The Adventures of Blake and Mortimer: The Yellow “M”


By Edgar P. Jacobs, translated by Clarence E. Holland (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-21-2

Master storyteller Edgar P. Jacobs pitted his distinguished duo of Scientific Adventurers Captain Francis Blake and Professor Philip Mortimer against a wide variety of perils and menaces in stunning action thrillers which merged science fiction, detective mysteries and supernatural thrillers in the same timeless and universally engaging Ligne Claire style which had done so much to make intrepid boy reporter Tintin a global sensation.

The strip debuted in Le Journal de Tintin #1 (26th September 1946): an anthology comic with editions in Belgium, France and Holland. The new anthology was edited by Hergé, with his eponymous star ably supplemented by a host of new heroes and features…

Le Marque Jaune was the third astounding exploit of the peerless pair, originally serialised from August 6th 1953 to November 3rd 1954, before being collected as the sixth drama-drenched album in 1956.

This moody stand-alone extravaganza was the first in the modern Cinebook sequence with the True Brits for once on home soil as they struggle to solve an eerie mystery and capture an apparently superhuman criminal…

The tale begins a few days before Christmas on a night raining cats and dogs. The guards at the Tower of London are dutifully going about their appointed tasks when a sudden power cut douses all the lights.

By the time Beefeaters and Yeomen can find alternative lighting the damage is done. The Jewel Room is ransacked, the Imperial Crown missing and the wall is defaced: emblazoned with a large letter M in a bold circle of yellow chalk.

The shocking travesty is but the latest in an outrageous series of incredible crimes by a mysterious malefactor the newspapers have taken to calling The Yellow M

Incensed and humiliated by the latest outrage, the Home Office assigns MI6 to the case and their top man Blake is seconded to assist Chief Inspector Glenn Kendall of Scotland Yard. So serious is the matter that Blake instantly cables his old comrade Professor Mortimer, dragging the bellicose boffin back from a well-deserved vacation in Scotland.

London is ablaze with rumour and speculation about the super-bandit. The crafty old warhorses adjourn to the Centaur Club in Piccadilly to discuss events, but as they settle in for a chinwag, Mortimer gets a fleeting impression that they are being spied upon…

Suddenly they are interrupted by four fellow members also hotly debating the case. Sir Hugh Calvin is a judge at the Central Criminal Court; Leslie Macomber edits the Daily Mail and Professor Robert Vernay is a prominent figure in the British Medical Association. They are all hotly disputing Dr Jonathan Septimus – of the Psychiatric Institute – who propounds a theory that the phantom felon is a prime example of his pet theory of “The Evil Influence of Cellular Development”…

The enlarged group continues the verbal back-and-forth into the small hours, and when they finally break up Vernay follows his habit of walking home. He does not make it. The police find only his hat and a chalked letter in a circle…

The flamboyant rogue seems to be everywhere. When Blake and Mortimer interview Macomber, Calvin and the terrified Septimus next day, the invisible enigma somehow gets close enough to leave his mark on the MI6 officer’s coat, before sending a mocking cable warning the Mail’s Editor that more and worse is coming…

That night Macomber is abducted from his office in plain view of his staff and Kendall is found in a dazed state after failing to protect Judge Calvin from a mystery intruder…

Septimus concludes that he is next and convinces Blake to get him out of London. The pair board a train for Suffolk with a complement of detectives, but even these precautions are not enough. The psychiatrist is impossibly plucked from the Express before it is wrecked in a horrific collision with another train.

In London, cerebral Mortimer has been researching another angle with the assistance of Daily Mail archivist Mr. Stone. The veteran investigator has found a decades-old link between the missing men…

It all revolves around a controversial medical text entitled “The Mega Wave” and a scandalous court case, but when the Professor tries to secure a copy of the incredibly rare volume from the British Museum Library, he is confounded by the Yellow M who invisibly purloins the last known copy in existence…

That evening Mortimer shares his thoughts with the returned Blake, unaware that his house has been bugged. Hours later, a mysterious cloaked intruder breaks in but has a fit after passing some of Mortimer’s Egyptian souvenirs. The noise arouses the household and the masked burglar is confronted by Blake, Mortimer and burly manservant Nasir. Incredibly, the villain defeats them all with incredible strength and electrical shocks, even shrugging off bullets when they shoot him…

Exploding through a second story window, the M laughs maniacally as they continue futilely firing before running off into the London night. In their shock the adventurers return to the drawing room and trip over the intruder’s listening devices…

Later, the recovered Kendall visits just as a package arrives. It contains an anonymous note from someone wishing to share information and directs Blake to a late-night rendezvous at Limehouse Dock. The message also contains a desperate note from the missing Septimus begging Blake to comply…

Well aware that it’s a trap and over Mortimer’s strenuous protests, Blake and Kendall lay plans to turn the meeting to their advantage. Left at home, the Professor is surprised by a late visit from Stone. The remarkably efficient researcher has found a copy of The Mega Wave and rushed over to show Mortimer.

