Modesty Blaise

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Modesty Blaise
Cover of the first U.S. printing of the Modesty Blaise novel

Peter O'Donnell

Jim Holdaway
Enrique Badia Romero
John M. Burns
Patrick Wright
Neville Colvin
Dan Spiegle
Dick Giordano
Current status / scheduleFinished
Launch date13 May 1963
End date7 July 2002
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This article is about the character and the comic strip/film/novel franchise. For other uses, see Modesty Blaise (disambiguation).
Modesty Blaise
Cover of the first U.S. printing of the Modesty Blaise novel

Peter O'Donnell

Jim Holdaway
Enrique Badia Romero
John M. Burns
Patrick Wright
Neville Colvin
Dan Spiegle
Dick Giordano
Current status / scheduleFinished
Launch date13 May 1963
End date7 July 2002

Modesty Blaise is a British comic strip featuring a fictional character of the same name, created by Peter O'Donnell (writer) and Jim Holdaway (art) in 1963. The strip follows the adventures of Modesty Blaise, an exceptional young woman with many talents and a criminal past, and her trusty sidekick Willie Garvin. It was adapted into films made in 1966, 1982, and 2003 and a series of 13 novels and short story collections, beginning in 1965.


In 1945, a nameless girl escaped from a displaced person (DP) camp in Kalyros, Greece. She did not remember anything from her short past. She wandered through post-World War II Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African regions, where she learned to survive the hard way. She befriended another wandering refugee, a Jewish Hungarian scholar from Budapest named Lob who gave her an education and a name: Modesty (Blaise she added herself later, after Merlin's tutor from the Arthurian legends[1]). Lob died when Modesty was 12 years old. Eventually, in 1953, she took control of a criminal gang in Tangier from Henri Louche and expanded it to international status as "The Network".[2]

During these years she met Willie Garvin. Despite the desperate life he was leading, she saw his potential and offered him a job. Inspired by her belief in him, he pulled through as her right-hand man in The Network and became Modesty's most trusted friend. Theirs is a strictly platonic relationship and is based on mutual respect and shared interests. He has always called her "Princess", a form of address only he is allowed to use. Other members of The Network would call Modesty "Mam'selle" (as in the French term "Mademoiselle" or "Miss"). Though their relationship has no sexual element, it is Modesty's various lovers who feel jealous of Garvin, rather than the other way around – as he is the only man who remains part of her life, while lovers come and go. By the same token, some of Willie's girlfriends are initially jealous of Modesty, before in some cases – such as Lady Janet – coming to understand how the dynamic works between them.

She obtained British nationality by marrying and divorcing Englishman James Turner in Beirut; Turner died a year later of alcoholism. Having made a point of not dealing in secrets belonging to H.M. Government, when she felt she had made enough money, she retired and moved to England and Willie Garvin followed suit. Bored by their new lives among the idle rich, they accepted a request for assistance from Sir Gerald Tarrant, a high-ranking official of the British Secret Service. This is where the story really begins, although it is treated differently in the first comic strip and the first book. (See note in Canon debate below). Modesty's fortune is estimated at 500,000 pounds as of 1963. She lives in a penthouse in London overlooking Hyde Park, and also owns a villa in Tangier and a cottage two miles from Benildon, Wiltshire. She is 5 feet 6 inches (168 cm) tall and weighs 120 lbs (54 kg) as revealed in La Machine.

Many of her adventures are based on capers in which she and Willie Garvin become involved as a result of their association with Tarrant. However, they may also help perfect strangers or fight various eccentric villains in exotic locations of their own volition if the cause fits their values; "ghosts" from their Network past also emerge to haunt them from time to time. Although Modesty and Willie will not hesitate to kill if necessary, they avoid deadly force whenever possible, often relying upon their extraordinary physical and weapons skills. There are many occasions in the comic strip and novels where the two decide ahead of time whether to use deadly force ("for keeps") or less-lethal methods ("for sleeps") depending on the level of the perceived threat.

A dumbbell-shaped yawara stick, or "kongo" as it is called in the Modesty Blaise books and comic strips

The kinds of fights and battles that Modesty and Willie have are often very special. There is a great emphasis on unarmed combat and unusual weapons. Modesty's weapon of choice is a "kongo" or yawara stick and as for firearms she begins by preferring the Colt .32 revolver and Mab Brevete .32 ACP auto pistol though in later books she switches to carrying a Star PD .45 auto pistol, while Willie's preferred weapon is the throwing knife, of which he usually carries two. Many other strange weapons (such as the use of quarterstaff, épée, blowgun, and sling) and unexpected fighting techniques are also featured.

