Modesty Blaise was a young amnesiac that escaped from a displaced persons, or "DP" camp. in Kalyros, Greece. She had no knowledge of her life before. Alone, she roamed post-WWII North African, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern countries, learning to support herself through criminal means. It was also during this period that she learned how to fend for herself physically. During her travels, Modesty met and befriended fellow refugee and Hungarian scholar, Lob. Lob educated the girl, and named her "Modesty". She would later go on to add Blaise herself after Merlin's tutor. Modesty quickly rose through the ranks of the criminal underworld, becoming the head of a gang based out of Tangier. Under her leadership, the gang would evolve into an international syndicate known as "The Network".
It was during her time with The Network that Modesty first met Willie Garvin.
Garvin was in a desperate predicament, however, Modesty had faith in the man. She offered him employment, and Willie, touched by her generosity, would go on to prove his appreciation to Modesty by becoming her right-hand man in The Network. Garvin was Modesty's most trusted friend, but theirs was a strictly platonic relationship. Both fear a sexual encounter would ruin the special bond that they shared with one another. He refers to her as "Princess", a term of endearment that only he is allowed to use. Other members of The Network referred to Modesty as "Mam'selle", out of respect for her rank.
Eventually, Modesty decided that she had made sufficient funding from The Network to retire, choosing England as her destination. At this time, Modesty was in her late twenties, with Galvin eight years her senior. He followed his best friend, but they quickly found themselves bored of their new lives amongst the privileged. It was then that Modesty would meet Sir Gerald Tarrant, a
high-ranking official of the British Secret Service. He would request her assistance in a particularly unsavory matter. This is treated differently between the first comic strip and novelization, however all Modesty Blaise story lines that are not illustrated and written by creator Peter O'Donnell are not considered canon. Both obligate Modesty to Tarrant's service. In the comic strip, Tarrant questions the validity of her marriage, and therefore her right to British nationality and residence. In the first book, he informs her that Garvin's life is in danger, and that he will provide her with information if she helps him.
This began a new chapter in Modesty and Garvin's lives, as they were frequently
employed by Tarrant on "capers", however commonly aided strangers during their journeys, and even battled heinous villains in exotic locales. From time to time, past enemies from The Network made their presence known, as well. Modesty and Galvin seldom resorted to murder, relying instead on their exquisite physical prowess, martial arts training, and arsenal of unique weapons to turn the tables on their foes. However, the pair will resort to murder if it is absolutely necessary. This is treated differently in O'Donnell's comic strip and the novelizations, the latter portraying the pair much more malicious in their endeavors. Galvin will often confirm with Modesty if their mission is "for sleeps" or "for keeps".
Their exploits would span ninety-six comic strips, thirty books, two films,
and a television pilot. Modesty's creator has stated that he does not want his characters' stories to be continued by other writers and artists. In Peter O'Donnell's final Modesty Blaise short story "The Cobra Trap", fifteen years have passed since Modesty and Garvin's missions from the comic strips and
books. Modesty is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and decides to sacrifice herself to save a train full of innocents from a group of rebels. Modesty then reveals her illness to Willie, and is subsequently shot to death. Willie himself is then shot to death, and the pair reunite in the afterlife. This is considered the most controversial of the Modesty Blaise stories. In 2001, O'Donnell decided on a more upbeat ending to the comic strip. Modesty and Garvin are seen at sunset after having donated a treasure to the Salvation Army that they unearthed at the end of the book "A Taste for Death". Modesty tells Garvin "No villains, no victims, no blood, sweat, and tears…we'll take a little break, Willie Love, just you and me." to which Garvin responds "Best bit of all, Princess."
Powers And Abilities
- Modesty has no known superhuman abilities. She is an athletic woman in her late twenties, in peak physical condition. She is an accomplished tumbler, with extensive martial arts training, and most often uses her "kongo" in battle. Occasionally, she does implement the use of a firearm, and has proven time and again to be an exceptional marksman.
- Kongo "Yawara Stick"
- Bow And Arrows
- .38 Smith & Wesson Revolver
- SIG-Sauer P230 Pistol
Television And Film
- In the loosely-based 1966 comedy thriller "Modesty Blaise", the titular role was portrayed by Monica Vitti.
- In 1982, a well-received television pilot for Modesty Blaise was filmed starring Ann Turkel, but was never picked up.
- Alexandra Staden starred as a young Modesty Blaise prior to her days in The Network in the 2002 film "My Name Is Modesty".