As Blake manfully braves the foggy waterfront and walks into deadly danger, Mortimer is reading the tome, deducing who is behind the plot and perhaps even how the malign miracles are pulled off…

In Limehouse, the empty commercial buildings become a spectacular battleground as Blake and the police confront the masked man. The villain easily holds them all at bay with incredible feats of speed and strength, before breaking out of the supposedly impenetrable blue cordon and escaping.

However, in his destructive flight he tumbles into the frantic Mortimer who is dashing to warn his old friend. Changing tack, the boffin gives chase, doggedly following the superhuman enigma through parks and sewers. Eventually the pursuit leads underground and he finds himself in a hidden basement laboratory being assaulted by mind-control devices devised by the sinister mastermind actually behind the entire campaign of vengeance and terror…

As the smirking villain gives an exultant speech of explanation, triumph and justification, Mortimer sees the fate of the abducted men and meets the human guinea pig who has been terrorising London at the behest of a madman. It is the very last person he ever expected to see again, but even as he reels in shock, Blake and Kendall are on his trail, thanks to the efforts of an avaricious cabbie with a good memory for faces…

As Christmas Day dawns, Blake and Kendall lead a raid on the hidden citadel to rescue Mortimer, but the wily savant has already taken dramatic steps to secure his own release and defeat his insane, implacable opponent…

Fast-paced, action-packed, wry and magnificently eerie, this fabulously retro weird science thriller is an intoxicating moody mystery and a sheer delight for lovers of fantastic fiction. Blake & Mortimer are the graphic personification of the Bulldog Spirit and worthy successors to the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Allan Quatermain, Professor Challenger, Richard Hannay and all the other valiant stalwarts of lost Albion: All valiant champions with direct connections to and allegiance beyond shallow national boundaries…

In 1986 this story was reformatted and repackaged in a super-sized English translation, the last of six volumes with additional material (mostly covers from the weekly Tintin added to the story as eye-catching splash pages): part of a European push to win some of the lucrative Tintin and Asterix market here. They failed to find an audience and there were no more translations until January 2007 when Cinebook released this tome to far greater approval and much success. We’re now at 25 translated volumes and counting…

Gripping and fantastic in the truest tradition of pulp sci-fi and Boy’s Own Adventures, Blake and Mortimer are the very epitome of dogged heroic determination; always delivering grand, old-fashioned Blood-&-Thunder thrills and spills in timeless fashion and with astonishing visual punch. Any kid able to suspend modern mores and cultural disbelief (call it alternate earth history or bakelite-punk if you want) will experience the adventure of their lives… and so will their children.

This Cinebook edition – available in paperback album and digital formats – also includes a selection of colour cover sketches and roughs, plus a biographical feature and chronological publication chart of Jacobs’ and his successors’ efforts.
Original editions © Editions Blake & Mortimer/Studio Jacobs (Dargaud-Lombard s.a.) 1987 by E.P. Jacobs. All rights reserved. English translation © 2007 Cinebook Ltd.

The Adventures of Blake & Mortimer: The Mystery of the Great Pyramid parts 1 & 2 – The Papyrus of Manethon & The Chamber of Horus


By Edgar P. Jacobs, translated by Clarence E. Holland & Erica Jeffrey (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-37-3 (Manethon TPB) 978-1-905460-38-0 (Horus TPB)

Master storyteller Edgar P. Jacobs pitted his distinguished duo of Scientific Adventurers Captain Francis Blake and Professor Philip Mortimer against a wide variety of perils and menaces in stunning action thrillers which merged science fiction, detective mysteries and supernatural thrillers in the same timeless Ligne Claire style which had done so much to make intrepid boy reporter Tintin a global sensation.

The strip debuted in Le Journal de Tintin #1 (26th September 1946): an anthology comic with editions in Belgium, France and Holland. The new weekly was edited by Hergé, with his eponymous star ably supplemented by a host of new heroes and features…

Brussels-born Edgar P. Jacobs was a prodigy who drew from an early age and was besotted by music and the performing arts – especially opera. Upon graduation from commercial school in 1919, he promptly rejected safe, steady office work and instead avidly pursued his artistic passions…

His dream of operatic glory was crushed by the Great Depression, and when arts funding dried up following the global stock-market crash he was forced to pick up whatever dramatic work was going, although this did include more singing and performing. He moved into illustration in 1940, with regular work for Bravo magazine and some jobs for short stories and novels and, when the occupying Nazi authorities in Belgium banned Alex Raymond’s quintessentially All-American Hero Flash Gordon, Jacobs famously took over the syndicated strip to complete the saga.

