Introduction to Modesty Blaise


    Who is Modesty Blaise?

    We can thank (and we certainly do!) Peter O'Donnell for the
    existence of Modesty Blaise. The first episodes were published
    in the Evening Standard in 1963.

    So, who is she in the books (and comic strips)?
    According to what we know - she was born just prior to the Second
    World War... 
As a young child, no more than six years old, the girl found herself alone and without means in war torn Europe, Kalyros Greece to be exact. Friendless and homeless, she wandered, barefoot, without memory of who she was or what had happened to her family or what events had led to her being in this state. Some have hypothesized that she was the victim of some terrible atrocity and that she forced herself to forget. Perhaps she saw her parents murdered brutally before her young eyes... or so the guessing goes. The truth is, nobody knows what happened or why the girl could not remember. A child alone in the world comes to know only one thing: survival. Stealing for food, slipping away from grasping, hurtful hands, running like a rabbit chased by dogs; these are the things that the girl learned. She not only learned them, she excelled at them. This is not to imply that she was a scamp. She spent a year working as a goat herd in Malaurak. A girl child with no protection, though, was something highly prized by those of few morals and even less scruples and she was captured by a "flesh gang" in Syria, but escaped before she could be tormented by the duties of such "slaves". But she did not remain innocent for long. Only once did a man's hands catch the little wisp of wind, and it was enough. At twelve years old, she learned that pain could come in many unimaginable ways for a girl. She was fortunate in one thing, though. The man who hurt her came after she had learned to (grudgingly) trust, so she did not automatically hate all men after she was attacked. The man who did not hurt her, but tutored her and schooled her, was called Lob. He was a professor at a university... before the war. Now he was just another displaced person, like the girl whom he named Modesty. Modesty had learned that not all people were cruel. Lob had taught her that and she loved him, as best she could for being a feral thing that only knew survival. Lob had taught her to read and taught her how to speak many languages. Soon her mind grew as sharp as her survival skills, and she gave herself a last name: Blaise, after the man who had tutored Merlyn of Arthurian legends. And so, Modesty Blaise was born. When Lob died, Modesty Blaise's life changed again. If Lob had not touched her life, who can know what might have happened to the girl-child, but because of the old man, she learned compassion. Even as the twig is bent, the tree will grow, however, and Modesty Blaise had been bent. Opportunity and trouble seemed to follow her like a shadow and when opportunity came, she was smart enough to grasp it and hold it, no matter how it struggled. Such an opportunity presented itself in Tangier during a vicious gang war, and Modesty Blaise took over the Louche gang, using her hardened and tempered skills as well as her sharpened mind. She knew about hard men and how to control them. She also knew that criminals were happy doing criminal things, especially things that made money, and the one thing that Modesty Blaise had in common with the men of the Louche gang was that she was just as hard and wanted money, just as much. She was not simply a criminal, though. She was a criminal with style and morals. Her organization, later known as The Network, focused their activities on stealing, not vices. When it came to stealing, nothing was out of the question: art, precious gems, industrial secrets, all were fair game. Criminal with a touch of corporation, though some would argue that in today's world, these things are one in the same. The Network protected their own. If a member was hurt on the job, then The Network took care of him. If someone was threatened by outsiders, The Network made certain that the threat was warned off or removed. The few times The Network ventured outside of their area of expertise were the times when those who ran vices effected one of their own. At such times, those in the vice rackets were best to keep well away from The Network, for if anything could be said about Modesty Blaise was that she had no tolerance whatsoever for those who prayed on the weak and helpless. It was during the time of The Network that Modesty met Willie Garvin, a hard bitter man also bent by the tides of misfortune. She bribed his way out of a gaol and took him in, for she saw something in the husk of a man that others could not see past his cruel glare. She saw the spark of a man trapped in a life he did not choose. She saw something better in him than anybody could guess at, and Willie Garvin was no fool, either, for he knew opportunity when it came and the young woman with dark hair was offering him an opportunity and so much more. What he did not realize at the time was that the one thing he needed more than opportunity was to have someone believe in him. Modesty Blaise gave him both of these things. His respect for her went beyond everything. To him, she was an idol, something to be protected and cherished. To her, Willie Garvin became the friend she could never imagine for herself, somebody who thought like her as if they shared one mind. In our world, to be ones "soulmate" is to imply that love follows in the way that men and women love. Though Willie and Modesty were indeed soulmates, being of one mind and sometimes one working body, they were never lovers, and perhaps that is the truest love of all; unencumbered by the jealousies and pettiness that come from the insecurity of lovers. They simply accepted each other. It is for us to look upon a friendship such as they had and marvel at the perfection of it, as two puzzle pieces fit together, but each holds a different pattern to make a picture complete only when linked together. Though criminals, greed was never ingrained in them, and one day it was decided that enough money was enough, and more was not necessarily better, it was just more... and The Network was dissolved, each man sent away with a pension for their services. Some were given their own territories, though without the firm hand and belief structure that was Modesty Blaise's, those territories often succumbed to the lowest common denominator. Not all, but some, for the world changes everything and as the world gets dark, the criminal element gets even darker until "style" is as frivolous as a glove with a "P" embroidered on the back and viciousness becomes rampant for survival. Modesty Blaise had left it behind, trusting that those she left in that world had learned something from her own way of controlling such an organization as The Network. She retired to England and bought a pent house that overlooked Hyde park, keeping her other homes in places like Tangier, because wanderlust had never left her. Her ubiquitous companion, Willie Garvin, bought a pub nearby on the Thames, called The Treadmill, but retirement did not suit them and trouble followed like a donkey after a carrot dangled before its nose. At first it was just restlessness and doubts that nagged at Willie and Modesty, wondering if they had done the right thing to retire, but soon the donkey caught up to the carrot in the form of Sir Gerald Tarrant, head of a secret British agency, who recruited them for their skills, asking for their assistance in solving a problem that was outside of his "legal" realm. Vigilantism is not a term to be applied to the "capers" they went on, for sometimes justice and the law do not walk side by side. And those who walk beyond the law have no one to fear, except... Modesty Blaise. (by Gretchen Kopmanis)