Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Inadvertent Nod To James Bond Twiggy Style

A photo posted to Reddit led one Spyfi & Superspies loyal reader  - thanks Nick! - to reach out to me when he noticed a Bond reference: 

Fashion icon Twiggy, wearing the “paper dress,” advertises pop icon 007 (Google Images Search)

Located on Twiggy’s right thigh is the partially obscured headline “….dressed for 007” that looks as though it might have been coverage of a James Bond film premiere. Immediately, I wondered if the 007 headline on Twiggy’s dress could be referring to Thunderball or You Only Live Twice, with UK releases occurring December 29, 1965 and June 12, 1967 respectively.

I am leaning towards You Only Live Twice as the referenced film for a few reasons. First, the time of year of the photo would have been more logically placed in the summertime. Going beyond the short sleeves and the clear looking skies, who would honestly wear paper (or cellulose fabric, paper-mache, or some other manufactured weave) that would likely been ruined by increment weather conditions? According to a quick wiki search on “paper dresses” the US began mass-producing this disposable fashion in 1966, which means London likely experienced a similar trend around the same time.  Online, a V&A fashion exhibition had four paper dresses spotlighted, all dating from 1967. In any case, that’s my guess.

I would be very interested to hear from anyone who knows anything more about the photo and the referenced 007 article. Just add a comment at the end of this post or drop me a line. 

For additional paper dress examples, peruse this Voices of East Anglia article that includes several advertisements for this short-lived (thank goodness!) fashion phenomena! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Retrospective of the Year and What's Ahead in 2015

Looking back over 2014…

As another year draws to a close, it is time to pause, reflect on the year’s activities and assess how one measured against the goals set for the year. Looking back at my retrospective post the last day of 2013, I did not provide a list of goals, however, there were two items on my mind when I wrote that post. First, I wanted to finish editing and submit my completed manuscript of my book and second, to post timely and consistent posts throughout the year. On the former, I did complete the editing process and submitted a manuscript I could be proud of, to the publisher at the beginning of May (read the Behind-the-Scenes post). By November, my book, James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictionalized Superspy, was out and available to order from the publisher and a number of online booksellers. That said, the first printing batch sold out at the publisher (McFarland & Company) earlier this month, so that was a very exciting moment. And, in time for Christmas, the book is now back in stock. I haven’t seen my book in a bookstore yet, but I figure that will happen eventually.

My second goal of delivering regular posts fell short. In 2013, I averaged just under 2.5 posts per month, but this year that figure slipped to just over 1 post per month.  Part of my shortfall was due to the amount of time required for the editing process of my book, but I was also writing more for the online popular culture site, Bleeding Cool throughout this year (see my list of articles here). And like many, writing and research is a secondary job to a primary position that finances the other. Heading into autumn, I experienced a lot of changes at my day job, which cut into my available free hours. While I could always management my time more efficiently, I still wish I had more time in the day.

Now, I’m going to turn to the fun part of the post: revealing my top five posts of the year. I selected the top five posts based on number of views received for each over the year. So, without further adieu…

Interview with Moriarty's Corey was #5
Number 5

I had met Daniel at the Long Beach Comic Con and Horror Show in late 2013 and he had kindly provided me with a copy of Moriarty: The Dark Chamber to read because his story included mention of MI5 in its infancy and had spy elements. I enjoyed the story and nods to the spy world, flourishing in the years leading up to World War I. Corey masterfully weaved an intelligent story that many of us are now familiar with, thanks to BBC’s Sherlock. Corey has been hard at work the rest of the year: his new series, Red City, in which Corey creates an interplanetary noir story, was just released in trade paperback from Image. 

Number 4

Cue the music! Oh yeah with Kenny Loggins’ The Danger Zone playing in the background, it was time to open the trading card set for Archer this past March. The set spotlighted lots of nudity and sexual innuendoes and provided many moments in which I groaned and rolled my eyes, yet it was all with a sense of fun. I seriously need to sit down and watch all the seasons now…..Lona? Lona?! LONA!!!

Number 3

I led out with a strong post at the start of 2014 when I reviewed and discussed the first issue of Taran Killam and Marc Andreyko’s The Illegitimates. While I did finish reading the series, I failed to post a follow up article to discuss further how Killam and Andreyko played with established tropes. If you get the chance, pick up the series and check it out.

Number 2

I was surprised that readers were as interested in my report regarding the annual conference I attend in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association. In spite of the fact that I was suffering from a severe cold, the conference provided me the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones too.

And, at the top of the list for 2014…..

Person of Interest was most interesting to my readers in 2014
Number 1

This was a quick post one evening after watching an episode of Person of Interest starring Jim Caviezel as rogue CIA agent John Reese and off-the-grid billionaire Harold Finch, played by Michael Emerson. The episode had quite a bit of back-and-forth banter between Reese and Finch, each kind of trying to one-up the other, resulting in many in humorous moments. It made it so fun to write my own post and honestly, I’m glad that so many of my readers enjoyed this one too.