In keeping with the "Floating timeline" spirit of other long-running comic strip and literary characters, Modesty and Willie generally do not age over the decades, with Modesty always being depicted as being in her late 20s, Willie eight years older. The only exceptions to this rule occur in the comic strip origin story, "In the Beginning", the 1996 short story collection Cobra Trap, the final Modesty Blaise book, which contains five stories that take place where Modesty's age moves from 20 to 52 (approximately), and the 2003 film My Name Is Modesty which is a prequel depicting Modesty in her late teens.

In an essay found in Myths for the Modern Age: Philip José Farmer's Wold Newton Universe (Win Scott Eckert, ed., MonkeyBrain Books, 2005), author Chuck Loridans contributes an article entitled "The Daughters of Greystoke" wherein he posits that Modesty is the daughter of Tarzan and La of Opar.

Comic strip[edit]

Having conceived the idea after a chance meeting with a girl during his wartime service in the Middle East,[3] O'Donnell elected to work with Jim Holdaway, with whom he had worked on the strip Romeo Brown, after a trial period of collaboration with Frank Hampson, creator of Dan Dare, left O'Donnell dissatisfied. Modesty Blaise debuted in the London Evening Standard on 13 May 1963.[2] The strip was syndicated among a large number of newspapers ranging from the Johannesburg Star to the Detroit Free Press, the Bombay Samachar, The Telegraph, (Calcutta, India), The Star (Malaysia), The West Australian (Perth, Australia) and The Evening Citizen (Glasgow, Scotland).

After Jim Holdaway's death in 1970,[4] the art of the strip was provided by the Spanish artist Enrique Badía Romero.[5][6] Eight years later, Romero quit to make time for his own comics projects, and after short attempts by John Burns[7] and Patrick Wright, Neville Colvin drew the strip until 1986.[8] Then Romero returned to the job and continued until the end of the strip.

The strip's circulation in the United States was erratic, in part because of the occasional nude scenes, which were much less acceptable in the U.S. than elsewhere, resulting in a censored version of the strip being circulated. (Modesty occasionally used a tactic that she called the "Nailer," in which she would appear topless, distracting the bad guys long enough to give Willie or herself a chance to incapacitate them.) An example of this censorship appears in the introduction to the 2007 Titan Books reprint volume Death Trap, which illustrated two segments of the story arc, "The Junk Men" that were censored by the Detroit Free Press when it published the strip in 1977; in both cases a screen was drawn over scantily-clad images of Willie and Modesty. Reportedly, O'Donnell did not approve of the changes, although they were made by the artist, Romero.[9]

The final Modesty Blaise daily comic strip, #10183. Unlike the printed version, the original art appears without the word balloons. The gist of the dialogue is that Modesty and Willie plan to unearth a treasure (the one left buried at the end of the book A Taste for Death) and anonymously donate it to the Salvation Army, and to take a break from adventuring. The final exchange at sunset: Modesty says, "NO VILLAINS, NO VICTIMS, NO BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS ... WE'LL TAKE A LITTLE BREAK, WILLIE LOVE, JUST YOU AND ME." Willie replies, "BEST BIT OF ALL, PRINCESS."

The final Modesty Blaise strip ran in the Evening Standard on 11 April 2001.[2] Some of the newspapers that carried the series, feeling that it had become a tradition for their readers, began running it again from the beginning. O'Donnell, in order to give Romero some additional work, gave the artist permission to adapt one of his short stories ("The Dark Angels") as a graphic novel that was published in Scandinavia in 2002, later being reprinted in the U.S. in a special issue of Comics Revue.

From 1 December 2008, the Evening Standard, which had stopped including comic strips for some time, republished La Machine, using the original artwork. Following a change of ownership of the paper, they did not continue with subsequent stories.

Strip numbering[edit]

The ordinary strips are consecutive numbered from 1 to 10183. Outside this numbering are the two newspaper stories "In the Beginning" and "The Killing Ground" and the two comic book stories "Modesty Blaise" and "The Dark Angels".

Outside the ordinary numbering is also an amount of A-strips. An A-strip has the same number as the previous strip but followed by an A. They were used on days when not all the newspapers containing Modesty Blaise were published. An A-strip is not vital for the continuity of the story and is often just supplementing the previous strip.
The first A-strip was 194A and was published during Christmas 1963 in Scottish newspapers.

Since December 1974 The Evening Standard has not been published on Saturdays. So, since then, and the story "Cry Wolf", a sixth of the strips have been A-strips and have not had their premiere in The Evening Standard.

A single strip is numbered with an X suffix, i.e., strip number 3641X, and is similar to the A-strips.


Many reprint editions of the comic strip have appeared over the years, of varying quality. Most focus upon the earliest strips, with strips from the 1980s and 1990s being the least-often reprinted.

