A Writer's Commentary: Benjamin Percy talks James Bond #1, on sale today from Dynamite. Cover by John Cassaday and interiors by Rapha Lobosco.
Exotic locale? Check.
One of my favorite opening sequences—in any Bond film—comes from The Spy Who Loved Me. I'm tipping my hat to it here (without putting 007 in Roger Moore's banana-colored onesie ski suit).
I guess the location gives new meaning to the term "cold open."
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Rapha got to flex his muscles right away with this two-page spread of Bond carving his way down a mountain. We wanted to convey 007's aspirational cool right away. His supreme confidence and athleticism.
Check out Chris's colors. Pretty cool, eh? We're housed in the modern world, but—appropriate to Bond—there's something throwback about it that Chris captures well with his palate. I also dig the way the glowing tech is offset visually by the stark whites and blues.
We intentionally kept Bond's face hidden until now. I appreciated that move in SPECTRE, the latest film installment. We follow a skull-masked character through the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico City, but you can tell from the brutal confidence of his stride, it's Bond. Same deal here. And then, when he finally slips off the goggles and stares cooly into the middle distance, it's more impactful. We gave him a splash to visually telegraph the excitement of the reveal.
Check out the lettering by Simon as he switches between dialogue/narration and tech. The placement, coloring, style of it all. Lettering is an invisible art—but one that profoundly impacts the reading experience—and he's a pro.
Bond is cool…but he's also cold. Closed-off. He has to be. To protect himself. I'm interested in exploring the psychology of a man like that. This isn't something seen in the movies—with the exception of Casino Royale—but the Bond of Fleming's novels can come across as haunted.
Also: see the red background when the assassin gets plugged? That's a color motif that Chris will continue to play with throughout the series.
The art of the reversal. I love it when storytellers lead you in one direction—and you think you know where a narrative is going—and then everything shifts. That's what happens here. Our expectations are defied. Bond didn't pull the trigger, and he's gone from hunter to hunted.
Okay, so I'm dorky enough to listen to the Bond theme song every time I work on a script. And if this were a film, this is the moment those first brassy, explosive notes would sound.
The ski chase begins.
I grew up in central Oregon—and spent just about every winter weekend up on Mt. Bachelor. I live in the Midwest now, but come December, I'm still out on the (much, much shorter) slopes, teaching my kids how to hot dog. I've been wanting to write a ski scene for some time. Because of my own interest in the sport. And because it's not something you often see in comics, so it felt like a fresh display of action.
I gotta say, I love having 22 pages. It allows us to open up the visuals and let them breathe. This spread being a prime example.
Bullets. Bombs and avalanches. Now logging trucks. The stakes continue to raise.
If only we could have included a yeti…
Also: more coolness from Simon and the lettering.
So much of my brain has been hard-wired by eighties movies, books, and music videos. This is a really strange thing to bring to a Bond comic, but I was thinking of Ghostbusters here. The moment in the white linen restaurant when everyone is quietly enjoying a meal—that is then interrupted by Rick Moranis getting attacked by the hell hound.
The craft takeaway here: I like moments when you bind together the ordinary and the extraordinary. Or, as the critic James Wood puts it, the awful and the regular. Here you have this spectacular ski chase that tests the laws of physics—and here you have some families warming up with hot cocoa and a burger. That juxtaposition makes the wild story feel a little more real.
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Ah, and here's another reversal! And this one ticks off another box on the 007 checklist. The Bond girl. One who at first appears to be an adversary…
Bond escapes his demons by numbing himself with liquor, by driving too fast, and by falling into bed with women.
I recently re-watched From Russia With Love and rolled my eyes at the film's portrayal of women (which includes a scene in which two scantily clad women "cat fight" over a man they wish to marry).
Right away I wanted to make it clear that this character—Selah Sax, the assassin who hunts other assassins—is a badass as she outmaneuvers Bond.
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That read fast didn't it?
The opening action set-pieces are always elaborate, and I could have filled two issues with spectacle. But we have to get down to the business of story mechanics and getting this narrative locked down.
Bond stories usually channel the anxieties of the moment. Dr. No was born out of the Cuban Missile Crisis, for instance. So we're playing with that here—with the introduction of a cyber threat.
And…funny little detail…my step-grandfather was a merchant marine who traveled the world and his house was a museum of exotic weapons and artwork and sea-faring gear, including a deck prism that I spent a lot of time ogling. It's a metaphor here, but it's also drawn from my life.
Bond doesn't have a family, but he has a surrogate father in M. and a sister (or cousin) in Moneypenny and a kind of grumpy uncle or older brother in Boothroyd (who filmgoers know as Q). Boothroyd will play an especially important role in this story arc.
The bus was a comedic touch. A rolling laboratory or foreign HQ. Something that made practical sense, but was also a bit of a gag that connected to the UK's current economic uncertainty.
Any artist I work with, I tell them: no matter how detailed my script is, please stray from it. I'm unloading what's in my brain, but I trust that their vision is better. There are many, many moments, big and little, when Rapha did exactly that. And the interior of the bus—and the tech table upon which Boothroyd lays the goggles—are good examples of him kicking ass and bring his own unique ideas to the page.
Cool car? Walther PPK? Check. And check.
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Tokyo is, as Chris says, a colorist's dream. Just you wait. This is just your first taste of what's to come.
And here's an echo of the opener: Bond is on his mission, but he's being shadowed by Selah, and we can anticipate that things are not going to go as planned.
Every time Rapha, Chris, Simon and I go over the final mark-ups on an issue, we say, "This one's even better than the last." And that's our promise to you. I hope you'll join us on this epic adventure.