Over the years, James Bond has, during the course of dozens of films, had amorous relations with women of every race and creed. Conservative estimates would put it somewhere in the Wilt Chamberlain stratosphere, but the world may never know the exact number of the British agent’s conquests. As the movies are constructed, though, Bond never has to deal with the consequences of his actions. There’s no divorces, no jealous girlfriends, no alimony. He gets a clean slate every time. But what if he didn’t? This was a question that nagged at Saturday Night Live staple (and comic book fan) Taran Killam. Along with co-writer Mark Andreyko, Killam came up with The Illegitimates, a story of a James Bond-like character’s grown up children. They’re from different countries, look nothing alike, and don’t know each other (yet), but they all have one thing in common: their father’s ability to kick ass and take names. Made Man spoke with Killam about his book and the fantasy world of slick superspies.
I’m kind of surprised that no one has yet addressed the issue of James Bond’s undoubtedly widespread illegitimacy issue. Do we have an over-under on how many kids 007 sired over the years?
It all depends on readership. If this is a successful title, then hundreds. If people turn against it, then probably about five. I would love to expand on it. Who is to say that all of the kids will fight for good? Who is to say all the kids are exceptional? Part of me likes the idea of doing a story of the runts or the duds of the Jack Steele children.
There are some unsettling issues cropping up already. The characters in your book are all the cream of Jack Steele’s crop. They’re super-attractive and talented and have probably inherited his philandering gene. It feels like things could get, um, complicated.
Exactly. It’s sort of a nice theme on how small the world is with social media and technology. People are conversing in real life with people from all over the world. To have a sibling who doesn’t look very much like you, and is very striking—yeah, it could complicate things, but in a fun way. I don’t want to get to Oedipal with the title. Or whatever the sibling version of Oedipus is.
There’s no real continuity between Bond movies. They’re all self-contained. For Steele, to have his actions come back to haunt him is an interesting take.
Bond always ends his adventures with the woman of the week. What if in not being safe—we all know Bond likes to live dangerously—what is the logical conclusion of that? These first six issues are about establishing the idea and getting you introduced to the characters, and so far the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m excited to delve into these guys on a deeper level and explore what it means to not only have an incredibly famous father, but also an incredibly famous secret-agent father, and coming into a family. Where you are and where you came from is very human.
The NSA is in the news a lot. Do you think that kind of modern intelligence gathering has made the rakish secret agent obsolete?
I don’t know about obsolete. In very practical, real-world espionage, I think that’s still very existent. As is evident with the Benghazi story that just came out in the New York Times, and how the CIA is operating. I think there will always be a need for espionage, or people that will feel there’s a need. I don’t know that we’ll ever be free of a world of distrust, unfortunately. I think as long as people are distrustful of other nations, there will probably be spies among us.
Sorry man. You’re the one who asked me, Drew.
How important are banter and innuendo in the superspy toolkit?
I think it’s incredibly necessary. It’s part of their muscle memory at this point. I’m such a fan of the Bond film franchise. There is a really superb quality of banter or pun. My one-liners happen to be the most absurd or cheesiest. We’re not trying to come up with the “best” puns or one-liners—we’re trying to gross each other out with how lame or inappropriate they are. In the middle of these extreme adrenaline-packed moments, he’ll still have the wherewithal to comment on it in the silliest and most absurd way.
I feel like I should come up with a backlog of these lines to use in the appropriate situations, because there’s no way I could think them up on the fly.
Even Seannery—yeah, Seannery, that’s my name for Sean Connery—in Goldfinger, he like kills the guy in the bathtub by electrocuting him with the electric fan, thenhe puts on his gun holster and says, “Shocking.” It’s like, UGGHHHHH! You just groan, but in the most wonderful way. That’s part of the allure of the superspy world: There are dangerous and stressful situations, but you have the silly gadget of the moment, the most beautiful femme fatale, and these eye-rolling one liners. It makes you enjoy it for the entertainment value. There’s no gravitas that you have to be worried about.
Bond, for all intents and purposes, is immortal. Early on in The Illegitimates, we see that Jack Steele is very mortal. That shakes up the paradigm quite a bit.
That was important to me, and I thought of that early on. In following the repercussions of Jack’s libido, we’re grounding this lofty process of him being a superspy and being immortal and never having to suffer the repercussions. And I didn’t want this to be about Jack Steele. This is about the kids. And I hope the readers come to know and love these guys for their own sake.
Hollywood has been buying up comic-book franchises with reckless abandon. I know you’re only two issues in, but have you been contacted by anyone about a movie version?
No. Nope. There’s no interest there. My goal is putting this comic on shelves. I’ve been a lifelong comic book reader. I think that comics have evolved in a way that some of the best storytelling happening in any format is happening in comics.
How’s your Roger Moore impression?
[Laughs] My Roger Moore is shaky. I’d say, in terms of quality of impressions, from Bond down, I would say Connery, then Craig, then Brosnan, then Moore, then Dalton, then Lazenby.
Issue # 2 of “The Illegitimates” (IDW Publishing) is out Jan. 15.