Ghent UniversityFaculty of Arts and PhilosophyGender, Race and Sexuality in Peter O’Donnell’sModesty Blaise NovelsSupervisorDr. Kate MacdonaldMay 2012Paper submitted in partialfulfillment of the requirementsfor the degree of “Master in deTaal- en Letterkunde: EngelsNederlands” by Ilke De Pauw

Ghent UniversityFaculty of Arts and PhilosophyGender, Race and Sexuality in Peter O’Donnell’sModesty Blaise NovelsSupervisorDr. Kate MacdonaldMay 2012Paper submitted in partialfulfillment of the requirementsfor the degree of “Master in deTaal- en Letterkunde: EngelsNederlands” by Ilke De Pauw

AcknowledgementsFirst and foremost, I would like to thank my supervisor, dr. Kate Macdonald for introducingme to the fantastic Modesty Blaise. I appreciated her helping me in trying to find a suitablethesis topic and useful secondary sources. I would like to dedicate this thesis to mygrandfather, whose dream it was to see me graduate from university. Although he cannotactually see his dream come true, I want to address my acknowledgements to him, for alwaysbelieving in me. I also wish to thank my parents, for giving me the opportunity to attenduniversity, for their love and support at times when my motivation reached rock bottom. Anextra word of gratitude goes out to my brother Evert and sister Lisa, for being there when Ineeded them and for their patience with me. Thanks to all my friends and fellow students, forproofreading my thesis and for providing the much needed entertainment and moral supportduring these years at Ghent University.And Fabian, for everything.

Table of Contents1Introduction . - 1 -2The Visual: a history of the Modesty Blaise cartoons . - 3 -32.1Visual Artists . - 4 -2.2Publishers. - 8 -2.3Success. - 9 -The Verbal: a history of the Modesty Blaise novels . - 13 3.14Female stereotypes in spy- and thriller literature . - 18 4.1John Buchan . - 21 -4.1.1Julia Czechenyi . - 22 -4.1.2Mary Lamington . - 23 -4.1.3Hilda Von Einem . - 27 -4.25Publishers. - 14 -William Earl Johns . - 31 -Literary Analysis of Ian Fleming’s James Bond Novels . - 35 5.1Gender . - 39 -5.2Race . - 49 -6Image of women in the 1960s . - 53 -7Literary Analysis of Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise Novels . - 60 -87.1Gender . - 60 -7.2Race . - 71 -Conclusion . - 76 -Works Cited. - 79 -

1 IntroductionThe concept of independent women is already well established in our society: womentoday seem much more assertive and next to their role as mother, wife or girlfriend they oftenbuild out a professional career too. However, it seems that in the last decades a trend hasdeveloped where women are increasingly entering a more masculine world, taking up hobbiessuch as boxing and having more typically male professions. (Inness 2004: 3) Sherrie Innesshas stated in her book Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture(2004), that “recent years have witnessed an explosion of tough women in the popular media– including films, television series, comic books and video games.” (2004: 1) Severalexamples come to mind, such as the television series heroines Xena, The Warrior Princess, LaFemme Nikita and the female protagonist in Alias or the video game character Lara Croft. Allthese women are depicted as gorgeous, yet vigorous characters who regularly engage indangerous actions that are normally perceived as belonging exclusively to the world of men.History has shown that strong female individuals have always existed. We mightconsider women as Joan of Arc who fought together with the French soldiers againstEngland’s army in the Hundred Years’ war (1337-1453) or Sacagawea, a young ShoshoneIndian woman, who joined the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. (Quiri 2000: 22) Hercontribution to the expedition was also noticed by the National American Woman SuffrageAssociation, who erected a bronze statue of her to celebrate her “heroic efforts”. (Fresonke &Spence 2004: 202) Such mythical women served as an example to strive for gender equalityand over the time many other examples, including fictional female characters, have influencedthe image of women. In the 1960s, the audience was very fond of television series as TheAvengers and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which featured heroines like Cathy Gale, EmmaPeel and Lisa Rogers. The fact that these women also engaged in spying, is indicative of the-1-

1960s spy craze. (White 2007: 58) According to Rosie White, the author of Violent Femmes:Women as Spies in Popular Culture (2007), there exist many “critical accounts” of series suchas The Avengers, but Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise has not “garnered such detailedattention.[.] there is little substantial analysis of the novels or the daily newspaper comicstrips in which Modesty Blaise first appeared.” (2007: 69)Although White has labelled Modesty as a spy, we can argue that Modesty does a lotmore than detecting. She is in fact a feminist caper thriller action heroine, who serves as asecret agent and ‘thief’ for the British Intelligence, together with her male sidekick WillieGarvin. Before that, she ran a criminal organization also known as The Network, whichallowed her to make many contacts with the criminal underworld. Because of herindependency and tough reputation we could consider her as a truly liberated heroine of astrong feminist series.She originally appeared as cartoon strip character and these stories were later rewrittenas prose texts without images. In the cartoon strip, these images proved to be very important,for White has pointed to the fact that O’Donnell used sexualised images of Modesty to leadthe attention away from the contradictions in her character. (2007: 71) Since this sexualisationwas for a large part responsible for the success of the cartoon strips, we can assume thatO’Donnell probably tried to implement this visual titillation in his texts as well. However,can we consider Modesty as a truly powerful and feminist character if her sexuality andstunning looks are constantly emphasized?This thesis aims to explore in what way O’Donnell has tried to emulate the success ofhis Modesty Blaise cartoon strips with his novels. Further, it will analyze how Modesty Blaise-2-

