Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Call for Papers, An Update and Giving Thanks

I have been diligently seeking out venues for getting the word out about my call for papers and I would like to thank Dr. Kannenberg, Jr. of Comics Research & Such and Mr. Zielinski, Mr. Baack, and Mr. Bill Koenig of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant for posting my CFP and/or giving me a shout out in their blog. I sincerely appreciate the support and if I have missed anyone, please let me know so I can give you a thank you in my next post.
Here is my CFP again, with approximately one month to go to the abstract deadline of June 1st. If you are interested, but have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you don’t have a working bibliography, let me know, but don’t let it impede you submitting. Those are guidelines, but they are not set in stone.

Call for Papers
Spyfi & Superspies: A Collection of Essays Analyzing the Cultural Response
to the James Bond Phenomenon
Abstract Submission Deadline: June 1, 2013

Since introducing himself to the world at the exclusive gambling club in London over fifty years ago in Dr. No, Bond, James Bond has become one the longest running film series in the history of cinema. The franchise has been very successful with 24 Eon Production films spanning six decades and 14 Ian Fleming books published several times over since their original debut at the height of the Cold War. It is not surprising then that the Bond influence on society has been a long and fruitful one in all media forms.

While there has been much written about the Fleming books and Eon Productions films since Bond’s literary and filmic inception, it is the goal of this anthology to explore other aspects of the Bond phenomenon. Hence, the editor is seeking entertaining, intelligent essays that explore and analyze the global cultural response to James Bond. All media forms are of interest: starting from the 1960s through to the present times. Please do not submit essays focusing on the Fleming books or Eon Productions films.

Here is a list of example topics and titles, but is by no means meant as an exhaustive list:

Films (any non-Eon Production Bond films)
  • Amerospy films: Matt Helm, Jason Bourne, Spy Kids, xXx
  • Eurospy to contemporary: Lemmy Caution series, Kommissar X, Agent 077, OSS 117, Johnny English
  • Asiaspy: From Beijing with Love, James Bond 777, The Mahjong Incident, Agent Vinod, The Hero: Love Story of a Spy
  • Parody: Carry on Spying, Spy Hard, Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed spy films, If Looks Could Kill, Austin Powers series, Our Man Flint
  • The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Get Smart, Chuck, MI5 (aka Spooks), Burn Notice 
Literature (any non-Ian Fleming)
  • OSS 117  (Jean Bruce), Matt Helm (Donald Hamilton), The Moneypenny Diaries (Samantha Weinberg), Young Bond (Charlie Higson), Jason Bourne (Robert Ludlum), Alex Rider (Anthony Horowitz)
  • Non Fleming Bond: John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver
  • X-9 Corrigan (IDW), Super Spy (Matt Kindt), James Bond Jr. (John Vincent), The Secret Service (Mark Millar), Danger Girl (IDW), The Secret Service (Mark Millar)
  • Archer, James Bond Jr., Totally Spies!  
  • Adaptations: GoldenEye, Quantum of Solace
  • Ret-con Bond: 007 Legends, GoldenEye
  • Original Bond Stories: 007:Blood Stone, 007: Everything or Nothing, 007: Agent Under Fire, James Bond 007:Nightfire
  • Inspired by Bond: Alpha Protocol, No One Lives Forever, Alex Rider: Stormbreaker, Perfect Dark 
  • Najica Blitz Tactics, Gunslinger Girl, Master Keaton, Darker Than Black
  • The Quiller Memorandum, The Ipcress File, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 
  • “When Nobody Loves You” (Kerli), “I’ll Take It All” (Joss Stone), “Miss Moneypenny” (Placebo)
  • June 1, 2013: Abstract of 300-500 words, 1 page CV (or brief bio), draft bibliography
  • June 15, 2013: Notification of acceptance/rejection
  • November 1, 2013: Papers due of 5,000-8,000 words in length (earlier submissions welcomed and encouraged), contributor release, and short biography
 Accepted essays received on or before November 1st will continue through to the editing process. The editor will correct grammatical and spelling errors, however edits impacting the essay’s content will be returned to the author for correction. 

