Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dynamite Entertainment Brings Ian Fleming's 'Casino Royale' To Life

When Dynamite Entertainment, a comic book publishing company, made the announcement in October 2014 that they have acquired exclusive rights to publish comic books and graphic novels based on the James Bond franchise licensed by Ian Fleming Publications that owns the intellectual property and the literary rights to the eponymous character, the firm's senior editor, Joseph Rybandt revealed that, while there are going to be two separate timelines to withhold the series, one contemporary and one period piece, a faithful graphic novel adaptation of Ian Fleming's first Bond thriller, Casino Royale was also being scripted by an undisclosed writer.

That project - of course - was officially announced in July 2016, adapted by Van Jensen, and illustrated by Matthew Southworth, with an original schedule set for November 2016 release. Months went by as well as the first standalone miniseries debuted by that time, no word was heard from the graphic novel front. Responding to a fan tweet, artist Matthew Southworth stated that he had parted ways with the project due to "creative differences" while claiming he'd love to work on the James Bond series if given the chance, again. So the adaptation went delayed and left without an artist at the time.

Preliminary artwork by Matthew Southworth
In June 2017, Dynamite announced that Dennis Calero, known for his work on titles such as Legion of Superheroes and X-Men Noir, was going to serve as the artist for the graphic novel adaptation of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale. The cover artwork was also revealed, delivered by Fay Dalton, whose legendary work was previously provided with to The Folio Society editions of the original James Bond novels by Ian Fleming. Initially set for October release, the project experienced further delays in order to persuade the effort into perfection. Preliminary artwork by Calero however was showcased in black and white back in July, earlier this year. Yesterday, Dynamite offered a preview of finished preview pages of the title, accessible only to those who purchase a bundle containing every published comic book based on the James Bond franchise by the company itself.

Preview Pages from Casino Royale by Dennis Calero

It appears from the preview pages that there is quite a work of decency provided with to this title, and as one stares into the panels, the novel's pages flash before one's eyes. Stellar work, to say the least. It's also very apparent that artist Dennis Calero modeled the character of James Bond after Michael Fassbender, a fan favorite actor among the Bond franchise community who was strongly desired to be the person to take over the role from Daniel Craig when the latter calls it quits. But, Craig will still be Bond until 2019, till the next film comes out. Back to Dynamite's Royale, it also appears M (Sir Miles Messervy, head of the British Secret Service) is modeled after the first actor who played the character in Eon Productions' film series, Bernard Lee, as well as his office being quite the same. Overall, things are going rather smoothly under the team's efforts. The date, however, is still unspecified. But, Calero hopes the graphic novel to come out in late December 2017. It would make a lovely Christmas present.

Casino Royale cover artwork by Fay Dalton
On other notes, as an aside, collected hardcover editions of Black Box and the spin-off Felix Leiter starring the eponymous character are made available to purchase. The penultimate issue of the currently ongoing miniseries, Kill Chain was also released yesterday, leaving the one last epic chapter to come out at the end of the next month. Andy Diggle and Luca Casalanguida still manage to deliver a heart-throbbing and exciting James Bond thriller that live up to all the fantasies of a secret agent fan. Next week, Ibrahim Moustafa's one-shot comic book titled Solstice will oversee its release, which holds expectations of a rather highly promising experience. James Bond Will Return.

Thank you for reading! Feel free to discuss in the comments below!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Filming for 'The Rhythm Section' Begins

Eon Productions, Ltd. are known for producing the James Bond films since 1962, a film franchise that's been going strong for 55 years as of today. Currently under the management of Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the production recently has been displaying a lot more ambition to expand its enterprise outside the 007 film series by overseeing production on other titles that bear no relation to Ian Fleming's secret agent. A long time ago, back when the production company was run by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, one non-Bond film was produced in 1963, entitled Call Me Bwana, a farce comedy starring Bob Hope and Anita Ekberg, which itself was advertised in the Bond film released in the same year, From Russia with Love. But, they've never produced another film unrelated to 007 ever again up until 2017, which would be a biographical drama called Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, set to come out in the United Kingdom in ten days, and at the end of the year in the United States.

Boosted by the generating of the titles, Eon Productions announced back in July, earlier this year, that they were going to produce a spy thriller film based on a novel by Mark Burnell, the first book in a tetralogy centered on a character named Stephanie Patrick, entitled The Rhythm Section. Blake Lively was cast in the role of Stephanie Patrick, while Paramount Pictures picked up the distribution rights to the film, marking it for release on 22 February 2019.

Filming commenced on the film only two days ago, with Lively seen on location in Ireland, sporting a look deemed by journalists as "unrecognizable," likely to have been sporting the look of the main character. Jude Law was also revealed to co-star as the love interest of Lively's character. Producer Barbara Broccoli was also seen on set.

Actress Blake Lively in character as Stephanie Patrick, and producer Barbara Broccoli spotted on the set.

The synopsis of the novel narrates the story of Stephanie Patrick, who is on the path of self-destruction after the death of her family in an airplane crash accident she was meant to be on board of, thus losing everyone she loved. However, after discovering that the crash was not an accident, her anger awakens in a new sense of purpose, setting her out to explore the truth and take revenge by enlisting herself into the identity of an assassin to track down the people responsible for the incident. The new, and lethal, Stephanie Patrick is on a mission to fill the void between what she knows and what she is told.

Who knows? If proven to be successful, the other remaining three novels could also be adapted to film, consisting of Gemini, The Third Woman and Chameleon. We're prone to find out in February 2019, labeling it as Eon's "other spy franchise".

Meanwhile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer struck a deal with Annapurna Pictures to distribute and finance films. But, strangely, the deal did not extend to the James Bond film franchise, as of yet, leaving the series without a distributor so far. Daniel Craig will return to play Bond for the fifth and possibly the last time in the yet-untitled 25th installment in the series, while Neal Purvis & Robert Wade are penning the screenplay. Despite having no distributors and a film director, a release date for the film is set for 8 November 2019 for arrival in US theatres, with pre-production rumored to begin sometime in May, next year, with filming possibly to commence by the end of 2018. Dennis Gassner returns as the production designer while Ben Cooke, Craig's stunt-double in all the four of his Bond films, is said to be the stunt coordinator of the film, taking over the duties from Gary Powell. Christoph Waltz, who played the infamous Ernst Stavro Blofeld in 2015's Spectre, revealed that he will not reprise his role in the upcoming film, and they'll bring in a "new villain" due to "tradition".

Thanks for reading! Feel free to discuss the topic below!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

All Spy Things To Look Forward To In 2018

The year is already in its fourth quarter, two months before it passes its mantle on it for the year following it. It had its share of spy installments, related topics concerning names heavily involved with the genre, as well as franchises experiencing evolution. Let's summarize with what we've had so far, and what there is to look forward to in 2018.

We'll start with the best thing there is when it comes to the genre of spy fiction, which brings us to Ian Fleming's secret agent, James Bond and his play in the world of comic books. Dynamite Entertainment has had a very glorious year of delivering comics based on the character that neither have resulted in disappointment nor a brief dissatisfaction on behalf of any fan.

Picking up the writing duties from Warren Ellis, American novelist Benjamin Percy scripted the third story arc in Dynamite's James Bond series, entitled Black Box, with the interior art delivered by Rapha Lobosco. When asked about the development of the storyline, Percy told us all that while he wanted to keep in touch with the spirit of the novels by exploring Bond's psychology, he also said that his take on the character and adventure was to be a love letter to the Roger Moore (Rest his soul) era films. Putting him on the trail of chasing an evil megalomaniac, Bond teams up with a freelance lady spy named Selah Sax to secure and destroy a black box containing worldwide information of intelligence secrets that could put the entire globe at risk of international security and political unrest. It ran from January to June, published in six issues, with a collected edition in hardcover format scheduled to be published later this month.

