Peter O'Donnell, Creator of Modesty Blaise Dies
May 10, 2010 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Modesty Blaise was one of the greatest newspaper comics ever. Modesty was a take-no-prisoners adventuress. Easily one of the best drawn and scripted newspaper continuities.
posted by TDavis (20 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I used to read Modesty Blaise daily back in the early 1980s, but then the plot line got too convoluted for my taste. One of my favorite bands, Sparks, was commissioned to write a song for a TV show based on the comic strip which apparently never made it to the pilot stage. They changed the title of the song to "Modesty Plays" and released it anyway.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:33 PM on May 10, 2010



posted by infini at 1:39 PM on May 10, 2010

She was also an insane (INSANE) movie from the 60s.
posted by The Whelk at 1:40 PM on May 10, 2010

yes, i loved that movie!.... i saw it in swinging london i believe. really!
posted by billybobtoo at 1:44 PM on May 10, 2010

Now I am inspired to go out and read all the Modesty Blaise novels. I was impressed with his story telling just from this:

“I told one of the guys to take a mess tin full of stew and a mug of tea to her, and when she got up to go, I’d put a couple of tins of food near her, so she could get them without coming too close to us, and a can opener, too,” he recalled in a 1996 interview. “I surmised that she was a refugee from somewhere in the Balkans, and she had been on her own for some time, because she wasn’t fazed, she was her own person, this little kid.

“And she washed the utensils in the stream, and brought them back to where we had put the tins of food, and indicated ‘Were these for her?’ We said yes, and she opened her bundle and put them in. She stood there for a few seconds, and then she gave us a smile, and you could have lit up a small village with that smile, and then she said something and walked off into the desert going south, and she was on her own. She walked like a little princess.

“I never forgot that child,” he added. “I hope she is alive today; she would be in her 60s now. But when I wanted a background for Modesty Blaise, I knew that child was the story.”
posted by chatongriffes at 1:50 PM on May 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I actually rather like the terrible movie.
posted by Artw at 1:56 PM on May 10, 2010

Wasn't John Travolta reading a Modesty Blaise novel on the can in Pulp Fiction?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:06 PM on May 10, 2010

posted by kirkaracha at 2:10 PM on May 10, 2010

Wow. It's a bad day to be an elderly comic book artist.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:02 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I remember loving the novels as a young adolescent. My mother threw them out a few years back, so I'll never know if they hold up as a reasoning individual's entertainment; perhaps that's for the best.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:07 PM on May 10, 2010

I read the first novel for the first time at 23 after watching the movie. I was impressed, I had low expectations and I was surprised with how well done it was. Modesty is hard as diamond, not camp at all, but still believable. Above average genre fair, loads better then most of the Bond novels.
posted by The Whelk at 3:19 PM on May 10, 2010

Also RIP serialized newspaper comics, newspapers.

Modesty Blaise and the case of the missing my childhood.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:50 PM on May 10, 2010

chatongriffes, yes Modesty's background floored me in the comics. I began reading them "in the middle", when she was already an ass-kicking super-babe, and many episodes later there was a flashback to Modesty as a child refugee in the war. I always found that the few panels spent on that left a much deeper impression on me than anything else they could ever come up with.

Now that I know that child was real, I wonder where she is too.
posted by dabitch at 12:24 AM on May 11, 2010

I can not believe I've missed that movie The Whelk.

Also . thank you O'Donnell.
posted by dabitch at 12:31 AM on May 11, 2010

One thing I love ab out the strips is how little repetition they have compared to other serials—you almost never catch them repeating the same lines day after day, like they can in Judge Parker or Brenda Starr. It means that they're much easier to read as collections.

Sorry to hear he's gone, but was he even still doing them?
posted by klangklangston at 8:01 AM on May 11, 2010

For those interested in the photo-realistic school of comics, David's Sim, of Cerebus fame, has a comic book series, Glamourpuss, that has an excellent ongoing historical analysis. The photorealism sections of the first three issues are available (legally) here.
posted by rtimmel at 9:10 AM on May 11, 2010

The strip stopped a few years back and O'Donnell had stopped working with the character, wanting to take a break from full-time writing. Personally, I always enjoyed the way the strip ended with Modesty and her sidekick Willie walking into the sunset as they plan to taking a short break from adventuring. It had a similar feel to how Calvin and Hobbes ended its run; it had a nice sense of closure but knowing that these two people will continue to adventure.
"No villains, no victims, no blood, sweat, and tears. We'll take a little break, Willie love, just you and me."

"Best bit of all, Princess."
posted by jaybeans at 10:46 AM on May 11, 2010

LOOOOOOVE Modesty. I hardly buy books or comics, but I went out and bought all the collections, just so I'd have them around. When I grow up, she's who I want to be!
posted by Never teh Bride at 7:44 PM on May 11, 2010

So, yeah:

posted by Never teh Bride at 7:46 PM on May 11, 2010

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