January 31, 2013


Four days left to enter! Celebrate Spy Vibe's birthday by entering to win cool vintage collectibles. See the main contest page for details. Entries must be in by February 3rd. What else is new on Spy Vibe? Scroll down for posts about the new Barbarella tv show, Man From U.N.C..L.E. illustrations, and Spy Vibe's 2012 top ten, including my review of Skyfall.

Our sister site, Bish's Beat, has posted a really cool gallery of Johnny Nero covers. Johnny Nero was the jet-setting secret agent hero of a comic published in the UK by Fleetway Super Library from 1967-1968. Johnny Nero alternated bi-monthly as the main character with the Lion hero, Barracuda, for a total of 13 stories. Today on Spy Vibe, let's take a look at these Fleetway super spies. Who was Johnny Nero? From the Comic Vine: "Johnny Nero was a skilled operative for British Intelligence in MI5, but after inheriting a fortune he left the field of espionage, becoming even more wealthy through his own efforts. Quickly bored with his life as a millionaire, Nero started taking assignments from his old boss in the spy trade, Colonel Jason, and dealt with a succession of assassins, saboteurs, criminals, spies and master minds. Johnny lived in Kensington Garden, London, in an appropriately groovy pad, where you would properly find a millionaire/spy in the '60s, and was sometimes aided on his missions by his business secretary Jenny Bird."

The cover images were painted by Paolo Montecchi, who depicted Johnny as actor Marcello Mastroianni. Spy Vibers know that I'm a huge Mastroianni fan. When the Blu-ray edition of The 10th Victim (1965) was in production, I was overjoyed to be able to put together the stills and poster gallery for the special features. For once, collecting paid off- at least in comp copies of the movie. Using Marcello's features added such an exciting dynamic to these comic covers; one can almost imagine that they were posters for a lost EuroSpy series starring Marcello Mastroianni. The image with the clear sunglasses, featured on the cover of issue #1: Meet Johnny Nero, is reminiscent of a number of scenes in The 10th Victim, as you can see from the still below.

The cover design for issue #3: The Devil's Secret should look familiar to fans of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. Montecchi has based his femme fatale completely on the early Pan edition of For Your Eyes Only, painted by J. Oval. A change of color to the hair and outfit, and who would notice, right? Fleming scans below are from our sister site, Illustrated 007

Looking more deeply into Fleetway, there is a great article about the adventure comics from Fleetway Super Library on Bear Alley, where you can see fantastic scans from some of the other espionage titles they printed. Here is a small sample of a few that stood out to me. We can get a closer look at two inked pages from Johnny Nero, followed by illustrated covers for stories starring Barracuda. Remember that Barracuda alternated with Johnny Nero as the main hero in the comic. Sometimes known as Codename: Barracuda, he was an agent who worked with the United Nations to combat the evil forces of WAM (War Against Mankind). Add that to your list of secret spy organizations! You can learn more about the Fleetway Super Library here. The Comic Vine quote about Johnny Nero above was based on the Bear Alley article.


Celebrate Spy Vibe's birthday by entering to win cool vintage collectibles. See the main contest page for details. Entries must be in by February 3rd.

Variety reports that the Barbarella project with 007-writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade has been revived as a new television series from Gaumont International. Lost in development a few years back as a feature film, the new series, Skein, is based on the original comic character by Jean-Claude Forest that inspired Vadim's 1968 cult classic movie with Jane Fonda. The cast has not been revealed. The executive producer is Nicolas Winding Refn. "I'm excited for the opportunity to reinvent 'Barbarella' with my friends at Gaumont and Martha De Laurentiis," said Refn. "And I look forward to bringing this unique character to life for a new generation of fans as I believe she is one of the ultimate counter-cultural characters." Purvis and Wade are set to write the series. Although I love the costumes of the Vadim film, it was ultimately too static and stagey to work as a movie. In the hands of these very competent writers, I hope to see Barbarella translated as cinematic experience with fresh ideas and dynamic storytelling. See my review of Purvis and Wade's script for Skyfall here.

January 29, 2013


Celebrate Spy Vibe's birthday by entering to win cool vintage collectibles. See the main contest page for details. Entries must be in by February 3rd.

A favorite discovery last year was issue #35 of The World Around Us by Classics Illustrated from 1961. Published in the same year that the Berlin Wall was built, the comic is steeped in Cold War fascination with Spies. Devoted to the topic of espionage, this 35 page comic includes some really cool segments. It starts with a story called Most Conspicuous Courage, about a British WWII secret service group called Special Operations Executive. The most modern tale in the book, it features some moody art like the panels below. Author Ian Fleming based many of the key elements and characters in his James Bond novels on his experiences with the Special Operations Executive during WWII. The art from this particular story in Spies captures some of the dynamic drama and intrigue that we associate with Fleming. If you are hooked by these panels, I recommend also checking out the excellent graphic novel, Super Spy, by Matt Kindt

The Spies comic then delves into historical stories about secret agents, including tales from the time of Moses, President Lincoln, the lead-up to WWI, spies and saboteurs during WWI, arial espionage, industrial spies, famous spies, and Classic Illustrated-style stories about Captain Cook, the Battle of Tours, and the Salem witches.

