Jun 23, 2016

New Jason Bourne Poster

Universal has released a new international poster for Jason Bourne, Matt Damon's eagerly anticipated return to the titular Robert Ludlum character. Frankly, it's a pretty boring poster, if you ask me. (Especially compared with the simple, but exciting, teaser.) It looks like someone Photoshopped Damon's head onto a Taken poster... or lazily rehashed the worst James Bond campaign, from Die Another Day. That said, the movie itself (which also heralds the return to the franchise of director Paul Greengrass) looks characteristically fantastic! And it's nice to see Oscar winner Alicia Vikander getting a more prominent spot in the film's advertising than she did for her last spy movie, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Jason Bourne opens July 29 in the United States.

Feig Talks Spy 2, Statham Returning

When director Paul Feig's hilarious secret agent send-up Spy made more than $200 million last year, a sequel seemed inevitable (especially since the movie had been originally conceived as a franchise opener), but things have been surprisingly quiet on that front ever since. This week, out doing press for Ghostbusters, Feig finally spilled some details on the follow-up to Empire (via Dark Horizons). "It's the first thing I did that I set up to be a possible franchise and Melissa [McCarthy] is dying to do it. I have a story for it, and a funny idea that will kick it off that involves [Jason] Statham." Statham proved a scene-stealer in Spy, delivering an absolutely hilarious monologue of his espionage accomplishments sending up both James Bond and the action star's own image. ("I watched the woman I love get tossed from a plane and hit by another plane mid-air. I drove a car off a freeway on top of a train while it was on fire. Not the car; I was on fire.") It wasn't just audiences who were in stitches with Statham's hitherto under-explored comedic chops; he also impressed the director. "Susan Cooper [McCarthy] is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever come up with," Feig went on, "but Rick Ford is possibly the one I’ll take to the grave with me. Will he get any more self-aware in the sequel? No, god no. He’ll get less self-aware." I can't wait to see more of Ford's antics in Spy 2!

Trailer: Keeping Up With the Joneses

It's been more than two years since we first heard that Jon Hamm and Zach Galifianakis would be teaming up for a spy comedy. To be honest, I'd kind of forgotten about it, which makes the trailer for Keeping Up With the Joneses that Fox dropped this week all the more of a pleasant surprise! Galifianakis (Birdman) and Isla Fisher (Now You See Me) play a suburban couple who discover their new, seemingly perfect neighbors (Hamm and  Criminal's Gal Gadot) are superspies. On what side is unclear, but as the trailer demonstrates, hijinx ensue. Greg Mottola (Superbad) directs, from a script by Michael LeSieur. Patton Oswalt (Archer) and Matt Walsh (Veep) provide A-list comedic support. Keeping Up With the Joneses opens on October 21.

Tradecraft: Sicario Spawns Spy Series

We already knew that a sequel was in the works to what might well have been the best spy movie of 2016 (a year literally packed with spy movies), Sicario. But now it looks like that film might spin off a whole series, or at least a trilogy. Italian director Stefano Sollima (Gomorrah), who is set to helm the second film, Soldado, told The Independent (via Dark Horizons) that that was the plan. "The reason that I love [Soldado] is because it's not exactly a sequel; it's something you can catch and enjoy even if you haven't watched the first one. The idea is to make three anthology movies with some of the core actors and in the same world." The core characters returning for the second movie will be Josh Brolin's shady CIA agent Benicio del Toro's nebulous assassin. "It's absolutely a standalone movie," the director states, "a completely different story with just two of the characters that you met in Sicario." Taylor Sheridan wrote Sicario and Soldado, and seems like a likely bet to pen this third film as well. Personally, I'd sure like to see Jeffrey Donovan's special forces operator return as well.

Jun 21, 2016

Exclusive Interview With James Bond Comic Book Writer Warren Ellis

This is a big week for James Bond fans. Tomorrow sees the release of both the collected edition of the first new 007 comic book storyline in more than twenty years, VARGR, and the first issue of Dynamite's second storyline, EIDOLON, both written by comics superstar Warren Ellis (Global Frequency, RED). The gorgeous VARGR hardcover (which includes a gallery of all of the series' beautiful variant covers as well as some stunning concept art by series artist Jason Masters) will look great on the shelf alongside all your other Bond continuation novels.

With British author Warren Ellis, Dynamite seemed to land the perfect writer for a new generation of contemporary 007 comics. Ellis achieved great acclaim for his original series like Transmetropolitan and Planetary, as well as his work on mainstream superhero titles like Iron Man and Excaliber. But it was his previous forays into the paranoid world of spies and espionage in series like Global Frequency, RED (which was turned into a 2010 movie starring Bruce Willis which in turn spawned a sequel) and Reload (with former James Bond artist Paul Gulacy) that made Ellis ideally suited for Ian Fleming's superspy.

He recently took a moment for a brief exclusive interview with the Double O Section to answer some deep-cut, hardcore Bond nerd questions, and to discuss his work on "VARGR" and what we can expect from "EIDOLON" (which reintroduces SPECTRE to the world of the literary 007!).
00: You've taken on the Bond myth before in some other guises. How is your Bond different from the Bond/Nick Fury analogue in Planetary, John Stone? 
Ellis: Well, that character was much more of a specific riff on Marvel's Nick Fury character from the 1960s -- its only relationship to Bond was in the things that Nick Fury's writers and artists took from Bond. My Bond is the Bond of the books, by design and agreement with the Ian Fleming estate, and there's not, to my eye, a lot of connection there beyond the superficial. 
00: Obviously you re-read a lot of Fleming to prepare for this series. Since you're now an official 007 continuation author, working with the Fleming estate, did you delve at all into the work of any previous continuation authors, like Kingsley Amis, John Gardner, Raymond Benson, or William Boyd? Or is it necessary to consciously avoid that? 
Ellis: I decided to consciously avoid that. The remit was very much to live within the Bond of the books, and my decision was to only read the Fleming. Going in, I was terrified of pastiche or dilution, and to read the continuation books would put me at a remove from the central texts. The only non-Fleming reading I did was Amis' non-fiction appreciation of Bond [The James Bond Dossier], just to complement my own notes.

I never really thought of myself as an "official" 007 continuation author before. I quite like that. Thank you. 
00: You're welcome! It's a great group to be in. There are some elements very much present in Fleming, but which have become exaggerated in the films – notably the gadgets (attaché cases with hidden weapons as opposed to invisible cars) and humor (wry observations rather than puns). How do you walk that line between the book and film takes on those things, and will we see more of either in EIDOLON? 
Ellis: There were one or two gags I couldn't resist, just as I couldn't resist opening VARGR with a movie-style cold open. I'm never going to get another opportunity to write one of those, after all. But, in general, I cleave much more towards the more reserved tone of the books. Not perfectly, I know -- I leaven the text when the opportunity presents itself, not least because it opens up Bond's personality. I don't have access to the ease of interiority that prose provides, so I take advantage of dialogue interplay and body language, the affordances of comics.