His Stormer Gordon lasted less than a month before being similarly embargoed by the Occupation dictators, after which the man of many talents simply created his own epic science-fantasy feature in the legendary Le Rayon U, a milestone in both Belgian comics and science fiction adventure.

At this time, Jacobs and Tintin creator Hergé got together, and whilst creating the weekly U Ray strip the younger man began assisting on Tintin, colouring original monochrome strips from The Shooting Star (originally run in newspaper Le Soir) for an upcoming album collection.

By 1944 Jacobs was performing similar duties on Tintin in the Congo, Tintin in America, King Ottokar’s Sceptre and The Blue Lotus. He was contributing to the drawing too, working on extended epic The Seven Crystal Balls/Prisoners of the Sun.

Following the Liberation, publisher Raymond Leblanc convinced Hergé, Jacobs and a few other comics masters to work for his bold new venture: publishing house Le Lombard, and Le Journal de Tintin. Beside Hergé, Jacobs and writer Jacques van Melkebeke, the weekly featured Paul Cuvelier’s Corentin and Jacques Laudy’s The Legend of the Four Aymon Brothers.

Laudy had been a friend of Jacobs’ since their time together on Bravo, and ‘Le secret de l’Espadon’ starred English Military Intelligence officer Blake, closely modelled on him. The debonair spy was to be partnered with a bluff, gruff, excitable British boffin…

The serial ran from issue #1 for three years, cementing Jacobs’ status as a star in his own right. In 1950, with the first 18 pages slightly redrawn, The Secret of the Swordfish became Le Lombard’s first album release with the concluding part published in 1953. The volumes were reprinted nine more times between 1955 and 1982, supplemented in 1964 by a single omnibus edition.

Chronologically, the next epic was this eerily exotic thriller which originally ran in Le Journal de Tintin as Le Mystère de la Grande Pyramide from March 23rd 1950 to February 21st 1951.

The ongoing adventures resume in the months following the defeat of Tibetan warlord Basam-Damdu and liberation of the planet from his monomaniacal tyranny…

Available in paperback album form and in digital editions and subtitled ‘The Papyrus of Manethon’The Mystery of the Great Pyramid Part 1 opens with the author’s fascinating and pertinent illustrated Foreword on everything Anciently Egyptian – complete with extremely handy maps and plans – before the story proper begins with fretful Professor Mortimer taking some time off to pursue his occasional hobby.

A keen amateur archaeologist, the war-weary big brain has flown to Cairo with devoted assistant Ahmed Nasir for a holiday …and to help Egyptologist Ahmed Rassim Bey translate an astounding new find.

However, as they debark at the airport, the vigilant Indian thinks he spots an old enemy…

When no sign can be found the travellers move on, and the following morning Mortimer is examining some fragile scraps of papyrus attributed to legendary contemporary archivist Manethon. The ancient priest’s writings indicate that a secret treasure is hidden beneath a certain pyramid in a “Chamber of Horus”…

Cautious of the effect of such a sensationalistic discovery, the historians decide to proceed carefully, blithely unaware that trusted assistant Abdul Ben Zaim is in the employ of a cruel and dangerous enemy…

Even after an evening of socialising, the learned men are keen to get to work. Returning late to the laboratory of the Egyptian Museum, they discover Abdul furtively loitering and Mortimer’s suspicions are aroused. When nobody is watching, the physicist craftily secures a portion of the papyrus and talks Ahmed into conducting a clandestine test…

Abdul is indeed playing a double game and his mysterious master is a man both subtle and exceedingly dangerous. That night the hidden leader tries to steal the documents, but is surprised by Mortimer who has anticipated such a move. The canny scientist is just as surprised when the villain is exposed as treacherous Colonel Olrik.

The wily war criminal has been missing since the fall of Basam-Damdu, but has lost none of his lethal skills. Overpowering Mortimer, the rogue escapes, taking with him the last shred of papyrus the Professor had been holding…

Safe in his lair, Olrik presses Abdul, who hastily translates the assembled fragments and declares the Chamber of Horus must be in the Great Sphinx on the Giza Plateau…

Under constant surveillance by Olrik’s gang, Mortimer and Nasir warily go about their business, hoping to lure the mastermind out of hiding. Meanwhile Abdul, believing himself undiscovered, returns to work at the museum, where flashy German Egyptologist Herr Doktor Grossgrabenstein is loudly informing all and sundry of his latest search for the tomb of Tanitkara.