The final manuscript will be delivered to the publisher late spring, 2014.  Contributors will receive a complimentary book copy when published.

Please direct all correspondence to:
Michele Brittany, Editor
Facebook group: Spy-fi & Superspies

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bond. James Bond….Junior…

James Bond Jr. in comic book and cartoon formats
…Well, really James Bond’s nephew, if we are going to get technical. Anyway, this past week I received a package of the James Bond Jr. comics I ordered from an Ebay vendor. All nine are in very good condition, however I am missing issues 2, 11 and 12 of the twelve part series published by Marvel Comics in 1992. The comics’ released was coordinated with the cartoon version under the same name. James Jr even had his own logo: in silhouette, a man running while in the bulls eye of a sniper scope. The series was licensed by Eon Productions and United Artists.

A cursory look at the comics revealed some interesting facts. Two of the issues I had matched with the DVD’s episode list: The Beginning (Issue #1) and Dance of the Toreadors (Issues #5). The description on the DVD indicates that James Bond and his classmates – IQ, who is Q’s grandson and Gordo, Felix Leiter’s son – fight against SCUM or Saboteurs and Criminals United in Mayhem (kind of sounds fun doesn’t it?). Tracy Milbanks and Phoebe Farragut round out the regulars as love interest and infatuated classmate, respectively. There are some familiar villains, such as Jaws, Dr. No and Goldfinger, but also some new villains that include Captain Walker D. Plank, Baron Von Skarin and SCUM Lord. At issue #8, “007’s Intrepid Nephew…” was added above the James Bond Jr logo and title, so I’m curious why that statement was added part way through the comic book series.

Left to Right: Mr. Mitchell, Phoebe, Tracy, Tracy's uncle, James, IQ, and Gordo
The story titles incorporated the problem being faced by Bond for that issue, such as “Plunder Down Under” for a deep sea base, “Sure as Eggs is Eggs!” involves a plot to steal Faberge eggs, and “Absolute Zero” where Bond Jr and his classmates have to foil Dr. No while at a ski resort. One of  things that I wondered from watching some of the cartoon episodes and what I’m hoping the comics might elude to: what is James Bond Jr.’s motive for fighting SCUM villains? It appears that the villains know the nephew, but why should he be of any consequence? How does James Jr. manage to balance school and fighting the various masterminds around the world? Is he putting his uncle out of a job? I’m curious and hope that the comics will shed some light on the subject.

I haven’t started reading the comics yet, since I’m missing three issues. Although the stories stand alone, I prefer to read each issue in subsequent order. I’ll soon be rectifying my incomplete series with another shopping spree through Ebay. Then, I can follow up with a post covering the series as a whole. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Inside The Secret Service – Part 1 of 2

The Secret Service was a 6 issue miniseries

Overview: A six-issue comic book series published by Icon (Marvel Comics) and released April 2012 and finished up this month. The series teams writer Mark Millar (Wanted, Kick-Ass) with Watchman artist Dave Gibbons, to tell the story of Gary, a young hoodlum headed towards a life crime until his uncle steps in and offers Gary an opportunity at a better life. Matthew Vaughn, Andy Lanning, and Angus McKie round out the creative team as co-plotter, inker, and colorist, respectively.

Note: Although every effort will be made to keep them at a minimum, any spoiler alerts will be noted ahead of time.

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I wanted to start with comics that have been inspired by Bond and what better series than Millar’s The Secret Service to get the dialogue going? Millar intertwines stories that are laced with 21st century concerns and provides a few plot twists along the way while incorporating several Bondian tropes to round out his storytelling. For instance, there’s the suave secret agent, a sporty silver car, gadgets aplenty to rival any Bond film, a beautifully troubled woman, a couple of unique henchmen, and of course a villain. Inspiration from the Bond franchise is readily apparent. In this installment, I’ll start with the Bond spy characteristics and automobile tropes, and in my follow up, I’ll look at gadgets, the villain, and the women of The Secret Service.

