Not only is the new James Bond movie, Spectre, coming out at the end of this month, but a new comic book called James Bond #1, the first of its kind in decades, has been released.
This time, Ian Fleming’s classic hero is being written by English author Warren Ellis, and the illustrator is none other than South African Jason Masters.
Masters worked as an art director in an advertising agency and went on to work as a commercial illustrator.
“I’ve been very lucky to work on some great projects as a comic-book artist. I started out with WildStorm Studios drawing Human Target as well as the comic-book prequel to the Bruce Willis film Red. That film, incidentally, is based on the comic written by Ellis,” he said.
“From there, I worked on a few Batman titles: Batman Inc, Legends of the Dark Knight, Batwing, Mr Freeze, Nightwing and Batwoman. At Marvel, I got to draw Guardians of the Galaxy, Wolverine as well as the X-Men.”
Masters said he began working on James Bond #1 after Ellis suggested him to the publisher, Dynamite Comics.
“I had been chatting to Warren about possibly working on something together when, out of the blue, he emailed me asking what I thought of James Bond as a character,” said Masters.
“I’d grown up on all the old James Bond films and so was always a fan and I expressed as much to Warren. Initially, I had thought his inquiry was related to an idea he had for a book in the superspy vein.
“I didn’t know he’d been tasked with bringing the original character from Ian Fleming’s books to comic books. So finding out I was going to get to draw 007’s first comic book appearance in 20 years was very exciting and daunting.”
Masters said he had felt little need to update the James Bond character, because he was “not sure 007 is ever supposed to fit into our modern times”.
“He’s a brutal, blunt instrument who gets the job done no matter what the cost. In my mind, his job is so difficult – constantly putting his life and body on the line to save the world – that he happily indulges himself in whatever vices he fancies.
“So in some ways, Warren’s James Bond is less up to date than our modern sensibilities are used to. He smokes and drinks with abandon, because why not? His vices are in all likelihood not going to be the things that kill him one day.”
Masters said there were a number of comic-book fans in South Africa, but not enough that “someone could make a living making and selling local comics to South Africans only”.
“Luckily, a lot of the local talent is more than ready to be working internationally. All they really need is exposure. We have an excess of talented artists and writers, and I’m actively trying to get their work noticed by bigger, international companies.”
South African author Lauren Beukes reinterpreted Wonder Woman, so Masters thinks South Africans can bring a particular perspective to iconic characters.
“When we’re not second-guessing ourselves trying to do work that we think will fit in with what we see out there, that’s when we excel. It’s not about making more of the same. Readers want new visions, stories and art filtered through people who aren’t like them, with different world views.”