Friday, April 11, 2014

Forgotten Books: Modesty Blaise Graphic Novel - Peter O'Donnell and Dick Giordano

The Modesty Blaise series started as a British comic strip written by Peter O'Donnell and drawn by Jim Holdaway. But I didn't know that when I discovered the Modesty Blaise novels, also written by O'Donnell, in the mid-Sixties. All I knew was that they were marketed as secret agent adventures (which they really aren't) and had sexy covers, which meant that whenever I came across one of them I grabbed it immediately and had a great time reading it. It's still one of my favorite series of all time.

I've read many collections of the comic strip version, too, and enjoyed them, but I hadn't run across this one before. Twenty years ago, DC Comics did a graphic novel adaptation of the first novel, MODESTY BLAISE, with script by O'Donnell and art by Dick Giordano. It's a pretty faithful adaptation, too, with retired super-criminal Modesty and her friend Willie Garvin working for British Intelligence and trying to prevent the theft of fifty million dollars worth of diamonds. That pits them against the diabolical mastermind Gabriel and his bizarre henchmen. As usual, Modesty and Willie take a beating and wind up on the brink of death several times, only to triumph in the end. It's very entertaining and really takes me back to those days when I was first reading the novels.

There's enough sex, violence, and profanity in this version that it would probably carry a Mature Audiences tag these days. The story takes its time unfolding, but that's all right because it builds up to an exciting and moving climax. I've always preferred Giordano's work as an inker (say, over Neal Adams' pencils), but his art here is quite good, showing the influence of Jim Holdaway's original versions of the characters without being a slavish imitation. Some sources on-line also credit Dan Spiegle with doing some of the art, although his name isn't on the book. While I don't know for sure if that's correct, it could be. Some of the panels do look like Spiegle's work.

I had a fine time reading this book. Used copies are still readily available on-line, and if you're a Modesty Blaise fan and haven't read it, it's worth checking out.


David Cranmer said...

Modesty Blaise! Yes, I'm a fan and its been awhile.

Juri Nummelin said...

I read somewhere that because of the erotic content the original comic strip never ran in the USA.

I tried reading the first Modesty Blaise novel some weeks ago, but didn't get far. Just didn't grab me. Should try one of the later ones, the first is a novelization of the horrid Joseph Losey film.

Tom Johnson said...

Great series. I've got all the novels, but only one of the graphic novels (with three stories, if I remember correctly). The Tarantino movie, My Name Is Modesty is a pretty good adaptation of the character. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. I have the DVD from Amazon, but it's also on YiouTube.

Ray said...

In UK Peter O'Donnell worked on the Eagle comic on the Dan Dare strip and also one of the James Bond story strip for the Daily Express. (I think it was 'You Only Live Twice'). In 1963 he brought 'Modesty Blaise' strips to the London Evening Standard and ran until 2001. The strips pre-date the novels. One rated strip which includes a reproduction of the Hole In The Wall gang's photo is 'Butch Cassidy Rides Again'. The series was syndicated to Detroit Free Press amongst others. And yes I am a fan of the strips and the books - but not the two movies. The first book, though is not a novelisation of the movie - the book came first.