Monday, 27 May 2013

Comic Book Reads: Modesty Blaise by Peter O'Donnell


To my nine-year old mind, Modesty Blaise struck as a kind of fascination and wonder. I was introduced to the world of Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin from the graphic/comic strips on the English daily, The Telegraph several years ago. Today, that phase of my life feels like another lifetime; I read Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Modesty Blaise with the same gusto although the last one was from another literary zone. My understanding of Modesty Blaise was hazy; it felt like a read for grown ups. However many years and on, Modesty Blaise continues to make me  wonder.


A background to Modesty Blaise: British writer Peter O'Donnell teamed up with British illustrator Jim Holdaway to create this comic strip in 1963. Short stories, the series and film adaptations followed since then.


The story of Modesty Blaise starts in 1945. She escapes as a displaced person from a camp in Greece. She cannot recall who her parents are or where she comes from. There seems to be this feel of extreme pain in the mind of child who has witnessed a lot of brutality and therefore she has decided to blank all such memories. What remains of this child is a nameless girl who has traveled across the geographies of Africa and the Mediterranean during the Second World War. She strikes a rapport with a Jewish-Hungarian refugee called Lob who educates her and names her 'Modesty'. She adds 'Blaise' later on. He is a scholar; however he dies by the time she is twelve. She fends for herself fighting toughies and becomes the head of a criminal gang in Tangiers and calls it The Network. In the time that follows, she meets Willie Garvin and the rest is all history and adventure.

The Modesty Blaise series is a riveting one. Some of the books from this collection include: I, Lucifer; A Taste for Death; The Impossible Virgin, Pieces of Modesty; The Silver Mistress; Last day in Limbo; Dragon's Claw, The Night of Morningstar; Dead Man's Handle; and Cobra Trap.


(Article by Kabita Sonowal)

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