The world first met Ian Fleming’s James Bond with the release of the novel Casino Royale in 1953. That first Bond story would be adapted into a newspaper comic strip in the UK in 1958, followed by a film–a satirical comedy version–in 1967 starring David Niven, followed by a dramatic film version in 2006 starring Daniel Craig. But it’s the print comic version, the newspaper adaptation, that received a new retooling of sorts this year. Dynamite Comics tapped writer Van Jensen (Flash, The Six Million Dollar Man: Fall of Man), artist Dennis Calero (Masks, Kolchak), colorist Chris O’Halloran (Lockjaw, Black Panther), letterer Simon Bowland (Red Sonja, Judge Dredd), and vintage cover artist Fay Dalton (Worlds of Tomorrow) to deliver a 2018 update to Casino Royale for a new generation of readers. The result is a rich and elegant new look at Fleming’s first Bond adventure.
From the look of Bond’s classic 1933 Bentley to the French casino where much of the story happens, the tone, mood, and style is fresh while also nostalgic. Jensen balances the extensive dialogue from the original novel to avoid a graphic novel that is merely talking heads. He is most successful at having Bond explain the rules of Baccarat to the reader via a conversation at dinner with M’s assigned companion for him, Vesper Lynd. Calero’s Bond has the steely eyes of Michael Fassbender. At the card table we meet some doppelgangers in this reader’s eyes: Grace Kelly as the American film star, Barbara Bel Geddes as the rich American, Philip Seymour Hoffman as the DuPont heir, Emma Thompson as Mrs. DuPont, Julian Glover as the Belgian, Nigel Green as Lord Danvers, Pete Postlethwaite or Titos Vandis as the Greek. And in Le Chiffre we see a bit of Aleister Crowley (Fleming’s inspiration for the character) mixed with Orson Welles (who played him in the 1967 film), and a little JFK meets Brad Pitt for American CIA agent Felix Leiter.
O’Halloran’s minimalist use of color and Calero’s lack of background detail helps keep the reader engaged, and Calero’s work is particularly interesting visualizing Bond’s thoughts in a way that evokes a Bill Sienkiewicz style. The characters are not reminiscent of actors who have portrayed them previously, leaving readers to experience this version of Casino Royale without any preconceptions, although this version may make fans of the original films wonder how Sean Connery would have played Bond in this tale. The various lettering styles required of the text give more significance to Bowland’s part in telling the story, and O’Halloran’s colors definitely evoke a 1950s world.
Here are some pages from Dynamite’s Casino Royale:
An appendix includes a behind-the-scenes peek at the script and artwork behind Dynamite’s graphic novel, plus a rundown of all the titles from Dynamite that have carried James Bond in new directions: Kill Chain, Felix Leiter, Hammerhead, Black Box, Eidolon, and Vargr.
For $75, tomorrow a special limited edition of Dynamite’s Casino Royale graphic novel will be available with a tipped-in sheet signed and remarked with a James Bond head sketch by artist Dennis Calero, or for $49.99 you can get a hardcover version with a tipped-in sheet signed by writer Van Jensen. Both of these are only available on order from your local comic book store. Or order a copy of the standard version of the hardcover from your comic shop. The standard hardcover is also available here at Amazon. This looks to be the first of what may be many new graphic novel adaptations of Fleming’s original stories from Dynamite.