Modesty Blaise was first introduced as a comic-strip in the middle of the 1960s by author Peter O’Donnell. Not only was she beautiful, she was clever, cunning, daring and she knew how to kick ass. For me, she was the heroine I wanted to be.
For those who don’t know who Modesty Blaise is, please allow me to introduce you: Modesty Blaise is the anti-James Bond James Bond. That is, yes, she occasionally went on missions for the British Secret Intelligence Service, but that was only after she retired from being the head of The Network, her own international criminal organization. Along with her sidekick, second-in-command and trusted friend Garvin (they debuted in 1963 and still never really got together, by the way), Modesty’s adventures took them all around the world where they thwarted enemy spies and certain death. But not only was Modesty insanely wealthy, well-traveled, clever and beautiful, she was absolutely fearless. She’s not your typical heroine – she’s not in this game to save people, or because it’s the “right thing” to do – but she’s a heroine in her own right. The anti-heroine heroine.
I called Modesty the anti-James Bond James Bond, because while she held certain characteristics of the James Bond character – spy, who travels around the world stopping plots of world domination on behalf of British Intelligence in the 1960s – she is everything Bond isn’t. Modesty is female chic, kicking ass in trendy heels, and believe me when I say that there’s yet to be a man who could seduce Modesty, or reduce her down into being someone’s “girl”. She delighted in her own power, in her own freedom and liberation; she didn’t want to take orders from some boss, so she became the boss. Reading this as a teenage girl, it left quite the impression on me as to just what, exactly, I was capable of.
In the past year, we’ve seen female heroines light up our screens or become re-introduced to the pages – Diana in Wonder Woman and Rey in The Last Jedi, to name two of the biggest. While I’ve been a dedicated fan of Star Wars from the moment I saw A New Hope and have a haphazard pile of Wonder Woman comics in every corner of my bedroom, there’s something about the absolute humanness of Modesty that is relatable in a way the other two aren’t. The Modesty Blaise comics and novels may not be that well-known anymore, but that doesn’t take anything away from their influence and power. With over 13 books alone, there’s plenty of opportunity to pick one up and discover the magic that is Modesty Blaise.