Before leaving this topic, I do want to mention of one of my posts that particularly impacted me this year:

Honorable Mention

What a treat for me this year at Comikaze when not one but two panels focused on James Bond! Not only did I get to listen to experts and fans of Bond, but I got to meet and chat after each panel. The Battle of Bonds, which included the non-Eon Productions Bonds, was a fun hour to compare which Bond was the best…I don’t think there was any clear winner and I’m fine with that. And, a headier panel discussing the qualities that have seen filmic Bond endure for over half a century! Both panels were hosted by Jessica Tseang and again a huge thank you to her for putting the panels together!

Honorable Mention: Near and dear to my heart, Comikaze panel Battle of the Bonds

Looking forward to 2015….

Okay, so what’s on the horizon for Spyfi & Superspies in 2015? Well, I’m going to keep it simple: MORE posts! One of the ways I’ll be doing that is through daily posts acknowledging and celebrating the world of James Bond that is inclusive of his literary roots and filmic franchise. Basically, think of it as a desk calendar with the theme “Bond 365 Days.” I have been working on this project for the past couple of months and I’m not done. Hence, I will state now that this project is organic and evolving, so it may seem that I’ve missed something along the way. It may be, or more likely, I just haven’t touched upon that information yet. It is my hope that readers will come forward where I do have gaps – be it dates and/or photos. I would like this to interactive and eventually a helpful archive.

Along with the daily Bond post, I’m planning to post a weekly blog that explores in depth on the wider spy genre topic from the various popular culture outlets – film, television, literature, comics, video games, etc. I know there are spy films scheduled for release next year such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Spectre (of course!), television shows aplenty and it will be interesting to see what comic book stories Dynamite writers come up with to entertain and sate our appetites for James Bond now that they an agreement with Ian Fleming Publications Ltd. There are older books and films out there I would like to visit and of course, a whole world of espionage and Eurospy out there too! In addition, I hope to finally read and write about my thoughts regarding the Ian Fleming books and from revisiting the Bond films. And, I’m sure there will be other items, yet unknown to report and talk about in the next year.

I hope you will come along with me in the coming year. Please bookmark my site and consider following me and see your photo over in the right margin with the other good folk already congregated there. In advance, I thank you and I want you to know that I sincerely appreciate your support!

Wishing all my Spyfi & Superspies readers a fond and joyous New Year! See you January 1! 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Season's Greetings

Merry Christmas and greetings from sunny Southern California! I hope that each of you are having a wonderful holiday season. May it be a peaceful one, filled with the joy of family and friends! 

I hope you will stop back by next week when I'll post a review of this year. In addition, I'll also be making a special announcement about 2015 that you will not want to miss! 

Until then, all the very best!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bond Buzz Word: Spectre

To celebrate the announcement of Bond 24 or Spectre, Bond aficionado Brad Hansen (Commander Bond) of Visual Space Productions did a wonderful job editing together scenes from Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds are Forever that feature the evil secret organization, SPECTRE. SPECTRE, or Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, has been around for a long time and was led by the kitty-petting maniacal villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Before Bond fans ask what happened to George Lazenby and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Hansen's trailer focuses specifically on the 1960s/70s Connery's interactions with Blofeld and SPECTRE. It was nicely done and I hope you'll give it a watch and share with your Bond friends...

Spectre popped up this week with the announcement of the Belvedere Vodka partnership as the official vodka of the upcoming James Bond film. The company created two limited edition bottles, which were showcased at London's Film Museum on December 15th. 

Belvedere and James Bond Partnership Announced

The first is the MI6 which gives nods the 007's headquarters by switching inks (green ink is used by MI6 officials to sign documents) and etching the bottle with the MI6 building, replacing the Belvedere Palace. Sadly, this limited edition will not be available to buy in your local shop; Belvedere is gifting them to Bond aficionados and charity auctions only. 

Belvedere Vodka Presents MI6

The second vodka is the 007 Silver Saber, which will be available next year and will have a limited distribution. These bottles will have a built in LED so that the bottle lights up, which I really want to see! Since filming has only recently begun, it isn't known what "role" the Belvedere vodka will play. However, the association with the Bond franchise should see a boost in sales for Belvedere. 

Silver Saber will light up Bond aficionados

Other Bond items in the news this week included the brief, and quickly sold out issue 28 of mi6 confidential magazine featuring Daniel Craig in his 007 uniform on the cover. I ordered my copy in a bundled offer with issue 27, sporting a cover of The Man with the Golden Gun Roger Moore, Maud Adams and Britt Ekland. At the moment, MI6 Confidential is offering a set of 007's "banned" trading cards from Somportex that were originally released in 1964, but pulled a year later due to their controversial images of bikini-clad ladies. There were some signed back issues of the magazines as well, but those have already sold out. 

Did you get issue 28 ordered? 

