George Perez dies at 67

Cover to a collection of George Perez art at Marvel

Retired comic book artist George Perez died May 6 at age 67 from complications from pancreatic cancer. His death was reported by the Comic Book Resources website.

Perez announced in December that he had been diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer and opted to forgo treatment.

The artist retired a few years ago because of health issues related to diabetes. During his career, which began in the early 1970s, he worked extensively at both Marvel and DC.

His efforts included the Avengers, the Justice League of America, and the Teen Titans. His stories helped influence comic book-based movies. He illustrated Crisis on Infinite Earths, a mid-1980s series meant to streamline the DC Comics universe.

DC published a tribute to Perez on Saturday afternoon.

UPDATE: Marvel also came out with a tribute.

Dr. No’s 60th-anniversary conclusion: Legacy

Adapted from a 2012 post.

In evaluating the legacy of Dr. No as it approaches its 60th anniversary, start with the obvious: There’s still a 007 film series to talk about.

James Bond isn’t the biggest entertainment property in the world the way it was in 1965. But its longevity is unique.

The time that has passed includes more than a decade of enforced hiatus (a troublesome 1975 financial split between Eon co-founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; a legal fight in the early 1990s between Broccoli and MGM; and MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy) disrupting production of the Bond movies.

Still, the Bond films soldier on. The 25th entry, No Time to Die, debuted in the fall of 2021.

The series turned actor Sean Connery into a major star. It made Roger Moore, known mostly as a television star, into a movie star. The same applies to Pierce Brosnan. It made Daniel Craig a star. Even George Lazenby (one movie) and Timothy Dalton (two) who had limited runs as 007 are identified with the series.

The films generated new fans of Ian Fleming’s hero to the point that the movie 007 long ago outsized the influence of his literary counterpart. Finally, the film 007 helped form an untold number of friendships among Bond fans who would have never met otherwise.

All of that began with a modestly budgeted film, without a big-name star, led by a director for hire, Terence Young, who’d be instrumental in developing the cinema version of Agent 007. Dr. No, filmed in Jamaica and at Pinewood Studios, made all that followed possible.

Fans may fuss and feud about which Bond they like best. This 007 film or that may be disparaged by some fans, praised by others. The series may get rebooted. Bond may get recast. The tone of the entries may vary greatly.

In the end, Bond continues. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. can’t say that; The Avengers, the John Steed variety which debuted the year before Dr. No, can’t say that; Matt Helm can’t say that. Jason Bourne, which influenced recent 007 movies, hasn’t been heard from since a 2016 film.

Many of those responsible for Dr. No aren’t around to take the bows.

They include:

–Producers Broccoli and Saltzman

–Director Young

–Screenwriter Richard Maibaum

–Editor Peter Hunt

–Production designer Ken Adam

–United Artists studio executive Arthur Krim, who greenlighted the project

–David V. Picker, another key UA executive, who was a Bond booster

–Joseph Wiseman, who played the title charater, the first film Bond villain

–Jack Lord, the first, and some fans say still the best, screen Felix Leiter, who’d become a major television star on Hawaii Five-O

–Art director Syd Cain

–Composer John Barry who orchestrated Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme and who would later define 007 film music.

–Nikki van der Zyl, who dubbed Ursula Andress in Dr. No and would work on other Bond films.

–Finally, Sean Connery, who brought the film Bond to life, passed away in 2020 at the age of 90.

That’s too bad but that’s what happens with the passage of time. The final product, though remains. It’s all summed up with these words:

James Bond will return. (Even with the ending of No Time to Die.)

George Perez announces terminal cancer diagnosis

Cover to a collection of George Perez work at Marvel

Retired comic book artist George Perez said in a statement on Facebook he has been diagnosed with Stage 3 pancreatic cancer.

Perez, 67, said he has opted to forgo treatment and that his life expectancy is six months to a year.

The artist retired about three years ago because of health issues related to diabetes. During his career, he worked extensively at both Marvel and DC, including the Avengers, the Justice League of America, and the Teen Titans. His stories helped influence comic book-based movies.

“This is not a message I enjoyed writing, especially during the Holiday Season, but, oddly enough, I’m feeling the Christmas spirit more now than I have in many years,” Perez said in the statement.

Perez received tributes on social media, including from current and former comic book professionals.

1978: QM tries its version of The Avengers

In the late 1970s, things were changing at QM Productions. Founder Quinn Martin sold his company to Taft Broadcasting and those he left behind tried to carry on.

One project after Martin’s departure was Escapade, a QM version of The Avengers. It starred Granville Van Dusen and Morgan Fairchild. QM brought aboard Brian Clemens as writer-producer. Clemens was was of the major creative forces behind The Avengers and its 1970s revival, The New Avengers.

Escapade included a mammoth computer to assist its heroes. QM held onto the general notion. In 1979, QM launched A Man Called Sloane, which also had a chattering computer.

By this time, many of the QM behind-the-camera veterans had also departed. One who was still around was John Conwell, QM’s long-time casting director. So was John Elizalde, the music supervisor who hired composers for QM productions.

Here is the video. H/T @LeeGoldberg who got our attention about this.