One of the earliest reprints in book form occurred in 1978 when Star Books, an imprint of WH Allen Limited, published two paperback-sized compilations of the Holdaway-era stories: 1) "In the Beginning", "The Black Pearl", and "The Vikings", and 2) "La Machine" and "The Long Lever". These reprints suffered from poor reproduction that rendered many panels illegible.

Between 1981 and 1986, Ken Pierce Books Inc. of the United States, in conjunction with Eclipse Comics, published eight volumes of comic book-sized reprints dubbed the First American Edition series. The first four books featured Holdaway-illustrated stories from the 1960s, while the last four featured strips from the early 1980s as illustrated by Neville Colvin. These books also suffered from reproduction problems that resulted in many panels being reprinted too light, making them difficult to read.

Between 1984 and 1988, Titan Books of England published eight volumes of reprints of strips featuring art by Holdaway and Romero, covering the period 1963 to 1974.

Manuscript Press published two volumes of late-1980s Romero strips in 2003 (Live Bait and Lady in the Dark); it also published all of the stories not reprinted elsewhere in serialised form in its magazine publications Comics Revue and Modesty Blaise Quarterly, the former of which, as noted above, also published The Dark Angels for the first (and, to date, only) time in English. Comics Revue is continuing to reprint Modesty Blaise strips as of its early 2008 issues.

Titan Books[edit]

Beginning in March 2004, Titan launched a new series of reprint volumes. These new versions use larger images and reportedly come from better source material than the earlier editions. As well as an introduction to each story by Peter O'Donnell for books 1 to 16, and by Lawrence Blackmore for books 17 onwards, most books include articles about the series.

So far, the new Titan series has reprinted the full run of the Holdaway years, the full run of Romero's first tenure, the short spells of John Burns and Pat Wright, and the full run of Neville Colvin. As of the volumes announced for publication in 2014, the reprints are approximately midway through Romero's second tenure.

 T1The Gabriel Set-Up2004978-1-84023-658-3"Blaise of Glory" Pt 1 by Mike Paterson and "Girl Walking" by Peter O'Donnell
 T2Mister Sun978-1-84023-721-4"Blaise of Glory" Pt 2 and "Modesty Maker" Pt 1, an interview with Peter O'Donnell
 T3Top Traitor978-1-84023-684-2"Blaise of Glory" Pt 3 and "Modesty Maker" Pt 2
 T4The Black Pearl978-1-84023-842-6"Modesty's Sisters – The Madeleine Brent Novels" Pt 1 and "Modesty Maker" Pt 3
 T5Bad Suki2005978-1-84023-864-8"A Few Words about a Man I Never Met" about Jim Holdaway by Walter Simonson and "Modesty's Sisters" Pt 2
 T6The Hell Makers978-1-84023-865-5"Modesty Blaise Doesn't Go To America" by Max Allan Collins, "Jim and Enric" by Peter O'Donnell, Holdaway's illustrations for the "Pieces of Modesty" book, and Pt 1 of a 1973 Comic Media interview with Peter O'Donnell by Nick Landau and Richard Burton
 T7The Green-Eyed Monster978-1-84023-866-2A profile of Enric Badia Romero
 T8The Puppet Master2006978-1-84023-867-9"Two Genuine Originals" by Jan Burke and "The Secret Weapons of a Femme Fatale" by Rob van der Nol
 T9The Gallows Bird978-1-84023-868-6"Blue Bird – The Censoring of The Gallows Bird"
T10Cry Wolf978-1-84023-869-3"The Truth behind Modesty Plays" by Russell Mael and Pt 2 of the 1973 Comic Media interview with Peter O'Donnell
T11The Inca Trail2007978-1-84576-417-3Pt 3 of the 1973 Comic Media interview with Peter O'Donnell
T12Death Trap978-1-84576-418-0"Preserving Modesty's Modesty" by Lawrence Blackmore
T13Yellowstone Booty2008978-1-84576-419-7"The Art of John Burns" by Lawrence Blackmore, including Burns' illustrations for the first Modesty Blaise novel
T14Green Cobra978-1-84576-420-3"Naked Truth" by Lawrence Blackmore and Burns' illustrations for "Pieces of Modesty"
T15The Lady Killers2009978-1-84856-106-9"Modesty McBlaise: The Glasgow Story" by Lawrence Blackmore (strips that only appeared in the Glasgow Evening Citizen)
T16The Scarlet Maiden978-1-84856-107-6"Modesty McBlaise" Pt 2 by Lawrence Blackmore
T17Death in Slow Motion2010978-1-84856-108-3"Portrait of an Artist – Neville Colvin: An Appreciation" by Steve Epting
T18Sweet Caroline978-1-84856-673-6– no additional articles
T19The Double Agent2011978-1-84856-674-3"A Tribute to Peter O'Donnell" – short pieces by eleven writers and illustrators; "A Modest Man" by Wallace Harrington, describing Neville Colvin
T20Million Dollar Game978-1-84856-675-0– no additional articles
T21Live Bait2012978-0-85768-668-8"O'Donnell's Circus" by Lawrence Blackmore
T22Lady In The Dark978-0-85768-693-0– no additional articles
T23The Girl in the Iron Mask2013978-0-85768-694-7– no additional articles
T24The Young MistressDue May 2014978-1-78116-709-0
T25The Grim JokerDue Oct. 2014978-1-78116-711-3