The bombastic treasure-hunter invites Mortimer to visit him and view his unique collection but the boffin is too absorbed with shadowing Abdul – a task made far harder by the inept assistance of the local police.

When a lucky clue leads the resolute researcher to an antique store, Olrik’s scurrilous henchman Basendjas ambushes and imprisons Mortimer in the basement, but after a tremendous, extended battle the doughty doctor breaks free and calls in the cops.

Sadly, even on the defensive, Olrik is formidable and fights free of the encroaching authorities before vanishing into the warrens of the city. After Abdul is killed in a hit-and-run incident, effusive Grossgrabenstein is present when Mortimer admits defeat and calls in a seasoned professional…

In London, Captain Francis Blake receives a cablegram and takes a leave from desk duty at I.S. Scotland Yard’s international security division is already investigating a surge of criminal activity in Northeast Africa and is happy to have their top man take a personal interest.

Blake heads out to Egypt by devious and complex means but, despite his circuitous route and customary caution, does not make it. Mortimer becomes increasingly impatient as he awaits the espionage expert’s arrival and to kill time finally accedes to his German colleague’s repeated requests to visit his dig at Giza.

When he arrives, Mortimer finds bullying foreman Sharkey whipping native workers and is just in time to thrash the brute as he tries to attack an old Holy Man who has objected…

The enraged thug pulls a gun, but is admonished by Grossgrabenstein, who then reluctantly allows the Professor to inspect the recently-cleared chambers below the pyramid.

As Mortimer climbs back to the surface, a hasty, anonymous cry alerts him and he narrowly dodges a huge rock which crashes into the space where he stood. The area it fell from is empty and nobody recognises the voice which called out…

Making his way back to his hotel, the weary scientist is then metaphorically crushed to receive news that his best friend has been shot to death in a phone booth at Athens airport…

Bitter and enraged, Mortimer swears to make Olrik pay…

To Be Concluded…

The Chamber of Horus’ concludes Le Mystère de la Grande Pyramide after a brief summary of past events.

With his great friend murdered, Mortimer is resolved to finish the case himself and begins by visiting decidedly odd and off-kilter Doktor Grossgrabenstein in his mansion. He hasn’t made up his mind about the German, but the archaeologist’s staff – especially thuggish foreman Sharkey – are definitely playing some deeper game…

The visit almost ends in disaster, but once again a mysterious warning – in Egyptian – tips Mortimer off and he leaves before the gang can grab him. Later that night, he meets again the aged holy man Sheik Abdel Razek which results in the enigmatic cleric giving him a strange talisman and a warning of the arcane forces he faces. Rationalist sceptic though he is, the physicist keeps the artefact near and that night, when another vicious attempt is made on his life, the charm proves its worth…

Instructing Nasir to make discreet inquiries, Mortimer returns to the Giza excavation, unaware that he has picked up a silent shadow. A commotion then brings him to Razek’s dwelling where Sharkey is threatening the old man. Before the Professor can intervene, the bully is sent scurrying by a shocking display of spooky pyrotechnics…

The house is incredibly ancient, built from reclaimed materials, and as he chats with the sheik, Mortimer sees glyphs and symbols etched into the walls which can only have come from the original pyramids. Razek is charmingly evasive however, and Mortimer eventually leaves, but on his way back sees figures lurking around Grossgrabenstein’s work site.

Although he loses them, the subsequent chase gives him an opportunity to inspect the tunnels under the tomb. Further investigation is cut short when he clashes with native worker Abbas whom he suspects has been following him…

Things take a dangerous turn the next night when he returns to the German’s grand home. A sudden slip by Grossgrabenstein tips off Mortimer that the boisterous historian has at some stage been replaced by gifted mimic Olrik. After a mighty struggle, the Professor is captured and before long Nasir too is bundled into the opulent cell the Prof has been dumped in…

Their bacon is saved by the unexpected arrival of the police, who storm the mansion with guns blazing. In the confusion a beloved old comrade resurfaces as Francis Blake sheds his own disguise to rescue his beleaguered friends.

When the gunfire subsides, the triumphant police attempt to arrest the real Grossgrabenstein. As they blunder around, slippery Olrik again escapes…

With all nefarious opposition seemingly routed, Blake and Mortimer are free to concentrate on solving the mystery of the Chamber of Horus and why ultra-modern super-criminal Olrik was so obsessed by it. Soon they are carefully exploring the claustrophobic tunnels beneath the Great Pyramid and eventually discover not only the incredible treasures of the pharaohs but their old arch-foe plundering the sacrosanct horde.