The last bit of news this week happened over at the official 007 Bond shop. They advertised they had 100 of the Hot Wheels collectible of James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 that graced Goldfinger. Now a little backstory about this collectible. It was offered at San Diego International Comic Con this past July where at some point during the four-day event, I happened to be at a booth across from where they were selling Hot Wheels collectibles. Unfortunately I didn't know about this limited edition collectible until that moment, and I was bummed because it was the only toy that was sold out - figures! I was hoping to scoop it up with this announcement, but darn if I wasn't too slow and missed out again! 

I'll end with a parting shot of the collectible from Youtube poster Diescastic...I'm green with envy!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bond 24 Announced!

The official Bond 24 announcement was made today around the world, and we can now begin referring to the 24th Bond film by its official title Spectre. For those who are new to the Bond franchise, the word Spectre or SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) refers to a global terrorist organization led by arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The organization debuted in Ian Fleming's novel Thunderball (1959) and was featured prominently, referred to in passing or implied in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, For Your Eyes Only, and Never Say Never Again. Ownership of SPECTRE and its agents were part of an ongoing litigation battle that began in 1961, however by late last year, Eon Productions' parent company (Danjaq, LLC) had finally settled the issue and full copyright rights were returned to the franchise, setting up the opportunity to pit SPECTRE and Blofeld against a 21st century James Bond. As a Bond aficionado, I am excited for what this may mean for Bond in the next installment due out October 23, 2015 for UK audiences and November 6, 2015 for American audiences.

Sam Mendes will return to direct the film written by John Logan, with collaboration from Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Thomas Newman returns as the composer (he is phenomenal!), and Hoyte van Hoytema (Let The Right One In, The Fighter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Interstellar) will assume cinematography duties. 

Major cast appointments have been confirmed with today's announcement as follows: 

Daniel Craig as Bond. James Bond.  
As the sixth actor (Eon Productions only) to portray the British agent, this will be Craig's fourth film. The first three were Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall

Ralph Fiennes as M
Fiennes returns after being introduced in the closing minutes of Skyfall as the new M, replacing Dame Judi Dench, who had filled the role in GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall

Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner
I am very happy to see Kinnear is returning as Bill Tanner, M's Chief of Staff. Tanner has been portrayed by four actors, including Kinnear, and has appeared in six films - The Man with the Golden Gun, For Your Eyes Only, GoldenEye, The World Is Not Enough, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall - and Spectre will make the seventh.  

Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny
Harris returns after being introduced in Skyfall as the new Miss Moneypenny, and is the fourth woman to play the personal assistant to M. I do hope that unlike her predecessors, Harris will have more screen time. 

Ben Whishaw as Q
Whishaw returns after being introduced in Skyfall. The character Q (Quartermaster) has featured in 20 of the 23 Eon produced Bond films, most of those appearances were by esteemed Desmond Llewelyn before his passing in 1999. Whishaw had a huge hole to fill and honestly, he did a brilliant job of it! 

Andrew Scott as Denbigh
Scott is a new character to the franchise and was presented as part of the MI6 team in the announcement. You may recognize Scott from another very popular British literary based franchise: he was Moriarty in BBC's Sherlock. He's such a fantastic bad guy -- how will he do as a Bond ally? 

Lea Seydoux as Madeleine Swann
Seydoux is beautiful and has a fresh look about her which reminds me of British agent Strawberry Fields from Quantum of Solace as portrayed by Gemma Arterton. Some of Seydoux's recent films include The Grand Budapest Hotel, Blue is the Warmest Color and Midnight in Paris

Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra
Another gorgeous woman, Italian actress Monica Bellucci may be remembered from her roles in The Whistleblower, The Brothers Grimm, Matrix trilogy, and Brotherhood of the Wolf. I do wonder if she will be a formidable henchwoman in Spectre....

Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser
Although many of us became acquainted with Waltz in his amazingly cool and calculated portrayal of Standartenfuhrer Hans Landa in the 2009's Inglourious Basterds, he has actually been making films since 1979. If his performance as Landa is any indication, he is going to give Javier Bardem's Silva a run for his money in Spectre

Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx
Coming off Guardians of the Galaxy as Drax the Destroyer earlier this year, I think that Bautista will likely become one of those memorable henchmen, joining the ranks of Oddjob in Goldfinger, Red Grant in From Russia with Love and Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

Jesper Christensen as Mr. White
Christensen will return as the villainous, Mr. White from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. This man seriously needs more screen time! 

And last, but certainly not least, the Aston Martin DB10 was unveiled at the beginning of the announcement, commemorating a 50-year collaboration. The DB10 a beauty, but I'm still partial the DB5 featured in Goldfinger. 

Please note: All images found on Wikipedia or through Google Images. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

James Bond Aficionados Gather for Comikaze Panels

I was quite excited to find that there would be two panels featured at Stan Lee’s Comikaze last week at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The first was held Friday evening titled Battle of the Bonds…James Bond and the second was on Saturday afternoon, titled 50 Years of James Bond – How Did He Become a Legend? Both panels had overlap of panelists and were moderated by Jessica Tseang.

