The James Bond movies and novels aren’t exactly short on weirdness—Bond’s villains tend to hatch crazy schemes that revolve around hypnotizing women to love chickens. But if you want real insanity, you have to reach beyond the movies and books.
If you spent your Thanksgiving long weekend watching the James Bond Marathons on Syfy, Spike, Ion, BBC, Epix, or MeTV—you weren’t exactly starved for choice—you may have felt a twinge of remorse at their familiarity and sameness. In that case, you are implored to explore to the thrilling world of media tie-in novels and related works, which are full of strange and unfilmable tales featuring your favorite characters. James Bond has certainly had his share of mind-blowing, posthumous Ian Fleming tales —monster eels, Disneyland assassination plots, ice cream factory villains—it all happened, and it was all signed off on by Fleming’s estate. Here are James Bond’s strangest cases that will never marathon on basic cable.
Essentially a reboot of James Bond, Jr., Silverfin was the first story in a series to tell the adventures of James Bond as a young teenager in boarding school. Written by Charlie Higson, the story centers on the “Young Bond” as he battles Lord Randolph Hellebore, a crazed geneticist out to create super soldiers with a steroidal serum called “Silverfin”. However, initial vats of the serum turned Hellebore’s brother, Algar, into an eel-like mutation and were disposed of into a nearby loch, causing the eel population to boom—and the locals to disappear.
As Bond solves the mystery of the missing students—all the while suffering the slings and arrows of fitting into a new school—he soon begins a rivalry with Hellebore’s son, George, whom he competes with in the school’s triathlon. Of course, the two ultimately form an unlikely alliance, once Bond gets to the bottom of things: it turns out George is only lashing out because his dad breeds murderous eel-men in his castle basement. Perfectly understandable under the circumstances, really.
Initially a robust 400+ page YA novel, Silverfin was later adapted into a graphic novel illustrated by Magic: The Gathering’s Kev Walker—and it reads at a fast clip.
The climactic scenes in Hellebore’s castle are certainly fun and worth a look—especially if you enjoy detailed illustrations of castles, fish-people, and squirming masses of eels tangled in balls of steel wool.
2) Never Send Flowers
An absolutely incredible story—in John Gardner’s Never Send Flowers, Bond faces a villainous theater actor named David Dragonpol, who’s out to murder Princess Diana while she vacations with her family at Eurodisney.
Dragonpol, born deaf and mute, was kept hidden in the attic of his childhood home, until the day he took an eight-foot drop falling through the entry hatch—the impact of which somehow restored his ability to both speak and hear. Growing up to become the most successful stage actor of the 1980’s, Dragonpol’s adept ability to convey facial expressions earned him the moniker “The Man With the Glass Head”, until he retired to convert his ancestral home into a museum of theater. Disappearing from the public eye, Dragonpol began to commit a series of murders, using an air-powered rifle disguised as a cane with a duck’s head handle. He then hired children and teenagers to leave white roses at the graves of his victims.
It isn’t until late in the book we learn that his motive to slaughter figures of public importance is simply because he enjoys killing. But by then, Bond deduces his next quarry is the Queen, and he’s delighted to indulge in going on a few rides before tacking down Dragonpol, in a lengthy sequence that almost serves as a travelogue of the amusement park itself.
By the end, Bond and his newly-met girlfriend, Flicka (yes, like the horse) deduce his murder plot, and a fight ensues on the Mark Twain Riverboat ride. Dragonpol has loaded the raft made of barrels with TNT, planning to blow up Princess Di—as well as Princes Harry and William—but Bond intervenes. Bond shoots an explosive barrel bobbing in the water and Dragonpol is killed in the blast.
He’s not done yet though—later, Bond stops Dragonpol’s vengeful sister, Maeve, from dropping a hand grenade in Diana’s handbag at a ceremonial press conference.
