November 23, 2010

Agent X9 searching for A-strips

What does this cryptic title mean?
In their continued quest for the highest quality reproduction of their latest reprint run of the Modesty Blaise strips, the good people at Agent X9 magazine in Sweden are looking for high-quality scans of Romero's A-strips.

What is an A-strip?
Part of the Modesty Blaise mystique..
From Wikipedia: "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."

If you can help them out, please send 600 dpi scans to Johan Kimran at Agent X9.
Thank you!

November 21, 2010

AgentX9 Modesty Blaise Covers

Artist Loopy Dave, who this year created a new 'Bad Suki' cover for Swedish comic Agent X9, has created another Modesty Blaise cover  - The War Lords of Phoenix.

So far, his Bad Suki cover is the favourite of this year's (as voted on in their online poll); head to the Agent X9 blog to vote for your favourite!

Agent X9 magazine has undertaken a massive project to source as many Holdaway original frames as possible for their latest reprint run. From the magazine's producers:
"We've had some problems getting all available originals scanned in time to include them in the later Holdaway episodes, but I believe, without doing the math properly, that we've managed to scan ca 50% of Holdaway's ca 2000 dailies and in the early episodes, all of these were used. The reason for this is simply that a large portion of the original artwork is still in the hands of only three collectors, who have all helped us with material. The Vikings in particular, a classic example of [poor] reproduction, has never looked better. In some stories we have more than half of the strips in new scanned and high quality files; in most episodes it's about 1/3."
"We've also retranslated Holdaway's entire run for this reprint to match the original dialogue as closely as possible. Willie's cockney is of course essentially untranslatable, but we at least tried to bring out his apparent roughness (to those who don't know him) in the way he speaks."

A fitting tribute to Peter O'Donnell that the Modesty Blaise strip reproductions keep getting better and better!

August 31, 2010

More Modesty Merchandise

More cool Modesty swag from Scandinavia... this time, a laptop case.

As well, a pair of Modesty earrings found on Ebay:

I find it a bit strange that all the Modesty merchandise I've ever seen is based on Romero artwork, and none on Holdaway's... clearly there is a sub-niche market waiting to be filled!

August 29, 2010

Spy Film Exhibit

Art and Design Gallery, Hatfield, U.K.
A major exhibition of spy film posters from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain, the U.S.S.R, West Germany and the UK.

"From September 10 – October 16, 2010, the University of Hertfordshire Galleries (UH Galleries) and the Hertfordshire Film Consortium are delighted to present Kiss Kiss Kill Kill, an exhibition, symposium and a series of film screenings celebrating the unique graphic art and forgotten spy films of Cold War Europe.

Centred on the kitsch designs produced across Europe during the Cold War, Kiss Kiss Kill Kill is the first exhibition of a collection of newly restored posters from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain, the U.S.S.R, West Germany and the UK. The different graphic styles in the East and West provide an expansive portrait of European taste, national identity and politics of the period with the brash super kitsch of Italian cinema posters juxtaposed compellingly with the lo-tech golden age of non commercial Czech film poster design.

The posters relate to an entire legacy of films tarnished by state control in Eastern Europe and overkill of the Spy Genre in the West. The exhibition will include both leaden communist propaganda and the epically trashy fruits of European co-production."

You can read the full announcement here.

The KKKK Archive : Home of Cold War Spy Cinema

The Kiss Kiss Kill Kill archive is dedicated to preserving spy cinema artifacts from the Cold War. This includes 16mm films, a poster and stills collection numbering some 3000 pieces and an extensive DVD and music library. There are also examples of Cold War games for children.

The website is designed to be a resource for the overlooked spy film genre offering reviews and images of little known films.

The website is excellent, in particular the impressive gallery of film posters (which does include Modesty Blaise).


August 25, 2010

Bob Peak - MB Film Poster

There is a wonderful website dedicated to Bob Peak, illustrator of many film posters including the 1966 Modesty Blaise film.
(I wish the film had lived up to the quality of the poster!)

The site is well worth a look - it includes many other film posters you'll recognize.

July 12, 2010

Modesty Blaise T-shirts

A new Modesty Blaise T-shirt is available for sale on this Spanish site:
It's not clear from the description who the Modesty image is: the description mentions both Holdaway and the Joseph Losey film, but this doesn't appear to be either. If you know, please share the info!

June 21, 2010

Modesty Blaise Comics in Tamil

I've been meaning for some time to add a page to my Modesty Blaise site featuring the Tamil reprints of the comics. However, since seeing King Viswa's blog page about them, I don't think I'll even try, as I couldn't possibly do a better job than this! He details the whole history of the Tamil reprints, and includes graphics of all the covers, excerpts, and an index! Be sure to scroll all the way down - there's lots to see.

Comic World reprinted some of the strips in colour - note Willie's bright blue hair in this excerpt from The Killing Ground!

Thanks to King Viswa for such a comprehensive piece on the Modesty Blaise Tamil comics.


June 16, 2010

Al Williamson

More sad news - comic illustrator Al Williamson passed away last week. Best known for his work on Flash Gordon, Secret Agent X-9 and Star Wars, Williamson also illustrated some samples pages for a Sunday strip of Modesty Blaise, as well as some Star Comics covers of Modesty Blaise.

