Blake and Mortimer

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Blake and Mortimer
(Les Aventures de Blake et Mortimer)
Publication information
Publisher Tintin magazine
Editions du Lombard
Editions Blake et Mortimer
Cinebook Ltd (in English)
Genre Science-Fiction
Adventure
Publication date 1946 – present
Main character(s) Blake
Mortimer
Olrik
Creative team
Writer(s) Edgar P. Jacobs
Jean Van Hamme
Yves Sente
Artist(s) Edgar P. Jacobs
Bob de Moor
Ted Benoît
André Juillard
Creator(s) Edgar P. Jacobs

Blake and Mortimer is a Belgian comics series created by the Belgian writer and comics artist Edgar P. Jacobs. It was one of the first series to appear in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Tintin in 1946, and was subsequently published in book form by Les Editions du Lombard.

The main protagonists of the adventures are Philip Mortimer, a leading British scientist, and his friend Captain Francis Blake of MI5. The main antagonist is their sworn enemy, Colonel Olrik, who has appeared almost every book. Their confrontations take them into the realms of detective investigation and science-fiction, dealing with such themes as time travel, Atlantis and espionage.

Since the death of Jacobs, new books have been published by two separate teams of artists and writers. A television series based upon the series was produced in 1997, entitled Blake and Mortimer.

The books by Jacobs himself are generally set in the very period of their writing, but those authored by others after his death are set mostly in the 1950s and 1960s.

Publication history[edit]

Jacobs[edit]

When Tintin magazine was launched on September 26, 1946, it included the story, Le secret de l’Espadon (The Secret of the Swordfish) which introduced the characters of Captain Francis Blake of the British Intelligence Service, his friend Professor Philip Mortimer, a leading physicist, and their sworn enemy Colonel Olrik.[1]

The epic of the Swordfish ended in 1949 but Olrik, Blake and Mortimer continued their conflict through a whole series of science-fiction/detective stories that saw them go all the way from the lost continent of Atlantis to the Catacombs of Paris

After Jacobs’ death in 1987, Bob de Moor completed his unfinished last story.

Post-Jacobs[edit]

From 1987, the Jacobs estate, centred around the still-operating Jacobs Studios, republished all of Jacobs’ works.

In the 1990s, after much debate about story authenticity, Dargaud got permission to revive the Blake and Mortimer series, with new stories by a new team of author/draughtsman. The series was still firmly set in the 1950s and included many new regular supporting characters, most notably Blake's colleagues in the security services. Much of series has been created by two separate teams, Van Hamme/Benoit and Sente/Juillard.

The first book, The Francis Blake Affair, was published in 1996. Famous scenarist Jean Van Hamme provided the storylines while Ligne claire specialist draughtsman Ted Benoit (whose style resembles the later Jacobs's) was contracted for the artwork. Purists immediately objected to the choice of Van Hamme and, upon publication, went on to discover some typical Van Hamme plot twists they disliked.[citation needed] Jacobs' science-fiction was noticeably absent with the story focusing on espionage. However the book became a relative success and the publisher decided to continue the line. In the meantime, however, both Benoit and Van Hamme were tied up on other projects and work on the next book started to lag.

As an interim solution, writer Yves Sente and artist André Juillard were contracted to publish another adventure, The Voronov Plot (1998) which took its theme from the Cold War.

Finally, Van Hamme and Benoit managed to finish their album and The Strange Encounter appeared in 2001, with Blake and Mortimer confronting mysterious alien creatures.

This was followed by Sente and Juillard's two-book adventure: The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent (volume 1,The Universal Threat in 2003; volume 2, Battle of the Minds in 2004) which also dealt with Blake and Mortimer's youth and how they first met in pre-independence India.

In 2008 Sente and Juillar released another book entitled The Gondwana Shrine which chronologically follows the events of The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent.

The next adventure in the series, The Curse of the Thirty Denarii, is divided in two volumes and is written by Jean Van Hamme. The first volume, titled Le Manuscript de Nicodemus (The Manuscript of Nicodemus), was drawn by René Sterne, who suddenly died on 15 November 2006, delaying the publication of the book. Sterne's girlfriend Chantal De Spiegeleer eventually completed his work, which was published on 20 November 2009. Aubin Frechon drew the second volume of the adventure, which was published 26 November 2010.

Main characters[edit]

The three main characters of the series were already present in slightly different form in the unrelated, first full length comic strip by Jacobs, Le Rayon U (The U-Ray, 1943). (In the original Jacobs' version it is not specified that Blake and Mortimer are Welsh and Scottish. They are simply two proud Britons serving HM's Government. The post-Jacobs title The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent dwells on their early lives, showing how they met in colonial India.)

