Comic Strip / Prince Valiant

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Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur is a comic strip created by Hal Foster, run by King Features Syndicate from 1937 to the present (Foster's last strip was drawn in 1971), that recounted the adventures of the eponymous Norse prince and his family and friends. The comic came out only in the Sunday paper and featured narration juxtaposed with illustrations rather than the usual thought and speech balloons. During most of Hal Foster's lifetime it occupied one whole page of the Sunday funnies. In the 90s it spun off into a Marvel Comics limited series not set in Marvel continuity.

As the title would suggest, the comic is set during the time of King Arthur and though it does take liberties with history it is notable among modern era Arthuriana for being set firmly in late antiquity/dark ages (the actual time period Arthur is supposed to have lived), avoiding at least some of the usual anachronistic trappings (the key word here being some. Later medieval concepts like knights do show up, but at least no one is wearing plate armour). "Val's" adventures took him to many exotic locations from his native Thule to China, India and even the jungles of Africa.Prince Valiant was notable for its exquisitely detailed and graceful artwork, its strong story-lines, and its idealization of the themes of adventure, chivalry, and Courtly Love (we did say most).

There have been two live action film versions, Prince Valiant (1954), starring Robert Wagner, and Prince Valiant (1997), starring Stephen Moyer and Katherine Heigl. An Animated Adaptation, The Legend of Prince Valiant, with Robbie Benson voicing the title role, aired in 1991 on what was then The Family Channel. It also inspired a well-received Tabletop RPG more oriented towards storytelling than Hack and Slash Dungeons & Dragons-style roleplay. He's also been a part of the King/Dynamite comic book Shared Universe, alongside fellow King Features action heroes Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, and Jungle Jim.

The sweet prince's trademark black hair-helmet has passed into tonsorial folklore as "the Prince Valiant" (or pageboy) haircut.

Not to be confused with Little Norse Prince Valiant, the English dub of Hols: Prince of the Sun.


Tropes associated with Prince Valiant include:

  • All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: Ig is certainly a Neanderthal, but he's brighter than he looks.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Valiant's "Singing Sword," which will "sing" only when borne by one of the true royal line of Thule.
  • Artistic License History: Hal Foster clearly did a lot of historical research but he wasn't afraid to change things to suit the story. Contemporary historical figures make appearances, archaic place names (like Gaul for France for example)are used, the Western Roman Empire is still hanging on, paganism is still being practiced in remote corners of Europe and the clothing worn throughout the series is more-or-less grounded in Dark Ages/late antiquity. However, popular anachronistic trappings common to Arthurian literature (such as stone castles, jousting and the title of knight) are heavily featured. Justifiable, as these elements have become so ubiquitous to Arthurian mythology that their absence would invoke a sense of Reality Is Unrealistic.
  • Badass Boast: Val: "I am a man of peace. Whene'er I draw my sword, peace follows."
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Val and Aleta's initial relationship. For a while, Val only called Aleta 'cruel sorceress' and, at one point, led her around by a chain as a prisoner. Aleta, on the other hand, seemed to have taken lessons from the Robert Jordan school of female communication.
  • Beneath the Earth: The subterranean realm of the Dawn People, whose storyline has Val traveling through it to rescue Aleta, encountering monsters and what-not, in something very reminiscent of an old-school Dungeons & Dragons dungeon crawl.
  • Beta Couple: Many of them. According to Phil Foglio, this is because Hal Foster realized the strip would still need regular doses of romance once Val and Aleta got married; so he kept introducing new supporting castmembers who could become enamored of each other.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Val was Sir Gawain's squire for years before being knighted himself, and Gawain is still one of Val's closest friends; although these days, Val has a better reputation for common sense than Gawain does.
  • Black Knight: Valiant himself was this in an early storyline, in spirit and intent if not direct appearance. One reason knights wore black armor was if they had not yet proven themselves, and when Valiant participated in a jousting tournament, he wore a helmet and armor painted white to show his unproven status.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Mordred.
  • Chastity Dagger: Princess Aleta has one of these, and she uses it to great effect on numerous occasions.
  • Courtly Love: Val's relationship with Princess Aleta of the the Misty Isles is conducted according to the strictest Victorian understanding of this trope.
  • Crossover:
    • In 1972, Prince Valiant appeared with other King Features Syndicate stars in the cartoon film, The Man Who Hated Laughter (though, to avoid a blatant anachronism, his involvement was limited to appearing as an illusion created by Mandrake the Magician to frighten one of the villains).
    • Prince Valiant also appeared in an episode of Defenders of the Earth.
  • Dark Age Europe: The setting of most of the stories though Val does venture out of Europe several times.
  • Dig Attack: The comic has shown Viking raiders breeching the walls of Camelot by digging tunnels beneath the walls, and installing wooden support beams to control the load. When the tunnel has extended completely past the wall, the support beams are ignited. Once the supports fail, the ground above sinks, collapsing a large part of the stone wall with it. These failure gaps allow the Vikings to launch attack forays into the interior of Camelot. Truth in Television, as this has been a known and proven assault technique since ancient times.
  • Expy: One storyline introduced "Hugh the Fox", leader of a band of outlaws living in the woods. Hugh was clearly an Expy of Robin Hood.
  • Fiery Red Head: Katwin, Aleta's lady-in-waiting.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: Attacked Val's ship, but was repelled. Of course, there were other sea monsters who fed on the giant crabs.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Figures such as Justinian and Belisarius are incorporated into the Arthurian milieu.
  • Horny Vikings: Anachronistic vikings occasionally make appearances, dressed like they stepped right out of a Victorian painting.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: The Huns have a pretty bad case of this. their leader is called a Khan (a Mongol title) and he has what appears to be a Chinese dragon design in his tent.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Val and Gawain.
  • King Arthur: As in, "...in the Days of..."
  • Knight in Shining Armor: But, of course.
  • Lava is Boiling Kool-Aid: In a rather unusual example, one strip of the comic waxed narrative on the lava flow of a snowy peak, with a breathtaking image of a river of Cadillac-pink water. This is actually possible as snow covered volcanoes are not all that uncommon and the snow can stick around during an eruption. The water would be overflowing with melt water, though. As for the pink river, there are four possible explanations. It is caused by the sun shining on the water a certain way (at dawn or dusk), the red glow of the lava reflecting off the water, a poisonous bacteria that's red (usually occurs in salt water) growing the water, red sediment and maybe pulverized pink granite (from the exploding mountain obviously) being swept up by the melt water, or any combination of those. Any way you look at it, you run the risk of frost-bite, burning to death, suffocated by smoke, or poisoned by contaminated water. So this trope is averted. Still a nice view though.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Weapon Brown features a character name "Val." Guess who?
  • The Low Middle Ages: Features both the good and the bad kind of Horny Vikings.
  • Meaningful Name: Prince Valiant. Though his friends call him Val.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: The Singing Sword, which, as noted above, only a member of the royal family of Thule can make sing.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The fen dragons in early strips were basically gigantic crocodiles who dwelt in the swamps. A much more recent story arc pitted Val against a truly titanic lizard from a Lost World, which attacked Camelot seeking its stolen egg.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: The Dawn People, a.k.a. the Thuatha.
  • Paying for the Action Scene: Played straight and inverted in a story arc where Prince Valiant's troop and a band of drunken Vikings had a rhubarb in a travelers' inn. "Val succeeds in holding the stairs, but the stairs fail to hold Val." Prince Valiant gallantly offers to pay for half the damages, while the Viking chieftain requires goading by an armed militia to pony up his half.
  • Planet of Hats: When Val is on a sea voyage, it's somewhat common for his ship to get waylaid by supernatural means. One of two things then happens: either Val is put to some bizarre test, or he comes to an island where all the inhabitants share a single characteristic.
  • Print Long-Runners: The continuous circulation of the strip since "around the time Hitler invaded Poland" is mocked in Pearls Before Swine. Unlike many serial stories, Hal Foster wrote, or at least planned out, Prince Valiant's entire story, start to finish, before he drew so much as a single panel.
  • Prophecy Twist: In Val's foolish youth, he asked the witch Horrit to predict his future. She told him that in all his life, he would never know contentment. Val ran off in anguish as she cackled gleefully at having thus tormented him. In fact, Val has had a very good life in the years since, and the fact that he is chronically discontented mainly serves to prod him on to ever new travels and adventures rather than settling down.
  • Robinsonade: A frequent plot device in the strip is that when Val takes a sea voyage, his ship almost inevitably gets waylaid on some Odyssey-style cursed island with a puzzle Val must solve to avoid the crew being trapped forever or killed.
  • Scenery Porn: Consistently some of the most gorgeous scenery ever to grace a newspaper comics page, especially when Hal Foster drew the strip.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Aleta.
  • Textplosion: What you get when you don't use speech bubbles. Not that this is a bad thing.
  • Tsundere: Aleta. She's a sorceress, what did you expect? It kind of helps that Val had she chained up for a while.
  • Yellow Peril: The Huns are portrayed as Always Chaotic Evil oriental caricatures who the heroes end up hunting like animals.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/ComicStrip/PrinceValiant