Monday, February 13, 2023

Mark Schultz on Continuing the Legacy of Prince Valiant

Something very special today to celebrate the 86th anniversary of the Prince Valiant adventure strip.

It’s Jim Lockwood’s wonderfully informative article (with added images and links) on Prince Valiant writer Mark Schultz. Lockwood’s piece was first published last month – January 29, 2023 – in The Times-Tribune of Scranton, Pennsylvania.


Writer Mark Schultz Hopes to Stay True to Characters
As He Carries Legacy of Prince Valiant Adventure Strip

By Jim Lookwood
The Times-Tribune
January 29, 2023

Mark Schultz has enjoyed Prince Valiant in the Sunday comics pages since childhood.

At that time, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the popular adventure series by comics pioneer Hal Foster [left] was in its 20s, having debuted Feb. 13, 1937.

“Boy, I can remember Prince Valiant, seeing it in the newspapers from the time before I could even read and having my parents read it to me. At a certain point, I started cutting it out and collecting it, pasting it into a big scrapbook,” said Schultz, 67, who grew up in Pittsburgh and the Lehigh Valley and has lived with his wife, illustrator Denise Prowell, in Clarks Summit since 1993.

His early love of comics partly led him to pursue a career in art and become part of the Prince Valiant legacy. In 2004, Schultz became only the third writer of Valiant, which is the longest-running adventure strip in the world. Turning 86 [on February 13, 2023] and among the last of the classic adventure strips, Prince Valiant is syndicated by King Features Syndicate and appears in about 300 Sunday newspapers in the nation.

Above: The opening panel of page 4,120 of Prince Valiant (January 24, 2016),
with art by Thomas Yeates and text by Mark Schultz.

Joe Figured, promoter of the annual Scranton Comic Con, said Schultz attended the convention a few times over the years, most recently in November. Having a noteworthy person in comics appear in person is a big plus, Figured said.

“There’s nothing better than to go into a show and meet the writers and artists. That’s the fun part of it,” Figured said.

The Prince Valiant strip currently is drawn by artist Thomas Yeates [right] of California. While Schultz writes the weekly plots, he also is a noted illustrator and first made a name for himself in the comics industry in the 1980s.

Schultz’s parents both hailed from the Scranton area. His father was from Dunmore and later the Abingtons and his mother was from the Abingtons. In his youth, Schultz’s interest in art grew, also inspired by science fiction, mythology and dinosaurs, among other subjects.

“I’m very much interested in speculative fiction, you know, imaginary stories, kind of adventurous stuff, but I also have a real serious interest in the sciences and paleontology being part of that,” he said.

He attended Kutztown University and earned a fine arts degree in painting in 1977. He pursued a career in commercial art and some of his early work involved illustrating how-to guides. A comics revival of the early 1980s drew him into that art form.

In 1986, Schultz created the comic book series Xenozoic Tales. It found a following within the comic book universe and became the basis for a short-lived cartoon called Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, for which Tyco produced an entire toy line.

“There was a real growth period in the mid-80s. And I was lucky to come on board at that time, because they were looking for artists, they were looking for new ideas. That was hitting a growing business at the right time,” Schultz said.

By the mid-’90s, Xenozoic Tales ended and Schultz freelanced. He wrote and illustrated for comics, including Aliens, Predator and Flash Gordon, and for a few years wrote the storyline for Superman, Man of Steel. Schultz also has given seminars at Marywood University and at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, and has exhibited artwork at Marywood, Penn State and in Spain.

In 2004, the Prince Valiant writing gig arose when Hal Foster’s first successors, John Cullen Murphy and his son, Cullen [right], decided to pack it in. King Features Syndicate then tapped artist Gary Gianni and Schultz to take over Valiant.

Gianni was succeeded by Yeates in 2012. Schultz said his philosophy toward writing Prince Valiant has been to try to stay true to Foster’s legacy.

“Basically, what we try to do now is just not screw things up. We want to stay true to the characters,” Schultz said. “I hope I continue the legacy of Prince Valiant in a manner that is in keeping with the original intent.”

