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Garth Ennis on tackling James Bond for a darker era

Comic Books

Garth Ennis on tackling James Bond for a darker era

The famed writer’s run on ‘James Bond: 007’ debuts in January 2024.

Garth Ennis has written a suite of compelling characters over the years. There’s his highly lauded run on Punisher. Or, his time traveling badass Marjorie Finnegan. And, of course, a Batman story (that’s really about monsters). Now, Ennis is tackling yet another beloved pop culture figure with a brand-new James Bond series at Dynamite.

James Bond: 007 (the second volume) will see Ennis team up with artist Rapha Lobosco (Vampirella, Hack/Slash) for a storyline called “Your Cold, Cold Heart.” Here, James Bond is charged with tracking down Stalvoda (Russian for “steel water”), a deadly compound that was long thought to be some forgotten relic of the Cold War. And if that mission weren’t already deadly enough, Bond must also grapple with a former agent, Archibald Tyron, who holds an England-sized grudge toward the only other holder of the rare Double O rank. Expect thrilling espionage galore, but with Ennis at the helm, this may be like any other James Bond story before.

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Issue #1 of James Bond: 007 is due out January 17, 2024. In the lead-up, Ennis was kind enough to answer a few of our burning questions, including the story about why he passed on 007 in the past. He also touches on his favorite James Bond actor, the choice of the Cold War setting, and the importance of the Ian Fleming novels, among other tidbits.

Garth Ennis on tackling James Bond for a darker era

Courtesy of Dynamite.

AIPT: I heard that the editors at Dynamite pitched you on James Bond for years. Why were you hesitant or avoidant for so long?

Garth Ennis: I only recall them asking me once, about ten years back. At the time I wasn’t interested, just didn’t see the potential in the character- I really only saw Bond as something ripe for parody, hence my own series, Jimmy’s Bastards. That would change.

AIPT: Similarly, what finally made you want to tackle a James Bond story?

GE: Joe Rybandt suggested it again recently and I was interested enough to take a closer look, for no particular reason that I can remember. I took a look at the Bond of the novels, who I realized was a rather nastier piece of work than the guy in the movies, and therefore more interesting — far less of a caricature. Out of curiosity I took a look at some of the comics, and found that Warren Ellis had done a very impressive job of updating that character for the current era- an outwardly pleasant, even charming individual capable of doing the most appalling things. Just my cup of tea.

AIPT: Do you have a favorite James Bond (as most of us do)? Why that “version” in particular?

GE: Not particularly. The Bond movies are the sort of thing I watch when they come along every few years, then start forgetting them again within a week or so. Because we’re talking about a toned down version of the character in the books, there’s no one actor I think beats out any of the others — they all do pretty well with what is, essentially, a highly unbelievable and unrelatable figure. People laud the Connery version, but those films were pretty goofy in terms of plot and SFX. Roger Moore gets a bit of a rough ride in certain quarters, but again, we’re not talking about the heights of realism here- and at least filmmaking had advanced somewhat in technical terms. I remember enjoying The Spy Who Loved Me as a kid, and it still holds up. More recently, the one that stands out for me is Skyfall, just because for the first time you had a sense of a guy fighting for something that was real to him.

James Bond

Courtesy of Dynamite.

AIPT: I think you’d mentioned that this story leans more into the Ian Fleming novels than the films. What’s so different and compelling about this version of Bond?

GE: He’s a nasty bastard, although you wouldn’t know to look at him. Essentially Bond is the British establishment’s killing machine, and as such is unlikely to be a model citizen. I have him do something dreadful to someone at the end of part #3, and after I wrote it, I realized it was that kind of thing that in the movies would be done to James — he’d be the one having it happen to him, and would then be required to get out of the mess. This Bond, however, is the guy who can do things like this to other people without batting an eyelid.

AIPT: What can you tell us about this story, “Your Cold, Cold Heart”, specifically? What does it do to the Bond mythos/lore?

GE: It’s one of those “from out of the past” stories, as Bond finds himself coping with the fallout from one of his 00 predecessors’ operations. Readers will quickly realize that someone has been playing a very long game, and Bond, M, and Moneypenny are up against a plan set in motion half a century ago.

AIPT: Why the interest in the Cold War setting? Is there some modern-day relevance with that era? Is that an under-explored timeframe for Bond?

GE: The Cold War is the period that gave birth to the character. I’m particularly interested in the relationship between MI6 and the CIA, and in a larger sense between British and American interests in the world. The fictional operation that Bond investigates was a major win for the British back in the day, somewhat redeeming them in American eyes after their all-too-real humiliation over the Cambridge Five affair.

James Bond

Courtesy of Dynamite.

AIPT: You’ve told some rather absurd and violent tales over the years. Is there a sense you have to tone things down with Bond?

GE: It’s more a question of selecting the appropriate tone for each sequence. One might be a vicious, close-in shoot-out where Bond has to fight like a cornered rat to survive — the next could well be a bit of larger-than-life craziness, as the world suddenly explodes into fiery widescreen devastation and our hero gets to play with the big guns. Or he might just be indulging his sneakier, nastier side- much to his opponents’ chagrin.

AIPT: Similarly, is there any pressure about pushing this character too far, or getting a take “wrong,” given that he’s such an iconic and beloved property?

GE: That’s something I never worry about; it makes more sense to me to simply tell the story as I see fit and hope for the best. Ultimately, I always go with the potential that I personally see in any given character, rather than whatever’s been established for them in their previous adventures.

AIPT: What was it like working with Rapha Lobosco and Dave Johnson? What did their various artistic contributions bring to the table or do to shape your own work?

GE: Rapha’s new to me, but he’s very much my sort of artist — good storyteller, nice sense of character, doesn’t stray from the script. Dave Johnson is, of course, a veteran and brings a wonderful movie poster feel to the covers, giving the story exactly the epic look it needs.

AIPT: To wrap up, and because I just have to ask: if you could cast one actor to play Bond, who would it be and why?

GE: Probably [Michael] Fassbender. I really liked his “fatal Englishman” character in Inglorious Bastards, you could definitely tell that guy had been up to some unpleasant shit.

Garth Ennis on tackling James Bond for a darker era

Courtesy of Dynamite.

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