Peter O’Donnell, 1920 – 2010
Peter O’Donnell, one of the greatest of comics writers, died last night at the age of 90. He is best known for his creation Modesty Blaise, which ran in newspapers from 1963 to 2001, initially drawn by Jim Holdaway. He also created Romeo Brown (again, with Holdaway) and for many years authored the classic time-travelling adventure strip Garth. O’Donnell also adapted Ian Fleming’s Dr. No to comic strips.
Peter also wrote 11 Modesty Blaise novels and two short story collections, as well as nine gothic romance/adventure novels under the name Madeleine Brent.
A serious, considered and and gentle man, O’Donnell was quite the fan of tennis and was a regular at the annual Wimbledon championships.
On a personal note, I had the privilege of editing Peter on his graphic novel adaptation of the first Modesty Blaise story, drawn by the late Dick Giordano. It was something of an intimidating experience for me, having to discuss how to translate his own characters into the comic book medium. But Peter was eager to learn and immediately understood the differences between the comic strip and comic book media and how to best exploit the advantages of the latter; he quickly put me at ease. We stayed in touch ever since; I’ll miss his annual Christmas card.
Chairing a writer’s panel at the Chicago Comicon in the late 1970s, the group was asked the inevitable “who is your favorite comics writer” question. Each person noted his favorite comic book writer, and then it came to the last person on the dais, Chris Claremont. Chris said “Peter O’Donnell,” and, in reverse domino action, each and every writer went back and affirmed Chris’s choice.
To date, Titan Books has reprinted sixteen volumes of Modesty Blaise, with new volumes scheduled at every three months. When Peter retired from the strip in 2001, he expressed the desire that no one ever succeed him. It is hoped his wish will be respected posthumously.