Olrik is as hard-headed and no-nonsense as his British adversaries and puts no faith in curses, talismans or magic, but the sudden arrival of Razek teaches all of the western sceptics and heretics a lesson they will never forget… before carefully erasing their memories to protect the secrets his line has spent millennia protecting…

Suspenseful and fantastic in the grandest tradition of epic intrigue, Blake & Mortimer are the very epitome of dogged heroic determination and graphic personifications of the Bulldog Spirit: worthy successors to Sherlock Holmes, Allan Quatermain, Professor Challenger, Richard Hannay and all the other valiant stalwarts of lost Albion …and decent chaps proudly participating in the grand international alliance against insular ignorance and wickedness.

This saga delivers splendid Blood-&-Thunder thrills and spills in timeless fashion and with breathtaking visual punch. Every kid of any age able to suspend modern mores and cultural disbelief can’t help but revel in the adventure of their lives… and so will you.
Original editions © Editions Blake & Mortimer/Studio Jacobs (Dargaud – Lombard s.a.). © 1986, 1987 by E.P. Jacobs. All rights reserved. English translation © 2007, 2008 Cinebook

The Adventures of Blake and Mortimer: The Secret of the Swordfish


By Edgar P. Jacobs, coloured by Philippe Biermé & Luce Daniels, translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBNs: 978-1-84918-148-8, 978-1-84918-161-7 and 978-1-84918-174-7

Belgian Edgard Félix Pierre Jacobs (1904-1987) is rightly considered one of the founding fathers of the Continental comics industry. Although his output is relatively meagre when compared to some of his contemporaries, the iconic series he worked on formed the basis and backbone of the art-form in Europe, and his splendidly adroit, roguish and impeccably British adventurers Blake and Mortimer, created for the first issue of Le Journal de Tintin in 1946, swiftly became a staple of post-war European kids’ life the way Dan Dare would in Britain in the 1950s.

Edgar P. Jacobs was born in Brussels, a precocious child who began feverishly drawing from an early age but was even more obsessed with music and the performing arts – especially opera. He attended a commercial school but – determined never to work in an office – pursued art and drama following his graduation in 1919.

A succession of odd jobs at opera-houses – scene-painting, set decoration, acting and singing as an Extra – supplemented his private performance studies, and in 1929 Jacobs won a Government award for classical singing. His proposed career as an opera singer was thwarted by the Great Depression, however, as the arts took a nosedive following the stock market crash.

Picking up whatever stage work was going – including singing and performing – Jacobs switched to commercial illustration in 1940. Regular employment came from the magazine Bravo. While illustrating short stories and novels, he famously took over the syndicated Flash Gordon strip, after the occupying German authorities banned Alex Raymond’s quintessentially All-American Hero and left the publishers desperately seeking someone to satisfactorily complete the saga.

Jacob’s Stormer Gordon lasted less than a month before being similarly sanctioned by the Nazis, after which Jacobs created his own epic science-fantasy feature in the legendary Le Rayon U: a milestone in both Belgian comics and science fiction adventure.

The U Ray was a huge hit in 1943 and scored big all over again a generation later when Jacobs reformatted the original “text-block and picture” material to incorporate speech balloons and re-ran the series in Le Journal de Tintin with subsequent releases as a trio of graphic albums in 1974.

I’ve read differing accounts of how Jacobs and Tintin creator Hergé got together – and why they parted ways professionally, if not socially – but as to the whys and wherefores of the split, I frankly don’t care. What is known is this: whilst creating the weekly U Ray, one of Jacob’s other jobs was scene-painting, and during the staging of a theatrical version of Tintin and the Cigars of the Pharaoh Hergé and Jacobs met and became friends. If the comics maestro was unaware of Jacob’s comics output before then, he was certainly made aware of it soon after.

Jacobs began working on Tintin, colouring the original monochrome strips of The Shooting Star from newspaper Le Soir for a forthcoming album collection. By 1944, Jacobs was performing similar service for Tintin in the Congo, Tintin in America, King Ottokar’s Sceptre and The Blue Lotus. By now, he was also contributing to the illustration as well, on extended epic The Seven Crystal Balls/Prisoners of the Sun.

Jacob’s love of opera made it into the feature as Hergé (who loathed the stuff) teasingly created bombastic Bianca Castafiore as a comedy foil and based a number of bit players (such as Jacobini in The Calculus Affair) on his long-suffering assistant.

After the war and liberation, publisher Raymond Leblanc convinced Hergé, Jacobs and a number of other creatives to work for his new venture. Launching publishing house Le Lombard, he also started Le Journal de Tintin, an anthology comic edited by Hergé, with editions in Belgium, France and Holland starring the intrepid boy reporter and a host of newer heroes.

