Paul Baack, extraordinary 007 fan, dies

Paul Baack (1957-2017 ) in 2013, wearing headphones to utilize his voice-activated software.

Paul Baack, co-founder of the James bond fan site Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, died today at 60.

Paul and Tom Zielinski began the site, intended as a James Bond “e-magazine,” in 1997. HMSS, according to the founders, was the equivalent of a “toy train” for them.

It was more, of course.

From 1997 until 2011, HMSS presented magazine-length articles about James Bond and related topics. Contributors included Raymond Benson, the 007 continuation novel author from 1997 to 2002.

Benson named a character after Paul in his 1999 Bond novel High Time to Kill.

Normally an obituary refers to its subject by his or her last name. But the Spy Commander, for this obit, will refer to him by his first name.

Paul, from the beginning, designed the HMSS pages. His graphics enhanced the articles. He had a way of prodding the authors to make their contributions just a little bit better. Paul would make suggestions to improve the articles.

Those suggestions came in the form of a gentle nudge, not a dictate. HMSS, after all, was a hobby — the toy train analogy — not life or death. Nevertheless, Paul’s instincts were excellent. He was right far more than he was wrong.

Paul Baack-designed promo for the fall 2011 issue of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, the e-magazine’s last issue.

Paul led a tough life. In 2003, he was paralyzed after being struck by a car. Despite that, he carried on. He utilized voice-activated software to do his HMSS work and follow his various other interests, which included doing artwork such as THIS and THIS and THIS.

This blog was, in fact, Paul’s idea. He wanted a way for HMSS to have a presence on the internet between “issues.” The Spy Commander was among the HMSS contributors.

Eventually, I took over the blog. But I was always aware he was reading. I was always glad to receive his feedback.

HMSS had a good run. It went offline in 2014.

“Bond and Holly” by Paul Baack

Paul was one of the most memorable people I ever met. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering he endured since 2003. But he endured it with warmth, and grace and humor.

James Bond fandom is richer for what Paul and Tom Zielinski started. This blog, obviously, would not exist without Paul’s encouragement.

After HMSS went offline, the blog published THIS POST about how it was now on its own. Paul posted this comment:

“‘Upward and onward’ indeed! Heartfelt thanks to you, Bill, for keeping the flame.”

Thanks to you Paul, for lighting the flame in the first place.

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The Spy Command marks its 9th anniversary

Today marks the ninth anniversary of The Spy Command.

The blog began with the name The HMSS Weblog. The first post on Oct. 8, 2008 concerned how three Raymond Benson James Bond continuation novels had been collected under the title The Union Trilogy. The post was penned by Paul Baack, who had the idea of the blog.

The Spy Commander, who has been running the blog for some time, didn’t weigh in with his first post until Oct. 19, 2008. That concerned A Man Called Sloane, the short-lived spy adventure with Robert Conrad and produced by QM Productions.

The blog began to hit its stride (and find its own voice) with a 2009 series of posts about the 45th anniversary of Goldfinger. It later had series of posts about the 50th anniversary of Dr. No and From Russia With Love as well as series about Dr. No’s script and behind-the-scenes financial issues of Dr. No. (CLICK HERE for part I.)

The blog formally was on its own in September 2014. The blog changed its name to The Spy Command in February 2015.

Assuming the blog is still around next year, we’ll have to do something more elaborate for the 10th anniversary.

20th anniversary of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant

Paul Baack, co-founder of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, left, along with some doofus, circa 2013.

Next month is the 20th anniversary of the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant fan website.

This blog, which debuted in 2008, was a spinoff of the site.

HMSS was founded by Paul Baack and Tom Zielinski in April 1997 as a James Bond “e-magazine.”

HMSS churned out issues that included contributions from Raymond Benson, the 007 novel continuation novel author from 1997 to 2002.

HMSS’ final issue was in the fall of 2011 and it went offline in 2014.

Still, for those of us (such as the Spy Commander) who contributed articles it was mostly an enjoyable time. In any creative endeavor, there are different points of views. But the end product was always worth it.

The highlight of every issue were the graphics that Paul Baack designed. If an article was OK, his graphics made it good. If the article was good, his graphics made it excellent. He always had exciting ideas to bring articles to life.

A personal note: I’ve always admired Paul’s energy and ideas. Not to belabor the point (and not to go into details), but he’s had health difficulties for a long time. I cannot personally imagine what he’s gone through.

So, with this post, the Spy Commander (figuratively) raises a glass to a special time. Those of us who contributed ot the site will never forget it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays one and all

This has been the blog’s annual holiday greeting since 2011, when it was affiliated with the now-inactive (but fondly remembered) Her Majesty’s Secret Servant site.

The graphic was designed by Paul Baack, co-founder of HMSS, who also had the idea for the blog.

It’s such a great image and it’s presented here once more. Paul still reads the blog on occasion. So if he spots this, here’s a big thanks from the Spy Commander.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

Christmas-greetings-from-HMSS

Merry Christmas from The Spy Command

This has been the blog’s annual holiday greeting since 2011, going back to when the blog was affiliated with the now-inactive Her Majesty’s Secret Servant site.

The graphic was designed by Paul Baack, who had the idea for the blog. It’s such a great image and it’s presented here once more.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

HMSS-Xmas-greetings

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Our annual holiday greeting, a tradition since 2011. Art by Paul Baack.

Christmas-greetings-from-HMSS

The evolution of James Bond movies

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

An exchange with a former colleague prompted us to look back at how James Bond films have evolved the past decade.

Paul Baack, co-founder of the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website (and originator of this blog), made the following observation via social media. His quote is presented here with his permission.

“At their best, James Bond movies are factory-made ‘B’ pictures with…’A movie’ polish.”

Ian Fleming’s original novels had a lot of influences. Some of his novels come across as fancier versions of pulp adventure stories. At one time, pulp-like stories were “B” movie fodder while “A” films were more prestigious, adult fare.

The early Bond movies were, indeed, like “B” movies with “A” movie gloss. Even the modestly budgeted Dr. No had Ken Adam-designed sets that made it look more expensive than it really was. Back in September, we posed the questions whether Goldfinger could be considered the first “A-movie” comic book film.

And, whether you consider them a factory product, the movies were controlled by producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and later Broccoli solo. Directors had impact, but Bond films weren’t part of the auteur school of movie making.

Since 2005, when actor Daniel Craig was cast for Casino Royale, the formula changed. The Bond series, in some respects, became “A-movie” dramas with genre-movie action sequences and special effects.

Directors began to exhibit auteur tendencies. Marc Forster had scripts reshaped to fit his “classical four elements” theme of fire, water, earth and air (see HAPHAZARD STUFF’s four-part video review of the film for details). Sam Mendes, with Skyfall, emphasized drama. Example: near the end of the pre-credits sequence, when it appears Bond has been killed, it starts raining outside M’s office. Also, M (Judi Dench) gets to read a poem in a dramatic moment.

Bond directors have yet to get a vanity credit — “A Sam Mendes Film” or “A Film by Sam Mendes”. Still, they do seem to have more control than under the Brocccoli-Saltzman days. With Mendes aboard once more for SPECTRE, that doesn’t look to change.

Meanwhile, the new Bond dramas aren’t inexpensive. Documents hacked from Sony Pictures indicate the new movie’s budget may exceed $300 million, which would make it one of the most expensive movies of all time. That’s not just “A-movie” polish, that’s a warehouse full of “A-movie” polish.