The Spy Who Loved Me & Octopussy Graphic Novels

The Spy Who Loved Me is a graphic novel from Titan Books and was first published in 2005. This is another collection of old James Bond newspaper comic strips from the Daily Express written by Jim Lawrence with art by Yaroslav Horak and contains The Spy Who Loved Me and another story called The Harpies. As usual with these collections there are some extra features to serve as an introduction before we dip into the stories. First up is Caroline Munro - who famously chased Roger Moore's Lotus around Sardinia in a helicopter in the (completely different) 1977 film version - sharing a few memories about her experiences making the film and musing on the enduring appeal of James Bond. 'Bonds appeal for me is the sheer exuberant fantasy of it all.' Then there is an overview of the evolution of the Daily Express strips by writer Paul Simpson and a piece entitled The Spy Who Loved Me: James Bonds Strangest Adventure. This is all about Ian Fleming's original novel and why both the film and the comic adaption were different. 
Fleming's The Spy Who Loved Me novel was somewhat experimental and unusual (and generally not well regarded) in that it was told from the perspective of a woman who James Bond eventually rescues from some gangsters in a lonely motel. Bond himself didn't even appear until late in the story. Fleming gave instructions that the film version should have nothing to do with his book and wanted the comic strip adaption to be different too. The solution by Jim Lawrence was to concentrate more on the mission that we hear Bond has been on before he arrives at the motel in the Adirondacks after a long drive and meets Vivienne Michel. The mission is not the same as the one described in the book and it allows Lawrence to come up with an original story to preface the latter events of Fleming's book. While a straight adaption of The Spy Who Loved Me would not have been without interest this was probably a sensible way to go for a comic book format that was originally published a few panels at a time. 
In this comic strip version, the story revolves around a test pilot in Canada named Mike Farrar who is part of the trials for a secret new stealth aircraft called the Ghosthawk. Farrar is being blackmailed though by someone called Horst Uhlmann and this information is passed onto the British Secret Service. Uhlmann used to be a member of SPECTRE and the British are keen to find out if he is still linked to them and if SPECTRE is still operating and able to pose a threat. James Bond is sent to Canada to impersonate Farrar in an attempt to get more information and hopefully flush SPECTRE out. The Spy Who Loved Me is an enjoyable collection of strips by Lawrence and Horak with the usual striking black and white art and an exciting and mostly original story. The strip ties back in with the events of the original novel towards the end and also floats a new SPECTRE villain named Madame Spectra. While, unlike others, I don't dislike Fleming's novel terribly myself, it was, for comic strip purposes, probably more exciting to flesh out the mission that Bond was on before it and add some new elements. It's a strong and entertaining piece of work by Lawrence and Horak and good fun.  
The other story in the graphic novel is called The Harpies and is the first original non-Fleming tale written by Jim Lawrence for the strips. The plot has scientist Dr John Phineus inventing something called the 'Q-Ray' which he is mulling over giving to the government. However, he is then kidnapped by 'The Harpies', an all-female group of high-tech acrobat criminals who use rocket packs and hang-gliders and are establishing themselves as rivals to SPECTRE and other nefarious organisations. James Bond duly investigates (don't MI6 have any other agents!) and discovers that Phineus had a very big rival in Simon Nero - the head of a company called Aerotech Security. Bond becomes friendly with the head of Aerotech's security and gets a job reference from him. He then arranges to have him kidnapped and poses as a crooked police inspector to replace him as the new head of Aerotech's security and snoop around to see what he can find out. 
The Harpies is a lot of fun and has fantastical elements that are often very enjoyable. The panels of The Harpies swooping down with their hang gliders at the start of he story are enjoyably Batman and it's nice to see a new group of criminals for Bond to tangle with. The black and white art manages to convey sweep and momentum surprisingly well and is nicely atmospheric at times with the shaded backdrops. There are appearances by M, Tanner and Moneypenny and we see that Bond is still adopting the cover name Mark Hazard from The Man with the Golden Gun. I really like the story here with the female acrobat baddies and Simon Nero is a decent villain at the centre of it all. Bond's infiltration of Aerotech is quite clever and like something the films used to do before they had Daniel Craig constantly smashing through glass. There is a brutal fight too between Bond and a security guard over a number of panels that taps into some of the violence and sadism of the Fleming books.  
The Spy Who Loved Me is another entertaining collection of Bond strips from Titan Books and a lot of fun for anyone interested in comic art and James Bond. The adaption of The Spy Who Loved Me by Lawrence and Horak is a good read and the addition of the The Harpies, a very enjoyable original story, is a nice bonus. Although these strips are a tad dated in places they are very inventive and have a certain old-fashioned charm that still makes them pleasant to dip into.  

