Oct 8, 2014
JAMES BOND RETURNS TO COMICS!!!
Among its first projects, Dynamite plans to explore Bond's early days, pre-Casino Royale. According to the press release, "some other familiar faces from the expansive 007 mythos will also make appearances in this series – criminal masterminds, hired henchmen, glamorous Bond Girls and secret service allies – alongside all-new characters." Nothing else specific was announced about the new James Bond comics, but we can perhaps infer a bit about the publisher's strategy from looking at how they've handled other licensed properties. The origin story is not a surprising move. The publisher has had a lot of success doing "Year One" storylines about heroes like The Shadow, The Green Hornet and Zorro. (Often comics superstar Matt Wagner has been involved in these Year One stories. Could he be boning up on his Fleming?) Given that success, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the series dealing with Bond's early days ends up being called James Bond: Year One. Some of Dynamite's Year One comics have been as long as ten issues.
What might a James Bond: Year One story entail? In citing the year of Casino Royale's publication (1953), the press release (which can be read in its entirety at The Book Bond) seems to hint at a period setting. Fleming himself hinted in his first novel that Bond's career began during WWII. While recovering from his wounds at the hands of Le Chiffre, 007 recounts to his friend Mathis how he earned his Double O prefix. The first man he killed was a Japanese cipher expert working on the 36th floor of the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center in New York. Bond shot him from 300 yards away, in another skyscraper. (This incident was based on Fleming's own wartime experiences breaking into a Japanese cipher expert's offices in that building with his friend, the man called Intrepid, William Stephenson. There was no killing involved.) "The next time in Stockholm wasn't so pretty," Bond tells Mathis. "I had to kill a Norwegian who was doubling against us for the Germans.... For various reasons it had to be an absolutely silent job. I chose the bedroom of his flat and a knife. And, well, he just didn't die very quickly." The year of these killings isn't stated, but if Bond was killing a Japanese cipher expert and an agent who was doubling for the Germans, I think we can easily infer that these exploits took place during WWII. Furthermore, Fleming asserts that those two were Bond's only kills up until that point, which rather inconveniently leaves a gap of at least eight years during which 007 didn't kill anyone, which isn't very conducive to new adventures set in the early days of the Cold War. (I would assume, however, and even hope, that Dynamite will find a way to work around that.) So I don't think it would be unreasonable to assume that Dynamite's origins tale will depict Bond in action during the war, which is something we've never seen before in print or on film. Or in comics. (Well, aside from a brief flashback during William Boyd's 2013 continuation novel Solo, in which the author cast Bond as a member of Fleming's own real-life commando squad 30 Assault Unit.) So that would be exciting!
While this origins story was the only comic book specifically discussed in the press release, does that mean that that's the only James Bond comic we should expect from Dynamite next year? I highly doubt it! Fortunately for Bond fans and comics fans, the publisher has a long track record of being highly prolific with their other licensed properties! At one point this year there were as many as three separate ongoing Shadow series being published at once, maybe four. They previously published three different Green Hornet comics concurrently as well, all set in entirely different timelines no less. (One in the past, one in the present, and one in the future.) That's another thing they've got no trepidation about doing. We've also seen Battlestar Gallactica and Shadow series set in different periods and different timelines being published simultaneously. So just because an origins story might be set in the 1940s doesn't mean that Dynamite won't be publishing contemporary James Bond adventures as well. (This would also be in keeping with IFP's recent policy. They reportedly offer each continuation author the choice of setting his novel during Fleming's timeline or today, which has yielded both results.)
Another thing that Dynamite likes to do is publish spinoff titles. This, too, was hinted at in today's press release, when Dynamite Editor Mike Lake mused, "The Bond villains are some of the most memorable figures in popular culture…where did they come from? And in some cases, where did they go?" Again, I'm speculating, but this tantalizing question would seem to me to indicate that we might see spinoff comics about various Bond villains. And no doubt we'll see certain Bond Girls get their own titles as well. Strong, sexy women are historically Dynamite's favorite fodder for spinoffs. A Dejah Thoris title spun off from Warlord of Mars (based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter books) has, I believe, outlasted the original flagship series. I have little doubt that Dynamite CEO Nick Barucci intends to put a comic called Pussy Galore on store shelves at some point in the near future! But what other characters could be spun off into their own series, miniseries, or one-shots? There's precedent for Moneypenny to take center stage in Samantha Weinberg's excellent trilogy of Moneypenny Diaries novels. Blofeld seems like a natural. But, personally, I'd most like to see a series focusing on Bond's CIA ally, Felix Leiter!
