Deep cover: The cover art of 007

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I’m a Bond fan. I can’t think of a single person I know who isn’t. Through 23 official films and three unofficial movies, the character of 007 has become a towering figure in our modern pop-culture. Though we’re all familiar with the Bond films, the character of 007 was introduced in a series of  novels written by Ian Fleming; novels that began in the 1953 book, “Casino Royale”. As well as being a Bond fan, I am also fan of literature and art, and Ian Fleming’s Bond books are a perfect intersection of both.

Signet 007

1962 Signet Reprints

My adoration for Bond book art came in the early 2000s, when I acquired a set of 1962 Signet reprints. This series uses thumbnail versions of some of the artwork from the original hardcovers (although new art was created). These outstanding illustrations gave readers a real sense of James Bond and the world surrounding him, not that from the films necessarily, but the 1950s and 60s world that Ian Fleming wanted us to experience. These covers, filled with smoking men and blond bombshells, told me everything I needed to know before I even opened the book.

There has been some gorgeous Bond book designs over the years, which is why I wanted to share with you three of the most recent updates.

2002-2003 Richie Fahey Editions

book covers 09Die another Day would have been the last Bond film in theaters, and Casino Royale wouldn’t premiere for another four years, so the image of 007 was probably due for an update (or a throwback). For the updated Penguin set, artist Richie Fahey was charged with the task of creating all new covers for the fourteen original Fleming novels (and a new collection of Bond short stories). These covers called back to Bond’s roots as a cold war character from the 1950s-60s. More than anything though, these covers scream pulp adventure with the perfect mix of sex, exotic locales and violence. These covers also helped Bond fans lick their wounds after the decline of the Brosnan cycle.

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2008 Michael Gillette Centenary Editions

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In 2008, in honor of author Ian Fleming’s 100th birthday, Penguin released anniversary editions of the fourteen original novels with new cover artwork by Michael Gillette. With each cover of the original novels, Gillette illustrates the theme of the book through the creation of a distinct “Bond Girl” one sheet. This series is less a callback to the character’s pulp roots, but instead seems to be drawing inspiration from the mid to late 60 and even early 70s when Roger Moore was wearing the holster. These illustrations are beautiful, and emphasize sex appeal as well as serve up some hints to those who may not be familiar with the stories. They are really reminiscent of Robert McGinnis’ poster art for the 1967 pastiche of Casino Royale (featured at the top of the post).

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2012 Bond 50th anniversary Vintage Classic Redesign

Microsoft Word - James BondThis latest series of Bond book designs feature no elaborate illustrations at all, and instead use typography and slight iconographic embellishments to evoke the theme of the book. Developed and released by Random House, these fourteen new covers were developed by 6 different designers (Suzanne Dean, Stephen Parker, Julia Connolly, Matt Broughton, James Jones, Kris Potter). Though each book is designed by a different set of hands, the team was told by creative director Suzanne Dean to use artist Saul Bass as an inspiration. Bass is known for his movie posters and title sequences, particularly with regard to his work with Alfred Hitchock. This nucleus of inspiration shows in each book’s redesign giving them all a cohesion, while making them a set. This redesign also hearkens more to the films than the other designs, making each cover look like the title card to a classic Bond film.

livedie The Spy Who Loved Me twiceI hope you’ve enjoyed my look at Bond book cover art. Obviously I couldn’t cover the entire series of redesigns, but I’m curious, what are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments.

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Robert Walker
Robert Walker 152 posts

Rob Walker is a writer and filmmaker in Colorado, and is creator of the comedy web series Victorian Cut-out Theatre. He loves horror films and comic books (American Vampire, Jonah Hex, The Flash, Planetary). Rob has been a Sherlockian since the age of ten, is a Dark Tower junky and believes that Indiana Jones is the greatest cinematic hero ever created. You can follow him on twitter at: @timidwerewolf and see his other writings and videos at robwalkerfilms.com