Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Prince Valiant, Vol. 1: 1937-1938
After nearly six years drawing Sunday Tarzan pages, Hal Foster grew tired of doing someone’s else's character, and following someone else's script.
So he created a character of his own, called at first called Derek, Son of Thane, and later Prince Arn. But by the time the strip premiered on Feb 13, 1937. a savvy King Features exec changed the name to Prince Valiant.
This new reprint series from Fantagraphics is a new opportunity to read the strip from the beginning, and hopefully follow it at least until 1971, when Foster laid up his pen. (He did continue to write the script, though, until 1980).
The reproduction here is crisper than that in Fantagraphics earlier reprint set (1984-2004), and for the first time, the colors match those seen in the original Sunday papers.
Volume 1 reveals how Val’s father, the King of Thule (now Norway), was driven from his kingdom into the wild fens of Britain, how Val went to Camelot as a squire for Sir Kay and earn the respect of King Arthur and the Round Table gang. By the end of this volume, he’s an accomplished warrior and ready to return to his family and help his father retake his throne.
Foster’s art is amazing from day one, but grows more sophisticated as the weeks progress. I’m now reading Volume 2, and good as these Volume 1 samples are - the work in Volume 2 is even better.
You won’t see Val wearing his trademark blue tunic and red stallion logo in this book, because he’s not yet a knight. He earns that rank early in Volume 2, so he’ll look more familiar in my next review.