Dave Sent me some photocopies of the pages of the magazine Comic Collector, issue #5, july 1992, wich talk about Paul Gulacy and Doug Moench work on "Serpent's Tooth". Enjoy, and thanks Dave!


   Ian Flemlng's legendary super-agent is back in comics, courtesy of Dick Hansom of Acme Comics and the men behind Batman : "Prey" Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy. And right from the off it's clear that for all the participants this is not just another comics project: this is special.

   Acme Comics, of course, have done it before having secured the rights to do comics adaptations of Ian Fleming's characters from Fleming's literary estate, Glidrose Publications. Recalling past productions does not bring happy memories for Acme editor Dick Hansom: "We have been producing James Bond comics for a number of years now, principally Permission To Die and the adaptation of the Licence to Kill movie with Eclipse Comics. Unfortunately Permission To Die ran Into an awful lot of scheduling problems and took two years from the first issue to the last one actually appearing on the stands!"

   After that, Eclipse backed away from doing any more Bond stories, but Acme soon found a willing backer in Dark Horse Comics "We were very keen to talk to Dark Horse because of all the success they had been having with other licensed books. It took just one fax to Dark Horse and [chief editor) Mike Richardson was on the phone, saying how much he would love to do it. We had one series already at an early stage of progression, so we agreed to do that and some new ones."

   After securing Dark Horse's backing it was a short step to get artist Paul Gulacy and writer Doug Moench on board the project. "We had been trying to gel Paul to work on Bond for quite a while, but what with our movie book and other projects, we just couldn't get the dates to work. Paul lives just down the road from Dark Horse in Oregon, so this was a great opportunity to get him involved, and he said he would very much like to work with Doug Moench as the writer, which was absolutely fine by me."

   For Gulacy and Moench, lifelong Bond fans, it was a dream come true. As Moench tells it, "Dark Horse asked Paul if he could do it and Paul called me and said 'Hey, we got it, man - the dream project! The thing we were born to do! We're gonna do Bond, baby, we're gonna do Bond!'"

   Gulacy admits that Bond is probably his favourite fiction character. "As a kid, I was hoping someone would come up with a secret agent comic book character and - Lo and behold! - one day I ran across [Jim] Steranko's Nick Fury comic on a newsstand. There It was - 'Wow! Somebody's doing the spy stuff - Neato!' Prior to that, Sgt. Rock was the only comic that t collected consistently." In fact, so enamoured is the artist of 007 that he is inking his own pencils throughout, for the first time in over four years.

   Moench went through a period of disaffection with the concept, though: "I was a big fan of James Bond when the books were first coming out, and then became less of a fan for two reasons - basically, Ian Fleming died, and then I became very critical of things like the C.I.A. and wasn't able to suspend my disbelief quite as much when thinking about what secret agents and spies do. Then I got over that and came back to that fold…"


   One immediate dilemma faced the creators: whether to set the story in the Sixties or the Nineties. For Hansom it had to be set in the present day; "Bond really ought to be one of those characters who work for every generation. The novels were rooted in the '50s and were revamped and updated with the films in the '60s and the '70s. The films particularly would keep an eye on space shuttle technology or whatever was happening to keep them up to the minute. What has changed most significantly is the political background, but MI5 and MI6 still exist and still have roles to play. The world is still a pretty unstable place and there are a lot of different threats around. It's throwing up new facets to the Bond character, to see him work in more contemporary scenarios which will keep the stories very fresh for the readers."

   Moench echoes the sentiment: "Going back to the Sixties would have dated it and made it not nearly as immediate or palatable. Not only are the Soviets no longer the Big Bad Enemy that they were, but there was a further complication the Ian Fleming estate had made some kind of deal with the movie company which inadvertently gave them the rights to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. They also own use of Q : we can use Q In the comic but if you will notice, I had to call him Major Boothroyd of Q Division all the time. So now not only are the Soviets gone but Fleming's made-up non-political group is also gone.