Cover artwork by Gabriel Hardman
At the same time, we've had the first Bond spin-off in years since Electronic Arts' 2004 video game, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent and the Ian Fleming Publications-commissioned spin-off trilogy, The Moneypenny Diaries (2005-2008) by Samantha Weinberg, which starred a character other than Bond, published over the course of six months in tandem with Black Box. Entitled Felix Leiter, it starred the eponymous character famous for being 007's CIA ally in the field, it marks the first time the character has been fleshed out into his own personality rather than being a two-dimensional nobody. Written by James Robinson and illustrated by Aaron Campbell, the story sees Felix Leiter going to Japan under contract by Tiger Tanaka of the Japanese Secret Service in order to investigate the whereabouts of a Russian spy called Alena Davoff, with whom he has been in love with, once upon a time. Things get catastrophic, however, once the same trail that had Davoff pinned onto, tied her to a massive terrorist attack in Tokyo that oversaw a genocide. Leiter and Tanaka race in time to stop the madness and reclaim the weapon used by the perpetrators. Like other Dynamite installments, Felix Leiter will be collected and published in hardcover format on the same day as Black Box makes its arrival.

Additional entries include a one-shot called Service by Kieron Gillen and Antonio Fuso, released in May, which oversees a story inspired by the political climate of the recent events as well as Britain's relationship with the United States of America, given the turnouts and the change of courses in government administration that differ in ideology than before. Another one-shot as well as a spin-off, featuring M's secretary and personal bodyguard, Moneypenny, was published three months later in August, simply titled Moneypenny, written by Jody Houser and illustrated by Jacob Edgar.

Cover artwork by Greg Smallwood
After its brilliant conclusion of work in Hammerhead in March, with a hardcover edition of all the issues seeing a release in May, Andy Diggle and Luca Casalanguida both returned for yet another Bond triumph, entitled Kill Chain. The duo's efforts are both the most highly regarded comic books in Dynamite's run of the series, with Kill Chain still being published, having already released four of its six issues, with the fifth scheduled to come out in two weeks. In comparison to their first collaboration, Diggle said that while the first one was of the [1964 film] Goldfinger's spirit, the second one will be inspired by the template of From Russia with Love, hence pitting James Bond against a revived SMERSH. It's rather interesting that both SMERSH and SPECTRE have been reactivated in Dynamite's contemporary comics, which opens up various possibilities for Agent 007 to battle the two of his sworn enemy societies in the future, or even having both of these chaotic criminal organizations either team up or lock horns over a fight and conquest of power. Andy Diggle, as usual, delivers helluva of a narrative when it comes to James Bond thrillers, and Luca Casalanguida's work is enormously sensational as ever.

Future plans for Dynamite's Bond comics include the already-announced The Body by writer Ales Kot, whose premise offers a rather unconventional pacing for a Bond story, as he is being checked up by a doctor at the Shrublands (first seen in Thunderball) health clinic, examining 007's scars, with each of them being discussed and how Bond acquired them separately on different assignments. Luca Casalanguida, of course, returns to illustrate the interior art for the third time, which, in my opinion, is the highlight of the entry. It's unclear so far whether The Body is part of the main James Bond saga, or just another standalone miniseries featuring the character like Hammerhead and Kill Chain, but it is scheduled to debut in January 2018. There's also a one-shot "Christmas special" Solstice by Ibrahim Moustafa (both writing and illustrating), which is due to come out later this month. A graphic novel adaptation of Casino Royale that stays faithful to the book rather than updating it will be delivered by creators Van Jensen and Dennis Calero at an unspecified date.

There are also plans for a separate timeline set in the time period of 1941-1945 under the working title James Bond Origins: The War Years, featuring Bond at the beginning of his spy career long before the events occurred in the first of the Ian Fleming novels. It was to be originally seeing the light of the day during Fall 2017. Presumably to avoid overkill, Dynamite pushed the title back to Spring 2018 according to Comic Shop News, with senior editor Joseph Rybandt talking about it in the following:
"We're doing a mix of both [standalones and longer series]--and it was always planned as a mix. We had some things in our schedule that took our main series offline for a bit, but we're coming back strong in 2018 with a new miniseries in January [The Body] and then our most ambition Bond project in late spring or early summer [War Years]."
Shifting from Dynamite Entertainment to Ian Fleming Publications, Anthony Horowitz will become the first continuation novelist in the Bond series since Raymond Benson to write yet another installment in his tenure after having his first effort, Trigger Mortis meet positive reviews back in 2015. Still untitled as of yet, Horowitz revealed that the book will come out in Fall 2018, with its story taking place before the events of Casino Royale, which begs the question whether Dynamite's War Years will be in connection with it, as well as the Young Bond counterparts, with all three forming canon in the literary universe of the James Bond adventures.

There has been a lot going on with the James Bond franchise in the literary and comic book worlds, while the film series is still offline, apart from the announcement of Daniel Craig reprising his role as James Bond for possibly the last time, wanting to "go out on a high note." Neal Purvis & Robert Wade are returning to pen the script for the 25th installment in the series, which is set to come out in theatres on 8 November 2019. Other than hefty rumors, no other concrete revelations have been unveiled yet, including the distributors of the motion picture as well as the film director.

Close but no cigar, now we give a transition from Bond (almost) to another spy franchise, Eon Productions, under the management of Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, who have been producing the James Bond films since 1995, are set to produce a different spy thriller based on a novel by Mark Burnell, titled The Rhythm Section, which itself is the first book in a series centered on Stephanie Patrick, whom actress Blake Lively is announced to play. In this story, Stephanie Patrick is on the path of self-destruction after the death of her family in a plane crash. After discovering that the crash was not an accident, her anger awakens a new sense of purpose and she rises to uncover the truth by adapting the identity of an assassin to track down those responsible. The film will be directed by Reed Romano and distributed by Paramount Pictures, set for release on 22 February 2019, almost nine months before the next James Bond film comes out in theatres.

Blake Lively will star in The Rhythm Section as Stephanie Patrick
Erik Van Lustbader published his latest installment in the Jason Bourne series back in June, titled The Bourne Initiative, which is the fourteenth book in the Bourne saga created by Robert Ludlum, and the eleventh to be written by the author. Talking about a sequel to the 2016 film, however, Matt Damon, who plays Bourne in the film series, cast a doubt upon a new entry starring him in the role, saying "people might be done with the character." You never know, however. Never say never... again!

Official Artwork by Philip Tan
After its glorious release back in 2016 in episodic format, Hitman by IO Interactive finally had a retailer full video game release in January, earlier this year. David Bateson reprised his role as the titular character Agent 47, marking his sixth time lending his voice to the masterful assassin. Despite several downloadable content arriving every now and then, Square Enix, that published the segment labeled as 'Season 1', sold its rights completely to IO Interactive who have been developing the video games since the first installment in the franchise. While 2017 does not feature new story contents in the planned 'series', the developers that have gone freelance and detached from Square Enix, announced that 'Season 2' will be arriving in 2018, which they will publish. But, that's not all. Far from it.