London. Jack London…And His Nephew,  Gary

Jack London
The reader is first introduced to Jack London while he is dining with a distinguished older gentleman at a posh London restaurant, discussing a recently failed mission of another secret agent. Jack’s physical appearance is reminiscent of 1960s Sean Connery’s James Bond. Like Connery, Jack is clean cut, smartly dressed, and exudes an air of importance associated with a person who is comfortable and at ease with their surroundings. There is a sense of entitlement arising as a member of the privileged class. The man of mystery fa├žade is soon peeled away when Millar reveals that Jack has a struggling sister and two nephews, Gary and Ryan. An urgent text from his sister leads Jack to step into Gary’s (the older nephew) life and fulfill the role of uncle, and more importantly, as surrogate father, at a crucial juncture in Gary’s life: either he becomes a fully fledged criminal or go to spy school and follow in his uncle’s footsteps.

Gary getting bailed out again by Jack
Gary has moved around a lot with his single mom, Sharon, who is currently in an abusive relationship with an unemployed veteran of the Gulf War (Darren) that is the father of her second son, Ryan. Apparently Darren does not confine his dysfunctional behavior to Sharon and Ryan: he has knocked Gary around, physically and emotionally. They all live in a tiny flat in a poor housing estate in London, so Gary naturally hangs out with a rough crowd, where trouble is Gary’s constant companion. And, each time that Gary gets in a jam, Sharon has reached out to her brother Jack to bail Gary out. And each time, Jack has helped, but this time, he knows that he needs to get Gary out of the estate and on a path in which he can make something of himself. Gary will accept Jack’s help, but climbing out of the tentacles of poverty will prove to be a difficult road.

Gary has a difficult time fitting in with the other cadets spy school. Jack is not surprised that Gary’s street sense propels him to the top of the class. However, Gary's character flaws arising from his education deficiencies to his lack of taste in bourgeois clothing, lead him to be the brunt of criticism by his peers. Is Gary spy material? Several times the school’s superiors compare Gary to Jack. Both grew up poor and carry similar emotional angst. When it seems that Gary will be expelled from school, Jack intercedes with tough love. With his emotional barriers shattered, Gary is guided by Jack through the final transformation of becoming a spy.

Uncle Jack's spy fashion tips
Image appears to be everything in becoming a spy. Jack provides style tips to Gary as his appearance is made over so he can take his place beside Jack as his apprentice. While the fashion components are in line with the James Bond look, giving the reader a “behind-the-scenes” is not.  This is not what you would see in a Bond movie; you might see Bond get outfitted for gadgets, but when was the last time Bond was shown at the local barber on Piccadilly? What is interesting about the makeover in The Secret Service is that regardless of the spy school training, it is the physical image that seems to make the man, not unlike Bond proper.  Gary’s whole demeanor up to that point is of an economically disadvantaged young man playing at spies, but when the mantle of clothing, haircut, and shoes are donned, Gary becomes the epitome of a secret agent. From that point on, Gary steps into Jack’s world and makes it his own. Here, Millar moves away from Bond and makes the physical transformation a pivotal moment for Gary and the larger role he will step into for the rest of the story.

Jack and later in the story, Gary, are typical Bond characters, physically. Image is very important for the Bondian spy. In film and in this comic, image represents control over one’s destiny and a sense of power that seems to position them outside the society that most of us have membership in.  In the case of The Secret Service, Jack acknowledges that although there are great perks to being a spy – the nice car, the gadgets, plenty of women (read: be Bond) – there is another side: a responsibility to helping others, which comes without fanfare. That, according to Jack, is what should matter and what gives a man real value.  It’s a value that Gary reiterates later in the story almost verbatim, and it is here where Millar departs from the familiar Bond tropes and gives emotional depth to Jack and Gary.