EIDOLON might be a little "lighter" than VARGR, as I allow myself a few Fleming-isms that I avoided in VARGR. "Dharma Reach" was a fun name in VARGR, for instance, but there's a female character in EIDOLON with a far more full-on Fleming-y name.  As in Fleming, it's the little details that make it live.
Be sure to pick up the collected edition of VARGR if you haven't already to revel in those little details, and check out James Bond 007 #7, in comic shops June 22, to read Ellis's latest Bond adventure. Thank you to Warren Ellis for taking the time for this interview and to Dynamite Entertainment for making it happen.

Read my review of James Bond 007 #1, the premiere issue of VARGR, here.
Read about the recently reissued 1960s James Bond manga collections here.
Pre-order James Bond 007: VARGR from Amazon here.

Jun 17, 2016

Tradecraft: Netflix Orders Spy Kids TV Show

The Spy Kids are returning, this time on TV. Variety reports that Netflix will debut Spy Kids: Mission Critical, a series spinoff of the Robert Rogriguez theatrical kids' films, in 2018. According to the trade, "the show follows brother-and-sister team Juni and Carmen Cortez as they attend Spy Kids Academy, a top-secret spy school for kid agents. They must train and lead a team of fellow Spy Kids cadets against the forces of S.W.A.M.P. (Sinister Wrongdoers Against Mankind’s Preservation) and their leader, Golden Brain." It's unclear from this article whether this is an animated or live-action kids' show, but the head writer is FM DeMarco, who previously worked on Netflix's animated show Dragons: Race to the Edge, so that might be a clue. Bob Weinstein and The Weinstein Company will produce. No mention is made of any involvement from Rodriguez, who has directed all four installments of the film series, most recently the quasi-reboot Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 2011. In that film, Juni and Carmen (the child heroes of the original trilogy) were young adults who had passed the torch on to a new generation of Sky Kids.

Jun 4, 2016

Roach and Myers Still Contemplating Fourth Austin Powers Movie

Dark Horizons reports that director Jay Roach (whose LBJ biopic All the Way recently premiered on HBO) and star Mike Myers (Inglourious Basterds) are still kicking around ideas for a fourth Austin Powers movie. "You know, we talk about it every time we get together," the director told Larry King Now. "It ebbs and flows, and I would say it's in a latent phase right now, but someday if we find the right idea that seems to have it earn itself, for sure." Asked by King if they had a specific idea for the sequel, Roach replied, "We've had a whole bunch. It's been many years of kicking around, and we've had so many, but there's no one that's kind of stuck yet." So it doesn't sound like anything very concrete is happening on this front. That's probably for the best. While the first film (which will be two decades old next year, if you can believe it) was brilliant and hilarious, the sequels proved the law of diminishing returns. Still, they managed to shine a spotlight on Sixties spy movies, which is always a good thing. It was in the run-up to the third Powers movie that Fox released Our Man Flint and In Like Flint on DVD for the first time (with a weird cover blurb on the sequel attributed to Austin Powers himself proclaiming it, "My favorite movie!"), along with Fathom and Modesty Blaise (the latter of which makes its Blu-ray debut this summer via Kino Lorber). So if another Austin Powers movie meant more obscure spy titles making their way to home video, then I'd be all for it.

Digging into the Double O Section archives, I see that I've already written this blurb virtually verbatim (right down to the Fathom reference) at least twice before, and probably more. Rumors of another Austin Powers adventure tend to pop up every couple of years. Back in 2011, New Line was reported to be "close to a deal" with Myers for a film focusing on the villainous Dr. Evil and his son Scott. More recently, The New York Times reported that Myers was planning to resurrect the character on Broadway instead. Neither ultimately panned out.

May 24, 2016

Batman Meets Avengers Steed and Mrs. Peel For Real This Summer

DC Comics' Batman '66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel, uniting the Adam West incarnation of the Caped Crusader with the original Avengers, was first announced at Comic-Con last summer. But after that news on the project was frustratingly scarce. In the fall came the surprising news that Batman would next team up with another pair of Sixties tube spooks, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin in Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Again, details were scarce, and spy fans were left to ponder whether the U.N.C.L.E. series had precluded the previously announced Avengers crossover, or merely preceded it. Thankfully it now seems clear that DC is intent on a series of Sixties Batman TV crossovers, the issues of which appear to have replaced the ongoing monthly Batman '66 comic, which came to a close just before the U.N.C.L.E. crossover began. The publisher officially announced Batman '66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel last month (as reported on Comic Book Resources), with the first issue hitting comic shops July 6 (after debuting digitally on June 8) and the second slated for August 3.

The 6-issue series will be a co-publication with BOOM! Studios, who have held the license to publish Steed and Mrs. Peel comics since 2012, and have done so intermittently since then, along with reprinting Grant Morrison's early Nineties run on the title. BOOM!'s most recent stab at Steed and Emma (for my money, bar none the greatest characters in all spy television) came in 2014 with "Mrs. Peel, We're Needed" by Ian Edginton and Marco Cosentino. That series was originally solicited as being six issues, but was alarmingly truncated to just three (and never collected in trade), presumably owing to poor sales. (A pity, too, because Edginton delivered a great story chock-full of amusing references to The Prisoner, James Bond and other Sixties pop culture spies.) Hopefully a meeting with Batman will give The Avengers the higher profile they need to sell more comics of their own, and Boom! will at least allow Edginton to finish out his 6-issue run and then publish a collected edition to match their previous three volumes of original comics. That seems like a possibility because, happily, Edginton is the writer on Batman '66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel! Matthew Dow Smith (whose previous TV-based comics include Doctor Who and The X-Files, and who also drew the very first solo adventure of Mike Mignola's Lobster Johnson) provides the art, and the great Mike Allred (Red Rocket 7) continues his cover duties from Batman '66 and Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (Additionally, Cat Staggs will provide a variant cover for the first issue.)

Some fans complained about the artwork because the publisher apparently didn't obtain likeness rights for Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, but I thought DC really knocked it out of the park with Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which will be collected in hardcover in September. I sincerely hope that Batman Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel maintains that high level of quality and fun, and with Edginton (who also penned a quartet of outstanding Sherlock Holmes graphic novel adaptations) at the helm, I'm confident that it will. Furthermore, if I may dare to dream a moment, I hope that the two miniseries are successful enough to warrant follow-ups. I would love to see more U.N.C.L.E. from DC (and I suspect the only way that will happen is with Batman along for the ride), and I would love even more to see some sort of jam-packed hullabaloo with Batman, Steed, Emma, Napoleon and Illya all together! (While I'm dreaming big, such an epic event should definitely be drawn by Allred. He loves hullabaloos.) At the very least, it will be nice to have a pair of Batman '66 superspy crossovers next to each other on my bookshelf by early next year. (The hardcover volumes DC has done with Batman '66 are very attractive indeed.)