Similar to the end-pages of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. Gold Key comics, The World Around Us: Spies also features some neat spreads dedicated to the tricks of the trade. Some of the topics with illustrations are wire tapping, concealed microphones, cameras, codes, cyphers, stamps, matchbook messages, and microdots.

I love looking at stuff like this! This Spies issue can command some collectible prices, but most copies are well-read and can be found cheaply on eBay. The cover is really cool, assembled in a collage style with iconic images of the trench coat, Mauser, stamps, and matchbook. I had this hanging in my lair for a while. It makes a great display item, as well as a time-capsule from the height of the Cold War. Do any Spy Vibers have this? Can you recommend other comics from this era that we might enjoy?

January 28, 2013


Celebrate Spy Vibe's birthday by entering to win cool vintage collectibles. See the main contest page for details. Entries must be in by February 3rd.

The cover designs for the new editions of Ian Fleming's The Diamond Smugglers and Thrilling Cities have been unveiled. Bringing Fleming's journalistic writing to new audiences, the books will be published this April and are designed to compliment the Vintage editions of Fleming's 007 novels released last year. More details at Ian Fleming Publications


Celebrate Spy Vibe's birthday by entering to win cool vintage collectibles. See the main contest page for details. Entries must be in by February 3rd.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. digest magazine published many novellas based on the classic spy program that never appeared elsewhere in print. Each story was seasoned with great little spot illustrations like the one above (May 1966 issue/The World's End Affair). The digest ran for 24 issues between February 1966 and January 1968. 

January 27, 2013


Celebrate Spy Vibe's birthday by entering to win cool vintage collectibles. See the main contest page for details. Entries must be in by February 3rd.

Author and spy scholar Dr Wesley Britton has posted a look at the many directors who have brought the James Bond films to the big screen. "By all accounts, it was Young who took a rather rough-hewn Scot under his wing and molded the ex-boxer in Young's own sophisticated image. It was Young who showed Connery how to dine in fine cuisine settings, helped him pick tailor-made suits, and how to make 007 a more elegant figure than Ian Fleming had crafted in the original novels. As a result, Dr. No (1962) introduced a template that would grow and evolve, at least for a few years." More at From Terence Young to Sam Mendes: The Many Faces Who Shot James Bond

January 26, 2013


Celebrate Spy Vibe's birthday by entering to win cool vintage collectibles. See the main contest page for details. Entries must be in by February 3rd. New Prizes just added!

Prize subject #7: "SAINT". The Saint Sees it Though by Leslie Charteris. Early 1960s pb edition with Roger Moore cover. good reading copy. The final full-length Saint novel to be solely written by Charteris, the Saint investigates Opium smuggling by a syndicate in New York. 

Prize subject #8: "UFO". UFO 2 Sporting Blood. excellent 1971 pb edition. The second novel based on Gerry Anderson's live-action Sci-Spy classic. 

January 23, 2013


Don't forget to enter Spy Vibe's annual birthday give-way contest to win vintage prizes. You'll find James Bond, Ian Fleming, Doctor Who, Honey West, and more! Now, on to Piper Gates Design!

When you are interested in retro design and pop culture, as we all are here in the Spy Vibe community, you quickly discover a network of interesting websites and like-minded pilgrims devoted to well-dressed adventure. Names of the major designers soon become familiar and you trade iconic images back and forth between blogs. It is an unusual and exciting event, then, when a new gem appears on your radar. This was my experience, when I recently was searching for images of Delia Derbyshire, music pioneer from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and composer of the electronic Doctor Who theme. She is an artistic character from the "Spy Vibe" era that is worth checking out. In fact, a documentary film was just made about her. My internet search was bringing up the same few images of Delia, until I came upon what looked like a classic paperback book cover. There she was, Delia, and more stylish and retro than anything else I had uncovered. A few clicks later and I found myself falling down the rabbit hole of an innovative designer who has mined the world of Barbarella, Gerry Anderson, ITC spy shows, vintage book designs, and hip musicians from the 1960s. Under the guise of Piper Gates Design, artist Ian Percival is a new missing link and instant hero on Spy Vibe. I sat down with him last night for a virtual chat about his work.

Your images seem to come together in series based on cohesive design ideas. What are some of the main inspirations you drew from to create these series? Were there designers that you looked at specifically?

