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By Edgar P. Jacobs

Blake and Mortimer

Blake and Mortimer
(Les Aventures de Blake et Mortimer)
Blake and Mortimer.png
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 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 in all but one of the books. Their confrontations take them into the realms of detective investigation and science-fiction, dealing with such themes as time travel, Atlantis and espionage.

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

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

Contents

Publication history

Edgar P. Jacobs, the series’ creator

Edgar P. Jacobs

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. In the mid-1990s the series was continued by the Jacobs Studios with two teams of writers and artists: Van Hamme/Benoit and Sente/Juillard. 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.

Post-Jacobs

From 1987, the Jacobs estate, centred around the still-going Jacobs Studios, republished all of Jacobs’s works. In the 1990s, after much debate about story authenticity, Dargaud got permission to revive the Blake and Mortimer series with a set of new stories by a new team of author/draughtsman. 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.

1996 saw the publication of The Francis Blake Affair. Purists immediately objected to the choice of Van Hamme and, upon publication, went on to discover some typical Van Hamme plot twists they disliked. Jacobs’ science-fiction was noticiably 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 actually deal 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 November 15, 2006, delaying the publication of the book. Sterne’s girlfriend Chantal De Spiegeleer eventually completed his work which was published on the 20th November 2009. Aubin Frechon drew the second volume of the adventure, which was published 26 November 2010.

Main characters

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), which took a lot of its inspiration from Flash Gordon. The characters of Lord Calder, Professor Marduk and Captain Dagon can be connected to Blake, Mortimer and Olrik respectively.[citation needed]

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.

Philip Mortimer was based upon a friend and sometimes collaborator of Jacobs, Jacques Van Melkebeke. There was one imaginative addition by Jacobs since Van Melkebeke had no beard. Francis Blake was modeled by another friend and sometimes collaborator of Jacobs, Jacques Laudy, with added mustache. Olrik was a self-portrait of Jacobs.

Story characteristics

Although the series is (no doubt for reasons of euphony) called Blake and Mortimer, it is Professor Mortimer who is 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 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, Spirou & Fantasio and Tif & Tondu.

Jacobs always drew his stories as being contemporary, and so the first few titles have a 1950s look and feel while the last installment looks decidedly 1970s. One exception to this rule is, again, Time Trap, which starts in the present (i.e. early sixties) but whose action, due to a 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 based in the 1950s.

The layout in most of the stories 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.

List of titles

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 images by Edgar P. Jacobs
12: story by Edgar P. Jacobs, images by Bob de Moor
13, 15: story by Jean Van Hamme, images by Ted Benoit
14, 16-17, 18: story by Yves Sente, images by André Juillard
19: story by Jean Van Hamme, images by René Sterne & Chantal De Spiegeleer
20: story by Jean Van Hamme, images by Aubin Frechon

1. The Secret of the Swordfish Volume 1: Ruthless Pursuit, 1950
2. The Secret of the Swordfish Volume 2: Mortimer’s Escape, 1953
3. The Secret of the Swordfish Volume 3: SX1 Counterattacks, 1953
4. The Mystery of the Great Pyramid, Volume 1: Manetho’s Papyrus, 1954
5. The Mystery of the Great Pyramid Volume 2: The Chamber of Horus, 1955
6. The Yellow “M”, 1956
7. Atlantis Mystery, 1957
8. S.O.S. Meteors: Mortimer in Paris, 1959
9. The Time Trap, 1962
10. The Necklace Affair, 1967
11. Professor Sató’s Three Formulae, Volume 1: Mortimer in Tokyo, 1977
12. Professor Sató’s Three Formulae, Volume 2: Mortimer vs. Mortimer, 1990
13. The Francis Blake Affair, 1996
14. The Voronov Plot, 2000
15. The Strange Encounter, 2001
16. The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent, Volume 1: The Universal Threat, 2003
17. The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent, Volume 2: Battle of the Minds, 2004
18. The Gondwana Shrine, 2008
19. The Curse of the Thirty Denarii, Volume 1, 2009
20. The Curse of the Thirty Denarii, Volume 2, 2010

