How do you solve a problem like James Bond?
Writers Danny Lore and Vita Ayala are set to answer this question and pose even more for the iconic British spy to tackle in a new James Bond ongoing launching December 4. Featuring interior art by Eric Gapstur and interlocking covers by Jim Cheung on the first three issues, this will also be a reunion for Ayala and Lore, who worked on a previous title, Quarter Killer, together.
Together, they are are taking 007 into a world he’s never navigated before: the high dollar and high stakes world of art forgery. Lore and Ayala are no strangers to action-packed tales, with Lore just wrapping up writing Queen of Bad Dreams at Vault Coimcs and Ayala fresh from their run on Dynamite’s Xena: Warrior Princess.
Newsarama had the opportunity to chat with both writers about the unique challenge not just of writing Bond - but of finding a unique challenge for Bond that the master spy has never faced before in his long and colorful past.
Newsarama: Vita, Danny, how long have the two of you known each other, and when did you know, not even on Bond, when did you know that you wanted to work together?
Vita Ayala: You want to start?
Danny Lore: Okay, so we've known each other for ten years. This December, actually, the release of Bond pretty much coincides with our first meeting. So we both have worked for, Vita, and for me, still work, at Forbidden Planet in Union Square [in New York City]. I came on shortly after V went off to college and they were very much feeling Vita's absence. At the time, we did not look alike. We looked way more similar.
Ayala: We are both brown, we both have glasses that are dark, we both have lighter skin. We were roughly around the same weight.
Lore: We really had long curly hair that we were too lazy to do anything but braid. So I came in and the manager on shift, who was incredibly close with Vita, saw me.
Ayala: No, she was not a manager at the time. This is the best part of the story is that she had no power there yet. She just decided that she missed me.
Lore: Went to our boss.
Ayala: So she was going to force the hiring manager to hire -
Lore: To interview. Like, tjey looked at me for two seconds and then the resume. I had just walked in and if - anyone who has ever walked in with a resume to Forbidden Planet knows that this is not a thing that happens. Like usually there's just, there's the pile and we go through when we need someone. But she looked at me for a second and went,"one second, he's interviewing," which I don't think he was.
Ayala: He wasn’t.
Lore: He definitely wasn't that day. She disappears for ten minutes. And then I have an interview that day. Luckily I happened to have also been reading one of his favorite books at the time: I was reading Starship Troopers.
Ayala: One of my favorite books.
Lore: Then when I was there we kept getting into this thing where people came in and were really confused to see me because for a second they thought I was Vita, or everyone who worked there kept calling me Vita and then V was upstate.
Ayala: Somebody texted me and went, "Yo, you at the store?" And I was like, "Definitely not. I'm definitely 480 miles away." "Yo there's a new Vita!"
And I was like, "There's only one." So I came into the store on Christmas break, and there's this person in the center at the register and I was like, "We're going to love each other or we're going to hate each other. That's it. There are only two options." So I walked up and I went "You!" And I pointed at them.
Lore: And then I just pointed and immediately was like, "You." Because it was obvious who this was.
Ayala: That’s the clear response. And then we were best friends, immediately best friends.
Lore: But yeah, I think it was - less than two weeks later it was Christmas and I ended up spending the week at Vita's house. On Christmas day my dad picked me up from their house to go to family Christmas.
So it was pretty immediate. I want to say within the first month or two, the first trappings of our ComiXology Originals, Quarter Killer, kind of happened. We made our first inside joke within a week and a half.
Ayala: We had a really immediate connection as people, but part of that too is both of us are very creative individuals and we have, from the moment we met, pretty much kind of vibed on a level that I've never had with anyone before. And so I've always wanted to work with Danny.
I feel like having someone that knows you so well, even if we don't necessarily have the same sentiment or sensibility about something, understands where the other's coming from is so important when you're collaborating. And I work better when I get to work with other people. Hence why I make comics.
Lore: Yeah, and a lot of the things that we’re not on the same plane on tend to be very complimentary.
Ayala: Right, yeah. We definitely, we are seek and destroy. We couldn't have been friends when we were younger because we would've absolutely tore everything up. Whatever my weaknesses are, Danny has those strengths. It's just, it's a dream to be able to work with someone that understands you in that way.
Nrama: And in terms of James Bond specifically, how did you come together on that. Did you pitch Dynamite together? How did you get in touch with Dynamite, and what was that process of going through the estate?