   Being deprived of such staple Bond villains didn't worry Moench : " It was easy to come up with our own kind of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. bad guy because I was such a big Bond fan and Paul is probably an even bigger fan. " Such long intimacy with the history of the character both in the novels and the films. also meant it was easy for the duo to come up with a flamboyant movie-style treatment, replete with corny gags and the compulsory double entendres (" We love em! ")

   Finding a suitable location was not difficult either Gulacy in particular had been wanting to do an underwater story for years . " At one point we were going to do an underwater team-up at Marvel between Shang-Chi and Nick Fury . We never did that, so When Paul and I were asked to do Bond that was the first thing he asked for. So we have an inside-out aquarium - Bond is inside this hi-tech dome underwater and looking out at fish all around him Paul go his wish and I got mine and everybody was happy! "


   It is obvious that all the people involved in the project have the greatest respect for each other. For Hansom, after the nightmarish scheduling problems that attended Acme's previous Bond books, Serpent's Tooth has gone like a dream : "It has been an ideal project from the point of view of not having to worry about what everyone is doing. Every now and again I get a chance to point out a London newsstand that has been drawn wrong, or that M wouldn't use exactly that syntax, or something like that. It's one of those books that really does edit itself"

   Hansoms song of praise is as nothing compared to the long-established bond between writer and artist : Moench and Gulacy have worked together for nigh on twenty years {Gulacy thinks they may hold the record for the longest running duo in the business) Together they have done Master of Kung Fu. Six From Sirius, Slash .Maraud; 'Coldblood' (in Marvel Comics Presents), a Conan graphic novel, Skull Of Set, the Legends of The Dark Knight story 'Prey' a Batman two-partner (Batman 393-394) a horror story for Eerie ('Blood On Black Satin') "and one or two other oddball things here and there". What is it that keeps them coming back to work with each other?

   Moench first : "Paul is my main partner. I think we really work well together, and I really like working with him and can't wait for the next lime and all that. He's a character, a goofy guy, you know, and whatever bad things he says about me, I love him!"

   Moench knows he is safe on that one, as Gulacy paints a paragon of what he calls his partner in crime : "Doug is like a brother that I never see. I've known him for almost twenty years but I haven't been in the same room with him in about ten - I'm on the west coast he's on the east, and everything is over the phone He's extremely well read. I don't think I ever get off the telephone from him and not learned something new from the conversation, whether it be worldly events, politics, the human condition, whatever. He's like a walking encyclopedia. Doug is incredibly fast - he can knock out a significant amount of top quality storyline over a weekend and have it in your hands on Tuesday He also has a great sense of humour, which you need in this business just to cope. We know what we want and what to expect from one another- we're more of a creative machine than a team."

   In fact, despite being on opposite sides of a continent, Moench and Gulacy tout for business for, and with, each other. "As far as the work goes, it's simple," Gulacy explains "Doug is in touch with the editors much more than I am, so he hears what projects are available, what's hot, what will turn a profit in royalties for us and so forth. So when we're in the middle of a job, he will tell me about an offer he has received from someone and want to know if I want to be a part of it (like the Legends Of The Dark Knight story, for example). He gets the scoop from the offices at DC and Marvel more than I do, and I do my own share of digging around on my end For example, I'm already preparing ideas for the next job after Bond, whatever it is, with or without Doug It's a perpetual thing"

   Acme's link with Dark Horse is barely off the drawing board by comparison, but equally positive. Hansom again "I work direct with Dark Horse US - Acme's relationship with them actually predates them setting up Dark Horse UK We co-edit: Jerry Prosser at Dark Horse has a lot more of the hands-on management of the book. I see all the pencils, inks and scripts and I liaise with Ian Fleming's literary estate to get the scripts approved I tend to do more of the co-ordination and hands-on editing of the books that are produced in this country, which some of the future Bond series will be"


   Perhaps the most critical aspect of the series, visually, is the look of 007 himself With five actors to choose from (don't forget David Niven in the comedy Bond film Casino Royale) plus Fleming's own injunction that Bond should look like the Fifties musician Hoagy Carmichael, what is an artist to do? Step forward, modest Mr. Gulacy. "It was suggested that I not make him resemble any of the actors, so I pulled out one of my stock hero guys. You've seen him before - the handsomely rugged, grim, brooding guy. Of course, we comic artists tend to put a little of ourselves in there as well -however, I never brood, I'm always sunny and cheerful."