Very nice of you to say that. It’s a pretty endless list but here goes: obviously the design of Penguin & Pelican Books from the 1960s and 70s are a huge influence on the work I’ve done. I also love DC and Marvel Comics from the 1970s as well. Neville Brody’s design for Up-Tight The Velvet Underground Story was a huge influence when I was younger. I use to spend hours just taking in the design of that book. Quentin Fiore’s design for The Medium is the Massage is truly inspirational as is the advertising  of Geigy. I’d also cite Peter Blake, pulp TV/ film tie in books, the back cover of Pet Sounds, the front cover of Dying For It by The Vaselines, Look-in magazine and film souvenir programmes from the 1970s particularly Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

You have a wonderful collection based on some of our favorite retro icons like The Prisoner, UFO, The Persuaders, Bedazzled, Barbarella, and others. Which properties were the most successful to adapt so far? Tell us a little about the process you go through to choose imagery and design concepts?

From a commercial viewpoint it would be the Joy Division Colouring Book and the Quadrophenia poster as they sold out very quickly. From an artistic viewpoint my favourite was probably the UFO Postcard Set as UFO has always been one of my favourites since I can remember. Apart from the Dinky Toys and some sweet cigarette cards there was no merchandise; so basically I designed something that I would have liked to have bought. I thought conceiving them as lost novels combined with making them appear as if they were printed in 1969 would be an interesting concept to follow.

Are there retro icons you plan to work with in the future?

I’d love to do a Kraftwerk colouring book one day. It would be the era from Ralph & Florian to Computer World.

I'm with there, brother! I'd love to see a Kraftwerk book. In fact, I recently printed my own history of Kraftwerk design book on Blurb! Have you tried some 1960s characters that didn't adapt well to new designs?

No, not really. I find that if you have the right idea together with the correct illustration or image, plus some wonderful typography, you can’t go wrong. Having said that Bodie from The Professionals was a bugger to illustrate.

You have a really cool book design devoted to BBC Radiophonic Workshop composer Delia Derbyshire (Doctor Who theme), as well as a few Doctor Who-related images. Have you thought about a making sets of Radiophonic composers and all of the Doctors?

Delia was part of  a collection called “Geniuses in Sound” that also featured Joe Meek, Brian Wilson and Martin Hannett and was influenced by Raymond Hawkey. I’d certainly be up for doing the whole of the Radiophonic Workshop but its appeal might be somewhat limited. Doctor Who is one of my favourite programmes ever, so I wouldn’t rule that out, though the Target book covers from the 1970s are very hard to beat. I’ve also always loved the Tom Baker Doctor Who Weetabix cards from the 1970s which I use to carry round with me (for what seemed like years) when I was a kid.

I've seen some of your posters on eBay. Are there other ways for fans to locate and order your cards and posters?

Not at the moment but hopefully there will be a Piper Gates Design website where you can buy lots of lovely items from in the none to distant future. Anyone is free to email me or contact me on twitter with any questions they might have.

How did you get started in design? Did you study in art school? 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I think it stems from making covers for bootleg tapes when I was about 14 years old, its what started my interest in the placement of imagery and typography. Looking back, I was pleased to discover that I used a lot of Helvetica Letraset on them. Then when I was in a band after that, I use to design all the posters, so I suppose my interest in design has always been there.

To answer the second part of your question I did a foundation degree in Graphics and eMedia which was followed by a BA in Graphic Design. I hoped going to art school would make me become the next Syd Barrett or Pete Townshend but I ended up becoming a geek with a love of fonts!

Have you been able to do commercial work for publishers or other print services? I think I saw you had something in Shindig! Are there companies that you would love to work with?

I’ll happily work for anyone just as long as it’s an interesting project and the client is aware of my style. I get a lot of emails from people asking me to design for them but they haven’t got any money to pay me. I often wonder if they try this sort of tactic out in Tesco’s when they’re doing the weekly shop and if they do whether it works.

Thanks again to Ian for sharing his passion and projects with us. You can find more of Ian's Piper Gates Design images on his website. You can also find limited-edition cards and posters on eBay by searching for the seller, le_big_e. 

January 21, 2013


Spy Vibe recently turned four years old, and as a thank you to readers, I'm giving away presents! Anyone can enter to win. I only have one copy of each prize, and you can only win once. All you have to is send an email to me at spyvibe[at]gmail.com with 1) your prize choice "subject" in the subject heading and 2) your name and mailing address in the body of the email. You can enter to win more than one prize, but each entry must be a separate e-mail with the prize "subject" listed. I will pick winners in a random drawing on Monday February 3rd. That gives you two weeks to enter. Good luck! 

Scroll down to see my Top Ten Countdown of favorite topics from last year. You'll find old friends like James Bond, Diabolik, The Beatles, Spy Vibe collectors, Ian Fleming scholars, a Playboy Bunny, industrial designers, and the master of the macabre mystery-adventure comic!