At Valiant’s start, its visual vibrancy provided “an oasis of color in a gray world” of the Great Depression and came during a time when other entertainment options were limited, said Brian M. Kane, Ph.D, a Foster biographer and comics historian of Ohio.

Foster came into Valiant with a fan base from his work doing Tarzan for several years.

“He brought those people along with him and his artwork exploded off the page,” Kane said.

Foster’s realistic command of anatomy also became the mold for superheroes that followed, he said.

Rooted in Arthurian legend and medieval England, the strip also reflected the times in which it was being created, Kane said. Foster’s strip referenced subjects ranging from polio to bullying to strong, independent women to mixed-race couples, Kane said.

The strip’s enduring popularity also stems from its dual-focus on adventure and family plot lines, Kane said. Valiant fell in love with and married Aleta, the Queen of the Misty Isles. In 1946, their child, the first baby “born in the comics,” arrived and was covered in newspapers like a celebrity birth, Kane said.

Twins later followed. The children reflected the post-World War II baby boom, Kane said.

“It’s one of those things that when Hal Foster started it, it was just a plain adventure strip. Then a few years into it, Val meets Aleta and falls in love and it becomes a dual adventure strip and family strip,” Kane said. “There was as much story about raising a family as there was going on adventures,” Kane said.

Sunday’s edition of Prince Valiant [January 29, 2023 (right)] will be number 4,486. Schultz, whose first Valiant appeared Nov. 21, 2004, with edition number 3,537, has authored 949 editions. Schultz said he and Yeates go back-and-forth with ideas, outlines and drawings in fleshing out a strip.

“Mark is very good at writing to the strength of the artist,” Kane said. “He wants to keep the artist interested in order to produce good work.”

Schultz also created a heavily illustrated novella titled Storms at Sea that came out in 2015, and he is now working on a sequel. He also continues to work with Flesk Publications that regularly publishes his collections of drawings.

Schultz also wrote a 2009 book illustrated by others and titled The Stuff of Life, A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA, and wrote and co-created SubHuman, an undersea comic book adventure debuted in 1998.

How long might Schultz continue writing Prince Valiant?

“My feeling right now is probably when Thomas (Yeates) decides to cash in his chips, I’ll probably be ready to go, too,” Schultz said. “To get on board with a new artist seems just probably, after this amount of time, it’s probably time for me to move on and let a new writer give a try at it. Who knows? That might be a long time” to come.

Kane hopes Prince Valiant continues for a long time.

“I would love to see it go on for many, many more years. I would like to see it hit 100 years,” Kane said.

Jim Lockwood
The Times-Tribune
January 29, 2023

Related Off-site Link:
Catching Up With Mark Schultz – Jason Bergman (The Comics Journal, March 14, 2022)

See also the previous posts:
Mark Schultz on the Art of Hal Foster: “Uniquely Appealing, Innovative and Influential”
Mark Schultz on Prince Valiant as an American Invention
Thomas Yeates, the New Illustrator of Prince Valiant
Thomas Yeates: “My Biggest Thrill is Seeing the Prince Valiant Logo on My Drawings”
How It All Began
“Beautiful, Captivating and Utterly Awe-inspiring”
Commemorating Hal Foster and Prince Valiant
John Cullen Murphy on Prince Valiant: “It’s My Duty. I’m Responsible For It”
Former Prince Valiant Writer Cullen Murphy Interviewed by Terry Gross
Remembering Episode 3000, 8/7/94
Gary Gianni’s Prince Valiant: Looking Good
Prince Valiant Celebrates 75th Anniversary
Something Very Special
“He Wasn’t a Superhero But He Was a Hero”
Comics’ Sweeping Graphic Novel, Prince Valiant, Turns 80
Celebrating 85 Years of Prince Valiant
A Valiant First Effort, Wouldn’t You Say?
A First for Prince Valiant
Prince Arn, Son of Valiant and Regent of Camelot
“We Are the Daughters of the Queen of the Misty Isles and the Prince of Thule”
The Return of Karen and Valeta
Galan to the Rescue

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