Modesty Blaise

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Name: Modesty Blaise
Creator: Peter O'Donnell
Date(s): 1963-2002
Medium: Comic strips, Films, Books
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
External Links: Wikipedia
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Modesty Blaise began as series of daily comic strips by Peter O'Donnell in the London Evening Standard and syndicated elsewhere, beginning in 1963. A 1966 film, Modesty Blaise, was loosely based on the character; O'Donnell wrote the book of the film (1965) and several subsequent novels and short story collections. There have been various radio plays and audio-books based on the books and stories, some of which are available on line.[1] There was a 1982 TV pilot which made the characters American but a series was never made. A subsequent film, My Name is Modesty (2003) is closer to canon but is set early in the characters career so omits her most notable associate, Willie Garvin.


Modesty Blaise is a beautiful refugee of indeterminate origin, a retired crime boss who chooses to settle in Britain after dismantling her organisation, known simply as 'The Network.' She is recruited by Sir Gerald Tarrant, head of a branch of British Intelligence, who sees that she is bored and persuades her to work with him. She is joined by her associate Willie Garvin, a Cockney who is an expert knife thrower, soldier, and martial artist, and becomes involved in a series of adventures against criminal networks, foreign conspiracies, and other enemies. Both are extremely talented martial artists; she's an expert fencer, archer, marksman with any firearm, and almost unbeatable in hand to hand combat, Garvin prefers throwing knives and rifles to hand guns, and is an expert improviser of booby-traps and other gadgets, and skilled in electronics, as a mechanic, etc. He owns and manages a pub, The Treadmill, when he isn't traveling.

Most of their adventures involve the capture of one or both of them, leading to an escape or rescue mission and defeat of their enemies. In some of the books captivity involves rape, torture, slavery and/or attempted brainwashing. The sexual aspects were not stressed in the comic strips.

While the intelligence background is a springboard for many of the stories, others begin with odd accidents or old friends asking for help. An occasional theme is the use of psychic powers, either real or faked for criminal purposes; canon characters include Dinah Pilgrim, a blind dowser who is kidnapped to find buried treasure and 'Lucifer,' an insane psychic with precognitive abilities who becomes the pawn of an extortion racket. Willlie Garvin has occasional precognitive moments, his ears prickling when he senses danger to himself, Modesty, and other associates.

The most common characters are Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin, Modesty's servant Weng, Sir Gerald Tarrant, and his assistant Fraser. Both Modesty and Willie have many lovers, but they are never romantically involved with each other in the comic strips and books; the first film does ship them, but this is not considered canon by fans of the larger series, and it is made clear in the books that their relationship only works because Willie sees Modesty as untouchable.

Other notable characters appearing repeatedly include René Vaubois, head of the French Deuxième Bureau; millionaire John Dall, one of Modesty's lovers; psychic researcher Gerald Collier, also one of her lovers; 'Lucifer'; Lady Janet Gillam, Willie's neighbor and girlfriend, and Dinah Pilgrim, another of Willie's lovers, who eventually marries Collier. There are few recurring villains, since they tend to be killed on their first appearance; the main exception is criminal mastermind Gabriel, appearing in the film, first novel, and two series of the comic strip.

The characters never appear to age in the strips and most books, but one story does describe their last adventure and makes it clear that they are both much older.


There is little Modesty Blaise fanfic, but there are many drawings on line, although most derive from the strip and book covers etc. rather than being original works.





Fannish Links



  1. ^ Modesty Blaise Book Covers: The Radio Plays