Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
 

August, 1965: Bondage comics

No, not the Wonder Woman kind of bondage.I mean “bond-age” as in the Age of James Bond. After Goldfinger came out in ’64, spies were suddenly cooler than they’d ever been before. Comic books unsurprisingly wanted in on the spy game. Of course, DC had already given us a Doctor No tie-in in ’63——and Batman dealing with international espionage and intrigue in ’64, when he fought Hydra.But in August, 1965 (cover-dated — they’d have been on the stands several months earlier) we have three different Bond-influenced books show up. First, we have Starfinger, “more dangerous than Goldfinger!”Then we have Metal Men #15 in which Doc Magnus becomes the target of B.O.L.T.S., an organization targeting scientists who exploit robots. It turns out B.O.L.T.S. is a super-robot created by the USSR to destroy America, but planning to destroy its creators too. It wants the Metal Men to join its robot supremacist cause but they’re not down with that.

The story isn’t Bondian, but it’s hard to imagine S.P.E.C.T.R.E. wasn’t the inspiration for B.O.L.T.S. After all, there’s no reason for the name other than to sound like an 007 adversary (later comics would give us D.E.M.O.N. C.R.U.S.H. and H.U.R.R.I.C.A.N.E.) — even though it’s clearly written as an acronym, it never gets explained (Behemoth Operating via Logic and Transistorized Schemes?) so it might just as well be Bolts, no periods. But that’s not Bondage.

And then, over in Strange Tales, we got our introduction to S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury got a second series. In the first Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD story, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby seem determined to out-bond 007, and they do an excellent job of it.

In the opening scenes, Fury, under orders from the Pentagon, gets strapped into a mysterious device that creates four LMDs. We immediately see the other side plays hardball.The agent with Fury hustles him into a Porsche but the bad guys, now identified as Hydra, send a fighter jet after them. Where James Bond’s Aston Martin had bulletproof shields, the Porsche can shrug off a napalm attack; where Bond’s car had machine guns, the Porsche has — well, just look.At SHIELD headquarters, Fury meets Tony Stark, the agency’s chief weapons designer. Stark explains Hydra wants the world and has a good chance of succeeding. Fury protests that a “chicken colonel with G-2” is hardly fit to take on a challenge of that scope (when Fury appeared in Fantastic Four #21 he was CIA, but Silver Age buff and military veteran Commander Benson says G-2 — military intelligence — often lent its people to the CIA). Possibly Stan and Jack were anticipating readers making that objection. Sure, Nick Fury kicks butt as a commando leader, but does that qualify him to lead SHIELD?

The next couple of pages show that yep, he does. First he spots a Hydra booby trap —— and then he takes charge without even thinking about it.It’s a spectacular first installment in the series, a vast improvement over the Human Torch’s anemic run on the book (it’s also, incidentally, where Fury’s cigar habit becomes established — up to this point, he’s hardly smoked them at all in Sgt. Fury). A lot of comics characters, from Jimmy Olsen to Archie Andrews, would play spies in the next few years; Fury’s the only one where it took. It’s easy to see why.

#SFWApro. SHIELD art by Kirby, other art top to bottom by HG Peters, Bob Brown, Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan and Ross Andru.

22 Comments

  1. Chris Schillig

    Intriguing to think about Bond’s role in making spying and spies “cool” across pop culture.

    The “CSI Effect” is a real(-ish) phenomenon, where jurors are supposedly giving more weight to forensic evidence as a result of being exposed to it on various CSI shows. In education, we sometimes talk about the show’s impact on young adults choosing to enter law enforcement and wanting to become special agents because of it.

    I wonder if more young people in the 1960s and ’70s pursued spycraft as a result of the profession’s uptick in movies, TV and comics? A “007 Effect,” perhaps?

  2. Chris Schillig

    Intriguing to think about Bond’s role in making spying and spies “cool” across pop culture.

    The “CSI Effect” is a real(-ish) phenomenon, where jurors supposedly give more weight to forensic evidence as a result of being exposed to it on various CSI shows. In education, we sometimes talk about the show’s impact on young adults choosing to enter law enforcement and wanting to become special agents because of it.

    I wonder if more young people in the 1960s and ’70s pursued spycraft as a result of the profession’s uptick in movies, TV and comics? A “007 Effect,” perhaps?

  3. Jeff Nettleton

    The DC Showacase for Dr No was actually a reprint of a British comic, adapting the story.

    SHIELD was actually an attempt to copy The Man From UNCLE, rather than Bond. Now, of course, Bond inspired the UNCLE series and Fleming had a consultant credit (he named Napoleon Solo). Stan wanted to copy the success of the tv series, which was doing bi ratings and became a pop culture phenomena. Jack came up with the ideas and gadgets; but, they copied the series closely. The UNCLE HQ was hidden inside a building that was accessed through Del Floria’s Tailoring Shop. The UNCLE agents all carried the UNCLE Special super pistol, which had a reduced sound, then attachments that could turn it into an automatic carbine, with barrel extension, silencer, extended magazine, telescopic sight and shoulder stock. The agents carried communicators, which looked like ink pens. They later got a high tech car (which always broke down, during filming). UNCLE stood for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement and their enemies were THRUSH, which had no meaning, until the tie-in book series created one (The Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity)

    In the SHIELD debut issue and the subsequent, we see the new SHIELD organization is opposed by HYDRA, the agents carry super pistols and Nick has a flying Porsche. The SHIELD New York HQ is hidden in a building and accessed via a barbershop, where the chairs lower into the floor. Kirby went further, with the Life Model Decoys, in the first story, as well as the Helicarrier, SHIELD’s mobile command center (the New York HQ was the main SHIELD base). The acronym came from WW2: Supreme Headquarters Internatioanl Espionage Law enforcement Division. The name is adapted from Eisenhower’s command in Europe: Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).

