Saturday, 3 May 2008


James Bond is back in action again... And so is S.P.E.C.T.R.E. when the nefarious Horst Uhlmann - one of 007's deadliest foes - resurfaces in Canada, blackmailing a test pilot of the Royal Canadian Air Force to obtain information on a new military stealth jet. Bond survives a fatal trap devised by Madame Spectra, the mysterious masked new mastermind of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., and crosses the border to report to C.I.A.

On the way to Washington, James saves a damsel in distress from two determined thugs in a soon to be closed motel. Later, back in London, he is assigned to the trail of a dangerous gang of flying female criminals called « The Harpies ». The investigation of secret agent 007 leads him to Simon Nero, a powerful industrialist and contractor in aeronautics for the British and US governments.

« Height: 183 centimetres; weight: 76 kilograms; slim build; eyes: blue; hair: black; scar down right cheek and on left shoulder; signs of plastic surgery on back of right hand (see Appendix « A »); all-round athlete; expert pistol shot, boxer, knife-thrower; does not use disguises. » (Ian Fleming, From Russia With Love, 1956)

« Where all other Bonds end, this one begins... » said the tagline on the poster of Moonraker (1979), the 11th official James Bond adventure for the big screen. Before becoming the longest and the most profitable franchise of the film industry, the litterary creation of Ian Fleming was adaptated for television (Casino Royale, 1954 - an episode of the anthology Climax! with US actor Barry Nelson as Bond), then for a series of daily comic strips first published in 1958 by the London Daily Express newspaper.

Fleming was almost reluctant to see his character in a daily cartoon strip and sold the rights to the Express only with some assurances that it would be top-notch and with what would be called today a « final cut » over the strips before publication. From 1958 to 1966, artist John McClusky illustrated the adaptations of Fleming's novels (and of a novela, Risico) by faithful writers Anthony Hearn, Peter O'Donnell (Modesty Blaise) and, above all, Henry Gammidge.

« It's a new world. With new enemies. And new threats. But you can still depend on one man... » Thus was introduced the Pierce Brosnan era of the James Bond franchise in the teaser of GoldenEye (1995) but this catch phrase is also the perfect sum up for the difficulties encountered by the successors of Gammidge and McClusky: illustrator Yaroslav Horak and writer Jim Lawrence.

« It can't be an easy job » (James Bond - Ian Fleming, From a view to a Kill, 1960)


Ian Fleming died in 1964, leaving unfinished what is considered as the weakest of his books: The Man with the Golden Gun. Sustained by the hard lines and the dark tones of Horak (in a style reminiscent of Alex Raymond's Rip Kirby), Lawrence added new elements to the original novel for the comic strip adaptation, paving the way to further 007 graphic triumphs.

The Spy who loved me (first published in december 1967 by the Daily Express) is the prototype of the tremendous work delivered by Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav Horak to expand the boundaries of the 007 universe on a daily basis beyond the shadow of Ian Fleming. But this farewell to Fleming's canon is based on its least « bondian » (See the explanations of Paul Simpson in the present edition for more details).

« The Mounties have identified a spy operating in Toronto as your old enemy - Horst Uhlmann! » (M)

In a very smart move, Jim Lawrence uses the source material of the novel only in the second half of the story. The comic strips version begins with the re-introduction of the evil organisation S.P.E.C.T.R.E. after the brutal demise of its founder, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, in You only live twice (the novel plus the comic strip).

After the name of Horst Uhlmann, one of the most dangerous agent of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., emerges in an affair of blackmail relating to a new canadian airforce jet, Bond goes to Toronto with mandate to bring back the man alive to London in order to obtain information about the current activities of the organisation. But the masked Madame Spectra, new head of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., seeks for revenge...


« S.P.E.C.T.R.E. has a long score to settle with Mr Bond - And tonight we shall put paid to his account » (Uhlmann)

Horak and Lawrence succeed in creating a quality alternative to the books and the movies with distinctive elements such as the regular covers used by 007 (for example, the corrupt ex-inspector Mark Hazard) and an environment between the first seasons of The Avengers with Ian Hendry or Honor Blackman, and an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. This Napoleon Solo atmosphere is obvious in the incredible corridor gunfight between Bond (helped by the canadian intelligence) and the assassins of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. with their customized weapons à la THRUSH.

But tradition is not neglected with a typical first apparition of James Bond in his appartment with a lovely creature (« Queensberry Rules, dear - the bell between rounds! »).

« ... But I'll never, ever forget the spy who loved me! » (Vivienne Michel)

After this clash in Canada, Lawrence pays his last respects to Ian Fleming. The Spy who loved me goes on with a story more familiar to the readers of the creator of James Bond. In a motel in the New York's Adirondack's mountains, Vivienne, the employee, must spent the night alone waiting for the proprietor to close definitely the establishment. But the man has an hidden agenda and he sends « Insurance adjusters » in order to get rid of his property and of the girl.

Fortunately, Bond stops at the place and - knowing his Simon Templar perfectly - saves the lady in distress from the two thugs. Almost a silhouette in Fleming's book, 007 here fulfil his duties hard-boiled in great action sequences far from the usual business of espionage but nevertheless visually impressive, thanks to Yaroslav Horak.


With The Spy who loved me, british publisher Titan Books goes on with the rediscovery of the Daily Express comic strips initiated in 2004 by the release of The Man with the Golden Gun. And as Bond always live twice, Titan offers us a second story, The Harpies: when a scientist of the Cambridge University is about to tell if he will give a death ray (the Q-Ray!) of his invention to Her Majesty's government, he is kidnapped by a group of female criminals called The Harpies (« The Harpies - which as you doubtless know may soon rival SPECTRE or the Mafia! »)

A trail leads 007 to womanizing scientist and industrialist Simon Nero. Posing as former corrupt C.I.D. inspector Mark Hazard, he infiltrates Nero's company as the new security officer, but he must deal with Barry Kemp - his sadist assistant (whose favourite pet is a vicious genetically modified stoat) and Nero's Second in Command: Odile Cazan, french scientist and leader of the Harpies (...)

« On the contrary - with the Q-Ray generator, I can blackmail her Majesty's Government into accepting any terms I choose! » (Simon Nero)

It's Bond, it's Bold, its Back... The style is a perfect fusion between Ian Fleming's books and the movies, served by the inspired writing of Jim Lawrence (« Deadlier than the male, they say ») and the art of Yaroslav Horak. Action (the Harpies attack, the fight between Bond and Brunski, the assault on Nero's factory), humour - « Our job is just to guard you Sir - The end of the world is someone else's department! » - intrigue, love, and Moneypenny on the field, are the ingredients of this original adventure of everyone's favourite spy.

Caroline Munro, yes, Naomi in the Spy who loved me movie herself, introduces this back-to-back classy Titan Books edition of The Spy who loved me/The Harpies (£12.99 or $17.95). In bonus, articles and strip introductions by the erudite Paul Simpson worth our attention.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why does noone seem to recall the fight bewteen Bind and Cazan?