Comic Strip: Prince Valiant

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.

Nominally set in The Middle Ages (a highly romanticized one) but really more in The Time of Myths, the setting ranged from "Val's" native Thule to China and India, and combining elements of many centuries (the default period style would seem to be about the thirteenth century), 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.

A live action film version, starring Robert Wagner, was produced in 1954. An Animated Adaptation, The Legend of Prince Valiant, with Robbie Benson voicing the title role, aired in 1991. It also inspired a well-received Tabletop RPG more oriented towards storytelling than Hack and Slash Dungeons & Dragons-style roleplay. A live action film version, starring Stephen Moyer and Katherine Heigl, aired in 1997.

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.
  • 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: In the 1954 film version Sir Brack (no, really, that's his name), who is also The Quisling, is disguised as this.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: In the 1954 film, Valiant's friend Boltar (Victor McLaglen) is a large and rather violent Christian.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Val and Gawain.
  • King Arthur: As 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?
  • 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 Prince Valiant 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.
  • Settle for Sibling: In the 1954 film, Sir Gawain hooks up with Princess Aleta's sister Ilene after Aleta ditches him for Val.
  • 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.

Tropes associated with Prince Valiant the Animated Adaptation include:

  • Action Girl: Rowanne and Aleta. Even Queen Guinevere had her moments.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Rowanne for Valiant, Michael and Arn for Rowanne.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Valiant to Denys
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Fiona
  • Black Vikings: The Ambiguously Brown Sir Bryant looks like an example of this at first, until it is explained in a centric episode that he is an exiled Moorish prince who joined King Arthur's knights after arriving in England and suffering quite a few misfortunes there too — among them the assassination of his wife and son by thieves.
  • Enforced Trope: No magic or dragons were allowed by the Family Channel, but this allowed the writers to get more creative, not less.
    • Also averted when it came to its message. The show was pretty liberal for a very conservative network owned by Pat Robertson at the time.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Sir Mordred, Sir Kay, and Sir Gideon. Three Knights of the Round Table that ends up betraying Arthur or his ideals.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble : Of the main cast roll, Valiant is choleric, Arn is melancholic, Rowanne is sanguine, Merlin is phlegmatic, and Arthur is leukine.
  • Grand Finale: Knowing that the show was going to be cancelled, the writers do an excellent job of wrapping up (most of) the plot-threads and loose ends in a four-part finale.
  • The Good King: Arthur
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Rowanne and Valiant could both be this, even though they don't actually end up together.
  • Happily Married: Arthur and Guinevere (no sign of Lancelot in this version).
  • Heel-Face Turn: Duncan Draconarius, once a ruthless baron of Rowanne's hometown and an enemy of Camelot, he becomes a wise king and an ally of Camelot after seeing the tragic effect of his actions and the mercy of King Arthur.
  • The High Queen: Guinevere
  • Karmic Death: Many villains fall to their own treachery and on two occasions (Cynan and the Baron of Lionsgate) the actions of a villainous father led to the death of his son, ending the bloodline and leaving the father broken.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: Guinevere in the finale episode.
  • Love Triangle: Valiant, Rowanne and Arn. It later became a Love Square with the introduction of Princess Aleta.
    • Hell, it was a Love Pentagon with Prince Michael of Northland around. This one was seriously complicated and not all that consistent. At first it's revealed that Arn and Valiant are both in love with Rowanne, who sees them both as friends. Then it's never mentioned again until Valiant falls for Aleta, whereupon Rowanne becomes jealous. Then, although the events of that episode should mean that a) Valiant knows how Rowanne feels about him and b) she knows how he feels about Aleta, that doesn't stop Rowanne thinking that Valiant is confessing love for HER, or her being surprised that he isn't. Then, whaddaya know, it turns out Rowanne KNOWS that Arn's in love with her, though there's never been any indication of this before. Then she nearly marries Michael... At the end of the series, Val and Aleta are to be married, however Rowanne chooses duty to Camelot over Michael, ending up being knighted. In the last few episodes, she is mostly seen at Arn's side, leaving their future as a pair ambiguous.
      • Rowanne's character development is about putting feeling of jealously and romantic longing aside for her duty to Camelot, the responsibilities of knighthood, and fighting for justice. By choosing Camelot over Michael, her development as a character is completed, symbolized by her knighting. The Love Pentagon is then reduced to an Official Couple.
  • Low Fantasy : Family Channel discouraged the show from using magic or dragons, so the show writers made the "wizards", such as Merlin, scientists and the "dragons" cannons.
  • Never Say "Die": strongly averted....not only is death talked about and characters threatened with....many characters actually die. And on the Family Channel....
  • Official Couple: Valiant and Aleta. Given that Valiant/Rowanne was heavily teased before Aleta's introduction, one can only imagine the Shipping Wars that would have ensued had this cartoon existed in the time of internet fandom.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Due to the Family Channel not allowing the show's producer to use dragons and magic, the shows writers got creative, cannons brought from the far east were thought of as "dragons".
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Arthur, Merlin, Byrant and (sometimes) Gawaine, however Guinevere is the best example.
  • Relationship Sabotage: Rowanne tries this on Valiant and Aleta, only for there to be some drastic consequences for her actions. She then helps bring Aleta and Valiant back together when she saves Valiant with Aleta.
  • Ruling Couple: Arthur and Guinevere. The show makes it very clear that ruling Camelot is a joint occupation.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Aleta.
  • Very Special Episode: The show tackled issues such as racism, sexism, child abuse, alcoholism environmentalism, and even gun responsibility (though they used crossbows).
  • Warrior Prince: Valiant, obviously.
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: Valiant and Aleta, at first.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Morgana is missing entirely from the last episode after her plan was exposed in the previous episode.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Kirkwood viciously whips Denys (the younger son of Cynan who he sold after the fall of Thule due to Denys's mercy) after Denys returns a pouch to the owner after it was stolen by his band of thieves.
    • The episode "The Flute" is about child abuse, where the king beats his son for his clumsiness. Denys also reveals that his father Cynan also beat him.
    • In "The Tree", its shown that Sir Bryant's young son was murdered by highwayman trying to defend his fallen mother.
  • Worthy Opponent: Morgana calls Merlin this. Mordered calls Valiant this as well.