In the 1960s, even before the first James Bond movie was made, Ian Fleming's novels were adapted into newspaper comic strips more faithful to the original stories than the movies ever were, which are now available again courtesy of Titan Books.
In THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, the penultimate novel written by Fleming, Bond is hypnotised by the Russians into an assassination attempt on his boss, M. When he fails and has his mind restored, M gives him a last-chance assignment instead of jail: to go undercover and kill the mafia hitman Scaramanga, the man with the golden gun. Thus the stage is set for dames and double-dealing, and a seat-of-the-pants showdown at its climax. Unlike the movie, the plot is down-and-dirty, the characters gritty and tough, as you would expect in the best pulp fiction.
The Living Daylights, also contained in this volume, is one of the best spy suspense stories Fleming ever wrote, sending Bond to Berlin to aid a British agent's escape over the Berlin Wall by killing the KGB's top sniper before the agent is killed. The story focuses on the minutiae of tradecraft procedure as Bond prepares for the night of the escape, swallowing his self-disgust as he prepares to kill his counterpart on the other side of the Wall. His only solace is the sight of the beautiful musician in the ballet school on the other side, a girl he knows he will never get to speak to or touch. Unlike the Energizer Bunny personality of the movies, Fleming's Bond is a conflicted, self-loathing spy who "didn't like killing but took pride at doing it well", and that aspect of the character is at its most fully-expressed here.
Since the novels were based on plot rather than any great literary style, not much is lost in translating them into comics. In fact, the three-panel structure of the daily newspaper strip creates a punchy, staccato rhythm that gives the stories punch and speed. And Yaroslav Horak's sleek, elegant pen-and-ink drawings create the perfect, hard-edged, sexy Pop Art feel of the Bond novels.
What else can I say? They're great fun and easier to read than the novels.
Adi Tantimedh is a screenwriter and filmmaker who writes comics when he has the time. He has recently completed JLA: The Age of Wonder for DC Comics, and written and directed Open House, a short film for Studio FP in Italy. His current projects include the forthcoming Blackshirt for Moonstone Books, Anna Passenger, a novel being serialised on Opi8.com, and various film and television projects.