We're back to comic books, yet again, and with Dynamite Entertainment nonetheless, that are one of the best (if not the best!) comic book companies of today. Debuting in November, Agent 47: Birth of The Hitman, interconnects with the events of the aforementioned video game, while delving deep into 47's past and his first official assassination, as well as his association with the shadow client from the video game's 'Season 1', whom he looked up to as a brother. The second issue is set to come out later this month, which is said to set up the upcoming events in 'Season 2'. It also explores further into the background of 47's closest ally and his missions handler within the ICA, Diana Burnwood, at the beginning of her career and rise above ranks. The comic book is written by Chris Sebela and illustrated by Jonathan Lau.

Back in September, the world saw the release of the long-awaited and demanded sequel to the critically acclaimed 2015 spy extravaganza film, Kingsman: The Secret Service, a gory and violent love letter to the cultural impact that the spy fiction on the screens left upon, including the James Bond films, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (itself adapted to film in 2015) and The Avengers (no, not the Marvel Comics superheroes) with John Steed and Emma Peel.
Entitled Kingsman: The Golden Circle, this sequel expands upon its predecessor with an original story by Matthew Vaughn (who returns to direct) and Jane Goldman (who also worked on the screenplay of the first). Taron Egerton, Colin Firth and Mark Strong reprise their roles as Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, Harry Hart and Merlin respectively, who team up with their American counterpart organization called Statesman, after their very own spy committee, Kingsman, was destroyed and wiped off the face of the earth by the villainous Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) and her henchman, Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft). It also stars Jeff Bridges as Champagne, the charismatic head of Statesman, Pedro Pascal as Jack Daniels, a Statesman agent, and last but not least Halle Berry as Statesman's technician and quartermaster, Ginger Ale. It also features special appearances by Channing Tatum, Poppy Delevingne and Elton John. Although, not as successful as the first film, The Golden Circle was welcomed by the fans of both the films and the comic book, as well as the general audience.

Cover Artwork by Leinil Francis Yu
Of course, the film was not the only thing that came out around the same time. A sequel to the original comic book (after its reinvigoration as Kingsman: The Secret Service) by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, was released under the creative forces of a new team. Kingsman: The Red Diamond puts Gary London on a mission to prevent a terror plot and rescue Prince Phillip from the hands of a criminal organization called The Red Diamond. Written by Rob Williams and illustrated by Simon Fraser, the six-issue miniseries made its debut in September, published by Image Comics. The third issue is due to come out next week. To celebrate the release of the film, as well, Playboy also published a mini-comic in its September issue, entitled Kingsman: The Big Exit, which is set in the film's continuity and features Eggsy rather than Gary London. A novelization of The Golden Circle was written by Tim Waggoner, released around the same time. Two separate mobile games based on the franchise also made it to the surface: One that is turn-based match-3 roleplaying combat game by Korean mobile game company NHN PixelCube, which is available on iOS and Android. Another that is yet to come out, being developed by American company YesGnome for both the aforementioned operating systems, albeit the game is available as an early access on Android. It is an action-adventure construction-simulator, different from its other counterpart.

Kingsman: The Secret Service by YesGnome
Another thing to look forward to, next year, is the sixth installment in the Mission: Impossible film series, starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, IMF's most effective agent as he embarks on a personal mission to protect his wife, Julia (Michelle Monaghan). Of course, he is joined by a few of the IMF regulars, his best friend, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) as well as freelance spy and former MI-6 agent, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who returns to help Hunt battle against his nemesis first encountered in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, the former leader of the now-defunct 'The Syndicate', a rogue nation and a criminal organization made of disavowed agents from across the globe. Christopher McQuarrie is currently directing the film, having previously been at the helm of Rogue Nation, and has also written the story as well as the screenplay. Alec Baldwin reprises his role as Alan Hunley, the new Secretary of IMF, and joining the cast are Henry Cavill and Angela Bassett. The film is scheduled to be released on 27 July 2018 by Paramount Pictures.

If I could bring it to a highlight and help introduce to the mainstream spotlight, earlier this year, a video game company called Artplant, purchased the rights to Project I.G.I., a tactical first-person shooter video game series developed by Innerloop Studios. The franchise consists of two video games, one simply titled Project I.G.I.: I'm Going In (published by Eidos Interactive), and the other called I.G.I. 2: Covert Strike (published by Codemasters). While the publishing rights to the first video game remains with Square Enix, which obtained every intellectual property that Eidos Interactive had in 2009, the second video game is made available to download on Both the games see an agent of I.G.I. (acronym for Institute for Geotactical Intelligence), David Jones, a former SAS officer, embark on a mission to prevent an international crisis provoked by rogue war-mongers.

Promotional Art for Project I.G.I.: We're Going In
Artplant, itself a video game developing company founded by former employees of the now-defunct Innerloop Studios, announced back in August that they have been already working on a third game, entitled Project I.G.I.: We're Going In, which also sees the return of David Jones in the field. Not much is disclosed about the video game, other than the setup that will "feature the freedom the video game has become known for." As a huge fan of the first two video games, especially the second, I am very thrilled to hear about this franchise coming back to light, again. The world has changed a lot since 2003, and the nostalgia is bound to be relived in a manner that takes one back in time, yet remaining in the present day. The way the spooks of one's survival was made to feel in the second game alone (its military strategy consulted by Bravo Two Zero's Chris Ryan) makes the experience worthwhile, adding to that composer Kim Jensen's haunting score for each level made anxiety run in the player's veins. An outstanding experience.

Video games company 3D Realms is known for franchises like Duke Nukem and Rise of The Triad, both of which have been part of the culture that revolutionized the world of video games during the 1990s as First-Person Shooters, following the footsteps of Wolfenstein 3D, a franchise that was used to be part of the spy fiction before Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014) changed courses for it. Recently, 3D Realms announced that they were working on a new video game, their first in years, called Shadow Stalkers, a video game that is aimed for gamers from Generation X. Its content is said to be of the flavor circulating around James Bond and Hitman.
Official title logo for Shadow Stalkers
With many big names in the video-gaming industry involved, like Scott Miller, Bernie Stolar and Jordan Freeman (of ZOOM Platform, who also are working on the game alongside 3D Realms), apparently Bond actor, Pierce Brosnan is also rumored to be linked to the project, who previously has lent his likeness to the James Bond character in the 2002 fan-favorite video game, Nightfire, as well as voicing the character in Everything or Nothing. With hints by Freeman that indicate the game has a bearing resemblance to Nintendo 64's 1997 smash hit, GoldenEye 007 (regarded by the majority as the best James Bond video game), the main character is believed to be a spy of sorts which is presumably prepared to be voiced by Brosnan himself. A treat for various people alike. It's set to come out sometime in 2018 on Windows PC, Mac and PlayStation 4. Further information as well as a first-look to the video game is yet to be showcased.

Before it goes a case forgotten, after its latest appearance on the screen four years back, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan character is given a comeback in TV series format, sponsored by Amazon's streaming services. First announced in September 2015 as a project by Paramount Television, televised by former Lost showrunners, Cartlon Cuse and Graham Roland, and co-financed by Michael Bay's production company, Platinum Dunes, as well as Skydance Media, Amazon commissioned three scripts for the Pilot episode, after which stage a ten-episode straight-to-series was ordered. Directors Morten Tyldum (Passengers) and Daniel Sackheim (The Americans) were brought on board, with Tyldum directing the Pilot, and Sackheim handling multiple other episodes as well as producing the series.

Succeeding in the shoes of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine, the latest actor to portray Jack Ryan was announced to be John Krasinski, with his version said to be "a contemporary take on Tom Clancy's character." Despite this, however, the series is said to be heavily influenced by the Harrison Ford films, Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), which might be an indication to feature a more experienced field agent-like Jack Ryan than just another CIA analyst paving his way to rise above ranks in his career. Abbie Cornish joined the regulars cast as Cathy Muller, Ryan's fiancee. Actors Peter Fonda, Timothy Hutton, Mena Massoud and Wendell Pierce also co-star in the series. Titled Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, it's set to premiere on Amazon Video sometime in 2018.

