Saturday, October 12, 2013

365 Comics...275: James Bond 007: Casino Royale (2005)

Oh man, I've been asleep at the 365 Comics wheel for...whoops...9 days.  If I wasn't behind on my "daily comics blogging" (what a joke that's become,eh?) as is, I'm certainly wa-aaa-aaay behind now.  Were I to blame anything it would be the fall television season, some Netflix diving, live events and general fatigue.  But if I could read comics and write about them (almost) daily a month ago, when things were at their most insane, I think I should've been able to do it in the past week as well.  Ah, whatever.  Catching up now.

To tell the truth, I realized that I hadn't been reading many comics since I last posted, and even then it was just those three books from last week's pull that I wrote up for Thor's Comic Column.  This morning I discovered beside the bed the rest of last week's pull, still unread.  I've done better with this week's pull, the fruits of which will be posted about shortly.

I tried reading a Kamandi Archive last weekend but children were perpetually interrupting, and after the weekend I jumped ship instead to the first of Titan Book's reprints of the James Bond Newspaper strips. One of the things that surprises me about these newspaper strip collections (I've read a few of the Modesty Blaise ones as well) is how long they take to read.  They're not quick reading by any means.  In their oversized 8 1/2 x 11 presentation, the deception is that they're only three or four panel strips, but with four strips a page that's 12-16 panels with a lot of dense information packed in for the formerly daily reader.  Each volume presents three stories of differing length averaging around 110 strips per story.

Think about that for a second.  110 strips per story.  I know that serialized comic strips have been around for a long time, but as much as I like comics I've never, ever followed a serialized strip.  Obviously it's a lot different today than it was 60 years ago when the Bond strips started, when people would have the daily subscription to newspapers and the children would clip out the adventure serials and store them in a file-o-fax or glued into a scrapbook (which in some manner I think the size of these Titan reprints are supposed to represent) .  When I was a kid, my local paper didn't carry any serialized dramas, and, generally, my parents didn't get the paper delivered regularly with any consistency so I wouldn't have been able to follow a serialized drama even if they did.  But think about those 110 strips... that's nearly four months of reading only 3 panels a day to follow a story.  It sounds kind of maddening to me.  Can a story be followed only 3 panels at a time?

I've only become a true James Bond fan in the past year with my Double Oh series of Bond film reviews/recaps over at the disagreeable blog.  It's stalled just past the halfway point, having wrapped up Roger Moore's tenure (most of the 14 films, I discovered, I actually had never seen), but I'll be delving into Timothy Dalton as soon as I catch up on my movie reviews on the other blog (behind again, what a shock).  I've been loving exploring the cinematic representations of the character, it's a fascinating progression watching the films evolve and devolve on a regular basis, each one pretty much a unique entity from the other.  Diving into wikipedia trivia after watching each film is equally intriguing, to discover the relation to Ian Fleming's original works (or so often lack thereof) and to learn of the controversy surrounding Thunderball and how big of a mess that created for the Bond series for years (still trying to locate a copy of Never Say Never Again...seems to have been buried).  These Bond newspaper strip reprint collections are brilliant for the Bond fan, since they have some great essays in the frontmatter, as well as some tidbits of info leading into each arc.  They're almost magazines rather than just trade paperbacks.

For someone like me who gets terribly bored reading prose (I can write a book faster than I can read one, I always say) these comic serials present a more faithful adaptation of Fleming's Bond than the films do, but it's intriguing to see how the films have poached from Fleming and deviated as well (as well the editorial team of these collections provide some insight into how the serials might vary as well).  It's all pretty terrific from a Bond fan standpoint.

It was interesting to see how closely Casino Royale the film stayed to Fleming's source material, which the serial faithfully adapts.  The serial is a lot lighter than the movie and the characters more shallow, but the frameworks is so much the same.  The best aspect though is the one paragraph description of how Baccarat is played (baccarat is so common in the early Connery Bond films, it's good to get some insight into what's going on).  It's also interesting to note that the films, generally, are much more robust than the serials (and likely the source).  There's a structure to a Bond movie that's so tangibly missing from the non-cinematic iterations.  The movies have surpassed Fleming's books as the truer representation of the character.

The serials ran off and on for 25 years and 54 stories. Only the first 18 represent Fleming's original work with the following all being either adaptations of post-Fleming books, or original stories.  There's 18 collected volumes (if I've done the math right) and I've managed to poach about 7 or 8 of them for about $4 a piece at a remainder bookstore sale.  It's spoiled me such that I want more but I'm totally not willing to shell out the $16.95 (at minimum) cover price, or even the usual remaindered price of $9.99.  But I must let go of my collector-head and actually get through reading the ones I got.  It's going to take a while afterall.

Oh, also if you're a Bond fan, I can't recommend enough the delightful James Bonding podcast on the Nerdist Channel.

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