Story list[edit]

There were 99 storylines produced for the Modesty Blaise comic strip and all its printed forms, and for almost 40 years it was written by just one person: Peter O'Donnell. The strips and comic books were drawn by Jim Holdaway (JH), Enrique Badia Romero (ER), John M. Burns (JB), Patrick Wright (PW), Neville Colvin (NC), Dan Spiegle (DS) and Dick Giordano (DG).

Sources:  A  (Comics Revue Annual), C  (Comics Revue), CM  (Comic Media Vol 2, No. 2), CS  (Comics Revue Special), F#  (First American Edition Series, Ken Pierce), LB  (Live Bait, Manuscript Press), LD  (Lady in the Dark, Manuscript Press), MB  (Comics Revue Presents Modesty Blaise), S#  (Star Books paperback reprints, 1978), OT#  (Titan Books, old series (1984–88)), T#  (Titan Books, new series (2004–present)).

The Modesty Blaise comic strip and comic book stories
TitleArtistStrip numbersNumber of stripsDatesReprinted in
 1La Machine

1–1141141963-05-13 – 1963-09-21T1, OT1, C 189–191, 193, S2
 2The Long Lever115–211981963-09-23 – 1964-01-02T1, OT1, C 192–194, S2
 3The Gabriel Set-Up212–3541431964-01-03 – 1964-06-18T1, OT1, C 195–197
 4Mister Sun355–5001461964-06-19 – 1964-12-05T2, OT2, C 198–199
 5The Mind of Mrs. Drake501–612113 (112+1A)1964-12-07 – 1965-04-19T2, OT2, F2, C 201–203
 6Uncle Happy613–7431311965-04-20 – 1965-09-18T2, OT8, F2, C 204–207
 7Top Traitor744–8731311965-09-20 – 1966-02-19T3, F1, C 208–210
 8The Vikings874–9921191966-02-21 – 1966-07-09T3, F1, S1
[1]In the Beginning1–12121966-07-11 – 1966-07-23T1, OT1, C 188, CM, S1
 9The Head Girls993–11241321966-07-11 – 1966-12-10T3, F4
10The Black Pearl1125–1235112 (111+1A)1966-12-12 – 1967-04-22T4, F4, S1
11The Magnified Man1236–13491141967-04-24 – 1967-09-02T4, F4
12The Jericho Caper1350–1461113 (112+1A)1967-09-04 – 1968-01-13T4, F3
13Bad Suki1462–15741131968-01-15 – 1968-05-25T5, OT8, F3
14The Galley Slaves1575–1629
115 (114+1A)1968-05-27 – 1968-08-06
1968-09-11 – 1968-11-16
T5, OT3, MB24
[2]The Killing GroundA1-A36361968-10-07 – 1968-11-16T4, OT2, F3, C 207
15The Red Gryphon1689–1794107 (106+1A)1968-11-18 – 1969-03-22T5, OT3, C 211–213
16The Hell Makers1795–1919126 (125+1A)1969-03-24 – 1969-08-16T6, OT3, C 214–216
17Take-Over1920–2043125 (124+1A)1969-08-18 – 1970-01-10T6, OT4, C 217–219
18The War-Lords of Phoenix[10]2044–2099
1191970-01-12 – 1970-03-17
1970-03-17 – 1970-05-30
T6, OT4, C 220–222


