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Friday, November 13, 2015

Comic Cuts - 13 November 2015

This column's theme tune! Play as you read...

My Irish PLR statement showed up this week. Here's how much I earned: "Total: €0.00." Not a penny... or, rather, not a point seven one of a penny, which is what the cent is currently worth. I think that will tell you all you need to know about how well this writing game pays.

Not that I help matters. I've spent most of the week writing a lengthy, 6,000-word piece about an author almost nobody will have heard of. And just to rub salt in the wound, I'm doing two more pieces about all-but-forgotten authors. One I've written about in the past but I've had a breakthrough and was able to confirm some background about the author and his family; I've also confirmed when he died, which has been a mystery to me for thirty-five years. I had to cough up £40 for certificates to confirm all this, and I'm going to have to buy a few more over the next couple of weeks. I've also just spent another £45 on books that I need to read; once all my ducks are in order, I'll post some hopefully interesting essays but I may have to think hard about trying to get some sponsorship of some description.

Or product placement.

Which is my not so subtle way of saying that I went to see SPECTRE during the week. I've been a James Bond fan ever since my mate Richard and I went to see Thunderball and From Russia With Love as a double-bill at the Odeon in around 1968 or 1969. We were taken by Richard's Dad, Mr. Wood—I don't think I ever knew his Christian name—and they were by far the greatest films I had ever seen. I added Ian Fleming to my inappropriate-for-my-age reading list and it was through my quest to find a copy of Goldfinger that I discovered Valiant comic... but that's another story.

I remember having jigsaw puzzles of the underwater battle scene from Thunderball and of Bond hiding behind a rock preparing to shoot at a helicopter, a scene from From Russia With Love. The paperback of Thunderball had two die-cut bullet holes in the cover which fascinated me, maybe because the first time I discovered the book—probably on my dad's shelf and long before I had a desire to read it—I could poke a bit of my finger through. Not like the sausages I call fingers these days.

I became particularly obsessed with the razzmatazz surrounding Roger Moore taking over the role for Live and Let Die. There were reports in every paper and magazine, and photos of a boat leaping over a spit of land and crashed through a police car. I knew Moore as The Saint and as Lord Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders (which still has one of my all-time favourite theme songs). When The Man With the Golden Gun came out the papers were just as full and I couldn't wait to see the car chase in which the car does a 360 degree roll as it flies across a river. What should have been a heart-stopping moment was utterly spoiled by having the barrel roll accompanied by a slide whistle, as if Bond was driving some kind of clown car.

Thankfully they didn't do this in SPECTRE although they do manage some dumb moments. There's a scene towards the end where Bond is running through the old, about to be demolished MI6 building to rescue Lea Seydoux. As he runs he passes pictures of Le Chiffre, Raoul Silva, M, Vesper Lynd and others and I'm not sure whether they were supposed to be projections of his tortured psyche or whether Blofeld actually wandered around the building with printouts of everyone's face, blu-tacking them to the walls of corridors where James Bond might see them in passing.

But as that's probably my biggest complaint, I have to say that SPECTRE is Spectre-acular (see what I did there?) and carried me along on a wave of excitement that my 7-year-old self would have loved, too. There were nuances that my older self appreciated, especially as I rewatched all of the Daniel Craig Bonds just ahead of seeing this new one.

It also made me wonder why Ian Fleming Foundation, who control the rights to the books, aren't putting out novelisations any more. Casino Royale I can understand as the movie did an effective job of filming the book. But Skyfall could so easily have been novelised, as could the latest. There are still novelisations out there... most, if not all, of the Marvel movies—Iron Man, Avengers, etc.—have been novelised, as were the Transformers and Star Trek movies. So why not Bond?

Talking of novelisations, on my way back from seeing the movie, I dropped into a charity shop and found a bunch of novelisations that I'm using as today's random scans. The first is The Adventurer, the old Gene Barry ITC series which had a fantastic theme tune by John Barry, which I hope you're listening to right now!

Millennium is a series I keep promising myself I'll watch again. I've seen the whole thing through twice, once on the TV and once as I bought the DVDs, but I'm sure the gloomy world of Frank Black will withstand a third viewing. I picked up the novels because, by coincidence, I'm half-way through watching The Lone Gunmen, which was an X-Files spin-off, but far more comedic... which made me think of the doom-laden Millennium (that's the weird way my mind works). And Space: Above and Beyond was the creation of X-Files alumni Glen Morgan and James Wong, cut tragically short after only one season.

I'll end on another Robert Miall (John Burke) novelisation from the ITC days, Kill Jason King. Now, there's another jaunty little theme tune. Not John Barry this time, but Laurie Johnson who did the music for The Avengers and The Professionals.

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