Ed Brubaker’s comic book Velvet (Image Comics, 2015) sees the writer again explore gritty realism in a strong female character, albeit this time channelling the violent charm and loose sex of Ian Fleming.
Fleming wrote a series of novels in the 1950s and 60s featuring James Bond, an English spy, world-saver, and womaniser- those priorities sometimes in jumbled order. These novels have spawned thirty-two movies, becoming one of the world’s most successful character franchises. One of the more enduring supporting members of the cast was Miss Moneypenny, the secretary to Bond’s boss, M.
In the novel Thunderball, Fleming wrote that Moneypenny “often dreamed hopelessly about Bond.” Moneypenny’s primary function is to frame Bond as an object of desire. She is less than the inevitable Bond girl, the object of desire of the audience and Bond’s inevitable conquest – Moneypenny is merely a prop. The character doesn’t have much of a purpose otherwise in the novels, and not much more than that in the movie series until the 2007 continuity reboot, the second Casino Royale.
Wired Magazine’s review of Velvet makes the fundamental error of assessing the comic as “Bond imagined as a secretary”. The concept is instead more subtle than that. Brubaker makes that clear by having a spy who vastly resembles Bond on the receiving end of a shotgun within the first three pages of the very first serialised issue.