'When an old friend's body is found in the Alps 20 years after he disappeared, James Bond quickly finds himself caught between Nazi gold, the Chinese Tongs and the savage, eight-armed embrace of Octopussy! And Bond finds more mortal danger beneath the waves, this time in the Indian Ocean, in The Hildebrand Rarity!' 
Octopussy is a collection of old James Bond comic strips from the Daily Express and was first published as a graphic novel by Titan Books in 2004. As usual, the strips were written by Jim Lawrence with art by Yaroslav Horak and this collection runs to 96 pages in total. There are two stories here that first saw the light of day in the sixties - Octopussy and The Hildebrand Rarity - and also a few extra bits and pieces to go with them. There is an introduction to begin by the actress Maud Adams (who famously appeared in both The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy). 'I still very much enjoy reading the novels, though I wasn't familiar with the Daily Express comic strips,' writes Maud. The introduction is followed by a feature on Bond in Books by Paul Simpson, a Syndicated newspaper comic strip checklist , and a piece about the three panel format of the original Daily Express strips. These strips are naturally a tad dated here and there but still good fun, capturing some of the essence of the Fleming short stories on which they were based.  
The first story is Octopussy and sticks for the most part to Ian Fleming's short story but with one or two additions by Lawrence to flesh it out a little. In Octopussy, a man named Hans Oberhauser is found dead, frozen in the Alps. Oberhauser was a friend and mentor to James Bond in his younger days. He taught him how to ski and became a father figure when Bond needed one. 007 naturally takes a very personal interest in this case and investigates Major Dexter Smythe, who was the last person to see Oberhauser alive. It transpires that the dodgy Dexter Smythe is smuggling some Nazi gold to Hong Kong but did he kill Oberhauser too? Bond will need all of his wits about him to find out as he's attracted the attention of two mysterious Chinese characters who are helping Smythe and don't like the idea of him meddling in their business...  
Octopussy has some really wonderful art by Horak and (understandably perhaps as the source material was not terribly long) Jim Lawrence does some tinkering with Fleming's short story and adds a few characters and scenes of his own. He introduces Oberhauser's daughter to work with Bond and also adds two Chinese characters named Yat Foo and Kim Foo who are secretly smuggling Dexter Smythe's gold in coffins. Lawrence also adds an aquatic showdown between Bond and Dexter Smythe to add a bit more action and drama into the story before morphing back into line with Ian Fleming's original yarn. Mary Goodnight also appears in the story and as usual there are one or two lines in the strips that are rather of their time. 'Forgive Barbarian tactics, but humble servant object most strongly to being tailed,' says Bond after confronting the Chinese man who had been following him. Octopussy is a solid strip on the whole with that cosy old-fashioned feel one gets from the art by Horak (it always reminds me of some of the illustrations in old British comic annuals like Tiger and Battle sometimes). I like the opening panel here too of some climbers finding Oberhauser's hand outstretched in a frozen glacier. 
The Hildebrand Rarity is another adaption of an Ian Fleming short and revolves around Milton Krest, a dubious millionaire who James Bond ends up joining on a yacht with Krest's wife Liz and his associate Nyla Larsen. Krest is an obnoxious businessman who is searching for a rare spiked fish known as The Hildebrand Rarity which he must find as part of a tax dodge. Here, Lawrence prefaces the search for the Hildebrand Rarity with a backstory where Krest steals a high-tech drone submarine known as the Sea Slave during its test run. The Sea Slave was a joint American and British project and Bond is looking for clues as to its current whereabouts. Will Bond discover Krest's secret and will unpopular and boorish Krest survive the cruise intact anyway? 
Ian Fleming's The Hildebrand Rarity is a likeable short story in its original form with a languid tropical atmosphere and the strip captures a little of that with locations including the Maldives, Mombasa, the Seychelles, and Chagrin Island. Obviously though, Fleming's shortish tale had to be spun out somewhat by Jim Lawrence and he does that with the backstory of Krest stealing a secret submarine that Bond just happens to be looking for. Lawrence also adds the exotic Nyla Larsen to the mix. Nyla is working for Krest but invites Bond onto the cruise to keep an eye on him. The addition of this character works quite in the conclusion of the story, creating some ambiguity about the ending. This is another entertaining strip by Lawrence and Horak and it makes a fun two-parter with their Octopussy adaption. The collection is quite interesting I think as it seems to capture a point where Lawrence is having to deviate slightly from Fleming's original stories for the first time.  
Octopussy is another enjoyable James Bond collection of Daily Express strips by Titan Books and a nice addition to the bookshelf alongside the other compilations in this series. Both of the stories here are entertaining and Horak's art is again relatively simple but very stylish with some nice backdrops. Bond himself always seems like a classic and vintage character in these strips and fairly close you'd imagine to the person Ian Fleming pictured as he clacked away at his typewriter in the West Indies all those years ago. Anyone interested in British comics or James Bond should certainly enjoy dipping into this.  

- Jake  


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