I have no doubt that this series will yield an umbrella fight between John Steed and the Penguin, and a catsuited cat fight between Emma Peel and Catwoman. And obviously (judging from the cover for #2), Cybernaughts show up too. And I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Hellfire Club make an appearance. But here's what we know for sure, in the form of DC's solicitation copy for the first two issues.
BATMAN ’66 MEETS STEED AND MRS. PEEL #1England swings and so does the Dynamic Duo in this historic pairing of two of the hippest shows from 1960s television. DC Comics and BOOM! Studios join forces to bring these iconic characters together for the first time!
As Bruce Wayne shows the beautiful head of a UK electronics company the sights of Gotham, they are interrupted by the felonious feline Catwoman! Unwilling to leave Miss Michaela Gough unprotected, Bruce resigns himself to the fact that Batman cannot save the day. But some new players have arrived in town—though even as the lovely, catsuit-clad Mrs. Peel and her comrade John Steed take control of the situation, nefarious plots continue apace!  
BATMAN ’66 MEETS STEED AND MRS. PEEL #2Gotham City’s police headquarters have been besieged by mysterious metal men, and our heroes are put in an unlikely position: as Catwoman’s saviors. And when even Batman’s best efforts falter, John Steed’s trusty umbrella plays a key role in the rescue! Co-published with BOOM! Studios.
Like Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Batman '66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel will be a digital first comic. This means that the comic will be published digitally on a bi-weekly schedule in advance of its print publication. Each digital issue contains half the contents of each print issue, so digitally it will amount to twelve parts total.

Pre-order Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E. here.
Order Steed and Mrs. Peel: The Golden Game here.
Order Steed and Mrs. Peel Volume 1 here.
Order Steed and Mrs. Peel Volume 2 here.
Order Steed and Mrs. Peel Volume 3 here.

Read my review of Steed and Mrs. Peel #0 here.
Read my interview with Steed and Mrs. Peel writer Caleb Monroe here.

May 17, 2016

See the First Mission: Impossible On the Big Screen in L.A.

James Bond movies play the revival circuit all the time, but the opportunity to see early entries in other continuing blockbuster spy franchises in the theater is much less frequent. Los Angelenos, however, will get just such an opportunity next week when the Arclight Hollywood presents the first Mission: Impossible on the big screen. No, I'm not talking about Mission: Impossible vs. The Mob, the film assembled from two episodes of the TV show to play overseas in the Sixties (though that would certainly be cool to see in a cinema!); I'm talking about the first Tom Cruise movie, which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary--almost to the night. Brian DePalma's Mission: Impossible opened on May 22, 1996; the Arclight screening (presented digitally) happens just a day late on May 23, 2016 at 7:30pm. Tickets are available from the Arclight website. It's kind of amazing that Cruise has been playing the role of IMF agent Ethan Hunt for so long. No actor ever played James Bond continuously for so many years (though Connery returned to the role for Never Say Never Again 21 years after his first outing as 007), though the Mission: Impossible movies have never appeared with the regularity of Bonds, making that feat somewhat easier to, er... accomplish.

When I first saw Mission: Impossible in high school, I came home very disappointed by what screenwriters William Goldman and David Koepp had done to Jim Phelps, beloved hero of the TV show (played there by the great Peter Graves and in the movie by Jon Voight), who I knew at that time only through the late 80s/early 90s revival. But over the years, I've learned to let go a little. Plus, the high quality of the recent entries in the film series has earned some good will on my part toward the first one. While the Phelps twist will never sit right with me, I can now appreciate DePalma's film for the many things it does right. He directs an honest-to-goodness spy movie, homaging the genre far outside of just the Mission TV show or the Bond movies at a time when many believed it to be dead after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His canted angles of twisty European streets recollect Carol Reed, Sidney Furie and Martin Ritt with the same gusto that his expertly constructed setpieces tribute, as always, with DePalma, Alfred Hitchcock. (Though of course the film's most memorable moment, with Cruise dangling from the ceiling of the CIA, actually comes directly from Jules Dassin's Topkapi.) And Danny Elfman's score is utterly fantastic from start to finish, like DePalma taking its musical cues as much from Hitchcock collaborators like Bernard Herrman as from original Mission: Impossible composer Lalo Schifrin. For open-minded spy fans, I think seeing the 1996 Mission: Impossible on the big screen again could prove revelatory.
Thanks to Neil for the heads-up!

May 16, 2016

Tradecraft: Thrilling Cities TV Series in Development

Sharp-eyed agents at MI6 (the mega-Bond fansite, not the spy agency) noticed a very interesting item buried within a Hollywood Reporter story about actor Michael Weatherly's departure from the hit TV series NCIS. Musing about future prospects, Weatherly told the trade that his production company, Solar Drive Productions, is working on adapting Ian Fleming's 1963 non-fiction travelogue Thrilling Cities into a possible TV series. That's a very exciting prospect! Evidently, Weatherly thinks so too, telling the trade, "All of it is so exciting, but I'm really not allowing myself to get too excited about it until the final episode of NCIS airs." No further details are provided. Would this be a travel/reality series, or a drama? Would it be set in today's most thrilling cities, or the same ones Fleming found thrilling in the early 1960s? Would it be a period piece? All of these prospects are intriguing. Weatherly founded Solar Drive in 2014, strking an overall development deal with CBS Television Studios on a mission to create  "inventive, adrenalized, powerful hit series in every platform"... which doesn't seem to narrow down the possibilities. It seems unlikely, however, that Weatherly would star in a drama version; he's already committed to another new CBS show, Bull, so most likely he'll be involved only in a producing capacity. Whatever they ultimately come up with, it's important to note that development is a long way from being on the air. Fingers crossed though! I would love to see another Ian Fleming property on screen, even if the final product bears only a nominal relationship to its original inspiration. The property someone really needs to develop, though, is The Diamond Smugglers! Imagine posters touting so-and-so as "John Blaize, the other hero from the creator of James Bond!"