Thank you for reading! Feel free to discuss below!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The World Needs A Saint

Written by a very special guest,
Nicolás Suszczyk

Needless to say, this article is dedicated to the memory of Sir Roger Moore (1927-2017): A hero on and off the screen, and a companion in many memorable weekends and afternoon with my dad and my grandparents, whom I hope they have reunited with him in their eternal rest.

Turn on the TV, open the first page of the newspapers, read your Twitter feed. All you see is a terrorist attack here and there, with graphic images of wounded bodies around and extremists unleashing fear all over the world. Now, try to find some escape in fiction: you’ll find TV series dealing with drug kingpins, war lords and a blood shed every second, either from the hero or the villain.

This is, precisely, why we need more heroes like Simon Templar.

Popularized by the late Roger Moore in the 1960s, and based on Leslie Charteris’ literary character, The Saint  was unique in many aspects. A contrast to today’s heroes or anti-heroes, Simon Templar didn’t seem to be pleased with violence, even when he carried weapons and didn’t think twice before delivering a high sounding punch to an assailant's face, but he clearly hadn’t a taste for blood.

Back in the old black and white episodes, Templar started straightly talking to de audience: about women, about a country, about fashion, about work. In a world where everyone seems to be locked on his on shell and no-one cares about other problems than their own problems, wasn’t it great that the protagonist talked to you right as the show started? In a beautiful act of empathy, Simon invited you to his world of intrigue and you were a part of the story.

Moreover, The Saint didn’t work for any intelligence agency or military force. He didn’t have rules and was just a high-class thieve. Following his hunch, he got into problems nobody asked him to. Once again, in a world where few people deeply cares about someone else’s problems, wasn’t it great someone who risked nothing more than his life just to help a honest man? Of course, most of the times it was a beautiful girl -and that had its perks for Simon- but anyway, we live in a time where relationships with the opposite sex also lack depth. And Templar was gentlemanly enough to care for a helpless lady or a damsel in distress beyond her looks and based on her honesty. Mind you, he would also surrender her to the police if she ended up being the mastermind, as it happened in many episodes, but always with the respect a lady deserves!

Then, there is the style. Most of today’s heroes are proud to show their muscles on tight t-shirts or intimate with a woman in very graphic sexual moments. In the case of Templar, he barely got to kiss the girl (even tough he was clearly a womanizer) and he felt more proud of his wits than his muscles. He was, in every aspect, a hero respectful to the audience and the other fictional characters surrounding him. In most situations, he is wearing an impeccable grey or blue suit, fur overcoats or maybe a sweater or black polo shirts, but always attired in style.

The Saint excelled on his sense of humor. He always had a killing one-liner to say to his enemies after defeating them, or to the persistent Inspector Teal who was anxious to find him with the cup on his lips. No matter how cruel or dangerous the situation, his sense of humor was the best weapon he had. No need to say how we need this in places where we hear gratuitous verbal and physical aggression everywhere – celebrities, journalists or even heads of state using Twitter to fight each other.

All these, of course, may seem very idealistic. Today’s world is less happier tan what it was in 1962 – it’s more dramatic, aggressive and tough in most humane aspects. Simon Templar -at least as Roger Moore played him- as no place in this world. But… what if we give him a place?
What if The Saint is rebooted one day and they make it closer to the 1960s show? Wouldn’t it be revolutionary, in a way? A good answer to all the TV series empowering drug lords or corrupt politicians, and a classy answer to today’s harsh world that seems to get replicated in the fictions we watch?

This “sinner” world needs, more than ever, a saint.

Nicolás Suszczyk

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hammerhead #3 Review

Where do I begin? The adventure composed by creators Andy Diggle and Luca Casalanguida that feature Ian Fleming's secret agent, or rather as some others call 'Super-Spy', James Bond in what appears to be aiming to become the greatest comic book in the franchise started life back in October this year that blew the readers away not only with the characterization of Agent 007, but the narrative it was given along with the beautiful visuals that scream pure artery that leads one to a jaw-dropping experience. James Bond 007: Hammerhead puts the British agent in pursuit of a radical anti-capitalist tending to spread anarchy by taking control of the United Kingdom's newly manufactured nuclear arsenal and use it against its own.

Artwork by Joe Jusko
The first two issues, I'm debriefing this since they weren't reported on this blog, dealt with Bond directly tracking down the mysterious aforementioned figure known as Kraken, from Peru to Dubai, where he had to rendezvous with the daughter of weapons industrialist, Victoria Hunt, whose father governs Britain's leading arms manufacturer named after himself, 'Hunt Engineering'. However, non-stop game of cat and mouse has been present ever since the first panel as 007 leads up to foil the plans of the villain tending to spread anarchy and bring it on the doorsteps of international security, while Hunt Engineering placed their latest innovation, a highly advanced railgun called "Hammerhead" in exhibition at the infamous Dubai Arms Fair.

As we advance throughout the miniseries, and a few misfortunes to witness, Bond is on assumption that this is just another day in the office for him and a straightforward assignment as usual, only to discover that things are not what they seem to be. Lord Hunt is attacked, mercenaries from across the globe discreetly hired to put down not only 007 but the key members to the arms manufacturing industries. We're still not given a full disclosure on the pacing of the story and the mysteries behind it, but the grim reaper with death is always waiting on the doorsteps. And of course, we're not without the most iconic line to be ever spoken in a motion picture, which I am sure everyone knows what is being referred to here, yes? Indubitably you do!

"Bond. James Bond."
Now, debriefing Issue #3 with little to no spoilers to present. The more we delve into the story with each comic issue in hand, the more it gets exciting for any Bond fan who himself is a die-hard admirer of the Classic Bond entries where gadgets were exploited, style was presented, megalomaniac villains playing part of the high society, lovely ladies to be found around, and at last but not least James Bond at his best, dressed in neatly tailored suits and dinner jackets, making grand entrance effortlessly where you could hear the jazzy James Bond Theme playing in your mind. Hammerhead is that kind of James Bond experience.

Now, straight after the assault that occurred at a formal cocktail party back in Dubai, Bond escorts Victoria Hunt back to safety and the two enjoy a great deal of romance with one another while having a pleasant flight. However, the real problem lies in the hands of Kraken who unexpectedly shoots down a Royal Navy helicopter at the Outer Hebrides, off the westcoast of mainland Scotland, containing very deadly warheads which the villain has plans for. Upon learning this, Victoria hesitatingly drops Bond where his trail led him to relocate at, and departs back to London to prepare for an inquiry following a misfortune that occurred in Dubai.

Given a gadget-laden Ford Mustang type of a car from Q-Branch, Bond races through the Yemeni deserts while tracking down his targets that sent the mercenaries to spark a shootout (see the comic panels above from Issue #2), his last stop brings him on the outskirts of a nearly-evacuated small village that looks like a fortress from the perspective of one standing outside of it. And of course, playing theatrics as always, not too different from his final encounter with Professor Dent in Dr. No, or Dryden from the reboot film, Casino Royale, he awaits the leader of the mercenaries to unveil the identity of Kraken, sitting in an armchair in his classic masculine posture, aiming a suppressed Walther P99 at his prey.