19Willie the Djinn2163–22821201970-06-01 – 1970-10-17T7, OT4, C 223–225
20The Green-Eyed Monster2283–2388107 (106+1A)1970-10-19 – 1971-02-20T7, OT5, C 226–228
21Death of a Jester2389–25071191971-02-22 – 1971-07-10T7, OT5, C 229–231
22The Stone Age Caper2508–26271201971-07-12 – 1971-11-27T8, OT5, C 232–234
23The Puppet Master2628–2738112 (111+1A)1971-11-29 – 1972-04-08T8, OT6, C 235–237
24With Love from Rufus2739–28461081972-04-10 – 1972-08-12T8, OT6
25The Bluebeard Affair2847–2970125 (124+1A)1972-08-14 – 1973-01-06T9, OT6
26The Gallows Bird2971–30771071973-01-08 – 1973-05-12T9, MB2
27The Wicked Gnomes3078–31971201973-05-14 – 1973-09-29T9, OT7
28The Iron God3198–3309111[11]1973-10-01 – 1974-02-09T9, OT7
29"Take Me to Your Leader"3310–3428120 (119+1A)1974-02-11 – 1974-07-01T10, MB3
30Highland Witch3429–35481201974-07-02 – 1974-11-16T10, MB4
31Cry Wolf3549–3638A106 (90+16A)1974-11-18 – 1975-03-25T10, MB5
32The Reluctant Chaperon3639–3737120 (99+21A)[12]1975-03-26 – 1975-08-14T11, MB6
33The Greenwood Maid3738–3829A111 (92+19A)1975-08-15 – 1976-01-02T11, MB7
34Those About to Die3830–3931A123 (102+21A)1976-01-05 – 1976-05-28T11, MB8
35The Inca Trail3932–4031A120 (100+20A)1976-06-01 – 1976-10-20T11, MB10
36The Vanishing Dollybirds4032–4141A132 (110+22A)1976-10-21 – 1977-03-28T12, MB11
37The Junk Men4142–4241A120 (100+20A)1977-03-29 – 1977-08-19T12, MB9
38Death Trap4242–4341A120 (100+20A)1977-08-22 – 1978-01-20T12, MB12
39Idaho George4342–4447A126 (106+20A)1978-01-23 – 1978-06-16T13, MB13
40The Golden Frog4448–4542A114 (95+19A)1978-06-19 – 1978-10-31T13, MB14
41Yellowstone Booty
4543–4647A126 (105+21A)1978-11-01 – 1979-03-30T13, MB16
42Green Cobra4648–4737A108 (90+18A)1979-04-02 – 1979-08-10T14, MB15
43Eve and Adam4738-4767A
120 (100+20A)1979-08-13 – 1979-11-24
1979-11-25 – 1980-01-04
T14, MB17
44Brethren of Blaise4838–4932A114 (95+19A)1980-01-07 – 1980-05-23T14, MB18
45Dossier on Pluto

4933–5032A120 (100+20A)1980-05-27 – 1980-10-14T15, MB19
46The Lady Killers5033–5127A114 (95+19A)1980-10-15 – 1981-03-03T15, F5, C 238–240
47Garvin's Travels5128–5229A120 (102+18A)1981-03-04 – 1981-07-27T15, F5, C 241 – 243
48The Scarlet Maiden5230–5329A120 (100+20A)1981-07-28 – 1981-12-16T16, F5, C 244 – 246
49The Moonman5330–5424A114 (95+19A)1981-12-17 – 1982-05-07T16, F6, C 247 – 249
50A Few Flowers for the Colonel5425–5519A114 (95+19A)1982-05-10 – 1982-09-24T16, F6, C 250 – 252
51The Balloonatic5520–5619A120 (100+20A)1982-09-27 – 1983-02-18T17, F6, C 253 – 255
52Death in Slow Motion5620–5719A120 (100+20A)1983-02-21 – 1983-07-15T17, F7, C 256 – 258
53The Alternative Man5720–5814A114 (95+19A)1983-07-18 – 1983-11-28T17, F7, C 259 – 261
54Sweet Caroline5815–5914A120 (100+20A)1983-11-29 – 1984-04-19T18, F7, C 262 – 264
55The Return of the Mammoth5915–6014A120 (100+20A)1984-04-24 – 1984-09-14T18, F8, C 265 – 267
56Plato's Republic6015–6114A120 (100+20A)1984-09-17 – 1985-02-06T18, F8
57The Sword of the Bruce6115–6214A120 (100+20A)1985-02-07 – 1985-07-02T18, F8
58The Wild Boar6215–6314A120 (100+20A)1985-07-03 – 1985-11-20T19, MB20
59Kali's Disciples6315–6414A120 (100+20A)1985-11-21 – 1986-05-16T19, MB21
60The Double Agent6415–6519A126 (105+21A)1986-05-17 – 1986-09-15T19, MB22
61Butch Cassidy Rides Again


