Modesty Blaise is a comic strip created by writer Peter O'Donnell and artist Jim Holdaway in 1963. Many critics see the early years of the strip as a classic of adventure comic strips. The novels are regarded by some as being among the classics of adventure fiction.
Modesty Blaise is a former refugee and survivor of the terrible disruptions caused by World War II, and as a child drifted across Eastern Europe and the Middle East in the company of an old professor. She had to be tough to survive; but her companion instilled in her a strong moral code. She took over a small criminal gang and built it up into a powerful criminal organisation infused with that moral code--they never touched drugs or vice, and occasionally co-operated with the police and intelligence services to help clean up such crimes. She retired a wealthy woman at the age of 24.
As the novel opens, Modesty and her friend and former second-in-command Willie Garvin are finding that retirement is boring and adrenaline an addiction they cannot shake. Sir Gerald Tarrant, the head of British Intelligence, exploits that addiction to recruit them for an intelligence operation for which they are peculiarly suited.
O'Donnell conceived the idea of Modesty Blaise after a chance meeting with a girl during his wartime service in the Middle East. He elected to work with Jim Holdaway, with whom he had worked on the strip Romeo Brown, after a trial period of collaboration with Frank Hampson, creator of Dan Dare, left O'Donnell dissatisfied. Modesty Blaise debuted in the London Evening Standard on May 13, 1963. The strip was syndicated among a large number of newspapers ranging from the Johannesburg Star to the Detroit Free Press, the Bombay Samachar, The Telegraph, (Calcutta, India), The Star (Malaysia), The West Australian (Perth, Australia) and The Evening Citizen (Glasgow, Scotland).
After Jim Holdaway's death in 1970, the art of the strip was provided by the Spanish artist Romero. Eight years later, Romero quit to make time for his own comics projects, and after short attempts by John Burns and Patrick Wright, Neville Colvin drew the strip until 1986. Then Romero returned to the job and continued until the end of the strip. The final Modesty Blaise strip ran in the Evening Standard on April 11, 2001. O'Donnell, who owns the rights to Modesty Blaise, has refused to pass the comic strip or novels on to another writer.