Happy Birthday James Bond!

Seventy years ago on 13th April 1953, Ian Fleming published his first James Bond novel – Casino Royale. To note this anniversary, at the beginning of April our fabulous intern Jenni Nicholl who is studying an MA in Curating, used our British Cartoon Archive collections to look at where the James Bond character has featured in our collections. We hope you enjoy this sample of cartoons from Jenni!

Bond, James Bond.

A line synonymous with the Bond franchise, James Bond represents to the world an idealised version of the British upper class through the representation of decorum, humour and seemingly, suave middle-aged men. Due to this, cartoons depicting Bond have been used widely in many circles such as politics and comedy in order to portray the seriousness or lack thereof of many matters concerning society through different time periods which is extremely well encapsulated in the British Cartoon Archive of The University Of Kent.

A brilliant use of the James Bond franchise within the political cartoons seen throughout the 1990s’ is Michael Cummings ‘fishbowl’ view of the fight between democracy and communism. This post-Cold War decade marked the end of the Soviet Union and so the battle of communism vs democracy was largely felt to be won by the side of the democrats with the individuals looking into the screen surmising that the hero always wins in the end of the Bond films, which however whilst actually looking at the screen, doesn’t appear to be true with Bond grasping for the democratic side under bombardment.

Cartoon in black and white showing a swimming pool with two people looking at the scene. In the pool a man (Mikhail Gorbachev) wearing swimming trunks labelled 007 has dived into the pool from a diving board labelled with a hammer and sickle (representing communism), and is swimming towards a ladder to get out of the pool. The ladder is labelled 'Democracy'. As he swims he is trying to avoid multiple attacks or obstacles including a crocodile with it's mouth open, a shark, a missile, a bullet coming out of a gun, an octopus, a bomb dropping from the sky, and a tiger prowling around the edge of the pool.

Michael Cummings, “What’s so nice about the James Bond films is that the hero always wins in the end”, Daily Express, 7th February 1990. British Cartoon Archive, Ref: CU1641. (Copyright: Express Syndication)

Whilst the cartoons may be used for political satire, the Bond Franchise was also used in the comedic arena in order to portray very normal aspects of daily life. Within this cartoon James Bond can be seen delivering his infamous line to his Facebook audience revealing his entire name, despite the nature of his job, with his supervisor urging caution. This may also give reference to the fact that despite building their foundations as the secret backbone of the safety of Britain and the monarchy, the MI6 building is one of the best known and most visited throughout London.

Colour cartoon showing a man in a blue suit at a computer terminal with the text showing on the screen "The name's Bond...James Bond". Another man in a green suit stands behind the first man and says "You want to be careful what you put on Facebook 007".

Tim Sanders, “You want to be careful what you put on Facebook 007”. The Independent, 11 June 2013. British Cartoon Archive, Ref: 99154 (Copyright: Tim Sanders).

Satire mixed with solemnity gives rise to a brilliant cartoon by Dave Brown depicting the MI6 disaster of the 14th of May 1999 in which a former officer leaked hundreds of names of agents some of whom were on active duty abroad and whose lives were put in serious danger. The cartoon highlights the nonchalant nature of the internet and the ease at which such an integral aspect of society can be broken and represents the fragility of the British security system.

Black and white cartoon showing Bond villain 'Blofeld' with his cat sitting on a armchair - viewed between the legs of James Bond standing as if immediately infront of the viewer and framing the cartoon - holding a gun down alongside his right leg. Blofeld is saying 'Resistance is futile Mr Bond... I have a web site and I'm not afraid to use it!'. Blofeld is using a computer mouse in one hand and stroking his cat with the other.

Dave Brown, “Resistance is futile Mr Bond…”, The Independent, 14 May 1999. British Cartoon Archive, Ref: DB0197A. (Copyright: Dave Brown).

Though the situation may prove to be humorous, Theresa May would have to disagree as Mr. Avila, who was due to be deported back to his country of birth, was allowed to stay in England as he cared for a cat. This hilarious situation caused such a political uproar that it was used as a point in order to stop the abuse of Labour’s Human Rights Act which were occurring during 2011.

Colour cartoon showing James Bond pointing a gun at Blofeld, sitting on a chair holding his cat, with two women standing behind him. The caption reads: You'll never get rid of me Mr Bond! They'll never deport me while I have a cat to care for'.

Michael Heath, “You’ll never get rid of me Mr Bond! They’ll never deport me while I have a cat to care for’.” Mail on Sunday, 9 October 2011. British Cartoon Archive, Ref: 95323. (Copyright: Associated Newspapers Ltd/Solo Syndication)












Curated and written by Jenni Nicholl, April 2023. 


Leave a Reply