Before James Bond was a super-spy, he was a student in Scotland - then came World War II and a German blitz right on his doorstep.
This September, writer Jeff Parker and artist Bob Q pull back the veil of mystery of Ian Fleming's dashing secret operative and reveal his formative years in the ongoing series James Bond Origin from Dynamite Entertainment. Working directly with the late author Ian Fleming's production company, Parker and Q are targeting one of the most theorized and least-explored aspects of the signature super-spy's life.
For Parker, James Bond Origin is him coming full circle - from being introduced to Bond while in the back of a car at a drive-in theater to being the inspiration for his own first OGN, The Interman. Parker talked with Newsarama about James Bond Origin, how Bond goes from super-student to super-spy, and the writer's own origins as it is threaded through Fleming's character.
Newsarama: James Bond's teenage years - what drew you to this, Jeff?
Jeff Parker: First, it’s James Bond! And it’s really the end of his teen years, it’s more about when he first discovers the world - during the biggest war in history, and how that shapes him.
Nrama: What's your own familiarity with Bond - how did you first discover the franchise, and how deep of a Bond fan are you?
Parker: My parents brought me along to a rerun of Dr. No at a drive-in when I was tiny, so I got to watch the first movie first, even if I did think it was all mostly about a robot dragon on the beach. And James Bond’s friend who can’t feel pain, Quarrel. Since I liked that I got brought along to all other Bond movies.
Weird detail: my dad used to play the movie scores late at night around the time I’d go to bed, way more than I realized because as an adult for a while if I’d hear music from say Thunderball I’d start shutting down, and doze off. Later I went through a phase of playing the soundtracks while I worked and that helped deprogram me.
Nrama: James Bond Origin is set in 1941, when Bond is but 17 years old. What's he like at this point?
Parker: James is a ball of massive potential energy in need of direction. He is happy to connect with people who fill a sort of parental role as his own parents died in the Alps a few years earlier, but there aren’t many figures like that at his school. Then an old family friend comes to speak at Fettes and make a case for young graduates to join the Naval Service. This leads to James being in one of the target cities right as its bombed by the Luftwaffe, and he is given all the direction he needs.
Nrama: This storyline threads in real-life events, specifically World War II's Clydebank Blitz. How much history did you get to research in the course of writing this, and how important was it for you to base Bond's fictional past in a real-life event?
Parker: The Fleming people like us hewing fairly close to real history at this point, we’re a long ways off from James in Moonraker and things are more grounded. So I’ve read quite a bit on the war, especially focusing on side operations that fit well with James’ unique role in the service. He’s no Double-0 yet, but he does have one foot firmly in what will become the Secret Service.
Nrama: Were there specific Fleming stories, movies, or other material that most informed your take on a 17-year-old James Bond?
Parker: It’s really the little bits he leaks out in the later books, dropping details about James’ past. Which is markedly similar to Fleming’s past. The Fleming people had all of the key mileposts arranged in a timeline for me to go by, and that’s the stuff that there’s no veering from for this project.
My take is pretty simple; he hasn’t seen the whole world yet, he isn’t suave except for maybe when he remembers how his mother interacted with people, he hasn’t even had a martini yet to have any preference on the matter- it’s just pints at the pub at this stage. So stripped of all the things we associate with James Bond what he already has is an incredible tenacity. He doesn’t let a setback or defeat stop him from doggedly pursuing his goal until he’s made it.
Nrama: I'm of a certain age that I remember the animated series James Bond Jr., but seeing your name on this makes me fondly recall The Interman. How would you compare and contrast James Bond Origin with those two?
I avoided James Bond Jr. pretty deftly, I knew it wasn’t for me. In Origin, James is only treated like a kid by people in the first issue, once he’s in the service during wartime he’s a young man to everyone who meets him, though they all tend to assume he’s around 20.
Thanks for remembering The Interman! James Bond and his global intrigues were a huge influence on my first graphic novel. My hero in that, Van Meach, was molded in a different way and really didn’t like killing people, though he had to at times. Bond of course doesn’t have much of a problem with that, and here we’re establishing that the war is a big part of that, and why he’ll eventually be granted a license to do so. I don’t mean to make this sound bleak, because James does manage to find happy moments in the middle of of all the madness, something he’ll do the rest of his life.
Nrama: But unlike The Interman, you're not drawing this one - newcomer Bob Q is. This will be Q's third big assignment - have you taken measure of his work in tailor your scripts to suit his strengths? What do you see in his work?
Parker: That’s the easiest part, from what I can tell there is nothing Bob can’t draw in any style that fits. The guy is really good at a number of approaches, and a very natural storyteller. He didn’t bat an eye at all the research this book called for. And he brings this cartooning energy to it that keeps far away from being a stoic historical piece, even set in 1941 it feels very relevant. He’s going to be very sought after once this comes out, so if you see him at a convention, I recommend getting a commission from him now before it’s impossible.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals for James Bond Origin?
Parker: Approaching him from this point gives us a chance to let readers connect with James Bond in a way you rarely do. He can come off as fairly inhuman in many interpretations, and I want to show how he is relatable. It’s the path of a character on the way to becoming an icon, even if he won’t be tearing around in an Aston Martin, that’s really interesting ground to me.