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Comic Book / De Rode Ridder

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Johan, the Red Knight

De Rode Ridder ("The Red Knight") is a Belgian-Flemish comic book series set in medieval Europe. It stars the title character Johan, the Red Knight, easily recognizable by his red tunic. The character was originally conceived by Leopold Vermeiren as the main character in his short stories in 1946. Willy Vandersteen (most famous for Suske en Wiske) adapted the stories and the character into a comic book series in 1959. Other writers took over later, including Karel Biddeloo. Publication of new albums continues to today.

Most of the stories are characterized by subseries and stand-alone albums (i.e. depicting a story which are not related to any other album as they do not impact the story line or are mentioned in other albums), in which Johan travels as a lonely noble knight. There are however also several story arcs, including two in which Johan serves as a knight in King Arthur's court. The first stories were limited to Europe, but later adventures brought him to Egypt, South America, China and even outer space. The exact time period in which the stories are set is also hard to determine, since Johan has both encountered King Arthur from the Dark Ages, as well as having fought in the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302 (although he seems to have time traveled for the latter event at least, by way of The Fair Folk).

De Rode Ridder provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Anachronism Stew: The stories are set in the Middle Ages, but the writers cannot seem to agree what period of the Middle Ages as Johan participates in events that are decades or even centuries apart.
  • Alliterative Name and Alliterative Title: "De Rode Ridder".
  • Barbarian Tribe: The Picts in ancient Brittan are depicted as being this.
  • Big Bad: Bahaal, the Prince of Darkness, can be considered this for the series. He started out as a mortal yet powerful dark wizard during the King Arthur story arc in which he died, but he later returned as an immortal demonic menace.
  • Big Good: Galaxa, Bahaal's arch nemesis.
  • Black Knight: Johan has gone up against a few of these, including Bahaal and his son Qrandar.
  • The Cameo:
    • In the album De Heren van Rode Flemish comedian Urbanus has a cameo as a court jester. He has another cameo in De Slag van Woeringen.
    • Comic strip artist Marc Sleen (Nero) has a cameo as a knight from Gent in De Leeuw van Vlaanderen.
  • Chick Magnet: Johan is very popular with the the ladies, and there are some subtle hints that he may not be bound by any oath of chastity...
  • Classical Movie Vampire: The vampires appearing in the album "Nosferatu" look either like this or like humanoid monsters.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: The comic originally started as a series of children's books, before Willy Vandersteen turned it into a comic book series.
  • Court Jester: King Arthur's court has one: Hugon. He even became the central character in an album named after him.
  • Dark Action Girl: Demoniah, Bahaal's right hand woman.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Johan himself in the album "Parcifal". He only has a very minor role in said album, and the focus is entirely on Parcifal, King Arthur's son.
  • Divine Date: Galaxa is a divine or semi-divine being and Johan's official love interest. Other supernatural women who are clearly romantically interested in him include the Valkyrie Hildegonde, the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, an unnamed moon goddess (who is said to be Athena and several other goddesses in one person) and the "demon in human form" Demoniah.
  • The Dog Bites Back / Hoist by His Own Petard: Qrandar, twice. at the end of the album "De Watermolen", he he is eaten alive by a waterdragon he raised himself. He survives this though because the dragon himself dies not much later because of his injuries. Qrandar returns in the album "De verboden berg", in which he is killed off for real by his own dragon.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The story "De Rode Herberg" ("The Red Inn") features a creature that came from space in a meteorite and took up residence in the title inn, feeding on travelers spending the night there.
  • Elemental Powers: Merlin, as long as he has his staff.
  • Enemy Mine: Johan and Demoniah, in the album "Gilgamesh".
  • Evil Twin: Kerwyn the magician, who was the mentor of Bahaal and the big bad of his own album, is Merlin's twin brother.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The world in which Johan lives contains dozens of different mythical creatures.
