Blake and Mortimer 75th anniversary celebrated with special exhibition and collectibles – plus a series checklist

Blake and Mortimer - 75th Anniversary Logo

By Jove! Blake and Mortimer – the Belgian comics series first created by writer and comic artist Edgar Pierre Jacobs back in 1946 – are celebrating their 75th anniversary, in print, in a major new exhibition in Brussels at the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée – and celebratory merchandise.

Published in the UK by Cinebook, Blake and Mortimer was one of the first series to appear in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Tintin in 1946, and subsequently published in book form by Les Éditions du Lombard.

The series stars Professor Philip Mortimer, nuclear physicist, and Captain Francis Blake, dashing head of MI5, legendary heroes of the Ninth Art. Jacobs, a close relative of Hergé, who worked with him on some of the early Tintin stories, appreciated the excessive and the astonishing that could be found within the scope of scientific invention. His heroes were very much ahead of their time, discovering extraordinary objects and phenomena through their uncommon adventures.

To celebrate the anniversary of the most British heroes of Franco-Belgian comics, the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée in Brussels, Belgium, is hosting “Le secret des espadons” (“The Secret of the Swordfish”), a major exhibition devoted entirely to exploring the history of the series, running until 16th April 2022.

Blake and Mortimer - The secret of swordfish - exhibition at the Belgian Comic Strip Center - Brussels (2021 - 2022)

At a time when America reigned supreme over the adventure comics genre with Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Mandrake the Magician, the Phantom, Jungle Jim, Tarzan or Prince Vaillant, Edgar P. Jacobs was the first Belgian author to compete in Europe. In 1943, the artist was nearly 40 years old when he created “The U Ray”, which featured proto-types of the Blake and Mortimer characters, for Bravo! magazine, the first science fiction comic book “made in Belgium”.

Impressed by his talent, Hergé hired him as a collaborator and convinced the Brussels publisher Raymond Leblanc to integrate him into the editorial staff of the future Tintin newspaper. For the first issue, Edgar P. Jacobs created a contemporary story on the theme of a third World War: “Le Secret de l’Espadon” (“The Secret of the Swordfish”). Its success was immediate, and dazzling. The publication of the first of Blake and Mortimer’s adventures kept readers on their toes from 26th September 1946 to 8th September 1949.

Blake and Mortimer - The Yellow 'M'

The Secret of the Swordfish breaks with the Franco-Belgian tradition of naive young heroes turned to unbridled action,” the exhibition’s curators, Daniel Couvreur and Eric Dubois note, “and the 144-plate plot prefigures the modern graphic novel.”

Edgar P. Jacobs worked hard on the characterisation of his heroes and cast, and displayed a near obsessive dedication to the series design and colour on. Initially published in two volumes in 1950 and 1953, The Secret of the Swordfish was republished in its entirety in 1964.

Seventy-five years after its creation, the anniversary exhibition goes behind the scenes of this masterpiece of Ninth Art and explores the work of its visionary creator. Artwork, sketches, objects and personal accessories by Edgar P. Jacobs are all feature and, the exhibition is further enhanced with an augmented reality additions for smartphone users, bring heroes to life, share their emotions and above all discovering the secret of the swordfish!

  • Blake et Mortimer  © Daniel Fouss/Musée de la BD - Blake and Mortimer exhibition at the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée - Musée Bruxelles, September 2021 - April 2022
  • Blake et Mortimer  © Daniel Fouss/Musée de la BD - Blake and Mortimer exhibition at the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée - Musée Bruxelles, September 2021 - April 2022
  • Blake et Mortimer  © Daniel Fouss/Musée de la BD - Blake and Mortimer exhibition at the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée - Musée Bruxelles, September 2021 - April 2022
  • Blake et Mortimer  © Daniel Fouss/Musée de la BD - Blake and Mortimer exhibition at the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée - Musée Bruxelles, September 2021 - April 2022
  • Blake et Mortimer  © Daniel Fouss/Musée de la BD - Blake and Mortimer exhibition at the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée - Musée Bruxelles, September 2021 - April 2022
  • Blake et Mortimer  © Daniel Fouss/Musée de la BD - Blake and Mortimer exhibition at the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée - Musée Bruxelles, September 2021 - April 2022
  • Blake et Mortimer  © Daniel Fouss/Musée de la BD - Blake and Mortimer exhibition at the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée - Musée Bruxelles, September 2021 - April 2022

“Jacobs was an astonishing talent,” notes Tintin expert Simon Doyle, “when you consider that he was working with Hergé by day, revising and redrawing as necessary the early black and white versions of the Tintin stories which were being converted to colour 62-page standard editions, then going home and writing and drawing the ‘Blake and Mortimer’ stories through the night: I am not sure if he ever slept!

