XIII (comics)

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Date 1984
Number of issues 23 as of 2015
Page count 44 pages
Original publication
Language French

XIII (Thirteen) is a Belgian graphic novel series about an amnesiac who seeks to discover his past. It was created by writer Jean Van Hamme and artist William Vance. It is currently being written by Yves Sente and Youri Jigounov. The storyline of the first five volumes was adapted into a video game in 2003, also titled XIII, which was released on several platforms. A Canadian television film based on the series, XIII: The Conspiracy, was released in 2008. It was followed in 2011 by two seasons of a TV series, each 13 episodes, called XIII: The Series.

Volumes 1-5[edit]

The series begins with a man awakening to find himself washed ashore in the eastern United States and suffering from amnesia. The only links to his past are a tattoo of the Roman numerals "XIII" on his collarbone and a photo of himself with a woman, who is identified as Kim Rowland, widow of U.S. Army captain Steve Rowland. Volumes 1 through 5 deal with "XIII" searching for his identity and past. He finds himself hunted by a contract killer, the "Mongoose", who works for a mysterious organization known as XX, which aims to mount a coup d'état against the U.S. government. XIII is rescued from XX's assassins by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Colonel Amos, who confronts XIII with video evidence that shows XIII assassinating the President.

In the second volume, XIII is captured by General Carrington, who confirms that XIII is Steve Rowland. Carrington further explains that Rowland was a member of a special ops unit called SPADS (Special Assault and Destroying Sections). Carrington had been commander of SPADS when Rowland was supposedly killed in a helicopter crash two years earlier. Because XIII's amnesia prevents him from identifying who sponsored the President's assassination, Amos lets him go. XIII reunites with his father and his uncle, but they are both murdered by XIII's young, gold-digging stepmother Felicity, who frames XIII after harming herself. XIII escapes the police with Carrington's help and meets Kim, an XX member known as "XVII", who reveals that XIII is not Steve Rowland. XIII is arrested by the police, and Kim disappears. XIII is found guilty for the murder of the Rowlands and sent to a maximum security prison.

The third volume finds XIII in a facility for the criminally insane. Amos, still pursuing his investigation, realizes that XIII was a body double for the real Steve Rowland. Amos requests Carrington's help to identify people who have been trained as top-level special operators and match XIII's physique; Amos's aim is to discover XIII's true identity. Carrington provides the papers of about twenty people. One named Ross Tanner has been missing for two years. Amos decides to leave XIII in prison to have his amnesia treated. The treatment fails, and the Mongoose tries to have XIII killed in the prison, but he fails, and Carrington helps XIII break out.

Volume four begins with Amos finding that Carrington had invented the Tanner identity and suspecting him of being part of the conspiracy to kill the President. XIII, under the name of Ross Tanner, has been hidden by Carrington in a SPADS training facility in the fictitious country of San Miguel. Amos continues to delve into the files and learns that Steve Rowland was murdered shortly after the assassination. Amos now assumes that Rowland was the real assassin, and is confused about XIII's real role, but he exposes Judge Allenby, the head of the investigation, as one of the conspirators. Amos interrogates Allenby, who is killed by Mongoose's assassin; Amos himself is rescued by Kim Rowland. Meanwhile, a female SPADS Sergeant named Betty Barnowsky reveals to XIII that she saw Steve Rowland in Eastown after his alleged death, in company with SPADS Colonel Seymour McCall. XIII, Barnowsky, and Jones escape an assassination attempt by McCall but end up lost in the San Miguel jungle.

Kim Rowland takes Amos to intelligence chief Carl Heideger and General Carrington, who reveal that, after faking his death in the helicopter crash, Steve Rowland contacted his wife, Kim, and forced her to be a member of the conspiracy. Kim, not sharing the conspiracy's ideology, and herself a former secret agent, secretly alerted her former boss, Heideger. Despite having this information, however, Heideger was unable to prevent the assassination of President Sheridan. Steve Rowland was shot by the Mongoose, but he escaped badly-wounded and died shortly after telling Kim what had happened. Heideger and Carrington then came up with a plan to make the XX organization believe that Steve Rowland had survived, hoping to attract the Mongoose's killers, arrest them, and follow their trail to the conspirators. They sourced a man named Jason Fly who was transformed into a Steve Rowland double, but soon after, Fly disappeared, when he was shot and lost his memory, just before the story began.

