By B. Clay Moore
B. Clay Moore is currently writing Killers for Valiant Entertainment, a story about five former MI6 ninja agents who have each been tasked by their former sensei to complete a deadly task, but for a great reward. Here, Moore lists his five favorite spy stories.
Most of my favorite spy stories stem from film, although I’ve enjoyed my share of spy novels and comics involving spies. From an early age I was fascinated by spy stories of the past, particularly the wave of James Bond-inspired films from the mid-to-late ’60s. Here are, if not my top five, are five of my favorite spy stories:
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)
Playing off then-current Cold War fears, Richard Burton is a weary spy ready to quit the game. A stark, black-and-white contrast to the colorful Bond films of the era, directed by Martin Ritt. Burton is perfectly cast. It’s still affecting.
S.H.I.E.L.D./Nick Fury by Jim Steranko
His reach may have occasionally exceeded his grasp, but when Stan Lee allowed Jim Steranko to push page design and layout to new, experimental levels, it essentially led to a new kind of spy comic. In Strange Tales, and then in the pages of his own book, Nick Fury’s nearly psychedelic adventures definitely changed the thinking about what mainstream comics could do.
John Le Carré’s George Smiley books
From Call for the Dead (1961) onward, John Le Carré (who also wrote The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) presented the (slightly) more real world of British espionage, with a very human protagonist readers were able to follow for decades. Memorably translated to films starring Alec Guinness and later Gary Oldham and Tom Hiddleston.
The Parallax View (1974)
Starring Warren Beatty and directed by Alan J. Pakula. Hugely underrated Watergate-era spy film, featuring one of my favorite sequences, as Warren Beatty undergoes brainwashing by watching a film that challenges views on self and country, including images of Kirby’s Thor. An update of sorts on The Manchurian Candidate.
The Matt Helm movies, starring Dean Martin
Look, these are not good movies. But as relics of the swinging ’60s and the explosion in spy stories after the success of James Bond (there was a similar explosion in superhero comics following the success of the “Batman” TV show), they’re priceless. Bond films were almost self-parody, but the Helm movies went way over the top, right down to the salaciously named “Helm girls” (“Lovey Cravezit,” for example). Dean Martin barely broke a sweat sailing through these four flicks (beginning with 1966 in “The Silencers”), but that’s how you want it. Bradley Cooper has been attached to an updated version.
Killers #2 hits shelves Wednesday, August 28 from Valiant Comics. In addition to writing by B. Clay Moore, the series also features art by Fernando Dagnino.