IFP announces new licensing deal for 007 comics

Cover for Marvel's 1981 comic adaptation of For Your Eyes Only

Cover for Marvel’s 1981 comic adaptation of For Your Eyes Only

Ian Fleming Publications said Oct. 7 it reached a licensing deal with Dynamite Entertainment for a new series of James Bond comics.

Here’s an excerpt from the IFP statement:

We are very proud to announce our new partnership with Dynamite Entertainment, a leading publisher of English language comic books and graphic novels, who have worldwide rights to produce comic books, digital comics and graphic novels starring James Bond. 007 will re-live the exploits that have thrilled and captivated fans for over half a century in fresh visual adaptations of Fleming’s classic Bond stories, the first of which will be launched in 2015. Moreover, Dynamite plans to create a series of brand new adventures unveiling the defining – and largely undocumented – early years of Bond’s career. These new stories will draw inspiration from the Fleming canon to explore Bond’s ‘origins’: his raw early years before he gambled with his life in the first novel, Casino Royale.

Bond has an uneven history of comic book adaptations.

DC Comics, now owned by Time Warner’s Warner Bros. unit, did an adaptation of Dr. No, the first 007 film, in 1963. Years later, Marvel Comics (now owned by Walt Disney Co.) adapted 1981’s For Your Eyes Only and 1983’s Octopussy. Before the DC and Marvel efforts, there were U.K. comic strip adaptations of Ian Fleming novels and short stories. Those comic strips have been reprinted previously.

Based on the IFP statement, the newest deal doesn’t involve Eon Productions, which has produced the 23-film James Bond movie series. For Bond fans, 2015 shapes up as the time for a new movie (the yet-untitled Bond 23), a new a new James Bond continuation novel and the new comic books/graphic novels.

New 007 author: novel’s title won’t be ‘Murder on Wheels’

Anthony Horowitz, hired by Ian Fleming Publications to write a new James Bond novel, took to Twitter to say what the title isn’t.

Here’s the text of the Tweet:

IFP, in AN OCT. 1 STATEMENT, said Horowitz’s novel would be based on an Ian Fleming outline for an episode of a never-produced 007 television series. The outline has the title Murder on Wheels. IFP never said that would be the title of the novel. But Horowitz evidently felt there was enough confusion he wanted to clarify — and added a tidbit of information in the process.

IFP announces new James Bond novel for 2015

IFP says new novel to inspired by "unseen Fleming material."

IFP says new novel to inspired by “unseen Fleming material.”

Ian Fleming Publications said Oct. 1 a new James Bond continuation novel is coming out next year inspired by “previously unseen material written by Ian Fleming.:

Here’s an excerpt of A STATEMENT ON IFP’S WEBPAGE.

Ian Fleming Publications Ltd. and the Ian Fleming Estate are delighted to announce that bestselling and award-winning author Anthony Horowitz has been invited to write the next James Bond novel, due for worldwide release on 8th September 2015.

Horowitz is one of the UK’s most successful authors and has over forty books to his name including his recent Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk, and his enormously successful teen spy series featuring Alex Rider. As a TV screenwriter he created both Midsomer Murders and the BAFTA-winning Foyle’s War, and is looking forward to taking on his next project:

(snip)
Set in the 1950s, Horowitz’s story will be unique among the modern James Bond novels, in that a section will contain previously unseen material written by Ian Fleming. (emphasis in original)

Since 2008, the 100th anniversary of Fleming’s birth, IFP has mostly commissioned period Bond novels. Offerings by Sebastian Faulks (Devil May Care) and William Boyd (Solo) were set in 1967 and 1969 respectively. The one exception was Jeffery Deaver’s Carte Blanche, featuring a timeshifted Bond in the “present day” of its 2011 publication.

The Horowitz project goes backward, based on the IFP statement. A Fleming great niece, Jessie Grimond, is quoted as saying the novel is based episode treatments Fleming wrote for a never-made televisions series. Fleming subsequently turned some of the television story outlines into short stories in 1960’s For Your Eyes Only collection. Grimond says in the statement “there are a few plot outlines which he never used and which, till now, have never been published, or aired.”

Specifically, according to IFP, the starting point for the new novel is a Fleming treatment titled Murder on Wheels, which “follows Bond on a mission in the world of motor racing.”

The move continues IFP’s strategy of a series of one-offs featuring “adult” Bond while also commissioning “Young Bond” novels and other projects. IFP management changed in the 2000s. For a long period before that, it employed an author to do an ongoing series of “timeshifted” Bond novels written by John Gardner, which ran from 1981 to 1995, and Raymond Benson, from 1997 to 2002. After Benson’s finale, the literary “adult Bond” went into hibernation until Faulks’ 2008 novel.