Diana Rigg gets left out of BAFTA ‘In Memoriam’

Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

This weekend, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, or BAFTA, gave out its film awards. It’s the U.K. equivalent of the Oscars.

Like the Oscars, the BAFTAs include an “In Memoriam” segment. This year’s “In Memoriam” left out Diana Rigg (1938-2020). Variety, which was covering the awards inquired why. Here’s a tweet the entertainment news outlet put out:

Rigg was known for both movies and TV shows. For spy fans, she played Tracy, James Bond’s ill-fated wife in the 1969 film adaptation of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. On TV, she was known for The Avengers and other television series.

UPDATE (April 12): Viewers advise that Bond film veterans Honor Blackman and Earl Cameron also didn’t make the “In Memoriam” segment. THIS STORY says Prince Philip, who died last week, was included.

UPDATE II: Reader @toysofbond advises Honor Blackman was included in the 2020 BAFTA TV “In Memoriam.” So she, lie Dame Diana, was deemed a TV performer rather than a movie one. See tweet below:

Spy entertainment in memoriam

In the space of 12 months — Dec. 18, 2019 to Dec. 18, 2020 — a number of spy entertainment figures passed away. The blog just wanted to take note. This is not a comprehensive list.

Dec. 18, 2019: Claudine Auger, who played Domino in Thunderball (1965), dies.

Jan. 8, 2020: Buck Henry, acclaimed screenwriter and co-creator of Get Smart (with Mel Brooks), dies.

Feb. 8, 2020: Anthony Spinner, veteran writer-producer, dies. His credits include producing the final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and a 1970s version of The Saint.

Feb. 8, 2020: Robert Conrad, star of The Wild Wild West and A Man Called Sloane, dies.

March 8, 2020: Actor Max von Sydow dies. His many credits playing a villain in Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Blofeld in Never Say Never Again (1983).

April 5, 2020: Honor Blackman, who played Cathy Gale in The Avengers and Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), dies.

Sept. 1, 2020: Arthur Wooster, second unit director of photography on multiple James Bond movies, dies.

Sept. 10, 2020: Diana Rigg, who played Emma Peel in The Avengers and Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), dies.

Sept. 21, 2020: Michael Lonsdale, veteran French actor whose credits included playing the villain Hugo Drax in Moonraker (1979), dies.

Oct. 5, 2020: Margaret Nolan, who was the model for the main titles of Goldfinger and appeared in the film as Dink, dies.

Oct. 31, 2020: Sean Connery, the first film James Bond, dies. He starred in six Bond films made by Eon productions and a seventh (Never Say Never Again) made outside Eon.

Dec. 12, 2020: David Cornwell, who wrote under the pen name John le Carre, dies. Many of his novels were adapted as movies and mini-series.

Dec. 18, 2020: Peter Lamont, who worked in the art department of many James Bond films, including production designer from 1981-2006 (excluding 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies), dies.

The nature of fandom

Daniel Craig as James Bond

The past few weeks have been rough for James Bond fans. They’ve witnessed the passing of key actors such as Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Michael Lonsdale.

All three had long careers that extended beyond James Bond films. But some Bond fans say something to the effect that they represent OUR Pussy Galore, OUR Tracy, OUR Drax.

However, fans of The Avengers TV series might counter something like, yes but that’s OUR Cathy Gale or OUR Emma Peel.

This extends beyond Bond fandom.

I’ve seen some fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. say having an American and a Russian as partners was BIG AND BOLD.

Meanwhile, fans of the original I Spy television series counter that having a White and a Black man as equal partners was a lot more controversial in the U.S. in the 1960s.

Undoubtedly, there are many other examples. Many fans, though, don’t want to examine all that. They are concerned with their fandom. No more, no less.

No criticism is intended in any of this. It’s the way of the world. It’s also the nature of fandom.

Diana Rigg dies at 82

Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Diana Rigg, who entertained generations of fans in The Avengers, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Game of Thrones, has died at 82, the BBC reported.

The actress was versatile, acting in a variety of roles on stage, television and films.

Rigg became an international star in the 1960s, playing Emma Peel on The Avengers. She joined the series after Honor Blackman exited, going on to play Pussy Galore in Goldfinger.

The Avengers didn’t lose a step. One of the Rigg episodes had John Steed (Patrick Macnee) receiving a Christmas card from Blackman’s character, Cathy Gale. Steed wondered what she was doing in Fort Knox.

Rigg had a huge impact on the show. Mrs. Peel, a “talented amateur” (in the words of one introduction for The Avengers) could out-fight and out-think male opponents. Rigg and Macnee had a chemistry that fans enjoyed.

The U.K.-produced series was imported into the United States during Rigg’s run. Mrs. Peel became an icon on both sides of the Atlantic.

She was twice nominated for an Emmy for The Avengers. She lost both times to Barbara Bain of Mission: Impossible.

Rigg left the show to seek new challenges. One of her post-Avengers projects was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She played Tracy, the doomed bride of James Bond.

The actress got the role, in part, because the filmmakers figured they needed an experienced female lead opposite the inexperienced George Lazenby.

