Modesty Blaise and graphic storytelling, plus a question for readers
I'd written about the first Modesty Blaise novel and the godawful 1966 movie, but Yellowstone Booty was my first experience with Modesty's original medium. I already knew about Modesty's platonic relationship with sidekick Willie Garvin and about her beauty, her physical prowess, her ingenuity, and her skill with odd weapons, so I paid special attention in these stories, collected from the "Modesty Blaise" daily comic strip, to author Peter O'Donnell's technique: How did he sustain a longish narrative when he had to tell his story in tiny, daily-comics-size chunks?
Here are lines or dialogue exchanges with which O'Donnell ended some of the 126 installments of the story "Idaho George":
"WHY DID I EVER BECOME A CON MAN?"
"So where's the sting? Who gets conned?" / "That comes later, honey ..."
"Holy bloody smoke ...! The crazy old biddy means it!"
"Get back! No — !"
Something is always happening, in other words, and that's the strip's lesson in storytelling: Always leave the reader wondering what will happen next.
Yellowstone Booty, a three-story collection that contains "Idaho George," also includes a portfolio of Modesty Blaise art by John Burns, one of several artists who drew the strip over the years. Three of the drawings include a topless Modesty.
Yet a Wikipedia article on Modesty Blaise says that "The strip's circulation in the United States was erratic, in part because of the occasional nude scenes, which were much less acceptable in the U.S. than elsewhere, resulting in a censored version of the strip being circulated."
One can only speculate what depravity Americans would have got up to had they been permitted to see a naked cartoon breast from time to time.
© Peter Rozovsky 2008