James Bond strips

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The Independent Culture
Of course, Roger Moore perfected the idea, but the conception of a two-dimensional, immobile James Bond predated him by a good 15 years. In 1958, the Daily Express began running a daily cartoon-strip version of Casino Royale, and over the next 10 years or so all of Ian Fleming's Bond novels were serialised in the same form. All the strips were drawn by John McLusky, whose work is celebrated in a new exhibition at the Barbican, "The Face of James Bond", opening today to coincide with the release of Goldeneye.

The exhibition title is a nod to the influence that McLusky's vision of Bond had on the film-makers: it was no coincidence that Sean Connery bore at least a passing resemblance to the cartoon version. According to McLusky, when Connery auditioned for Dr No, "The agent made him up to look like my drawing - improved his hairline, in other words".

At the time, the strips were phenomenally successful - they were launched with a massive advertising campaign, and syndicated all over the world. McLusky reckons that the attention to detail was the selling-point: working as an artist for bomber command in the Second World War had given him a background in drawing technical subjects, and he was meticulous in his research, visiting locations, and collecting a huge photographic reference library of guns and other props.

The attraction of the strip for him was that it was regular work: McLusky was never an admirer of Fleming's novels - "It occurred to me that Bond wasn't very bright." All the same, he admired Connery, and is looking forward to Goldeneye: "I think the new Bond looks absolutely splendid. He looks very much like my later drawings, with the hair longer. I'm hoping they'll give me a free ticket."

ROBERT HANKS

'The Face of James Bond', Barbican, London EC2 (0171-638 8891) Sat 25 Nov to 14 Jan

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