Sunday, May 01, 2005

Modesty Blaise - Action Comics Daily

When you think about how cool it was to have comic book stories delivered to you every week (and what a logistical nightmare it was for DC...hmm...I think I should do an overview of Action Comics Weekly someday), just imagine how cool it is to have a little piece of action every DAY!

That was what Peter O'Donnell and artist Jim Holdaway did in every day of the Evening Standard with their action strip, Modesty Blaise.

Today's "You Decide" (courtesy of Zack) is Titan Books' collection of the first year or so of Modesty Blaise strips, titled "The Gabriel Setup."

You obviously have to use a different style of writing when you write in daily strip format, so the fact that the collection reads extremely well is a strong testamount to O'Donnell's writing abilities (which is not a surprise, as even at the time, he was a well regarded comic strip writer).

Modesty Blaise (which began in early 1963) is a former thief who is called out of retirement by Sir Gabriel Tarrant (and Tarrant's assistant, Jack Fraser) to stop an assassination ring. She calls up her old compatriot, Willie Garvin, and when that case ends, the two continue to work with Sir Gabriel, as Modesty could not resist the taste of the action-filled life again.

O'Donnell does an amazing job (as, let us be honest, there is not a lot of room in three panels) imbuing the characters with in depth personalities.

In fact, I think that that is a slight drawback to the stories (this is a minor nit I am picking here). O'Donnell had Holdaway use a young British actor he saw in a TV play as the basis for Willie Garvin. The actor? Michael Caine. Well, remember how cool and charasmatic Michael Caine was (heck, IS)?

That's a problem. Willie Garvin is such an interesting character that he almost steals the strip at times from Modesty, in particular in their conflict with the evil mastermind Gabriel. Garvin has some of the coolest scenes in the entire collection!!

But like I said, it is a minor nit I am picking there, as the fact that a supporting character takes some attention away from the lead is not THAT surprising.

Holdaway's art is excellent - it is very life-life, but it is still very much a drawing, as he uses the black and white strip format a LOT...which makes me wonder if some of it may have been lost to readers in their newspapers, as I presume 1963 printing methods were not as sophisticated as today, so some of his tricks with shadows might not have looked as good back then.

Anyhow, the Titan Collection of Modesty Blaise's first year (O'Donnell finally retired the strips in 2001, almost FORTY years of stories) is a lot of value for your buck, so I would highly recommend picking it up.


Blogger Matt Brady said...

Another good action/plot-based old comic strip that reads well in collections is Alley Oop. That is some fun stuff. The world needs more time-travelling cavemen.

5/02/2005 05:25:00 PM  
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