3) Ape of Diamonds
When M16 receives a reel of film of a giant gorilla attacking an Egyptian news reporter, Bond is sent to Cairo to investigate further. A string of gorilla-based kidnappings are linked by a Planet of the Apes playing card left on the scene of the abductions—the titular “Ape of Diamonds”.
Appearing in the Daily Express’s James Bond newspaper strip from November 5th, 1976 to January 1977, Ape of Diamonds was synchronously released to coincide with the Dino De Laurentiis remake of King Kong, which came to theaters in December of that year.
While the gorilla-crimes are revealed to be the handiwork of the villainous “Hartley Rameses”, a motive is never established, and the story is hastily resolved after Rameses is killed by the story’s Bond Girl, Cleo. Still, Bond fights an elephant and shoots a man who’s just had his arm blown off by a grenade, in one of his goriest tales in any medium.
4) For Special Services
A story featuring the daughter of Blofeld teaming up with an evil Texan ice cream factory owner to revive SPECTRE, For Special Services may actually be the strangest of John Gardner’s officially licensed Bond titles.
Posing as art dealers, Bond and Cedar Leiter, daughter of Felix, are dispatched to Amarillo, Texas to investigate the ranch of one “Marcus Bismaquer”, ice cream magnate. Bond soon bests Bismaquer at the game of his choice, a NASCAR-style race, and sleeps with his one-breasted wife, Nena—who is later revealed to be the daughter of Blofeld, and the true heir of SPECTRE.
As Nena plans to hijack NORAD and overtake America’s military space satellite network, Bond is brainwashed into believing that he’s a US general—until, in an unlikely twist, he’s rescued by Marcus Bismaquer, himself—who admits he’s bisexual and has a romantic interest in Bond. The two team-up, until Marcus is killed and Nena gets crushed to death by her pet pythons.
5) The Quasimodo Gambit
In this limited comic book series from Dark Horse, Bond teams up with a Jamaican secret service agent named Nebula to investigate arms dealers, marijuana farmers and mercenaries under the employ of an insane reverend.
Written by Don McGregor, The Quasimodo Gambit pits Bond against a cult, The Disciples of the Heavenly Way, lead by Reverend Elias Hazelwood. The Reverend believes that New York has come to represent the collective evils of society, and in a display of his opinion, plans to blow up the demonic 666 Fifth Avenue—headquarters of the Hackensack Novelty Company. He achieves this with the help of two mercenaries named Light Touch and Quasimodo—the latter being a particularly vicious antagonist who tortures Bond by placing leeches beneath his tongue.
With a literally explosive climax set on Christmas, The Quasimodo Gambit seems intent to evoke Die Hard—by way of Halloween III: Season of the Witch—and succeeds. With the comic rights to Bond currently in the hands of Dynamite, don’t expect a reissue any time soon, but if you can pick up the three issues comprising the miniseries, they come highly recommended.
6) Sure as Eggs is Eggs
Issue seven of Marvel’s James Bond, Jr. comic book, written by Dan Abnett, is a fun story involving the theft of Faberge eggs with all the ludicrous trappings of the 90’s cartoon—“Gordo” Leiter, I.Q. and rest of MI6’s children thwart another scheme perpetuated by series’ main villain: Scumlord, chief of S.C.U.M.
Rendezvousing in a rowboat and a nuclear submarine, the excellently-named Tiara Hotstones, jewel thief, meets with Scumlord and agrees to steal the eggs, causing a diplomatic incident between Britain and Russia in the fallout. And while James Jr. and IQ are initially suspected of the theft, in classic cartoon fashion, James is able to charm his way into a 24-hour clemency to retrieve and return the eggs.
Ludicrous in concept, yet fairly tame for a James Bond, Jr. story, “Sure as Eggs is Eggs” is mostly notable for the incredible image of James Bond, Jr. in a motorcycle fencing duel with Jaws, each of them using fence posts instead of lances. Of course, everything is set right at the end, at unbeknownst to Scumlord, his precious Faberge eggs have been replaced with rotten, normal ones—“GROSS!”