6520–6624A126 (105+21A)1986-09-16 – 1987-02-12T20, MB1, MB25
62Million Dollar Game6625–6724A120 (100+20A)1987-02-13 – 1987-07-08T20, C 26–29
63The Vampire of Malvescu6725–6829A126 (105+21A)1987-07-09 – 1987-12-03T20, A2, MB23
64Samantha and the Cherub6830–6934A126 (105+21A)1987-12-04 – 1988-05-06T21, C 31–36, LB
65Milord6935–7034A120 (100+20A)1988-05-09 – 1988-09-27T21, C 40–42, LB
66Live Bait7035–7134A120 (100+20A)1988-09-28 – 1989-02-17T21, C 44–46, LB
67The Girl from the Future7135–7239A126 (105+21A)1989-02-20 – 1989-07-21T22, C 47–49, LD
68The Big Mole7240–7339A120 (100+20A)1989-07-24 – 1989-12-11T22, C 50–52, LD
69Lady in the Dark7340–7439A120 (100+20A)1989-12-12 – 1990-05-08T22, C 53–56, LD
70Fiona7440–7544A126 (105+21A)1990-05-09 – 1990-10-09T23, C 57–60
71Walkabout7545–7649A126 (105+21A)1990-10-10 – 1991-03-11T23, C 61–63
72The Girl in the Iron Mask7650–7749A120 (100+20A)1991-03-12 – 1991-08-02T23, C 64–66
73The Young Mistress7750–7854A126 (105+21A)1991-08-05 – 1992-01-06T24, C 67–73
74Ivory Dancer7855–7959A126 (105+21A)1992-01-07 – 1992-06-05T24, C 73–77
75Our Friend Maude7960–8064A126 (105+21A)1992-06-08 – 1992-11-02T24, C 78–83
76A Present for the Princess8065–8174A132 (110+22A)1992-11-03 – 1993-04-08T25, C 84–88
77Black Queen's Pawn8175–8279A126 (105+21A)1993-04-13 – 1993-09-10T25, C 89–93
78The Grim Joker8280–8384A126 (105+21A)1993-09-13 – 1994-02-09T25, C 94–99
79Guido the Jinx8385–8484A120 (100+20A)1994-02-10 – 1994-07-05C 100–104
80The Killing Distance8485–8589A126 (105+21A)1994-07-06 – 1994-11-30C 105–109
81The Aristo8590–8694A126 (105+21A)1994-12-01 – 1995-05-03C 110–114
[3]Modesty BlaiseDS & DG141 pages1994-12
82Ripper Jax


8695–8799A126 (105+21A)1995-05-04 – 1995-10-02C 115–119
83The Maori Contract8800–8904A126 (105+21A)1995-10-03 – 1996-03-01C 120–124
84Honeygun8905–9009A126 (105+21A)1996-03-04 – 1996-08-02C 125–130
85Durango9010–9114A126 (105+21A)1996-08-05 – 1997-01-03CS, C 131–133
86The Murder Frame9115–9219A126 (105+21A)1997-01-06 – 1997-06-06C 134–138
87Fraser's Story9220–9324A126 (105+21A)1997-06-09 – 1997-11-03C 139–143
88Tribute of the Pharaoh9325–9429A126 (105+21A)1997-11-04 – 1998-05-03C 144–148
89The Special Orders9430–9534A126 (105+21A)1998-05-06 – 1998-09-04C 149–152
90The Hanging Judge9535–9644A132 (110+22A)1998-09-07 – 1999-02-10C 153–158
91Children of Lucifer9645–9749A126 (105+21A)1999-02-11 – 1999-07-13C 159–163
92Death Symbol9750–9859A132 (110+22A)1999-07-14 – 1999-12-15C 164–169
93The Last Aristocrat9860–9964A126 (105+21A)1999-12-16 – 2000-05-19C 170–175
94The Killing Game9965–10069A126 (105+21A)2000-05-22 – 2000-10-17C 176–181
95The Zombie10070–10183135 (114+21A)2000-10-18 – 2001-04-11C 182–187
[4]The Dark Angels46 pages2002-06-13 – 2002-07-11C 200, 208 (cover)

The special stories[edit]

  1. Numbered SP1 or more common 8a. An introduction to the history of Modesty Blaise.
  2. Numbered SP2 or more common 14a. Produced to Scottish newspapers after an industrial dispute in England.
  3. Numbered SP3 or more common not numbered. A graphic novel from DC Comics based on the first novel with Modesty Blaise.
  4. Numbered SP4 or more common 96. A comic book version of the short story in Cobra Trap.
    Originally published in the Swedish magazine Agent X9 #7–8, 2002.


After the initial popularity of the comic strip British Lion Films announced a Modesty Blaise film to be written by Sidney Gilliat that was never made.[13]

A film entitled Modesty Blaise, loosely based on the comic strip, was filmed in 1966 as a comedy thriller. It was directed by Joseph Losey and starred Monica Vitti as Modesty, Terence Stamp as Willie Garvin, and Dirk Bogarde as Gabriel. While Peter O'Donnell wrote the first draft of the screenplay for the film, the script was heavily revised by others before shooting began, and the finished film bore very little resemblance to O'Donnell's vision in tone, theme, or characterisation. For example, a romance is established between Willie and Modesty, even though the comic strip firmly established only a platonic relationship between them. The film also incorporated several musical numbers. The film was unsuccessful.

