Dark Horse Comics published a 5-volume comics series on Mata Hari. Potentially a good idea but, in the end, a failure. What went wrong, exactly? Difficult to say, but clearly the series moved in bumps and jumps like a truck on a Mexican country road: sometimes speedy moving onward, sometimes making you seasick. The problems were equally bad with the story and with the imagery. Considering only the latter, in the first volume we had truly beautiful images, like this one:
Now, THIS is true to the image that Margaretha Geertruida Zelle was trying to project of herself as her alias, the creature named "the light of the day" in Malay, Mata Hari. An exotic, eerie, beautiful, mysterious, and even aggressive creature. In the pictures we have, Mata Hari was often shown dancing while holding swords and lances, sometimes even the kind seen above, the "Kriss".
But, then, as I said, the images in the series are unequal, they change in style and aspect. In the cover of the last volume, you see Mata Hari transformed into a clumsy creature, short-legged, a little fat, and with ridiculous heart-shaped lips. This is not Mata Hari, it is more Minnie Mouse.
And, in the 5th volume, they could do even worse. This image of the execution is truly an insult to Mata Hari's memory.
How could they create such a mess? I think I have an explanation but, first, let me show you an image (Paris 1905):
This is the real Mata Hari: look at the bearing, look at the expression, look at the way she is moving. This is real class: Mata Hari never was anything like a Barbie doll. She was an assertive woman in all her manifestations, in her dance as in life. And everything she did, she did with class. Great class.
So, I think that with the Dark Horse series they simply tried to drag the story too much: Mata Hari's life doesn't contain so much material that you could make five volumes out of it. Apart for her grand finale - the execution - her life story was not so dramatic. She was, mainly, a performer with a strong personality and a keen sense of self-promotion. You can describe her life in just a few sentences: she traveled to an exotic place, she divorced her husband, she came back to Europe, she had several lovers, she made some money, and she squandered most of it -- that's it, more or less.
Then, the story that she was a spy, well, it is more ridiculous than passionating. Poor Margaretha had the misfortune of finding herself as the target of both the German and the French secret services. The Germans tried to make the French look bad by having them kill an innocent woman, the French needed a scapegoat for their military failures. In the end, the enemies in the battlefield collaborated with each other in order to bring Margaretha Zelle in front of the firing squad. Bad luck aplenty for her, but not much of a "story" here.
What makes Mata Hari still remembered today is not what she did, but what she was. For sure not everybody loved her, but her personality was so strong and so powerful that it transcended the limits of the Dutchwoman Margaretha Zelle to turn her into the Goddess of the Sun, Mata Hari. All her glory showed up and faded in the single moment of the execution. And all she had done in her life, good and bad, found a justification when she stood in front of the firing squad, sending a kiss to the soldiers who were shooting her, and telling them, "Thank You."
In doing so, she truly transformed herself into the avatar of the Goddess, the sacrificial victim, and she thanked the mortals who were killing her for allowing her to return to the celestial realms where she came from. Not to everyone it is permitted to transcend their human nature in their last moments of life, but some have this destiny. Perhaps it is a blessing, perhaps it is a curse, but this is what we remember Mata Hari for.