  • Forged by the Gods: The main plot in the album "Doodsbrenger" ("Deathbringer"). A villain gets his hands on the eponymous Deathbringer, a sword forged by the old Norse gods. It makes him unbeatable in combat, and the Red Knight is tasked with finding a solution. The solution? Find a legendary smith, have him forge an equally awesome sword, and use this to defeat the villain. Of course that means there are now two of these swords in the world... This was solved by Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Genie in a Bottle: Johan finds Aladdin's legendary lamp in the album "De Lamp van Aladdin", and the genie (who is portrayed as female in this version) immediately takes a liking to him.
  • Golem: Appears in the eponymous 194th album, which is basically a retelling of the Golem of Prague.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: Album 111. It's even simply titled "Ninja!"
  • Guardian Angel: Galaxa to Johan. She knows when his name is spoken in the underworld, she shares his pain when he gets tortured, and she's not shy of showing up in person to kick the asses of those responsible (usually Demoniah and/or Bahaal).
  • Home Base: Despite mostly wandering the Earth, Johan does have a home in the form of The Castle of Horst, in Belgium.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Although Johan only rarely wears a suit of armor, he fits all the other aspects of this trope.
  • The Lady's Favour: Lancelot receives this from the queen in "De naamloze ridder".
  • Lawful Stupid: Johan usually avoids this by not being a zealot and tolerating those with other views, but there are a few times where he falls into this trap.
    • In "Mysterie te Camelot" (Mystery at Camelot), sticking to his knight's code beyond reason makes him a murder suspect, gets him in conflict with Merlin, and indirectly almost gets Guinevere killed. Merlin rightfully calls him out on this at the end.
    • Averted Trope: In "Het Spook" (The Ghost), Johan accidentally discovers a smugglers operation, but decides to let it slide because he's not in any official capacity to take action. A very good call, as the smugglers end up saving his life later.
  • Loophole Abuse: Johan, being The Fettered, is honor-bound to keep any oath he swears, which villains sometimes try to use against him. He usually finds a way around it.
    • In "Medusa", the eponymous villain forces Johan to swear loyalty to her. He does not keep it, as a knight's oath is only valid between two humans and Medusa has just finished a boast in which she stated clearly that she is not human.
    • In "De Schat van Carthago" (The Treasure of Carthago), the main villain tricks Johan into swearing an oath not to use his sword against him. He circumvents it by giving his sword to his female sidekick, who is not bound by the oath and still carries a grudge against the villain for a Kick the Dog moment earlier in the album. The results are... messy.
  • Love Interest: Galaxa for Johan. Many other women show an interest in him as well, including Demoniah and in recent albums Indigo Magiste.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Astra, Bahaal's daughter. After falling in love with Johan, she plays a vital part in bringing down her brother Qrandar, but dies herself as well.
    • In a way Indigo as well; she's the daughter of an alchemist researching the Philosopher's Stone and the true nature of light and darkness. The only difference is that the alchemist in question is an ally of Johan.
  • Medieval European Fantasy: What the comic originally started with and still uses from time to time, but locations outside of Europe are also frequently visited.
  • Merlin: Appears as an ally and sometimes mentor of Johan in all the King Arthur-arc stories, and many other albums, making him the most widely used recurring extra character in the series.
  • Named After Someone Famous: Bahaal, the evil wizard, is named after the demon of the same name.
  • Necronomicon: Appears in the similar-titled 124th album and also in "De Boeienkoning" (The Escape Artist). Both albums end with the book flying away in search of a new master, so we may not have seen the last of it yet.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: A strange example. Comic book fans know the character mostly under his nickname The Red Knight, yet everyone within the series calls him Johan.
  • Overlord Jr.: Qrandar, the son of Bahaal.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: Galaxa, the fairy of light, appears as a human female with white hair.
  • The Paladin: Johan is this in all but name.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Mention the name De Rode Ridder and everyone will say: "Ah the comic strip!". That it was originally based on a popular series of children novels by author Leopold Vermeiren is virtually forgotten.
  • Powered Armor: Two Steampunk versions appear in the album "Het Bronzen Gevaar" (The Brass Danger).
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: In "De Barbaar" (The Barbarian), one mook wisely bolts after Storkas the barbarian pretty much ignores a blow to the head with a mace.
