Sunday, 16 October 2011

The many faces of James Bond

How many James Bond have there been? There are the film Bonds, of course, and there have been six of those (seven if you count David Niven in Casino Royale (1967)). What about the illustrated Bond? Well, there have been many more times the number of Bonds.

Artwork that accompanied the serialisations of Fleming's novels in the Daily Express is among the earliest to depict James Bond. The serialisations began with Diamonds Are Forever in April 1956, and continued most years in March or April with subsequent novels. The last serialisation was Kingsley Amis' Colonel Sun in 1968.

All illustrations were by Andrew Robb (usually known by his surname only), who was a long-standing fashion illustrator for the Daily Express. His drawings, like his fashion art, were economical, but realistic, and gave a clear sense of movement and expression. Robb's Bond had what might be termed by anthropologists as a dominant face – a large square chin, and prominent cheekbones and brow ridges. His hair was disciplined, except for a loose curl above his right eye, as specified by Fleming. Robb's Bond was not fixed, though; the Bond drawn for On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1963, for example, veered from a well-built man of danger to a public school master with floppy hair. The next serialisation was You Only Live Twice (1964). For this, Robb turned to the films, and drew a different Bond, this time one that looked rather like Sean Connery. A Connery-like Bond was also depicted in The Man with the Golden Gun and Colonel Sun.

Other early illustrations of Bond were appeared on the covers of the paperback editions of the novels. Both the UK and US paperback editions of Casino Royale were published in 1955. The Bond of the UK edition, published by Pan, bore little resemblance to Fleming's Bond – brown hair, rather than black, and no comma of hair over the right brow – and gave the overall impression of a travel-weary businessman, rather than a spy with cruel looks. The Bond of the US edition, published as You Asked for it, was better, albeit Americanised in terms of clothes and attitude.

Subsequent Pan editions of the book and later novels up to the end of the 1950s fitted more closely with Fleming. In editions of the early 1960s, Bond was shown at the bottom of the covers of all novels published up till then as a standard motif. Curiously, Bond appeared to be much older – in his late 40s or 50s. Perhaps the artist had aged him in keeping with the veterans of World War II at that time.

I won't dwell on the cartoon strips – I recommend Alan J Porter's History of the illustrated 007 for an excellent account of the history of James Bond in newspaper strips, comics, and graphic novels – but it is worth remarking on the general influence of the film series. Newspaper strip adaptations of the Bond novels appeared in the Daily Express from 1958. John McLusky drew the strip until 1966, with subsequent strips being drawn mainly by Yaroslav Horak. The strips were collated, translated and published in other countries. Usually in these cases different artists were commissioned to provide covers. The film Bond was very influential here. For example, the Danish edition of 'Octopussy', published in 1969, showed a Connery-like figure, and had no reference to Horak's artwork inside. Both the Swedish and Danish versions (published in 1972 and 1974 respectively) of 'The Isle of Condors', an original strip by Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav Horak, also depicted a Connery-like figure on the cover (the films of George Lazenby and Roger Moore apparently not being enough to dislodge Connery as the face of Bond).

More recently, the presentation pack that accompanied Royal Mail's issue of James Bond postage stamps in 2008 included an illustration of James Bond. This was by Mike Bell. There is something a little Daniel Craig-like about his depiction. If the artist was influenced to some extent by Craig's Bond, then this is not surprising, given the enormous success that Casino Royale (2006) enjoyed.

From the mid 1950s, Bond has been depicted in cartoon strips, comics, cover artwork, serialisations, and advertisements. Each artist has introduced a new face of Bond. But while they have usually turned to Ian Fleming's description, the film Bond has also influenced the way Bond is drawn.

References:

Bond Bound: Ian Fleming and the art of cover design, the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation
A J Porter, 2008 James Bond: the history of the illustrated 007, Hermes Press

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