Last week a trailer for the newest James Bond movie Spectre was released. Speaking personally, this was an exciting moment – I’m a big fan of Bond. It got me thinking: Is James Bond a superhero? He doesn’t have super powers – other than Doctor-esque actor-shifting ability, and a superliver – and doesn’t wear any kind of recognizable costume, unless you count suits and tuxes. And yet he fights bad guys, saves the world, and is presented as the hero, though often a flawed one. However there has been a great deal of flawed heroes, even those with powers.
Had the term been around longer, characters such as Robin Hood (who inspired Arrow) and Zorro (the inspiration for Batman) would have been coined as such. These characters didn’t have super powers in the classic sense, and while Zorro dons his black cape and mask for effect, Robin Hood’s green tights were nothing more than traditional clothing before becoming an essential part of the character. Comic book grandfather Popeye gained super-strength stemming from the liberal application of spinach. Are any of these characters (or are they not) superheroes?
Let’s investigate some traditional superhero traits, and apply them to James Bond as a test. Wikipedia states some common traits of superheroes: Extraordinary powers or abilities, a strong moral code, a motivation, a secret identity, a distinctive costume, a motif or theme for the superhero, a supporting cast, a rogues gallery, independent wealth, a base of operations, and a backstory.
Right off the bat Bond is failing the super-SATs. He has no extraordinary powers or abilities, not a very strong moral code, secret identity, distinctive costume, motif or theme (like Batman or Spider-Man, not musical), he doesn’t present himself as wealthy, or at least it isn’t made apparent, and his backstory – when an actor’s Bond is given a backstory it is rarely similar to other actors. This leaves a motivation (It’s his job), a supporting cast (Q, M, Moneypenny, a few other characters movie-by-movie), a rogues gallery (this is even a sort-of; most opponents show up but once), and a base of operations (the headquarters of MI6).
So by the numbers, Bond is four-elevenths hero, which falls under the Kirby-Lee line of fifty percent. No, I kid, but Bond does not seem much like a superhero. Many of the aspects are cosmetic or incidental, but his M.O. speaks out against the term the most. Bond, in most of his incarnations, is a brutal killer who does not hesitate removing someone from the picture should he or she be revealed as a nuisance, enemy, or no longer needed. There are many ways to go about this discussion, but I believe this is the most telling. Batman may brood, but he doesn’t kill. Superman is more powerful than anything on Earth, but he doesn’t kill his enemies. Even the Punisher, who is one of the most famously violent superheroes, only guns for criminals. Bond seems to not care who is hurt as long as his mission is successful.
But still: James Bond saves lives! He fights the bad guys! He protects the world! Do the ends justify the means if the end is bringing down someone with the ability and desire to cause wanton destruction, theft, and even murder? Does a superhero’s aspect come from his methods, or from his goal?
Thanks for reading! Tell us whether you agree or disagree, and come back later for more fun superhero info!