by Paolo Ottolina
translation by Chiara Martellossi
Who created him?
The two Belgian authors Jean Van Hamme and William Vance meet for the first time in 1976. Vance is already known to the public for Bob Morane and Bruno Brazil; Van Hamme is already a known writer, although not first-league, and appreciates much Vance's work: his realistic trait, his ability in drawing sensual women and virile men, are perfect for the BD (Bande Dessinée) adventure that Van Hamme has in mind. The project sees the light only eight years later, in 1984. The debut of "XIII" takes place on the Spirou magazine. The initial idea - a man is found oblivious on a beach - is taken from a 1980 Robert Ludlum novel, "The bourne identity": but the rest is added by Van Hamme from his own imagination. The adventures of the unmindful man with the tattoed XIII are reprinted on a hardback from Dargaud on that same year. With the eighth volume, "Thirteen against one", sales reach 140 thousand copies and the publisher realizes that the book could become a best seller: promoting starts and feedback from the readers follows swiftly. Until now, XIII sold, all volumes considered, 6.5 million copies: one of the few "new" BD characters able to soar in the books charts in france. The last volume (for now) has been published in 2002: "Lachez les chiens!" (Unleash the dogs!)
XIII is a fanta-political saga with lots of action. The center of the story is the protagonist, a man without a memory and with too many identities: Jason Mullway, Jason Mac Lane, Jason Fly, Seamus O'Neil, Kelly Brian, Alan Smith, Jake Shelton, Steve Rowland, Ross Tanner, Jed Olsen, John Fleming, Hugh Mitchell, Karl Meredith, Reginald Wesson and "El Cascador". Names like beads, told by Van Hamme during the 15-books run: a veritable emblem of a series that believes zealantly in plot twists and cliffhangers . There's no book ending withouth some threads left loose, and no sooner those threads are tied up than the plot becomes tangled again. Until now, the story is made up from four sagas . From the first to the fifth book, XIII goes searching for his identity and his past, only to find himself confronting the "conspiracy of the XX" which aims to a coup d'etat in the United States. From the sixth to the eighth book, XIII takes up again the investigation about his past, his father's and his relationship with Kim, daughter of general Carrington and married to Steve Rowlands, one of the identities of XIII. From the ninth to the eleventh, the action takes place in Costa Verde, a small nation in Central America where XIII once led a revolution under the identity of "El Cascador". From book 12 onto, a new twist in the plot: XIII is hunted from a new and powerful foe, Frank Giordino, head of NSA (National Security Agency), who believes that the man called Jason Mac Lane is really an IRA terrorist. The thirteenth book, "XIII l'enquete", is a sort of illustrated book in which two journalists retread the story of the first 12 books and add new details about the story and the characters.
Who are his friends?
The friends of XIII are many and loyal to boot, starting from general Ben Carrington, who takes him under his wing, and Carrington's aide, the beautiful and resourceful black woman, pilot and a first class soldier, known only as Major Jones (Van Hamme never let us know her name), who helps XIII out of trouble more than once and quite soon falls in love with him. Moreover: colonel Amos, a man of the Secret Service in charge of finding the mandators of president Sheridan's assassination. Sean Mullway, XIII's father, a refugee in Central America. Armand De Préseau, an eccentric aristocrat who owns a plantation in the state of San Miguel and is a friend of Sean Mullway. Betty Barnowski, a former regular officer, who falls in love with de Préseau and settles down with him during the Costa Verde saga.
Who are his enemies?
It is a tight race between the number of XIII's identities and the quantity of enemies that hunts him down. the most irreducible is for several issues the "Mongoose", a smart and elusive killer. His mandator sits in the White House: Wally Sheridan, head of the plot to set up a dictature in the USA and brother of William, the President assassinated in the "Day of the Black Sun". When the two exit the scene (in issue #12) their place is taken by Frank Giordino, head of the NSA, and Irina Svetlanova, a killer who set up Executor (a sort of joint-stock company for murders on commission), looking for revenge on XIII who disfigured her.
Jean Van Hamme
colours by Petra
Copyright (c) 1984-2002
all rights reserved worldwide