Many Williamson fans wonder why he was never chosen as a regular Modesty Blaise illustrator; in this interview on Kent Hedlundh's site, Peter O'Donnell mentioned that he had never seen the Williamson artwork.

You can read a full biography of Al Williamson at The Comics Reporter.


May 20, 2010

Tribute to Peter O'Donnell in Crikey! Magazine

Issue #15 of Crikey! magazine will feature an article that pays tribute to the late Peter O'Donnell. Thanks to everyone who contributed information and scans.

This page lists UK retailers that sell Crikey; overseas readers (or anyone without a retail outlet near them) can order single issues via the Crikey website.

May 16, 2010

Souvenir Press Reprints

Souvenir Press has confirmed that they will be reprinting the Modesty Blaise novels that are currently sold out. Those who missed them the first time round can now complete their collection with A Taste for Death, I Lucifer, The Impossible Virgin, and The Silver Mistress.

I suspect one reason that these sold out so quickly after the first reprint was the use of the original Holdaway and Boldero covers. Some were changed slightly, howeve; compare the new and older versions of the Taste for Death cover, below.

The reprints should be available in the UK in a few weeks; no word yet on when they'll be available in other countries. Keep checking back!

May 4, 2010

Farewell Peter O'Donnell

Deeply sad news: Peter O'Donnell passed away yesterday at the age of 90.

Mr. O'Donnell had been in failing health for some time, but happily, he was able to receive birthday greetings from around the world in time for his 90th birthday in April.

Peter O'Donnell began writing the Modesty Blaise comic strip in for The Evening Standard in 1963. The strip was a success, and the following year, Peter was asked to write a screenplay. The film went into production, but with many rewrites (not by Peter O'Donnell!) to the screenplay. To tie in with the release of the film, Peter was asked to write a book version of the screenplay. Thus in 1965, the first book in the Modesty Blaise series was born.

 Work on the comic strip continued, and at the same time, Peter penned more books in the series. Peter O'Donnell continued to pen the book series through the 1970s and 1980s, with the last novel, Dead Man's Handle, published in 1985. There was then a rather long hiatus until Cobra Trap, a collection of Modesty Blaise short stories, was published in 1996. The comic strip continued until April 2001.  To coincide with the final strip, the Evening Standard ran an article, 'Farewell My Lovely', which you can read here.

Modesty Blaise was a worldwide phenomenon; here you can see a collection of some of the countries the books and comics were published in.  Modesty also inspired music, artwork, film, television, and other book authors.

What seems to have made the deepest impression on Modesty fans was not the storylines or adventures themselves, but the depth of Peter O'Donnell's characters. Not just Modesty, but Willie Garvin, Tarrant, Fraser, Steve and Dinah... to name just a few.

And writer Manjula Padmanabhan sums up perfectly the impression that Modesty made on women, as a role model:
 "She was only a tiny, black-clad figure in a comic strip, but she imparted to me - and no doubt to millions of other confused youngsters like me around the world - important lessons about self-empowerment and self-reliance.
She was no steely-eyed vigilante, spy or detective. When she drew her sights upon wrong-doers it was because they had crossed paths with her and caused her to notice their moral deviance. She had strong loyalties and even stronger friendships. And though it may have been tempting to regard her as a standard-bearer for a certain kind of sixties' era feminism, in truth she was too much of an original to fit within the boundaries of any '-isms'."

Peter O'Donnell, you will be missed; but your stories, characters, and inspiration will live on.

Titan books continues to reprint the comic strips, and Souvenir Press has reprinted all of the books. 
You can read a story on the origins of the character of Modesty Blaise here.

April 14, 2010

Updates to the Modesty Blaise Books site

There are a couple new interviews up on the Modesty Blaise Books site: author/artist Manjula Padmanabhan and writer Anna Toss. Anyone is welcome to contribute to the 'How Modesty Influenced my Life' page - these stories are such great tributes to the work of Peter O'Donnell.

There are also some great 'How I Met Modesty' stories up on the Modesty Blaise Fan page; if you wish to add your own story, please email it to me.

Also there are some lovely Norweigan book covers recently sent in to me.



March 24, 2010

Peter O'Donnell's 90th Birthday

Peter O'Donnell's 90th birthday is this April.

For those who would like to send birthday greetings to him, James Doyle at Souvenir Press has kindly offered to forward on any cards or greetings. The mailing address is:
Souvenir Press
43 Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3PD
United Kingdom

Most Modesty fans already know this tale, but here again is the story of how the character of Modesty Blaise came into being:

Thanks again to Peter for the many (continued) years of reading pleasure -  Happy Birthday!

(Apparently in the Romero print above, the 'other' person - besides Modesty Willie, Tarrant and Weng - is Peter O'Donnell.)

March 22, 2010

McGinnis Fawcett-Crest Painting

I always wondered what it would cost to own a Robert McGinnis original, especially one of his Modesty Blaise pieces... apparently, a lot!


March 15, 2010

Modesty Blaise Photo Shoot for Storybook Magazine

Model Anica Kovac poses as Modesty Blaise in a fashion editorial for Story Book magazine.