  • Public Domain Artifact: Excalibur, Mjolnir and several others make appearances.
  • Public Domain Character: King Arthur and Merlin are only the beginning. Johan's best friend is Lancelot, and he has met several characters from The Bible, Norse Mythology, Greek Mythology and several other sources.
  • Recurring Extra: The series has many of them. One website lists the top 15 of the most widely used extra characters in the comics.
  • Retcon: Album 131 provides a retcon of the meaning of the title: for about 64 books and 130 comic albums, it had been thought that the title referred to the nickname of Johan the protagonist "The Red Knight", based on his red tunic. #130 revealed that actually Johan was the "Rode" Knight because he belonged to the family of the historical(!) Lords of Rode.
  • Right Makes Might: Johan is canonically unbeatable in a straight fight for justice, as is stated in-universe by an Evil Sorcerer doing a mystical examination on his sword. The only way the villains can ever get at him is by treachery or hostages. Even The Grim Reaper himself admitted that he cannot claim Johan as long as he remains true to his ideals.
  • Samurai: Johan meets one in the eponymous album.
  • Sand Necktie: Happens to Johan and Lancelot in the album "Excalibur" when they are captured by Moors invading Brittain.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the Suske en Wiske story Wattman Suske, Wiske, Lambik, Jerom and Sidonia travel back to the Middle Ages, where they meet De Rode Ridder in a cameo.
    • Lambik reads a Rode Ridder album in the Suske en Wiske album De Maffe Maniak.
    • In De Krimson Crisis, professor Barabas brings in several famous figures from Belgium's past to help win the battle against Krimson, and we see Johan charging the enemy on horseback in the final confrontation.
    • In the Urbanus series de Rode Ridder has had several cameos too.
    • In Nero in the album De Z van Zottebie when Nero is confronted with gratuitous nudity he says: "You see a lot more in "De Rode Ridder". Rode Ridder artist Karel Biddeloo himself had a cameo in two Nero albums: De P.P. Safari and Het Monster van Sarawak.
    • De Kiekeboes: A special comic strip in which Fanny interviews characters from other comic strips, Bij Fanny Op Schoot has her talking to Nero, Cordelia, Natacha, Suske en Wiske, Cowboy Henk, IJzerbroot and Olga Lawina, De Rode Ridder, FC De Kampioenen and Urbanus, among others.
  • Stripperific: Galaxa rarely wears more than a rather flimsy and semi-transparent robe. Lampshaded in the album "Catacomben" (Catacombs):
    Abbot: "I prayed for a miracle and the heavens sent me an angel! - Though I had no idea angels dress that way..."
  • Summon Bigger Fish: One album, Galaxa does away with prince of darkness Bahaal by summoning what is hinted to be Satan himself. (Yes, De Rode Ridder is that much of a Fantasy Kitchen Sink.)
  • Super-Strength: Several examples:
    • Johan himself in the album "Moloch", by means of a Super Serum a local wizard provides to help him overcome the eponymous Monster of the Week. It gives him enough strength to effortlessly wrestle a bear to the ground, tie a knot in an iron bar, cleave a tree in half, and throw large boulders. But it only works for so long...
    • In the album "De Barbaar", Storkas the barbarian lifts Johan's horse over his head when he is first introduced and serves as a Load-Bearing Hero near the end.
    • In "De Magische Scepter" and "Gilgamesh", Johan's ally is an alien being named Gorrax who easily bends the bars of a prison cell with his bare hands.
  • Stock Ness Monster: Several of them appear in the album "Loch Ness".
  • The Grim Reaper: Appears in person in "De Boeienkoning" (The Escape Artist). He's actually on Johan's side.
  • True Companions: Johan and Lancelot during the King Arthur story arcs.
  • Villainous Crush: Demoniah is very much interested in Johan, to the point where she shows genuine sorrow when she thinks he is dead and harshly punishes any underlings who treat him more roughly than they have to. Although he has shown to have some feelings for her as well they remain sworn enemies.