Ayala: I was working on Xena at the time with Dynamite editor Nate Cosby, who is our editor on Bond and delightful, and he's very chill and he was like, "Hey, these things are coming up, no guarantees, but we talk all the time, and I know that you have these sensibilities. I know that you really like spy stuff, would you like to pitch for this?"
And I said, absolutely. Clearly. It's James Bond. And I pitched for it and we kind of worked through some stuff together and he was like, "All right, I'd love to pack it just to see if they want to do it at Dynamite."
And then I just said "Yes" to a bunch of stuff. And then timing worked out in a way where I was like, "I can't do this by myself. I would really love a co-writer, specifically I would really love to work with Danny." And they weren't aware, or he wasn't aware of who Danny was. I was like, "Danny does all these cool things."
Ayala: I sent prose, I sent the first issue of Queen Of Bad Dreams. And he looked at their stuff and he was like "This person is really good. You know what? Why don't we talk to them, why don't we do this?"
Lore: And so then we got on the phone and from there, once V brought me on board, I had talked a bit about what V’s pitch was but we kind of decided to start mostly from scratch.
Lore: Once we were both on it, just to kind of make sure that both of our strengths were being played to.
Ayala: And honestly, I mean, jumping ahead a little bit, Danny is... I love Bond. I really do. Especially classic Bond. Danny is a Bond fan through and through, like Danny is the kind of person who would rewatch the movies to get a sense of beats and to just really deconstruct them. Danny's go-to movie for stress time since it came out was Skyfall. This is what Danny does.
And so I knew that whatever I had thought before having a co-writer on this, I might as well throw it away because we were going to come up with something that was going to be really, really kind of raw and close to who Bond is as a character.
Lore: It was actually really funny. Literally no more than two weeks, maybe just a week before V brought me on to pitch, my wife had actually gotten me a gift from the Moleskine store and they had just done the 25th anniversary James Bond notebooks.
And I had not used it yet because I was like, "I love this so much, it's got to be a thing." And so when V brought me on, I was like, "Well, I gotta." I was torn because I was like, "Oh, but if we don't get the pitch and then I've written Bond in this notebook, I'm not going to…" and then I was like, "No, I’ve just got do it." And so all my notes for this are in a Bond notebook, which feels really cool to be able to do that.
Ayala: And then from there, Danny and I worked really, really long and intensively on all the development stuff because one thing that Nate is right about and is very kind of a stickler about, one of the only things that he was a very much like a buttoned up guy about, is we have to have every base covered. If there is a question, we have to have the answer. It wasn't just a pitch, it was essentially a breakdown of every single beat that we would be doing.
Lore: I think whether or not everyone saw this part of it, by the time that we were doing the pitch package was being sent up, I had a page by page for, not every issue but for maybe about half of what we had kind of conceived of.
Ayala: And this is not a typical even for Dynamite. Usually you do a very detailed pitch, but he knew having worked with the estate before that you really had to have, be just - put it all.
Lore: Especially since it's a spy story, right?
Lore: And spy stories, twists are some of the most fun that you can have, but there's nothing worse than experiencing a spy story and feeling like they weren't prepping for the pitch? That the pitch was just kind of like, "Oh I need something to do at the end of this issue so we're throwing it in."
Where when you do a full page by page for the whole thing, I can go, cool, I've put this pitch, this twist, you know, halfway through the issues, I can start building for it in issue one because I know what's coming. And that's really important, especially with the plotline that we decided to take, which is very much involved in forgery and fraud and characters who do very much have that kind of background.
So there's a lot of, you have to know when you do a scene, even if you don't mention that piece of art, is that art real or fake? You have to know it because in five issues you may reveal that answer. You have to know who knows in every scene what's real and what's fake because they might get in trouble for knowing later. So that was really, really important to us.
Ayala: And it has a legacy. So when he brings the whole pitch package, knowing all of this information is necessary, they are able to go, ah, okay. This is a Bond story.
Nrama: Speaking of forgeries and dealing with that in the book - give me your quick pitch for this Bond, and what you're bringing to your work with Dynamite to bring Bond as this whole legacy franchise forward into something really fresh and new.
Ayala: How much can we say?
Lore: Okay. Okay. Usually I'm going with this one. I'm like, it's James Bond kind of meets Burn Notice kind of meets Leverage. So one of the things that was super important, I wanted to tell a story that I felt hadn't been told with Bond before.
