Fan Expo: Milligan Spies Action With "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a new genre of adventure fiction began to emerge, one characterized by espionage and intrigue. Over the years, numerous compelling and diverse takes on the "spy story" have been told by a variety of novelists. A significant number of the authors working in the genre have been British, like Graham Greene, John Le Carre and Len Deighton. The most successful British spy novelist has to be Ian Fleming, whose character, MI6 Agent James Bond, was featured in 12 novels and 2 short story collections.

While there have been many Bond novels published after Fleming's original dozen, it's been the wildly successful James Bond film franchise that has really captured the imagination of the world. The first Bond film was released in 1962 and the franchise continues to this day, though due to the character's longevity, six different actors have brought James Bond to life on the big screen. Each actor had a slightly different take on the character, influenced by the time period in which their particular films were made.

These different takes on James Bond inspired Mike Perkins and Tony Bedard's 2004 CrossGen comic series "Kiss Kiss Bang." In December, writer Peter Milligan and artist Roman Rosanas will reimagine "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" for a new era in a four-issue miniseries published through Marvel Comics' CrossGen imprint. CBR News spoke with Milligan about the project, which was announced yesterday by Marvel at their "Next Big Thing" panel at the Fan Expo Canada convention in Toronto.

CBR News: Peter, these days you're very busy, and it seems like your workload is all about variety. At Vertigo, you've done crime and horror comics with "Greek Street" and "Hellblazer." For Marvel, you wrote the Samurai epic "5 Ronin" and a pulp superhero thriller starring the Agents of Atlas in "Fear itself: The Home Front."  And come September, you'll be writing several new titles for DC Comics' New 52. With all that going on, what made you want to tackle a relaunch of "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?" Were you a fan of the original CrossGen series?

Peter Milligan: Yes, that does seem to be a lot of variety, but it's not really planned as such. "KKBB" interested me firstly because it's not the kind of thing you normally get the chance to write, especially for Marvel. It's world I'm keen on -- I'm a big fan of John Le Carre novels and I enjoy the hidden layers of darkness lurking within the James Bond books. I was interested in splicing that with some James Bond movie widescreen action, yet do a story that really is about character. It's also quietly political and slyly subversive.

Can you outline the basic set up of your "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" series? How similar and how different is it from the original, which was about the latest person to assume the identity of the top spy working for Britain's MI6?

My story is about a young man, Alan McGrath, who works for MI6 and is really thrown into the deep end when he is asked (in fact ordered) to assume the role of Charles Kiss. Things are made more complex by the fact that Kiss was and is something of a hero-figure for young McGrath. Kiss stands for everything McGrath believes is good and true -- can McGrath live up to this? And can his idealism withstand the brutal realities of the field?

When your story begins, how does McGrath feel about becoming the new Kiss? Is he happy to have been tasked with assuming the identity used by Britain's top agent?

I wouldn't say he was "happy" to be given his first mission -- more like awed. But he responds with a vigor that perhaps surprises even him. Only, the problems don't end there.

In terms of plot and themes what is "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" about? Since the story involves one man assuming the identity of another, does it afford you the chance to examine some of the deep psychological questions you looked at in your "Human Target" series?

The themes are of loyalty, hero-worship and idealism. It's true there are some slight echoes of some of the psychological issues I dug into in "Human Target," but that's not really what it's about. At least at the beginning, McGrath is very aware that he is a man playing a role, acting a part. Of course, his ability to play it well might determine whether he lives or dies.

The best spies are defined by their enemies. What can you tell us about the foes you're going to pit Alan McGrath against?

It's difficult without giving too much of the story away, but McGrath has a number of enemies in the story. Some of them turn out to be a big shock, definitely not what he was expecting.

How important an element is the setting "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" takes place in?

In a story like this, that's nodding to the high-adventure capers of James Bond, location is very important. Therefore the locations in "KKBB" are glamorous and exotic and afford McGrath both a sense of the high-life -- but are also life-threatening.

The original "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" examined the James Bond super spy archetype. Since that series was first published, that archetype has been revised and given a grittier, realistic feel in the Daniel Craig-starring Bond films. Will "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" have more in common with the Sean Connery era of James Bond films? Or the Daniel Craig era?

I certainly wasn't consciously thinking is this "Craig" or "Connery" (and clearly Roger Moore never got a bloody look in), but you'd have to say that this story conforms more to the more modern, nuanced and potentially ironic later movies. But that was probably more a matter of osmosis than design.

"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is being brought to life by Roman Rosanas, an artist best known for his work on unique super hero stories like "Spider-Man: 1602" and "The Age of the Sentry." What can readers expect from him on this series?

The artwork is terrific. Roman suits this kind of story very well. It's realistic enough to be convincing but is heightened when it needs to be. There's a stylishness to his work, a sexy panache.

Any final thoughts you would like to share with us about "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?"

I'm really happy with it. I think it's smart and sexy. What more can you want?

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