The other thing Dynamite loves to do, historically, with their licensed properties is crossovers. This one I'm not so sure we'll see with Bond. I suspect that IFP will maintain a pretty tight leash on such things, but the possibilities are intriguing. Personally, I have zero interest in seeing 007 relegated to a supporting role in a major mash-up with other characters, which Dynamite is fond of. (Masks unites The Shadow, The Spider, Green Hornet, Miss Fury and even Zorro, among other pulp heroes, into one big jam. Justice Inc. reads like an intriguing pulp-era Justice League, teaming The Shadow with Doc Savage and The Avenger.) But I must admit, certain team-ups with other licensed characters on the Dynamite roster do intrigue me. (It might sound crazy, but I'd love to see Bond team up with Tarzan! I think it could work! And though some time trickery would probably be necessary, I also wouldn't mind seeing 007 thrust into Dynamite's usual team-up - a meeting with Sherlock Holmes! Hey, there's precedent for that one, in the elusive publication "Holmes Meets 007.") And Dynamite doesn't limit their crossovers to their own characters. They're also fond of inter-company crossovers, like Batman '66/Green Hornet, published in conjunction with DC, or Spider-man/Red Sonja, published with Marvel. I can't imagine something like James Bond Meets Batman working (and can't imagine IFP would sign off on it), but imagine a Sixties-set 007/Nick Fury team-up on an over-the-top You Only Live Twice scale? That I can picture... and would love to read! In fact, it just makes sense. And I bet the great Jim Steranko could even be tempted to revisit the character he's most famously associated and provide a cover with the tantalizing addition of James Bond...
Finally, Dynamite also has a history of publishing collected editions of comics about their licensed characters originally put out by other companies. They've released trade paperbacks of some of DC's 1980s Shadow comics (including the unmissable if bizarre then-contemporary story Seven Deadly Finns) and Marvel's original Red Sonja stories, and a hardcover of Marvel Doc Savage tales. So I'm very hopeful that they might reprint some or all of James Bond's past comic adventures. If you stick to the English language material, there's really not that much. Mike Grell's Permission to Die (originally published by Eclipse in the early Nineties) and Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy's Serpent's Tooth are the two best Bond comic stories to date. Both were collected in trade paperbacks in their day, but both are now long out of print and much deserving of new editions. Other Dark Horse Bond comics have never been collected, including the unfinished (but highly promising) A Silent Armageddon. I've heard rumors that the other two issues were actually drawn, even if they weren't published. Wouldn't it be great if Dynamite managed to present that and Topps' GoldenEye (for which pencils were also completed) in their entirety for the first time anywhere? Furthermore, the various movie adaptations over the years have never been collected. There haven't been that many, so it would be easy to include DC's Dr. No, Marvel's For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy, and Eclipse's Licence To Kill (ideally along with the complete GoldenEye) in a single Omnibus volume. And if I want to get really greedy, how great would it be if they eventually published translations of the rare Bond comics from other countries that have never seen print in English? For some reason 007 has enjoyed more success in other countries like Sweden and Argentina and India than in the English speaking world. I'd love to see the Semic or Zigzag titles collected in English for the first time! Or, best of all, the Japanese manga versions of Thunderball and On Her Majesty's Secret Service from the Sixties! But now I must be dreaming... For starters I'd be happy just to see Serpent's Tooth back on shelves.
So the only real, solid news that we have is that James Bond is returning to comics for the first time since Topps' aborted GoldenEye adaptation (which the publisher had promised was not just a film adaptation, but the beginning of a brand new ongoing James Bond series... which never happened) in 1995 (excluding a Young Bond graphic novel adaptation of Silverfin in 2008, which wasn't published in standard comic book format). But, with the possible exception of the crossovers, I suspect that my speculation based on Dynamite's past behavior may prove to be more true than not. But unfortunately we'll have to wait until at least next year to find out!
Read more about Dynamite's James Bond announcement at:
The Book Bond
The Hollywood Reporter
Comic Book Resources