Beside Hergé, Jacobs and writer Jacques van Melkebeke, the comic featured Paul Cuvelier’s Corentin and Jacques Laudy’s ‘The Legend of the Four Aymon Brothers’. Laudy had been a friend of Jacobs’ since they worked together on Bravo, and the first instalment of epic thriller serial ‘Le secret de l’Espadon’ starred a bluff, gruff British scientist as well as an English Military Intelligence officer closely modelled on Laudy: Professor Philip Mortimer and Captain Francis Blake

The story ran from issue #1 (26th September 1946 to 8th September 1949): cementing Jacobs’ status as a star in his own right. In 1950, with the first 18 pages slightly redrawn, Le secret de l’espladon V1 (The Secret of the Swordfish) became Le Lombard’s first album release; with the concluding part published three years later. The volumes were reprinted nine more times between 1955 and 1982, with an additional single complete deluxe edition released in 1964.

In 1984 the story was reformatted and repackaged in English translation as three volumes with additional material (mostly covers from the weekly Tintin added to the story as splash pages) as part of a European push to win some of Britain’s lucrative Tintin and Asterix market, but failed to find an audience and ended after seven volumes.

Happily, Cinebook have successfully introduced us to the dashing duo – albeit after publishing the later adventures first – and you can revel in the wonderment in either paperback album or eBook formats…

Hergé and Jacobs purportedly suffered a split in 1947 when the former refused to grant the latter a by-line on new Tintin material, but since they remained friends for life and Jacob’s continued to produce Blake and Mortimer for the Belgian weekly, I think it’s fair to say that if such was the case it was a pretty minor spat.

I rather suspect that The Secret of the Swordfish was simply taking up more and more of the brilliant, diligent artist’s time and attention…

The U Ray also provided early visual inspiration for Blake, Mortimer and implacable nemesis Colonel Olrik, who bear a more than passing resemblance to heroic Lord Calder, Norlandian boffin Marduk and viperous villain Dagon from that still lauded masterwork – one that is also well overdue for translation…

One minor word of warning: by having the overarching enemies of mankind be a secret Asiatic “Yellow Peril” empire of evil, there’s some potential for offence – unless one actually reads the text and finds that the assumed racism is countered throughout by plenty of “good” ethnic characters and “evil” white folk…

 

The Secret of the Swordfish Part 1 – Ruthless Pursuit

The incredible journey begins with ‘The Incredible Chase’ as a secret army in the Himalayas prepares to launch a global Blitzkrieg on a world slowly recovering from its second planetary war. The wicked Basam Damdu, Emperor of Tibet, has assembled an arsenal of technological super-weapons and the world’s worst rogues such as insidious Colonel Olrik in a bid to seize control of Earth.

However, a bold British-Asian spy has infiltrated the hidden fortress and surrenders his life to get off a warning message…

In England, physicist and engineer Philip Mortimer and MI5 Captain Francis Blake discuss the worsening situation at an industrial installation where the boffin’s radical new aircraft engine is being constructed. When the warning comes that the war begins that night, the old friends swing into immediate action…

As the super-bombers rain destruction down on all the world’s cities, Mortimer’s dedicated team prepares his own prototype, the Golden Rocket, for immediate launch, taking off just as Olrik’s bombers appear over the desolate complex. Despite heavy fire, the Rocket easily outdistances the rapacious Imperial forces, leaving ruined homes in its wake as the fleeing Britons fly into a hostile world now brutally controlled by Basam Damdu…

Whilst seeking to join British Middle East resistance forces who have another prototype super-plane, teething troubles and combat damage create tense moments in the fugitives’ flight. When the Rocket is attacked by a flight of jets, the test ship’s superior firepower enables it to fight free, but only at the cost of more structural deterioration.

Failing now, the Rocket goes down in the rocky wilds between Iran and Afghanistan. Parachuting free of the doomed Rocket, Blake, Mortimer and the crew are machine-gunned by pursuing Empire jets and only three men make it to the ground safely…

After days of struggle Blake, Mortimer and the indomitable Jim are cornered by Iranian troops who have joined Olrik’s forces. Sensing disaster, the Britons hide the plans to Mortimer’s super-plane but one of the Iranians sees the furtive act. When no one is looking – especially his superiors – Lieutenant Ismail hurriedly scoops up the documents, but misses one…

Under lock and key and awaiting Olrik’s arrival, the prisoners are accosted by Ismail, who sees an opportunity for personal advancement which the Englishmen turn to their own advantage. Denouncing him to his superiors, Blake instigates a savage fight between Ismail and his captain. During the brief struggle Jim sacrifices himself, allowing Blake and Mortimer to escape with the recovered plans. Stealing a lorry, the desperate duo drive out into the dark desert night…

Followed by tanks into the mountain passes, the ingenious pair trap their pursuers in a ravine just as hill partisans attack. The Imperial collaborators are wiped out and, after exchanging information with the freedom fighters, the Englishmen take one of the captured vehicles to a distant rendezvous with the second Rocket. Lack of fuel forces them to stop at a supply dump where they are quickly discovered.

