Later this week, James Bond returns to the silver screen with "SPECTRE." But if you're a giant Bond fanatic and you simply can't wait three whole days to get your fix, then you're in luck -- new Bond adventures are actually a lot closer than you think.
On Wednesday (November 4), Bond will be appearing at your local comic book shop in the first issue of "James Bond: VARGR," a new series created by Warren Ellis and Jason Masters for Dynamite Comics. In this brand new six-issue arc -- the first new Bond comic to be officially licensed by the Fleming estate since 1996's incomplete "Goldeneye" movie tie-in -- 007 must take over a case left behind by a fallen 00 agent, but finds a lot more than he bargained for in the streets of Berlin.
Ellis, himself a fan of 007, is certainly no stranger to spy-thriller stories -- he also wrote "Global Frequency," a series about a covert intelligence agency who communicates entirely via cellphones, and "Red," the graphic novel about retired CIA agents that spawned a movie starring Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren. He recently spoke with MTV News over email about his take on the iconic British spy, and had a lot to say about updating Ian Fleming's original vision to a modern setting, dealing with Bond's damaged psyche, and who he'd like to see take over the movies after Daniel Craig leaves.
MTV News: You first brought up the idea of taking on Bond on your website as early as 2002, and now you’re finally getting to put your own spin on the character. Did you already have a concrete idea of what you wanted to do with him back then?
Warren Ellis: That was an article for a newspaper in Texas, as I recall. I really didn't think about it from 30 seconds after I finished that bit up until I was contacted last year about this project. And, even then, I was thinking about the film Bond, and this commission is specifically for stories of the Ian Fleming Bond, the Bond of the books, within that general continuity. So, no, I had a lot of thinking to do. Especially when I realized that embedding within the actual strict timeframe of the books meant doing a period piece, which I felt could too easily run to pastiche and parody. There was a lot of heavy lifting early on.
MTV: What was it like working with the Fleming estate on this new story? Did they offer any interesting insights into Bond’s world?
Ellis: They've been great, and, after our initial long meeting, have really just been there to support me and "fact check" me, as it were. I was careful about this job, and started out by writing the whole story as a very detailed outline, so they could see every change I was making to fix it as a contemporary story, and illustrate that this is as close to Fleming's Bond as I can get. There have been no notes from them, aside from, quite literally, correcting a couple of typing errors on my part. It's gone better than I'd ever hoped.
I wouldn't say they offered insights -- really, I was just trying to prove to them that I knew Bond.
MTV: How did you and Jason Masters design these versions of the characters from a visual perspective, and did the two of you draw any of your inspiration from the actors? Q in particular strikes me as very John Cleese-looking.
Ellis: Actually, our Q is derived directly from the man Q was based on, a gun expert named Geoffrey Boothroyd. Have a look on YouTube and you can find old footage of him dismissing Bond's earliest preferred weapon as "a lady's gun." Bond is based on Fleming's original commissioned sketch for the 1958 comic strip and John McLusky's approved design for the same strip.
MTV: I also found it interesting that you’ve created a version of M who’s a black man, considering the current debate about whether or not Bond should be played by a black actor in his next incarnation. Did that conversation factor into your creative process at all?
Ellis: I wrote that before that whole conversation happened in the media, funnily enough. Because this is very specifically the Bond of the books, Bond himself could not change -- he's a fixed point, not the more fluid character of the films. But my decision to write a contemporary Bond meant that the world around him had to change. So, yes, M is a person of color. I actually had an actor in mind, Don Warrington MBE, a longtime British TV actor who can do an affect that is both very aristocratic and also somewhat lugubrious and disappointed, which is just a perfect frame for M, especially in his interactions with Bond. I couldn't shake the voice when I came to write, so, yeah, M is black for several reasons...!
MTV: Speaking of the current diversity discussion, Bond’s issues with women have also been widely dissected, even by Daniel Craig himself — and judging from Bond’s interest in “nurses" during #1, it seems like it’s a topic that's on your mind as well! What kinds of female characters can we expect to meet as the series progresses, and how will they challenge him?
Ellis: These graphic novels are somewhat shorter than both books or films, and so, at least in "VARGR," some things get more exploration than others. His one sustained interaction with a woman in "VARGR" doesn't go the way Bond hopes, and it's very much based on his well-established expectations when you put him in the back of a car with a woman. I imagine I'll dig more into that space in my second book. Craig isn't wrong, of course. But, as he himself says, you can both reveal and deal with that aspect of his personality by attending to the natures of the women around him.
MTV: The the first issue plays a lot with the lack of dialogue in its opening action sequence. It makes for a very gripping read from the get-go! Can you talk about what led you down that route?
Ellis: Ah. My moment of weakness. This is the Fleming, literary Bond... but I couldn't resist a Bond film cold open. Just couldn't.
MTV: You’ve discussed with other outlets that your version of Bond is not exactly a hero in the strictest sense. Why do you think he captures the public imagination so strongly as an archetype despite his broken, damaged psyche?
Ellis: Ultimately, he's a guy in a suit carrying a small gun throwing himself into the dark machinery of the world in defense of his country. The sheer stakes, and the idea of an ordinary man throwing himself into the path of bullets out of some kind of duty, is compelling to an awful lot of people. Also, of course, it speaks to the idea of the British as horrifying pursuit predators who can murder, burn, blow up or impregnate anything. It was very flattering to the post-war generations, I'm sure.
Seriously: most of our archetypes are damaged people. We're compelled by the things they do despite and because of their damage.
MTV: Who would you personally like to see take over the role in the movies next?
Ellis: Personally? I think it has to be Idris Elba. I've met him. Not only is he, obviously, a massive presence and a brilliant actor, but he is incredibly smart about story. He would be an incredible benefit to that franchise on so many levels.