Interview with Richard Schenkman Founder of 007 Magazine – ‘Bondage’

This week we caught up with Richard Schenkman, founder of ‘Bondage‘ magazine – the original Bond fan publication, which ran until 1989. Schenkman brought behind the scenes news and details to American Bond fans – the first of it’s kind – which began as one or two sides of a sheet of mimeograph paper, and grew into a professional magazine.

1. What were some of the literary 007 highlights in the magazine over the years?

I started the club – the magazine, really – in order to learn more about the entire world of Bond, from Ian Fleming to the making of the feature films. As I’ve explained in the past, if anything approaching the wealth of information available today had been around back then, I’d never have done it, but I sensed that there was so much more to know than one could gather from the occasional Life magazine article or interview published in a newspaper. And so I simply set about trying to track down the information that I, as a fan, wanted to know.

daltonIt took a while to get it all going, to gain access to the right people, but once I had a few issues of the magazine under my belt I had samples of a legitimate publication that I could send to people and they could see that I was up to something real… thus making them more likely to speak to me. I also realized that it was important to travel to the places where the key players were located. That’s why I was able to reach out to people like Peter Hunt or Tom Mankiewicz, who lived in Los Angeles, and how I was able to find Terence Young at the Cannes Film Festival. I also visited the sets of a few Bond films, in the Bahamas, Mexico and the UK. I’ll never forget the moment that, after several uncomfortable meetings, Timothy Dalton finally realized that I was seriously interested in how the movies were made – and that I was indeed an aspiring filmmaker, and not just a breathless fan – and he suddenly started treating me more like an adult. I’m actually still friends with Andreas Wisniewski, whom I met on the UK set of “The Living Daylights.”

Given how young I was when I conducted them, I’m rather proud of my interviews with George Lazenby, Cubby Broccoli, Kevin McClory and the rest. And as an editor, I know that I contributed significantly to the work submitted to me by other writers over the years. Publishing the magazine, I learned so much about business, about writing and editing, about conducting oneself amidst successful professionals, and about handling oneself in the presence of one’s idols. This all stood me in very good stead when I went on to work at MTV, and when I started my own production company.

lazenbyBut it was when I was actually living in London during college, spending a semester abroad, that I had the time to do some research, and put the required effort into certain connections. Thus I was able to achieve what are perhaps the things I’m most proud of: discovering the Daily Express comic strips, some of which I published into a graphic novel collecting three full-length Fleming adaptations; and finding samples of Ian Fleming’s non-Bond writing which were virtually – or totally – unknown to anyone who wasn’t reading London newspapers in the 1960’s. I literally found these by going through old microfilms and ordering delicate (and expensive) heat-transfer printouts, and then I patiently negotiated with Peter Jansen-Smith of Glidrose Publications for the rights to print them in Bondage magazine.

John McLusky - live and let die comic strip original artwork james bond 007Treasure Hunt in Eden”, “How to Write a Thriller… I was thrilled to be able to present these to a whole new generation of readers, and especially proud of the way we illustrated them, most notably with George Almond’s beautiful pictures. As a Fleming fan who had long hungered for something more than the existing books, I felt I had stumbled into a gold mine with these pieces. I only wish I’d printed more of them.

2. How did you come to work with George Almond?

Bondage MagazineMy memory is unfortunately spotty in a variety of areas, but I believe that I met George the way I met Raymond Benson and most other eventual collaborators on Bondage magazine: he discovered the magazine somehow and wrote to me, offering to contribute his talent to the publication. He included samples of original illustrations he had created based upon scenes in the books and I was so taken with his skill and verve and passion that I asked him to get involved. (If he remembers it differently, then I’m inclined to go with his version!).

We started small and then got more ambitious, until finally he created a full-color painting for the cover of Bondage #17 (right).

George is a great artist and a fantastic collaborator. We worked very closely creating the images needed to illustrate the stories, and indeed I feel that what we came up with was far more satisfying and entertaining than anything the London Times used when they first published the pieces.

[Editor’s note: Exclusive Interview with James Bond Artist George Almond]

3. Do you think literary Bond and cinematic Bond require each other?

Firstly, I must admit that I haven’t exactly kept up with the “literary Bond”. I read all the John Gardner novels, and certainly all of Raymond Benson’s, but my dedication has wavered since then. I never did quite understand why the movie producers steadfastly refused to consider adapting any of the new novels into films, but that was their call to make. (I personally could have lived without the invisible car and “Dr. Christmas Jones” but that’s just me.) I thought there were some great stories in those continuation novels, but the powers that be made the decision to keep the worlds entirely separate.

Casino Royale - Illustration by George Almond

Casino Royale – Illustration by George Almond – Courtesy of http://www.007magazine.com

Having said that, as a fan I’m deeply grateful for the skillful way they rebooted the series with “Casino Royale”. They managed to be fresh and modern while returning to a much more Fleming-faithful approach than they’d had in ages. And Daniel Craig was a great hire.