By setting the dump ablaze the heroes escape again, but in the desert Olrik has arrived and finds the sheet of notes left behind by Ismail. The cunning villain is instantly aware of what it means…

Fighting off aerial assaults from Empire jets and streaking for the mountains, Blake and Mortimer abandon their tank. Forced to travel on foot, they at last reach the meeting point where British-trained Sergeant Ahmed Nasir awaits them. The loyal Indian served with Blake during the last war and is delighted to see him again, but as the trio make their way to the target site, they become aware that Olrik has already captured their last hope…

Only temporarily disheartened, the trio use commando tactics to infiltrate Olrik’s camp, stealing not the heavily-guarded prototype but the villainous Colonel’s own Red-Wing super-jet. Back on course to the British resistance forces, the seemingly-cursed trio are promptly shot down by friendly fire: rebels perceiving the stolen plane as another enemy target…

Surviving this crash too, the trio are ferried in relative safety by the apologetic tribesmen to enemy-occupied town Turbat, but whilst there a spy of the Empire-appointed Wazir recognises the fugitive Englishmen. When Nasir realises they are in trouble, he dashes to the rescue but is too late to prevent Mortimer from being drugged.

Sending the loyal Sergeant on ahead, Blake tries frantically to revive his comrade, even as Imperial troopers rapidly mount the stairs to their exposed upper room…

To Be Continued…

This Cinebook edition includes a tantalising preview of the next volume as well as stand-alone adventure The Yellow “M”, plus biographical features and chronological publication charts.

 

Volume 16: The Secret of the Swordfish Part 2 – Mortimer’s Escape

This second instalment carries the tale to the next epic level, as the frantic action resumes with soldiers bursting into an empty chamber before being themselves attacked by the Khan. After a bloody firefight the Englishmen emerge from their cunning hiding place and flee Turbat, which has been seized by a furious spur-of-the-moment rebellion.

Unknown to the fugitives, devious spy Bezendjas is hard on their heels and soon finds an opportunity to inform Olrik. With the city in flames and fighting in every street, the callous colonel abandons his own troops to pursue Nasir, Blake and Mortimer into the wastes beyond the walls…

On stolen horses the heroes endure all the ferocious hardships of the desert, but cannot outdistance Olrik’s staff-car. After days of relentless pursuit, they reach the rocky coastline and almost stumble into another Empire patrol. Whilst ducking them, Blake nearly falls to his doom…

Narrowly escaping death, the trio continue to climb steep escarpments and it is dusk before the Intelligence Officer realises that he has lost the precious plans and documents they have been carrying since fleeing England…

Realising that somebody must reach the British resistance at their hidden Eastern base, the valiant comrades split up. Blake and Nasir continue onwards whilst Mortimer returns to the accident site. Finding the plans is a stroke of sheer good fortune, immediately countered by an ambush from Olrik’s troops. Despite a Herculean last stand, the scientist is at last taken prisoner but only after successfully hiding the lost plans…

Three months later, Olrik is called to account in the exotic city-fortress of Lhasa. Basam-Damdu’s ruling council are unhappy with the Colonel’s lack of progress in breaking the captive British scientist, and even more infuriated by a tidal-wave of sabotage and armed rebellion throughout their newly-conquered territories. Even Olrik’s own spies are warning him that his days as an agent of the Yellow Empire are numbered…

Given two days to make Mortimer talk, the Colonel returns to his base in Karachi just as another rebel raid allows Nasir to infiltrate the Empire’s HQ. Blake is also abroad in the city, having joined British forces in the area…

With less than a day to act, the MI5 officer rendezvous with a British submarine and travels to a vast atomic-powered secret installation under the Straits of Hormuz. Here, the Royal Navy are stoically preparing for a massive counter-attack on the Empire. With raids liberating interned soldiers all the time, the ranks of scientists, technicians and soldiers are swelling daily…

Meanwhile, Nasir has his own desperate plan to free Mortimer, who is still adamantly refusing to talk of the mysterious “Swordfish” Olrik’s agents continually hear rumours of…

Aware of his danger and the Sergeant’s efforts, Mortimer instead cunningly informs Nasir of the lost plans’ location, even as the impatient Emperor’s personal torturer arrives from Lhasa…

Always concerned with the greater good, Blake and a commando team secure the concealed plans and are met by Nasir who has been forced from Karachi after realising Bezendjas has recognised him. It appears that time has run out for their scholarly comrade…

Mortimer, however, has taken fate into his own hands. When the devious doctor Sun Fo begins his interrogation, the Professor breaks free and escapes into the fortress grounds during an earth-shattering storm.