In 1982, a one-hour pilot was made for a proposed Modesty Blaise television series, starring Ann Turkel as Modesty Blaise and Lewis Van Bergen as Willie Garvin. The film aired on the ABC Network to positive reviews, but no series resulted. This was a slightly more serious version of the stories than the campy 1966 comedy version. In this pilot the setting is moved from London to Hollywood, and both Willie and Tarrant are portrayed as Americans.

In 2003, a direct-to-video film titled My Name Is Modesty was released. The film was directed by Scott Spiegel and starred English actress Alexandra Staden as Modesty Blaise. Although promoted as the first of a series, no others were made. One immediately noticeable difference between the film and the source material is that it is a prequel to Modesty's established backstory as a crime boss; as such, the character of Willie Garvin is omitted.

Quentin Tarantino has been interested in directing a Modesty Blaise film for many years, and at one point Neil Gaiman wrote a script treatment based upon O'Donnell's novel, I, Lucifer. So far, nothing has come of these plans. Tarantino "sponsored" the release of My Name Is Modesty by allowing it to be released under the label "Quentin Tarantino presents ..." In the Tarantino film Pulp Fiction, Vincent Vega is seen reading a copy of Modesty Blaise.[14] Nicole Kidman has also gone on record as being interested in making a Modesty Blaise film, and Jennifer Lopez was reported to be pitching for the part in 2003.[15]


Peter O'Donnell was invited to write a novel to tie in with the 1966 film. The novel, called simply Modesty Blaise and based on his original screenplay for the movie, fared considerably better than the movie itself did. (It was also released a year before the movie.) During the following decades he would write a total of eleven Modesty Blaise novels and two collections of short stories. Several of the short stories either adapt comic strip stories, or would later be adapted as comic strips themselves, and there was frequent crossover of characters between the two genres. All the books, with the exception of "Pieces of Modesty", were originally issued in hardback and have since gone through numerous paperback editions.

1965Modesty Blaise
1967I, Lucifer
1969A Taste for Death
1971The Impossible Virgin
1972Pieces of Modesty6 short stories: "A Better Day to Die", "The Giggle-wrecker", "I Had a Date with Lady Janet", "A Perfect Night to Break Your Neck", "Salamander Four", "The Soo Girl Charity"
1973The Silver Mistress
1976Last Day in Limbo
1978Dragon's Claw
1981The Xanadu Talisman
1982The Night of Morningstar
1985Dead Man's Handle
1996Cobra Trap5 short stories: "Bellman", "The Dark Angels", "Old Alex", "The Girl With the Black Balloon", "Cobra Trap"

O'Donnell's final book, Cobra Trap, is a short story collection. Intended by O'Donnell to be his literary finale, the final story depicts Modesty's and Willie's deaths (with a hint of an afterlife). O'Donnell, however, continued to write the comic strip for several more years, and chose to end it on a more optimistic note (though the comic strip finale does not contradict the literary one).

Beginning in the early 2000s (decade), Souvenir Press began a series of paperback reprints of the Modesty Blaise book series, using the first edition hardback covers, and originally concluding with a reprint of Cobra Trap in 2006. Souvenir subsequently gained the rights to the short story collection Pieces of Modesty and issued their reprint of that book in March 2010, with a new cover design based on the original hardback cover from the first Modesty novel, at which point all the Blaise books fell under the same UK publisher for the first time.

In 2008, Penguin Books of India reprinted the full series.[16]

The 2012 Charles Stross book The Apocalypse Codex is a "tribute to Modesty Blaise", according to its author.

Differences between Comic Strip and Books[edit]

Although the books generally reflect the characters previously established in the comic strip, there are a number of detail differences. One example of this is how Modesty is initially recruited to work for Sir Gerald Tarrant – although the strip story La Machine (1963) and the book story Modesty Blaise (1965) have similarities, and in both Tarrant achieves his aim by putting her under an obligation, in the strip story this relates to the validity of her marriage (and therefore her right to British nationality and residence) while in the book he provides her with information that enables her to rescue Willie Garvin and save his life. The name of her husband is given in the strip, with the marriage taking place in 1960 and him dying in 1961; in the novel he is unnamed and the marriage took place in 1962.

