James Bond 007: Shark Bait Publisher: Titan Books Writer: Jim Lawrence Pencils & Inks: Yaroslav Horak and Harry North Cover: Yaroslac Horak
Shark Bait is one of many collected volumes collecting the James Bond newspaper strip that was syndicated in the Express newspapers in the United Kingdom. The strip initially began in the early 1960s, pre-dating the James Bond film series, and was written and drawn by Henry Gammidge and John McClusky respectively. The earliest strips were adaptations of Ian Fleming's original novels. Beginning in 1966, Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav Horak took over the strip, eventually creating original stories when the original books were exhausted. They remained on the strip until it ended in 1983. Shark Bait is actually two and a half adventures printed in a single volume. The first appears to be the second half of an adventure entitled "The Xanadu Connection," followed by "Shark Bait," then "Doom Crack," both in their entirety. The book also features a history of James Bond in American comic books.
I found Jim Lawrence's writing inconsistent with the James Bond character as he has been presented in film. Since the release of Dr. No in 1962, six actors have played the role, so Lawrence's version may simply be yet another variation on a theme.
The art by Yaroslav Horak, to me, is reminiscent of a rough Carmine Infantino meet Sanjulian. However, it should be noted that the two stories – well, one and a half – that he illustrates never actually saw print for reasons unknown. British media may sometimes have a reputation for a more liberal approach, yet I still found it a little surprising to see topless women featured in a newspaper comic strip. Harry North, on the other hand, does seem to try to bring the strip more in line with the film series by using the movie cast as the basis for his character designs. Nevertheless, his renderings have a Mort Drucker-like quality.
The format of the daily newspaper strip presents a challenge of keeping the reader engaged while presenting story snippets in rather small, bite-size pieces. Though the creators have mastered the format in a technical sense, the disjointed nature of the presentation of the material keeps me from pursuing other books in the series. However, greater 007 fans may feel otherwise.