XIII (Thirteen in Roman numerals, Treize in French) is a successful long-running Franco-Belgian Comics series written and drawn by Belgians Jean Van Hamme and William Vance. The series was initially serialised in 1984 in Spirou and became instantly a hit. It was later published by Dargaud.
The series begins with a man found on a shore in Peacock Bay in the East Coast of the United States, suffering from amnesia due to a bullet wound to the head, and just the tattoo "XIII" on his collarbone to link him to his past. Volumes one through five deal with XIII searching for his identity and his past, only to find himself confronting the "Conspiracy of the XX" which aims to a coup d'état in order to overthrow democracy in the USA.
The rest of the series shows him dealing with the remnants of his past, stopping the number I of the Conspiracy once and for all, and facing more and more enemies afterwards, as a public reveal of his past would have very unpleasant consequences for some very powerful men.
A Spin-Off comic book series titled XIII Mystery explores the backstory of various characters of the initial series. Each album features a different art style by a different creative team, under the supervision of Jean Van Hamme.
The comic book series was adapted in 2003 as a First-Person Shooter by Ubisoft, and in 2008 as a two-part miniseries on NBC starring Stephen Dorff and Val Kilmer. A two season-long Franco-Canadian TV series was also produced, from 2011 to 2012.
For the full list of the installments of the original series and the spin-off, see the Recap page.
XIII provides examples of:
- All There in the Manual: The backstories of many characters are expanded upon in The XIII Mystery: The Investigation.
- Amnesiac Hero: XIII is amnesiac. He does not even remember his name.
- Assassination Attempt: The assassination of William Sheridan triggers the events of the plot. The assassination attempt of Wally Sheridan further complicates them.
- Banana Republic: The Costa Verde when it was ruled by General Ortiz. San Miguel, too.
- In Thirteen to One, XIII returns with the Mongoose on the boat where he received the bullet which gave him amnesia.
- The Last Round ends with the hero standing on the same beach he was found in the first album.
- Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: General Carrington looks like Lee Marvin. Jones looks like Whitney Houston. Carl Heideger looks like Henry Kissinger. Betty Barnowsky looks like Shirley MacLaine.
- Comic-Book Time: The series started as an uchronia in the 80's with many nods to the Kennedy era, The Vietnam War, CIA operations in South America and the Watergate scandal. XIII's date of birth, 1961, is mentioned in Three Silver Watches. In the Mayflower Day, it's suddenly set in modern day (the characters use Facebook, president Barack Obama is refered...) but the characters haven't aged.
- Conspiracy Thriller: From The Day of The Black Sun to Full Red. Then again in Thirteen to One and The Trial.
- Derivative Differentiation: The first album of the series, The Day of the Black Sun, was heavily inspired by Robert Ludlum's Bourne Series. The following albums take another direction.
- Easy Amnesia: XIII was shot in the head. He recovers perfectly, except that he is amnesic: he does not remember anything of his whole life. His other mental and physical capacities are not affected.
- Fictional Country: The Costa Verde and San Miguel.
- Freudian Excuse: The XIII Mystery spinoff series gives tragic backstories to several villains of the main series.
- Government Conspiracy: All the Tears of Hell reveals that the conspiracy who planned the assassination of William Sheridan is a group of powerful people with accomplices in the army and the government. In Full Red, some members of the conspiracy are exposed, like Calvin Wax, the Secretary of Defense, and high-ranking officers. In Thirteen to One, it is revealed that the present President of the United States, Wally Sheridan, was part of the conspiracy.
- Identity Amnesia: XIII does not remember who he is.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: An Quest for Identity, mixed with a complex Government Conspiracy, with Loads and Loads of Characters and loads and loads of fake identities for the hero. Generally, there is one reveal per album.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Long-Runner Tech Marches On: The first book came out in 1984. Cell phones didn't exist and PCs looked very different. Last books have USB flash drives among other things.
- A MacGuffin Full of Money: Maximilian's Gold.
- Name Amnesia: XIII does not remember his own name. In the first episodes, on several occasions, he thinks that he has finally discovered his real name, but he is proven wrong soon thereafter.
- Never-Forgotten Skill: The story starts with a man with amnesia. Just like Jason Bourne, his combat skills are not at all affected by the memory loss.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Che Guevara, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and many others.
- Once per Episode:
- A Reveal about the conspiracy.
- XIII is given a new identity: Jake Shelton in The Day of The Black Sun, Steve Rowland in Where the Indian Walks, Ross Tanner in All the Tears of Hell, Jason Fly in S.P.A.D.S, John Fleming in The Jason Fly Case, Jason Mac Lane in The Night of August 3rd, Karl Meredith and Kelly Brian (alias El Cascador) in For Maria, Seamus O'Neil in Top Secret!...
- The Perfect Crime: The assassination of William Sheridan. It was committed by a man who was officially declared dead and who was immediately shot dead by the conspiracy.
- Politically Incorrect Villain:
- The Conspiracy of the XX is basically neo-fascist.
- Greenfalls was a Ku Klux Klan hideout.
- The Big Bad of XIII Mystery: Betty Barnowski was part of the Conspiracy of the XX and claims that he and his band of sociopathic soldiers will turn the country back to what it should have been before it was given to "fags, jews and niggers". He also sends his soldiers to rob hallucinogens from local tribes at gunpoint and executes his men for failing him.
- Quest for Identity: XIII does not remember who he is, so he tries to discover it.
- Romantic False Lead: XIII meets and has fun with quite a few (Betty Barnowksy in SPADS, Judith Warner in The Jason Fly Case, Maria Isabel de Los Santos in El Cascador, Jessica in Release The Hounds...). Jones is always jealous of this. XIII always takes up with her again, but only as Friends with Benefits, much to her displeasure: she would like a Relationship Upgrade.
- Second Episode Introduction: Major Jones and General Benjamin Carrington are both introduced in the second book Where the Indian Goes.
- Series Fauxnale: Four times!
- Full Red: XIII found out his identity. The last living members of the Conspiracy of the XX are arrested ...save Number I.
- Thirteen to One: The last big question about the conspiracy is answered: the Number I of the conspiracy is Wally Sheridan, but he managed to remove all the evidences, so XIII cannot denounce him.
- The Trial: The Moongose and Number One die. But on the last page XIII is jailed by Frank Giordino.
- The Last Round: The last villains die and XIII moves in the house of the old couple who took care of him in The Day of The Black Sun. It was the end of the series until Yves Sente renewed it.
- Stern Chase: From The Day of The Black Sun to Full Red, XIII has to flee from place to place, because he is chased by the hitmen of the Mongoose, by Amos and by the police.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Felicity Brown disapears halfway the The Last Round. As far as we know she's still alive and free despite her numerous crimes.
- World of Snark: All the main characters are jaded soldiers, intelligence operatives or hitmen, so they all deliver a high level of sarcasm.