Well, this time-sensitive post has been sitting unfinished for several days, thanks to me being busy. Not just with work, though; fun stuff, too, like a friend's wedding, Halloween (I dressed as The Prisoner) and an opportunity to see the first new theatrical Hammer movie in thirty-three years (surprisingly Hammerish, despite the American setting!). But I hate to let milestones go unmarked, so I still want to mention that October 30 marked the Third Blogiversary of the Double O Section.
I actually can't believe I've only been doing this for three years. It feels like forever! But, in fact, the Double O Section was born three years ago last Friday. The very first post was actually a series of posts, a list of seven people somehow important in the world of fictional spies circa late October 2006, coverage of whom would give potential readers an idea of what I'd be discussing on this blog. The seven individuals listed were, in ascending order, Elke Sommer, Mark Gatiss, Charlie Higson and Anthony Horowitz (together), Nick Fury, Greg Rucka, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig. While I've ended up writing more about some of those people than others over the past three years, I think that list did indeed give a pretty good indication of things to come. While they might not all have generated lots of news or reviews, each one of these people or characters has certainly informed the content of the Double O Section over the past three years.
Elke Sommer may not be making any new splashes in the world of spy movies these days, but just this year, I finally got around to reviewing her best spy movie in the inaugural post in an ongoing series about My Favorite Spy Movies. The film, of course, was Deadlier Than the Male, and the lavishly illustrated post (two and a half years in the making) is one of the ones that I'm most proud of. Subsequent entries in the series of extra-detailed reviews of my favorite spy films include Danger: Diabolik and Billion Dollar Brain. Look for another one soon.
At the time I wrote that initial list, Mark Gatiss had written just one of his Lucifer Box spy novels, the Edwardian-set Vesuvius Club. Since then he's rounded out the trilogy with the utterly fantastic Devil In Amber (reviewed here) and the uncharacteristically disappointing Bond parody Black Butterfly. Slight and full of typographical errors, that book felt very rushed, which is too bad. Gatiss has occasionally mentioned wanting to fill in the blanks between books with a few more Box volumes; I certainly hope that happens so that readers can witness a return to form. Black Butterfly did, however, have its merits, chief among them the fantastic cover, a pastiche of Richard Chopping's beautiful artwork adorning many Ian Fleming first editions. Gatiss is now at work on a contemporary-set Sherlock Holmes series for the BBC, which, while not being spy, is one of the media events I'm looking most forward to in the coming year.
Charlie Higson and Anthony Horowitz both remain key figures in the surprisingly robust young adult spy novel market. Higson may be taking a hiatus from his series of Young Bond novels, but that hasn't stopped him from penning a lengthy Young Bond short story in Danger Society: The Young Bond Companion, published just last week. Horowitz, meanwhile, has another Alex Rider novel due out in a few weeks. Crocodile Tears will be the eighth entry in the series. While Higson's books maintained a consistent degree of excellence from the very beginning, Horowitz's have only improved since then. Each Alex Rider novel is better than the last, and I'm greatly looking forward to reading Crocodile Tears. The novels fully deserve their bestselling success. While an attempted movie series may have failed (100% thanks to the studio that released it in America), a series of graphic novel adaptations have maintained brand visibility in other markets. The two friendly rivals recently interviewed each other about their respective teen spy characters for the Times of London, and it's well worth reading!
Nick Fury was the only fictional character on the original list, and while the Marvel Comics superspy took some time out of the spotlight for a little while following my original post on the subject, he's now more ubiquitous than ever! Besides headlining the monthly comic book Secret Warriors, he's also popped up in numerous other Marvel comics since resurfacing in the company's Secret Invasion event storyline. Recently, he starred in a Secret Warriors one-shot special with stunning artwork by Ed McGuinness, homaging the work of comic legend Jim Steranko (who defined the character more than anyone in his spy-crazy heyday of the 1960s) and popped up in a beautifully-drawn espionage yarn by indy comics superstar Matt Kindt, creator of Superspy, in Strange Tales. He's also all over the toy shelves, surprisingly enough. A recent wave of Hasbro's Marvel Legends line of seven inch action figures spotlighted Fury and his S.H.I.E.L.D. associates, and even an "Urban Vinyl Bobblehead" figurine of the eyepatched agent can be found in most Toys 'R' Us stores. There's also a 3.75 inch figure available exclusively through Marvel's website. Fury's "Ultimate" incarnation popped up at the end of last year's hit superhero movie Iron Man in the person of Samuel L. Jackson, and looks to have a larger role in next year's sequel--as well as subsequent Marvel films.
Greg Rucka hasn't been very productive, spywise, since this blog began, and for that reason his sublime series of novels and comics, Queen & Country, doesn't get quite as much coverage as I would like to give it. But every time I mention it, I'm sure to also mention that I think it's simply the best contemporary example of the "serious" spy genre out there right now, in any medium. I simply cannot recommend this series enough. And it looks like it may extend to yet another medium soon, with progress finally happening on the long-in-the-works Q&C movie. Best of all, Rucka is hard at work on a new Q&C novel, as well! So while his series may have been mostly dormant in the years Double O Section has been around, it looks to be back soon in a major way. Now if only it would return in comics as well... To plunge into Rucka's Sandbaggers-inspired world, check out either the first of four convenient bumper editions collecting the entire comics series to date or else the first novel, Private Wars.
Roger Moore certainly hasn't made any new Bond movies, but he has been more visible than anytime since he hung up his Walther these past few years, with an utterly fantastic autobiography and a world tour to promote it. I like that he was the Bond I was thinking about when I created that original list, because I think that Moore may inform this blog more than any other 007. After all, he was not only James Bond, but also Simon Templar on The Saint and Lord Brett Sinclair on The Persuaders! In other words, his spy pedigree is impeccable. The latest Persuaders! news to hit the Double O Section is the inclusion of four tracks from the series (John Barry's main theme, the pop song that accompanies Moore and Tony Curtis' race in the pilot, an instrumental of that song and one piece of Ken Thorne incidental music) on Network's new Music of ITC double-CD, out this week. I'll have a full review of that shortly. Suffice it to say, it's essential.
Daniel Craig's last outing as 007 left me more than a bit cold. In fact, Quantum of Solace made me quite nostalgic for Sir Roger's days of Bondage. But Craig himself was excellent even in Quantum, and there is no denying the energy and vitality he has injected into the Bond franchise. I recently ranked all the Bond films for my own amusement, as such a list is constantly in flux for me. I hate to say how Quantum of Solace fared, but Casino Royale clocked in at an impressive second place the day I made that list, behind only On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The excitement from that Craig-powered revitalization still holds sway over audiences, and thanks to Craig, Bond–and the spy genre at large–enjoys more popularity now than any time since the Sixties. Case in point: this very blog, which received its most hits ever (in a month not seeing the release of a new 007 movie) in October! So Craig casts a long shadow over this blog, which is entirely appropriate--and wasn't hard to predict back at the beginning. All in all, there has been plenty to write about for three years without ever straying too far from that initial list.
Hm, I should probably do some sort of contest to celebrate this Blogiversary. Something good... Something relating to one of these people on this old list... Check back in the next few days for a cool, celebratory giveaway!