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Diggle Takes On Capitalism, Queen and Country in James Bond: Hammerhead

by  in Comic News Comment
Diggle Takes On Capitalism, Queen and Country in James Bond: Hammerhead

The latest chapter in Dynamite Entertainment‘s James Bond comics will see writer Andy Diggle and artist Luca Casalanguida team for a mission which sends Britain’s finest (and coldest) spy to Europe. His goal is to assassinate the Kraken, a radical anti-capitalist who has plans for Britain’s newly-upgraded nuclear arsenal — but what if Bond finds that his mission is compromised? Who do you trust in a world where every side seems to be working against you?

It’s a compelling idea for Bond, especially the 007 of the comics, who is a decidedly darker and more enigmatic take on the character than the one found on film. This is Bond as Ian Fleming imagined him, after all. CBR News spoke with Diggle about the way he’s approaching the character, and how the classic definition of Bond fits in against the backdrop of modern-day espionage.

CBR News: You’ve worked on all manner of stories, but James Bond is something unique. What made you want to take on the character?

Andy Diggle: Bringing the Bond of Fleming’s original novels into the present day was a great opportunity to do something fresh with the character. Frankly, I’d have jumped at the chance whoever was publishing it. Fortunately I already had a great working relationship with Dynamite on original thrillers like “Uncanny” and “Control.”

What’s your own personal history with Bond? Do you come as a fan of the novels, the movies — the comic serial?

I grew up with the movies. Didn’t we all? When I was a kid, the whole family would gather around our little black-and-white TV whenever a Bond movie came on.

The first movie I ever saw on my own at the cinema was “Moonraker” (I was 8), and then, as a teen I discovered Ian Fleming’s novels. Bond has always been there. To some extent, he’s influenced almost everything I’ve written. You can see it to a greater or lesser extent across the span of my work, from “Snow/Tiger” to “The Losers” to “Uncanny” to “Thief of Thieves.” It’s exciting to be going back to the source.

What kind of tone can we expect from “Hammerhead”? What do you want the experience of the series to be?

James Bond adventures tend to be larger than life — macabre villains, bold plans, and global stakes. The trick is to hit the right notes without falling into cliche. I make no apology for my love of bravura action sequences, and I’m enjoying bringing that into play here.

I want Hammerhead to be a pacy action thriller with brains as well as brawn. But it’s important also to give it room to breathe — to let Bond be Bond. I think we’ve got the balance right.

With his run on the other James Bond series, Warren Ellis has returned to the dark, brooding assassin of Fleming’s novels. Will you similarly be looking to revert Bond to type?

Yes. That said, Bond can’t afford to spend too much time brooding — there’s too much story to fit in! Fleming’s novels gave us a glimpse of Bond’s inner life, what drives him, his fatalistic outlook. It’s harder to do that in a comic without interior monologue, so you do it on the fly, and imply through dialogue and characterization. It’s what he does that defines him. His choices.

Bond is one of these male archetypes who has slid through cultural history for decades, that sort of primal alpha male confidence, right or wrong. What’s your personal take on him?

Alpha male is exactly right. He’s an icon of masculinity, for better and for worse. The positive aspects of that are his strength, his resilience, his relentlessness in pursuit of his goal. Risking his life for the greater good. Other aspects might be considered less positive in the modern world — the casual misogyny, the need to dominate. The things that make him very good at his job also make him, let’s say, not exactly the caring, sharing type. And that’s fine. That’s who he is.

I have no intention of softening Bond, but the world has changed in the last 50 years, and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I pretended otherwise. One way is to include female characters who aren’t there solely to be bedded, rescued and murdered. That said, sex and death lie at the heart of the Bond mystique, and I’m fully embracing that. It’s a fine line.

You’re joined by Luca Casalanguida for the series. What does Luca bring to the story, as an artist and stylist? How’ve you found the collaborative process?

Luca’s a real find. He has a wonderfully fluid European style which is a perfect fit for Bond. He’s in Italy and I’m in the UK, so we correspond via email, sending scripts and layouts back and forth until we’re in sync. It’s a very satisfying collaboration. Luca will go far.

How important is it to you both that you get a particular “look” for Bond? What do you want the character to evoke?

I want him to evoke James Bond! And I’m thrilled to say that Luca entirely succeeds. You only have to see his “Hammerhead” preview pages to know he’s captured the essence of Bond. The rugged self-confidence, the steely determination, the seductive charisma. We’re also paying attention to his fashion choices; James Bond is a man who knows how to dress well. Unlike me.

The sort of missions spies face have changed somewhat since the Cold War. What kind of threat did you want to bring him against for “Hammerhead”?

Part of the appeal for me is that the modern world presents a far more varied and complex espionage terrain than the “East versus West” days of the Cold War. Communism lost; capitalism won. In our networked, globalized world, all nations trade with each other and spy on each other at the same time. It’s not always obvious who the real enemy is. That’s inherently more interesting to me than “goodies versus baddies.”

It’s also vitally important that Bond go up against a villain who is every bit as smart and ruthless as he is. Bond stories are defined by their villains. In the case of “Hammerhead,” the villain is an enemy of capitalism itself — and maybe he has a point. Is Bond fighting to make the world a better place, or merely to maintain the status quo?

How does Bond fit within the contemporary world of espionage? Is that mix of old-fashioned attitude and modern-day one you want to bring to the forefront?

Ian Fleming’s portrayal of spycraft was inspired more by World War 2 commando operations, and his brother Peter’s globetrotting adventures, than the understated, covert tradecraft of the Cold War. Fleming was writing unashamed adventure stories, and that’s what I’m doing here, albeit grounded in plausible, present-day geopolitics. You won’t see any submarine cars or laser wristwatches in my Bond stories.

Although I can’t promise there won’t be any sharks. The first arc is called Hammerhead, after all…

In Britain, we have a history of using spy stories to comment on the current political landscape, and it’s certainly an unsettling time for us right now. With “Hammerhead,” do you share that interest in using the mission to speak to the current goals, mindset, attitudes within British society?

That’s a great question, and the answer is: Yes. The UK has been shaken to its core by the referendum result in favor of Brexit, i.e. to exit the European Union. That’s huge and, in my opinion, the worst national own-goal since the Suez crisis. That question of national identity lies at the heart of this story. What is Britain’s place in the world now? Are we a fading power, or will this free us? At what do we excel — and who is going to pay for it?

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