Monday, July 14, 2014

"Live and Let Die": The Comic Strip

Writer Anthony Hern had toned down parts of Casino Royale for the Daily Express' comic strip adaptation, but he kept all the story beats and the general tone of Fleming's novel. He was replaced on the strip in December 1958 though starting with the adaptation of Live and Let Die. His successor was Henry Gammidge, who made a couple of immediate changes to distance the strip from Fleming even more.

Most startling is the use of first person narration by Bond. I don't know if it was inspired by writers like Raymond Chandler, but if so, it's a sad imitation. Gammidge's captions read like a children's book and there's no effort to explain why Bond's telling this story or to whom.

Another major difference between Hern's adaptation and Gammidge's is the length. The "Live and Let Die" strip is a little over 60% the length of "Casino Royale" and it feels rushed in comparison. Without "Casino Royale" to hold it up against though, I'm not sure I would've noticed. Gammidge is certainly more economical than Hern was, but he still hits all the major plot points of Fleming's book without cutting scenes. He even manages to acknowledge Bond's nervousness during his rough flight to Jamaica.

John McLusky's art maintains the strengths and weaknesses it had in "Casino Royale." He's still not awesome at facial expressions, but his Solitaire is slightly more emotive than Vesper was. His action scenes are still dynamic though, his compositions are eye-catching, and he continues to pull me into the story with detailed representations of the fashions, architecture, and vehicles of the '50s.

With its exciting art and fast-paced story, I imagine that "Live and Let Die" was able to appeal to newspaper readers who'd never read the book. To me, it feels less like reading Fleming than "Casino Royale" did, but I'm not so sure that's a drawback. As much as I dislike Bond's narration, it forces me to consider the strip on its own terms instead of just comparing it to Fleming. It was created after the adventure strip boom of the '30s and '40s, but it's as much heir to those comics as it is an adaptation of Fleming's work. I certainly wouldn't hold it up next to Alex Raymond and Milton Caniff in terms of quality, but as an amalgamation of those guys and Fleming, I think it's at least interesting. As I continue reading it, I'm going to try to keep that in mind and judge it as it's own thing rather than how closely it follows Fleming.

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