One of the pillars of Double-0 Aficionado is diversification, to not always write about the same thing over and over again. It feels only right to preface this article pertaining the ongoing comic book series considering that an article broaching that very topic went up only a couple months ago. However, the circumstances under which I feel the need to write another, non-review article are particular.
MI6-hq.com, always ones with special insight and access into the world of 007, recently published an article on the rapidly dwindling sales of the Dynamite Entertainment James Bond monthly series. This came as something of a surprise to me, although upon further reflection, I now admit that it probably shouldn’t have. I won’t quote MI6-HQ’s work word for word (follow the link for more details), but suffice to say that a respectable debut as far sales go with the first issue in November of 2015 has not been followed through with. There are, in fairness, a couple of caveats the article alludes to, most notably that the figures they have obtained strictly concern the American market. Even so, the numbers shared are discouraging.
I remember back in late 2015 and early 2016, when I hadn’t clued in on the idea about opening an account at a comic book store to reserve issues, that the first few were in fact somewhat difficult to acquire on the day of release or a few days afterwards. And this was at more than just one store. I naturally, albeit erroneously at the time, concluded that this suggested sales were strong. Hindsight is 20/20 of course.
My opinion on the Dynamite series’ has already been shared both here on some social media platforms, therefore there is little purpose in me arguing all over again “Hey, it’s great and I love it!”. I will however point out that, now that the Warren Ellis/Jason Masters and Andy Diggle/Luca Casalanguida runs have concluded, the Felix Leiter miniseries from James Robinson and Aaron Campbell is halfway through, and Black Box from Benjamin Percy/Rapha Lobosco has begun in earnest, the publishing house has done something that tickles my fancy greatly. While originally advertised as modern day American-style comic book adaptations of Ian Fleming’s literary creation, the product now, by way of being moulded by diverse talents with their interests and strengths, is now more amorphous.
Much like its cinematic counterpart, the Dynamite 007 is fluid with respect to tone and attitude. Whereas with Vargr and Eidolon, Ellis and Jason really did dedicate themselves to an early 21st century interpretation of what Ian Fleming’s character and his world could be like, artists like Diggle and Casalanguida peppered their run Hammerhead with slightly more tongue in cheek moments and movie-like gadgetry. Percy and Lobosco, through only one issue of Black Box as of this article’s publication, clearly love the movies and have injected that sort of humour along the crazy gadgets from Q branch. This is what makes James Bond so much fun: the variations on the character when put into the hands of smart people that love the property dearly, but come at it from different angles. For that reason, among many others, I certainly urge as many fans to pick up copies, be they in print or digital format.
The fact that the efforts have not struck as strong a chord as I’d hoped (and, one assumes, as Dynamite Entertainment themselves had hoped) is perhaps not so positively shocking. If one is being honest and seriously asking whether or not the James Bond fanbase, as a general rule, comes across as one with inclinations towards comic book reading, can the answer truly be ‘yes’? Whether right or wrong, for good or ill, 007 is regarded as sophisticated, somewhat elitist, maybe even a little snobbish. Comic books, at least those of the American variety, are not something easily associated with sophistication, even despite their obvious, powerful influence on popular culture, both within the comic book industry and in film and television. Whether or not the argument holds water barely matters: comic books are not deemed literary. Bond is. Traditional literature is typically deemed as superior to comic books, therefore Bond fans don’t gravitate towards the latter.
Should they choose to, readers can argue that my line of reasoning is a load of tosh. For all I know, perhaps it is indeed tosh. The fact remains that, with precious little Bond 25 news making the rounds despite Spectre becoming increasingly distant in the rear view mirror, fans have not flocked towards the only regular, consistent, and I would argue entertaining source of new and original 007 content. There has to be a reason explaining that, be it the one I offer or another. If anyone reads this post in the early spring of 2017, give the Dynamite series’ a try. If it’s not your cup of tea, fine. As Bond says in Thunderball after failing to seduce Fiona Volpe to the side of virtue, ‘You can’t win them all.’ But let’s at least give what Dynamite is offering a chance to make a decent go at it.