A Fine Set of Wheels
Automobiles are not extensively featured in The Secret Service and really, the car that really matters in the series is Jack’s. Like with the Bond films, the car is an extension of his persona and hence, part of his physical image. Just as Bond is a man of mystery, so too is the silver Aston Martin. It may look ordinary (okay, an Aston Martin is never ordinary!), but in fact, Bond’s car is equipped with an ejection seat, rocket launcher and other various sorts of goodies to stop pursuing henchmen. Jack’s car is silver and bears a striking resemblance to Bond’s Aston Martin.  It has the ejection seat, the rocket launcher, an oil spray, is bullet proof, disposable wings for flight, and can be voice controlled (remember Pierce Brosnan’s remote car in Tomorrow Never Dies?):

Jack makes his escape

Although the car is an inanimate object, it is a supporting character to Bond and to Jack. When the occasion arises, the car is at the ready to serve, a trusted steed. Just as gadgets are often a necessary part of being a spy, so too is the car.  The automobile’s sporty and sleek shape make it stand out as unique; not unlike the driver. In Bond’s universe, the viewer does not see a real attachment, but in the series, Jack is very protective of his car. In fact, at one point Gary takes the car for a joy ride and winds up launching a rocket in the city, causing several thousand pounds worth of damage. When Jack talks with Gary afterwards, he’s not upset by the damage, but he is very angry that Gary took his car. While it is a tool for his work, it’s also something more: his pride and joy. This is not something that would be openly acknowledged by Bond (the death scene of Bond’s car in Skyfall may not have affected him, but for car aficionados, that was a true crime!).  

In my follow up next week, I’ll discuss the gadgets – there are plenty – the villain, and the women of The Secret Service.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

International Spy Museum's Nod to Bond Villains

Visit museum website: http://www.spymuseum.org

My boyfriend is away on business and after a long day at work, one of our usual practices is to eat dinner and watch an episode from the Anthony Bourdain No Reservations Collection. This time Bourdain was in Washington D.C., a place I would not mind visiting someday. That was until in one of the segments, Bourdain met former CIA agent Peter Earnest and they made a stop at the International Spy Museum, where Earnest is the Executive Director. Whoa, stop the bus! 

I finished up the episode and fired up the Mac. A quick Google search and a click to the home page of the museum; I was immediately excited by the face of Javier Bardem and the title of one of their current exhibitions: “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains.”  Honestly, I was amazed that such an exhibit exists because what makes Bond so good to watch is the juxtaposition he finds himself in with the villain he is facing. From Dr. No to Raoul Silva, audiences have enjoyed seeing just how evil a Bond villain can be. 

The exhibit appears to have classified the villains into eight separate categories based on their motivation for world domination. For instance, “New World Disorder” spotlights Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) while “Cold War Power Plays” focuses For Your Eyes Only (1981) and You Only Live Twice (1967). Each exhibit displays various movie props to help convey the overriding theme that inspired each Bond villain. In fact, back on March 13th, the museum hosted lecture titled “Blowing Blofeld’s Mind: The Psychology of Villainy” and was led by Dr. David L Charney and Dr. Stanton Samenow. Both are noted experts in the study of criminal behavior.

Also online, the museum was promoting a section called “Vilify Me” where the Internet viewer can create a virtual lair of villainy by either iPad application or within the browser. I didn’t try it though. And, no museum is complete without a stop at the shop. The spy store touted a handful of t-shirts, gadgets, and books. However, I was disappointed that there was not an exhibition booklet. 