Colonel Olrik
  • Colonel Olrik — the perennial villain from the first instalment onwards. Of the original series there was only one book that did not feature him in one capacity or other: Le Piège diabolique (The Time Trap). Olrik started out in The Secret of the Swordfish as the head of intelligence for Oriental dictator Basam Damdu. His activities have since ranged from mercenary, spy, smuggler and general criminal adventurer. Olrik's appearance is a self-portrait of Jacobs.[citation needed]
  • Ahmed Nasir - Nasir Ahmed is the faithful friend and ally of the two main heroes Francis Blake and Philip Mortimer. He appears for the first time in volume one of The Secret of the Swordfish where he prevents the two men being captured by Olrik in Iran. He is a sergeant of the 5th Battalion of the "Makran Levy Corps" who served under Blake. Following this intervention, Nasir during this adventure helps the two heroes in Egypt then in London becoming the butler of Professor Philip Mortimer. Nasir will in fact appear only in the first albums of Jacobs: The Secret of the Swordfish, The Mystery of the Great Pyramid, and The Yellow Mark. His disappearance (which in time corresponds to that of the British Empire) remained unexplained in the later albums by Jacobs. He will reappear many years later in The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent, by Yves Sente and André Juillard. We learn then that after leaving the service and Mortimer, he returned to India, where he went into the intelligence service.
  • Commissioner Pradier is a character created by E.P. Jacobs, whose physique was greatly inspired by the actor Jean Gabin.[citation needed] Divisional Commissioner to the Paris Branch of Territorial Surveillance (DST), Pradier help Blake and Mortimer during their adventures taking place during their stay in France.
  • Nastasia Wardynska is a female friend and ally of Blake and Mortimer. She is from Russia.

Story characteristics[edit]

Although the series is (no doubt for reasons of euphony) called Blake and Mortimer, it is Professor Mortimer who is often the main protagonist. In the original series, it is mainly he who, through his impulsive character, gets entangled in adventurous circumstances. Blake is the straight man, the serious army officer who comes to the rescue. On the bad-guy side, Colonel Olrik combines characteristics of both heroes.

Blake and Mortimer adventures are characterized by a quest, most often involving adventures underground till the final ending, free and back to the surface. The story structures include some similarities: when the adventure begins certain important but unseen events have already taken place; at the beginning of The Yellow Mark, for instance, the titular character has already made himself known through various activities which the reader only learns about when Mortimer reads a newspaper about these events. Some of the adventures also end with the characters reflecting on what they have learned from their experiences: after his travels through time in Time Trap, Mortimer concludes that rather than dwell on the "good old days" or look forward to a "brighter future", one should be content with the present.

Blake and Mortimer are sometimes shown to live in the same house, sharing an apartment in the same manner as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Many Belgian comics have had similar themes of confirmed bachelors living together, including Tintin and Captain Haddock, Asterix & Obelix, Spirou & Fantasio, and Tif & Tondu. These series were all first published during a time when censorship of youth publications was very stringent, and segregation between girls and boys was applied with rigor.

Jacobs always drew his stories as being contemporary and based on real environments, so the first few titles have a 1950s look and feel while the last installments are decidedly 1970s. One exception to this rule is, again, Time Trap, which starts in the present (i.e. early 1960s) but whose action, due to a sabotaged malfunctioning time machine, largely takes place in the 51st century, and includes a short ventures in medieval times and a stopover in the Jurassic period. Post-Jacobs stories are so far integrated in the chronology of the first ones, therefore taking place in the 1950s and 1960s.

The art style of E.P. Jacobs, although typical of the Belgian comics drawings (called "clear line" or "ligne claire"), is specific in its extensive use of light colors and shots very similar to what can be found in film production. (The panoramic view over London by night opening The Yellow Mark being a good example.)

List of titles[edit]

English translation The Yellow '"M"
The thirteenth book in the series, The Francis Blake Affair, the first book not to be written by Jacobs.

Writers’ credits:
1-11: story and art by Edgar P. Jacobs
12: story by Edgar P. Jacobs, art by Bob de Moor
13, 15: story by Jean Van Hamme, art by Ted Benoit
14, 16-17, 18, 21: story by Yves Sente, art by André Juillard
19: story by Jean Van Hamme, art by René Sterne & Chantal De Spiegeleer
20: story by Jean Van Hamme, art by Aubin Frechon
22: story by Jean Dufaux, art by Antoine Aubin & Étienne Schréder

Additionally, the storyboard sketches by Jacobs of Volume 12, left incomplete at the time of his death, have been re-issued in 1996 outside of the series as Dossier Mortimer contre Mortimer (ISBN 2-87097-022-6).