Trapped in a tower with only a handgun, he is determined to sell his life dearly, but is rescued by Blake and Nasir in a Navy Helicopter. Using the storm for cover, the heroes evade jet pursuit and an enemy naval sweep to link up with a British sub and escape into the night…

To Be Concluded…

This edition includes a preview of the next volume and excerpts from stand-alone saga S.O.S. Meteors, plus the usual biography features.

 

Volume 17: The Secret of the Swordfish Part 3 – SX1 Strikes Back!

After three years of stunning intrigue, mystery and action, E.P. Jacobs’ groundbreaking saga of a battle for world peace and universal liberty concluded in a spectacular duel below the Earth and in the skies of the embattled world. SX1 Strikes Back! is a tension-drenched race against time as Blake, Mortimer and the shattered dregs of Great Britain’s military forces prepare for a last-ditch strike using the Professor’s greatest inventions to win freedom for the oppressed peoples of Earth…

The final chapter opens with a stunning reprise of past events – cunningly compiled from a succession of six full-page illustrations (presumably original covers from weekly Le Journal de Tintin) – after which a daring commando raid liberates a trainload of British prisoners.

Brought to a fabulous subterranean fortress, the assorted scientists and engineers discover an underground railway, factory, armaments-facilities and even an atomic pile, all furiously toiling to complete the mysterious super-weapon dubbed “Swordfish”.

The former prisoners readily join the volunteers, blithely unaware that supremely capable scoundrel Olrik is amongst them in devilish disguise…

Days pass and as preparations for the Big Push produce satisfactory results, a series of disastrous accidents lead to one inescapable conclusion: there is a saboteur in the citadel…

Eventually Olrik becomes overconfident and Mortimer exposes the infiltrator in a crafty trap, but after a fraught confrontation the Colonel escapes after almost causing a nuclear catastrophe. Fleeing across the seabed, the harried spy narrowly avoids capture by diver teams and a hungry giant octopus…

The flight takes its toll upon Olrik and he barely reaches land alive. Luckily for him, Bezendjas has been checking out the region of coastline and finds the exhausted villain trapped in his stolen deep-sea suit. After a lengthy period, the dazed desperado recovers and delivers his hard-won information. Soon, Imperial forces are converging on the British bastion…

As air and sea forces bombard the rocky island and sea-floor citadel, Olrik dispatches crack troops to break in via a concealed land entrance, resulting in a staggering battle in the depths of the Earth.

They were almost in time…

After months of desperate struggle, Mortimer and his liberated scientists have rushed to complete the incredible Swordfish: a hypersonic attack jet with uncanny manoeuvrability and appallingly destructive armament.

Astoundingly launched from beneath the sea, the sleekly sinister plane single-handedly shoots the Empire jets out of the skies before sinking dozens of attacking ships. Ruthlessly piloting SX1 is Francis Blake; and even as he wreaks havoc upon the invading force, he is joined by SX2 -a second, equally unstoppable super-jet…

Soon the Yellow Empire is in full retreat and a squadron of Swordfish is completed. With the once-occupied planet in full revolt, it’s not long before Lhasa gets a taste of the flaming death it callously inflicted upon a peaceful, unsuspecting and now extremely vengeful world…

They are only just in time: the insane and malignant Emperor is mere moments away from launching a doomsday flight of atomic missiles to every corner of the planet he so briefly owned…

This Cinebook edition also includes fascinating illustrated essay ‘Jacobs: 1946, The Swordfish, starting point of a masterful work’, first seen in The World of Edgar P. Jacobs, a tantalising preview of later epic The Oath of the Five Lords (by Yves Sente & André Juillard) plus a biographical feature and chronological publication chart of Jacobs’ and his successors’ efforts.

Gripping and fantastic in the truest tradition of pulp sci-fi and Boy’s Own Adventures, Blake and Mortimer are the very epitome of dogged, heroic determination; always delivering grand, old-fashioned Blood-&-Thunder thrills and spills in timeless fashion and with astonishing visual punch.

Despite an epic body count and dated milieu, any kid able to suspend modern mores and cultural disbelief (call it alternate Earth history or bakelite-punk if you want) will experience the adventure of their lives… and so will their children.
Original editions © Editions Blake & Mortimer/Studio Jacobs (Dargaud – Lombard S.A.) 1984, 1985, 1986 by E.P. Jacobs. All rights reserved. English translation © 2012, 2013 Cinebook Ltd.