Saturday, August 12, 2006

Kazhugu Malai Kottai!!!

The one and only Modesty Blaise story to appear in Muthu Comics was released in 1975(?). With the Fleetway stories featuring Steel Claw(Maayavi), Barracuda(Lawrence & David) and Johnny Nero were fast running out, Muthu turned its attention to strip stories from US/UK in 1974/75. First to appear from this list was Rip Kirby in issue number 28(titled Pudhayal Vettai) and after a brief break, next non-fleetway hero(ine) was introduced. It was Modesty Blaise in Kazhugu Malai Kottai, issue number 32.

Fantastic cover design and very imaginative title. I can't imagine what would have been the reaction from the fans, if the title was something like "Naraka Manithargal", which would have been the nearest translation I can imagine of the original title "The Hell Makers". (Nalla kaalam ennidam peyar vaikka ketkavillai:-)). Take a look at the cover of this landmark issue.

The story-line goes like this. Willie Garvin goes missing and Modesty receives a blackmail note with the information that Garvin will be killed, if she does not help them with their espionage activities. In a rage of anger, Modesty kills the messenger and decides to stage a road accident to cover the messenger's death. After that, she sets out to secure the release of Garvin, who is kept under the influence of drugs. She manages to penetrate the hide out, which is on top of a steep, unapproachable hill. Though she kills all the enemies, the problem was far from over. Willie Garvin, under the influence of drugs was unable to recognise Modesty and tries to kill her. Modesty decides that only a shock treatment will cure him from the drug effect and stages another drama with the help of a war veteran called Fletcher, who accompanies her to the hill top, though he initially refused to go with her, as he hates all women. She takes sedatives and fakes bloody injury. She asks Fletcher to tell Garvin that she was hurt during the fight and needs medical attention immediately. He tells Garvin that the only way to reach the bottom was by the same rope Modesty used to climb up. Unconscious Modesty was tied to the back of Garvin and the climb down begins. Garvin becomes unconscious every now and then during the climb down. He loses grip with reality due to the drug effects. Slowly he manages to do the impossible task of bringing Modesty down to the plains with the help of Fletcher. By the time he comes down to the hill bottom, he is completely cured from the drug effects. Very gripping story. And superbly illustrated by Jim Holdaway.

Even the domesticated eagles of Fletcher in the story play a very significant part. I used to imagine how nice it would be, if i had two eagles like that. Once i realised it was difficult to catch and train eagles, for many days i seriously thought i'll atleast catch a crow and train it to do something like that. Ippothu ninaithal siripputhaan varukirathu. Is it just a coincidence that I'm now living in a country where Falconry is a popular sport?

As mentioned above, the original name of this story was "The Hell Makers". This was created in 1969. The strip story has appeared in the London newspaper "The Evening Stadard" between 24.03.69 and 16.08.69. See the English pages 1, 16 and 32(sorry, no scan of Tamil pages).

This was reprinted in the 80s by Muthu again, with a different cover. See the reprint covers. Sorry about the quality of the cover.

Though this story was printed by many publishers, for those who want to buy this book(in English, of course), Amazon is the best source now. Take a look at the cover of the latest editions from Amazon.

Follow the URL below, if you want to buy this issue.

Eventhough the drug culture was relatively unknown in India during 70s, I guess the response for this issue was fantastic. Many of the old timers, with whom I have spoken to, very fondly remember this issue. Mr Haja Ismail, Saudi Arabia told me that this is one of the favorite stories of his mother(who may be in her 60s now). It seems, even now she re-reads this book, time permitting.

See what Mr Vijayan has to say about this issue in his first part of the "Singaththin Siruvayadhil".

What surprised me was, why the publishers have not followed up with any more Modesty stories after this issue in Muthu. Only with the entry of Lion Comics in 1984(after a gap of almost 10 years), Modesty has started appearing in Tamil again. Any idea, whether this particular story was published in Rani Comics?

Sorry for the huge gap guys. And also sorry for the lack of scans from the Tamil issues. I've just moved to Middle East(again!), on employment. This place is not so well connected by the modern means known to mankind, like phone and internet. Though they are available, they are expensive. I'm just settling down here.

And one request guys(and gals, if any). Please do let me know what you think about this posting and this blog as a whole. Depending on your feedback I'll decide whether to continue with more articles or kill this blog. It is really dishearening to see that not many have bothered to post any comment(though the page statistics say the number of hits is about 35 per week), though it is now possible to post comments anonymously. It typically requires about ten to twelve hours(over a month) to make one post possible, and when I don't see encouraging feedback, I really wonder whether it makes sense to anyone, or I am just blabbering something which is of no interest to anyone? You can hope to see more postings soon, if I get encouraging replies for this post.

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Thats all for now guys. See you later.