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Friday, April 14, 2023 

What will James Bond comics be like in this era?

Adventures in Poor Taste interviewed writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson, who's been assigned to write the comics adaptations of Ian Fleming's 007 for Dynamite, and the queries are raised for how the master British spy could be written in 2023, a year when at least 3 notable authors' works, Fleming's, Roald Dahl's and Agatha Christie's, have been altered by "sensitivity readers" for PC's sake, and all this coming 70 years after Fleming worked hard to create his famous espionage novels. But, surprisingly enough, at the start of this item, it says:
007: For King and Country sees Bond marked as both a turncoat and traitor by the British government following a murder he may not have actually committed. In order to clear his name, and find the real murderer, Bond teams up with Gwendolyn Gann (the supposedly-deceased 003) to delve deep into a “clandestine mission that could have globe-shattering ramifications.” It’s very much a story seeped in Bond-ian tradition — a compelling case of whodunnit that emphasizes sex appeal, high adventure, and some gritty undertones.
No kidding. In that case, let me just say I hope they don't spoil everything by depicting the lady herself as the culprit. That would only tarnish the sex appeal they speak of, no joke. But now, onto more of the interview itself, and this is surely what to ponder:
AIPT: What are the challenges of writing a Bond book in 2023 given the proliferation of spy stories and more “savvy” readers? Or does Bond’s innate sense of timelessness sort of negate any of that?

PKJ: There are three challenges, as I see it. The first is to make sure all boxes are checked that makes the story feel inherently like a Bond story, a story that wouldn’t be the same with any other character at its center: Bond’s ego, the way he talks to people, the Bond girl, the cars and gadgets, the fun visual elements to the villains. The second challenge, then, is to give the reader some kind of new take, something that makes it feel fresh and exciting without sacrificing that familiarity.

And the last is to keep the character true to Fleming’s original vision, despite the fundamentally different time period in which the story takes place. This is probably the trickiest part. The Bond of 2023 must be different from the Bond of 1953 in some ways, but he still needs to be the same Bond at his core: the “blunt instrument” who kills people for a living, drinks too much, likes expensive food and booze and suits and sports cars, and apologizes for nothing. That can be a tricky balance, but man is it fun to bring to life.
Now, assuming he does admire the original zygote without PC selectivity, one must wonder what Johnson thinks of where those in charge of the creations are going today, recalling the movie No Time To Die was otherwise woke in its depictions women, with only one actress, Ana de Armas, allowed to come within even miles of being sensual. Let's consider the recent announcements that the novels of Fleming, along with Dahl's and Christie's, would be undergoing aforementioned alterations for the sake of supposedly not offending anybody, even though it was stated that Black characters in several of the 007 entries would be removed, and when even Black men and women who're on the heroic side get no representation at all, that's racist, plain and simple. Ironically, these bowdlerizations are so inconsistent, as explained here, that questionable terms for east Asians still remain, in example, so one has to wonder what the woke publisher in charge of the Bond novels is driving at.

And you could reasonably feel worried when they reference 2023 sans any questions whether the PC drive we're seeing today is insulting to the intellect and is laughably petty, to say nothing of harmful in the long run.
AIPT: How does writing Bond compare and/or contrast to your work with superheroes (I’m thinking along the lines of Superman)?

PKJ: It’s not as different as you might think. Writing espionage is very different than writing superhero action, of course, but in terms of character, Bond is so iconic that he’s practically a superhero in his own right. He just represents a different kind of power fantasy than Superman, Hulk, or Batman do, and 80% of the difference can be summed up that tidily. Superman is the belief that we were sent here to do great things, that we can have absolute power and wield it with absolute compassion and humility. Hulk is the strongest one there is, the one for whom feelings of smallness, weakness, helplessness are impossible.

Batman is the notion that through single-minded doggedness, relentless hard work and study, we can craft ourselves into something more than should be possible. Simply put (and this is admittedly oversimplifying the character), James Bond is the living fantasy of being the coolest guy alive. Always cool under pressure, always looks great, has the cool car and the cool gear, always knows what to do, always knows what to say, women love him, men envy him. There’s more to his mythology, of course, and we try to explore more complex sides to him in 007: For King and Country. But on the surface, that’s how I think of him in relation to more traditional costumed superheroes.
It's different in that it's anything but science fiction. Sure, there could be surrealist ingredients in some of the Bond adventures, namely, what gizmos and gadgets he gets from the agency to serve an advantage (and IIRC, Moonraker was one film entry where he visited a space station), and I vaguely recall a movie scene where Bond was in danger of a laser, though I can't recall the film's title. Let's also not forget Oddjob's sharp frisbee-like hat. But it's still not the kind of universe with sci-fi connections like Superman, Hulk and even Batman are put in. And now, speaking of movie connections:
AIPT: Do you have a favorite Bond actor? Does any of that person’s portrayal get funneled/channeled into the comics take on Bond?

