Sometimes, the thing you wanted to write goes off in a completely different direction. Sometimes, life gives you a gift of back-to-back surprises on a topic you never thought to write about. While wandering around at last week’s SciFiWorld fair in Stockholm, the treasure trove of comic books I came across was one of those surprises that life has to offer.

James Bond, one of the best-known spies in the world, has such a wide audience for his books and subsequent movies that within a short time, James Bond comic books started coming out, too. The 007 comic books are generally based on the films, though some also have details from the books. However, a Swedish group that was illustrating James Bond stories started writing their own escapades for him. This is how James Bond was thrown into a bunch of new adventures, this time in Swedish.

James Bond comic book

While browsing old comic books at the fair, I found a few issues of this Swedish-language comic. But life’s surprises don’t just end here. Around the same time, I also came across Max Williams’ article on the importance of Golden Eye in the James Bond series, and I truly understood the gifts life gives you.

As you probably know, the first James Bond novel came out after the British secret service’s biggest fiasco, the Cambridge Five. Fodder for dozens of books and movies, the Cambridge Five was a group of men who were introduced to communism at Cambridge University and then went on to rise through the ranks of the secret service as spies for Russia. The most well-known book on the topic is John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

To heal the wounds opened by these spies and save the country’s reputation, James Bond was chosen to be a sort of perception operation. Additionally, Bond author Ian Fleming was himself a former spy. For years, James Bond was held up as the model spy. Then, American agents started appearing on the screen. First, there was Vin Diesel’s next-generation agent, Xander Cage, or XXX. That film even opens with a James Bond-like agent who’s immediately noticed and killed because he can’t adapt to the modern age.

Briefly, XXX represents a turning point for James Bond’s tactics. In the same year, Robert Ludlum’s spy Jason Bourne came to the screen with The Bourne Identity, and both proved to be James Bond’s next-generation rivals. Within a few years, if you asked a young person who the most famous spy with the initials “JB” was, the answer was “Jason Bourne.”

The Bourne Identity


Although the agents and their appearance, talents, and weapons have changed, there are still some spy-movie rules that remain: Do Not Touch Women and Children and Do Not Kill Innocents, both of which are at the foundation of any superhero philosophy. In the novel American Assassin, Vince Flynn refers to these rules when he’s describing why Russian agents never kidnap people in Beirut. After one agent is kidnapped by a gang in Beirut, the young CIA agent Mitch Rapp criticizes the CIA’s policy, saying nobody has the courage to kidnap Russian spies. Upon this criticism, one agent tells Rapp that when the same thing happened to a Russian spy, Russians murdered all the men in the group who did the kidnapping along with their wives and children. He says the Americans would never do such a thing.

All of these rules, the new agents, and everything else changed after 9/11. The United States started using drones instead of spies. Any women or children who get killed in drone strikes are referred to as collateral damage. The new generation of spies no longer operates in the Middle East because there’s no need for them as long as there are drones.

In Turkey, the character most resembling James Bond was Altın Çocuk (Golden Child). Göksel Arsoy’s character hit the screens in 1966, followed by several sequels. In Altın Çocuk’s 1967 film Beyrut (Beirut), our hero is in pursuit of a bad guy called Ejder (the Dragon) and his gang, who were causing problems in the Middle East. However, even though Turkish cities, especially Istanbul, were teeming with spies for years, Turkish spy stories weren’t very common in Turkish literature and movies until the TV series Kurtlar Vadisi (Valley of the Wolves) began its broadcast on TV.

Kurtlar Vadisi is about the adventures of Polat Alemdar, a Turkish spy. Raised from childhood by a high-level intelligence officer, Alemdar is fluent in many languages, he can use any type of weapon, and he has a photographic memory. Alemdar starts off by rescuing Turkey from an international mafia, and like Altın Çocuk, is later revealed as the saviour of the Middle East.

After Kurtlar Vadisi, there were requests for similar series, but none of them took off. The rules that changed after 9/11 started to change in Turkey after the December 17–25 corruption scandals in 2013, and this change was complete after the July 15 coup attempt in 2016. There aren’t any police bucking the system or agents saving the country from international mafias anymore. Because there is only one hero (!)in Turkey, the cameras turned to history and street gangs. In some TV programmes, there are the adventures of the hero founders of the Ottoman Empire, and in others, it’s good guy vs. bad guy stories involving gangsters.

Nowadays, while especially government-supporters are swooning over series based in Ottoman times, other recent favourites are gang series like Çukur (The Pit) and Bir Zamanlar Adana’da (Once upon a Time in Adana). In these shows, killing people is common. Women are portrayed as second-class citizens who need to be protected. In fact, in the first episode of Çukur, it’s no big deal that the most beloved character kills his stepbrother, shoots up his street, and sells drugs. The father character is so cold-blooded that he would shoot the woman he loves if she came between him and the street!

Çukur TV series

Looking at the programmes on Turkish television today, we can see the extent to which violence, especially violence against women, has become quite normal. The sad part about this is the young people growing up watching this normalized violence and seeing violence against women as an expression of love. On top of this, the police play little to no part in anything because now people get justice for themselves.

Because old-school heroism is no longer accepted by audiences, there isn’t really a place for old-school heroes anymore. This place now mostly belongs to the new heroes of television and film. These heroes’ archenemies are so bad that any measure taken against them is fair. Most comic books, though, still remain faithful to the old heroes’ rules.



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