May 1, 2016

Tradecraft: Paul Rudd to Play Moe Berg

Variety reports that Paul Rudd (Captain America: Civil War) will play the legendary baseball player/spy (more legendary as the former than the latter) Moe Berg in The Catcher Was a Spy for Palmstar Media. Since it has the same title, I'm assuming this film will be based on Nicholas Davidoff's 1995 book, and I honestly can't believe it's taken so long for that to make it to the screen. There have been many books on Berg, however (ESPN calls him "the only utility player to be the subject of three biographies"), so it's possible that the movie has other source material. Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan) wrote the screenplay and Ben Lewin (The Sessions) will direct.

Berg was perhaps the ultimate Renaissance man. With degrees from Princeton and Columbia Law (as well as studying at the Sorbonne), he was a polyglot and an athlete. During a fifteen-year career in the major league he bounced around between multiple teams including the Chicago White Sox, the Washington Senators and the Boston Red Sox. An undistinguished record didn't stop him from accompanying the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to Japan in the years before WWII, where he covertly photographed Tokyo for the U.S. government, taking films that were supposedly used in planning the Doolittle raid. He went on to serve in the OSS and the CIA, taking on numerous perilous wartime assignments.

Apr 26, 2016

SPECTRE Returns in Warren Ellis' Second James Bond Comics Arc

According to the solicitation copy for Dynamite's James Bond 007 #7, in stores June 15, Warren Ellis's second 007 arc will see the return of the villainous organization SPECTRE to the pages of comics. Indeed, as the comics are licensed from Ian Fleming Publications and based on the Fleming novels rather than the films, the storyline "EIDOLON," also marks the first appearance of SPECTRE in print (in the world of the literary Bond) since John Gardner's tenure as the official continuation author back in the 1980s! Here's the description:
After World War Two, army intelligence groups created ghost cells called "stay-behinds" across Europe in the event of a Warsaw Pact surge. “EIDOLON” is the story of a SPECTRE stay-behind structure – ghost cells of SPECTRE loyalists acting as sleepers until the time is right for a SPECTRE reformation and resurgence. The time is now.
Ellis gave an interview with Comic Book Resources, revealing slightly more about the story. "SPECTRE is over as a threat at this time in Bond's life, and Blofeld is gone," he tells the website, promising, "This is something new." The inspiration for "EIDOLON" (a Greek word meaning "ghost," "phantom," or... "specter"), he reveals, draws as much upon current events as it does on those WWII stay-behind units. "I'd been looking for a way to introduce asymmetrical warfare and modern combat conditions into Bond without being too clunky about it -- AQ, Daesh, the movement of money, all the stuff that didn't necessarily pertain when Fleming was writing," he told CBR.

And while we might not be seeing Ernst Stavro Blofeld rise from the ashes, Ellis does promise one figure from Bond's past. Fans can look forward to CIA agent (or former CIA agent, depending on which part of Fleming's timeline Ellis ends up drawing from) Felix Leiter popping up in "EIDOLON."

Meanwhile, Ellis's first James Bond 007 storyline, "VARGR," will be collected in hardcover this summer, in stores June 28 and available for pre-order on Amazon.

Apr 25, 2016

New Trailer and Posters: Le Carré's Our Kind of Traitor

We saw the British trailer a couple of months ago; now we get our first American trailer for Our Kind of Traitor, courtesy of Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions—along with the rather uninspired U.S. (above) and UK (below) posters for the John le Carré adaptation, based on his highly entertaining 2010 novel. Ewan McGregor (Stormbreaker), Naomie Harris (Skyfall), Damian Lewis (Homeland), Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) and Stellan Skarsgård (The Hunt for Red October) star. Our Kind of Traitor opens July 1 in the United States, and May 13 in the UK.

New Poster: Jason Bourne

Here's the second teaser poster for Jason Bourne, the fourth movie starring Matt Damon as Robert Ludlum's amnesiac superspy, and the third directed by Paul Greengrass. Jason Bourne opens July 27, 2016 (two days earlier than previously announced). Watch the latest trailer here. View the first poster (same slogan, full body) here.

Apr 21, 2016

Trailer: Jason Bourne

We got our first glimpse in nine years at Matt Damon in action as Jason Bourne during the Super Bowl spot for the eponymous new movie. Today, Universal has released the full trailer, and it looks pretty spectacular! Damon re-teams with his Bourne Supremacy, Bourne Ultimatum and Green Zone director Paul Greengrass, and the results are exactly what you'd expect of that team. Jason Bourne (which bodly abandons the traditional Robert Ludlum title structure) opens July 29.  Alicia Vikander (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), Vincent Cassel (Agents Secrets), Tommy Lee Jones (Criminal) and Julia Stiles (reprising her role from previous Bourne movies) co-star.

Read my review of Paul Greengrass's The Bourne Ultimatum here.
Read my review of Tony Gilroy's The Bourne Legacy here.
Read my review of the 1988 miniseries of The Bourne Identity here.
Read my review of Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Identity here.
Read my review of Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Supremacy here.
Read my review of Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Ultimatum here

Apr 19, 2016

The Night Manager Debuts Tonight in America

I've been covering this miniseries with much excitement since it was first announced in 2014, and tonight it is finally here! After it aired in the UK last month and in various other territories since then, American audiences at last get to tune in to the six-part BBC/AMC miniseries The Night Manager, based on John le Carré's 1993 novel, starting tonight. Hugh Laurie (House), Tom Hiddleston (Marvel's The Avengers), Olivia Colman (Broadchruch) and Elizabeth Debicki (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) star in Susanne Bier's contemporary take on le Carré's much loved thriller. Laurie has long been a fan of this novel, having attempted to secure the rights back in his Jeeves & Wooster days hoping to play the role Hiddleston now takes on, and written his own fantastic parody of it (and the spy genre at large) in The Gun Seller. (And according to Adam Sisman's recent le Carré biography, Laurie has actually known the author personally since the Nineties, having met him through Stephen Fry.) Attempts to film The Night Manager date back nearly to its original publication. As recently as 2009, Brad Pitt hoped to star in a feature version. But in many ways le Carré works best on the small screen, where there is plenty of room to explore all the nuances, twists and turns of his complex plots. (The BBC's miniseries versions of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People starring Alec Guinness remain high water marks of the genre to this day.) Amazingly, it's been 25 years since the last small screen le Carré adaptation, 1991's A Murder of Quality (review here). After the success The Night Manager has already enjoyed in Britain (where, like the Guinness miniseries before it, it was a bona fide cultural phenomenon), it's unlikely we'll have to wait so long again. The Ink Factory, the production company founded by two of le Carré's sons behind The Night Manager, is already cooking up a three-part adaptation of the author's 2003 novel Absolute Friends.

The Night Manager debuts tonight, Tuesday, April 19, at 10/9c on AMC.

Apr 4, 2016

Blue Ruin Director to Helm Robert Littell's Defection?

