history of the comic strip.

Verdict: A fascinating look at an alternate version of 007’s battles with Blofeld. 9/10

Paul Simpson

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