Daniel-Craig-Casino-RoyaleSo, do the literary Bond and the cinematic Bond “require each other”? Well, clearly not. The continuation novels sell fairly well, even without my personal purchase, and the movies have managed to get more serious and more character-driven even while creating entirely new stories and characters utterly unconnected to the books. Of course the books would find a larger audience if they were more closely tied to the films, and future films might benefit from having stories developed by novelists, but if the folks behind these endeavors don’t want to play nice, then it won’t happen, and apparently the marketplace doesn’t have strong enough feelings on the subject to push anybody one way or the other.

Ian Fleming Illustration by George Almond

Ian Fleming Illustration by George Almond – Courtesy of http://www.007magazine.com

Don’t forget that even while Fleming was alive, the “movie Bond juggernaut” outpaced him. Sure, the movies promoted the books and thus sales skyrocketed, but there are never going to be anywhere near as many people reading any given James Bond novel as there will be seeing any given James Bond movie. Of course there’d be no movie(s) without the books, but you could say that about Harry Potter or any other successful franchise. Movies and books are different animals; this is why the question “Was the movie better than the book?” has always been moot. There’s the book right on the shelf – the movie, good, bad or indifferent, didn’t alter it in any way. Pick it up and read it!

4. What are your favorite Bond novels including continuation novels and do you have any favorite dust jackets?

Trying to pick a favorite Bond novel is as difficult for me as trying to pick a favorite film. Often, it simply depends on which I’ve experienced most recently…. And sadly I haven’t re-read the books in quite a few years. But if I had to pick a few favorites, I guess I’d name “Casino Royale”, because that’s where it all got started and the James Bond character is so new and sharp and fresh…

ohmss_limited_02You Only Live Twice” because I love burned-out Bond, the suicide garden, and the bittersweet ending… and I have always loved the opening of “Golden Gun” because of the way it pays off the cliff-hanger end of “YOLT”.

But of course “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is so well written, and it has a special place in my heart because I happen to own one of the 250 signed/numbered copies. (right)

As for dust jackets… I’m simply not educated enough in the wide variety of editions published all over the world since the ‘50’s to make an intelligent statement. For a minute I tried to collect different editions and then I realized that to aim for any sort of completeness in that endeavor was madness…or at the very least, a busy part-time job. But having said all that… there is something truly magical about those original Jonathan Cape covers. Every time I see one – especially if I’m holding it in my hands – I feel a strange personal connection to Ian Fleming. I only own a few, and I treasure them.

8 of the original Bond novel Jackets by Richard Chopping

8 of the original Bond novel Jackets by Richard Chopping

5. Are there many articles and interviews that never made it into the magazine?

Yes and no; there were more Fleming pieces I wanted to publish, and there were a few entertaining interviews and other pieces by fans/contributors which I was holding for a “best of” issue of Bondage which never came… but most of this material was destroyed in a flood that ruined a vast collection of paper items valued (at the time) at over $35,000 – and of course some items could not have a price on them of any kind. Books, posters, stills and files were all wrecked because, as you know, paper and water are not good friends. I lost nearly everything Bond-related; thank goodness my signed “OHMSS” was in a box on a higher shelf and the water didn’t touch it. But all my Club and magazine files got wrecked, so the articles I was saving, stills I’d never published, etc, all got wrecked.

Bondage #1 first published June, 1974

Bondage #1 first published June, 1974

illustratedPeople often ask me if I have any back issues of the magazine, or of the book I published (“The Illustrated James Bond”). I literally have one copy of Bondage #’s 1&2, which were just Xeroxed and stapled together anyway. I have a few more – perhaps a dozen or so – of all the following issues because I was careful enough to hold some aside. And I’m glad I did, because there have been some interesting circumstances over the years.

For example, Kurt Loder, who was a friend from my MTV days, did a Rolling Stone cover interview with Sean Connery, and he requested samples of the magazines for research – which he then presented to Connery. I was glad I had saved some extra copies! As for “Illustrated” – one day many years ago I sold my entire stock to Lee Pfeiffer, so if you want a copy, contact him! (Although I’m guessing that he sold his supply to someone else years ago… I see it available from a variety of sellers at Amazon.

Incidental Intelligence

richardRichard Schenkman is a prolific film writer, director & producer. He has won seven awards at film festivals such as the Austin Film Festival, Oldenburg International Film Festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival and WorldFest Flagstaff.

Prior to his feature film career, Schenkman spent more than a decade in the corporate media world. He was one of the original staffers at MTV: Music Television, creating distinctive, influential and award-winning promos, network ID’s, show wraps, news segments, marketing videos and documentary programs.

Visit Richard Schenkman’s website

Interview with Richard Schenkman (mi6-hq.com)

BuyThe Illustrated James Bond‘ by Richard Schenkman

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One thought on “Interview with Richard Schenkman Founder of 007 Magazine – ‘Bondage’

  1. I haven’t had the good fortune to encounter the magazine, but its interviews and articles sound like a must-read. I was going to ask if a “best-of” selection could be made available until I read that a flood had destroyed Mr. Schenkman’s papers. Perhaps those lucky enough to hold back issues of the magazine could pool their resources to scan and make available the contents of those back issues.

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