Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Return of Mordred

Exiled from Camelot for his treachery, King Arthur's half-brother Mordred has been far from idle. He has raised an army, usurped the throne of Prince Valiant's father, Aguar of Thule, and launched a swift conquest of Britain's major towns. Soon Camelot itself will be within his grasp.

While Prince Valiant buys Arthur time (above), Aleta lends a helping hand in the refugee camps around Camelot (below).

Art: John Cullen Murphy (from page 2319, July 19, 1981).
Text: Cullen Murphy.
Source: The Sun Herald (Sydney, Australia); from the collection of Michael J. Bayly (September 4, 1983).

Friday, April 20, 2012

Former Prince Valiant Writer Cullen Murphy Authors Book on the Inquisition

For twenty-five years (1979-2004) writer Cullen Murphy partnered with his father, artist John Cullen Murphy, to produce the Prince Valiant adventure strip.

An erudite and well-respected writer and editor, Cullen Murphy's latest literary endeavor is God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World.

Following are excerpts from a January 2012 Huffington Post interview with Murphy about his latest book. (And given the Vatican's recent "crackdown" on women's religious orders in the U.S., it seems timely to highlight Cullen's insights on the Inquisition!)


What does the Inquisition refer to?

It was a means used by the Church to enforce orthodoxy. Inquisitors would go out into troublesome regions, question people intensively, conduct tribunals and mete out punishments, sometimes harsh ones, like burning at the stake. Depending on the time and place, the targets were heretics, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, rationalists and sometimes people who held superstitious beliefs. The Inquisition everyone has heard of is the Spanish Inquisition, but there was more than one Inquisition, and the earliest, at the start of the 13th century, wasn't in Spain. And although Jews were sometimes the focus of that first Inquisition, as they primarily were in Spain, the more urgent targets were Christian heretics in the south of France and northern Italy.

How many people were burned at the stake?

No one really knows. The inquisitors were excellent record-keepers – at times truly superb. One surviving document gives the expenses for an execution down to the price of the rope used to tie the victims' hands. But a lot of the records have been lost. An estimate that has wide credibility among historians is that about 2 percent of those who came before Inquisition tribunals were burned at the stake, which would mean several tens of thousands of people. The rest suffered lesser punishments.

Over what period of time are we talking about?

Roughly 700 years. The official start is usually given as 1231 A.D., when the pope appoints the first "inquisitors of heretical depravity." The Spanish Inquisition, which begins under Ferdinand and Isabella, doesn't end until the 19th century – the last execution was in 1826. At the outset, the main focus was on Jews and "judaizers" – Christian converts of Jewish ancestry who were accused of secretly adhering to Judaism. The Roman Inquisition, created to fight the Reformation, and run from the Vatican, doesn't come to an end until the 20th century.

. . . The "Making of the Modern World" part of your title – what's the argument?

The Inquisition was based on intolerance and moral certainty. It tried to enforce a particular view, often with violent means. There's nothing new about hatred and persecution; human beings have been very good at this for millennia. What's new about the Inquisition is that persecution is institutionalized. It persists for generation after generation. That requires organizational tools that were being newly developed in the Middle Ages. How do you create and manage a bureaucracy? How do you collect information and organize it in a way so that you can find what you need? How do you discover what people are doing and thinking? We take the ability to do all these things for granted. When you look at the Inquisition, you see these capabilities coming into existence. You see the world becoming modern.

To read The Huffington Post's interview with John Cullen Murphy in its entirety, click here.

For examples of Murphy's writing for Prince Valiant, see here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Karen Saves the Day

When Prince Valiant leads the charge to drive back a pirate invasion of the Misty Isles, he leaves the western gate of the city ajar and unguarded. It is his teenage daughter Karen, the would-be Amazon, who rallies the women of the district to close the gate, defend the walls, and hold the invaders at bay until her father, "sick with humiliation," returns.

Art: Hal Foster and John Cullen Murphy (from installment #2136, January 15, 1978). At this point in Prince Valiant's run, John Cullen Murphy, who had been quietly assisting Hal Foster since 1970, was well into his first decade of drawing the strip over Foster's writing and roughs.
Text: Hal Foster.
Source: Prince Valiant (Vol. 48): Return to Camelot, comprising pages, or installments, 2124 (October 23, 1977) through 2167 (August 20, 1978). Fantagraphics Books, 2003.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Seeking Merlin's Counsel

Art and text: Hal Foster (February 1949)
Source: One of the Prince Valiant comic books my father collected in 1954-55 and which were published and distributed by Associated Newspaper Ltd. of 60-70 Elizabeth Street, Sydney.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Thomas Yeates: The New Illustrator of Prince Valiant


Thomas Yeates (right) makes his debut today as illustrator of Prince Valiant.

In assuming this task Yeates becomes the fourth full-time artist to draw the revered 75-year-old adventure strip, first created in 1937 by Hal Foster. He follows in the illustrious footsteps of Foster, John Cullen Murphy and Gary Gianni.

A statement on Yeates' website says:

Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz have been doing fantastic work on the strip, and Yeates hopes to maintain that high quality in the tradition of Hal Foster. Mark Schultz will stay on as writer.

. . . while Wikipedia notes the following about the new illustrator of Prince Valiant:

Thomas Yeates (born January 19, 1955) is an American comic book and comic strip artist known for his work on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and on other properties such as Conan and the Zorro comic strip. In 1982, Yeates and writer Martin Pasko revived Swamp Thing, in a new series titled Saga of the Swamp Thing.

Above: Installment #3921 of Prince Valiant (April 1, 2012).
Art: Thomas Yeates. Text: Mark Schultz.
Click on image for a larger view

Recommended Off-site Link:
A New Prince Valiant (April 2, 2012).