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The Name’s Bond, Super Bond

Written by Steven McCracken

Can James Bond be classed as a superhero? I suppose to answer this question we have to decide what a superhero is first. One way to do this is to analyse the word. Which isn’t hard. Everyone knows what a hero is. Someone who saves the day, someone who performs great and unexpected feats, an individual we admire. Perhaps your hero is your mum. However, I doubt your mother has driven off an ice cliff to escape a melting palace, used the precious seconds of mid-air plunge to turn a parachute and a car bonnet into a windsurfing device and sailed away from danger on roaring Arctic waves as if vacationing in Mallorca.

That’s why the “super” prefix is there. It separates the distinctly average heroes from the ones who’re really giving 100%.

James Bond has, at last count, including upcoming release Spectre, appeared in 24 films. In every one of them he has saved the world from total catastrophe at a risk to his own life that can only be quantified as enormous – if you consider things like jumping across alligator bridges, engaging in combat with a man with metal teeth and having sex with Honor Blackman dangerous.

Of course, we all know there’s more to being a superhero than that. Traditionally, the “super” part of a hero came from a supernatural power – Superman’s ability to fly, Spider-Man’s (disturbing, if you ask me) ability to swing through New York on gossamer shot from his wrists. Being bitten by an animal seems to be a good way to gain these powers. Cats, dogs and particularly midges have tried, but I’m still just plain old me.

What is James Bond’s superpower then? Rampant misogyny, feminists might be inclined to say, reflecting on lines from 1960s Bond such as Sean Connery’s “There’s shomething I’d like to get off your chesht”. Of course, for some men Bond’s ability to pull would, in itself, be enough to classify him as a superhero. It seems that even women who scorn Bond, like Eva Green’s character from Casino Royale, end up falling for him. All Roger Moore had to do was raise a creepy eyebrow and the supermodels of the day collapsed at his feet. Statistically, I’d suggest this is the superpower most men would select (though I’m in grave danger of speaking for myself).

Since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy rewrote the big screen superhero handbook, though, superpowers seem less essential to the make-up of our heroes. The thrilling thing about Christian Bale’s Batman is that he wasn’t “cheating”. He had no supernatural powers to call upon in combat, just supreme training, a hi-tech batsuit and a backlog of Freudian hang-ups and projected childhood anguish large enough to power Gotham.

As Bale discovered in the Dark Knight Rises, saving the day is a lot harder when you have a busted knee, minimal functioning cartilage and you’re trying to decipher Tom Hardy’s dialogue.

Bond’s last outing, Skyfall, presented him to us in a similarly decrepit state. In contrast to the seemingly untouchable JB of yore, particularly Connery’s alpha-male powerhouse, here was a Bond who, having boozed, screwed and shot his way through the decades, was so dilapidated he aimed his gun with a visible tremor in his hand and was knackered after three push ups. He would have lost active duty status if M hadn’t forged his test results.

Like Bale’s Batman, though, Bond still got the job done in the end.

A superhero then? Perhaps. Though there is still one significant issue to address – the cape, or lack thereof. All superheroes must be identifiable by their cape, even if it exacerbates the camp in “super”. Suited and booted, Bond looks like a mid-level sales executive waiting in line at Heathrow Airport, hardly the sort of thing to strike fear into his enemies.

Then again, it’s one thing taking on criminals wearing an armoured batsuit to absorb the blows and with a handy set of wings lest someone throws you off a building, but even Q doesn’t claim that he can provide bulletproof Ted Baker. This is important – because it’s one thing winning a marathon dressed in breathable lycra, quite another when you’re wearing jeans and a leather jacket.

Dressed inappropriately, quipping intermittently, Bond saves the world time and again and he barely even breaks sweat. He passes the superhero test for me, but what do you think?

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About the author

Steven McCracken