Andy Diggle is no stranger to wrting some action packed comics, whether its The Losers, his run on Hellblazer, or his recent creator owned series for Dynamite, Uncanny and Control. Now’s he taking on James Bond himself with James Bond: Hammerhead, a six issues mini series to be drawn by Luca Casalanguida. The series picks up from Warren Ellis’s run on the book with a story that finds Bond taking on a villain named Kraken, described as a radical anti-capitalist. It’s a story that picks up on a lot of real world uneasiness without sacrificing the espionage and adventure that’s synonymous with the worldbest known fictional spy. Diggle spoke to the Beat about his plans for 007.
James Bond Hammerhead #1 goes on sale in October with covers by Francesco Francavilla, Ron Salas, and Robert Hack
ALLEN: What’s the biggest difference between writing the literary Bond and the movie Bond?
DIGGLE: The easy answer would be that the James Bond of Ian Fleming’s original novels is a colder, harsher character than the one we came to know in the movies. But I think the truth is a bit more complicated than that. The literary Bond was cold, it’s true, but it’s fair to say he mellowed and became somewhat more humanized over the span of the novels. And of course there is no one single “movie Bond.” He’s been played across the spectrum from cold-blooded assassin to seductive lounge lizard, and I think the truth lies closer to the former. That’s my Bond. He can switch on the charm when he wants to, but there’s still a coldness to him, a separateness. He’s always at arms length. He’s a pragmatist in pursuit of a goal. Everything else is secondary. I imagine it must be a lonely way to live.
ALLEN: Given the history of the character, how do you approach continuity?
DIGGLE: Honestly I don’t worry too much about it. Continuity paints you into a corner. If I come up with a good, relevant reason to refer to a previous story, then fair enough. But generally there’s no upside to it. You can’t expect readers to believe a character has had every single adventure written over the past 50 years. If I specified exactly how Bond got the scar on the back of his hand, it would require retconning the events of CASINO ROYALE for the present day, and that’s a can of worms I’m not really interested in opening. It would kick the reader out of the story when my job is to reel them in. But I’m happy to follow on from the Warren Ellis and Jason Masters stories; that’s our continuity. That’s our Bond.
ALLEN: Ian Fleming had a bit of Chester Gould about him when it came to flamboyant villains and henchmen. How much of a Bond story is Bond and how much is about his opposition?
DIGGLE: The villains are a huge part of it. Bond himself was always played rather straight and narrow – a “blunt instrument” as Fleming described him. Whereas the villains are a wonderful rogues gallery of powerful, charismatic grotesques. It’s impossible to overstate what a huge part the villains play in the appeal and mystique of the Bond mythos. Bond alone is basically Bulldog Drummond with official sanction; add in the likes of Le Chiffre, Mr Big, Hugo Drax, Auric Goldfinger, Dr No and of course Blofeld, and suddenly you have something that catches fire and redefines popular culture.
In going back to the spirit of Ian Fleming’s original books, it’s important to remember that just because Bond himself was grounded and practical, it doesn’t mean the villains should be. It’s like Batman and the Joker; Bond is the straight man. All that said, it’s 2016 and we’re all a little more self-aware now. You don’t want to lurch into post-Austin Powers parody. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun along the way. Bond stories reqire a touch of the macabre.
ALLEN: What’s your philosophy about moving a Cold War character, with SMERSH lurking behind many of the plots, into the modern age? Or does all the hacking constitute a new Cold War?
DIGGLE: Let’s remember the Cold War was mainly fought via proxy “hot wars” in the Middle East and South America. The Cold War may have ended, but the NATO-Russia proxy wars are still alive and kicking. Just look at Ukraine, or Putin’s support for Assad in Syria.
The Cold War plots of the original Bond stories were very much “good guys versus bad guys,” and any moral ambiguity was merely a question of whether the ends justified the means – which, the stories inevitably told us, they did. I think it’s actually far more interesting to bring Bond into the post-Cold War world, where everyone trades with each other and spies on each other at the same time. Russia invades Ukraine but we still buy their gas. It’s an ugly moral compromise. And of course the great thing about James Bond is his ability to cut through that bullshit and focus on his goal. Get the bad guy, fix the problem. We could use some of that.
ALLEN: You’ve worked with all the major publishers. How much of a difference is there writing for a licensed property like Bond and a publisher-owned, but highly managed asset like Superman?
DIGGLE: It’s been great. To be honest, I was initially a little wary about getting my scripts approved by IFPL (Ian Fleming Publications Ltd), but I’m happy to say they’ve been an absolute dream to work with. Very welcoming and accommodating. It’s been a very smooth process and a lot of fun. There’s been no back-seat driving, nobody telling me what to write. Our first and only priority is to tell a good story. So I’m really enjoying myself and I think it shows. I haven’t had this much fun writing a book in years!
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.