The man plays it like he's the shadow of the scythe, ready to reap the soul of the hired gunman at any moment, which he manages to do so once the latter reaches for his sidearm. And of course, the Easter Eggs for the Bond fans won't be getting away from sight easily as Andy Diggle's outstanding script and Luca Casalanguida's masterful art cultivate the visuals that seems like we're seeing a James Bond film, seeming too much like an updated tone of what the Pierce Brosnan era had delivered. A gift, I may say.

Have you no respect for the dead, Mr. Bond?
Yes, what you see above is a careless Bond cracking a one-liner joke at the face of a thug he just killed while smoking his Morlands cigarette, his original brand of tobacco of choice derived from Fleming's novels. After cracking the password on a laptop left by those whom 007 helped evolve to corpses, Bond finds out that Kraken has a buyer in hand to whom these mercenaries were to smuggle the very same warhead stolen from the Royal Navy helicopter earlier.

We all come to a surprise, however, when things turn out nasty (as Timothy Dalton would say) en route to boggle the mind of the secret agent. His car is taken over the control of via computer management which targets 007 as he leaps out of it, struggling for survival. I won't be mentioning the details in order not to spoil the entire issue for the readers, but it's something that isn't widely seen in a Bond experience before.

Now, how it ends I could describe with one word: Cliffhanger. And it is to say the result of the final view to the issue will most definitely leave the readers shocked. Positively shocked. It's all down to the excellent narrative conducted by the pen (or typewriter) of Andy Diggle, and the skillful art of both Luca Casalanguida and Chris Blythe that deliver outstanding visuals to life. I myself can hardly wait for the arrival of the next issue in order to find out what are the odds for our secret agent. Special thanks to Dynamite Entertainment for these wonderful set of adventures that are ought to satisfy the Bond fans in every possible way.

The remaining three issues: #4, #5 and #6. Cover art by Francesco Francavilla
Release dates for the remaining issues:
Issue #4 - 10 January 2017
Issue #5 - 15 February 2017
Issue #6 - 29 March 2017
Collected Edition: Hardcover - 23 May 2017

Thank you for reading! Feel free to discuss the topic below!

New Bond & Co. Comics On The Way

Now, while the previous article celebrated an International James Bond Comics Day, it's undeniable that under the helm of Dynamite Entertainment that the intellectual property licensed by Ian Fleming Publications did become more celebrated in the medium than ever before. We have one storyline already wrapped back in April, earlier this year, and another to conclude its arc next week, with both being part of the ongoing James Bond series, as well as a standalone adventure unrelated to the aforementioned title's chronology, Hammerhead releasing its third issue today, Dynamite's March 2017 solicitations revealed two more issues individually for two separate titles, of which one is related to the latter, and later on, a big announcement.

Hammerhead #6

Hammerhead, as pointed out previously, is a standalone six-issue limited miniseries written by Andy Diggle, illustrated by Luca Casalanguida, and colored by Chris Blythe, all too masterfully to state. It pits the famous British secret agent against a shadowy and radical anti-capitalist going by the name of Kraken who has plans for the United Kingdom's new developed nuclear arsenal. The title debuted in October 2016, having released three issues as of today, meeting positive reviews in the process as the story is cut in half.

James Bond 007: Hammerhead #6 artwork
by Francesco Francavilla
The cover artwork for the final issue of Hammerhead has the uncanny resemblance to George Lazenby's silhouette and his posture in one of his promotional stills in the guise of James Bond. Francavilla as always delivers his covers right on point without putting overcrowded measures in the image to describe what the story within the pages that the cover contains is about.

Synopsis:It all comes down to this. With the Royal Navy facing off against the Hammerhead super-weapon, and Britain’s nuclear arsenal in the hands of a war-mongering megalomaniac, 007 alone must infiltrate Kraken’s fortified retreat. He has a license to kill, and he aims to use it…

The last issue of Hammerhead is set to come out on 29 March 2017, while a collected edition containing all the six issues in one hardcover format is scheduled for release on 23 May 2017, five days before Ian Fleming's birthday.

Felix Leiter #3

As told in the previous article regarding the appearance of Felix Leiter for the first time ever in his own adventure vehicle as he's given the role of the protagonist rather than the usual procedure of having 007 enjoy the perks of the chase while being the hero, Leiter this time is given the spotlight, contracted by Tiger Tanaka to investigate a terrorist act in Japan, while tracking down a woman from his past who appears to be a Russian spy. As the mission progresses, things take turn for the worse as Leiter discovers deadly schemes set afoot in Tokyo and alongside Tanaka, gives pursuit to villainous cultist in possession of a biological weapon. Felix Leiter's first issue, as a reminder, will debut on 10 January 2017, with the storyline scripted by James Robinson and the art is illustrated by Aaron Campbell.

Felix Leiter #3 artwork by Mike Perkins
Mike Perkins is known for putting out great effort in delivery of the artworks he illustrates and this one alone screams originality while giving it the feel of a retro film poster in its structure overall, never ceasing to amaze just as with the previous two covers solicited in the past two months.

Synopsis:In the aftermath of a major terrorist attack in Tokyo by an Aum Shinrikyo-like cult, Felix Leiter finds himself unwittingly drawn into the investigation. And under the oversight of Tiger Tanaka—the Japanese James Bond—and with a squad of Tanaka’s elite operatives, Leiter himself helps to bring down the cult’s leader! 
But now it’s up to Leiter and Tanaka to work desperately against the clock: they must discover the secret of the cultist’s deadly bio-weapon – especially if they’re going to try and avert another terrorist attack!
This third issue of Felix Leiter is scheduled to come out on 15 March 2017, and three other issues are to follow in the up and coming months consecutively in accordance.

And now the announcement!

Black Box #1

While the official channels of Dynamite Entertainment haven't made any announcements regarding the title, as of yet, it appears the very next James Bond adventure that would have had Benjamin Percy penning the storyline is today revealed on ComiXology, with the artist being Rapha Lobosco. Previously, it was thought that Percy would pick up where Warren Ellis had left off with the ongoing James Bond series, but apparently, judging by the way this title is marketed, that isn't the case. It seems this might be another standalone six-issue miniseries from Dynamite Entertainment following the footsteps of Hammerhead by Diggle and Casalanguida. It's titled Black Box, and is given a dub of White Out as its Part One.

James Bond 007: Black Box #1 cover artwork 
Part One: Whiteout. The next epic adventure for 007 kicks off in the snowbound French Alps, where Bond finds himself in the crosshairs of an assassin who targets other assassins. This is the first puzzle piece in a larger adrenaline-fueled mystery that will send Bond across the globe to investigate a digital breach that threatens global security.
It might even turn out to be its own series and might exceed a six-issue narrative. All in all, it's pure excitement and mind-blowing revelation for a James Bond fan. At an earlier announcement when Percy was interviewed, he revealed that his aim is to have the adventure resemble the films more in vein than the novels. Dynamite is doing its miracles on days closing in for Christmas.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to discuss the topic below!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

James Bond Comic Book Day

Apart from the comic strips that debuted in Lord Beaverbrook's Daily Express newspaper in 1958, with Casino Royale being the very first story arc to be serialized and closely adapted from the novel, Ian Fleming's secret agent, James Bond didn't quite make an appearance in the world of straight-up comic books until 1st of December 1962 in an issue of Classics Illustrated, featuring an adaptation of the very first film in the series, Dr. No. As of today, the world of James Bond comic books (and not strips) celebrates its 54th Anniversary, and since it does not get enough recognition as much as the genre of the mainstream superheroes does, it's quite worth to mark this day as International James Bond Comic Book Day, similar to that of the "Global James Bond Day" in October that the producers of the film franchise have appointed in 2012 due to its 50 years of ongoing existence.