This project was first reported back in 2014, but things have been quiet since then. I'm glad to learn it's still progressing! According to The Tracking Board (via Dark Horizons), Jeremy Saulnier, who helmed the acclaimed 2014 indie feature Blue Ruin and the upcoming Patrick Stewart white supremacist thriller Green Room, is in talks to make his studio debut with 20th Century Fox's Defection. As previously reported, Defection (scripted by Black Hawk Down's Ken Nolan) is based on The Defection of A.J. Lewinter, the first novel by spy stalwart Robert Littell, whose works have also served as the basis for the TNT series The Company (with Michael Keaton) and Legends (with Sean Bean). Here's how The Tracking Board describes the project:
Cut from the same cloth as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy but set in an Edward Snowden era, Defection tells the story of Leo Diamond, a broken down CIA case officer who uses his calculated Cold War training to go after a mid-level CIA intelligence contractor who has defected to North Korea and has taken a mysterious suitcase with him.
Littell's novel is a bona fide classic, but very, very much seeped in the Cold War period in which it was written. Relocating it to North Korea wouldn't be nearly as simple as doing a find/replace swapping "Pyongyang" for "Moscow;" it would require considerable research into the ins and outs of North Korean politics and power structures (which I'm presuming are just as internecine as they were in the Soviet Union in the Seventies). And changing the defector from a scientist to an intelligence contractor, while timely in the wake of Snowden, will also create major ramifications in the novel's plot—possibly even affecting one of the all-time great final twists in spy fiction. Just making the very play-like, talky novel cinematic would be a major challenge, so I look forward to seeing how Nolan pulls it off. Saulnier is an expert at creating tension, so I have no doubt he'll pull off this difficult page to screen transition.

At one point Brad Pitt was attached to star in and produce Defection. He's not mentioned in this report, so I'm not sure if he's involved any longer.

Mar 21, 2016

Tradecraft: Edward Holcroft Returns for Kingsman 2

At least one seemingly dead character from Kingsman: The Secret Service will be back for the sequel. Deadline reports that British actor Edward Holcroft (who went on to play a much more dramatic spy role opposite Ben Whishaw in London Spy) will return as Eggsy's (Taron Edgerton) snobby Kingsman candidate rival turned antagonist, Charlie. Though Charlie presumably perished in the mountain bunker at the end of the first movie, I don't think we actually saw it on screen. Does his reappearance open the door for another, much more popular, character who was killed off far more definitively? While the official word is no, many fans are still hoping director Matthew Vaughn has a surprise in store regarding that character. Kingsman 2 is set to shoot this summer, from a script by Vaughn and Jane Goldman (not, this time, working from a Mark Millar comic book). According to the trade, Halle Berry (Die Another Day) and Julianne Moore (Laws of Attraction) are also in talks to star in the sequel, with Berry as the head of the CIA and Moore as the villainess. As previously reported, Vaughn will once again direct.

Mar 11, 2016

Tradecraft: Michael Keaton to Costar in Flynn's American Assassin

The long, long gestating Mitch Rapp movie seems to finally be gaining some traction and moving towards production. First set up at CBS Films for producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura way back in early 2008, actors like Gerrard Butler, Matthew Fox and Chris Hemsworth have all at one time or another flirted with playing Vince Flynn's counterterror hero in what's hoped to be a franshise based on the late author's 13 novel series. It was reported a while ago that Homeland veteran Michael Cuesta (Kill the Messenger) would direct, but we haven't heard anything new since then and I wondered if he was even still involved. (Legends' Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Legends of the Fall's Ed Zwick had previously been linked to the project in that capacity.) Evidently he is. In the first casting announcement of this particular incarnation, Deadline reports that Michael Keaton (The Company) will play the supporting role of Stan Hurley in American Assassin, Rapp's CIA mentor, a shadowy veteran of Cold War Black Ops. Bruce Willis had been attached to this role in a previous incarnation of the Rapp movie. American Assassin isn't based on Flynn's first book, but on the chronological first story in the series. (Originally it was CBS Films' plan to adapt Flynn's Consent to Kill first.) Published in 2010, the novel was a prequel telling the origins of the fearless Rapp, who joined the CIA hungry for revenge after his fiance was killed in a terrorist attack and came under the tutelege of Hurley.

Feb 17, 2016

Tradecraft: Kingsman Sequel Gathers Steam With Julianne Moore as Villain

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the sequel to last year's Kingsman: The Secret Service is gearing up for a June shoot, and Julianne Moore (The Fugitive) has been tapped to play the main villain. The trade reports that Matthew Vaughn will direct again (I was kind of hoping he'd tackle his other percolating spy movie, the adaptation of Terry Hayes' I Am Pilgrim, next) and Taron Egerton (now starring in Eddie the Eagle) will once again star as Eggsy. Not returning is Colin Firth. Last year it had been rumored that Vaughn was looking for ways to bring his character back. Personally, I'd still love to see two franchises grow out of Kingsman: a series of sequels starring Egerton, and a series of prequels starring Firth.

Read my review of Kingsman: The Secret Service here.

Tradecraft: Sony Shops Salt for TV

Screen Daily reports (via Dark Horizons) that Sony is developing a television version of their 2010 spy film Salt. The original starred Angelina Jolie (after a lengthy development process that saw the protagonist's gender changed after Tom Cruise left the project), was directed by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games) and written by Kurt Wimmer (The Recruit). According to the trade, "The Hollywood studio is pitching the adaptation to broadcasters and co-production partners at this week’s European Film Market, which runs alongside the Berlin Film Festival." Diego Suarez joined Sony last year as Senior Vice President of International Television Production with a mandate "to develop local and international TV around the world. Suarez told the trade,“We want to bring [the Salt series] to Europe in a completely different way." Transporter: The Series was a European TV show based on a European movie property; NBC's upcoming Taken series a U.S. TV show based on a European movie property. "If successful," the trade notes, "Salt would mark one of the first Hollywood pictures to be turned into a television series in Europe."

Last we had heard, Sony was still keen on a theatrical sequel to Salt, and had set Becky Johnston to write. (Wimmer had worked on a previous draft.) That was back in 2012, however, and things have been pretty quiet on the Salt front since then. It's unclear what a prospective TV series means for the movie sequel.

