Dynamite has sent us writer's commentaries before. Even some artist's commentaries. But here we have a commentary track by the guy who did both. Ibrahim Moustafa wrote and drew the James Bond: Solstice one-shot that went on sale this week, and here he is talking about the process.
We open here with 007 on a mission in Turkey. I knew this story was going to be a bit more quiet and personal, so I wanted to contrast it with some more action-heavy running-from-gunfire secret agent business, just to remind everyone how versatile Bond and his work are.
I also thought it would be interesting to start him off in a sticky situation and have one of his gadgets fail. That's not something you ever really get to see in Bond stories, and because Bond's mission is off-book here, I knew I wouldn't be able to give him a traditional "bring it all back in one piece, 007" scene with Boothroyd. So this provided a nice transition into a scene with Q Branch.
I love the Moneypenny we've seen in the recent Dynamite Bond stories. She's sharp and quick-thinking, and so having her rib James a bit here over his gadget mishap was a lot of fun.
The last two panels with M are a bit of an homage to the Fleming short story For Your Eyes Only and the beginning of the Moonraker novel. In both stories, M greets Bond with a note of warmth, calling him "James" and inquiring about Bond's workload, which he only ever does when he's about to ask for something, according to Bond.
I really enjoy the different dynamics involved in the relationship between Bond and M. There's a mutual respect there that seems to override their difference in thinking. Bond is a bit more reckless than M would like, but he's effective. And in this story, M needs to rely on Bond's penchant for weaving in and out of line. For Bond's part, his fondness for the old man means that he's willing to step outside of those lines for him.
From an art standpoint, one might think drawing two people in an office would be less than exciting, but I had So. Much. Fun. drawing this scene. A scene like this is also particularly challenging to stage, because you have two people in a closed space, and a lot of story information to communicate, through both exposition and non-verbal cues. But one of my favorite parts of any Bond story is when he receives a mission briefing in M's office, so this was kind of a bucket list thing for me to get to figure out and put onto paper.
In addition to that, letterer Simon Bowland did a fantastic job placing all of the dialogue. Notice how well balanced the balloons are, especially on page 6 where the most expository information occurs. Notice how the balloons on panels 1 and 2 move in a steady flow that leads right into the important information that Bond is holding in the file on panel 3. The eye is drawn to the red circle in the photograph, and then immediately to the next line of M's dialogue to the left. It's very easy to overlook this kind of thing because it feels so natural and seamless, and that's why Simon is so good at what he does.
This is a scene that saw at least 4 different iterations in the plotting/scripting stage. The editor Nate Cosby and I volleyed ideas back and forth, and after some input from the fine folks at Ian Fleming Publications LTD, what started as sort of an inconsequential bit led me to a better solution for how to arm 007 while on his unofficial mission in Paris.
The idea to switch over to untranslated French came from Nate, and it took a bit of convincing for me to get on board with it, but I think the result is really cool. Bond speaks French, and through this scene we get a bit of a glimpse of how easily he floats in and out of situations that many of us would otherwise be at a loss in.
And then we get to meet the 1948 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupe! I'm one of those weirdo-artists that loves to draw cars, so I had a blast with this one. Originally I had a sleek new Aston Martin DBS in the script, because even though this is the Bond of the novels and the DBS is a cinematic Bond staple, I just really love those cars and really wanted to draw one in a Bond story. But it didn't really make a lot of sense in the end to have one in this story. The folks at Ian Fleming Publications LTD encouraged exploring another option; Bond drove several different cars in the books, after all. And you know what? They were right. So I set out to find a very cool French-made car that Bond could have arranged to rent from a fancy hotel in Paris while on holiday, and I'm very happy with the results.
Bond does the legwork here, scoping out his target and making sure he's otherwise occupied before doing a bit more snooping. I really enjoy depicting quiet, natural moments like this. And Jordan Boyd's colors for nighttime in Paris are just stunning.
More of Jordan's beautiful palette here. And more of Simon's brilliantly subtle storytelling with letters. This was my favorite page to draw in the whole book, despite having to draw buildings (which are seldom fun). Getting to play with heavy shadows is very rewarding. I'm not sure why, exactly. I think I like putting large amounts of ink onto the paper, and I relish the chance to do so.
We get to employ another couple of gadgets here — the scrambler that M had in the beginning of the issue, and a mechanized lock-pick. Essentially my more-efficient theoretical versions of real-life tech.