PKJ: I’ll always love Connery in the role, but I have to go with Daniel Craig. The Craig era was the one that made me finally get James Bond, and the one that most helped me capture the 21st century take on the mid-20th century character. I love the physicality of his take, the clever, concise but world-weary way in which he speaks, his detachment from the rest of the world, that “I-Dare-You” look he gives any would-be threat. Craig’s Bond is the one that feels most like the one I read in the books: the “blunt instrument” with no tolerance for bureaucracy or bullshit, who’s grown almost bored of killing.
Why do I get the feeling this was deliberate favoratism, since Craig's rendition was more attuned to the concept of darkness, and possibly less room for a sense of humor? This also reminds me that Cary Joji Fukunaga, the director of No Time to Die, even distorted a scene from Thunderball to make it sound like it was rape, even though it wasn't, and the relationship 007 formed with the therapist was consensual. And then, wouldn't you know it, Fukunaga was accused of slighting at least a few actresses in past TV productions. So it's clear he was one of countless virtue-signalers who thought that could shield them indefinitely from being called out on their own potential errors. Huge mistake, and some will surely wonder if that's what he gets for creating a situation where future filmmakers will be scared to work on any sex scenes. I'm also very annoyed how it sounds like somebody's making it sound like the brand new takes on classic creations are infinitely better than the old in every way. Then, at the end of the interview:
AIPT: Would you want to continue writing Bond after this? Do you have any dream 007 stories you’d like to eventually tell?

PKJ: I’ve had a great time writing Bond, and will never be in a hurry to leave. But I confess that my dream Bond story is the one we’re kicking off now: James Bond and Gwendolyn Gann versus the entire Double O section, with an unusually clever villain pulling the strings. It asks questions about patriotism and the changing face of warfare and espionage. As ever, I can’t believe I get to tell stories with these iconic characters, but I’m not going to waste a second.
My my, this is eyebrow raising, and one must wonder if this comic will turn into a liberal lecture about what patriotism really is, and maybe even anti-war propaganda for the sake of undermining the war against Islamic terrorism. Which would only sour any flavor of the traditions they spoke of prior. So much as I'd like to think there's something great in store here with a new 007 comic adaptation, the unfortunate reality is that we might have a case here of an ideologue who's trying to have it both ways, and appease the PC crowd with tasteless political metaphors. As a result, you can't be surprised if anybody worried about PC in its many forms ends up discouraged from buying this new take on Fleming's master British spy, especially in an age where, as noted before, wokeness has come for the original novels, and neither Johnson nor the interviewers seems interested in raising the issue of that.

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Ever heard of a real spy called Bill Fairclough (MI6 codename JJ). He was one of Pemberton’s People in MI6. To date there aren't any films made about him but there is one hell of an espionage thriller novel released so far about his real life exploits.

Beyond Enkription is a must read for espionage cognoscenti and the first stand-alone spy thriller in The Burlington Files autobiographical series by Bill Fairclough. It’s a raw and noir matter of fact pacy novel. Len Deighton and Mick Herron could be forgiven for thinking they co-wrote it. Coincidentally, a few critics have nicknamed its protagonist “a posh Harry Palmer.”

This elusive and enigmatic novel is a true story about a maverick accountant (Edward Burlington in Porter Williams International aka Bill Fairclough in Coopers & Lybrand now PwC in real life). In 1974 in London he began infiltrating organised crime gangs, unwittingly working for MI6. After some frenetic attempts on his life he was relocated to the Caribbean where, “eyes wide open” he was recruited by the CIA and headed for shark infested waters off Haiti.

If you’re an espionage cognoscente you’ll love this monumental book. In real life Bill was recruited by MI6's unorthodox Colonel Alan Brooke Pemberton CVO MBE and thereafter they worked together on and off into the 1990s. Pemberton’s People included Roy Astley Richards (Winston Churchill’s bodyguard), Peter Goss an SAS Colonel and even the infamous rogue Major Freddy Mace, who highlighted his cat burgling and silent killing skills in his CV. For more on Pemberton’s People do read this brief intriguing News Article dated 31 October 2022 in TheBurlingtonFiles website

This epic is so real it made us wonder why bother reading espionage fiction when facts are so much more exhilarating. Atmospherically it's reminiscent of Ted Lewis' Get Carter of Michael Caine fame. If anyone ever makes a film based on Beyond Enkription they'll only have themselves to blame if it doesn't go down in history as a classic thriller … it’s the stuff memorable films are made of.

Whether you’re a le Carré connoisseur, a Deighton disciple, a Fleming fanatic, a Herron hireling or a Macintyre marauder, odds on once you are immersed in it you’ll read this titanic production twice. You can find out more about Pemberton’s People in an article dated 31 October 2022 on The Burlington Files website. For more detailed reviews visit the Reviews page on TheBurlingtonFiles website or see other independent reviews on your local Amazon website and check out Bill Fairclough's background on the web.

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