Panel Host/Moderator, Jessica Tseang
Which Bond Does It Better?

The Battle of the Bonds…James Bond follows on the success of prior panels of the Robins and the Doctors and the goal is dissect each Bond to determine which one is the greatest Bond.

Each panelist represented a Bond:

  • Barry Nelson, David Niven and Ian Fleming played by Dr. Travis Langley (author of Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight)
  • Sean Connery played by Steven Jay Rubin (author of The James Bond Films: A Behind the Scenes History and The Complete James Bond Encyclopedia)
  • George Lazenby played by Malcolm McNeill (international law attorney)
  • Roger Moore played by William O’Neill (artist, initial creator of Hurricane Entertainment comic book, Chassis)
  • Timothy Dalton played by Robert Short (actor, visual effects)
  • Pierce Brosnan played by Zack Beseda (www.zackforreal.com)
  • Daniel Craig played by Vito Lappicola (Comics on Comics)

Panelists (l-r): Dr. Travis Langley, Steven Jay Rubin, William O'Neill, Malcolm McNeill, Robert Short, Zack Beseda
Panelists (l-r): Robert Short, Zack Beseda, Vito Lappicola and Moderator, Jessica Tseang

Bond. James Bond

Which actor has played the suave secret agent the best? Each panelist discussed the fine points of their respective actors. Langley started off the battle by saying that book Bond was the best out of all of them because Fleming’s books were the blueprint for all the filmic Bonds. Representing Sean Connery, Rubin explained that Connery was a relatively unknown actor when Dr. No released in 1962. There was a coolness about him and he appealed to both men and women.

McNeill stated that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service George Lazenby had an impish way about him and he had a sense of humor. For example, Lazenby’s Bond steals the centerfold out of the Playboy he was reading during the photocopier scene of OHMSS. McNeill also felt that Lazenby’s delivery of lines was excellent.

Roger Moore’s The Spy Who Loved Me was O’Neill’s first with regards to the Bond franchise. Moore represented “big budget Bond” and who was able to pull off a humorous/serious Bond. This balance was an important asset that helped save a failing franchise. Short said Timothy Dalton had read all of Fleming’s Bond books because he wanted to bring filmic Bond back to his literary roots. Dalton conveyed “great depth and conflict and explored the gritty side of Bond,” according to Short. However, the 1980s audience was not ready for Dalton’s interpretation.

Beseda’s first Bond was Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye, so was Brosnan was the automatic favorite of Beseda’s. Lappicola stated that Daniel Craig “made Bond relevant and brought him into the 21st century.” And, Craig had also read the Fleming books as well as trained for the physical demands of the role, bringing a sense of realism to the spy.

Langley represents a trio: Barry Nelson as Jimmy Bond from the CBS version of Casino Royale (1954), David Niven as James Bond in the 1967 filmic version, and of course the man behind the spy, Ian Fleming; Rubin as Sean Connery

Best Gadgets and Memorable Women

Every Bond film follows a particular formula since Dr. No that of course includes women to get Bond into trouble and gadgets to get him out of a tight spot. Going down the line of panelists, each expressed what gadget stood out and which women were the most memorable during their respective Bond eras.

Representing Nelson, Langley said that this Bond didn’t need gadgets to overcome evil and his lady of the hour was Valerie Mathis. Then turning to Niven’s Bond from the 1967 release of Casino Royale, Niven’s mustache was his best gadget and of course, he had Mata Hari! In the books, Langley stated Bond’s best gadget was his hair. For example, he would use strains of his hair as a trap to see if anyone had entered his room. And Langley felt that Vesper Lynd was the most memorable from the books.

Connery’s Bond had the Aston Martin DB5, but Rubin said it was the briefcase in From Russia With Love that he felt was the best gadget. As to women, Rubin cited Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore and Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder, but for Rubin, it was Thunderball’s Domino, played by Claudine Auger, because of the close relationship that she and Bond develop through the course of the film.

McNeill stated Lazenby’s ingenuity was his best gadget and of course Diana Rigg’s Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo. True, Lazenby only had the one film, but in OHMSS, much time was given to develop the relationship between Bond and his girl. And, it was the only woman that Bond married.

Rubin and O'Neill
O’Neill said it had to be the Lotus Esprit S1 car that converted into a submarine The Spy Who Loved Me as the best gadget Moore had from amongst his movies. Although O’Neill loved the name Holly Goodhead, it was Maud Adams’ Octopussy for the win. He cited her maturity as an excellent match to Moore’s Bond.

Short picked Dalton’s Aston Martin as the best gadget and while he felt that Maryam d’Abo had a great story arc, Short’s heart was with Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora in Licence to Kill. Beseda said he thought Brosnan’s laser watch was the coolest gadget and although he quite liked Halle Berry as Jinx, it was the red head, Natalya Simonova played by Izabella Scorupco that got his vote.

