Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Even More Modesty

Sometimes my nightly ritual involves taking a few more chunks out of the 10,183 Modesty Blaise strips, thoughtfully being reprinted by Titan Books. I've followed the stories from 1963 to 1969, and if anything they're getting better.

How do you evaluate a comic strip? Here you have two innovative, creative, and driven elements -- Jim Holdaway's stark line-work and Peter O'Donnell's endless parade of tangled plots and bizarre villains -- who meshed together perfectly. They knew each other well and, just as importantly, they knew the characters.

I'm not a fan of mystery-thrillers by any means, but O'Donnell has me permanently hooked. Far from being repetitive, each story has a new angle that puts Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin to the test. The fact that he could cram so much into a daily three-panel strip -- and make it engrossing even when collected into books -- is baffling to me.

Simultaneously ahead of its time and the last of its kind, it's cinematic and epic, funny and terrifying, and ultimately touching. I'm sad it's all over, but I still have 31 more years of strips to read.

PS: Peter O'Donnell says that "The Hell Makers" is one of his favourites, and I agree. Willie is kidnapped and tortured with a brain-damaging psychedelic drug, so Modesty teams up with a dusty old cowpoke and his trained eagles. And that's just the beginning...


Anonymous said...

AH! I just watched the movie last week after wanting to see it forever. I've only been able to find one of the O'Donnell I must read these comics!!!

I wish someone would start a Modesty film franchise like the Bond ones. Do you think that will ever happen in this lifetime? Sigh...

What got me into Modesty was actually the song by Sparks which was created for a very short-lived Modesty Blaise TV show.

Adam Thornton said...

Sparks did a Modesty song? Oh my goodness!

They keep trying to bring Modesty to the screen, and they keep on bungling it. As much as I love the Monica Vitti film (and I really DO love it!) it was impossibly far away from the mood of the comics. And later versions have (apparently) been equally forgettable.

I think Quentin Tarantino's planning something, or maybe I just dreamed it because it's something he's likely to do.

Seriously, pick up the first collection ("The Gabriel Set-Up"). If that doesn't hook you right away, the rest of the books won't.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and how awesome that you also like Sparks. The song is actually called "Modesty Plays" because they couldn't get the rights to the name (sort of like Pulp's "Tomorrow Never Lies" that was supposed to be in the Bond film).

Oh dear, I sort of dread a Tarantino version because I don't want it to be all Kill Bill-esque. No offense to Kill Bill, but that's NOT Modesty Blaise.

Adam Thornton said...

I fell in love with Sparks through Les Rita Mitsouko, and also the Siouxsie cover of "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us." But I only have a small portion of their huge far!

I agree, Blaise is far too "collected" for a Tarantino treatment. I don't want to see her and Willie sitting amongst outrageous Blacksploitation stereotypes, discussing whether Twilight Zone or Outer Limits were better TV shows.