Illustrators Special: The Modesty Blaise Artists (book review).

All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2022

In many respects, this ‘Illustrators Special: The Modesty Blaise Artists’ is a long time coming, more so considering how The Big Palace has been selling the original newspaper strip art and, after a quick check, found the number is going rapidly down. Getting a copy of this book is a good way to get copies of some of this art.

When you consider Modesty had 5 artists there and able to compare them all together made for a fun examination. Between them all my most immediate observation was Modesty’s jaw outline has a slight difference. Neville Colvin didn’t necessary complete the full skull before putting hair on come to that. Note my artistic eye is turned on.

Look at the outlines.
All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2022

I’m sure one thing that we all do when we buy books on our favourite subjects is seeing if there’s a discovery that there might have been something that’s been missed from your collection and seeing if its still out there. I think there will be some surprises like Romero doing some interior art for the Modesty Blaise novel editions.

I’m beginning to think how lucky I was to pull a complete collection of the Scandinavian newspaper reprints a couple years back because it covers (sic) a lot of Romero’s additional cover art. Looking at the MB newspaper strips here, the word balloons being pasted on shouldn’t be a surprise because it makes it easier to do foreign text versions.

It’s rather interesting seeing John M. Burns work here and the reasons why he was taken off the strip. Newspaper adventure strips don’t need too many close-ups and seeing it here like this, understandable why the proprietors were upset. The same also applies to Patrick Wright. When you have all the artists here as a collective, it does become a little easier to see why two of them didn’t come up to scratch. For the non-artists reading here, figure drawing isn’t just about placement but body language and giving the line some livability so they aren’t just statues.

Understanding that is the key to good artists. When it came to Neville Colvin and we see his preliminary work, he was out to endow some feeling into the work and he also communicated with Peter O’Donnell to ensure he got what the writer needed. Interestingly, he also conveyed Willie Garvin’s chest hair that looked more convincing than Romero’s take.

art: Neville Colvin. Looks great full-size. All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2022

Lest creator Peter O’Donnell is forgotten, we get a decent sample of his script and how it appears in strip form which is truly enlightening. He also got together with judo experts Cyd Child and Brian Jacks to get a book together of action poses to give to the artist he was working with. Now that would be worth seeing, more so as they demonstrated some of the moves on him for his own experience. I looked up Cyd Child and she has a book of her own out by the way.

There’s also a look at the illustrated novel covers, although I do think it might have been interesting to see more of the interior art that was contributed as well.

Art: Enric Romero. All contents copyright The Book Palace Ltd
(c) The Book Palace 2022

If you’re a Modesty Blaise fan, it’s a given that you will buy this book. If you want to know more about her before going after the newspaper strip books, then this is a great introduction.

GF Willmetts

November 2022

(pub: The Book Palace, 2022. 162 page illustrated squarebound magazine. Price: £35.00 (UK), $38.99 (US) via Bud Plant. ISBN: 978-1-913548-30-8. ISSN: 2052-6520)

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