Classics Illustrated #158A
Featuring Dr. No cover artwork
by Norman J. Nodel
After the success of the very first James Bond film, Dr. No in 1962, a comic book adaptation of the motion picture (that, in turn, was based on the novel of the same name) consisting of 32 pages that feature the likenesses of some of the actors from the movie, particularly Sean Connery serving as the face of the James Bond character, was published in Issue #158A of Classics Illustrated in the United Kingdom in December that year, and later made its appearance on the American market in DC Comics' Showcase anthology series in its 43rd issue, of which due to the censors at the time, many elements were altered from its British counterpart as well as both have had different cover artworks by different artists. Those being Norman J. Nodel, whose work was more akin to a film poster, and Bob Brown, who delivered a comic-oriented cover featuring a piece from the climax of the adventure. The European reprints of the comic book, which were published under the Detective Stories label of Dell Publishing, used Nodel's artwork rather than Brown's. In the U.S., the comic suffered from poor sales and experienced a lack of interest despite the film franchise going rather strong among the pop culture, DC Comics elected not to use the intellectual property for future publications ever again, despite their possession of the license to publish comics based on Fleming's character up until 1972. Ironically, before Connery's departure from the series, writer Alex Toth and artist Jack Kirby were contracted to work on a James Bond comic book until DC decided against going ahead with the idea.

A panel from the Dr. No comic book, featuring James Bond with Sean Connery's likeness.
It wasn't until October 1981 that James Bond appeared in a comic book, again. But, this time, the comic was published by Marvel Comics, with the first one being an adaptation of the film released the same year, For Your Eyes Only, in two issues. Unlike Dr. No, this comic book was its own rather than being part of an anthology series, adapted by Larry Hama, known for his work on the G.I. Joe comics, and illustrated by artists Howard Chaykin and Vincent Colletta. It was labeled as a Marvel Movie Special, and likewise used then-current actor Roger Moore's likeness of the Bond character. It was followed by an adaptation of the film Octopussy two years later, scripted by Steve Moore (not related to Roger Moore) from Richard Maibaum's screenplay, and illustrated by Paul Neary. The comic itself credits the actors portraying their respectful characters before opening the first panel.

A panel from Octopussy.
A page from the Licence To Kill
comic book.
After Marvel decided not to continue with the intellectual property, the Bond comics were put on hold until the now-defunct Eclipse Comics and Acme Press acquired license to submit publications based on the character, beginning with an adaptation of Licence To Kill in 1989 by Mike Grell, who worked both on scripting it as well as the artwork, which was published as a graphic novel in both paperback and hardback formats, consisting of 44 pages of action and excitement, mirroring the events of the motion picture itself. However, unlike the previous comic book adaptations of the Bond films, the artwork that includes Bond is not drawn to resemble its cinematic counterpart due to Timothy Dalton's refusal to have his likeness licensed, despite the cover art featuring an official still from the film with Dalton in the guise of James Bond.

In the meantime, Mike Grell was working on another comic book based on Ian Fleming's character, but this time it was rather an original story, for which some say it was his primary focus while working on the adaptation of the 16th film in the James Bond series. Titled Permission To Die, it was the first comic in the franchise to feature an all-new plot that wasn't based on any kind of an existing material, published over the course of two years in three issues, with the first two arriving on the shelves in 1989. The third and last issue was delayed and didn't debut until 1991 due to unknown reasons. In the story, James Bond is assigned to facilitate an exchange on behalf of the British authorities towards Doctor Erik Wizialdo who offers England his revolutionary satellite launching technology. In order to validate the exchange, 007 must rescue and deliver Wizialdo's niece, Edaine Gayla, to safety from the Czechoslovakian legal jurisdiction at whose hands she was held a prisoner. As the mission progresses, Bond discovers that there are far deadlier schemes planned ahead than the simple change of hands agreed upon. Creator Mike Grell based 007's appearance on that of Fleming's original depiction of the character in resemblance of "Hoagy Carmichael with cold eyes, cruel mouth and piece of hair falling down over the right eyebrow." Other than Bond, Grell modeled the character of Wizialdo after the famous British actor Terence Stamp. With that out of the way, Eclipse Comics suffered from various problems they chose not to release further comics using the James Bond license.

Bond experiences a brief flashback to his past ventures in Permission To Die.
Ian Fleming Publications, then-called Glidrose Publications had a deal struck with Dark Horse Comics to release comics using the James Bond license, which had become effective in 1992, leading the company to publish several comic books featuring the character, with the exclusion of any adaptation based on any film or novel. Dark Horse's efforts were to make the James Bond comics its own franchise rather than leaning onto the popularity of either the movies or the books, going as far to publish six separate Bond thrillers by several authors. One could argue that the reason their tenure did not include an adaptation was the lackluster of new entries in the cinematic department when the film franchise was experiencing a hiatus at the time. Dark Horse Comics elevated the James Bond comics medium to a new height with its originality, creativity and the reception it gathered from critics.

James Bond 007: Serpent's Tooth
cover artwork by
Paul Gulacy and Egon Selby
The first one from the company to make its debut was the collaborative work of two legendary and overwhelmingly-praised talents, Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy, presenting the wildest and most entertaining James Bond comic book to date that was published in three issues, called Serpent's Tooth. A comic that may have been not based on any film, but had every key element to make it the most satisfying visuals for a James Bond film the escapist kind of fanatic would have wanted to see in the nineties, something akin to the Pierce Brosnan era films [taken to eleven] that arrived three years later. In this adventure, Bond investigates the disappearance of a fellow 00-agent who was assigned to gather information on a crisis that oversaw the abduction of six nuclear missiles from a Royal Navy submarine. Taking up the workload of his colleague, the trail leads 007 to a revealing scheme orchestrated by a madman who believes he is the 'great' serpent, who, if not stopped, would bring Armageddon on the doorsteps of mankind. The adventure itself is the richest, as of yet, of all the comic books that included Fleming's hero, exotic locales and colorful elements thanks to Paul Gulacy's skillful hands that delivered a beautiful art, not forgetting to credit its colorist, Steve Oliff. The comic book, after completing its issue-individual publication, was collected in a paperback, featuring a cover artwork by Paul Gulacy and Egon Selby, not too different from the film poster of Live and Let Die. Those who are familiar with it, might spot a few guises and disguises that might have influenced the 2009 American sit-com, Archer by Adam Reed who admittedly said he based its title character on none other than Bond himself.

The opening title card of Serpent's Tooth done in the vein of the iconic
main title sequences from the film series.

The second entry in Dark Horse's series of James Bond comic books came to be A Silent Armageddon, by creators Simon Jowett and John M. Burns. Out of planned four issues, the publishers only released two of them, thus to this day, the story arc of the comic book remains incomplete. Burns, who illustrated the artwork of the comic, also worked on the covers, having previously worked on Modesty Blaise comic strips, whose titular character is considered to be one of Bond's other spy franchise counterparts. In this adventure, Bond is assigned to protect a teenage computer genius and learn the secrets behind a program she had been developing called Omega, which carried a very valuable possession of all - a consciousness. Originally, the infamous antagonist organization in the franchise, SPECTRE was to play a major role in the thriller, but Glidrose Publications blocked its use, hence an alternative was born instead, called Cerberus. In addition to the rise of a new terrorist organization for Agent 007 to fight, the main villain is not a total stranger to Bond from whom he seeks revenge for killing his mother. Erik Klebb, the son of a dangerous mastermind Rosa Klebb who Bond killed in From Russia with Love. Reportedly, Issue #3's story was complete and the artwork arrived six months after its release date, but Dark Horse chose to cancel the miniseries. The last issue, however, was never finished. Apparently, the final confrontation would have included Bond, aided by a group of mercenaries, going on to raid on the main base of Cerberus and their operation to spread a deadly computer virus across the globe via the Omega program and battle Erik Klebb in cyberspace. The first two issues were published in March and May 1993, and the latter two, consecutively were scheduled for August and October release that year. Plot elements from the story might have been either used or lifted from a screenplay for the proposed seventeenth James Bond film in the series with Timothy Dalton in the lead, by Alfonso M. Ruggerrio and Michael G. Wilson, that was later abandoned.