None of the Bond continuation novels has drawn any serious interest from Eon Productions, which produces the 007 films. The publication of the Horowitz novel will come shortly before Bond 24 is set to be released.

What’s the future of 007 continuation novels?

007 continuation novel authors William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks and friend.

007 authors William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks and friend.

Another James Bond novel has been published. So where does the series go from here? Ian Fleming Publictions (formerly Glidrose) has been all over the place.

From 1981 until 2002, continuation novels by John Gardner followed by Raymond Benson were published pretty much on a regular basis.

A new regime then took control of the literary 007 and that changed. The literary secret agent went on hiatus while novels featuring a young James Bond and The Moneypenny Diaries were published.

Since 2008, and the return of an adult Bond, Ian Fleming Publications has veered from period piece (Devil May Care) to total reboot (Carte Blanche) back to period piece (Solo).

The only thing the novels have in common is name authors: Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver and William Boyd.

The question is whether that strategy is working. There were reports (such as THIS ONE ON THE MI6 JAMES BOND FAN WEBSITE) that sales have tailed off in the U.K. since Faulks’s Devil May Care, published the same year as the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s birth.

Novels written by John Gardner and Raymond Benson attempted to maintain a sense of continuity, with stories playing upon one another. The current IFP management seems to prefer one-off adventures that have no connection to each other.

Part of that stems from the choice of employing big-name authors — their James Bond will only live once.

“They find it fun and enjoyable but they’ve got their own books to write.” Corinne Turner, Corinne Turner, managing director of IFP, told The New York Times in a story PUBLISHED THIS MONTH.

Strictly a guess, but don’t expect another adult James Bond continuation novel soon. IFP has announced a new Young Bond series, with Steve Cole taking over from Charlie Higson. So IFP will be busy.

Also, based on The New York Times story, IFP doesn’t sound like it intends to change direction for the literary adult 007. So, if IFP opts to keep going for big-name writers, perhaps it will keep 007 off the market for a while to let demand build back up.

For the moment, there’s no incentive to make a major change. Eon Productions has made clear it has no interest in using continuation novels as the basis of 007 movies.

Eon co-boss Michael G. Wilson criticized the Gardner novels in the 1980s and ’90s. Meanwhile, John Logan, one of Skyfall’s screenwriters, was hired to write the next two movies, the first of which won’t be out until two years from now.

So the next time you read about a 007 author saying his story has “been sent to Eon,” the best-case scenario was the novel was placed on a shelf.

REVIEW: Solo by William Boyd

solonovel

Solo, William Boyd’s turn at penning a James Bond continuation novel, tries to thread a needle: giving fans of the literary 007 what they want while putting his own spin on the proceedings.

Boyd succeeds, at least most of the time. The author’s tale, set in 1969, uses a thinly disguised version of the Nigerian civil war as a setting and manages to provide readers a sampling of his world view without seeming too preachy.

Meanwhile, Bond drinks a lot of alcohol and a lot of different kinds; he periodically smiles grimly to himself; and he’s still fussy about what he eats (including having his own salad dressing). What’s not to like?

Well, in his drive to make Bond a real person who makes mistakes, Boyd occasionally has 007 commit Homer Simpson moments.

Bond goes rogue, makes his own fake passport but — D’OH! — forgets to come up with a fake U.S. driver’s license until he’s already arrived at Washington’s Dulles airport. Later, Bond curses how he doesn’t have coins to throw to create a diversion until — D’OH! — he suddenly remembers he’s carrying (and has been for some time) a sock with $10 worth of nickels and dimes to use as a weapon.

Also, at one point, Boyd actually writes this piece of Bond reflecting: “Revenge is a dish best served cold, he reminded himself.” Evidently, Boyd’s Bond is a great secret agent but not an original thinker.

To be fair, that’s quibbling. Overall, the story holds the reader’s interest. Boyd keeps the reader turning the pages. The author demonstrates knowledge of Fleming’s Bond. He drops in references to Ian Fleming novels in such a way that long-time readers will pick them up but doesn’t bog down the narrative.

Boyd doesn’t attempt to provide a Dr. No/Auric Goldfinger/Ernst Stavro Blofeld mastermind villain. There isn’t even a Kronsteen/Rosa Klebb opponent. Given the geopolitical theme Boyd inserts, that’s probably for the best. Boyd’s interest is the geopolitics. There is a villain, Kobus Breed, but he’s at best in the Red Grant class.