The Modesty-themed layout uses an interesting mix of photography and comic-styled artwork; you can see the full editorial here.


March 14, 2010

Pieces of Modesty and Souvenir Press - more details

A very helpful person from Souvenir Press has provided some more details about the new Pieces of Modesty paperback cover artwork, and about the series reprint in general.

Q: What made Souvenir Press decide to reprint the entire series as of the year 2000?
A: Souvenir Press decided to reprint the books in a uniform series after the US rights reverted (because we could then distribute them in both the UK and USA, making it economical to keep the books in print). All the Modesty Blaise books are in print, though occasionally some titles slip out of stock and we try to reprint any out of stock title as soon as possible (last month we reprinted 'Sabre Tooth', and 'Cobra Trap' the month before that).

Q: Tell us about the cover art, particularly for Pieces of Modesty.
A: Our new paperback editions of the Modesty Blaise books use the original cover art from the hardback editions. However 'Pieces of Modesty' was published in paperback by Pan without a hardback edition, so we didn't have an image to work with. We tried to keep to the style used on the original hardback covers of 'Modesty Blaise' and 'A Taste for Death', which both use illustrations of weapons on the cover rather than illustrations of Modesty (which are used on the other books).

The Pieces of Modesty cover was designed by a company called eDigital (whose designer is Jim Banting). The illustration of the moon with the lips inside it was taken from the original Modesty Blaise cover while the illustration of the bow and arrow was taken from an illustration library so there is no artist as such.

Q: Avid Modesty Blaise collectors have been trying to get their hands on the Penguin India boxed set, but it's near impossible to buy it from overseas... does Souvenir Press have any plans for a boxed set?
A: The Penguin India box sets look very good, that came about because Thomas Abrahams (who was running Penguin India at the time) had been a huge Modesty Blaise fan since his teens. I'm afraid that we don't have any plans to do such a box set though.

Thanks to Souvenir Press for the information!

'Pieces of Modesty' is currently available in the UK, and will be published in the US and Canada in the Fall. (You can use the Amazon widgets on the left to buy or pre-order.)


February 6, 2010

Pieces of Modesty - First Printing by Souvenir Press!

Stop the presses!
Actually, don't stop them, because I've been waiting years for this...

Souvenir Press started reprinting the Modesty Blaise novels back in 2000 -- the first time this publisher had printed them in paperback. Souvenir Press was the 'original' publisher of the series, having printed the first U.K. hardcover editions, with one exception... Pieces of Modesty.

I still, after all these years of research, haven't been able to find out why Souvenir Press never published Pieces of Modesty. Mysterious Press published it in both hardcover and paperback in the U.S.A., and Pan printed the novel in paperback in various english-speaking countries (U.S.A., Australia, and the U.K.)

The next mystery arose when Souvenir began reprinting the series in paperback: did this mean they had bought the paperback reprint rights to Pieces of Modesty along with the reprint rights to the others? A few years ago, a placeholder appeared on Amazon U.K., but it began to seem like this must have been a mistake, as no book appeared. (The last one published by Souvenir had been Cobra Trap, in 2006).
The new paperback reprints used the cover art from the original hardcover printings. So the more exciting mystery for me, the collector of Modesty Blaise book covers, was: if Souvenir were to finally print Pieces, what would they use for the cover art? This was the only book without any 'original' cover artwork.

Well, the book has now appeared Amazon UK and Amazon Canada, with a release date March 2010, and a cover that fits well with these editions! The source of the artwork is still a mystery, however; I won't be able to find out who the artist is until I get my hands on the book. It looks very similar to the Holdaway covers for the first two books, so either this is an old Holdaway drawing, or a new one created to match his style.
UK readers, you'll be able to get it as of March 4th; I'll have to wait until March 31st. No word yet on when it will be available on Amazon USA. So whoever gets their hands on the book first... please let everyone know who the cover artist is!

You can see all the english-version Modesty covers collected here; books in other languages can be found via this page.

John Dankworth

U.K. jazz legend Sir John Dankworth, who scored the 1966 Modesty Blaise film, passed away at age 82. You can read the BBC online article and watch the news clip here.

Sir John scored over twenty films; you can read an interview with him from the Journal of British Film and Television here.

You can find a number of versions of John Dankworth's Modesty Blaise theme on YouTube, including the Jonathan and David film version, and also the great Virginia Vee rendition. On iTunes, there is a wonderful version performed by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (I'm not sure if they're playing to an arrangement of Gorillaz's creation, or if Gorillaz sampled this arrangement and then transposed it, but the two sound remakably alike) -- if you've never heard the NYJO one, it's well worth a listen.

The film version:

and the jazz orchestra version:

A discography of John Dankworth's music can be found on Discogs.


January 18, 2010

Gorillaz's 'Rock the House'

Yet another 'how did I not know this...?'
Gorillaz's 2001 track 'Rock the House' is built around a sample from John Dankworth's 'Modesty Blaise' theme song.

You can listen to both (and see the Gorillaz video) here.

Amazing how much good music has been inspired by Modesty, but so few films...