Friday, June 29, 2018


February 1st, 1960 - October 1st, 1960
Written by Peter O'Donnell & Henry Gammidge | Illustrated by John McLusky

James Bond's fifth and sixth adventures were adapted into the film series' second and first movies, respectively -- and as a result, the big screen versions of DR. NO and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE may be the most faithful of all the entries in the series.

There are differences, certainly -- both movies feature the organization SPECTRE in some form or another, while SPECTRE does not yet exist in the novel/comic strip source material. The movie version of DR. NO also introduces Felix Leiter, who is nowhere to be seen in the book, and who Bond had actually already met three times previously in the original continuity(CASINO ROYALE, LIVE AND LET DIE, and DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER). There are also additional "conquests" for Bond and an extra action set-piece or two in the movies -- but aside from all these relatively minor discrepancies, and aside from the flipped order, the film versions of both stories match up very cleanly with the originals.

In FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, the Russian intelligence agency SMERSH decides to demonstrate its power by killing a British secret agent, and settles on Bond, using a secretary named Tania Romanova as bait. Romanova states that she will defect in Turkey and will bring the Soviet cipher device, the SPEKTOR, with her -- but she will surrender herself only to Bond, with whom she's fallen in love via his dossier. Admittedly, the setup to the film version is different -- where here, it's SMERSH alone after Bond, partly due to his foiling some of their prior operations, in the movie it's SPECTRE manipulating SMERSH so they themselves can steal the cipher device (known in the movie as the LEKTOR rather than the SPEKTOR for obvious reasons).

But from there, the stories of both book/strip and movie proceed more-or-less identically: Bond travels to Istanbul, teams up with local MI6 agent Bey, works against the Russians while preparing to receive Tania, then departs with her and the SPEKTOR aboard the Orient Express, where he has a final duel with SMERSH assassin Red Grant. The book ends in France with Bond apprehending Rosa Klebb, the SMERSH agent behind the entire plot, while the movie ends in Italy with Bond killing Rosa Klebb, the SPECTRE agent behind the entire plot.

DR. NO, meanwhile, sees Bond dispatched to Jamaica for what M perceives as a "simple" mission following his getting injured during the Istanbul affair. In this case, he's to look into the mysterious disappearance of MI6's agent in Kingston, along with his secretary. It should be noted that both FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and DR. NO feature some nice inter-book continuity via appearances by supporting cast members: FRWL brings back Rene Mathis, who debuted along with Bond in CASINO ROYALE, while DR. NO features references to agent Strangways, who worked with Bond in LIVE AND LET DIE, as well as Bond's Jamaican ally Quarrel from the same book.

(The movies included a Quarrel of sorts in their adaptation of LIVE AND LET DIE, even though the character had been killed -- just as in the novel -- in DR. NO. In this case, Roger Moore's Bond was assisted by "Quarrel Junior" in L&LD.)

Bond and Quarrel travel to the island of Crab Key, where they meet the beautiful Honeychile "Honey" Rider and Bond eventually comes face to face with Doctor No himself, a former member of the Chinese Tong syndicate who has set himself up with the means to knock American missiles out of the sky. No plans to kill Bond and Honey, but they both escape the death traps into which the villain places them, and Bond kills No by -- I'm not joking -- burying him alive in a mountain of fertilizer.

It should be noted that No's fate is slightly more dignified in the film version, where he's thrown into a superheated pool by Bond during their final battle (they actually don't come to blows at all in the original version).

I confess I don't have much more to say about these two stories, so I'll take a moment now to speak about the artwork and reproduction in the Bond comic strip. John McLusky is a pretty talented guy, though not on the same level as someone like Alex Raymond or Al Williamson. But a simple Google search will turn up several examples of his original art, and it's very nice stuff (I've even been using some of it for the illustrations to accompany these pots) -- which is why it's a shame that the volume in which I'm reading these stories, published by Titan Books, suffers from some abysmal reproduction.

I'm not sure what sources Titan used for their effort here, but the end result is sorely lacking. The lines in the book, compared with the original artwork, are too heavy and thick, and small bits and pieces seem to get dropped out here and there, too. I haven't flipped through the subsequent volumes in the series yet, but I can only hope for improvement -- though I suspect at least one of them will be as bad as this one, since this particular volume was the second published in the series.

Next week, we'll catch up with Bond as he fights one of his best-known nemeses in GOLDFINGER, followed by a short story set in Italy called "Riscio".


  1. So does the strip adapt FRWL's original ending, where a Rosa-Kleb-poison-shoe-stabbed-James Bond collapses?

    1. Yes, that ending is included -- Bond is stabbed and Mathis saves the day by arresting Kleb -- and the subsequent adaptation of DR. NO begins with Bond recovering from the injury.