Timeline[edit]

in progress

Volume (first publication) New volume Time references Recurring persons
The Yellow "M" flashbacks: p24, p35, p53: The Mega Wave, 1920–1922
The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent flashbacks: 1922 ? Shimla, India, Mortimer youth Sarah Summertown
WWII: 1 September 1939 – 14 August 1945
The Secret of the Swordfish

26. Sept. 1946-49

p5: "3 years of cold war"
p9: "...Luftwaffe, Berlin, ... reduced once more to rubble" ref to WWII
The Strange Encounter p41: date of war given as 1946

Olrik, Basam Damdu, Le Bezendjas

Nasir

15 August 1947: Independence of India and Pakistan
The Mystery of the Great Pyramid

24 Mar 1950-51

p5: ref to The Secret of the Swordfish
End: Olrik lost his mind, staggers into the desert.

Olrik, Sharkey, Jack, Razul (p31) Le Bezendjas

Nasir

The Yellow "M"

6. Aug 1953-54

p5: ref to WWII "El Alamein"
p14: 18 Dec
p51: ref to The Secret of the Swordfish, The Mystery of the Great Pyramid
p54: How Olrik is picked up in Sudan*
p55: "Luftwaffe", ref to WWII
p70: Christmas

Olrik

Nasir, Mrs. Benson, Chief Inspector Glenn Kendall

The Francis Blake Affair p15: Chacmool, ref to Atlantis Mystery?

p37: 10. June 1954

Olrik, Jack
Mrs. Benson, David Honeychurch, Chief Inspector Glenn Kendall

The Strange Encounter p5: 15 Sept. 1954

p6: ref to The Secret of the Swordfish
p26: ref to The Yellow "M"
p50, 52: 17 Oct. 1954 (Comet Tempel)
End: Olrik in prison

Olrik, Basam Damdu
John Calloway, Jessie Wingo, Géronimo Ramirez

The Curse of the Thirty Denarii p3: 27 Aug

p5, p7: ref to The Strange Encounter p5: 2 weeks later, Olrik escapes from prison
p22, p39: refs to WWII (von Stahl, Nazis)
vol.II p55: 1955 (military coup in Greece 12 years later, i.e. 1967)

Olrik, Jack
John Calloway, Jessie Wingo

Atlantis Mystery

19 Oct 1955-56

Olrik, Sharkey (?, 1 panel only)

The Voronov Plot p3: 16 Jan. p8: 25 Mar. p11: 15 Apr.

p10: ref to The Secret of the Swordfish
p14: 20 Apr. p17: 2 May. p35: 5 May. p42: 20 May. p45: 21 June, 25 June
p46, p52: 750th anniversary of Liverpool's charter (1957)
p26: 26 June. p50: 1 July. p52: 6 July. p59: 10 July.
p60: 19 Aug 1957, 2 Sept 1957, 27 Sept 1957
p61: 3 Oct. p62: 4 Oct, Sputnik (1957)
p61: Olrik tries to escape from KGB

Olrik, Major Varitch
Nastasia Wardynska, Chief Inspector Glenn Kendall, David Honeychurch

The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent Follows The Voronov Plot

Olrik taken from gulag, story start 1. Feb. 1958
Expo 58 in Belgium: 17 April to 19 Oct 1958

Olrik, Major Varitch
Nasir, Mrs. Benson, Géronimo Ramirez, Prof. Labrousse

The Gondwana Shrine p6: follows directly to The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent, p9: about 3 months after preparation for Expo 58 => 1958

p6: ref to The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent. p7: ref to The Voronov Plot. p8: ref to The Yellow "M"

Olrik, Razul le Bezendjas, Youssef

Sarah Summertown, Nastasia Wardinska, Mrs. Benson, David Honeychurch Prof. Labrousse

S.O.S. Meteors 8. Jan 1958 p3: 20. Feb, 22. Feb, 6 May, H-Bomb (November 1, 1952)

End: Olrik, Sharkey arrested

Based on a detailed analysis of weather and cars, the story should take place in 1958 (www.sosmeteores.net), although this is not possible anymore, since The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent and The Gondwana Shrine take place in 1958

Olrik, Sharkey, Prof. Miloch
Inspector Pradier, Prof. Labrousse

The Time Trap 22. Sept 1960 p3: ref to S.O.S. Meteors

p6: Miloch survived several months after 'S.O.S. Meteors'. Story follows S.O.S. Meteors.
p63: 10 Nov.

Prof. Miloch

Inspector Pradier

The Affair of the Necklace 23. March 1965 p3: "178 years after the affair in 1785" => 1963

p4: Olrik escapes from prison
p7: ref to S.O.S. Meteors

Olrik, Sharkey
Inspector Pradier

Professor Sató's Three Formulae 5. Oct 1971 (start work 1967) Olrik, Sharkey

* Major inconsistency, since Olrik was supposed to be picked up before WWII/The Secret of the Swordfish, which happens before The Mystery of the Great Pyramid.