The exhibit opened February 13, 2013, but there was not a closing date listed. All items were provided by EON Productions. So, next time you’re in Washington, D.C., scope out the International Spy Museum. Maybe I’ll see you there! 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

George Lazenby, Autograph and Story

James Bond Archives 007 edited by Paul Duncan, published by Taschen
Last November, it so happened that the Taschen release of the book The James Bond Archives coincided with my birthday, hence a very welcomed present from my boyfriend was added to my growing library of James Bond related literature and memorabilia. The oversized hardcover book culminated into a lengthy retrospective of filmic Bond to commemorate the franchise’s 50th anniversary of Bond on film. Each film was treated with several pages of interviews, production notes, and behind-to-scenes photographs. In addition, the often maligned satirical version of Casino Royale (1967) and Connery’s Never Say Never Again (1983) in which he decided to don the tuxedo just one more time, were situated within the same timeline as the rest of the Eon Productions films. The book even came with a filmstrip – about 12 frames – from Dr. No (1962). It was a magnificent book and well worth the hefty price tag, especially since in a couple of months would be the opportunity to meet several Bond stars at a Hollywood Collector’s Show in Los Angeles.

Since we live within easy driving distance of Los Angeles, one of the other pastimes that my boyfriend and I indulge in is the collection of autographs. Hence, I was quite happy to have said commemorative book, some extra cash, and a collector’s show this past January that brought together nearly twenty celebrities that had starred in the Bond films. Of course there were several Bond Girls from Eunice Gayson (the first Bond Girl) to Maryam d’Abo, some bad guys such as Richard Kiel, Bruce Glover and Robert Davi, and the British agent himself, as represented by second official James Bond, Mr. George Lazenby.

The show in January was the second encounter I have had with Lazenby. The first time was at another collector’s show back in the July, 2009. At that time, my boyfriend got an Emmanuelle box set signed, in which Lazenby’s character reminiscences about the dalliances of his youth. As much as we can recollect, he had indicated it was a paycheck movie for him. This time around, I had my huge 20 lb. book (not an exaggeration, by the way!) that I delicately placed in front of Lazenby. Impressed by the real estate that the book took up on the table, he spent some time thumbing through his Bond section On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Although there were a number of memorable movie stills throughout the chapter, I had really liked the photo of him tossing his hat across the room as he gingerly greeted Lois Maxwell’s Miss Moneypenny. I asked if he would sign that photo and while he was signing, Lazenby said that he was the only Bond actor who was able to hook the hat on the coat rack. And sure enough, when I recently rewatched the film, Lazenby’s toss to the coat rack was captured in one fluid shot!

Mr. Lazenby's autography

As with most of the celebrities I’ve been fortunate to meet, Lazenby was one of the more friendly and engaging stars. For all of the Bond actors, both he and Sir Roger Moore (who I have not met, but know of his long-time commitment to Bond Stars and his support of Bond events for the fans) seem to be the most gracious and humbled by their association to such an enduring franchise. Although a lot has been said and written about Lazenby’s Bond over the years, many quite critical of his portrayal, I think that regardless of whether he was a diva on the set or she ate garlic prior to going in front of the cameras, what counts is the performance. And having just revisited OHMSS, I think that a blog post is in order at some not too future date. In the meantime, please look forward to more stories and photos of Bond stars in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

“The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soul erosion produced by high gambling – a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension – becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.”  - Opening paragraph of Casino Royale
It might not be “Bond. James Bond” but the opening lines of Casino Royale were Bond’s true birth into polite British society in 1953 and a few days ago on April 13th marked the 60th anniversary of Casino Royale’s release in the UK. The book had already seen the first two printings sell out in the UK by the time us Americans finally saw a release of it almost a year later. Even then, the sales were poor stateside. Regardless of our meager interest at the time, Fleming was on his way to writing eleven more novels. And, the book would pave the way for a television show, a spoof movie in 1967, and of course, Daniel Craig’s Bond in 2006.
The Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois as created a special exhibit commemorating Casino Royale’s 60th anniversary, going on now through July 12, 2013. They have several events planned that include acclaimed Bond author Raymond Benson, a film festival, and a concert featuring music from Bond films. For more information, check out their official website: http://www.library.illinois.edu/rbx/Bond/Books.html. Sadly, I do not see a trip to Illinois in my immediate future.
And more book news: British writer William Boyd, who was tapped by the Ian Fleming estate to write the next Bond novel, has announced the forthcoming title: Solo. It will be out September 26, 2013 (UK release date) and will be set in both South Africa and the United States. And, it will be a period novel: 1969, with our suave spy aged 45. Boyd was interviewed yesterday at The London Book Fair: scroll down to see the interview here: http://www.thebookbond.com/. According to Voice of America, an American and Canadian release is expected on October 8th from HarperCollins. I haven’t read any of Boyd’s other books, but I’ll be sure to pick up this one. I do favor period novels and will be anxious to see the world Boyd creates.
I wonder what else on the horizon for our Mr. Bond? Time will tell. In the meantime, I saw this on Reddit and thought it was rather sweet, in a spy sort of way – enjoy!

