A trade paperback
Written by Peter O’Donnell
Drawn by Dick Giordano
As part of our continuing celebration of Women’s Empowerment Month let me introduce you to Modesty Blaise.
Modesty Blaise is an action adventure character created by Peter O’Donnell in 1963 originally as a newspaper comic strip. She has been called the female James Bond. But Modesty is so much more.
As the story goes while serving in the Middle East, Sergeant O’Donnell had a chance encounter with a small-displaced girl, maybe about eight years old, wearing rags with whom he gave some food. Despite her dire circumstances she held herself proud and he said she walked like a princess. She became the inspiration for his character and that encounter provided her backstory.
Modesty Blaise is a nameless girl from a displaced person camp in Greece after World War II. Having no memory she wanders the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and North Africa. Another wandering refugee befriends her by the name of Lob. He is the one who gives her the name Modesty. Her last name she gave herself from the tutor of Merlin the Magician. After Lob dies she takes control of a criminal gang in Tangiers. “The Network” – as it is called – operates on an international scale and it is so successful that she is able to retire very rich before she is 30. However, The Network never dealt in drugs, prostitution, or killed the police or any innocents. They were thieves plain and simple. It was during this time she met and recruited Willie Garvin – who would become her right hand, her greatest friend, and the most important man in her life. Their relationship was always platonic, never romantic or erotic – always that of friends. And yet their tale is one of the greatest love stories in fiction. After retirement she and Willie move to London and try living the life of the idle rich – but it’s boring. They then make the acquaintance of Sir Gerald Tarrant – a high-ranking official in the British Secret Service – and from that point on their boredom is relieved by the occasional favor and/or mission they undertake for him.
Modesty has appeared in various mediums in addition to her original comic strip. There have been movies about her, novels, and comic books. To showcase her popularity let me point out that it is MODESTY BLAISE that John Travolta is reading in the bathroom in PULP FICTION. Quentin Tarantino is a fan. Neil Gaiman wrote a screenplay based on the first novel, and both Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lopez are on record saying they want to play Modesty. No exaggeration, we could not have had ATOMIC BLONDE (2017) or SALT (2010), or the upcoming BLACK WIDOW (2020) for that matter without first having Modesty Blaise.
I wanted to review the first novel for this post – having read it and loved it back when it was originally published. I have also read the subsequent novels. Unfortunately I could not get Amazon to deliver it to me here in Puerto Rico (Hey Amazon! What’s up with that?). I then decided to review the trade paperback since it is the exact same story.
Willie Garvin was Modesty Blaise’s right-hand man in The Network – the highly successful criminal organization she organized and led. He was also the person she was closest to – way beyond a mere best friend. When Modesty disbanded The Network and retired she and Willie were left quite wealthy and comfortable.
But Willie didn’t know what to do with himself. Bored and restless he took a job as a mercenary in a South American revolution. But it didn’t go well. Maybe his heart wasn’t in it. Perhaps it was because Modesty wasn’t there. He got captured and was facing execution.
Enter Sir Gerald Tarrant – the head of a branch of British Intelligence. He wanted Modesty Blaise to do a job for him. And he knew she was going to need Willie. Rather than try to make a deal Sir Gerald meets with her and freely gives her all the information she needs to free Willie.
Sir Gerald read Modesty right. After saving Willie in gratitude she was more than willing to take on the job British Intelligence wanted. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Sir Gerald’s job pits Modesty and Willie against the criminal mastermind known as Gabriel and his minions – which include Paco and the amazing Mrs. Fothergill (amazing not in a good way). Gabriel intends to steal a rather large consignment of diamonds. In the south of France Willie makes Paco literally lose his head. Then in Egypt, Modesty and Willie are captured by the bad guys. The diamond heist is successful and in a small Mediterranean island Modesty takes on Mrs. Fothergill in no holds barred, hand-to-hand combat. Afterwards, Modesty and Willie are on the run with all of Gabriel’s gang in hot pursuit.
At this point it is okay for you to run and go get a copy of the trade paperback. I give you permission. I will wait.
I think it is fairly obvious I am a fan of Modesty Blaise. It should also be obvious that I enjoyed this trade paperback and think it is an excellent adaptation of the novel. The artwork alone by Dick Giordano is worth the cover price. I recommend you get the trade paperback, the novel, or both. They can be found on Amazon. With profound pleasure I give this five Gray Geeks.
I also recommend you treat yourself by meeting Modesty Blaise in either novels or comic strips you will not be disappointed. EXCELSIOR!