MI6 caught up with artist and writer Mike Grell to talk about his James Bond comic series "Permission To Die"...

Mike Grell Interview (2)
6th March 2005

Above: James Bond by Mike Grell.

Continuing from part 1...

How long did the "Permission To Die" mini series take?
Almost a year start to finish, although the final issue didn't appear for nearly a year after it was completed, due to financial problems the American publisher was having at the time.

Can you talk us through the process you went through?
Everything starts with the story. The plot was finalised and approved, followed by the finished script. My scripts read much like a film script with scenes and shots and all the dialogue down on paper before a line is drawn. Next come the layouts and finished pencil art, from which the lettering is done while the inking process is done. From there it goes to colour and finally to separation and printing.

You based some your characters on famous celebrities. How did you come to arrive at these choices; Hoagy Carmichael, Terrence Stamp?
Hoagy Carmichael was Ian Fleming's idea, not mine. It just happens that Carmicheal is, indeed, the ideal model for James Bond. I simply added the scar on his cheek and a "comma" of hair over his right eye.

"Casting" Terrence Stamp was a matter of playing movie director. I wanted a charismatic face with a certain intensity. He had to be handsome behind the mask so the reader would be shocked to discover that all his scars were emotional. And if I were casting a movie, I can't think of a better actor for the role. What can I say? I'm a fan.

Some of the imagery seems to be influenced by the films (M, Moneypenny, DB5's licence plate, etc). Would it be fair to say the visuals are based on the Connery era of movies?
Absolutely. The Connery films established James Bond to the world and were the greatest visual/stylistic influence on this story.

You have many references to the earlier Bond films and books. How did you go about researching and fitting these into the plot?
I wanted to let everyone know that I was paying tribute to a series of books and films that had been a great source of entertainment for me. If Bond gets into a car, it damned well should be an Aston Martin, not a Volvo! As for research, I only had to go as far as my bookshelf or my personal video library for all the reference I needed on the character.

Did you decide to favour anything from Gardner's literary canon over the movies? Or did you try to keep the comic between both lineages?
The only consolation I made to Gardner's books was to give bond the ASP pistol. Again it was a gadget that worked at the time and I'm something of a gun nut, anyway. Note the he had the Walther PPK in the opening sequence. Beyond that, I went for the Fleming novels and the films as background source.

Above: James Bond by Mike Grell.

Would you ever consider a return to the Bond comics if offered the opportunity to resurrect them?
Absolutely. I'd love another chance at either illustrated stories or, perhaps, a novel.

Above: Cover art for "Permission To Die" issue #2

How were you involved with the "Licence To Kill" comic book adaptation?
I produced the adaptation as a studio project. The storytelling portion was my personal contribution. I worked from the shooting script and stills from the as-yet uncut film. Adapting the script was a matter of condensing the action of a two-hour film into a single book. I did the layouts from the stills on-hand, incorporating as many of them as possible, but we had to fill in a lot of gaps on scenes that were still in post-production. From there, the layouts were tightened into finished pencils and inked by a team of talented artists.

You have a merged as both writer and artist within the comic book world, which is most personally rewarding and satisfying?
I've always considered myself to be a storyteller, first and foremost. As time goes by, I find myself enjoying the writing process more, because it's less time consuming and it's fun to work out the twists and turns of the plot. Still, I enjoy drawing so much that, given the choice between the two, I’d be forced to stand in the middle and whimper.

Any new forthcoming projects?
As I write this, I'm currently at work on the return of my best comic character - "Jon Sable, Freelance." The new miniseries begins in March/April from IDW and coincides with the publishing of the first of a series of reprints of the original sable stories in album form. You can visit my website www.mikegrell.com for details and pictures.

Related Articles
Mike Grell Interview (1)
"Permission To Die" Coverage
"Permission To Die" #1 Review
"Permission To Die" #2 Review
"Permission To Die" #3 Review

Many thanks to Mike Grell. Images courtesy Eclipse Comics, MikeGrell.com and Rimis London.