Feb 16, 2016

Trailer: Idris Elba Neo-Eurospy Movie Bastille Day

StudioCanal have announced an April 22 UK release date for the Idris Elba neo-Eurospy movie Bastille Day, and released the first trailer. Variety reported last November that the distributor was re-evaluating their release schedule in the wake of the shocking real-life Paris terror attacks. (It was originally due out in February.) Bastille Day will open in France on, appropriately, July 13, just in time for the real Bastille Day celebrations. Focus Features has yet to set a U.S. release date. Directed by James Watkins (The Woman in Black), Bastille Day stars Elba (The Gunman) as a CIA agent who teams up with a pickpocket (Richard Madden) to stop a terrorist attack from being carried out in Paris in the next 24 hours. The premise seems pretty similar to another neo-Eurospy movie, From Paris With Love, but the execution and tone look sufficiently different. Check it out:

Feb 13, 2016

More Trailers for Le Carré Miniseries The Night Manager

What a week of treats for John le Carré fans! Yesterday we finally got to see the first trailer for Susanna White's summer movie of Our Kind of Traitor, and today we get another look (or two!) at Susanne Bier's spring miniseries of The Night Manager! A few weeks ago we saw the BBC's trailer; today brings us a 30 second Hugh Laurie-centric spot from American production partner AMC... along with a completely different minute-long trailer from AMC Asia, which for my money is the best one yet. The Night Manager stars Laurie (MI-5, The Gun Seller), Tom Hiddleston (Marvel's The Avengers), Elizabeth Debicki (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), Olivia Colman (Broadchurch), David Harewood (Homeland) and Tobias Menzies (Casino Royale).

According to an article in today's Guardian, "Laurie said at a recent screening of the drama that many years ago he had unsuccessfully tried to buy the rights to the book. His aim had been to play the hero, Pine, because the story was 'so romantic, noble, stirring and thrilling.'" More than twenty years later, Laurie is now playing the antagonist, Roper, instead. I could have seen him as Pine in the Nineties, but honestly, I think he'll make a much better Roper! Laurie was actually such a fan of le Carré's 1993 novel that he's credited it as the inspiration for his own rather wonderful spy novel, The Gun Seller. While it gently sends up the genre in general, The Gun Seller is mainly a comedic version of The Night Manager. (And The Gun Seller would still make a great movie! I've wanted to see that filmed ever since first reading it when it came out. Unfortunately Laurie is probably too old now to convincingly play the hero, but it could still be great with the right casting.)

The 6-part event series The Night Manager premieres Tuesday, April 19, in the United States. I cannot wait!

Feb 12, 2016

New Red Band Trailer for The Brothers Grimsby

Sony has released a new Red Band NSFW trailer for the raunchy Sacha Baron Cohen/Mark Strong spy comedy The Brothers Grimsby, directed by Louis Leterrier (Transporter 2). It looks quite funny indeed.

They've also released a clip of the late night audience on Jimmy Kimmel Live! watching a clip from the movie. That's right, a clip of an audience watching a movie clip... but not the movie clip itself. That's because the scene in question is way too offensively raunchy to be shown on TV... or even the Internet, apparently. But it's probably better publicity to show this great reaction instead! Trust me, this clip really is worth viewing. Watching the absolutely appalled looks on the faces of the audience as they veer between disgusted and hysterical is funny in itself... and will likely make you very curious to see the movie and find out what on earth could make them all react that way!

Via Dark Horizons

Trailer: Criminal

Criminal is a weird one with a great cast that we've been hearing about for a while now. (It was first announced in 2013, the cast firmed up in late 2014, and it was originally supposed to be released in August of 2015.) Here's the first trailer. It has an odd tone, but it's certainly very cool to see powerhouses Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Tommy Lee Jones (Jason Bourne) and Kevin Costner (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) in the same room together! The plot, as best I can make out, finds the CIA putting the mind of a deceased agent (an oddly un-billed Ryan Reynolds, despite being the first name mentioned in the studio's synopsis on YouTube) into the body of a hardened criminal (Costner) in order to access his memories and, presumably, complete his mission. Why they would choose a criminal as the vessel I still can't parse out, but hopefully the movie explains it. I'm glad, at least, that this time it's Reynolds' character being put into the body of a more interesting actor (because I'd certainly rather watch Costner in this kind of movie) rather than vise versa, as in last year's Self/Less wherein Ben Kingsley's mind or soul was put into Reynolds' body. (I think Reynolds is excellent in Deadpool. I just don't tend to like him in more serious roles, like Safe House.)

Criminal opens April 15, from Lionsgate. Alice Eve (Men In Black 3), Gal Gadot (Fast Five), Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire), Scott Adkins (The Bourne Ultimatum) and Robert Davi (Licence to Kill) round out the impressive cast. Ariel Vroman (The Iceman) directs from a script by the team behind The Rock (1995), David Weisberg and the late Douglas Cook.

Feb 11, 2016

Our Kind of Trailer

At long, long last, we finally have a trailer for the new John le Carré movie Our Kind of Traitor! This movie has been in the works for a looong time, from when it was originally rumored to be directed by Justin Kurzel (Macbeth) and star Mads Mikkelsen and Ralph Fiennes, to its final cast of Ewan McGregor (Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker), Naomie Harris (Skyfall), Damian Lewis (Homeland) and Stellan Skarsgård (The Hunt for Red October) under the direction of Susanna White. This trailer also finally confirms that Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) is indeed in the movie! His involvement was rumored early on, but subsequently put in question. He was first touted to play Luke, but it's clear from the trailer that that isn't the case. (Readers of the book will realize quickly what role he is playing.) Luke is played by Khalid Abdalla (Green Zone). This UK trailer is kind of an odd watch because there seems to be a very short teaser for the trailer on its head, and lines like "based on the novel by John le Carré" and "You betrayed your country!" are repeated in the main body of the trailer. Overall, despite some changes of location (like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and a younger Hector than I ever imagined, the trailer makes the movie look pretty faithful to the novel. Between this in theaters and The Night Manager on television and The Pigeon Tunnel in bookstores, 2016 is shaping up to be an excellent year for le Carré fans!

Our Kind of Traitor opens May 6 in the UK and in America later in the summer.

Feb 9, 2016

SPECTRE Blu-ray Retailer Exclusives

As seems to be the norm these days (infuriatingly, for consumers), SPECTRE hit Blu-ray today in North America in several different retailer exclusive configurations. This guide is not intended as an endorsement of this frustrating practice, but more of a consumer alert, a buyer beware, so you can make sure you choose the version that's best for you. First, there's the standard Blu-ray edition available from most retailers (including Amazon). The special features are annoyingly scant, but do include the excellent 20-minute featurette "SPECTRE: Bond's Biggest Opening Sequence," covering the Mexico City shoot of the movie's breathtaking pre-credits sequence and the film's premiere. This is the best James Bond Blu-ray special feature since the excellent Cloverland documentaries on the Casino Royale Special Edition. Besides that, all there is in the way of value-added material are the video blogs that ran on 007.com throughout production (all short EPK pieces), three trailers, and a rather disappointing gallery consisting solely of publicity stills and no production artwork or advertising campaign material.