As much as I love the classic beats, I wanted to do something a little bit new. And that involves putting Bond into a world that he doesn't necessarily know, but Bond is an adapter. So even if he doesn't know a world, he very often has the skillset to exist in that world. So we kind of felt like we needed a world that an academic level of knowledge is needed for, that Bond couldn't learn on the fly but could also look like he belongs.
Lore: And that's the art world. That's the world of galleries, of these big dinners and galas where…
Ayala: He looks good in a suit.
Lore: He looks real good in a suit!
Ayala: We wanted to put him in a suit.
Lore: And he can charm and smalltalk, but if he's got to deal with a fraud on the fly, he doesn't, not only does he not know, but he doesn't really care. It’s not part of his mindset of what mission parameters are necessary for him.
Ayala: Right. But our mandate too was to make sure that there were going to be stakes and there are going to be high stakes, but we didn't want it to be "a nuclear bomb is going to go off and we have to stop this nuclear bomb." But yeah, we want them to be personal stakes that then would have implications, dangerous implications in the real world.
And so we start small, but then you see this whole adventure kind of unfolds and blossoms into something that has a lot of weight to it pretty quickly. So yeah, that was, I mean for me what was really important was taking that thing, make this new thing, but going, ah, but this is still Bond. And so there are very Bond stakes to this story.
Lore: We talked a little both at the convention on panels, but also when we talk about Quarter Killer about, and I think, I think Andy Diggle actually used this phrase, "the gamifying of story writing."
Lore: For something like Bond, while I didn't use that phrase while doing it, there was a lot of that, where like you look at each issue as another session of a game or another level of a video game, where who is the boss of this?
Cool, so they've gotten the XP, they've leveled up. So what is the next threat you throw at them that relates to everything you've done before but is a level up, and so it's like just constantly going up level one, level two.
Ayala: And so there's, in education, in the academic world that's called scaffolding, right? So you build upon… but I think that what's really important too is that we want this to be interesting to people who love Bond already. That is really important to us personally. But we also want to make sure that people that are new to it will be able to engage. You pick up issue one and even if you've never heard of Bond, James Bond, you will fall into this world. But also we're priming you to understand how the spy thing works and why, you know, the misdirects work.
And we're also, and this is again my personal mission as a writer, I want you to then go back and reread and find all of the places that we seeded all this information because there's nothing more important to me than a reread on something cause you always get so much.
Lore: Also just frankly, we are coming off of Greg Pak’s amazing James Bond 007 run, and I love what he did.
Ayala: Yeah, with Oddjob.
Lore: Like with Oddjob, and that he has such flash and style while telling a story with a lot of emotion behind it, and telling a super emotional story around a character that, who loves almost more than anything else, looking cool, is really hard. Bond wants to look like the coolest in the room, because one, he probably is and two because of that level of control he has over the world around him. And so the challenge of then telling an emotional story that like, especially in comparison to what I've been reading recently that Dynamite's doing, that's an awesome challenge.
Nrama: Speaking of Oddjob, what other characters can we expect to see in James Bond whether it's classic characters that are returning, if you can talk about that?
Ayala: I don't know if we're allowed to say.
Lore: If you're paying very close attention to the start of our run, you may notice a familiar…hints of a familiar face, which I'm really excited for people to kind of get. But we are very excited for the two main characters that are new.
Ayala: That are not Bond.
Lore: That are not Bond.
Ayala: Bond’s the main character.
Lore: The main characters that we’ve created.
Ayala: The support cast!
Lore: To kind of drive Bond up the wall. And that was actually literally how they were kind of built.
The intention was, how do we make characters who are hyper competent at things that might be useful in a room with Bond but also clash with him to a certain extent. So there's Brandy, who works in insurance. Specifically, she has a background in art fraud because of her history, and she very early on is introduced as someone who is unattached to MI6 and is coming at it through the insurance angle and gets kind of wrapped up in things. And her troublesome partner in…not crime, Reese, who is definitely not a cat burglar.
Ayala: Definitely not, he's a consultant, a security consultant.
Lore: Who is very, very good at what he does. But Brandy focuses him.
Ayala: Yeah, we wanted to make sure that Bond had a supporting cast that was as fun to engage with as Bond himself. And that also kind of brought out things that you might not necessarily always see with Bond. So one of the things that we had discussed was like, Reese is, he's a cat burglar, but he looks up to Bond. Bond is like this legend to him. And it's like,"Oh my God, you're the coolest." And how does Bond react to that? He’s just like, "Yeah, kid. All right." I mean, what's going on? And then with Brandy, we have someone who basically her entire job is to call out bullshit. And Bond is full of a lot of bullshit. That's why we love him.
