Oh Modesty!

M2Every now and then a young man encounters a woman so amazing that there is little he can do but fall in love with her. And most of the time, the love lingers on for years… wrinkles, gray hair and creaking joints notwithstanding.

I was a young boy in his teens in 1973 when I encountered Miss Blaise on the pages of Junior Statesman. Living in India and playing the role of the broke young man to perfection, JS and other such publications were my favourite places to get acquainted with comics from over the seas. Though I was an enthusiast, the not-so-easy availability coupled with the price tags made collecting comics beyond the regular Asterix-s and Tintin-s rather difficult!

I still remember the day I spotted Modesty among the last few pages of JS. Clad in a towel and armed with a gun, it took her almost no time to replace funny girl Tifanny Jones, British model turned secret agent as my favourite woman in the realm of comics. After all, which young man could resist those eyes, the incredibly charisma and of course, that gorgeous face! I would have possibly liked to say that I loved Modesty for her charm, wit and other such things that I realized to be important with age. But as a teen, a gorgeous girl with guns and a keen sense of adventure was enough to turn me into putty!

Created by Peter O’Donnell and drawn by Jim Holdway, it took me a few more years, a job and enough money to spend on trivial pursuits to encounter her first avatar of 1963. And it was worth every bit of effort I’d put in to getting there! Starting with a young girl with no identity, her daring escape from a camp full of migrators in Greece, her adventures in Africa and her touching friendship with Lob, a refugee like her who initiated her training and gave her a name proved to be more than the pretty face I had first been drawn to. Along with ‘side-kick’ Willie Garvin, Modesty’s adventures in black and white grew better with every new episode I encountered. Associated with Sir Gerald Tarrant, quite a somebody in the British Secret Service, her adventures to deal with the monotony of a rich life were not just restricted to cases Tarrant wanted her help with. Being the wonderful, wonderful woman she is, she chose to offer help to all those who needed it and of course, tracked down villains and gave them the hell they deserved!

Admittedly, there came a time when Modesty took the backstage as I chose to explore realms of love, marriage and fatherhood. dadCoupled with the steadily increasing years that Modesty stayed so blissfully untouched by, she soon became a part of my memories- some of the fondest ones. And I moved to the realm of the Modesty Blaise novels, which though devoid of illustrations that made the comics so special, made her feel more real as she turned older. It was 1998 and I was in my late thirties when I read the last Modesty Blaise book, a collection of short stories, Cobra Trap, where she turned 52. Yes, there have been graphic novels and movies to explore and yes, there have been some amazing stories, but it is the comic strips drawn by  Enrique Badía Romero, John Burns and some more after Holdway’s death that still holds special place in my heart. And needless to say, my love for Modesty still remains.