I want to shout out Jordan again here. It's not easy to color a poorly lit room in a way that reads as "the lights are off" while still being legible. He really nailed it.
To praise Jordan again, the effects he used for the security camera footage are excellent. The bluish tint and the grainy texture are just perfect, as well as the subtle glow around the on-screen lettering.
Here's where we meet the real Zima after seeing him in a more domestic "date night" capacity. In keeping with the fun tradition of Bond characters having names of some significance to the story, the word "Zima" is Russian for "winter". This was a fun bit to figure out because you don't often see the antagonists in Bond stories utilize the kind of gadgets that Bond might have. It puts Bond in some danger– he's no longer moving with complete anonymity. He's just gone from hunter to hunted. I really enjoyed figuring out these visual elements of communicating what Zima was doing here without any dialogue.
This is one of my favorite bits of coloring in the book. First of all, panel 2 is gorgeously rendered and shows us how a warm color palette can still give off the feel of a cold environment. But look at the page as a whole, and how Jordan transitions it from darker purple tones in the top half to warmer yellow/gold tones as we get into the hotel room. The shift happens in panel 2, leading us nicely into the warmer indoor environment of panel 3.
I cannot properly relay just how cool it was to write the line "Bond. James Bond". Apart from that, this was one of my favorite scenes to write. I was very much inspired by the train scene with Red Grant in From Russia With Love (the novel and the film, respectively). There's something about two men with the same job on different sides of the coin airing it out before fighting to the death that is very intriguing. The juxtaposition of civility and brutality in such tight quarters makes for some very exciting storytelling opportunities.
When you really think about it, there's not a lot that separates Bond from a lot of the spies he finds himself up against. They're often working toward similar goals or under similar orders, it's just that those objectives are at cross-purposes. I think the thing that delineates Bond from them is that he's on the side of the more good/less bad guys, and at the end of the day he has a sense of altruism that he's acting in the interest of.
And then we have Bond using his defective gadget to his advantage, taking the fight to the floor.
One of my favorite things to do with comics is to try and choreograph and depict fight scenes in a way that only comics can really employ. I often find a disconnect when reading fight scenes in comics where I get lost trying to fill in the gaps between panels– the transitions from one moment to the next don't always seem to flow the way that I want them to. Similarly to when fight scenes in films get really choppy and dizzying. I appreciate the "John Wick" aesthetic of pulling back and letting the viewer see everything in motion. So for this, I set out to make the action as fluid as possible, and one of the best ways I found to do that was to keep the setting relatively stationary and have the characters move within that setting.
So we're able to follow Bond and Zima throughout the room, blow for blow in a succession of panels that are snapshots of the most significant movements within their skirmish. The decision to move the action from left to right on page 22 was made to show Zima's momentum in assailing Bond, and how he managed to gain the upper hand. Then we stop with Bond stabbing him in a panel that is placed in the center alignment of the page, effectively halting our left-to-right progress. Then on page 23, Bond regains control and the reverse happens.
In the Fleming novels Bond has trained in Judo, so the throw and chokehold here are meticulously researched Judo moves. Gotta get it right!
Bond is a very put-together man, so I felt it important to give him a moment where he straightens himself back up, fixing his tie and brushing his hair back out of his face.
I'm a big fan of when a title that is appropriate for the theme of the story also comes into play in a very subtle way within the story itself, so that's what I aimed to do here with the reveal that "Solstice" is the name of the woman that Bond was sent to protect from Zima's double-cross.
Gorgeous colors by Jordan on this page (particularly that last panel of Paris at night), and brilliant work by Simon with the phone text message effects.
At Nate's suggestion of getting Bond and M out of the office for their earlier scene at the beginning of the book, I'd decided to set the last scene between them at the Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square. Once that was nailed down, I knew there would be a fun opportunity to do the transition from Moneypenny's little desk tree to the giant one in the square itself. I'm quite happy with the final effect.
Here Bond and M talk about the situation while avoiding the direct subject as much as possible. The fact that they can say so much with so little is a reflection of their skills as spies and also their understanding of each other. They punctuate their shorthand with a nice sincere moment of gratitude and mutual respect, and then we have a nice quiet beat with M where we see him sans bureaucratic armor in a very human moment.
Lovely colors by Jordan here as well. Notice how he applies a "color hold" to the buildings and trees in the last panel of page 30 to establish a bit of distance and atmosphere. It's little touches like that that make him one of the best in the business.
Thanks very much for taking the time to read along, and I hope you enjoyed our story!