Sure, Warren Ellis has written about spies before, but he's never written about the spy...
In December Ellis and artist Jason Masters launch James Bond 007 at Dynamite, not-so coincidently just days before the release of the newest Bond film, Spectre. Although sixty years separated them, Bond creator Ian Fleming and Ellis were born just some forty miles apart, from Fleming's hometown of Mayfair to Ellis' Essex. With Red, Desolation Jones and his work with Marvel's Nick Fury already on his resume, Ellis may be just the bloke to play M to Bond's comic book return.
Newsarama recently spoke with Ellis about distinguishing between Fleming's literary Bond versus his film counterparts and making sense of it all for this new adaptation. The writer also reveals why hesitated taking on a project like James Bond 007, and how meeting with Fleming's estate changed everything.
Newsarama: Warren, James Bond is one of the most well-known characters in modern fiction; mostly from the movies, but also from Fleming's original novels. Where do you take the core of your version from? A certain book, a story, or something else?
Warren Ellis: People always ask for the single novel, single pivot point. I see the Fleming Bond novels as a continuum. People forget that he grows and changes through those books. It's the whole thing.
Nrama: So who is James Bond, to you?
Ellis: An ordinary man with simple aspirations projected into extraordinary situations that take an awful physical and mental toll.
Nrama: James Bond keeps very few friends and recurring characters, so who else is in your initial arc of James Bond 007?
Ellis: As you say, he has very few friends. It pretty much comes down to Bill Tanner, as Bond's relationship with Felix Leiter is a little different in the books. Obviously, though, you must have M, Moneypenny and Major Boothroyd.
Nrama: In your view, how does Bond see himself? Is he the best spy in the world, or does he not look at things that way?
Ellis: Doesn't even enter his head. He's a civil servant, and a tool of government: the "blunt instrument of foreign policy" in Fleming's famous phrase.
Nrama: We're told that you initially had some concerns about doing James Bond 007 before signing on. What were they?
Ellis: I've worked on licensed books before, and haven't done it in more than ten years. Which should tell you all you need to know. The combination of intelligent editors and intelligent licensing entities is very rare. We had a long meeting at the Ian Fleming estate offices in London before I agreed, and it's a mark of their substance that I'm here now talking about this book.
Nrama: Working with you on this is Jason Masters, who coincidentally illustrated the Red tie-in issue, Red: Frank written by Erich and Jon Hoeber. How did you cater your script to his strengths as an artist?
Ellis: Jason is great at detail -- dynamically capturing architecture and objects and the world. In this project, he is fully the other half. Fleming wrote two main drafts of each book -- one to lay down the story and one to lay in the detail and texture and life. Jason forms the right side of Ian Fleming's brain on this book.