Has anyone else watched the Netflix series “Spy Craft”? I have to say that I got sucked into it recently and I’m not much of a TV binge-watcher (which is strange for a comic book guy to say). Needless to say, it is both entertaining and informative, which got me thinking. Is the Spy genre set for a resurgence?
I have always been a fan of the James Bond movies, really since I was a kid. The modern Daniel Craig franchise has really stepped up the James Bond game. I’ve even read a few of the novels, including Casino Royale. One would think that a genre that lends itself well to both film and novel form would be an easy adaptation into comics. But, based on my research, it doesn’t really seem to be the case.
I suppose you could argue that the detective genre is very closely related to the spy genre and obviously comic books have a rich history with detective-based comics and characters (Detective Comics #27 anyone?). The same doesn’t seem to be true for spy-based characters. The caveat to that statement is, of course, Marvel Comics’s most famous spy, Nick Fury. (He is a favorite of mine.) Having said that, when is the last time Nick Fury has been out in the field acting as a spy steeped in espionage activity? It seems that he has been relegated to overseeing SHIELD, acting as a leader rather than a field operative. Some people may prefer him in this role, but for my money, I would love to see a live-action version of 1960’s Nick Fury in all his groovy glory.
Spies on the Rise
That brings me to the resurgence aspect of this article. When watching the series I mentioned, I thought about all of the possibilities within both the Marvel and DC cinematic universes and beyond. Both companies are looking to mine content from their rich comic book histories. I believe there are a ton of great spy characters and storylines they could choose from. If the spy genre does come back, that also means non-Marvel and DC characters could be used in their own feature films as well. We all know that movies typically translate to investment speculation for said character and/or storyline. Let’s take a look at some of those potential investment books!
Golden Age Spy Comics
Some of the golden age spy comics that I was able to find some information on included; Super Spy from Centaur Publishing, which came out in 1940, Atomic Spy Cases from Ace Magazines in 1950, and what seemed to be the most popular of all; Spy Smasher from Fawcett in 1941. Based on GoCollect’s data, a 9.0 graded copy of Spy Smasher #1 has an FMV of $4,700. This might seem high to some people, but for others could be a bargain for a high grade on a book from the early ’40s. That’s especially true if that property is used in media in the future.
Silver Age Spy Comics
The 1960s saw a lot of TV and movie adaptations into comics. These came directly from the Spy genre, such as Man from UNCLE and I Spy. Both had ongoing comic book series. The Cold War and the movie business definitely had an effect on comics of the era, for example, Batman became more of a globe-trotting James Bond-type character himself. The biggest and best example (in my opinion) is the fact that Marvel comics turned Nick Fury from a commando to an agent of SHIELD. Super spy numero uno! The Jim Steranko covers for his ongoing series cement the character and the era for me.
Modern Spy Storylines
When talking about modern storylines in comics there is always a personal bias factor based on what you like to read. Looking through peoples’ top espionage-based comics lists, the following are the top five reoccurring storylines. Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country by Oni Press. Sleeper by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. DC’s Checkmate, also by Ed Brubaker. Grayson by Tim Seeley. Lastly Velvet once again by Ed Brubaker, who seems to be the king of modern espionage storytelling.
Stay tuned, next week I will take a deep dive into the best Marvel and DC Spy characters!