There are also cases where characters first appear in the books and then subsequently appear in the comic strip – Steve Collier first appears in I Lucifer (1967) and his future wife Dinah in A Taste for Death (1969) but they do not appear in the strip until Lady in the Dark (1989).


In Sweden the strip has been in continuous distribution since 1969 in a monthly comic adventure magazine called Agent X9 (after the existing Modesty comic magazine Agent Modesty Blaise, started in 1967, was merged with the X9 magazine). Many of O'Donnell's stories premiered here (translated into Swedish), and the magazine continues to run a Modesty Blaise story every month, from the archives. When the daily strip was discontinued, artist Romero was given permission by O'Donnell to do a final Modesty Blaise story directly for Agent X9 magazine. The two-parter was published in 2002 and based on an unused script by O'Donnell entitled The Dark Angels, which O'Donnell had previously adapted for the short story collection Cobra Trap. Romero has for the past years also contributed with original painted covers for the Agent X9 magazine.

In India [17] Modesty has got a huge fan base and the stories have been published in various magazines starting in 1971. Modesty was featured in Kalki Magazine (1971), Kumudam Magazine (1972), Muthu Comics (1975), Lion Comics (1984 to date), Rani Comics (1990–2002) & Comic World (1998) in the Tamil language. They were also published in English in Spectrum Comics (1985–1986). Though other magazines stopped/ceased publishing Modesty Blaise, Lion Comics continues to publish her stories regularly. Considering the medium, certain images from the stories were edited in order to make them suitable for child readers.

The American magazine Comics Revue also continues to reprint the strip, and remains to date the only publisher to have released an English-language version of The Dark Angels.

In 1994, DC Comics released a graphic novel adaptation of Modesty Blaise (the novel), with art by Dan Spiegle and Dick Giordano (ISBN 1-56389-178-6).[18]


Last Day in Limbo was adapted as a BBC World Service six-part radio drama in 1978 with Barbara Kellerman as Modesty, James Bolam as Willie and Richard Vernon as Tarrant.

A Taste for Death was adapted for radio in 2012 (originally broadcast 17 December – 21 December) in five 15-minute episodes on BBC Radio 4 adapted by Stef Penney and produced/directed by Kate McAll, starring Daphne Alexander as Modesty, Carl Prekopp as Willie, Alun Armstrong as Sir Gerald Tarrant, Sam Dale as Simon Delicata, Geoffrey Streatfeild as Steve Collier and Samantha Dakin as Dinah Pilgrim.

In the early 1980s, an audio tape reading of the short story, "I Had a Date with Lady Janet" (from Pieces of Modesty), was published by Pickwick Talking Books featuring John Thaw (the story was a first-person tale told from Willie Garvin's point of view).


During the years the comic strip ran, the vehicles used by Modesty and Willie reflected current trends in the motor industry, usually featuring the more glamorous or exotic models then available. As with some of the supporting characters, the books sometimes - but not always - reflected the comic strips. Just as in the contemporary James Bond films, the cars featured were an integral part of the character image conveyed by the stories.



  1. ^ as revealed in The Xanadu Talisman
  2. ^ a b c Don Markstein's Toonopedia. "Modesty Blaise". 
  3. ^ Tillson, Frances (19 September 2004). "Modesty? That's one virtue she's lacking". London: The Observer. Retrieved 2010-05-13. 
  4. ^ Lambiek Comiclopedia. "Jim Holdaway". 
  5. ^ Lambiek Comiclopedia. "Enrique Badia Romero". 
  6. ^ Holdaway died midway through illustrating the story The Warlords of Phoenix; Romero completed the illustrations.
  7. ^ Lambiek Comiclopedia. "John M. Burns". 
  8. ^ Lambiek Comiclopedia. "Neville Colvin". 
  9. ^ Lawrence Blackmore, "Preserving Modesty's Modesty" in Modesty Blaise: Death Trap. Titan Books, 2007, no pagination
  10. ^ According to Lawrence Blackmore: "Modesty McBlaise: The Glasgow Story" in The Lady Killers 2009, Glasgow's Evening Citizen printed stripe 2099 by Holdaway, while London's Evening Standard printed stripe 2099 by Romero. Both versions of stripe 2099 can be seen at
  11. ^ According to The Modesty Blaise Companion Companion, there were no strip with number 3276
  12. ^ More correct there were 20 A-strips and one X-strip, numbered 3641X
  13. ^ De Rham, Edith Joseph Losey 1991 Deutsch
  14. ^ Tarantino, Quentin and Roger Avary. "Pulp Fiction." <>.
  15. ^ Evening Standard on-line report <>.
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ Modesty in India
  18. ^ Grand Comics Database: Modesty Blaise
  19. ^ Interview in Titan reprint of "Cry Wolf" 2006


External links[edit]