Modesty Blaise, a powerful female character created by the British author Peter O'Donnell, became the subject of a hugely popular cartoon strip published in the London Evening Standard in the early 1960s. It was soon syndicated in newspapers worldwide although the occasional nudity caused problems with distribution in the USA.
By painting a picture of a feisty young woman with a questionable past and an even more exciting present, O'Donnell's first collaborator, illustrator Jim Holdaway, created a true style icon. With her spiky hair, high cheekbones, dramatic eye make-up and lithe figure, Modesty was the epitome of a sixties heroine.
After escaping from a displaced persons' camp in Greece at the end of WW2, she adventured her way across Europe, eventually running an international criminal enterprise from Tangier. Here she met and employed Willie Garvin, also a superb and fearless fighter, who was to be her lifetime partner but was never her lover.
When the stories really begin in 1963, the beautiful and now very wealthy Modesty has moved to London and is living in style. Bored with her new life, she and Willie begin to work unofficially for the British Secret Service. They have their own unique sense of justice and occasionally even help total strangers who have found themselves in trouble for no more than the fun of the chase. Their exotic escapades are punctuated by fights undertaken with a myriad of weapons from blowpipes to swords. Willie carries not just one knife, but two!
In 1966, a film starring Monica Vitti, Terence Stamp and Dirk Bogarde took the story from the printed page to the big screen, but it wasn't a box office success. It seems that Quentin Tarantino would like to direct a film and actresses Jennifer Lopez and Nicole Kidman have expressed an interest in playing Modesty herself, so perhaps a blockbuster may come from the story one day.
In the meantime, why not let a canvas print featuring one of these paintings of Modesty Blaise and her comic strips bring you a taste of her exciting life?