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A Writerís Commentary: JAMES ROBINSON talks FELIX LEITER #3, on sale TODAY!

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  • A Writerís Commentary: JAMES ROBINSON talks FELIX LEITER #3, on sale TODAY!

    A Writerís Commentary: JAMES ROBINSON talks FELIX LEITER #3, on sale Wednesday from Dynamite!

    As I lie here, prone, at ease, recalling my thought process for writing this issue, let me start by saying my mind is not the steel trap it once was. I donít know if itís my age, the vagaries and distractions of the day, or the allure of a freshly packed opium pipe, but I find it hard to recall even what I did yesterday, let along work I did several months ago.

    I will give you what I can recall, although it will be somewhat of a scattershot of thoughts, more than any cohesive and finely honed narrative of my creative process.

    So, with that said, Iíll take a good long puff on the pipe and begin --


    Iíve always loved full pages that implied a taste of what is to come, but werenít necessarily the first logical moment you choose to show if you opted for a more standard narrative -- where Page 1 begets Page 2 and then Page 3 and so on. Instead I opted here for a tease for the underlying action in this story, the interrogation of Johnny North. We come back to it later, but here it stands as an almost surreal moment in time. Think the editing of filmmaker Nick Roeg. Also, think the splash pages of Grant Morrisonís X-Men run when he did something similar to great effect.

    And here we are in Felixís head.

    One of the things I love about private eyes in fiction is that by virtue of writing traditions -- notably the work of Hammett, Chandler and Ross McDonald to begin with anyway, writing in the first person, or with some kind of internal monologue is part of what we expect. In fact most P.I. fiction feels empty and underdeveloped unless the shamus is telling us how his head aches or how attractive he finds the wayward heiress heíd been hired to locate.

    Thankfully, Felix was made a P.I. by Fleming after he lost his arm and leg, so I felt justified in adding that aspect of storytelling to Felixís adventure here.

    We learn more about his past with Alena and we show her character a little more too. Whether or not sheís a villain in our present day drama, I wanted to show enough of her not being evil, that we understood how Felix might fall for her and how -- perhaps -- she might care for him too, even if her job as a spy comes first. Villains who are purely evil are boring. Conflicted or multi-leveled villains are more fun to write.

    I also felt this sequence was a good chance to show some of the sex and violence that any good James Bond story should have at points along the way.

    The poppies on Pages 2 and 3 spread was a recurrence to a visual idea I used in an issue of DCs Men At War that I did a few years back. I recall sketching out an idea not unlike this for the cover artist. It looked so nice, I thought Iíd repeat it here. Donít the colors look wonderful here?

    PAGE 4.
    More flashback. Obviously Alena is an important element in this series, and at this point in the story, it was the perfect place to show a little more of Felixís past.

    I have to say I love how the color adds an almost photographic feel to the art, through lighting glare and shadow.

    PAGE 5.
    I love the sun, shining through the trees.

    Iím also really happy with Alena and Felixís conversation here. Again, I didnít want her to come across as evil or even that she was using Felix by sexually/emotionally manipulating him. I think a layer of complexity comes through, that makes her an interesting foil for Felix in the present.

    PAGES 6/7.
    I was very happy to make the way Felix talks and the things he says imperfect. He isnít Bond. He isnít just the American Bond. Fictional P.I.s tend to be as interesting as they are imperfect. Felix says stupid things sometimes, but at least is quick to recognize it when he does.

    PAGES 8/9.
    A little more of Felixís internal monologue -- coupled with sex and violence. Are we in the world of Bond? Why yes. Yes, we are.

    And as anyone whoís had sex standing up like that will attest, itís easier if you have all your limbs. I deliberately wanted that (and the nakedness of Felix in general in this spread) to remind us that he wasnít always the way he is now. At one point prior, he was whole. And Ö he was at least slightly closer to being the American James Bond.

    PAGE 10.
    And back to the present. Felix, the broken man.

    Love the transition mid-page, here, by the way.

    I have always enjoyed the fact that Tiger Tanaka existed in the world of Bond, even if he did only appear in the book (and film) You Only Live Twice.

    However, redesigning him so he felt more current and as much a man of action as one who gave orders was important to everyone -- me, Aaron, the folks at Dynamite and those at the Fleming Estate too. Itís tricky to do without it taking away from the ongoing narrative too much, but I attempted to show a gentler and more gentlemanly side to him, even when discussing Felix oversleeping or Johnny Northís interrogation.

    At the same time, however, this is a story with lots of plot-points. This page is mainly that, but even there, writing it so itís clear to readers and not overly Byzantine is something you have to try for. I think I did okay here.

    And we jump back an hour. We see the subtle but notable difference in demeanor of Tanaka as he interviews Johnny North compared to his conversation with Felix.

    I was curious if Iíd be allowed to do this in the comic. Showing Tanaka resorting to violence, when heís unable to get North to talk and the clock ticking down to another potential germ attack. Iím glad I did, and as a result got to show Tigerís unhappiness at being forced into such a terrible decision.

    And back in the present, as we further show Tigerís unhappiness with the choice he was forced into making.

    At this point in the story, I needed a plot device to remove Tiger from his facility and as we turn the page, I thought to break to the outdoors was needed at this juncture.

    Iím greatly interested in how much the Japanese like golf. I read somewhere that golf club membership is at such a premium that men walk around in golf attire, as if on their way to a game, when they arenít even members anywhere. They want to look like golfers even when they canít be.

    With Tigerís rank and station, I thought he would have golf club membership and this was the perfect location to cut to. Golf as a tension release for Tiger suited the character I was trying to (re)create here.

    Itís almost a no-brainer to intercut the relaxing golf game with Johnny Northís violent interrogation. That was my idea.

    However, it was Aaronís idea to show so much of that violence as silhouette, where you have to imagine more of whatís happening. Definitely a wonderful use of ďless is more.Ē

    I wasnít sure how far I should go with this. Dynamiteís new Bond series, as introduced by Warren Ellis, is a bit of a mixture. It isnít merely an update of the book-version of Bond and neither is it the sci-fi gadget strewn world of the movie-Bond. Itís somewhere in between, which I love.

    However, itís hard to gauge how sci-fi you can go and be true to this new version.

    I feared the projected ďcomputer desk topĒ/ďworking wallĒ might be too much. Indeed, I first thought of it from seeing Minority Report, which is obviously science fiction. However, seeing it here, I think it works well. In fact, seeing it drawn so beautifully by Aaron, the contrast and juxtaposition between the screens floating there and the greenery and openness of the golf course is lovely.

    And back with Johnny Northís interrogation. Not much more to say except I love Aaronís art here, as I have throughout this series.

    And we end with the moment that we set up thematically with Page One. Booyah. Drops mike.