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

in progress

Volume (first publication) New volume Time references Recurring persons
    YellowM p24, p35, p53: The Mega Wave, 1920 – 1922  
    SarcoSC 1922 ? Shimla, India, Mortimer youth Sarah Summertown
    WWII: 1 September 1939 – 14 August 1945  
SSwordf
26. Sept. 1946-49
  p5: “3 years of cold war”
p9: “…Luftwaffe, Berlin, … reduced once more to rubble” ref to WWII
StEnc p41: date of war given as 1946
Olrik, Basam Damdu, Le Bezendjas
Nasir
    15 August 1947: Independence of India and Pakistan  
MGPyr
24 Mar 1950-51
  p5: ref to SSwordf
End: Olrik lost his mind, staggers into the desert.
Olrik, Sharkey, Jack, Razul (p31) Le Bezendjas
Nasir
YellowM
6. Aug 1953-54
  p5: ref to WWII “El Alamein”
p14: 18 Dec
p51: ref to SSwordf, MGPyr
p54: How Olrik is picked up in Sudan*
p55: “Luftwaffe”, ref to WWII
p70: Christmas
Olrik
Nasir, Mrs. Benson, Chief Inspector Glenn Kendall
  AFBlake p15: Chacmool, ref to AtlantM?p37: 10. June 1954 Olrik, Jack
Mrs. Benson, David Honeychurch, Chief Inspector Glenn Kendall
  StEnc p5: 15 Sept. 1954
p6: ref to SSwordf
p26: ref to YellowM
p50, 52: 17 Oct. 1954 (Comet Tempel)
End: Olrik in prison
Olrik, Basam Damdu
John Calloway, Jessie Wingo, Géronimo Ramirez
  CTDenar p3: 27 Aug
p5, p7: ref to StEnc 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
AtlantM
19 Oct 1955-56
    Olrik, Sharkey (?, 1 panel only)
  VoronP p3: 16 Jan. p8: 25 Mar. p11: 15 Apr.
p10: ref to SSwordf
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
  SarcoSC Follows VoronPOlrik 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
  GondS p6: follows directly to SarcoSC, p9: about 3 months after preparation for Expo 58 => 1958
p6: ref to SarcoSC. p7: ref to VoronP. p8: ref to YellowM
Olrik, Razul le Bezendjas, Youssef
Sarah Summertown, Nastasia Wardinska, Mrs. Benson, David Honeychurch Prof. Labrousse
SOSMet 8. Jan 1958   p3: 20. Feb, 22. Feb, 6 May, H-Bomb (November 1, 1952)
End: Olrik, Sharkey arrestedBased 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 SarcoSC and GondS take place in 1958
Olrik, Sharkey, Prof. Miloch
Inspector Pradier, Prof. Labrousse
TimeT 22. Sept 1960   p3: ref to SOSMet
p6: Miloch survived several months after SOSMet. Story follows SOSMet.
p63: 10 Nov.
Prof. Miloch
Inspector Pradier
NeckA 23. March 1965   p3: “178 after the affair in 1785” => 1963
p4: Olrik escapes from prison
p7: ref to SOSMet
Olrik, Sharkey
Inspector Pradier
SatosTF 5. Oct 1971 (start work 1967)     Olrik, Sharkey
  • Major inconsistency, since Olrik was supposed to be picked up before WWII/SSwordf, which happens before MGPyr.

English translation and publication

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:[3]

Further volumes are scheduled as follows:[4]

  • The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent, part 2, 2011
  • The Gondwana Shrine, 2011

Adaptations

Television series

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

Several attempts have been made to make films of The Yellow M, though none have been successful. Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia, however, has announced that he is working on an adaptation of the comic to be released around 2010. It has been said that Hugh Laurie and Kiefer Sutherland will be Blake and Mortimer.[5]

Parodies

Caricatures of Blake and Mortimer often appear in other comic book series as background or supporting characters, usually when the plot includes a British Empire storyline. 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.[6]

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.[7]

Tigresse Blanche (White Tigress) 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

Sources

Footnotes
  1. ^ BDoubliées. “Tintin année 1946” (in French). http://bdoubliees.com/tintinbelge/annees/1946.htm
  2. ^ mentioned in a newspaper article about him in The Mystery of the Great Pyramid
  3. ^ Cinebook: The 9th Art Publisher. “Cinebook catalogue – Blake and Mortimer”. http://www.cinebook.co.uk/catalogue~cat~A-008-013B.asp. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  4. ^ Van Hamme, Jean; Ted Benoit (2009). The Strange Encounter. Blake and Mortimer. Trans. Jerome Saincantin. London: Cinebook. pp. 67. ISBN 978-1-905460-75-5
  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. ^ Jade ISBN 2-80361-669-6, by Bob de Groot (writer) and Michel Rodrigue (artist), published in 2003
  7. ^ Menaces sur l’Empire ISBN 2-205-05457-0, by Pierre Veys (writer) and Nicolas Barral (artist)), published in 2005

External links

[hide]v · d · eBlake and Mortimer by Edgar P. Jacobs
 
Authors &
draughtsmen
 
The series
The Secret of the Swordfish (1950-1953) • The Mystery of the Great Pyramid, Volume 1: Manetho’s Papyrus (1954) • The Mystery of the Great Pyramid Volume 2: The Chamber of Horus (1955) • The Yellow “M” (1956) • Atlantis Mystery (1957) • S.O.S. Meteors: Mortimer in Paris (1959) • The Time Trap (1962) • The Necklace Affair (1967) • Professor Sató’s Three Formulae, Volume 1: Mortimer in Tokyo (1971) • Professor Sató’s Three Formulae, Volume 2: Mortimer vs. Mortimer (1990) • The Francis Blake Affair (1996) • The Voronov Plot (2000) • The Strange Encounter (2001) • The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent, Volume 1: The Universal Threat (2003) • The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent, Volume 2: Battle of the Minds (2004) • The Gondwana Shrine (2008) • The Curse of the Thirty Denarii (2009)
 
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