Ian Fleming's enigmatic Oddjob makes his debut in Dynamite's James Bond titles this November with the new 007 James Bond. Written by Greg Pak and rawn by Marc Laming, 007 James Bond's first arc brings 007 to Singapore to secure a smuggled case - but the Korean villain Oddjob has eyes on it as well.
And yes, he has his razor-edged bowler hat.
Dynamite has been publishing James Bond comics since late 2015, when Warren Ellis came aboard for a twelve-issue limited series that updated Fleming’s master spy - and specifically Fleming’s, rather than the more famous, slightly softer-edged Bond from the film franchise - to the modern day. Several limited series followed, from writers such as James Robinson, Kieron Gillen, and Andy Diggle.
Newsarama caught up with Pak to discuss the challenges of writing a Bond for the 21st century, modernizing Oddjob, and where he stands on certain long-running theories about the internal continuity of James Bond.
Newsarama: Greg, I suppose the first question that comes to mind is Oddjob. He's one of the most memorable characters in fiction, but aside from a couple of unfortunate stereotypes, he's a near-total blank slate. Where do you even start with a modernized depiction of a character like that?
Greg Pak: I've been inspired for years by something Maxine Hong Kingston wrote in her book Tripmaster Monkey. She had her Chinese-American main character go on a rant about Oddjob, and he said, "A face as big as Oddjob's should star on the Cinerama screen for the audience to fall in love with, for girls to kiss, for the nation to cherish, for me to learn how to hold my face. Take seven pictures of a face, take twelve, twenty of any face, hold it up there, you will fall in love with it."
I read that years ago and it inspired me as a filmmaker who cast a lot of Asian-American actors and a writer who's made a point of creating characters of all backgrounds. I believe it in my bones - if you put someone's face up there on the big screen or the comic book page as a hero, the audience can fall in love in seconds.
So it's a wonderful trip getting the chance to apply that idea to this new Oddjob in an actual James Bond comic book. Our new man is just as dangerous and lethal as the original, but we're getting the chance to dig into his story, to see things from his perspective, and to explore him in all ways as the co-star of the series. He's a fantastic foil for Bond - cocky and passionate and unpredictable. He might end up as Bond's greatest ally -- or most deadly opponent. They get under each other's skin and drive each other crazy and it's a blast writing them.
Nrama: You write a lot of science fiction. How'd you end up getting involved with a straight espionage series?
Pak: My ol’ buddy, editor Nate Cosby, reached out and asked if I’d be interested in writing a James Bond-related book. I immediately thought of a story featuring fun, modern, and dare-I-say-it, sexy new Oddjob. Nate and everyone at Dynamite loved the pitch and asked if I'd be interested in telling the story in the main Bond book, and here we are!
I guess I'm best known for my science fiction and superhero stories, but I've been absolutely loving writing this book. As I've dug in, I've been reminded by how much James Bond is under the skin of everyone working in genre adventure fiction. That special blend of sci-fi and espionage that's essential to James Bond is really right up my alley, too. It's a blast.
Nrama: So this book's taking off from Warren Ellis's run. Can we expect to see any characters from that making a comeback?
Pak: I just love the vibe Ellis and his art teams brought to the book. Moneypenny and M both play key roles here.
Nrama: How do you see Bond? Since he made his comics comeback, some writers have hewed closer to the snarky professional of the films, whereas Ellis's Bond was the 100% bastard from the books.
Pak: Haha! I'm threading the needle a bit here, I think. I grew up in the '70s and '80s watching the big Bond movies as they came out the same way we watched the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. So Roger Moore is always going to be my sentimental favorite movie Bond, and I do love that sense of cheeky fun.
But I've been honing in on Bond as a ruthless professional who always completes his mission, no matter what. It's a great contrast with our new Oddjob, who's motivated by passion in ways Bond has to struggle to wrap his head around.
Nrama: What are some of the challenges of adapting an older franchise to the modern period? Bond is very much a Cold War story, particularly in Fleming's works, but the comic books so far have fit him a little awkwardly into the 2010s.
Pak: We're telling a modern story set in the current day. It hasn't felt strange to me at all, maybe because I'm so accustomed to taking legacy characters who have been around for decades and telling modern stories with them. Come on it! You're gonna love it!
Nrama: Why Singapore for your opening arc? What attracted you to that location?
Pak: Oddjob is Korean and Bond is from the UK. So I wanted to start off in a place where they'd be on even ground, both of them fish-out-of-water. For plot reasons I can't reveal just yet, Singapore also made sense as a central location where a number of our characters might come together.
Nrama: The terrorist organization ORU seems to be your creation. Can you talk about what they want, or what you might be basing them on? (I assume they are not actually Oral Roberts University.)
Pak: Whoa! No, not at all related to the university, of course!
There's a different significance to the name that I can't reveal right now for fear of spoilers.
ORU is a terrorist organization that's killed thousands in a series of attacks that are all the more terrifying because ORU has never announced its philosophy or goals. Bond and our new Oddjob have a massive challenge on their hands and a huge ticking clock.
Nrama: With the James Bond Origins series depicting a Bond in World War II, and the modern Bond living in the UK with mobile phones, modern air travel, and a more diverse Britain, can we assume that the Dynamite version of Bond is officially a codename rather than a character? That'd fit neatly into a couple of different fan arguments.
Pak: Oh, I'll never get into those arguments. As a reader and fan, I'm very flexible with this kind of continuity. As a kid, I loved the Batman television show and the comics and The Dark Knight Returns -- each might have been in their own sphere, but they were all Batman to me. As a writer, I'm just writing this modern day James Bond. That's good enough for me!