And so we wanted to make sure that people had fun and had characters that are entry points into the Bond universe that they could really connect with.
Lore: But at the same time they can all, they can both all work as a team and also cause each other kind of domino effect problems as well. Once they start working together they can, I wouldn't say easily because there's still some butting heads. They're still, you know, Bond is not used to working with a crew like this. Brandy has never worked with someone like Bond and Reese is just really glad to be there.
Ayala: Yes, just honored to be nominated.
Ayala: But there's also familiar faces like Moneypenny definitely who's one of my favorites from the latest stuff, and then M is there.
Lore: Getting to write Bond is obviously one of my biggest goals on the planet, but getting to write Moneypenny was so fun to me.
Ayala: And their dynamic is always fun, especially the updated dynamic.
Nrama: That’s one of the really important things about Bond too, is that people go to Bond films or enjoy Bond media because they love the concept of Bond, and the character of Bond. But you also don't go into a Bond thing just to see James Bond stand around and be cool and good at stuff for 90 to 120 minutes. You want to have that cast of characters.
Lore: It's got to be at least 40 minutes though, to be fair.
Ayala: There’s a lot of adjusting the cuffs and the collar.
Nrama: You want the still shot of the cuffs.
Lore: I would just watch forty minutes of him adjusting his cuff and his lapels and I would just be, that'd be fine. I would be fine with that. My goal is to write an issue that feels like that moment.
Lore: I think we hit it. I think we hit it a couple of times. I, and too like that's what I love about Greg Pak’s run too, is John Lee's great. He's such a good foil. And we were like, how do we even approach getting that feeling?
Nrama: He is such an amazing foil for Bond, and that's what makes that media is so compelling is the opportunity to see Bond playing against this other kind of characters and different dynamics. You want to be Bond for moments, but when you're watching Bond, it stops being interesting if you don’t ever see anybody get under his skin in some way.
Ayala: And how do we find a new way to do that, that isn't John Lee. Right?
Nrama: Right! We’ll wrap up with one more, we'll do one fun one.
Ayala and Lore: [Simultaneously.] They've all been fun.
Nrama: Aw, thank you.
Ayala: We've been together too long.
Lore: Yeah, by the end of this weekend we're just going to be merged.
Nrama: We'll do two versions of this - if you could have any Bond past or present, play your Bond, which Bond would it be. And if you could have anyone play your Bond…
Ayala: Those are very, very different questions. Any past Bond. I do love Daniel Craig. I love him a lot. I... That's hard. That's hard. I love Timothy Dalton.
Lore: I literally think we're going to be reversed where you say Timothy Dalton, but also Craig and I'm going to be like, Craig, but also Timothy Dalton.
Ayala: Yeah, either would be great. I also am a very big fan of, clearly Sean Connery as Bond. I'm not a savage.
Lore: I do feel like those two are kind of closest to what, like what we do, as much as I love Connery.
Ayala: Of course. I think that the moment in Casino Royale where he is playing the game and he gets poisoned, but he still comes back and plays the game as if nothing has happened. I'm like, "That's it. That's, that moment is Bond."
Lore: Meanwhile, I mean, I have many favorite Craig moments, but my favorite is when the guy who's protecting his family's property is giving him the rules on how to shoot a gun. And Daniel Craig has that moment of absolute, "I would kill you, but you're kind of like family and I'm so annoyed right now," but still manages to cockily walk off like a cool-ass dude. Even though he's about to blow his top. That for me is how I write Bond.
Ayala: And if I can have anyone play my Bond, it would be Gillian Anderson. Clearly. I was going to say Idris Elba, and I say that only because I'm a huge fan of Luther and I think that he does, I am a big scary man, but also very smooth. But also honorable mention Indira Varma would be an incredible Bond as well. She’d look very good in a suit.
Lore: Oh, that's... you said Indira Varma's name. So I can't think of anyone else. That's just kind of how my brain works.
Ayala: But seeing Gillian Anderson play some of her more, more contemporary roles, seeing The Fall and stuff like that.
Lore: I'm going to go with, since we were talking about her last night, Ruth Negga.
Ayala: I’m going to go see her as Hamlet. I'll let you know how it is. It hurts how beautiful she is.
Lore: Or that one particular photo shoot of Emily Blunt in the suit.
Ayala: Emily Blunt's arms playing Bond would be very good.
Nrama: Just her arms. The rest is just a green screen.