Dark Horse Comics #10
featuring Light of My Death
cover art by Paul Gulacy
and Egon Selby
The next one to be published by Dark Horse Comics was Light of My Death, written by Das Petrou and illustrated by John Watkiss, and serialized in four issues of the conveniently called Dark Horse Comics (#8 to #11) that included other intellectual properties similarly treated as the Bond title. Unlike the publisher's previous efforts, this comic was set in the 1960s and sees the return of Tatiana Romanova, the Bond Girl from From Russia with Love. This one also was to feature SPECTRE as the primary antagonists, but settled for stand-ins instead. The organization is unnamed, but the main villain, who has many similarities with Ernst Stavro Blofeld, including a white Persian cat, is called Mr. Amos and orchestrates the schemes from his private quarters while his underlings carry them out. Bond is assigned to investigate the death of a fellow agent in the French Alps who was on to expose a plan to abscond a large slice of the US' financial aid at South China Sea and prevent the assassination of worldwide government delegates at a press conference in Egypt. This time, at the height of the Cold War, Bond's pair-up with KGB is officiated as both parties tend the stop the world from delving into chaos. Light of My Death's publication ran from March to June 1994.

Bond slips out of his "homeless man"
disguise as he reports for duty.
In Dark Horse Comics Issue #25, another Bond adventure made its arrival alongside an unrelated franchise, akin to the publication of Light of My Death, it was split to three parts. Doug Moench returns to pen yet another story for a James Bond comic book, and the art was done by Russ Heath who also worked on the cover art, called Minute of Midnight. This time around, there's a first time an element makes an appearance in a James Bond adventure, and that being given an originality when in the opening scene, Bond is disguised as a homeless old man, spying on a meeting via a planted earpiece while fighting a few crooks on the streets to keep his cover clean and intact. His assignment is to deliver an audio tape he recorded while eavesdropping on the conversation he was spying on right down to England when the head of CIA decides to hand over the case to the British foreign intelligence due to the main villain's association with the country and its politics. Calling themselves Lexis, the group of secret society were planning to sabotage nuclear power plants around the world. Despite being the shortest comic book in the franchise, it features one of the most iconic fights ever drawn that resemble the freefall scene from Moonraker's pre-title sequence. It's rather obvious the story was rushed and Dark Horse Comics were willing to publish all the remains of their Bond stories in development due to their license coming close to expire. Otherwise, Minute of Midnight actually comes to be the set-up of a planned ongoing story-arc to a serialized James Bond thriller. Especially when its ending oversaw a Lexis sleeper agent within the British ministry planning the abduction of "M". The issue came out in September 1994.

Up on next in the publication of James Bond comic books, Dark Horse Comics returned to giving each title in its own individual format. Two-issue miniseries Shattered Helix arrived on the shelves, with Simon Jowett, the author of A Silent Armageddon, returning to pen another story and develop his crime syndicate, Cerberus, further. In this adventure, Bond appears to be age older than his norm, assigned to stop the evil organization from getting their hands on a wrongfully flourished disease said to be located at a secret laboratory in the heart of the Antarctic. One of the comic's highlights is a bulletproof man called Bullock, whose skin itself is shaped of a thick body armour, similar to the Marvel Comics superhero, Luke Cage. Since Dark Horse's tenure in the Bond series were nearing to its end, Jowett concludes the chronicles of Cerberus as every remaining member of the organization winds up dead as the disease is released through gas form contained solely in the laboratory at the climax. A few previous mentions, in order to keep up with the continuity, of the events regarding the case of the Omega program (A Silent Armageddon) were made. The artwork was illustrated by David Jackson and the colors were provided by David Lloyd.

James Bond 007: The Quasimodo Gambit
cover artwork by Chris Moeller
The Quasimodo Gambit was the very last comic book to have been published by Dark Horse Comics that fully oversaw a conveniently-paced James Bond thriller, divided in three issues by writer Don McGregor and artist Gary Caldwell. According to McGregor, the story was written and the script was finished six years prior to its publication, which makes it valid for 1989 to cite. By that time, Eclipse Comics had the license to release comics based on Ian Fleming's character, so it's questionable whether this comic was intended for Eclipse rather than Dark Horse. In this story, James Bond is sent to sabotage a meeting between an arms dealer and a terrorist group who were scheming to blow up a business commercial building at the heart of the Rockefeller Center in New York. It is also one of the comics where Bond's loyal ally and CIA agent Felix Leiter plays a large role in the pacing of the plot rather than just being a background noise, in a similar way to Fleming's last Bond novel, The Man With The Golden Gun, released posthumously in 1966. McGregor mentioned in his acknowledgment that he wanted Tracy's death to come back to haunt Bond in a flashback at the near end of the story but chose not to use that element. He was ultimately dissatisfied with the comic book he claimed to have been discouraged due to the changes he had requested have not been made. The third and last issue of comic was published in May 1995 and Dark Horse Comics' era of James Bond adventures came to its final conclusion.
Two of  Gary Caldwell's planned artworks for The Quasimodo Gambit.

GoldenEye Issue #1
cover art by Brian Stelfreeze
When GoldenEye came to hit the theatres in November 1995 after a six-year hiatus that the James Bond film franchise had suffered from, the impact upon the pop culture was rather large it ended up being one of the most iconic Bond films of all time, thus relaunching the series' popularity that was declining in the 1980s, and served as the debut of fifth actor to play the role, Pierce Brosnan as Ian Fleming's James Bond 007. It wasn't too long after the release of the film when Topps Comics had acquired the license to publish comics based on Fleming's hero, and their decided to adapt the seventeenth film in the series to a comic book, keeping the actor's likeness intact for the secret agent. The first issue was released in January 1996, with Don McGregor, who wrote The Quasimodo Gambit, reprising his role as the script writer, while Claude St. Aubin and Rick Magyar worked on the art. According to McGregor, development on the comic began in March 1995 and he was given the film's script to "translate a 150-page screenplay into a 70-something pages of comics," noting that he was excited to get back to working on a James Bond thriller, again. But, due to unfortunate circumstances, the remaining two issues have been cancelled and the true reasons behind forfeiting the publication of the movie tie-in comic were never stated, meeting the same fate as A Silent Armageddon that didn't complete its run. For further reading in GoldenEye, visit Nicolás Suszczyk's The GoldenEye Dossier webpage.