Lappicola rounded out the group and said Casino Royale Vesper Lynd was the most memorable and best gadget for Craig’s Bond? Well, Lappicola was pretty adamant that it was Bond’s penis, which surprised panelists and audiences alike.

No Bond, I Expect You to Die

One thing that audiences can always count on is a worthy adversary for Bond to triumph over by the time the ending credits roll. Into the third round, Langley said Niven had Woody Allen, Nelson had Peter Lorre and in Fleming’s novels, it was definitely Blofeld. Rubin picked Auric Goldfinger, played brilliantly by Gert Frobe, because it was a cool plot. McNeill felt that Lazenby’s nemesis was Connery’s shadow but then added that it was of course Telly Savalas’ Blofeld, while O’Neill chose Jaws, the lumbering henchman with a mouthful of steel capped teeth played so well by Richard Kiel, because like Moore’s Bond, Jaws was portrayed with seriousness but with a touch of humor too.

Short looked behind the screen and felt that Dalton’s nemesis was Harry Saltzman and Beseda said it was James Cameron’s Titanic since Tomorrow Never Dies released the same year, 1997. And not too surprising and most heartily agreed with Lappicola’s pick, Javier Bardem’s Silva from Skyfall.

O'Neill and McNeill
Holy Cow, Batman vs Bond?

Since this panel was being broadcast, Tseang fielded a question from her virtual audience in which the following question was asked: Who would win in a fight, Batman or Bond? The answers were hilarious and sublime. Langley said that Bond would easily beat Batman in drinking and venereal diseases. Rubin figured both could duel it out by engaging in battles via all of their various vehicles (cars, planes, boats, etc.). McNeill figured Bond could win by sleeping with Catwoman while O’Neill suggested Bond would use humor to defeat Batman. Short turned to cards, Baccarat of course! Beseda said Bond would “out audition Val Kilmer” while Lappicola said Bond and Batman would team up to fight Blofeld.

Best Bond Tune and What Each Actor Brought to Their Bond

By now, the panelists were really getting into the heat of battle -- could any other battle be considered fun and silly? The panelists and audience were having a good time. Langley said that since both of his actors had roles that were not recurring, he skipped that part of the question and related that Goldfinger had the best music.

Rubin described Connery as bringing a cat-like grace to his performances of Bond. John Barry’s music was superb and Rubin’s favorite was You Only Live Twice. McNeill felt that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had the best music and that Lazenby’s lanky frame and doing most of his own stunts brought much to his Bond role.

“Moore looked good in suits,” according to O’Neill as well as having great facial expressions that added to his performance. O’Neill smiled as he added that his favorite song was Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better. Short thought Dalton facial expressions, like Moore, had lent to his performance.

Beseda thought Brosnan brought some color – a tan – to Bond while Lappicola said Adele’s Skyfall was best song. As to what Craig brought to Bond? Lappicola said Craig had created a Bond where audiences questioned whether he was a good guy or a bad guy working for the good guys.

Short, Beseda, and Lappicola
The Best and Worst Bond

At some point in any conversation about Bond, the question will come up: If you had to choose, which would be your favorite Bond film? And which film totally misses the mark? The panelists weighed in.

Rubin’s best was Casino Royale (2006) while he felt A View to a Kill was the worst. McNeill’s best was a tie: Craig’s Casino Royale and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and worst was The Man with a Golden Gun. O’Neill thumbs up Goldfinger but gave thumbs down to The Man with a Golden Gun citing it looked more like a television movie rather than a theatrical film.

Short’s pick for best was OHMSS while A View to a Kill and The Man with a Golden Gun were tied for the bottom. Beseda’s best was Skyfall and worst was The World Is Not Enough. And Lappicola gave Skyfall high marks for the fighting, but overall, OHMSS was the best in his eyes.

Can We See That Again?!

Sadly, the hour was quickly coming to a close, the panelist began reminiscing about their favorite Bond scenes. For Lappicola, Moore running across the alligators post haste is unforgettable. In The Spy Who Loved Me, skiing off the side of a mountain was, at the time, a big stunt for Bond and a defining one for the industry, according to O’Neill. Rubin shared his favorite: Bond and Grant fighting in the confines of the train cabin.  Short cited the parkour scene in Casino Royale and McNeill thought Bond getting pushed out of the plane without a parachute as suspenseful. Short added that many stunts were in the pre-CGI days, so there was someone really going through that situation!

And, in the end, which Bond triumphed? Somehow, I don’t think it really mattered, because getting to talk Bond for an hour was a win-win for everyone!

