My Graphic Confession

on November 2, 2014 in Misc

blaise sword

I am way, way too old to be reading graphic novels. Especially ones that are mere collections of comic strips.  Because obviously comic strips are unintellectual, juvenile, and just plain beneath a smart (allegedly) writer person like me.

So maybe now I should confess to my addiction to Modesty Blaise.

You’ve probably heard of Modesty, although she’s a lot more famous in Europe.  Her strips were often absent from U.S. newspapers because she was sometimes scantily clad and on a few occasions naked.

Peter O’Donnell created the Modesty Blaise comic strip in 1963 and continued to write it until wrapping up in 2001.  He also wrote thirteen Modesty novels and one collection of short stories, all of which got great reviews from critics; a few even said they were better than Ian Fleming’s Bond stories.  But while Bond was turned into classic movies, Modesty had the bad fate of appearing in a few stinker flicks, even though one was made by her fan Quentin Tarantino.

While I enjoy the graphic novels, I like the real novels much more.  They’re well written and plotted, come with requisite preposterous villains, and they do a good job of getting into Modesty’s brilliant cool head as well as that of her loyal sidekick, Willie Garvin.  On the down side, several of the older paperbacks have silly, too-sexy and irrelevant covers.

 penthouseA while back I wrote here about the great backstory O’Donnell gave Modesty:  how she was a young orphan refugee who survived WWII and by the time she was a teenager headed up a lucrative crime syndicate (mostly gambling and high-end thievery, and absolutely no drugs or prostitution, which she hates).  While in her twenties she retires—which means she starts to work in an unofficial capacity for a friend in British intelligence.

But it’s the life O’Donnell gave Modesty that really appeals to me.  She is what I wish I were:  wealthy, free, gorgeous, in perfect physical condition, a martial arts expert, speaks about ten languages, is pursued by loving lovers, and is deadly when taking on bad guys.  She has homes in London, Morocco, Malta, and Paris, and servants who do the housework.   She never worries about money.  Above all, she has an inner calm and unshakeable self-confidence.   Mentally and emotionally, she’s not messy like me.

Peter O’Donnell passed away just a couple years ago, and I wish that I had discovered his Modesty Blaise earlier and written him a fan letter.  I’ve never written to any public figure before, yet I wish I could have told him thanks for his creation.

Is there any semi-famous writer you wish you had written to?  Or maybe you’re corresponding with one?

Have a great week.

15 Responses to “My Graphic Confession”

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever read any of the Modesty Blaise novels.
    I’d like to tell the writers of MST3K and RiffTrax thanks for bringing so much joy over the years. Fortunately, they follow me on Twitter and I was able to tell them!

  2. Helena says:

    Alex – I’m not surprised those authors follow you, since that’s how good you are as a writer.

  3. Hart Johnson says:

    And the good news–I am BACK! Your IT guy fixed it so I can visit again. I should check out Modesty–I’ve heard you talk about her before and I love spy stuff. Should definitely get a few more women into the mix of the spies I love.

  4. The only writers I correspond with are the ones on the various blogs I visit. I’ve never read Modesty Blaise, but what you’ve said here really intrigues me. I think it’s unfortunate that graphic novels have gotten a bad rap for not being “intellectual” fiction. Personally, I think “Watchmen” is one of the best graphic novels ever made and it is certainly worth anyone’s time to read. I would challenge any reader to get through with it and tell me that the story isn’t pure genius. And of course there are many other examples of graphic novels that I love.

  5. Helena says:

    Hart – Welcome back! (Don’t you hate technical problems?) I think you’ll love Modesty, especially because like you she isn’t afraid to get naked.

  6. Helena says:

    Michael – I’ve heard good things about the Watchmen graphic novels, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re especially good because they written in what is actually an illustrated novel format, whereas Modesty Blaise graphic novels were originally comic strips published in newspapers, and that’s in a way a whole different and not as good an animal. That’s another reason why for me the original Modesty novels, as opposed to the strips, are much deeper and better. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter O’Donnell, if he were still alive and writing, would choose the graphic novel format for a whole new approach to her stories. I’m sure I would have loved them.

  7. Helena says:

    Michael – I’ve heard good things about the Watchmen graphic novels, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re especially good because they written in what is actually an illustrated novel format, whereas Modesty Blaise graphic novels were originally comic strips published in newspapers, and that’s in a way a whole different and not as good an animal. That’s another reason why for me the original Modesty novels, as opposed to the strips, are much deeper and better. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter O’Donnell, if he were still alive and writing, would choose the graphic novel format for a whole new approach to her stories. I’m sure I would have loved them.

  8. I think we’d all like to be like Modesty Blaise. I’ve never corresponded with a famous author before.

  9. Helena says:

    Carol – I think more women would be in awe of her if they knew about her. The men who read her love her.

  10. I liked reading the Alex Raymond’s FLASH GORDON graphic novels. I read the ALLY OOP graphic novels for the childhood memories they brought back. I enjoyed THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS ( the story of Batman coming back to the streets after 10 years retirement from them. In essence is it the story of Batman’s last year — Superman has become a tool of the government and is forced to fight his old friend. — Batman wins by the way)

    KINGDOM COME is a beautiful PAINTED graphic novel — it once again pits an aging Batman against an eternally young Superman against the backdrop of the End of Days.

    But then, I sold comic books in my book store for 12 years, so I guess I have stayed a kid!

  11. Helena says:

    Roland – I’m so glad you and other people here have come to the defense of graphic novels. I was joking around about them because I don’t know anyone in my daily life who reads them, but then most people I know don’t read many books or stories at all. So I felt a bit like a freak. When I was eleven and in Ireland I got seriously hooked on comics that were very much like graphic novels are today–full length stories but in a comic book format. I’d never seen anything like them, and I was hooked. Then the summer ended and we returned to the States, and I missed my graphic stories. So now Modesty Blaise makes me happy (although I do prefer the novels), and as for nostalgia, I know I would get hooked on Sheena Queen of the Jungle and Brenda Starr comics.

  12. I correspond with many quasi-famous writers — on their blogs! You’re never too old for comics, Helena. I’m a big fan of the Firefly series, the only way to get new Serenity stories.

  13. Helena says:

    Milo – Thank you for telling me I’m not too old! And I’m always amazed at the loyalty of Firefly fans. Maybe the series should be resurrected, except that the main star is now on Castle.

  14. Gina says:

    I agree with Milo: you’re never too old for comics.

  15. Helena says:

    Gina – And in all honesty, I’ve never really grown up anyway.