And today we get the flip side of the writer-2-writer interview from Dynamite as Fabrice Sapolsky of Intertwined talks to Benjamin Percy about James Bond #2. Cover by Dominic Reardon, interiors by Rapha Lobosco.
FABRICE SAPOLSKY: James Bond is probably the easiest-hardest character to write. He’s been in novels, in movies (in very different incarnations), comics… So many voices for one agent, even a 00. So, when it came to defining YOUR James Bond, how did you create YOUR “voice”?
BENJAMIN PERCY: Since January of 2016, I’ve been involved in brainstorming and writing the “Rebirth” of Green Arrow and Teen Titans over at DC Comics. Part of this process involved reading as much source material as possible and then culling favorite elements. When I was working — at the Burbank mothership — with Geoff Johns on Green Arrow, for instance, we scratched up on the whiteboard everything from “goatee” to “Black Canary” to “leftist politics.” We clustered — before building storylines.
And this was like a boot camp that prepared me for taking over Bond. I’ve seen all the films (many times over), but I revisited many of them. I’ve read a lot of the Fleming library, and I pawed through several novels again. And then I put a scroll of paper up on the wall and started scratching down my favorite ingredients and what I wanted to do with the character.
The worst thing you can do — with any franchise character — is simply regurgitate what’s been done. People want a character they recognize, but an elastic version, one you’ve put your own unique stamp on. That was the challenging pleasure of this assignment.
FS: The character of Saga Genji wears some kind of visor. The design is very old school between Cyclops and Star Trek’s LaForge. It kinda dates the issue (feels very 80s) whereas the rest of the story is pretty timeless. Was that done on purpose?
BP: Well, I’m a child of the 80s, so the music, movies, TV, games, comics and novels of that era carry over to my aesthetic (on a side note, that’s probably why it feels like Stranger Things was made specifically for ME). The visor he’s wearing is a VR unit equivalent to an Oculus Ridge. He’s a tech mogul, and he’s created a way to see the world again, despite his glaucoma. Since the story is about cyber-terror and cyber-espionage, it felt relevant that the villain’s deformity would be connected thematically.
FS: Genji makes me think of Curd Jurgens’ character in The Spy Who Loved Me movie. Has that particular Bond had an influence on you writing James Bond: Black Box?
BP: The only direct influence of that film is the opening action sequence. I grew up skiing every winter weekend, and I’ve always wanted to write a snowy set-piece. The Spy Who Loved Me has a very corny, but fun cold open in the Alps. So I guess you could say I gave it an adrenaline-fueled update.
FS: How difficult is it for a renowned American novelist to write a British agent comic for a (mainly) American audience without betraying the character? And what’s your secret tip to achieve that?
BP: My friends know me as a weirdly accurate mimic. I often imitate (read: mock) their own voices and speech patterns. I have dozens of celebrity impressions that usually come pouring out of me after a few drinks. And when I read books to my kids, I “cast” the novels in my head and pretend myself as those actors.
Because I read so many British authors and because I watch so many British shows — and because I have such a long history with Bond — I never worried for a second about channeling the right voice. It wasn’t until someone said, “I can’t believe they gave the series to an American,” that it occurred to me I might be a sacrilegious choice.
FS: Is there some kind of licensor interference in a series like James Bond?
BP: The Fleming estate reads and approves my pitches and scripts, but so far they’ve been nothing but supportive.
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