   What about those other twin staples of the Bond oeuvre, gadgets and girls? "As far as gadgets, Bond uses about six different ones that Doug and I gave him in the course of the story. Bond doesn't have any kind of trick car but there is some car action. Also, we've got boat action, UFO action, bizarre creatures, gunfire, explosions, death, destruction -everything you want is in there!"

   And women? "We've got the women - babes galore! We've even got Moneypenny running around in a string bikini! No, but we've got a smorgasbord of beautiful girls and of course a love interest for Bond as usual…"

   Ah yes, the love interest For all the brave talk about updating him, Bond's sex life is one aspect of the character where he remains resolutely out of step with the post-feminist, AIDS-conscious Nineties An unreconstructed male chauvinist, in fact How do you put a lid on that part of the stories, or do you put a lid on that part of the character, as it were?

   Hansom grasps the nettle : "It is quite possible Bond is using condoms in the bedroom scenes - we don't dwell on them in that much detail to find out whether that is happening or not Different writers have different approaches to it- if we just vetoed Bond's romantic liaisons on the grounds that such behaviour is politically incorrect, we would actually be destroying the character. There are some reactionary sides to Bond that are part of the character's charisma, and it is always interesting to see what writers do, in terms of bringing those conflicts into play, without wanting to portray him in a bad light Obviously, he is still a hero, but he is a character with sexist roots who does need some rethinking for the present day"

   So how have you bridged those problems in Serpent's Tooth? "By making sure that the women we do introduce are more roundly developed characters, rather than just being people that Bond would jump into bed with. Doug has given Sunny Vasquez in this story a lot of pizzazz as a character, but also she is a very able companion for Bond."


   For the creators, Serpent's Tooth marks the be-all and end-all of their involvement with the super-agent for now, although Moench in best spy fashion issued a whispered "Hey, you want a scoop? I may be doing another one with Russ Heath…"

   Gulacy also breaks with secret service traditions by revealing his plans : "I've got an idea that I've been kicking around for quite a while about a group of time-travelling bounty hunters. Remember - you heard it here first! My next story will be with a very talented writer from Australia, named Dave DeVries - he's a rising star. That will probably be for Dark Horse. I also like John Arcudi's work and I've been discussing ideas with Chris Claremont, Gerard Jones, Steve Grant, Jim Starlin and others."

   The spirit of glasnost appears to have overwhelmed Moench as well- he reels off projects like there was no tomorrow. Aside from his ongoing commitment on Batman starting with issue 481 (with Jim Aparo continuing as artist), he has four other Batman projects lined up, including two follow-ups to Red Rain (the first one is called Dark Joker: The Wild and features Bats as a batvampire); a Legends Of The Dark Knight tale called 'Heat' with Catwoman and a redone version of Catman, drawn by Russ Heath; and a regular stint writing the lead feature in the upcoming double-sized Showcase title (artists booked so far include Ed Hannigan, Kieron Dwyer, Jackson Guice, Klaus Janson and, perhaps, Simon Bisley). His other commitments include another new series coming out from DC called Xeno Brood ("sort of a super-hero thing although a skewed glance at super-heroes") due out early next year, a recent Moon Knight annual for Marvel, a squarebound Coldblood quartet with Malcolm Jones, and the return of Aztec Ace as a three book prestige format series from Eclipse, drawn by "a guy named Doug Heinlein who has been in advertising."

   As for 007, Acme has plans for two more mini-series firmed up with Dark Horse. Dick Hansom supplies the details : "Coming up next will be The Quasimodo Gambit, another three-part 48-page series. That is being written by Don McGregor, another long time Bond fan, and drawn by Gary Caldwell, a new young Scollish artist who is doing some very nice airbrushed colour work on that. The first issue will come out around about November - December, depending on how Gary is getting on with the second issue. Following that, we have A Silent Armageddon, written by another new talent, Simon Jowett, who turned in a very nice synopsis which pits Bond in the world of virtual reality and computer crime. We've got John M. Burns doing fully painted artwork on that. That will have the more traditional comic book format of four 24-page stories."

   But the last word on Bond should surely belong to Doug Moench: "I'm having a great time with him, Paul is having a ball, and this was the thing he always wanted to do - I'm really happy to see Paul happy, and it's making for good stuff, I think. What the heck - why not give Bond his due if we can, to the best that we can do?"

Alan Woollcombe

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