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Official Article

James Bond Jr. Remembered

In 1991 the James Bond movie franchise was in limbo. 2 overly serious films starring Timothy Dalton in the late 80’s had flopped and the original choice for the starring role, Pierce Brosnan wouldn’t take up the mantle until 4 years later. So to fulfill our need for super-spy action thrills we got the animated adventures of James Bond, Jr. on our TV screens. Do you remember this early 90’s syndicated cartoon action series? 

I got a major mind trip when I came upon this comic book ad the other day in an old issue of Spider-Man and suddenly the memories came flooding back. This 90’s neon colored update to the James Bond mythos somehow managed to get my attention in a sea of animated adventures featuring Bucky O’Hare, Captain Planet and Widget…OK, maybe not Widget. I was never a Bond fanatic, but for the brief year long run of this show, I totally bought into the hype.

A lot of my love for the show had to do with the catchy theme song that featured a rockin’ 60’s surf guitar riff and “white soul” female vocalist. She had such an intense way of wailing, “JAAAAMES Bond!”, which the back-up singers then followed up with the obligatory, “James Bond, Jr”. So entranced was I by this crooning that I even bought a few of the action figures from Playmates, which had some really interesting entries that we’ll get to soon enough.

Any discussion of the show must start by clearing up one obvious point of confusion. Despite the title, this series does not feature the SON of James Bond, but rather his NEPHEW battling the evil forces of S.C.U.M. (Saboteurs and Criminals United in Mayhem). It’s weird, I know and was quite a sticking point with me as a kid when after 65 episodes they still didn’t respect us enough to provide a proper explanation. My theory is that James Bond (Senior) was just protecting his son and they had an agreement to use the old Uncle/Nephew routine as a cover. Frustrating as it was, once I was introduced to the more clearly defined cast of supporting characters and villains, all was forgiven.

James got outfitted with gadgets for his self-appointed missions by hanging around with I.Q. who had a 90’s mad scientist design with his lab coat, glasses and spikey orange hair. He was also introduced as the movie Q’s grandson to provide continuity. Speaking of gadgets, somebody must have been a fan of this series, because on the Netflix reboot of Inspector Gadget he has an inventor sidekick name Professor Von Slickstein who looks almost identical to our pal I.Q. here. Coincidence? I think not.

With the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles influence still going strong, shows of this era always had a “Surfer Dude” character, so Gordo Leitner was the resident American party guy, cruising down steps on lunch trays and looking for some fun in the sun. Bond (Jr.!) also had a female sidekick/love interest named Tracy Milbanks, a headstrong, sassy gal who was made all the more attractive by comparison to fem-nerd, Phoebe that acted as the Irma to her April O’Neil. This paragraph was very TMNT heavy, but I think it’s justified since both shows were produced by Murakami Wolf Swensen.

Now the villains were a wacky mish-mash of original characters from the films and artistic license by the animators. For example, Dr. No was turned into a green skinned bad guy with magic robot hands, which in another clear case of this show inspiring future cartoons, was the identical design of The Mandarin from the Iron Man cartoon in 1995. Jaws on the other hand got only a minimal update, with his whole jaw looking like a bear trap, instead of the metal teeth featured in the live action films.

Goldfinger’s bodyguard, Odd Job had the strangest makeover of all. He went from a mute, tuxedo clad Korean ex-wrestler, to the fourth member of Run DMC. Just look at that track suit, the clock necklace and pork pie hat! He’s unrecognizable from his movie debut, but totally unforgettable as re-imagined for animation.

There’s no doubt that 99% of the reason for these re-designs was to sell toys. But the strange thing is that aside from the previously named villains along with weird-o’s like Walker D. Plank and Dr. Derange, you were pretty much just buying normally dressed people. The only “exciting” hero character options were the varied mission-based outfits of James himself. 

I mean just look at this generic muscle man in torn sweats aka Buddy Mitchell. What kid begged to add this guy to his toy collection? And the Gordo figure looked like the human version of Mondo Gecko from TMNT, which I guess isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For some reason I bought both the standard leather jacket wearing James Bond Jr. and the Scuba Gear variation, but no bad guys for him to fight. Given another chance, I know I would totally have gone for the Odd Job action figure based solely on his Hat Flinging action feature.

There was also a video game for the Super Nintendo, children’s novels and even a 12 issue Marvel Comics series (because what toy/cartoon property haven’t they made comics for?) and though my fandom never spread into these tie in toys, I can still appreciate the effort put into making the series accessible in toy stores. Especially this awesome Hot Shot CD Player that mashed up a portable music device with a firearm. That is some radical retro madness we'll never see again.

James Bond Jr. only lasted one season and quickly vanished from the airwaves, but with the recent trend of 80’s and 90’s cartoon shows getting CGI reboots (including Danger Mouse and Popples, for crying out loud), can a JBJ re-imagining be very far? You Only Live Twice, after all.

So did you get swept up in the James Bond, Jr fun? Who was your favorite character?
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jkatz Posted on Jan 04, 2017 at 03:50 AM

The green skin on Mandarin and Dr. No was because both these characters were originally Asian stereotypes. I think they did the same thing for Ming the Merciless in one of the Flash Gordon toons (I want to say Defenders of the Universe?).
That Oddjob is amazing. I'll have to look for his action figure now.

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