Welcome to another edition of Post-Game. As the title suggests, we’re aping a little NFL-inspired post-game coverage for the realm of comics, allowing a slew of creators to come in and examine their work after the fact. Through this rare instance of hindsight, we can all gain a better appreciation for our favorite stories and series and better grasp the truly nuanced creative process. And unlike with football, we promise no (excessively) wacky graphics or needlessly bulky suits.
Title: James Bond Origin
Creative Team: Written by Jeff Parker and art by Bob Q and Ibrahim Moustafa
Story Arc: Issues #1-12
Original Release Date: September 2018 to August 2019
Synopsis: Before he was 007, a 17-year-old James Bond contends with the historic Clydebank Blitz amid his own desires to leave Scotland and forge his own path.
AIPT’s Thoughts: From Nathan Simmons’ review of issue #8, “Origin is just such a well-done series. The pacing has picked up considerably in the last few issues, but James Bond himself is still receiving the kind of solid character development one would expect from a series with this title.”
AIPT: How do you feel now that this story’s been told? Is there a sense of relief, or are there any uneasy feelings? Was its creation/development a “good” experience overall?
I’m very happy with [the series]. I feel like James’ entry into World War II was very natural and in character, and most importantly interesting. We went back and forth with the Fleming Estate, and while they were (as expected) protective and scrutinizing about a work that examines the Bond of the novels, they were also very helpful and gave many suggestions that we got a lot of story mileage out of. It was a little confusing for me at times because some issues got swapped in order, but ultimately I really like how it progressed.
AIPT: Are you the type of artist/writer to go back and think about what worked or didn’t with a story or the overall volume? Is that process helpful at all?
I am always tweaking the story even after it has been printed, which seems like a waste of time, but it’s not something I can convince my brain to stop doing. An enormous advantage we had with ORIGIN was a big lead time, so I was able to sit with scripts a few months and then still make changes before Bob Quinn or Ibrahim Moustafa got the into their schedules. You don’t often have that luxury.
AIPT: How do you think the overall storyline or larger aesthetic/visual identity played out now that you’re looking at it as a wholly completed project? Has that shifted at all?
Where I would differ with this question is that it’s wholly complete. It’s the first year, and it’s a very solid first year that I’m happy with, but there’s more war for James to fight! And he’s catching on fast because he’s a quick study, but he has so much more to learn.
One fun extra was that we were able to do a short story for Playboy with James helping Resistance fighters sabotage a German supply train. It’s short, but in many ways it’s a very good example of what the series is all about.
AIPT: What kind of feedback have you received? Has any of that helped shape some of your thoughts on the larger series/story?
Readers have been so supportive and enthusiastic, that’s been very rewarding. I think James Bond fans are very grateful whenever you go deeper than gadgets and catchphrases, and they know we put the effort in. I depend heavily of course on the first reader, editor Nate Cosby. He’s got a keen sense of what readers want from an action/suspense/spy thriller.
AIPT: What, if anything, surprised you about how the story or visual narrative plays out in hindsight? Is there some reaction or emotion now associated with the series that you might not have felt during the actual creative process?
Mainly that I knew Bob and Ibrahim were going to be great, but I wasn’t prepared for just HOW great they were at bringing the younger James to life.
Early on, Bob went with the description of him evoking Hoagy Carmichael as Vesper Lynd observes in Casino Royale, and imagined a younger, wiry version. It works. If you looked at a panel from the spy school training issue and just saw the group of young cadets without reading the text, you can still tell which one is supposed to be James. Bob also did some exciting layouts throughout, like when the bombers blitz the Scottish Naval yards.
Ibrahim Moustafa also got inventive with layouts, such as when James learns the finer points of gambling from The Corsicans. I think design-heavy storytelling works well with Bond because we all have those elaborate title sequences ingrained in us from years of watching the movies.
AIPT: Now that it’s finished, how would you describe the series/story to someone (what’s your best elevator pitch)? Did that change at all from before publication?
This is about a younger James Bond entering the biggest war in history and how it shapes him to become the top intelligence operative in the world.The spy craft is much more down to earth and very true to the actual era. James is not perfect from the starting line, he makes a lot of mistakes. But his key quality is his dogged determination, he always deals with the situation handed him and adapts to meet the challenge.
I think we stuck to that description very closely.
AIPT: Did you have any goals going into the project? Did you “complete” those in some way?
I didn’t want James to be the only one who was good at anything, the war was an enormous effort that took all kinds to beat back The Axis powers and I wanted to make that clear. James is very aware how important his confidantes are. I also wanted women characters to play a more in-depth role, and not fall into the formula of killing them for tension or motivation, which was an unnecessary staple for a long run of the film franchise. James manages to find romance at times, everyone is desperate for moments of real living amidst the uncertainty of war, but he’s often inspired and taught by women in our series.
AIPT: Is there anything you might do differently in writing/illustrating/coloring/etc.? Some things you wish had played out differently?
Simply, I would do more. And I’m not saying that’s not happening! WWII is a vast backdrop where you can tell every kind of story and James fits into it well. As I said, I had enough lead time to finesse the stories that I don’t really have much in the way of regrets.
AIPT: Inversely, what do you think are the highlights of the story? What are the points in which you excelled as you’re looking at the whole project from a distance?
I like the ones where James has to learn some of the real-world specialized skills, like where he helps his friend fly the German Junker and they figure out how to drop the bombs. That kind of story is a lot of work because I have to research quite a bit and then figure out how to convey all this in the 20 pages we have without making it a lecture. It’s always got to be thrilling. James is also in the Royal Navy, and that requires a fair amount of research. But it results in comics that don’t feel like everything else on the shelves, and I’m proud of that.
AIPT: Do you have any final thoughts or observations on the story/series?
I’m sad James had to lose his mentor Weldon so relatively soon, but it also rings true to the realities of war. I like that we could do a story where he gets closure on him, Ibrahim and I teamed up on the writing there.
Everyone should go back and look at the variant covers that Bob did entirely in the style of War-Effort posters, they’re impressive and charming. I like when covers make use of a time period in that way. The entire year just looks fantastic, I’m pleased to no end about that.