Kim Rowland is also revealed to be Carrington's daughter.

At the start of volume five, XIII, Jones, and Barnowsky kidnap the Marquis de Préseau, a rich French land owner in San Miguel, to steal his jet to fly back to the US. Meanwhile, Carrington and Heideger have been arrested by the conspirators as they prepare to take over the country during a large-scale military exercise. XIII and the women meet with Colonel Amos, who brings them into contact with Walter Sheridan, brother of the assassinated President William Sheridan and himself a candidate for presidency.

Sheridan helps XIII infiltrate the military center of operations, and, together with President Galbrain, they manage to stop the conspiracy at the last moment. The entire conspiracy group, with the exception of the illustrious Number I, has been either killed or captured. Walter Sheridan is elected President, and Kim Rowland remains missing for reasons unknown. At the end of the story, XIII believes he has found his old identity as Jason Fly and is prepared to continue his life normally, even if his memories have not yet returned.

Volumes 6-8[edit]

In the following volumes, XIII takes up the investigation about his past. Volumes six and seven bring XIII to Greenfalls, a snowy town in the Rocky Mountains, where the story revolves around the fate of his father in the McCarthian 1950s. XIII learns that his father, Jonathan Fly, was murdered by the local Ku Klux Klan chapter, after they found out Fly's real identity was Jonathan MacLane, a "red" journalist who had to flee after suffering under McCarthy's witch hunt. The Mongoose still tracks XIII with the blessing of Jonathan MacLane's assassins, but XIII evades the manhunt, gets justice for the murder of his father and manages to arrest the Mongoose, who reveals that he was on Number I's boat when he shot the bullet that made XIII amnesic, but divulges no further information about Number I. The story ends with XIII finally finding his true identity as Jason MacLane.

In volume eight, XIII is approached by President Sheridan to become a special agent, and he is charged with finding Number I. The Mongoose escapes from custody. XIII tracks down Kim Rowland, guessing that she stayed in hiding because she knows Number I's identity. He discovers that one of the boats close to the spot where he was found amnesic is Walter Sheridan's yacht. Meanwhile, Jones investigates further and discovers that Kim Rowland had a love affair with Sheridan and had a child with him. After passing on this information to XIII, they become convinced that Wally Sheridan was, in fact, Number I and that he used the conspiracy of the XX to have his brother killed and later had the conspiracy exposed so he himself could become President. Walter Sheridan had the child kidnapped to force Kim to marry Steve Rowland, to betray Jason Fly/MacLane when Heideger's plan threatened to expose him as Number I, and have him lured onto his yacht where XIII was shot by the Mongoose. After trying to release Kim Rowland from an island where they believe she is sequestered, XIII and Jones, along with Kim, are caught by the Mongoose, who sinks Sheridan's yacht with an explosive. XIII only manages to rescue Jones, and Kim Rowland is presumed dead.

XIII finally faces Walter Sheridan, who has been exposed as Number I. XIII has no evidence or witness against him, however. Sheridan does not assassinate XIII, to avoid a new investigation that might expose him, and XIII and Jones leave the country.

Volumes 9-12[edit]

In the following volumes, the action takes place in and around Costa Verde, a small fictional nation in Central America where XIII is led to believe he once led a revolution under the identity of "El Cascador", although El Cascador is supposedly dead. XIII gets involved with revolutionary Maria de los Santos, who claims to have been his wife. In the 10th volume, after freeing her from a prison from which she was awaiting execution, she confirms that he is her husband.

During the revolution, XIII meets an Irish-American expat, Sean Mullway, who claims to be XIII's real father and confirms that XIII is Jason MacLane. The history of XIII's Irish descent is revealed, and XIII learns that his mother was the sister of NSA director Giordino, who accidentally murdered her. The Giordino's are revealed to be a Mafia family. At the end of the volume, XIII is offered amnesty by the American ambassador, who explains that XIII's help is needed; Carrington has apparently gone insane.

In volume twelve XIII, the corrupt American President Sheridan is kidnapped by General Carrington, who learns that Sheridan ordered his daughter Kim's death. Carrington and Amos have XIII and Jones capture the Mongoose to get further evidence against Sheridan. In a televised "trial", Sheridan is revealed to the American public as the conspirator, with XIII and the Mongoose testifying. In the aftermath of the event, Sheridan kinns the Mongoose, and the NSA director Giordino accidentally kills Sheridan.

