Sunday, 10 May 2015

The James Bond art of Robert McGinnis: The Sunday Times magazine 007 collectors' issue

How many James Bond posters issued in the US or UK were created by celebrated American artist and illustrator Robert McGinnis? His first poster was for Thunderball (1965), which he followed with You Only Live Twice (1967). His contribution to the main poster of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) was confined to the figures of Bond and Tracy, but he was solely responsible for the poster artwork for Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man With The Golden Gun (1974). The last mentioned was his final work for a Bond film, although the image of Bond depicted in that poster was used in a teaser poster for Moonraker (1979).

So, six poster campaigns in total (or seven, if one includes the work he did for the 1967 version of Casino Royale). But those do not represent Robert McGinnis' only brush with Bond. In November 1999, a special edition of The Sunday Times Magazine was published to coincide with the release of The World Is Not Enough. It contained interviews with Desmond Llewelyn and George Lazenby, features on the film itself, and Ian Fleming's short story, '007 in the New York' (incredibly the first time the story had been published in the UK). And on the cover was artwork by Robert McGinnis.

Conceived to resemble an ornately framed painting, though also alluding to a certain extent the heraldic-style artwork used alongside the main poster campaign for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the artwork is topped by a crown (representing Bond's service to Queen and Country) flanked by near-naked and suggestively-positioned women. The faces of the Bond actors are placed below the crown – naturally Sean Connery is at the centre – and below them is the main body of the artwork, which celebrates the best of Bond with representations of iconic moments from the film series, which are divided into themes of space, land and sea. The panel is bordered by the faces of the most memorable villains of the series, and the whole artwork is framed by more scantily-clad women.

Though an original artwork, it contains many familiar elements. Drawings of near-naked women in erotic poses are a hallmark of Robert McGinnis' work, routinely appearing on his posters and pulp-fiction covers. Those on the Bond artwork in particular recall the images of women at Bond's feet in the posters for Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Live and Let Die

The villains that border the main panel comprise, on the left-hand side, Largo (Thunderball), Dr No, Scaramanga (The Man With The Golden Gun), May Day (A View To A Kill), and minor henchman Sandor (The Spy Who Loved Me), and, on the right-hand side... well, there's Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me), Goldfinger, and Blofeld (You Only Live Twice), but I'm uncertain about the identity of the two at the top; possibly Goldfinger again and Rosa Klebb, but neither seem quite right.

The artwork in the main panel is more easily identified. Going from the top to the bottom (and from space to beneath the sea), we have the moonbuggy from Diamonds Are Forever, the space station from Moonraker, the diamond-encrusted satellite from Diamonds Are Forever, Bond with his jetpack from Thunderball, the Blofeld's Bath-O-Sub and exploding oil rig from Diamonds Are Forever, the space shuttle from Moonraker, the cable car from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, a submarine from The Spy Who Loved Me, the Disco Volante from Thunderball, Bond evading the SPECTRE helicopter in From Russia With Love, the submersible Lotus Esprit and an enemy frogman from The Spy Who Loved Me, a SPECTRE underwater chariot and Bond as frogman from Thunderball, and Elizabeth Tower/Big Ben (no specific film, but alluding to M and the starting point of all Bond's adventures).

Robert McGinnis' selection of images in the main panel is an interesting one, and not a little curious. Most of the artwork is derived from images that feature on poster artwork or other publicity material. The jetpack, for example, is taken almost unaltered from its appearance on one of the main Thunderball posters, while the Lotus Esprit and frogman are based very closely on a photographic image used on lobby cards and the Japanese poster for The Spy Who Loved Me. None is from any film released after Moonraker, and indeed the films of the 1980s and '90s are represented only by May Day and Brosnan's and Dalton's Bonds. While there appears to be an emphasis on the films for which McGinnis created the poster artwork – Diamonds Are Forever in particular is, if anything, over-represented – these account for only half the images. And even then, not all the artwork deriving from posters on which McGinnis worked are his creation. The jetpack image, for example, was drawn by McGinnis' regular collaborator, Frank McCarthy. The absence of Live and Let Die is also noteworthy.

Overall, then, as a celebration of the films of James Bond, Robert McGinnis' artwork for The Sunday Times is unbalanced, ignoring twenty years of Bond films. That the source for the elements in the main panel was poster artwork or publicity material is clear enough, but only a small proportion was based on McGinnis' own work, and in making his selection, McGinnis acknowledges the work of other artists.

As for the films, Thunderball, Diamonds Are Forever, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Moonraker are Robert McGinnis' principal reference points. Perhaps these are his personal favourites, but undoubtedly each have contributed more than their fair share of classic scenes and images. The iconography in the main panel are among some of the highly successful memes from the Bond series that have become deeply embedded into popular culture. 


Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd, 2012 James Bond 50 Years of Movie Posters
Lovisi, G, 2009 Dames, Dolls & Delinquents: A Collector's Guide to Sexy Pulp Fiction Paperbacks, KP Books


  1. His artwork for "Live And Let Die" left an indelible imprint in my mind when I was a kid, since it was the first Bond film that I saw. To me, it embodied everything about Bond. The girls, the crazy stunts, the weird villains, and in the centre of it all, Bond, calmly holding a pistol.
    A book of McGinnis' work has just been published and I'll have to snag a copy one day soon.

    1. I agree, the LALD artwork is fantastic, and complements the look and sound of the film very well. It's an evocative image, and it fascinated me when I borrowed my friend's father's copy of the soundtrack album when I was 12 or 13.

      I've seen the book on McGinnis' work listed on Amazon and have added it to my wish list. Will certainly acquire a copy at some point.


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