A couple of weeks ago, we caught up with rising superstar comic writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson. We talked about a bunch of cool topics and published that interview on our Pop Culture SquadCast: Interview Edition. Johnson is super busy creating comics, but we talked about the three biggest announced projects that he is working on.
Recently, it was revealed that he will be writing the new series of James Bond from Dynamite Entertainment, with artist Marco Finnegan providing the visuals. That series begins next month in August.
We also spoke about what is going on in the pages of Action Comics from DC Comics where Ricardo Federici, Johnson’s partner in crime from the Last God has taken over primary art duties from Daniel Sampere.
As is usually the focus of our comic creator chats, we spent quite a bit of time talking about Phillip’s writing process and techniques. Some of that highlighted the excellent work that he has been doing on the Marvel Comics series Alien with artist Salvador Larroca.
It is always illuminating to talk to Phillip and we have transcribed some of the interesting newsy bits of the conversation below the jump. Give the SquadCast a listen and let us know what you think.
Pop Culture Squad: Let’s talk about James Bond. Congratulations on writing the new James Bond series with Dynamite Entertainment. Before we get into the series, I want to talk about who is “your James Bond” Which actor is the one that you are always going to watch.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: Daniel Craig, for sure.
PCS: Okay, good. I personally don’t have a favorite. I love them all. What was the first Bond movie that you saw?
PKJ: <laugh> I honestly don’t remember. And the reason is it wasn’t like there was just one that came on. This one time I was staying with my stepdad’s mother for the weekend, and there was this Bond marathon on TV.
PCS: So, you watched them all at once.
PKJ: Seriously. I watched like a dozen of them probably. I fell asleep during one of them. I was like, “Oh, I guess I’m going to go to bed.” And, at the time, I remember liking Sean Connery a lot. I thought like “This guy’s super cool.” And I still feel like he’s probably the coolest of the old Bonds of the pre-Craig Bonds.
I feel like Daniel Craig kind of changed the whole game with the approach, not just with the quality of the movies because they are newer. Every one of those movies is such a time capsule for me. It feels so much of its time, and there is super cringy stuff that doesn’t make any sense anymore. I mean, some of it is the visuals, but most of it is just the way Bond treats people, the way he treats women, the way everyone talks.
PCS: I will say Casino Royale is one of my favorite movies and probably up there in terms of my favorite James Bond movie of all time.
PKJ: I think it’s hard to debate that. I think Casino Royale is the best Bond movie, easily. I think that it took some of the right lessons from the Borne Identity stuff. That was hot at the time. It gave Bond a physicality that is really dope. Like, that parkour chase in the beginning was a statement about how different the Bond movies were going to be going forward and how physical it was in a way that the others weren’t.
It’s not like those other guys were in bad shape. They all look great, but Daniel Craig wore this physicality, not just being muscular, but the character likes to fight in those newer movies.
PCS: Yeah. I can see that resonating with you knowing your fighting history. He has a much more developed hand to hand fighting style and efficiency than the rest of them.
PKJ: That. Yeah. I love that. I love how it is not like he enjoys shooting people, but he seems so competent. In the intro to Casino Royale where he is like killing the guy in the bathroom, slamming him around like, drowning him, or choking him out and breaking the sink, it’s just so physical, not clumsy, but so brutal. You know that he’s kind of struggling a little bit, but he’s also not shying away, and it’s just rough, but also, it just makes sense. He’s this guy he’s trying to get his footing, and that is also kind of the statement about the character.
That aspect of the character continues even in the later ones. In Skyfall, where he is coming back after he has been away for a long time. He got shot and almost killed. Horribly wounded. He’s still clearly feeling the effects of the gunshot wound and he is trying to do the certification tests.
He’s on the range and not doing so great, and he looks at the other guys watching him. He’s a creature of ego, and he’s embarrassed that they’re seeing him kind of struggle. Then he just puts his gun in one hand and just starts walking fast towards the silhouette, like bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. Like, you’re still dead!
The books and the movies, they all talked about him like a blunt instrument, but sometimes the movie itself kind of belays that. Sometimes with the martinis a certain way and bowties always tied, he doesn’t seem like a blunt instrument. So, when he really lives that and owns it and you see that he really is a killer underneath it all, yeah, I like that.
What will we get in the new James Bond?
PCS: I think it’s great. So, what are we going to see in your James Bond book?
