Andy Diggle made his name handling action-packed espionage stories with DC/Vertigo's The Losers, but now he's taking on the spy: James Bond.
Launching October 10, James Bond: Hammerhead pairs Diggle with artist Luca Casalanguida and takes Ian Fleming's signature spy into the breach of a "post-Cold War, post-Brexit world." In this six-issue series, someone dubbed the Kraken is attempting to gain control of Britain's nuclear arsenal, and Bond is sent to neutralize the threat.
Newsarama talked with Diggle about this series, and how he's navigating the James Bond waters between the movies and what he calls the more "hard-boiled noir" of Fleming's original stories.
Newsarama: Andy, what is James Bond: Hammerhead about?
Andy Diggle: The arms company upgrading Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system has been targeted by a radical anti-capitalist, and Bond is assigned to hunt him down. The story is about Britain's place in a post-Cold War, post-Brexit world, and the human cost of freedom and independence.
Nrama: Can you tell us about Kraken, and what his goals are?
Diggle: Bond stories live or die by their villain, so it was important to come up with a memorable and thematically relevant antagonist. In Fleming's original stories, the Soviet Union and SMERSH were the enemy. But the Cold War is over. Capitalism won. So it made a certain sort of sense for the villain - "Kraken" - to be an anti-capitalist. He wants to overturn the assumptions that underpin capitalism itself. Of course our neoliberal capitalist society is far from perfect, which begs the question, whose interests are Bond fighting to protect? Maybe Kraken has a point.
Nrama: The subtitle of this series is "Hammerhead." What does that mean in relation to the story?
Diggle: Hammerhead is the name of a revolutionary new weapons system developed by Hunt, the same company that's upgrading the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent. Arms sales are a huge source of revenue for the UK, and a key source of influence internationally. The question is, who will those weapons be used against? And what happens if they fall into the wrong hands?
Nrama: What aspects of James Bond in his various interpretations are you keying on for this miniseries?
Diggle: I'm drawing primarily on Ian Fleming's own work. The Bond of the books isn't a charming, world-saving superhero. He's drawn more from the world of hard-boiled noir and old school "tough guys" like Bulldog Drummond. In Fleming's own words he's a "blunt instrument," albeit a well-educated one, sent to disrupt whatever threats to Britain's national interest may emerge. A practical, unsentimental killer - though not without conscience, and his cold manner thawed somewhat over the course of the novels.
Nrama: Forgive if I presume to much; you were born and raised in England, and James Bond is an even bigger part of British culture than even world culture. What's your personal connection to Ian Fleming's spy?
Diggle: I grew up with Bond. I think we all did, to some extent. The whole family would gather round the TV whenever a Bond movie came on - this was in the days before VCRs! - and the first movie I ever took myself to see at the cinema was Moonraker, when I was 8. Bond was one of those universal things, a part of the culture. Of course a lot has changed since then, and some aspects of Bond's retrograde masculinity might look eye-wateringly sexist or jingoistic now. But a tough guy is still a tough guy, and a hero is still a hero. You don't have to like him, but you have to respect him. Bond is still Bond; it's the world that's changed around him.
Nrama: You're no stranger to jet-setting international espionage tales, from Losers to Thief of Thieves, and several things in between. How did you go about finding this story to be quintessentially James Bond?
Diggle: It's all about the villain. A Bond story needs a smart, ruthless, well-resourced villain with a bold, brilliant plan that actually makes sense. Then you send Bond in to screw it up for him. So I just look at the world around me. It's not hard to find smart, ruthless, powerful people doing awful things to benefit themselves at the expense of others. Just pick up a newspaper. There's a big part of me that would love to send a real-life James Bond in to sort them out. If only life was that simple...
Nrama: For this you're working with Luca Casalanguida, in what I believe is your first collaboration. As a former editor and writer, how do you go about sizing up an artist to figure out how to script comic books most effectively?
Diggle: It's all about the storytelling. Luca has a great style that suits the noir tone of the story, but he also has an innate sense of visual storytelling. He knows when to go in close on a look, when to pull back wide to establish the geography of a scene. Which dramatic moments to punch up for the reader. I'm enjoying the collaboration and would happily work with him again. I think he'll go far.
Nrama: And are there any key things about Luca's work you can disclose that you're trying to key in on?
Diggle: You don't always know who'll be drawing the book when you start writing, but once you get to know an artist you can play to his strengths. You develop a kind of shorthand working together, especially if you correspond regularly, which we do. I love his use of heavy shadow and chiaroscuro lighting, and I'll be making more use of that as the series progresses.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals for James Bond: Hammerhead?
Diggle: To entertain the hell out of people. To give readers plenty of bang for their buck every month. To make longtime Ian Fleming fans say, "Yep, that's Bond." And to enjoy myself while I'm doing it.