Battle of the Bonds: Rubin, O'Neill, Langley, McNeill, Short, Beseda, Lappicola, and Tseang

 Evaluating The Longevity of Bond 50 Years On

It’s been over 50 years since Sean Connery announced to the world that he was Bond… James Bond in Dr. No. Saturday afternoon Langley, Rubin, McNeill, and Short were joined by Brad Hansen (many will know him online as Commander Bond), as Tseang returned as the moderator for the second Bondian panel.

Tseang started the hour by asking the panelists why has James Bond remained an enduring and relevant popular culture icon. Hansen said that Bond had consistent elements that had been proven successful, a formula that worked. Langley added that the outlandish and melodramatic villains are what audiences have come to expect, while McNeill explained that there is a “familiarity” factor to Bond, a vulnerability that resonates with Bond’s fans and solicits nostalgia.

50 Years of Bond: Short, Rubin, McNeill, Langley, Brad Hansen, and Tseang
Rubin stated we needed to return to Ian Fleming’s novels, which were written in 1950s depressed London in order to understand that the stories conveyed a sense of escapism that makes “Bond perfect for another 200 years.” While Bond films obviously attracted men, Rubin added that women would go the Bond films too because the movies were considered family entertainment.

Short brought up that Bond is a “family-owned business” that established a certain sensibility to that runs throughout the franchise. There is no other series quite like it. The second generation of the Broccoli family have been able to maintain the standards set back in the 1960s. Broccoli and Wilson are deftly able to re-invent the franchise’s movies to include current mores or topical issues while still providing Bond in the “same wrapper.” Tseang added that the “wrapper” that audiences have come to recognize include music and Bond Girls.

The films are often reviewed as a whole or grouped by the Bond actor, however McNeill suggested looking at each film individually, to analyze each from a historical context. Short concurred by mentioning themes of chemical warfare, oil, water, and the Middle East. Rubin shared that since the franchise has rights to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. again, he said he would not be surprised if the organization pops up in a future film. McNeill agreed.

The conversation lingered on Craig’s second Bond outing, Quantum of Solace, which typically has audiences puzzled since it is quite different from Casino Royale. Hansen explained that this film was supposed to be part of a trilogy, however it didn’t perform well at the box office so Skyfall went a different direction. McNeill said he had recently watched the two films again and felt that psychologically the two films are interconnected.

Panelists for 50 Years of Bond...Do I hear 50 more? 
If You Could Have a Do Over

The panelists were asked that if they could have any of the Bond films remade, which one would they want to do over?

  • Langley – Dr. No
  • McNeill – The Man with the Golden Gun
  • Hansen – Diamond Are Forever (he suggested having Bond motivated by revenge)
  • Rubin – You Only Live Twice

The hour was rapidly up, but that did not end the dialogue about Bond. The panelists and many of the audience members met and chatted at length for many more minutes about upcoming Bond 24, favorite Bond moments and films outside in the hallway. Bond is most assuredly alive and well after 50 years on film. 

Post Script. I had a fantastic time meeting all these James Bond aficionados at Comikaze and I wanted to take a moment to thank them for sharing their insight into the Bond franchise and the actors behind the spy who has endured in our collective hearts for so long. And a very special thanks to Jessica for all of her work setting up and moderating both panels! 

Me with the lovely Jessica Tseang, panel host and moderator

A real pleasure of the weekend, meeting author Steven Jay Rubin!

Me (goofy and needing to practice my Bond pose!) with Brad Hansen, the man behind Commander Bond!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween! It's Going to be a Bond Weekend!

Just a quick post as I get ready to head off the Los Angeles to attend Comikaze this weekend. There are a couple of Bond related panels at the con that I wanted to share if you are going:

At 6 PM this evening in Room 408AB, there's the The Battle of the Bonds...James Bond.

Here's the description from the program:

Following the Success of Battle of the Robins and Battles of the Doctors, Battle of returns with the world's greatest secret agent. But which one is truly the greatest Bond ever? Participants include: Jessica Tseang, Vito Lappicola, Zack Beseda, Steven Jay Rubin - yay! the author of The James Bond Films: A Behind the Scenes History and The Complete James Bond Encyclopedia - Dr. Travis Langley, and George Almond (American illustrator of Ian Fleming art).

And, tomorrow at 12:30 PM in Room 306AB, there's 50 Years of James Bond - How Did He Become a Legend?

Program description: Although 50 years has passed, our favorite British secret service agent has still remained relevant in our times. Join us in a spirited panel discussion with scholars Ian Fleming society leaders, authors, and professors on their perception on why James Bond is just as popular today as he was over 50 years ago. Participants include: Jessica Tseang, George Almond, Steven Jay Rubin, and Dr. Travis Langley.

I'll be attending or both, so perhaps I'll see you there...

The last note, if you have been following about my upcoming book, then if you haven't pre-ordered your copy yet, now's the time to do so. McFarland & Company has featured my upcoming book with a special offer: 20% off now through Sunday, November 2nd. That's a gun shot $8 off!

