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 about an amnesiac who seeks to discover his past. The storyline of the first five volumes was adapted into a video game in 2003, also titled XIII, which was released on several platforms. XIII: The Conspiracy, a Canadian TV film based on the series, was released in 2008. It was followed in 2011 by 2 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 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. XIII 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 who is in hiding. Kim, an XX member known as "XVII", reveals that Steve Rowland is not XIII's true identity. Kim disappears when XIII is arrested by the police. 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 who 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. Carrington then helps XIII break out of prison.

Volume four begins with Amos finding that Carrington had invented the Tanner identity, and suspects him to be 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 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 (he was shot and lost his memory - the point where the story begins).

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 USA. 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. 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, charged with finding the still-at-large 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 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, 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 lead to 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. During the 10th episode, after freeing her from a prison from which she was awaiting execution, she confirms him to be her husband.

During the revolution, XIII meets an Irish-American expat, Sean Mullway, who claims to be XIII's real father. However, he also confirms XIII's identity as 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 as 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 has learnt 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 the NSA director Giordino accidentally kills Sheridan, after Sheridan has killed the Mongoose.

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 revealing XIII as Seamus O'Neill, an IRA operative who trained under Fidel Castro. As O'Neill, XIII is wanted by the USA, but 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 finally removed from duty by the new President, who has received evidence from XIII and Mullway revealing Giordino as not only connected to the Mafia, but also as the true killer of Walter Sheridan.

Volumes eighteen and nineteen are the last albums written by Van Hamme. Volume eighteen The Irish Version was drawn by Jean Giraud, therwise 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 resolves all mysteries surrounding XIII's identity.

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


First released in 1984 as a serial in the popular Spirou magazine, XIII was an instant hit among Spirou readers. The first three episodes were released as a single hardback volume by Dargaud the same year. This trend continued for later issues and by the time of the eighth issue, Thirteen against one, sales of the hardback 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]


Originally in French, XIII was simultaneously translated into Dutch, and translations in other languages such as German, Polish, Tamil, Serbo-Croatian and Italian, quickly followed.


Only the first three volumes were translated to English in the initial 1989 run by Catalan Communications. In 2005, Alias Comics started publishing it as a monthly comic edited for U.S. audiences, but stopped after 5 issues. In 2007, Dabel Brothers Productions in association with Marvel Comics published an uncensored XIII Volume 1 TP collecting the first three albums, and previously released issue #6 free online.[3] English titles below are translations of the original titles, and may change for the actual albums if and when they are released in English.

Most volumes consisted of three individual issues during the initial run, not otherwise named or numbered.

  1. The Day of The Black Sun, 1984 (Le jour du soleil noir) ISBN 0-87416-061-8
  2. Where the Indian Goes, 1985 (Là où va l'Indien...) ISBN 0-87416-081-2
  3. All the Tears of Hell, 1986 (Toutes les Larmes de l'Enfer) ISBN 0-87416-092-8
  4. SPADS, 1987 (SPADS) ISBN 0-87416-130-4
  5. Full Red, 1988 (Rouge Total, "Full Red Alert")
  6. The Jason Fly File, 1989 (Le Dossier Jason Fly)
  7. The Night of August 3rd, 1990 (La Nuit du 3 Août)
  8. Thirteen to One, 1991 (Treize Contre Un)
  9. For Maria, 1992 (Pour Maria)
  10. El Cascador, 1994 (El Cascador)
  11. Three Silver Watches, 1995 (Trois Montres d'Argent)
  12. The Trial, 1997 (Le Jugement)
  13. The XIII Mystery: The Investigation, 1999 (L'Enquête)
  14. Danger to the State, 2000 (Secret Défense, "Top Secret")
  15. Unleash the Hounds!, 2002 (Lâchez les Chiens !)
  16. Operation Montechristo, 2004 (Opération Montechristo)
  17. Maximilian's Gold, 2005 (L'or de Maximilien)
  18. The Irish Version, November 2007 (La Version Irlandaise), drawn by Jean Giraud, to accompany The Last Round[1]
  19. The Last Round, November 2007 (Le Dernier Round). Last one of this cycle
  20. Mayflower Day, late 2011, by Jigounov and Sente, marks the start of a new story arc.
  21. The Bait, November 2012 (L'appât)
  22. Return to Greenfalls, November 2013 (Retour à Greenfalls)
  23. The Martyr's Message, November 2014 (Le Message du Martyr)

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.[4] 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.[5] Note, on other continents, the volumes are released three months later.
  • Cinebook is publishing the new series created by Yves Sente & Youri Jigounov. The first book was published in November 2014. The volumes from 19 to 20 have been released to date.
  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) ISBN 978-1-84918-221-8
  20. The Bait (February 2015) ISBN 978-1-84918-238-6

Other languages[edit]


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

  • It had been published as individual volumes from 1 to 10, starting 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 combinedly released by Lion Comics.


  • 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.[6] 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 first 3 volumes were published in monthly Super magazine from publisher Dečje novine.
  • In 1990 first 6 volumes were published in 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 repriniting the volumes once again.
  • From 2002 to 2009, the first 19 volumes were published through Marketprint.


  • 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.


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 has already taken over writing Thorgal from Van Hamme, is 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.[7] Ever since October 2008, Sente has authored volume 20 of the comic series (Mayflower Day), late 2011, alongside Youri Jigounov, as stated above.


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.[8] On October 30, 2009 the second issue, Irina, was released.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11]



External links[edit]