Unreleased cover artworks for the planned GoldenEye Issue #2 and #3

For nearly twenty years after Topps Comics abandoned the license, the character of James Bond in his mainstream and adult form never appeared in a comic, again in an almost two-decade time, other than the reprints of the old comic strips via Titan Books in collected omnibus paperbacks. One spin-off, concentrating on Fleming's hero in his teenage years adapted from Charlie Higson's first book in the Young Bond series called SilverFin, however, was published as a graphic novel by Puffin Books in 2008 with the artwork illustrated by Kev Walker.
Dynamite Entertainment's official James Bond logo
In October 2014, Ian Fleming Publications announced that they extended the license to publish James Bond comic books over to Dynamite Entertainment, who in turn, have revealed that, at least, two separate timelines of long-lasting series were in the pipeline. One that will have a contemporary setting and serve as a continuation to the original Fleming stories that supposedly took place in and around the first decade of the twenty-first century, while the other timeline is said to be a period piece set before the events of Casino Royale with a younger and less experienced Bond in action very shortly after earning his 'double-0 prefix'. Dynamite's senior editor, Joseph Rybandt also mentioned that a graphic novel adaptation of Casino Royale is also in the works that is said to be very faithful to Fleming's book. In addition to serialized comic books, other graphic novels and limited miniseries will join the collective, as well.

James Bond #1 variant cover
by Ben Oliver
Dynamite revealed their first installment in the franchise to be the first story arc in an ongoing series, announced to be simply titled James Bond, which is set in the modern day of espionage. The first story arc is constructed by Warren Ellis of Planetary fame, alongside a wonderfully talented Jason Masters illustrating the comic. Entitled VARGR, the adventure puts Bond in pursuit of a madman distributing a deadly drug who tends to spread it across the world and drown it in a deeply chaotic gorge of virulence. Ellis stated that he was inspired by Fleming's short story Risico while scripting the storyline for the adventure and studied the literary character after going through all the novels, while Masters claimed that his primary influence on materializing Bond's outlook came from John McLusky's illustration of the James Bond character who worked on the comic strips since 1958 and as such was the first artist to give the fictional spy his graphical overview. When asked about the meaning of the title, Ellis explained that "Vargr is an Old Norse word meaning variously wolf, evildoer or destroyer." It was eventually revealed to be the name a decommissioned Norwegian battleship where the main antagonist's headquarters was located at. The first issue had at least nine variant covers in offer by several artists, including one by Masters himself, and was sold with 35,600 copies on the month it was released, which coincided with the North American premiere of the 24th James Bond film, Spectre in November 2015. The arc concluded in the sixth issue of the ongoing James Bond series in April 2016 and was collected altogether in a hardback later in June. The collected edition was translated to several other languages in October 2016.

A few spectacular panels from James Bond #9
by Jason Masters and Guy Major.
James Bond #12 cover art
by Dom Reardon
Warren Ellis and Jason Masters both returned for another story arc in the ongoing James Bond series which directly picked up where VARGR had left off, maintaining its relevant continuity as a brief mention of the previous assignment was made. This story arc was called Eidolon, which is the very first James Bond comic book to ever feature the SPECTRE organization officially in the plot. Its author, Ellis claimed that he concepted the story right after reading Umberto Eco's conspiracy book called Numero Zero, which deals with the supposed exposure of real-life secret societies controlling world affairs ever since World War II. In Eidolon, the infamous antagonist organization from the Bond franchise is given a similar background when a resurgence of SPECTRE is planned after their destruction in the events of the You Only Live Twice novel and the death of Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Bond's hands. "Eidolon" is the name given to a group of stay-behinds and sleeper agents whose loyalty lie with SPECTRE, across the globe whose existence dates back to the second world war, similar to the claims in Eco's book. 007 races in time to expose the moles in his own government on first hand to prevent the resurrection of his nightmare, which is the reformation of none other than SPECTRE, taking control of the world with blackmailing, deviltry and extortion. Issue #7 marks the beginning of its arc that debuted in June 2016 alongside the release of VARGR in hardcover. The story is supposed to conclude in Issue #12 which is set to come out in December 2016, while a collected edition is given a March 2017 release date. Ellis said in an interview that he won't return for the third story arc but did not rule out a future comeback sometime later if offered. The Ellis/Masters run on James Bond was universally praised overall, especially due to its originality and medium that differs from the film franchise while staying true to the literary hero's roots to an extent.

James Bond 007: Hammerhead #1
variant cover by Ron Salas
While the James Bond series is on and going, Dynamite announced a standalone limited miniseries featuring Ian Fleming's James Bond in a six-issue comic titled Hammerhead. Andy Diggle had the story written for the comic while Luca Casalanguida, a masterfully talented artist himself, illustrates the panels with Chris Blythe coloring it. The first issue offered four variant covers by several other artists and made its debut in October 2016, meeting with overtly positive reviews. The comic itself, while existing in the same timeline as the ongoing series established by Warren Ellis, is more in the vein of the Classic Bond image seen in the film franchise. As of November 2016, only two issues were released and a third is scheduled to come out the following month with two others solicited in their own respectful months in January and February 2017. In this story, James Bond is sent to expose and assassinate a mysterious figure going by the name of Kraken, a radical anti-capitalist who has overwhelmingly frightening plans for Britain's newly-developed nuclear arsenal called "Hammerhead". Throughout the venture, Bond will be faced with constant dilemmas that will question his loyalty to the country and the crown, and must figure out if he is being used to protect England or create a terrifying superpower that might be the root to unleash a new world order on behalf of the conspirators. In small analysis, the comic book's opening sequence is very similar to that of the climactic finale in The Quasimodo Gambit, where Bond bursts in to a high building, outfitted with a commando gear and opens fire on numerous mercenaries while dodging bullets and explosions.

A panel from James Bond 007: Hammerhead #2 by artists Luca Casalanguida and Chris Blythe
Next year is not without its solicitations, as Hammerhead would go on to continue its run up until March 2017 as estimated, while back in October 2016, Dynamite made announcements for two separate titles, and one among is the most surprising. Benjamin Percy is set to continue the ongoing James Bond series after the departure of Warren Ellis and Jason Masters, but an artist is not named, as of yet, neither the title of the story arc is mentioned nor its synopsis, so to speak.

Felix Leiter #1 cover artwork by
Mike Perkins
And the surprise announcement later came on to be an upcoming comic book title in the James Bond franchise that not only is a spin-off but puts on an iconic character in the miniseries' lead. For the first time ever, Felix Leiter gets his own adventure operating solo as a private contractor, hired by Tiger Tanaka, the iconic ally from You Only Live Twice (both in book and film, making his third appearance in any format overall, with the second being in Raymond Benson's continuation Bond novel, The Man With The Red Tattoo that was released in 2002), to investigate a terrorist act in Japan while tracking down a woman from his past who happens to be a Russian spy. As the mission progresses, things take turn for the worse as Leiter discovers deadly schemes set afoot in Tokyo and alongside Tanaka, gives pursuit to villainous cultist in possession of a biological weapon. Two issues, as of yet, have been solicited, with the miniseries set to debut in January 2017 on the same date the fourth issue of Hammerhead comes out. The comic book is simply called Felix Leiter, written by James Robinson, who is also at the same time working on his own series, Grand Passion, another Dynamite title itself, and illustrated by Aaron Campbell. Should the title perform commercially and critically well, Robinson revealed in an interview that he has an idea for a trilogy with Felix Leiter in the leading role.

Variant cover for Issue #1 on the left by Gabriel Hardman
Cover artwork for Issue #2 on the right by Mike Perkins

The evolution of the James Bond character throughout the comic books
James Bond has certainly been making appearances in the world of comic books for over 50 years and this article is written to recognize and possibly ignite a celebration day for the James Bond comic books that aren't getting enough attention as much as the novels and films do. So, let us celebrate a great medium that has been existing in the franchise for a long time, and specifically extend a huge thank you to Ian Fleming and his estate for keeping a great character on existence. And special thanks to Dynamite Entertainment for giving the James Bond comics its own spirit and treating the franchise with nothing but care, decency and respect.

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