Thursday, 7 August 2014

Book preview: James Bond and Popular Culture

It's never too early to start thinking about Christmas presents for Bond fans. December will see the publication of a book of essays about the James Bond phenomenon. James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictional Superspy examines how James Bond has inspired many aspects of popular culture, including Doctor Who, the animated television comedy series Archer, Japan’s Nakano Spy School Films, and the 1960s Italian Eurospy genre, and analyses Bond’s phenomenal literary and filmic influence over the past 50-plus years, with essays covering James Bond's role in film, television, literature, and lifestyle.

The volume has been edited by Bond and spy-fiction expert Michele Brittany, a book reviews editor for the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, a correspondent for Bleeding Cool, a comic book news site, and the author of Spy-fi & Superspies, a blog about all things spy-related.

The book sounds like a essential reading, although I must declare an interest: I'm responsible for one of the essays. 'Modelling Bond: The Cultural Perception of James Bond on the Eve of the Eon Production Films' focuses on a Bond-themed marketing campaign for men's clothing. In 1961, six advertisements for Courtelle, a UK-based clothing company, was placed in the Daily Express and Daily Mirror. Prefiguring the use of product tie-ins and the appearance of Bond actors as 'brand ambassadors', James Bond himself (as drawn by an artist) modelled the clothes and received a plug for his latest adventure, while the content suggested in no uncertain terms that these were the clothes to wear if you wanted a James Bond lifestyle.

One of the Courtelle advertisements to feature James Bond. Image copyright Rowlinson Knitwear Ltd
The adverts reveal that even before the release of Dr No in the cinema in 1962, James Bond had been identified as an aspirational figure. What's more, the adverts show how the image of Bond evolved outside Fleming's novels on the eve of the film series. The essay identifies the traits taken from the books and those introduced by copywriters, assesses the extent of other influences, such as other spy literature, films and television, and discusses how far this hybrid Bond diverged from Fleming's prototype.

In addition, the essay compares the 'Courtelle' Bond with contemporary depictions similarly uninformed by the Bond films and examines the impact of the film series on the expression of Bondian iconography. Finally, the essay discusses the proposition that different Bonds have emerged as a result of ever-evolving cultural environments.

The book, priced at $40, is available to order now from the publisher McFarland, or through Amazon
(currently priced at £23 in the UK) and other retailers. The perfect Bondian Christmas present!

2 comments:

  1. I'm very excited for this book too! I'm the culprit responsible for the Italian Eurospy chapter inside. The essays are pretty good, but yours was really interesting - a 3rd type of Bond, different from both Book and Film. I really liked that concept because I don't think that could really happen today. Even with other versions of Bond, such as video game Bond, or comic book Bond, etc - will always be influenced by the films and then by the books. So this Courtelle Bond is a truly unique outlier!

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate it! Glad you liked my essay. Yes, it's very interesting to see how Bond's evolved - and might have evolved without the influence of the film series. I'm looking forward to reading your essay on the Italian Eurospy phenomenon - much more that just Operation Kid Brother (how the film makers persuaded a whole load of Bond alumni to appear in that film is remarkable!).

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