Jason Masters just completed a 12 issue run on James Bond with Warren Ellis for Dynamite. Now the artist sits down and gives us his commentary on the grand finale.
A little while before I was meant to start on issue 12 Warren [Ellis, writer] sent me a link he’d created in Google maps. He’d plotted out the exact path that the final action scene would take place on. This proved to be very helpful as most of the reference I needed was right there on street view. It helps when the setting you’re using is heavily populated, as whatever mad robots Google are using to archive out existence seem to do a more thorough job than usual. The only real negative side to all this reference is you now also have concrete proof of how wrong your background images are if you try to fudge something.
I love that Warren set the Eidolon conclusion in London, a city integral Bond and MI6, loved it till I had to draw the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
James Bond gets to travel the world and shoot people in the face, and for me his stories are sometimes ultra violent tours of beautiful places. Locations are as much characters as the people in Bond’s world especially, the way he’ll often use a location to overcome a foe.
We’re reintroduced to the delightfully named Cadence Birdwhistle on this page, walking down Great George street toward Portcullis house. I based her on a mix of the model Coco Rocha and my beautiful wife. I’m not sure she felt all that flattered being added to the list of James Bond’s fictional conquests.
I could probably fake my way through being a limited tour guide for this particular part of London. For those interested, in panel one, across the road from Cadence is the Houses of Parliament shop. Here you can buy all the Big Ben related paraphernalia you could ever hope for.
What a horrible bit of luck for Cadence, one minute you’re admiring Parliament Square Garden, the next you’re spotting the man who has tried to kill you countless times.
I love Hawkwood as a villain, smart, committed and a physical force of nature. I can’t speak for Warren here or what he intended when he created him, but for me Hawkwood combined the two archetypes of Bond villains into one. He is both the brains as well as the terrifying brawn. I had him wearing a pork pie hat in the previous issues as an ode to henchmen like Odd Job, and would have had him in the traditional bowler if Popeye Doyle’s ensemble from The French Connection hadn’t ingrained itself in me quite so much.
If you go back to page one you can see that Cadence’s security cover, in the brown hoody, has been trailing her from frame two. I wasn’t exactly subtle with it but it should have been a thing the reader didn’t realize until the last frame of this page when he’s signaled by Bond and turns around to intercept Hawkwood.
Bond also seems to have an endless supply of Bentley’s and in almost every outing they get trashed. I’m assuming that that is a nod to Bond’s Bentley Blower getting destroyed in the original Casino Royale novel.
We all know that snapping a neck the way they do in the movies is nowhere near as easy as they make it look. Thing is, Hawkwood is very strong and highly trained so I’m perfectly content that this is his signature move. It’s brutally efficient, like him.
MI6 seems to have a very high staff turnover rate.
The Westminster Station is about two-thirds of the way to the corner of Portcullis House here, if you know London you know Cadence still has a way to travel before she can get to the entrance of the building and be safe.
In the last panel I had Hawkwood take off his hat for a few reasons. He’s a trained military man so he’d be thinking about each confrontation as a series of chess moves. Removing the hat serves as a distraction to his opponent as well getting his left hand in the right place for the action he’s going to take next. The jab in the throat.
I love choreographing functional fight scenes in comic books and Warren is fantastic at writing them. Every move he’s written has a single purpose, Hawkwood getting around the obstacle in his path. By panel 4 Hawkwood no longer has a hurdle to overcome and he could leave his victim there and run after Cadence. He chooses to kill him and leave no loose ends.
I can’t help but assume that when Warren is at a social gathering he’s probably thought of a few ways to dispatch of those around him. As a sort of mental exercise.
Pages 8 and 9
By now Cadence must be sick of people trying to kill her, and I love the fact that she saves herself. I like to imagine that while she was running down the road, she went through a mental checklist of assets on her person that could be used as weapons and came up with a plan. Hawkwood’s shock at getting stabbed, for me, adds to the feeling that he underestimated her. She’s wonderfully resourceful.
Pages 10, 11 and 12
Superglue is an acrylic resin or Cyanoacrylate, and has, in the past, been used very successfully during field surgery in more remote wars. I wouldn’t, however, recommend it for general use because of some toxicity issues.
I fudged these parts of London a bit. There thankfully weren’t any real landmarks so I could get away with making up some of these buildings, but in general the quiet parts of central London have a similar look to what I drew here.
By now you’d think Hawkwood would be tired of killing but I guess if your hired help isn’t going to cooperate it’s probably best that you replace them.
Another benefit to working with Warren is the learning that comes with it. I’d never heard of a thermobaric bomb before this. In the back of that truck is a weapon with a blast capability close to that of a nuclear explosion but without all that pesky radiation. Aren’t humans wonderful?
I constantly had to remind myself what side to put the steering wheel on in the cars I drew in Eidolon and Vargr. Seems like a dumb thing but I like to think it’d take the reader out of the story if I got that wrong. Especially if you lived or worked in the city you were reading about.
I sprinkled a few former Bond cars in the next few pages, they’re relatively obvious, and hopefully not too distracting. I figured if I’m going to draw cars I might as well make it fun for myself.
By now I should have memorized how to draw the SIS building (panel 3), as beautiful as it is, it is a bit of an undertaking to draw.
Ah, the death of yet another Bentley.
This is a lovely example of Bond using his environment to his advantage. Bond driving the truck off the road here and then blocking off escape with his own car is very calculated. He knows this road is a dead end and is intent on ending this here whatever happens. Incidentally, this is an actual blind street just before Vauxhall Bridge, and hey, look, two more Bond cars make an appearance.
This was one of my favorite fight scenes to draw. 007 isn’t going to win this on his own physicality but damn if he isn’t going to try. It’s not as evident in this fight as some of the previous ones but as much as possible I tried to have Bond use boxing and judo as his go-to fighting style. Ian Fleming mentioned both of those in the books and it made it more fun for me to limit the palette of his violence.
Maybe there’s a sadistic side to me but there is something terribly enjoyable about drawing the hero of your book getting beaten up. Ruthlessness without consequence loses its impact. Characters should wear the scars of their encounters. It helps tell the story.
Pages 18 and 19
Hawkwood is so focused on removing the thorn that is Bond from his side he hasn’t realized he has nowhere to go here. I love how Warren set it up to be this wonderful almost old school western standoff. James takes a second to dust himself off and try again. For me it’s also very satisfying that this fight is just happening in a regular London side street. It’s down and dirty and real.
Some readers might recognize this knife from Vargr. It’s the same one Moneypenny gave him when he had his Walther P99 taken away.
Drawing different facial expressions on Hawkwood was relatively challenging as I essentially only had half his face to work with. Half his mouth was always in semi grimace thanks to his scarring but it was a great artistic exercise.
Beat up Bond is my favorite Bond to draw. He probably has a broken orbital socket here, but even that’s not going to distract him from the job at hand. Gun didn’t work, fists didn’t work and then a knife didn’t work. Time to be awful.
This is the only page I’ve every drawn 007 with his shirt untucked. When he’s in his suit I tried to keep the top button of his jacket done and his shirt tucked in. I figured that considering the seriousness of this fight I could let him get away with looking a bit sloppy. I mean he had to resort to psychological warfare to win this. Even a knife wasn’t going to cut it.