PKJ: Well, you’re going to see some of that <laugh>, but you’re also going to see a 21st century take on Bond that I think is necessary. It’s been interesting to see other writers takes on him in recent years. Those first books were in the fifties. Sure. It’s important to understand that the license Dynamite has is from the Flemings, for the novels. So, it’s not going to be a direct translation of the “Craig” Bond. Right?
They want to see a take on Bond that is true to the original character, but the problem with that is the original character was this super cool guy from the fifties. The way he treated women and his other attitudes would be hard to pull off today and would give us a guy that’s kind of hard to root for in 2022.
PCS: Yeah, if you watch Dr. No, it’s hard to watch that today. You have to watch that with a special lens and give Bond the benefit of a doubt in certain situations, and just know that it wouldn’t be that way if it was filmed today.
PKJ: Totally. He’s very much of his time, and that’s totally fine. But now it’s 2022; so, we have to give us that same blunt instrument, but in a different way than before.
PCS: I’m excited.
PKJ: The way I’m approaching that is that we can’t have a “Bond Girl” like Pussy Galore anymore. So, there is a new take, and the new “Bond Girl” that I’ve introduced in this one is herself a double 0, and rather than younger, she’s actually slightly older than him. She has kind of been a mentor to him. She showed him the ropes when he first got in. I was inspired by the newish Anthony Horowitz Bond novel.
We introduced Agent 003 Gwen Gann, who is a badass agent who taught Bond a lot about how to be a Double 0. She also represents this “Queen and Country” kind of approach to the gig that Bond is in danger of forgetting and losing, a part of himself from when he was younger. She represents this ideal to him, not just as a potential lover, but also as what it means to be what he is. I really like her, and we see a lot of their relationship in flashback and through this revenge mission that he goes on. We see Bond flexing his spycraft muscles a little bit, which we don’t usually get.
PCS: I like that too. This all sounds great. Issue number 1 comes out in August. Okay. And is it five issues or six?
PKJ: I think at this point it is going to be a six-issue arc.
Where the Action is going:
PCS: Let’s change subjects to your writing of DC’s flagship series, Action Comics. The story that’s being told right now has a feel like we’re coming to a massive conclusion for the “Battle of Warworld”, and you just teased that there is going be a major shift coming up. I think in September. Can you give us a hint of what that is? I guess we are going to come to an end to this “Warworld Saga”.
PKJ: We are. Yeah. The Warworld saga is about to wrap up. The last numbered issue of the Warworld saga is Action Comics #1046, and then that leads straight into a special issue called Superman Warworld Apocalypse. That is a double sized, 48-page issue. That is coming out roughly the same time as Action Comics #1047, which is the beginning of another mini series called Kal-El Returns where it’s all kind of leading us up to Action Comics #1050.
PCS: Number 1050 is a big deal? Is it splash issue?
PKJ: It’s very, yes. Yeah, dude. It’s very much a splash issue. It’s going to be super dope. And Action Comics #1047 honestly is going to be really cool too. It gets us back to like classic Superman in Metropolis stuff with another classic villain.
When the Batman “One Bad Day” stuff got announced. Somebody was asking why they didn’t do this for Superman. I reached out asking, “How would you do One Bad Day for like Darkseid, or Mongol, or Brainiac?” They just are what they are, and they have always been these titanic threats. It’s not the same kind of thing.
PCS: I mean, there were plenty of those lesser Superman villains, but in today’s modern storytelling of comics they’re not useful anymore. Toyman for example.
PKJ: My answer to that question was, the Warworld saga has kind of been the One Bad Day for Mongol. The last year and a half the last year and a half we’ve been making Mongol really interesting and showing their origin, showing this new version of Mongol that hopefully is a big threat and everyone sees as scary again. This has all been about establishing Mongol as a serious villain and also showing a new side to Superman. We are about to do that same kind of thing now for Metallo, and I’m way excited about that.
You can listen to the SquadCast above for even more about James Bond, Superman, and Alien. Phillip and I got into a very interesting discussion about his career and what it means to him.
We talked about his work volunteering to help stop human trafficking and how that found his way into his writing. If you are interested in where that conversation came from, check out this twitter thread.
So: there was some noise earlier about #Superman being a colonizer/Warworld being Iraq in current #ActionComics. I’m confident readers already know that’s untrue, but with all the ruckus that followed, I think it’s worth a few minutes to talk about what Action actually is. Thread
— Phillip Kennedy Johnson (@PhillipKJohnson) May 20, 2022