    The earliest stories are very Man From UNCLE; but, when Jim Steranko takes over, it becomes more Bondian, with Val, Gaffer and Clay Quartermain added, as new agents, not to mention bringing back Jimmy Woo and the Yellow Claw, from Marvel’s (well, Atlas’) 1950s Fu Manchu ripoff.

      1. JHL

        Well the C.I.A. Does secret stuff but the existence of the organization is publicly known and certainly appeared in plenty of movies and TV shows so I don’t see why S.H.I.EL.D in the Marvel universe would be any different.

        The one that was stupid to me was in the first issue of the New 52 Blackhawks series. In it the Blackhawks were supposed to be a cutting edge off the books completely covert best of the best government agency. Despite this, they paint their logo on their aircraft and have to go public when a photo, or video footage (my memory fails in this detail) of one of their aircraft with the logo hits the news. One of the dumbest things I read that year, and it was a banner year for dumb comics.

          1. Alaric

            The Strange Tales SHIELD series was actually really inconsistent about how secret SHIELD was supposed to be. There were newspaper headlines about them sometimes.

  4. Rob Allen

    Let’s not forget Archie Andrews’ career as “The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.” (“Really Impressive Vast Enterprise for Routing Dangerous Adversaries, Louts, Etc.”), and Betty Cooper’s shorter turn as “The Girl From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.”. This lasted for about ten stories in 1966-67.

    1. Jeff Nettleton

      Yeah, even to the point of Fury reporting to the President. Depended on the writer.

      I preferred the original SHIELD and really got tired of the 70s writers who used them as a stand-in for the CIA’s dirty tricks. It got boring and repetitive. Some, like Marv Wolfman and Tony Isabella stuck more with the classic; but, others went nuts with traitors within the organization or underhanded deals, like SHIELD attempting a hostile takeover of Stark International, to force them back into the arms trade.

      Steranko was slightly involved in one of the other 60s spy comics: Harvey Comics’ Spyman, where he did some design work. There was also a character, called Jack Q Frost, who was a sort of secret agent. Then, of course, there is Wally Wood and Len Brown’s THUNDER Agents, where we mix spies and superheroes, though they never quite came up with a decent bad guy organization.

      One interesting little one was a back-up story in Charlton’s E-Man #1. The lead story is the debut of Nicola Cuti and Joe Staton’s seminal homage to Plastic Man (and a fun character, in his own right); but, Tom Sutton drew a back up feature, called The Knight, about a spy who goes undercover. The spy organization was called CHESS (Command for the Hinderance of Sabotage and Subversion) and was led by a male and female (the King and Queen) and the Knights were field agents, Rooks were their field support and Bishop’s their controllers and Pawns are the grunts. The plot was a little thin (only 8 pages, so it couldn’t be too deep); but, it was exciting action and Cuti & Sutton did a nice job. never had a follow up story, though.

      1. Le Messor

        others went nuts with traitors within the organization or underhanded deals

        Reminds me of something a friend mentioned, about how all the Mission: Impossible movies are about them stopping ex-agents and basically cleaning up their own mess. So it makes them look like a supervillain factory more than a good-guy spy shop.

        It was similar in the early MCU movies – it was like the heroes were doing nothing but cleaning up their own messes.

        1. In more than half the movies the opening taped message turns out to be a trap or a trick of some sort. That makes it absurd they keep using it. The Mission Impossible Sourcebook on the TV series says this was the standard pitch from new writers and it always got shot down because it rendered the premise unworkable. But somehow the movies don’t get that.

        1. Jeff Nettleton

          And that’s the thing. It is one thing when Chris Claremont has Viper mind-controlling large segments of SHIELD (including the crew of the Helicarrier) and is able to trap and brainwashed Black Widow. Fury isn’t brainwashed and works with Spider-Man and a Widow who thinks she is a school teacher, while Viper plots to do a kamikaze attack, with the Helicarrier, on a joint session of Congress, with President Carter giving a speech. Same with the debut of Huntress, the future Mockingbird, where she uncovers a rogue element of the organization. Then, we got one rogue after another. then, Nick Fury vs SHIELD has the entire thing be corrupt and the same bunch behind HYDRA and everyone is an LMD and…..

          Ugh!

          I’d rather read the Daredevil run, where Nick Fury tries to recruit Foggy Nelson to join the board of directors and Silvermane has a new HYDRA cell, with various divisions, led by special field commanders. It was an interesting take, with a more organized HYDRA and ran for several issues, before they were beaten.

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