Volume thirteen, The XIII Mystery: The Investigation, is a special issue, where two journalists retrace the first twelve issues, clarifying and expanding the storyline.

Volumes 14-20[edit]

While in exile in Costa Verde, XIII and his father, Mullway, attempt to find a treasure hidden by their ancestors somewhere in Mexico. Giordino, meanwhile, fabricates evidence claiming that XIII is Seamus O'Neill, an IRA operative who trained under Fidel Castro. As O'Neill, XIII is wanted by the USA, but he again manages to escape. He also survives an assassination attempt by Irina Svetlanova, who has taken over the Mongoose's operation. After many setbacks, the treasure is found and then lost again. Meanwhile, Giordino is removed from duty by the new President, who has received evidence from XIII and Mullway revealing that Giordino is not only connected to the Mafia but also that he killed Walter Sheridan.

Volumes eighteen and nineteen are the last written by Van Hamme. Volume eighteen, The Irish Version, was drawn by Jean Giraud, otherwise known as Mœbius.[1] It features as a story within the story, and it is referred to as part of the plot along with The XIII Mystery in volume nineteen The Last Round. This is the prequel to the initial story arc, and it resolves all mysteries surrounding XIII's identity.

XIII has learned his identity, but his memories still have not returned. He seeks medical treatment to uncover them in volume twenty, but Mayflower Day, a secret organization, schemes to keep XIII from unblocking his memory, because of yet another secret in his past.


XIII was released in 1984 as a serial in the popular Spirou magazine, and it was popular among Spirou readers. The first three episodes were released as a single hardcover volume by Dargaud the same year. This continued for later issues, and, by the time of the eighth issue, Thirteen to One, sales of the hardcover had reached 140,000 copies. Promotion for the series included a special draw by the French national lottery in 2000 with 1,500,000 tickets and a €13,000 grand prize.[2]


XIII was originally written in French, and it was translated into several languages, including Dutch, German, Polish, Tamil, Serbo-Croatian, and Italian.


In English[edit]

  • In 1989, XIII was first released in English as Code XIII, but after the first three volumes, publication ended in 1990 when the publisher (Catalan/Comcat) went out of business.
  • In 2005, Alias Comics started publishing the title as a series of 32-page monthly comics edited for U.S. audiences. Five issues were released, but #6 was "Cancelled by Publisher" in February 2006.[3] Each issue covered half an album.
  • In 2006, the series went to Dabel Brothers Productions. They released the #6 online for free, and the first 144-page volume was released on February 7, 2007, with Marvel Comics, reprinting the first 3 albums.
  • Cinebook published the 19 books at the rate of one every two months in the UK.[4] Note, on other continents, the volumes are released three months later.
  • Cinebook is also publishing the new series, created by Yves Sente & Youri Jigounov. The first two books, Volumes 19 and 20, were published in November 2014 and February 2015, respectively.
  1. The Day of the Black Sun (May 2010) ISBN 978-1-84918-039-9
  2. Where the Indian Walks (July 2010) ISBN 978-1-84918-040-5
  3. All the Tears of Hell (September 2010) ISBN 978-1-84918-051-1
  4. SPADS (November 2010) ISBN 978-1-84918-058-0
  5. Full Red (January 2011) ISBN 978-1-84918-065-8
  6. The Jason Fly Case (March 2011) ISBN 978-1-84918-073-3
  7. The Night of August Third (May 2011) ISBN 978-1-84918-078-8
  8. Thirteen to One (July 2011) ISBN 978-1-84918-089-4
  9. For Maria (Sept 2011) ISBN 978-1-84918-093-1
  10. El Cascador (Nov 2011) ISBN 978-1-84918-102-0
  11. Three Silver Watches (Jan 2012) ISBN 978-1-84918-109-9
  12. The Trial (March 2012) ISBN 978-1-84918-114-3
  13. Top Secret (May 2012) ISBN 978-1-84918-121-1
  14. Release the Hounds (July 2012) ISBN 978-1-84918-128-0
  15. Operation Montecristo (Sept 2012) ISBN 978-1-84918-134-1
  16. Maximilian's Gold (November 2012) ISBN 978-1-84918-139-6
  17. The Irish Version (January 2013) ISBN 978-1-84918-145-7
  18. The Last Round (March 2013) ISBN 978-1-84918-151-8
  19. The Day of the Mayflower (November 2014) First volume of new series ISBN 978-1-84918-221-8
  20. The Bait (February 2015) ISBN 978-1-84918-238-6

Other languages[edit]


  • In 1990s volume 7 by Bookglobe
  • In 2008 Integral #1 (episodes 1-3) by Bookglobe
  • In 2009 Integral #2 (episodes 4-6) by Bookglobe
  • In 2012 Integral #3 (episodes 7-9) by Bookglobe
  • In 2012 Integral #4 (episodes 10-12) by Bookglobe


Throughout 2004 and 2005 now defunct publisher Krak Kiadó released the first 4 volumes.