answers to certain ideas in thriller and spy literature, if she deviates from female stereotypessuch as the sexualised victim and what sets her apart from other thriller heroines. I will startwith explaining the history of the cartoon strip and the novels, paying attention to whyO’Donnell started to write novels about Modesty Blaise. I will then look at how femalecharacters in earlier works of thriller and spy fiction are treated. As a final step, I will discussthe key factors in O’Donnell’s literary style which, in my opinion, led to the success of hisnovels.2 The Visual: a history of the Modesty Blaise cartoonsModesty Blaise first appeared as the heroine of a British comic strip running in thenewspaper, London Evening Standard on 13 May 1963. She was created by Peter O’Donnell,already an acclaimed cartoonist for The Daily Standard and The Daily Sketch. O’Donnellstarted his career as a writer when he was still at school. From a very early age, 16 years, hewrote several stories and sold them to youth magazines. Only a year later, he joinedAmalgamated Press, which was an important periodical publisher. When the Second WorldWar began, O’Donnell served in The Royal Corps of Signals, who were sent to NorthernIreland. (Harvey, “Some Further Adieu”) After war ended, he returned to writing comics andstories and pursued his career as a freelance writer. In 1953, he began writing Belinda (1936 1959)and Garth (1943-1997), two newspaper comic strips, which had been waning inpopularity. Because he managed to make these strips successful again, he earned himselfother assignments such as Tug Transom, Romeo Brown, Eve and For Better or Worse; allcomic strips. (Harvey, “Some Further Adieu”) He wrote romantic serials for women’smagazines as well, but under the pseudonym Madeleine Brent. Examples include Tregaron’sDaughter (1971), Moonraker’s Bride (1973), Golden Urchin (1986) and others. (Hedlundh,Modesty Blaise)-3-

In 1962, Bill Aitkin, the strip cartoon editor of Beaverbrook Newspapers contactedO’Donnell and asked if he would be interested in writing a strip to launch in The DailyExpress. O’Donnell felt that the time had come to work out an idea he had carried in his mindfor a long time:So in effect I was working in two different genres, one featuring macho male heroesand the other featuring romance, though there was always a strong element ofadventure in the stories I wrote for the women's market. For some time before the callfrom Bill Aitkin, I had been intrigued by the idea of bringing these two genres togetherby creating a woman who, though fully feminine, would be as good in combat andaction as any male, if not better. The call from the Express made me decide that thetime to start work on this idea was now. (O’Donnell, “Girl Walking”)And so Modesty Blaise was born. The first instalment of the strip, La Machine, waspublished on 13 May in 1963. It was followed by The Long Lever that came out on 23September in 1963. Altogether, O’Donnell would write 95 strip stories revolving aroundModesty Blaise and her companion Willie Garvin that would be printed in instalments everyfive or six months. The adventures of Modesty would be printed in the Evening Standard for38 years, until 2001, when O’Donnell decided to retire from writing. However, one issue, TheKilling Ground, was printed in the Glasgow Evening Citizen in November 1968, which can beattributed to a strike at the London Express. (Hedlundh, Modesty Blaise)2.1 Visual ArtistsRosie White points out that although the public “regards O’Donnell as the ‘author’ ofModesty Blaise,” a very crucial role can be ascribed to the artists as well, who visualized herin the cartoons.(2007:69) Initially, Frank Hampson was hired in 1962 to illustrateO’Donnell’s work because he had experience from his own science fiction comic, Dan Dare:Pilot of the Future (1950-1969) Nevertheless, O’Donnell was not satisfied with his work,arguing that Hampson “completely misunderstood the character”. (Markstein, “Modesty-4-

Blaise”)He preferred the work of Jim Holdaway, who gave Modesty a sexy, yetsophisticated appearance. (Markstein, “Modesty Blaise”) In fact, Holdaway and O’Donnellhad already collaborated. In 1956, O’Donnell was offered the authorship of Romeo Brown,the strip narrative about the gallant and charming detective running in the Daily Mirror(1954-1963). (Smith, Romeo Brown) Because Alfred Mazure, the original artist of RomeoBrown, had been recruited by the Daily Sketch, a new artist was needed. (Harvey, “SomeFurther Adieu”) The newspaper noticed the talent of Holdaway and gave him the job,although he was reluctant at first because of the comic’s content and because of his ownpresumed lack of experience in drawing female characters. When it turned out that Holdawaydid a rather good job for the strip Romeo Brown, O’Donnell was convinced that he had foundthe perfect match to create the stunning action heroine that Modesty Blaise was about tobecome. Eventually, Holdaway would illustrate the Modesty Blaise strips until 1970, when hedied of a sudden heart attack. (Harvey, “Some Further Adieu”). His job was taken over byEnrique Badia-Romero, a Spanish illustrator. He took care of the images of all the stripswritten until 1978. In that year, Romero wanted to take some time off to start working on apersonal project, Axa (1978-1986). (Harvey, “Some Further Adieu”) He was replaced by threeother artists, the first being John Burns, who illustrated Yellowstone Booty (1978), GreenCobra (1979) and Eve and Adam (1979). In 1979, he was substituted by Pat Wright whoprovided the artwork for Eve and Adam (1979) and Brethren of Blaise (1980). Neville Colvincreated the images for 16 Modesty stories, from Dossier on Pluto (1980) to The Double Agent(1986). In September 1986, Romero retu