James Bond is all about secrets, but he's a veritable open book compared to his handler, M. But a new one-shot is out to pull back the curtain with talk of the character's past.
James Bond: M by writer Declan Shalvey, artist PJ Holden, and color artist Dearbhla Kelly puts the enigmatic M back into the field when new questions come up about one of his oldest cases.
With the book due out February 7, Newsarama talked with artist-turned-writer Declan Shalvey about this one-shot, both about the characters on the page as well as the push and pull (and the itch) with artist PJ Holden.
Newsarama: Declan, who is M as a character to you?
Declan Shalvey: M to me is a no nonsense man, born of old school British army training. He is a man tasked with making sense of a chaotic world yet does not always have the necessary tools to do so, which causes him frustration. And yes, by tools, I mean 00 Agents, like Bond.
Nrama: So then, what is this story you and PJ Holden are doing?
Shalvey: In our story, something from M's past leads him back to Belfast, a city he was once stationed in during his army days. Upon his return, we see glimpses from his past that have helped shape the man he would later become. All this taking place in a much changed city, one still nevertheless haunted by the same old ghosts.
Nrama: How'd you figure out this was the story you wanted to do?
Shalvey: There was an interesting line in the brief about Bond stories generally taking place in interesting or exotic places. This being an M story, and M being a very different type of character, I thought I'd do something a little different with the location and set it in a place that is still part of the United Kingdom, but in other ways is a 'foreign land'. Being from the Republic (i.e., not part of the United Kingdom), I also find the history of Northern Ireland quite interesting. Considering its history and how espionage has played such a large part in the city's evolution, setting a spy story in Belfast was too good an opportunity to try explore.
Nrama: M's the focus here, but will James Bond have a role at all in this?
Shalvey: No, James won't feature in this story. James naturally steals the spotlight, and this is a non-spotlight story, if you will. This is the type of story that unfolds best in the shadows.
Nrama: This comes after your Nick Fury and Deadpool/Old Man Logan works for Marvel, as well as Savage Town. How is it branching out into writing more than you're drawing - at least in terms of page count?
Shalvey: Hmm, I guess that's a good point... I've probably written more pages than I've drawn, this year... that's crazy! Wow, uh, well if feels great to be developing stories and experimenting without it taking the huge amount of time it takes to draw. I mean, with Fury, Savage Town, Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan and now this M one-shot, Ive had more pages to experiment with pacing, dialogue, story structure, etc than I have in two volumes of Injection and any other side projects. Not that one craft is better than the other, but instead of having to choose one, I've had the benefit of doing both. I think it's definitely informing how I approach both parts of the creative process. If I'm being honest the main difference is confidence; I am far more confident in my art and knowing when experiments fail/succeed when I'm drawing. I'm still learning as I go with writing, I believe I have a certain way of working and an approach I believe works, but it's more difficult to know what's working and what isn't. That's where I tend to trust my editor.
Heh, of curse the process/craft question gets the longest answer out of me!
Nrama: Is there still an itch to want to draw the whole thing, or are your writer's duties firmly seperated from being an artist?
Shalvey: Oh there's always the itch. I'd love to draw a straight up spy story. Any time I write something, I feel it has to be something I'd want to draw, I hope that bleeds into the script and that the artist gets a sense of that. When I handed in the script for Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #4, I was genuinely frustrated that I wasn't drawing that issue. Of course, Mike Henderson made it look amazing. The bastard.
If anything, I think I actually have to dial myself back a bit when writing, so I'm not art-directing the artist, or anything like that. If anyone did that to me I'd tell them to fuck right off... so I have to make sure I tell myself that, as a writer. "Fuck off, Dec", I say to myself.
Nrama: In that stead, you have PJ Holden. Did Dynamite editor Nate Cosby set you two up, or did you have PJ in mind from the get-go?
Shalvey: Nate had asked if I had an artist in mind, I wasn't sure at first, but at some stage early on, I thought of PJ. He's an incredibly versatile artist and I thought a one shot like this would be a wonderful opportunity to work with him. Also, PJ is from Belfast, so would have such an advantage when it comes to locations. Irish people, North and South, both hate it when Ireland is portrayed inaccurately in film, tv, etc, so this is our chance to get it right. The colourist, Dearbhla Kelly is also from Ireland, so you're getting a pretty authentic package here.
Nrama: So then lastly, what are your big goals with James Bond: M?
Shalvey: Essentially I'm trying to tell a satisfying old-school type of Bond story that leans more into mood than it does spectacle. I'm hoping to give the reader a different kind of Bond story, as M is a very different kind of character. In this self-contained story, we will hopefully understand the man a little better and scratch under the surface of a place that is historically mired in espionage and violence.