English translation and publication[edit]

Like many Franco-Belgian comics, Blake and Mortimer initially had limited publication in English. Cinebook Ltd have now published the majority of the series.

The Blake and Mortimer Editions published English translations of all three parts of The Secret of the Swordfish in 1986, both parts of The Mystery of the Great Pyramid in 1987 and The Yellow "M" in 1988.

Catalan Communications, under its 'Comcat' line of books, published two books in inexpensive trade paperback copies in the US. They released:

  1. The Time Trap (Le Piège diabolique) (1989)
  2. Atlantis Mystery (L'Énigme de l'Atlantide) (1990)

There were also plans to release Secret of the Great Pyramid in 2 volumes, and then The Yellow Mark, but the company went under before they could get a chance to realize them.

Cinebook Ltd have been publishing English language translations of Blake and Mortimer since 2007. The following volumes have been released to date:[4]

Further volumes are scheduled as follows:

  • The Time Trap, (to be published 2014) ISBN tbc

Adaptations[edit]

Television series[edit]

Main article Blake and Mortimer (TV series)

In 1997, the company Ellipse made an animated series containing 26 episodes, which made up 13 stories, 4 of which were entirely new and not based on existing books.

Film adaptations[edit]

Several attempts have been made to make films of The Yellow M, though none have been successful. Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia, however, had announced that he was working on an adaptation of the comic to be released around 2010. It has also been said that Hugh Laurie and Kiefer Sutherland were to play Blake and Mortimer respectively.[5] Since then, however, nothing has come of this project.

Video Games[edit]

In 2011, French publishers Dargaud and Anuman Interactive launched the first video game adapted from the Blake and Mortimer series. Blake and Mortimer: The Curse of the Thirty Denarii is a hidden objects game featuring 3D and comic-strip environments.[6]

Parodies[edit]

Caricatures of Blake and Mortimer do appear in other comic book series as background or supporting characters or just cameo, usually when the plot includes a British Empire storyline. This is often placed as a tribute to E.P. Jacbs influence and a link or a wink) to the reader who shares the same devotion to what has become a cult.

For example, they make a one-off appearance in the Valérian adventure On the False Earths when the hero visits a Victorian London club.

Another example is the popular Belgian comic series concerning the adventures of MI5 agent Colonel Clifton. Clifton once featured in a story entitled Jade, published in 2003. In it he meets two characters called Blake and Mortimer, though even as caricatures they bear little resemblance (perhaps deliberately) to Jacob's originals. The story includes elements from the original books, such as the entrance to the secret passage from S.O.S. Météores and the cave that doubles as a submarine base in L'Affaire Francis Blake.[7]

In 2005 Dargaud published a parody entitled Menaces sur l'Empire ("The Empire Under Threat"). This was a humorous presentation of the adventures of Blake and Mortimer and was certainly not part of the canon (in fact, the space reserved for the series' title reads "Les Aventures de Philip et Francis" as opposed to "Les Aventures de Blake et Mortimer"). Jokes included:

  • Mortimer's attempts to break his diet, which his Indian manservant always thwarts, even from a long distance;
  • confusion over whether they are working for MI5 or MI6;
  • the heroes catching Prime Minister Winston Churchill in bed with a young woman who is not his wife;
  • a send-up of Bruce Lee's Game of Death.[8]

Tigresse Blanche (White Tigress) by Yann and Conrad is another Belgian comic series featuring the adventures of a Chinese Communist woman spy in post-World War II China. It features a British agent, Sir Francis Flake, whose friend (based on Mortimer) gets drunk on the announcement of Indian independence.

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

Footnotes
  1. ^ BDoubliées. "Tintin année 1946" (in French). 
  2. ^ mentioned in a newspaper article about him in The Mystery of the Great Pyramid
  3. ^ Gaudez, Florent (2008). Les arts moyens aujourd'hui: actes du colloque international d'Albi, 30-31 mars, 1er avril 2006, Volume 1 (in French). Editions L'Harmattan. p. 218. ISBN 978-2-296-05870-5. Retrieved 23 June 2010. 
  4. ^ Cinebook: The 9th Art Publisher. "Cinebook catalogue - Blake and Mortimer". Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  5. ^ Álex de la Iglesia is interviewed in "Noches como ésta" http://pluton.rtve.es/alex-de-la-iglesia-entrevistado-en-en-noches-como-esta.html
  6. ^ http://www.pockett.net/n8962_iPhone_Dargaud_et_Anuman_Interactive_jouent_a_Blake_et_Mortimer_sur_iPhone_et_sur_iPad
  7. ^ Jade ISBN 2-8036-1669-6, by Bob de Groot (writer) and Michel Rodrigue (artist), published in 2003
  8. ^ Menaces sur l'Empire ISBN 2-205-05457-0, by Pierre Veys (writer) and Nicolas Barral (artist)), published in 2005

External links[edit]