By the way, if you would like to support Spy Vibe in other ways, please consider making a small donation through our Paypal tip link. The costs of maintaining the domain name, URL forwarding, and mailing costs have put the squeeze on me! Any help you can manage will be greatly appreciated. Now, here are the prizes (book descriptions from Amazon unless stated otherwise).

New Prizes just added!

Prize subject #7: "SAINT". The Saint Sees it Though by Leslie Charteris. Early 1960s pb edition with Roger Moore cover. good reading copy. The final full-length Saint novel to be solely written by Charteris, the Saint investigates Opium smuggling by a syndicate in New York. 

Prize subject #8: "UFO". UFO 2 Sporting Blood. excellent 1971 pb edition. The second novel based on Gerry Anderson's live-action Sci-Spy classic. 

Prize subject #1: "SMUGGLERS". The Diamond Smugglers by Ian Fleming. 1964 1st US pb edition. clean reading copy. crease and lean on spine. Ian Fleming’s world travels, interests, as well as his journalism and wartime experiences, lent authority to everything he wrote. Originally published in 1957, this edition restores the original observations, photos, maps, and language used at that time. In 1957, as the Cold War raged, Ian Fleming took a respite from writing James Bond to craft a work of nonfiction every bit as tense as a Bond adventure. Aided by an ex-MI5 agent and International Diamond Security Organization operative going by the alias “John Blaize,” Fleming chronicled the IDSO’s infiltration of the “million-carat network”—the world’s most notorious diamond smuggling ring. Every year, a shadowy band of racketeers pirated a fortune in diamonds out of Africa, and the majority of the stolen gems wound up in the hands of Communist nations. In response, the IDSO commissioned a private army, led by legendary British spymaster Sir Percy Sillitoe, to penetrate and topple the ring. And when the operation was complete, the Sunday Times gave the story to Fleming, who had impressed Sillitoe with his 1956 Bond adventure Diamonds Are ForeverA remarkable feat of investigative journalism, The Diamond Smugglers is the thrilling true story behind one of the greatest spy operations in history.

Prize subject #2: "SUN". Colonel Sun 1969 pb edition. nice reading copy. creases to spine and cover. British novelist Kingsley Amis picks up where legendary author Ian Fleming left off with this Bond novel of political conspiracy, elegant espionage, international intrigue, and, of course, beautiful alliances. 007 must rescue the kidnapped M and save the Free World from evil Colonel Sun Liang-tan of the People's Liberation Army of China. After Ian Fleming's death in 1964, Glidrose Publishing decided to continue the Bond franchise with a series of well-known authors each writing a book under the pen-name Robert Markham, but only Kingsley Amis took up the offer and in 1968 Colonel Sun was published.

Prize subject #3: "INFERNO". Doctor Who Inferno. 1984 1st edition Target Books. excellent. In this exciting Doctor Who novelization, published by Target in England, the Doctor is trapped in a parallel world, unable to act as the Earth is threatened by a poisonous liquid leaking from top-secret drilling project Inferno. Story stars Pertwee's Doctor and the members of UNIT.

Prize subject #4: "HONEY". This Girl For Hire 2005 pb edition. very fine. Honey West is the nerviest, curviest P.I. in Los Angeles-or anywhere else for that matter. She's a cross between James Bond and The Avengers' Emma Peel-a girl detective with the sleuthmanship of Mike Hammer and the measurements of Marilyn Monroe. This Girl for Hire is the first in a series of darkly funny and innuendo-laden crime novels originally published in the 1950s and 1960s. In this one, Honey finds herself playing strip poker with four murder suspects...and a deck that's as stacked as she is!

Prize subject #5: "007". 007 James Bond A Report. 1965 1st US pb edition. very fine. Description from James Bond First Editions: "A more serious critique on the life and times of suave secret agent James Bond, which, unlike Kingsley Amis' 'The James Bond Dossier', was not a particularly commercial book when released and is now a rather elusive piece of Bondiana." 

Prize subject #6: "TINKER". I saw an Academy Members' sneak preview of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The director and Gary Oldman were there for a Q&A afterwards, and it was interesting to hear their perspective on making this new film based on John Le Carre's classic novel. One amusing anecdote was that Oldman deliberated at length over which glasses to use for the role. He narrowed down his search once he found a vintage eyeglass specialist in Pasadena. So much of the film deals with his character's ability to make observations and to analyze the minutia- without projecting his own interior thoughts and emotions. In a film where visibility becomes theme, there are some beautifully shot moments that use the transparent and reflective nature of eyeglasses to echo what is happening in the narrative. The prize is this very cool large fold-out brochure about the story, the characters, and vocab from the world of espionage! Images below show the cover and two (of three) pages.