Friday, April 12, 2013

I like factoids. And, there were a couple that I read while at the Wikipedia entry for “James Bond” as I was drafting my Call for Papers a few weeks ago. As I was reviewing the various ways that culture has been impacted by the franchise, I noticed an astounding tidbit – that it was estimated that a quarter of the world’s population has seen at least one James Bond movie – wow! That information was reported by Klaus Dodds in a 2005 issue of Geopolitics, which makes me wonder, if with the release last November of Skyfall, if that figure has been pushed up a bit more now. It helps that there are 23 films spread out over five decades, but still, it goes to show that a tightly woven marriage exists between Bond and popular culture. One cannot delve into a single media form and not find at least one effort inspired by Bond – I kid you not, even poetry (look for Kimmy Beach’s The Last Temptation of Bond, published by University of Alberta Press and available at Amazon). All this leads to how James Bond has inspired our world for sixty years if starting the clock with Ian Fleming’s release of Casino Royale in 1953.
One venue I was feeling on shaking ground with regards to finding Bond’s presence was in the world of comics. However, after attending Wondercon 2013 in Anaheim, California two weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised that Bond’s spirit was alive and well. For example, IDW’s oversized, multi-volume treatment of X-9 Corrigan spans several decades, writers and artists and is probably the longest running spy oriented series. Another blast from the past was Boom! Studios series Steed and Mrs. Peel, written by Grant Morrison (New X-Men, Final Crisis) and Anne Caulfield. The comic art style and colour palette, rendered expertly by Ian Gibson (2000 A.D.’s Judge Dredd), give homage to the original 1960s British television show. The television series had espionage and spyfy elements, so I’m anticipating the comic book series will as well.
The Secret Service, penned by Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, Civil War, Wanted ) and illustrated by Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, Green Lantern) in which a late teens hoodlum gets plucked by his secret agent uncle to attend spy school is a contemporary story that just ended this week with issue six. Apparently, there is a movie adaptation expected for release next year. And, Danger Girl kept popping up at various vendor booths at the con, with some issues being crossovers with some familiar characters: Batman, G.I. Joe and yes, Army of Darkness (I have got to read this one!). The covers reminded me of Pussy Galore and her lethal group of female pilots, proving women can hold their own in the spy world.
Matt Kindt’s Super Spy (2007) published by Top Shelf stood out from the others (see photo), Partly because of the smaller press format, but also the art rendering style. However, after attending a Wondercon panel in which Kindt was interviewed by author/educator Travis Langley (Batman and Psychology), Kindt revealed that he had completed an extensive reading list of all Ian Fleming books (he professes to be a Fleming purist), contemporary spy books and World War II materials. He systematically eliminated what had been written, which resulted in Super Spy as a collection of spy stories comprised of spy stories that had not been told before.
I’m sure there are many others that I have yet to discover, but in the meantime, I’ll be spotlighting the offerings mentioned above, starting with The Secret Service since that series just finished up and was a rather quick read. After going through the comics mentioned above, I’m thinking of heading onto anime. I’ve been watching Najica Blitz Tactics (I cannot believe how many underwear shots there are in this one!) and Darker Than Black. I haven’t picked up Gunslinger Girl or Master Keaton yet, and I still have to research further for more examples  in order to determine just how far reaching Bond really is in anime.