Bond After Brexit: Kieron Gillen Declassifies ‘James Bond: Service’ [Interview]
Later this year, Kieron Gillen and Antonio Fuso team-up for a one-shot at Dynamite titled James Bond: Service, which sees the infamous spy caught up in a plot to end the Special Relationship between the United States and Great Britain with a single gunshot. ComicsAlliance chatted to Gillen about what makes a modern Bond story, making Bond his own, and what James Bond means in a post-Brexit world.
ComicsAlliance: I want to start with an obvious one, but I think for Brits like you and I, James Bond holds a certain cultural importance that he doesn’t elsewhere. How important is James Bond to you?
Kieron Gillen: It’s a trickier question than you’d think. This isn’t like a comic character you’ve known, or some cult figure, which is very British, but also somehow counter-cultural. Hell, even [Doctor] Who isn’t Bond. Bond is Bond. Bond is like getting to write the the 1966 World Cup Team.
So he’s important to me, but in the way the sun is. It’s there. It’s always been there. It’s been there as long as I’ve remembered, and shaded everything by its existence. Bond is being British, to some degree, either positively or negatively. It’s just there.
So, yes, some of that certainly filters into the story.
CA: I suppose Bond is somewhat similar to superhero comics, where you have to filter out different interpretations to find your voice for the character and the franchise, but how do you decide where to cherry-pick influences and interpretations?
KG: That’s a good comparison, and my choices echo what I tend to do elsewhere. As in, I look at the larger scale of what the character could mean, I look at the world we find ourselves in, and (when in continuity of some kind) I look at the work that’s surrounding it. In short, “Why do I care about this character?”, “What is the world like now”, and, “What have other people done?”
For the last, my first step was looking at what [Warren] Ellis and [Andy] Diggle have been writing, and how [Jason] Masters and [Luca] Casalanguida have been incarnating those ideas. Generally speaking, we’ve got the hard-edged modern techno-thrillers, and clearly based on the shark of a character of the books. I knew tonally I wanted mine to be filed with that --- which is one reason Antonio is a great artist for the book. He’s got the stylized but clearly modern style that speaks to that mood. I knew with whatever else I was up to, he’d make it feel sufficiently hard-edged.
The other two parts of the book were looking at the world, seeing what’s interesting, and how Bond can be used as a filter to examine it.
Oh, and I obviously went and chewed over a few of the books to make sure I was getting that guy. I’ve actually got an enormous affection for more playful Bond, but I wasn’t writing that.
CA: Bond titles are the sort of thing that obsessives like to pick over, especially in the internet age whenever a new one is announced. Is there a weight of intimidation when it comes to naming your James Bond story, and what does “Service” mean in relation to the plot?
KG: Like most of my titles, I’m trying to evoke several things at once. In the most literal way, it’s MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service. The story digs into the origins of that particular service, and plays with that. What is Bond for? Hell, what is MI6 or even Britain for?
I mean, I feel I’m stating the obvious here. Service. What does service mean? How and whom do we serve? That kind of thing.
Also, being an old '90s indie kid, one word enigmatic titles are very on brand.
CA: The description for “Service” presents Britain as unsure of its own place in the larger geopolitical picture; is it too much of a simplification to describe this story as "Bond Does Brexit"?
KG: It’s certainly a story that was conceived in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, specifically the observation that a UK out of Europe was less use to the US. I haven’t tied it too 1:1 to Brexit, but it’s clearly of its time. That’s unavoidable, for anyone. Hell, people who try to write timeless work produce nothing but period pieces anyway. We live in this world. We can’t escape it, even when we try to escape it. Where we run to says a lot about where we are.
While the specifics vary, as a story about fading Empire, where the Service came from, what it was for and where we are now… well, that’s Britain. It could have been written at any point after WW2. You read those early Dan Dare strips in the 1950s, and you can see similar emotions to what I’m tapping here.
CA: What’s your collaboration like with Antonio Fuso, both in terms of Bond himself and the world of your story.?Are you taking visual cues and character likenesses established in Warren Ellis and Jason Masters’ ongoing?
KG: Yup. We wanted to make it feel part of the same world they’ve established, while making it our own.
As we’re talking Ellis, I’m always reminded of something he wrote about coming back to work-for-hire in the 00s --- the idea of WFH for a certain strand of creator as being like doing a cover version. Here’s the song, we all know how it goes… and this is how I’m going to do it. He used M. Ward’s blissed comedown cover of "Let’s Dance" as an example. It’s something everyone knows, but Ward’s doing it Ward’s way, and Ellis would be doing (say) Iron Man Ellis’s [way]. Hell, seeing Ellis and Adi [Granov] do Iron Man "Their Way" is part of the thrill.
So Bond would be that. A big one-off special, and doing Bond in a very Me filter. Hit all those Bond elements, set it in the specific Bond world Ellis/Masters have made, but make it very much me.
Er… the “historical research, cultural examination” me, not the “Listening to the Propellerheads a lot” side of me.
That said, I did write it almost completely to that album, so perhaps best to ignore me.
CA: How sci-fi and weird do you like your Bond? It sounds like Service is a more down-to-Earth, pounding-the-pavement 007.
KG: Gadgets enough to give the techno-shimmer, but nothing beyond that. It’s particularly grounded. Even the choice of the dramatic locale for the firefights grounds it. Bond is always about action happening in interesting places, and I think we’ve done that… but it’s not a distant beach or a volcano base.
CA: Lastly, did you have anything to do with Jamie McKelvie’s incredibly phallic cover, or was that all him?
KG: My sole involvement with that was applause.
The James Bond one-shot James Bond: Service, by Kieron Gillen and Antonio Fuso, goes on sale this May from Dynamite Entertainment.