Target offers their own exclusive edition that includes a bonus DVD (that's right, standard def) containing three additional special features totally over 20 minutes (a nice addition given the dearth of extras on the regular disc). "From Title Song to Title Sequence" (06:27) is a featurette about the making of the title sequence (which Mendes aptly describes as "a whole other film, a piece of art") and the song (and also the music video, complete with BTS footage), including interviews with title designer Daniel Kleinman, singer Sam Smith and director Sam Mendes (who praises Smith's controversial falsetto). "The Shadow of SPECTRE" (10:15) features writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade discussing SPECTRE's history within the film series, past films in general, and Ian Fleming. It's basically a recap of things fans will already know. There's also a little bit at the end addressing how they tackled the villainous organization in the new movie. (Purvis: "Everyone was aware that if we're going to do SPECTRE, you've got to make it very different to how it was.") Finally, there's the music video for Sam Smith's somewhat lackluster theme song "Writing's On the Wall" (04:45). The video itself is quite good, and certainly should have been included on the standard Blu-ray.

Finally, Best Buy is offering their own exclusive edition in an attractive steelbook design featuring the octopus/bullet hole teaser artwork (pictured). The features are the same as the regular version. So if you value bonus material (like I do), you should opt for the Target disc to get maximum extras. If you value aesthetics and packaging, the Best Buy one might be right for you. And if you don't really care and just want the movie itself in an admittedly stunning HD transfer, just go for the regular version.

First Jason Bourne Poster Revealed

Hot on the heels of this weekend's tantalizing Super Bowl spot, now we have our first advance poster for this summer's highly anticipated sequel Jason Bourne. (The tagline, somewhat ironically, reflects another secret agent, recalling both the GoldenEye teaser and Chris Cornell's Casino Royale song "You Know My Name." Still a cool poster though!)

Feb 7, 2016

Trailer: Matt Damon's Jason Bourne Returns in... Jason Bourne

In a bit of a shocker, the new Paul Greengrass/Matt Damon Bourne movie will not follow the standard Robert Ludlum title convention of "The Bourne ______." Instead, it will simply be called... Jason Bourne. While it makes sense to make the title so personal now that Damon's former amnesiac has remembered all of his past at the end of 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum, I'm not really a fan of the "hero's name" school of title that gave us Jack Ryan, Jack Reacher and John Carter. (I still think we're incredibly lucky that the first 007 picture didn't turn out to be called James Bond of the Secret Service! Imagine if the producers had ended up beholden to that formula?) But not only does Jason Bourne strike a personal chord (though shouldn't it really be David Webb if that's what they're going for, since that turned out to be the character's real name?), but it also sends a clear message that this movie really is about Jason Bourne, the hero we want to see, played by Matt Damon, and not about some random stand-in like Jeremy Renner's Aaron Cross! (Don't get me wrong; despite not particularly liking The Bourne Legacy, I'd still like to see an Aaron Cross follow-up, just not misrepresented as a Bourne movie.) So here is our first look at the man himself, Jason Bourne, back in action, in, as expected, this Super Bowl spot.

Jason Bourne is scheduled to open on July 29. Alicia Vikander (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), Vincent Cassel (Agents Secrets), Ato Essandoh (Elementary), Tommy Lee Jones (Yuri Nosenko, KGB) and Julia Stiles (reprising her role from previous Bourne movies) also star.

Read my review of Paul Greengrass's The Bourne Ultimatum here.
Read my review of Tony Gilroy's The Bourne Legacy here.
Read my review of the 1988 miniseries of The Bourne Identity here.
Read my review of Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Identity here.
Read my review of Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Supremacy here.
Read my review of Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Ultimatum here

Classic Japanese James Bond Comics Reprinted and Reviewed

For years I've been searching for copies of the Japanese James Bond comics (known as manga) from the Sixties. But vintage editions (first collected in the Sixties, and reprinted in the early Eighties) tend to command a premium on Ebay on the rare opportunities they come up. So I was absolutely thrilled to discover recently that for the first time in more than 30 years, they are back in print! Four Ian Fleming novels were licensed to Saito-Production Co. Ltd. at the height of Bondmania in 1964, and manga adaptations were produced over the next several years. The four titles are all now finally available again in 300-page paperback collections with, naturally, Japanese text. Live and Let Die, Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and The Man With the Golden Gun can now all be ordered from Amazon.jp. (Use your browser's "translate" option to be sure what you're ordering.) And the shipping is fast. I ordered mine on Monday with standard international shipping, and had them in my hands by Friday.

Very little has been written about this crucial chapter of Bond history in Western publications. Even the most comprehensive book on 007 in comics to date, Alan J. Porter's James Bond: The History of the Illustrated 007, devotes little space to these works (probably owing to their longstanding elusiveness). But it's still the best source for publication details. According to Porter, "the manga Bond first appeared in serialized form in an anthology titled Boys Life from Shogakukan Inc, and were later collected ... in 1966 under the Golden Comics imprint. While the manga Bond stories were critically acclaimed, the holders of the Bond literary license withdrew permission [for future adaptations]." Porter speculates that this may have been because the manga "diverted so far from the source material."

Remember that part of On Her Majesty's Secret Service where 007 dresses like a gladiator and does battle with lions? Of course you do!
At 300 pages for each novel (and Fleming's novels are all fairly short), it's not surprising that the stories were expanded upon in their graphic adaptations. While the first one, Live and Let Die, seems to hew fairly closely to Fleming's narrative with a few key additions and changes (more on that below), subsequent stories appear to deviate further and further from their source material. While I can't read the Japanese text, looking at the pictures it appears that On Her Majesty's Secret Service features two main male villains—a bald Blofeld (presumably) and someone else with a goatee and hair that twists into devil horns. (All the stories seem to feature an increased number of baddies.) And no sign of Fraulein Bunt. There's also a lengthy sequence where, prior to making his ski escape from Piz Gloria, Bond is made to dress like a gladiator and do battle with lions in an arena. (See above.) And The Man With the Golden Gun, as best I can glean from flipping through it, appears to have very little indeed to do with Fleming's story—though certain key setpieces remain in place, as does the Jamaican setting.

Two seemingly original sequences from Saito's The Man With the Golden Gun
The writer and artist of these adaptations was none other than Takao Saito, who would find fame shortly afterwards creating Japan's most famous and long-running espionage manga series, Golgo 13. Golgo 13 is an assassin who may have fewer scruples than 007, but gets into very similar sorts of adventures and certainly bears a close resemblance to Saito's Connery-inspired James Bond. (The two share a penchant for white dinner jackets over black dress shirts in Saito's illustrations, as well as distinctive eyebrows and sideburns.) Glidrose Publications (precursor to IFP) revoked the Bond license in 1967 and Saito began publishing Golgo 13 stories in 1968. It has been suggested that his early Golgo 13 stories were nothing but a continuation of what the artist had been doing with 007, merely under a new title.

