Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Flash of a Cameo

During the final months of his eight-year tenure as illustrator of Prince Valiant (2004-2012), Gary Gianni, along with writer Mark Schultz, treated readers of the renowned adventure strip to something very special indeed. Although there was never any official confirmation one way or the other, it seems clear to many that none other than legendary science fiction hero Flash Gordon made a visit to the world of Prince Valiant.

It all began with the defeat of the sorceress Maldubh in a truly spectacular spectral battle. Maldubh's magicks had banished the consciousness of Aleta, Prince Valiant's wife, to a nightmarish netherworld . Once her soul had been retrieved and returned to the physical plane, Aleta had quite the story to tell of her time in the "outer realms."



A powerful counter spell by her daughters and daughter-in-law had restored Aleta to her husband and family. In the midst of its accompanying wild storm, however, the spell also rescued the heroic stranger whom Aleta had encountered in the netherworld.





Found by fearful peasants in the fields beyond Camelot, the mysterious blond "giant" is bound in chains and brought to King Arthur's fabled citadel. Here an astonished Aleta recognizes him from their shared (and surreal) time in the realm of banished souls.



Thanks to Aleta's intervention, the blond stranger is released and treated like royalty at Camelot. Because he cannot recall where he is from or even his identity, Aleta decides to give him a name, that of the heroic St. George. He did, after all, save her from the jaws of certain doom in the netherworld.




St. George charms many at Camelot and introduces to the court the sport of polo – which was the sport of choice for the original Flash Gordon way back in the 1930s.



Gianni also shows the athletic, blond 'St. George' with a Mongo sun symbol on his red tunic (see opening image and above), which for observant readers was another give-away that this mysterious stranger was in fact Flash Gordon (pictured at right in the March 4, 1934 Flash Gordon strip).


The story takes an unexpected turn with the arrival to Camelot of the wizard Oom Fooyat, who has quite the tale to tell of his own: the golem he had conjured to life the night of a freakish storm is now on the rampage in Illwynde. "Again the strange storm," thinks Prince Valiant, "undoubtedly the same that heralded Aleta's return and the blond stranger's appearance."



Prince Valiant, Sir Gawain, St. George, Aleta and Oom Fooyat journey to Illwynde to subdue the golem. The knights of Camelot's initial efforts do not end well . . .


. . . as the entire party of adventurers is trapped by the golem in a cave. It's a circumstance, however, that lends itself well to Gianni and Schultz's truly wonderful installment celebrating the strip's 75th anniversary.

The next day Prince Valiant and his friends create a deadfall from a tree and trap the golem. St. George then does the dangerous task of wiping the mystic letters from the monster's forehead. Immediately the golem crumbles into dust . . . and St. George's memory is restored.

"I remember who I am!" he declares. "My name is . . ."

But before he can utter another word, a bolt of lightening strikes and "the blond warrior disappears – in a flash!"



Aleta offers an explanation to her astonished husband: "Perhaps the sorcery caught up his soul along with the golem. Now he should be free to return home."

"Of course! He's back were he belongs," replies Val. "He had the right spirit – I wish him well. But enough – let us return to our home and the ways I know best."

2 comments:

  1. This was just such an undeniably cool tribute/crossover. Absolutely delightful, and Gianni and Schultz managed to introduce a "mystery" character whose true identity somehow found a way to be subtle and in-your-face at the same time. I found myself wondering early on who this "St.George" guy could possibly be-- and he seemed to be arrive with a strong, established personality quite intact. . . just not actually an identity. The "Alpha" tension between he and Val (and Aleta's jaw-dropping, shameless flirting!) was terrific-- especially considering how little space there is in this strip to establish that kind of relationship and interplay, and flesh it out. I did finally figure it out-- although it took doing a google image search to confirm that the sun symbol on his chest was indeed what I thought it was (Not a big Flash Gordon fan at all). Even though they never officially confirmed the identity, my whole family was certainly startled at the Sunday morn breakfast table when I gave a whoop of righteous delight upon reading that St George had disappeared (as you pointed out)- "in a FLASH!" My 17-year-old son thought it was extremely cool as well. . .

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  2. George Raymond was one of Alex's brothers. I'm sure this was part of the reason for Flash to be known as "George" in Schultz & Gianni's strip.

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