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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

John McLusky, R.I.P.

Graham McLusky has announced that his father, John McLusky, the original artist of the James Bond newspaper strip which ran in the Daily Express for many years, died on 5 September, aged 83.

Born in 1923, McLusky served as an artist with Bomber Command during the war and worked as a freelance illustrator after returning to civilian life. In 1957, the Daily Express approached Fleming with the idea of adapting the Bond novels into a daily comic strip. Fleming was unsure but agreed on the condition that Anthony Hern, the literary editor of the Express adapted the story (Hern had previously been responsible for condensing the novels for newspaper serialisation).

Fleming -- who had often said that he'd based his description of Bond on Hoagy Carmichael -- submitted a portrait of how he saw Bond. This was adapted by McLusky who retained the curl of hair that fell across Bond's forehead but toughened up his looks. Anthony Hern had a slightly different recollection in 1990 when he said:
We had lunch at Wheeler's to overcome Fleming's last scruple. Over the lobster he told me that in describing James Bond he had consciously had in his mind's eye on e of his own sporting heroes, the master golfer Henry Cotton. For the artist, John McLusky, this was welcome news. At least we now had picture reference, for Cotton had been widely photographed in his prime.
The comic strip was launched on 7 July 1958 with an adaptation of Casino Royale and McLusky went on to draw (with Henry Gammidge scripting) the first 13 Bond novels, with a break in 1962-64 when the Express dropped the strip when Fleming allowed the Sunday Times to publish 'The Living Daylights', much to Lord Beaverbrook's anger. The current strip, 'Thunderball', came to a sudden end on 10 February 1962, mid-story. At the same time, Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham, who had been involved in the writing of the film scenario for Thunderball, filed suit against Fleming when he novelised the scenario without giving them any credit. The case was settled in 1963 and Bond returned to the Daily Express on 29 June 1964. McLusky departed at the end of 'You Only Live Twice' on 8 January 1966.

During the break, McLusky drew 'The Beast of Loch Craggan' for Eagle (9 Mar-8 Jun 1963) and, post-Bond, drew for June ('The Voice of Glyndarron') and TV Comic ('Orlando', 'Laurel and Hardy', 'Bugs Bunny' and 'Pink Panther'). He also worked on the Thames TV series 'Hattytown'.

McLusky returned to Bond in 1981, drawing the strip for syndication until 1984 (some of his work was seen in the UK in the Daily Star).

Titan Books have reprinted the whole of McLusky's run on the novel adaptations in four volumes: Casino Royale, Dr No, Goldfinger and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Details here.

Further Reading

The James Bond newspaper strip is (c) Express Newspapers and Glidrose Productions Ltd.

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