Whatever the circumstances of his origin, Golgo 13 (also known by the alias Duke Togo) went on to enjoy a robust transmedia career. Besides an ongoing manga series now 179 volumes long, the character has starred in two live action films (the second and better known of which, Assignment: Kowloon, starred Sonny Chiba), two anime features, an anime TV series, and six video games. (My own introduction to the character came via Nintendo in the late Eighties.) Viz has published a number of the Golgo 13 manga in English, though not in their original publication order. (Read more on Golgo 13 at Permission to Kill.)

Returning to Saito's James Bond work, these manga collections are no mere footnote in Bond lore. In fact, running a cumulative total of nearly 1200 pages, they're actually the most significant 007 publications in the graphic novel medium to date! Their republication, officially authorized by Ian Fleming Publications (whose hummingbird logo, seen on last year's continuation novel Trigger Mortis, and circular "007" logo, seen on past IFP products, both appear on these editions*) is consequently the most significant Bond reprint in a long time. While it's great to have them in the original Japanese, it is my sincere hope that IFP works with Dynamite Entertainment (who hold the rights to reprint all James Bond comic books, which I assume includes the manga) to produce English translations for the vast Western market who have never had an opportunity to read these stories in any format. Something along the lines of the excellent reprints of Sixties Batman manga that DC have been recently publishing, giving English speaking readers their first chance to read that series in its entirety. Until such a time, however, I strongly encourage Bond fans with an interest in comics to import these Japanese volumes.

The bullet hole design brings to mind the initial
SPECTRE teaser poster
The new reprints, published by Shogakukan under the banner of "Big Comic Special," are, like all manga, designed to be read from right to left and therefore printed in a way Western audiences might call backwards. It takes a little practice, but after early attempts at translating manga into English that reversed the images (which created its own set of issues) so the stories could be read front to back, millions of Western manga fans have gotten used to reading comics this way, even in English, and it's really not very difficult. (What is difficult, for me anyway, is reading Japanese! I tried using the Google Translate app on the panels, but ended up with mostly nonsense.) They are thick paperbacks, roughly 5x7". Like many Japanese paperbacks, these volumes have dust jackets. And there's even another, smaller strip sleeve on top of the dust jacket promoting SPECTRE with a picture of Daniel Craig in a still from the film.

Beneath the busily illustrated dust jacket, the book itself has an entirely different cover devoid of all the extraneous text that eclipses the outer cover. These simpler monochromatic illustrations could easily be confused for covers to the actual Fleming novels. Live and Let Die depicts gold coins; On Her Majesty's Secret Service displays an Alpine mountainscape, and The Man With the Golden Gun shows Jamaican scenery.  (I don't have Thunderball yet.)

Live and Let Die, as I said above, appears to be fairly faithful to Fleming with the alarming exception of apparently replacing Quarrel with an annoying little white kid! Action has been added where you would expect action to be added when going from a novel to a more visual medium like comics (or movies, for that matter). For example, Bond and Solitaire's railroad journey from New York to Miami now includes a fight on top of the moving train. There are some extra chases and fights throughout, and there appears to be a new (white) henchman in Mr. Big's ensemble. Saito actually prefigured the 1973 Roger Moore movie by dressing 007 in a black shirt with a holster over it when he busts up the voodoo ceremony, which has been greatly expanded to include a huge altar in the best pulpy tradition.

The rose petal motif reminds me of the flower
on UK editions of Devil May Care
On Her Majesty's Secret Service is notable for its bald, eye-patched depiction of Blofeld. (Assuming that character is indeed Blofeld.) This is a far cry from Fleming's description of the villain in that book as being tall and slim. Furthermore, while Blofeld drastically altered his appearance from book to book, I don't believe Fleming ever described 007's archenemy as being bald. Or as having a damaged eye. One has to wonder if members of the You Only Live Twice film crew saw this comic (which was originally serialized in 1966, and would have been available and probably ubiquitous while they were location scouting in Japan) and if it had any bearing on Donald Pleasence's iconic look as Blofeld—bald, with a horribly scarred eye. [STOP THE PRESSES! It turns out (thanks to some rough translation by my friend Stu) that this character is not Blofeld at all, but Mr. Big (which explains his darker coloring), who we last saw at the end of Live and Let Die aboard a pirate ship that was about to explode. (Unless he also stood in for Ernst Stavro in Saito's Thunderball.) Apparently the explosion must have damaged his eye. Can you imagine Fleming's Mr. Big presiding over an Alpine fortress? Well, given the timing and location, I still contend he could have been a model for Pleasence's Blofeld.]

While OHMSS retains the overall plot and setting of the book, it also adds and embellishes. Besides the aforementioned lion fight, Bond's introduction to Tracy has been amped up. Instead of following her car and then saving her from the water when she attempts to drown herself, he and she (in their separate cars) both end up in a breakneck car chase with some bad guys, and Bond spends much of that chase on the outside of Tracy's car. She then careens off the road, and he rescues her from a car accident rather than a suicide attempt. When 007 poses as Sir Hillary Bray at Piz Gloria, he dons a false beard. And the ending... I can't really tell exactly what's going on without being able to read the text, but whatever is happening is definitely not what happens in the book! (Or film.) However, it is very cool to see Bond's Bentley illustrated, and the ski chase and avalanche are appropriately spectacular.

The Man With the Golden Gun appears to be the most divergent from its Fleming source. I was disappointed not to find the brainwashed Bond's assassination attempt on M—at least not occurring as it is described in the novel. Flipping through, it appears to be a largely original adventure. But then that's exactly the appeal of these adaptations. For faithful graphic retellings of Fleming's novels, we have the Daily Express strips as collected in several different formats by Titan. The manga stories, on the other hand, look as if they provide as much in the way of new Bond story material as old! Which makes me very much want to read them legitimately. I can only reiterate my plea for IFP and Dynamite to bring these books to English-speaking audiences as soon as possible. In the meantime, though, I recommend buying these fine Japanese editions for an extremely rare and extremely rewarding slice of hitherto obscure Bondiana.

Now if only someone would reprint those Sixties Man From U.N.C.L.E. manga...

*A note on the branding of these volumes: While Dynamite, whose license is with IFP and not Danjaq, seem to have been assiduously avoiding any logos associated with the film Bond, these editions, also copyright IFP, don't do the same. Obviously they are movie tie-ins as well, given the SPECTRE promotion on the outer mini-sleeves. But the title treatment of each story also recalls the title treatment of the film in question, and even the giant "007" is very much the (older style) movie logo, minus the gun barrel.