No, Boyd want to make a broader point about How the World Really Works and how Bond, Breed, Felix Leither, M and other characters are all having their strings pulled.

Fleming’s originals, published from 1953 into the 1960s, were a then-new take on St. George and the Dragon. For Boyd, St. George and the Dragon are pawns on the chessboard of life. It’s just a part of how Boyd sought to make 007 his own. GRADE: B.

Earlier posts:

April 2013: OPEN CHANNEL D: WILLIAM BOYD’S FLEMING RESEARCH GAP

August 2013: THE AFRICAN WAR THAT MAY HAVE INFLUENCED BOYD’S SOLO

Boyd discusses Solo with The New York Times

William Boyd

William Boyd

The New York Times THIS WEEK examined continuation novels in general and 007 continuation novels in particular, focusing on the latest, William Boyd’s Solo.

The reporter, Sarah Lyall, posed the question why readers would buy a continuation novel featuring one writer’s take on another author’s character.

“I think it’s a reader-driven thing,” said Mr. Boyd, who was interviewed on the phone from London and later in person in New York. “If people like the characters and like the stories, they want more of the same. Because authors are finite creatures and stop writing and fall off their perches, these rebootings can satisfy readers’ needs. People want to find out what Elizabeth Bennet did next.”

Boyd, meanwhile, told Lyall, that he was given enough leeway by Ian Fleming Publications to make the project worth his while. “I wanted to write a gritty, realistic spy novel about a human being, not anything fantastical or silly, with organizations trying to rule the world,” he told the Times.

As for IFP’s perspective, Lyall provides this:

“This is bringing a fresh, new interesting life to Bond,” said Corinne Turner, managing director of Ian Fleming Publications. It’s “about the heritage,” she said, not the money.

The story notes that IFP’s copyright on the literary Bond lasts until 2034, or 70 years after Ian Fleming’s death.

The story examines a number of other continuation novel projects, including one where Sebastian Faulks — author of the 2008 007 continuation novel Devil May Care — is a participant. You can CLICK HERE to read it. The story ran on page one of the Oct. 23 print edition of the paper.

The African war that may have influenced Boyd’s Solo

William Boyd

William Boyd

Solo, the new James Bond novel by William Boyd, according to U.S. publisher HarperCollins, is set in 1969 and takes place in “Zanzarim, a troubled West African nation” that “is being ravaged by a bitter civil war.” Bond is assigned “to quash the rebels threatening the established regime.”

It sounds as if Solo’s story may concern a fictional version of a real war. From 1967 to 1970, THE NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR raged, after the southeastern provinces of Nigeria, a former U.K. colony, seceded to form the Republic of Biafra. (To see a Wikipedia map, CLICK HERE.) Nigeria, with U.K. support, took back Biafra. That civil war also produced MANY DISTURBING IMAGES, including those of starving children.

Boyd has written a number of stories set in Africa.

If Solo is using the Nigerian civil war as the basis for the plot, it won’t be the first time a spy novel has done so. The 1967-70 conflict was a setting in the 2009 novel FREE AGENT by Jeremy Duns. The novel’s lead character is Paul Dark, who “is a seasoned agent for MI6 when a KGB officer turns up in Nigeria during the Biafran civil war wanting to defect.”

In the publicity materials for Free Agent, the story is endorsed by William Boyd, who calls the tale a “wholly engrossing and sophisticated spy novel.”

UPDATE: Jeremy Duns, in a reply to yesterday’s post about the HarperCollins plot summary, provides a LINK to the plot summary of Solo by the Curtis Brown literary and talent agency. It reads thusly (with the part in boldface type added emphasis by this blog):

It is 1969 and James Bond is about to go solo, recklessly motivated by revenge.

A seasoned veteran of the service, 007 is sent to single-handedly stop a civil war in the small West African nation of Zanzarim. Aided by a beautiful accomplice and hindered by the local militia, he undergoes a scarring experience which compels him to ignore M’s orders in pursuit of his own brand of justice. Bond’s renegade action leads him to Washington, DC, where he discovers a web of geopolitical intrigue and witnesses fresh horrors.

Even if Bond succeeds in exacting his revenge, a man with two faces will come to stalk his ever waking moment.

To view Wikipedia’s entry for the Nigerian Civil War, CLICK HERE

To view a promotion for Free Agent along with an excerpt, CLICK HERE.

Earlier post:

BOYD’S U.S. PUBLISHER PROVIDES PLOT SUMMARY OF SOLO

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