XIII was first published in Polish in 1991 by Korona. In 2000, the series was taken over by Siedmioróg (vol. 1-13) and in 2007 by Egmont Polska (vol. 14-19). Since 2015, Taurus Media is the Polish publisher of both XIII (since vol. 20) and the spin-off series XIII Mystery.


  • In 1988, XIII began publication in Portugal by Meribérica-Líber. The first three volumes were published over a two-year period, and the series returned in 1997 after a seven-year hiatus. Meribérica published the first nine albums until it went out of business in 2004.
  • In 1990, Portuguese newspaper Público (Portugal) started publishing XIII in its Sunday supplement 'Publico Junior'. Eventually, the first 3 books were published in this manner, before 'Publico Junior' was discontinued in 1992.
  • From 2006, XIII is being published in Brazil by Panini Comics.[5] Panini is publishing XIII as a monthly series, with two episodes in each issue. Previously available in Brazil were the Portuguese editions published by Meribérica-Liber.

The first issue The Day of The Black Sun was named O Dia do Sol Negro, the literal translation. The first issue also included a second episode, named Onde Vai o Índio... (Where the Indian Walks), published in May 2006. All Brazilian issues are composed of two albums, except for issue 7, which included the original thirteenth volume, a double-sized album, alone.


  • During the 1980s, the first 3 volumes were published in the monthly Super magazine from publisher Dečje novine.
  • In 1990, the first 6 volumes were published in the monthly Gigant magazine from publisher Dečje novine. Throughout the decade, Politikin Zabavnik magazine also reprinted most of the volumes as part of its comic segment. In 2012, Politikin Zabavnik started reprinting the volumes once again.
  • From 2002 to 2009, the first 19 volumes were published through Marketprint.


'XIII' has been published in Tamil under the title 'Ratha Padalam' by Lion Comics in the state of Tamil Nadu, India.

  • XIII had been published as individual volumes from 1 to 10, from 1986 to 2000, by Lion Comics.
  • In Oct 2010, a complete set of volumes 1-19 was released by Lion Comics.
  • In Oct 2013, Volumes 20 & 21, combined, were released by Lion Comics.


Jean Van Hamme has declared that he will not continue to write the series, but William Vance is interested in continuing it with another writer. Yves Sente, who had already taken over writing Thorgal from Van Hamme, was interested to continue the series. He was contacted by William Vance and said he'd propose a story to Van Hamme, but no agreement has been reached yet.[6] Ever since October 2008, Sente has authored volume 20 of the comic series (Mayflower Day), published in late 2011, alongside Youri Jigounov.


A separate comic series called XIII Mystery, which follows and elaborates on some of the supporting characters from the XIII comic series, began by publisher Dargaud on October 3, 2008, with the release of the first issue, The Mongoose.[7] On October 30, 2009, the second issue, Irina, was released.[8] Little Jones was released on November 10, 2010, and Colonel Amos was released in late 2011. Steve Rowland has been published in October 2012.

Video game adaptations[edit]

Main article: XIII (video game)

XIII was adapted as a 2003 video game released for the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, the PC, and the Apple Macintosh. The plot of the game is an adaption of the first five volumes of the comic series. A sequel, titled XIII ²: Covert Identity, was released as a side-scrolling platform game for mobile phones by Gameloft in October 2007.[9]

In November 2011, Anuman Interactive released an adventure game based on the series, titled XIII: Lost Identity.

TV series[edit]

Main article: XIII (miniseries)

A XIII 2-part TV mini-series called XIII: The Conspiracy and starring Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff was shown on French premium television channel Canal+ in October 2008. It was shown in other territories in 2009 and is available on DVD.

Main article: XIII: The Series

In 2011, a 13 episode TV series called XIII: The Series aired in Canada and France. It starred Stuart Townsend and Aisha Tyler.[10]



External links[edit]