Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Thunderball": The Comic Strip

When Fleming published "The Living Daylights" in the Sunday Times, the newspaper he worked for, rather than in the Daily Express, which had been the home of most of Bond's other newspaper adventures, it created a rift between Fleming and the Express. In fact, the feelings were so bad that the Express abruptly cancelled the James Bond comic strip less than halfway into its adaptation of Thunderball.

The "Thunderball" strip begins well and looks like it would have maintained the quality of the adaptations that immediately preceded it. Gammidge and McLusky's version is funny, but not as hilarious as Fleming's. On the other hand, they also don't make too much out of Moneypenny's sudden, but retroactive crush on Bond. There's some minor flirting, but it's much less an abrupt change than what Fleming suggests in the novel.

Gammidge continues his recent trend of including as much of the plot as possible, which is either awesome or tedious, depending on the scene. I enjoyed all the shenanigans at Shrublands, for instance, but the SPECTRE meeting went on longer than I wanted it to. Like I've said before though, I'm glad the longer version is in there for me to either read or skim, depending on how I feel at the time.

Though Fleming and the Express made up later, "Thunderball" was never properly finished. Six extra strips were added to complete the story for syndication to other papers, but they only sketch out the last two thirds of the novel in the loosest possible way. McLusky's art looks as good as always, but the story is jarring in its speed to wrap up. The legitimate adaptation ends with Giaseppe Petacchi's hijacking the plane carrying the atomic bombs, but not having landed it in the ocean yet. The very next strip has Bond and Leiter discovering the location of the plane. There's no mention of how they found it or why they're even in the Caribbean in the first place. Domino is completely missing from the story and though Largo is mentioned, he's never seen.

"Thunderball" ends up being a lousy adaptation, but it's an interesting look at the people behind it (the creators, but also the newspaper they work for) trying to make the best of a bad situation. I say that without excusing the cancellation of the strip. I don't know the thought process the Express went through before making that decision, so maybe they had a valid gripe or maybe they were just greedy and petulant. But moral judgments about how they got there aside, they found themselves in a creative dilemma with a cancelled strip and syndication obligations to fulfill. I'm not even saying that they made the right creative choices in "finishing" the story, but from a process standpoint, it's fascinating to watch them try.

(By the way, this is my 4000th post on this blog. Yikes.)

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