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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Art of Modesty Blaise

The latest book from Book Palace Books is a fine companion volume to Titan's reprints of the Modesty Blaise series. The Art of Modesty Blaise is an 88-page catalogue of superb artwork not only from the classic Evening Standard strip but also the DC Comics The Dark Angels graphic novel, Comic Revue covers and previously unseen artwork, both colour and black & white.

The book is introduced by Lawrence Blackmore, author of The Modesty Blaise Companion, who offers a brief but complete overview of the strip. A couple of minor errors creep in: John M. Burns' early Thomson strips were drawn for Diana, not for "Classic Picture Strip" and, on a more journalistic note, where Blackmore says that "It is not for me, or anyone else for that matter, to arbitrate on the merits of the artists." I'd argue that it is precisely what you can do in a signed feature introducing "the art of" a subject and, as long as we know whose opinion it is, having and expressing an opinion is perfectly OK.

As two examples of strips based on the same script, one by John M. Burns and one by Pat Wright are presented, I'll offer my opinion: the two by Burns are the better, showing a familiarity with the characters that Wright lacks. Burns's execution is far more confident and varied—Wright sticks to a two-shot of Willie Garvin and Modesty for five of the six frames while Burns uses a two-shot only to establish the characters in the first frames of the two strips. His closing close-up of Modesty is a more expressive lips-to-eyebrow rather than Wright's chin-to-hairline.

These were Pat Wright's first two strips and he was brought in suddenly, mid-story, so it's almost inevitable that he needed a few strips to get his footing and establish his own style.

The biography of Peter O'Donnell appears to have been written prior to the author's death in 2010, referring to him in present tense ("If pressed he will relate...") as if her were still around.

Minor gripes aside, the main meat-and-veg of the book is the artwork, and with over 160 examples from the pens of Jim Holdaway, Enrique Badia Romero, John Burns, Pat Wright and Neville Colvin on display, you really can't go wrong.

More information can be found at the Book Palace Books website.

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