Monday, July 30, 2012

Halcyon Days

Above: Halcyon days for Prince Valiant's eldest son Arn
and Lydia, daughter of the Viking king Haakon.

Art: Hal Foster and John Cullen Murphy (from installment #2175, October 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.
Source: Prince Valiant (Vol. 49): Road to Sorrow's End, comprising pages, or installments, 2168 (August 27, 1978) through 2211 (June 24, 1979). Fantagraphics Books, 2003.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ramud of Tunis

Ramud of Tunis, the brave and resourceful youth who played a key role in helping Prince Valiant rescue his future wife Aleta from the tyrant Donardo, Emperor of Saramand.

Art and text: Hal Foster (1945).
Source: The Prince Valiant Scrapbook (King Features Syndicate, published by Bill Crouch, Jr., 1981).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Abduction of Lord Grunyard

Much to the embarrassment of Prince Valiant, not only is Lord Grunyard abducted right under the noses of Camelot's finest, but the brazen operation is orchestrated and led by a woman – the false Lady Grunyard!

Prince Valiant quickly organizes a mounted pursuit – one that eventually takes him and Sir Gawain to Lord Grunyard's desolate fiefdom of Lockbramble.

Art: Thomas Yeates (from installment #3930, May 27, 2012 and installment #3930, June 3, 2012).
Text: Mark Schultz.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Symbol of Faith and Hope

Returning from his quest for the Holy Grail, Prince Valiant tells King Arthur of his findings.

Art and text: Hal Foster (June 5, 1960).

See also the previous post: At Stonehenge.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Relief of Camelot

Click on any image for a larger view!

Returned from his banishment, King Arthur's half-brother Mordred has raised an army and laid siege to Camelot. A curious band of allies led by Rory Mor, High King of Hibernia, and including the corsair Salam Fulda and Prince Valiant's young son Galan and father Aguar of Thule, land in Britain to lift the siege (above).

Aided by Prince Valiant and the knights of the Round Table (below), who for the past three months have been holed up in Arthur's citadel, Rory Mor and his allies rout Mordred's army and bring relief to the besieged Camelot.

And Mordred? He eludes capture and attempts to flee Britain by boat. Learning of his escape plan, Prince Valiant's eldest son Arn does what he can to bring Mordred to justice. Both men, however, end up adrift at sea. While Mordred is seemingly lost to the waves, Arn is washed up on the shores of an "isle beyond the north wind." Here he meets the woman who will forever change his life.

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

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."

Quote of the Day

I really, really, really enjoyed moderating the anniversary Prince Valiant panel. R.C. Harvey, Gary Gianni, Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates are all super-nice, articulate, talented comics-makers and they were pretty straight-forward and honest about the joys of doing that particular strip – THE comic strip, in a sense – and the frustrations of things like newspapers' falling fortunes and the physical space afforded Prince Valiant on the Sunday page.

The questions were pretty amazing from the audience at that panel, including a gentleman in charge of Hal Foster's library, who read out loud a dedication from Ray Bradbury to Foster – stupendous to hear that.

Gary Gianni is apparently doing the Game Of Thrones calendar for next year, which should be pretty great-looking.

Tom Spurgeon
The Comics Reporter
July 14, 2012

Related Off-site Link:
Comic-Con to Celebrate History, Heritage – Derrik J. Lang (Associated Press via The Los Angeles Times, July 12, 2012).