“His roots as an Alex Raymond copyist tend to show, which make Blake et Mortimer quite stilted early on,” he feels.”He drew continuation strips for a ‘Flash Gordon’ storyline interrupted by the outbreak of World War Two, before the Germans [then occupying Belgium] stepped in and cancelled it as too pro-America. The answer was to do his own pseudo-Flash Gordon pastiche, “The U Ray”, which featured proto-types of the Blake and Mortimer characters.

“He also was far more wordy than Hergé, partly, I’m sure, because large speech bubbles often reduced the amount of background he needed to draw, but even so, he packed in the dialogue, the text getting smaller and smaller to fit the space.”

Blake and Mortimer 75th Anniversary Merchandise Released

You can also now discover some extraordinary, exclusive and limited edition memorabilia – and any purchase from CollectorBD.com currently includes a free badge; and for any purchase over €300, you’ll receive a facsimile of a drawing by Jacobs.

Check out the full collection on the French web site CollectorBD.com – here’s a small selection…

Blake and Mortimer in a devastated London with a satellite as threatening as the silhouette below in the background. Blake exclaims “What a horror” while Mortimer answers him “I told you, Francis, nothing is more unbearable than tea without milk.” This art print is by current Blake and Mortimer author Christian Cailleaux
Blake and Mortimer Playing Cards
Large-format silkscreen print from the second part of The Valley of the Immortals, Blake and Mortimer's 19th adventure
Large-format silkscreen print from the second part of The Valley of the Immortals, Blake and Mortimer’s 19th adventure

Check out the full collection on the French web site CollectorBD.com

Blake and Mortimer books from Cinebook

All these titles are available from Cinebook direct, or from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link), or from your local book or comic shop

The Yellow ‘M’ (published January 2007) ISBN 978-1-905460-21-2
The Mystery of the Great Pyramid Part 1: The Papyrus of Manethon (published November 2007) ISBN 978-1-905460-37-3
The Mystery of the Great Pyramid Part 2: The Chamber of Horus (published January 2008) ISBN 978-1-905460-38-0
The Francis Blake Affair (published September 2008) ISBN 978-1-905460-63-2
The Strange Encounter (published January 2009) ISBN 978-1-905460-75-5
S.O.S. Meteors (published September 2009) ISBN 978-1-905460-97-7
The Affair of the Necklace (published January 2010) ISBN 978-1-84918-037-5
The Voronov Plot (published October 2010) ISBN 978-1-84918-048-1
The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent, part 1 (published January 2011) ISBN 1-84918-067-9
The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent, part 2 (published April 2011) ISBN 978-1-84918-077-1
The Gondwana Shrine (published September 2011) ISBN 978-1-84918-094-8
Atlantis Mystery (published January 2012) ISBN 978-1-84918-107-5
The Curse of the 30 Pieces of Silver, part 1 (published April 2012) ISBN 978-1-84918-125-9
The Curse of the 30 Pieces of Silver, part 2 (published August 2012) ISBN 978-1-84918-130-3
The Secret of the Swordfish, part 1 (published February 2013) ISBN 9781849181488
The Secret of the Swordfish, part 2 (published June 2013) ISBN 9781849181617
The Secret of the Swordfish, part 3 (published October 2013) ISBN 9781849181747
The Oath of the Five Lords (published March 2014) ISBN 9781849181914
The Time Trap (published September 2014) ISBN 9781849182140
The Septimus Wave (published February 2015) ISBN 9781849182423
Plutarch’s Staff (published September 2015) ISBN 9781849182645
Professor Sato’s Three Formulas, Volume 1: Mortimer in Tokyo (published February 2016) ISBN 9781849182928
Professor Sató’s Three Formulae, Volume 2: Mortimer vs. Mortimer (published May 2016) ISBN 9781849183031
The Testament of William S. (published April 2017) ISBN 9781849183390
The Valley of Immortals, part 1: Threat Over Hong Kong (published April 2019) ISBN 9781849184281

Blake and Mortimer - The Valley of Immortals, Part 2: The Thousand Arms of the Mekong


The Valley of Immortals, Part 2: The Thousand Arms of the Mekong (published March 2020) ISBN 9781849184373
The Call of the Moloch (published March 2021) ISBN 9781849185974
The Last Swordfish (to be published December 2022) ISBN 9781800440494

Further volumes from Cinebook include The Last Pharaoh (also expected to be released in 2022) and Eight Hours in Berlin (2023).

All these titles are available from Cinebook direct, or from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link), or from your local book or comic shop

WEB LINKS

Official Blake and Mortimer website (in French)

Blake and Mortimer’s Blog (in French)

“Blake and Mortimer” at Cinebook

Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée – Musée Bruxelles, Rue des Sables 20
1000 Bruxelles | Email: visit@cbbd.be | Open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am to 6pm (last tickets sold at 5pm). Open 7 days a week, from 10am to 6pm during the Belgian school holidays. Closed on 25/12 and 01/01.

With thanks to Jeremy Briggs

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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