We really don’t have any spy comics. Sure there’s a lot of super spies, like Black Widow or Hawkeye but we have very few comics just about your bog-standard spies. I don’t count the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D series either, as a superhero appears in almost every issue, and don’t even mention Grayson (he is dead to me ever since he gave up on being Nightwing). I was thinking about it and I would really like a comic book series about The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I will admit this desire comes after I watched the film last night but the more I think about it, it really makes sense.
Comic books are a visual medium, writers like me might try to call them literature but (while that is true to a degree) they are mostly a visual medium. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E we are presented with an amazing visual style that could translate well to comic books. The Cold War era was full of grey industrial landscapes, warehouses and secret laboratories that all feel lifeless and empty. However, when spies are added into the mix we get flashy suits, slick haircuts and fast cars. This juxtaposition can create visual set pieces which are fun, interesting and eye-catching. This is why the classic Bond films worked so well as the character of Bond breathes life and colour into even the most desperate of circumstance. Consider the TV show Archer:
Archer has a brilliant visual aesthetic, with the muted nineteen sixties colours and wood panelled walls that almost always contain a drinks cabinet. The animation style isn’t brilliant but it’s forgivable because almost every scene is full of life and interesting to look at. This would translate well to a graphic novel and the ability to manipulate the pacing of the piece, as can only be done in a graphic medium, could complement this visual aspect well. There is a scene early in The Man from U.N.C.L.E that demonstrate this by lingering on certain aspects of a tense chase scene to highlight how unflappable and calm the agent’s are being in a chaotic car chase.
This aspect could be further highlighted in a graphic novel with panel within panel close ups or through a combination of different sized panels. The point is, comic books and sixties spy stories belong together and hopefully one day they will be. Or maybe we’ll just stick to superheroes and the occasional indie story about a police officer who uses his ability to taste food really well to solve cases…