Majesty’s, while financially successful, wasn’t as big a hit as earlier Bond entries. Nevertheless, Rigg again was memorable. Her character’s death at the end of the movie, was the first unhappy conclusion for the film series produced by Eon Productions.

About the only format Rigg couldn’t conquer was starring in her own TV situation comedy. A U.S. series, Diana, ran less than a full season during 1973-74.

Rigg’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 70 movie and TV credits.

Honor Blackman dies at 94

Goldfinger/Dr. No double feature poster featuring images of Honor Blackman, Ursula Andress, and Sean Connery

Honor Blackman, who made an impression with audiences as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, has died at 94, The Guardian reported.

She “died of natural causes unrelated to coronavirus,” the newspaper said.

Blackman’s Pussy Galore was the lead female character in the 1964 Bond film that turned the gentleman agent into a global phenomenon.

She made her mark in his very first scene. Sean Connery’s Bond sees Pussy Galore’s face after waking up from a drugged dart.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Pussy Galore,” she responds.

“I must be dreaming,” Bond says.

In the film, Blackman’s character is working as the personal pilot for Auric Goldfinger. She tells Bond that the agent can “turn off the charm” because she’s “immune.” It was a veiled reference to how the character was a lesbian in Ian Fleming’s original 1959 novel.

Pussy Galore displays judo skills, capturing Bond after he’s been observing Goldfinger conducting a briefing about Operation Grand Slam. This sets up a later scene where the two characters throw each other around before Bond gets on top of her. As the scene ends, she is enthusiastically kissing him but for some audience members, it’s too close to rape.

“I think this is one of the trickiest scenes in the movie,” director Guy Hamilton said on a commentary track for a Criterion laserdisc that was recalled. “How to go from dy** to sexpot to heroine in the best of two falls, one submission and one roll in the hay. I suppose it comes off.”

The movie helped launch the 1960s spy craze, Within a year of Goldfinger’s release there were new spy TV shows such as I Spy (relatively realistic spies), The Wild Wild West (spies in the Old West) and Get Smart (comedy spies). Other spy film series, such as Matt Helm and Derek Flint would go into production.

Prior to Goldfinger, Blackman played Cathy Gale on The Avengers. Like Pussy Galore, the character was independent. After Blackman’s departure, Diana Rigg came aboard as Emma Peel.

One episode depicts John Steed (Patrick Macnee) receiving a card from Cathy Gale. He wonders aloud why it was sent from Fort Knox. Both Rigg and Macnee would later appear in Bond films (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and A View to a Kill respectively).

Blackman’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists more than 100 acting credits. One of the highlights, for American audiences, was a 1972 Columbo episode, Dagger of the Mind.

The story was set in London and featured Blackman and Richard Basehart as Shakespearean actors who commit murder. Unfortunately for them, Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) happens to be in London and assists Scotland Yard in the case.

UPDATE (1:50 p.m., New York time): The official social media accounts of Eon Productions published a tribute to Blackman.

 

An Avengers stage production may occur, Bamigboye says

Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers television series.

A stage musical version of The Avengers may be in the offing, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamiboye said in a post on Twitter.

The project “in very early stages development 4 poss musical by #UniversalStageProductions,” Bamigboye wrote on Twitter.

(UPDATE, 7:20 a.m., New York time: Bamigboye now has a story online at the Daily Mail website. “A small team has been assembled to explore whether The Avengers could work under a West End proscenium,” he wrote.

Former 007 film composer David Arnold has been asked to work on the stage project as well as writer-director Sean Foley, Bamigboye reported.)

Bamigboye, this decade, has had a number of 007 film scoops proven correct, which is why the blog notes this.

The original Avengers television series ran from 1961 to 1969. There was also a revival, The New Avengers, that ran in the 1970s.

But there was also a 1971 stage play.

The Voices of East Angela website had a summary of the 1971 stage play.

Patrick Macnee, the star of the 1960s and ’70s TV versions, declined to participate. Instead, “experienced British TV actor Simon Oates was drafted in,” according to the website.

Voices of East Angela also reproduced posters of the play, directed by Leslie Phillips and written by Terence Feely and Brian Clemens. The latter worked as a writer and producer on the 1960s and ’70s TV shows.

“It seems the technically challenging stage show proved too challenging and the plot was verging on the pantomime featuring as it did invisible dolly birds (this was 1971 remember) and a giant computer brain,” according to Voices of East Angela.

“Numerous set changes and a multitude of set mishaps generated more unintended laughs than those written in to the script and following an initial run of ten nights in Birmingham the show was shipped down to the West End where it opened nine days later.

“Such were the poor reviews and numerous stage mishaps that it lasted a mere three weeks at the Prince of Wales theatre before it was unceremoniously hoisted off stage with a metaphorical shepherd’s crook.”

We’ll see what happens. In the U.S., fans of The Avengers television show are deeply annoyed how Marvel’s Avengers (featured in two movies so far, with two more scheduled for 2018 and 2019) have pre-empted the name.

The original Avengers comic book debuted in 1963, two years after The Avengers TV show premiered in the U.K. but before the series came to America.