Have a fantastic spooky day and fill your weekend with some Bond. James Bond!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Call for Proposals -- Don't Miss Out Talking About Bond and All Things Spy

Dusk, Albuquerque Skyline (Marble Studios)
I am reprising my position as the James Bond, Espionage and Eurospy Area Chair for the upcoming Southwest Popular/American Culture Association's annual conference held next February, 11 - 14 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I'm seeking proposals from individuals who are interested in presenting on any aspect of the James Bond franchise and the spy/espionage and Europsy genre in films, literature, comics, videogames, or any other popular culture mediums.

Here are some topics to consider, but is by no means an exhaustive list of theoretical and pop culture frameworks: 

  • Spy/espionage – historical context
  • Secret agents – global representations and local identities
  • Refashioning and ret-con of the spy model
  • Cold War, post-modern and 21st century spy psychology
  • Gender, i.e. Bond-sploitation
  • Film: James Bond, Jason Bourne, Helm, Agent Vinod, Salt, Agent 077, Kommisar X, OSS 117
  • Television: The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Chuck, MI5, Burn Notice, She Spies, Cover Up
  • Literature: Fleming, Bruce, Gardner, Benson, Hamilton, Weinberg, Higson, Ludlum, LeCarre
  • Comics: X-9 Corrigan, Super Spy, Danger Girl, The Secret Service
  • Cartoons: Archer, James Bond Jr., Totally Spies!,
  • Anime: Najica Blitz Tactics, Golgo 13, Gunslinger Girl, Darker Than Black, Master Keaton
  • Videogames: GoldenEye, 007 Legends, Alpha Protocol, No One Lives Forever, Splinter Cell
  • Anti-Bond: The Quiller Memorandum, The Ipcress File, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Liquidator
  • Music, Fashion, Advertisements, etc. 

Life Magazine "Spies" (Tumblr)
Please note the following presentation details:

  • Please send a 250 word abstract and the presentation title by November 1, 2014 via the online submission database portal
  • Presentation time consideration: 15 min maximum. Limit of one presentation at the conference. A complete list of all areas accepting proposals can be found here
  • There are no honorariums for presenters; this is an academic conference. There are, however, a number of award opportunities for graduate students. The submission deadline is December 1, 2014. 
  • And, SWPACA has a peer-reviewed journal, Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. For more information on the journal, click here

I have attended this conference for a number of years and I feel that while it is a smaller conference, it fosters a supportive environment for those new to presenting but is also a great opportunity for vetting out ideas. The organizers schedule many events for conference attendees including film screenings and a special Saturday event. Last year, it was a tour of Breaking Bad locations around Albuquerque.

If you are still unsure or have any questions, contact me and I can provide you more information or point you in the right direction. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Behind-the-Scenes of Editing James Bond and Popular Culture

Rodol  Forever Skyfall Poster - awesome fan made poster

My journey to editing a book about the influence of James Bond on popular culture came about three years ago. It started when I accepted a nomination to take over the Area Chair position for James Bond in Popular Culture panels for Southwest Popular/American Culture Association’s (SWPACA) annual conference. At that point, I probably had been like any other casual fan of the James Bond films. I had been entertained by them, but honestly had not put much thought into the franchise otherwise. I think the thought of a book was not on my mind at that time.

I hosted my first panel at the conference, held in Albuquerque, in 2012 and gave a Spyfi & Superspies 101 presentation to a crowd of James Bond enthusiasts. Granted the room was filled with those with an interest in James Bond, but I hadn’t realized just how passionate people could be about this suave British secret agent. I think it was fortuitous that my first year serving as Area Chair would coincide with the 50th anniversary of filmic Bond. The media and pop culture interest developed into a feverish pitch – everyone appeared to be a Bond fan, from Queen Elizabeth II to Nathan Fillion – that only found release that autumn with Skyfall starring Daniel Craig in his third outing as Bond and directed by the masterful Sam Mendes. It was nominated in almost 60 categories via 15 various awards’ organizations that included the Academy Awards, BAFTAs, Golden Globe, Grammy Awards, etc, and winning a total of 17 awards (according to Wiki: “Skyfall”). Freshly inspired by the conference and seeing all of the mounting interest and retrospectives regarding Bond, planted a seed in my mind.  

Nathan Fillion celebrates James Bond - hot!

Fast-forward to February 2013, downtown Albuquerque, for the annual SWPACA conference and my second year as Area Chair of James Bond, Espionage & Eurospy in Popular Culture. Along with the obvious networking opportunities that a conference provides, one of the other benefits is that there are usually a handful of academic oriented book sellers on hand to showcase their books and scout out viable book proposals. I got up the courage to talk with one of the publishers I had bought books from in the past and I figured they would likely be the best match for the book idea I had in mind.  I talked with the acquisitions editor and he was enthusiastic about my idea. He gave me a proposal form to fill out and return to him. So, for the next couple of hours, I fleshed out my idea into a handful of paragraphs. I returned with a hand-written proposal and was told I would hear back from the editor in a few weeks.

