Most of what we consider to be today’s modern myths are timeless superheroes that have been preserved and elevated to this status by comic books, television shows, and movies. One modern character who has achieved this title, partly due to this same timelessness and seeming immortality, is Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Fleming created the character of Bond in 1953, when he released his first novel entitled Casino Royale. Critical acclaim for the novels led Fleming to partner with EON productions to film a James Bond movie – the first being Dr. No. While Fleming penned his final Bond story in 1964, other novelists and directors have continued to produce material that adds to the never-ending story of this British superspy. The image of James Bond has become an important part of pop culture, spawning a line of video games and musical arrangements made specifically for the series. It has also influenced many other novels and films; including the Austin Powers spoof series and the Jason Bourne books and movies. The name James Bond has become synonymous with violence, sex and sophistication, and it is a prime example of a modern myth due to people’s familiarity with the character and his personality. James Bond is a modern myth not just because of the mythic qualities that the character and his codename, 007, possess, but also because of the status to which it has been elevated and the number of ways in which it has been recreated.
Ian Fleming released the first novel featuring Commander Sir James Bond of the British Secret Intelligence Service in 1953, which was entitled Casino Royale. The novel introduced Bond as a cold and virtually emotionless MI6 (SIS) agent sent to defeat a Soviet terrorist who is funding a weapons trade in an intense game of Baccarat. As Fleming said of his creation: I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find, 'James Bond' was much better than something more interesting, like 'Peregrine Carruthers.' Exotic things would happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure — an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department. (Chancellor 47)
Most of the Bond novels would make reference to Bond’s coldness and nonchalant attitude towards murdering others, and it would become a staple of the series – a mythic quality that intrigued readers and, later, viewers. Also, Fleming notes that while Bond remains unmoved, wild occurrences take place around him – a duality that offers attractive action scenes and exotic locales as well as a character that garners interest with his mysterious nature. In fact, a glimpse into Bond’s history and previous life is not provided until the novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the 11th novel in the series. This mystique is also another quality that has helped James Bond achieve mythic status.
The Bond novels ended abruptly when Fleming died in 1964, but another novel and a collection of short stories were published posthumously two years later as they had already been written by Fleming. The saga continued, however, through the growing popularity of the film series. Fleming worked directly with EON productions in 1962 to release the first James Bond movie, which featured Sean Connery as Bond. Despite Fleming originally disliking Connery playing his character, along with the first film, Dr. No, receiving bad reviews from the box office, the production company continued to release Bond films and later achieved success and critical acclaim (Barnes and Hearn 8). The film series also gained a following that has continued to expand up to today, and it has reached a point where it appears that the saga will never end. In fact, history has proven that regardless of how poorly made a new Bond film seems to be, aficionados of the series will still embrace it because it features Bond, as proven by box offices failures such as Die Another Day and A View to a Kill.
Although James Bond is not considered a traditional “superhero,” his...
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