In the interim of waiting to hear from the publisher, I mocked up a call for papers and compiled a list of venues for advertising my call. I also drafted a proposed timeline and asked for advice from colleagues who had edited collections of essays in the past and particularly with the publisher I had contacted. Fortunately, I did not have to wait long before hearing back from the editor and by April, I had signed my first book contract. It was a surreal moment and I definitely felt like I was on the precipice, where I could either fall into a massive lump of failure or soar on the wind of success. It was up to me and I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders.

Signing the contract! 

With contract signed and on its way back to the publisher, I started putting the word out to the various online sources and through social networking, that I was accepting proposals. It started out slow, and by late May, the responses had picked up, but I was concerned that my deadline of June 1 was a roadblock for some who were trying to finish academic commitments. I had built in some flexibility to my timeline; so, I extended my call to mid June.

Once the deadline past, I quickly reviewed all the proposals at one time and responded back to everyone who submitted a proposal. The majority I received had interesting thesis statements and in the end, I chose 20 essays for inclusion, figuring that I might have writers drop out by the time the essays were due at the beginning of November.

As November approached, about a fourth of the essays came in, but I also had a few writers ask for extensions. Thankfully, I still felt I had a little cushion in my schedule, so I offered extensions to everyone who had not turned in their essays, which at that point was about a week before the November 1 deadline. Several took an extension and by December 1, I had 14 essays. (I held onto the idea that my essay would make 15, but that went out the window when I got into the editing stage.)

Editing started in early December. With Brian Garant and Nicholas Diak assistance, we read through the essays for grammatical, format, and theoretical errors. I then went through them again and in mid January, I emailed out the edited essays for revisions by the writers, with the proviso that they return their corrected essays within three weeks. And it seemed to be a reasonable amount of time based on the timely responses I received back.

All the revised essays were back by late February. As I started verifying sources and adherence to the Chicago Manual of Style for each essay, things got dicey. This third, in depth pass was challenging and the process got bogged down. My deadline for the completed manuscript was March 31. Even with taking time off from work (without pay for most of it unfortunately), I asked the publisher for a one-month extension. They graciously granted me the extra time and I was truly relieved for the additional month.
That's the manuscript printing!

The extra month allowed me to complete a thorough editing job and present as clean a manuscript as possible without my eyes becoming permanently crossed. I felt very proud of what I was submitting and as crazy as it sounds, I was already thinking about a second volume at a future date (yeah, I probably need my head examined). With the month of May was just a few short days away, I had 14 essays, a foreword and afterword, an introduction (so I did get a little of my writing in there after all!), table of contents, and contributors section collected into over 400 pages! After some bumpy format issues, I was off to the local FedEx to print off the manuscript and put together the various physical pieces – manuscript, contributor releases, graphics – into a mailer for the publisher.

That's 400+ pages and boy did it take a while!

I think it was as I stood at the printer, watching page after page land in the printer tray that the weight of the past year manifested physically before my eyes. Yes, I had printed the essays a few times during the editing process, but this time with all components together in one document, the realization that all the past year’s efforts washed over me with a myriad of emotions settling in my mind. I was shaken by the monumental task I had completed; a sense of relief and calm filled me as well as a sense of accomplishment.

Contents to send

The weight of 400+ pages was heavy and a little expensive! Along with contributors’ releases and a thumb drive (electronic copy of everything), I stepped up to the counter so I could ship everything off. I mentioned it was a manuscript and that I was documenting the moment when I took a photo of the box on the scale. However, when I saw the mailing label with the publisher’s details on it, I was thankful to have the transaction near completion, because tears were forming. I put on a brave face and as soon as I left the counter, yeah, tears of relief, accomplishment, pride, welled up in my eyes. And the dam broke as I reached the door of the shop. 

Here's where the tears started to well in my eyes

Last week, I got an update from the publisher. The book now as a title, a cover (so glad it was Sean Connery, my very distant clansman), an ISBN, a price tag, and now a home on the publisher’s online catalogue. Pre-orders welcome by the way! I was at work when I saw the email and well, I’ll be honest, I could barely contain my excitement. And at home, yeah, I found the book listed at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books (yay Portland!) plus Foyles (UK) and a few other book retailers online. It was the big leagues! And, one step closer to holding MY book!

This week, the publisher finished up their preliminary editing and there were a couple items: clarification of a publishing date and the need to paraphrase two songs rather than have the actual lyrics. Not bad. Next is the deep editing dive prior to producing the proofs that I’ll review and create my index from. I haven’t created an index before and I’m keen to learn. No release date yet, but I’m anticipating one for later this year or early 2015.

Oh yeah baby, that's the publisher and Amazon websites!

Post Script - I'll add a link shortly since Blogger decided it wasn't going to link properly. In the meantime, you can find James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictional Superspy, edited by me, Michele Brittany, at McFarland & Company.