One recent Prince Valiant strips is about the evacuation of Londinium. The text mentions how Valiant “cannot know that a much greater city will one day rise from its ashes”. Prince Valiant lives roughly in Justinian’s time, the mid-6th century. So the historical Londinium had been abandoned about a century by then, but I don’t know an obvious reason we can’t believe in a small garrison hanging around the old walls.
The convention of the strip is that it’s an illustration of scrolls telling the legend of Valiant. So this suggests a scroll author who lived after London was reestablished. (There was, in Justinian’s time, a Saxon settlement in what is now Westminster. But the story makes clear that’s not the city we’re looking at.) Sometime after the seventh century, at minimum, and really the later the better, to make the case for London as a great city. But, as often happens with Prince Valiant trivia, I don’t know when we’re supposed to take the scrolls as written.
Le Fay climbs under the bridge. She’s been avoiding the sea because she owes too great a debt to the occult forces living deep within it. But the river is an estuary, at Londinium, and she calls to some great watery force. It rushes in, with a tidal wave that smashes the bridge, and that kills many of the Saxons.
But not Prince Valiant. Nor, to their surprise, Morgan Le Fay. The waters recede, leaving them in an oak tree. Le Fay surmises that the hundred Saxon souls were enough for the watery powers, and that their accounts are settled. The survivors of the garrison are won over, though, to Le Fay’s heroism. Word of her powers spread, clearing raiders away from their path. And when Sir Galahad, meeting them from Camelot, tries to take Le Fay into custody the garrison refuses. Some pledge loyalty to her. She declares she’s going home. And that’s where we stand.
We’re back to Jack Kinney studios for a time-travel adventure. This 1960 cartoon has a story credited to Ed Nofziger, with animation direction by Ken Hultgren. As always director and producer credits go to Jack Kinney. Let’s send Popeye to see The Black Knight.
The Wotasnozzle frames are always a bit weird since I don’t know why they’re needed. These cartoons never seem like they’d make less sense if we started with Popeye in Medieval times, or the future, or caveman days, or whatnot. We never get scenes of Popeye trying to work out where or when he is. That’s confusing since the standard frame has Popeye knocked unconscious and dropped somewhere else in time. But in this case we don’t see that whole frame; the cartoon assumes the audience has seen enough of this to get the setup. I suppose they have. Kids have so much easier a time understanding stories.
Once we’re there, the story pretty near stops. We get the main cast (mostly) recast as Arthurian-ish characters. Wimpy as King Arthur, Olive Oyl as Olive Guinevere, Brutus as the Black Knight are about all you can do. The Sea Hag as Merlin makes the best sense at giving the role to someone magical. Naming her Ethyl Merlin is a nice gag. Anything the Sea Hag does is coded as villainous. It seems to me we don’t often see Merlin portrayed as a villain, at least not in Camelot-set stories. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court excepted. I’m not sure she quite reaches the point of villainy, though. Before she enters everyone’s afraid Popeye is a spy or something — they’re afraid of his pipe as some kind of sorcery. Even a good Merlin might reasonably want this intruder locked up until they were sure what his deal was.
This all turns into a jousting contest between Popeye and the Black Knight, using what stunts need the least possible new animation. There’s charm here. A lot of it is silly dialogue, elevated by the decision to speak with Fake Old-Time Word Endingseth. Or jokes about the knight-fall or how the squashed Brutus is “what a short knight”. The running joke about Wimpy wanting more medieval hamburgers has some nice pacing and delivery, given how many end up bonking him on the head. I don’t get the joke early on about Wimpy wishing they’d invent hamburger buns and Olive Oyl saying “Oh, nay, t’would be ill. Bread!” I mean, I get that it’s funny because it has the sound of a pun, but the pun doesn’t make sense. They’re trying out a lot of jokes, they can’t all work. I appreciate the attempt.
I don’t know! A casual mention in part of the current storyline was that King Arthur had retired, and some time ago. I had just thought they dropped the “In The Time Of King Arthur” subtitle on the title page for graphic design reasons or something. If someone actually knows the strip better than I do, please, let me know.
Also, maybe of interest, on my other blog I hope to finish my 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z. This is to be with an essay for the letter Z. Yes, it’s run a bit longer than I wanted but please understand: 2021 was a lousy year.
So they like this “escape” plan. The trick is getting past the Saxons. There are a couple ancient pieces of Roman war machinery, that might be put together for one shot. And Valiant enlists Morgan Le Fay: if she could do something impressive with flame and smoke, they might have something worth shooting. The plan works: they put together a night of impressive fireworks that panic the Saxons.
Briefly. Wassa, the Saxon leader, recognizes this as a diversion for a retreat. The garrison tries to withdraw across the London Bridge. The garrison’s leader, Cafalt, has an accident when his horse steps through a rotted plank. It breaks his leg, and Valiant stands up to protect him against the pursuing Saxons. But it is one fighter, however much he is the protagonist, against the whole war party …
Since I last checked in on Joe Staton, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy we’ve seen Blackjack versus Mr Bones. We’ve seen The Apparatus make a fresh attempt at killing Dick Tracy. We’ve seen mysterious deaths marked by flower petals. And we’ve even seen reruns. I’ll try to summarize it all next week, if things go to plan.
I don’t know. She’s Morgan Le Fey, she’s got a lot of projects going on. Unfortunately I’m not a devoted enough Prince Valiant reader to know what all their past history is. She had some roles in very early, 1930s, stories. Here are some panels from some of them. I can say Valiant was part of foiling her plan to marry Sir Gawain. I don’t know if there’s more.
I foresaw last time that a new story was starting. It starts uneventful, with Valiant finding an inn to rest. But his arrival’s reported to a mysterious hooded, feminine figure. He drinks from a pitcher the figure had enchanted. And Valiant falls over, hallucinating, finding himself in a fairyland of legend. Past and future: the first panel includes the White Rabbit of Wonderland fame.
We get several gorgeous weeks of fairyland artwork. I’m sorry I can’t justify including all of them. I never say enough about the art but it’s wonderful looking at.
Less wonderful being in; Valiant’s outmatched in a battle against everything in the world. Also the world, which swallows him up. He sees ravens, and cries to them to tell his wife Aleta. She, a witch with affinity for ravens, suddenly wakes. But she doesn’t get back into the story before the Kraken drags Valiant into the underwater throne room of the Queen of the Fairies.
“Wait,” you ask. “The Queen of the Fairies lives underwater?” Yeah, I don’t know either. But Valiant recognizes her. She’s Morgan Le Fey, from the time of King Arthur, just like he is. And from the waters rise Valiant’s Singing Sword, held by Aleta, who demands Le Fey release her husband. Instead, Le Fey transforms Valiant into some great sea monster, sending him to devour his wife. So that’s exciting, and we’ll see how that works over the next couple months.
I remember reading this week’s story strip as a kid. It was obviously an important one as it got so much space in the Sunday Star-Ledger‘s pretty good comic section. It didn’t look like a story strip, what with it having knights and sword fights and I would swear the occasional dragon. But I never knew what was going on, since there weren’t any word balloons and everything was explained with these giant blocks of text that I thought were trying to sound olde-tymey. I’m curious how my memory matches the actual fact, but it’s so hard online to look up stuff from the 70s and 80s.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant has good reasons for looking like that. The strip, created in the late 1930s by Hal Foster, keeps that close to its roots, with the action in the panels and the dialogue kept quite separate. This separation was not idiosyncratic when the comic strip started. Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, Flash Gordon and other adventure strips of the time similarly ran their Sunday continuities with action and dialogue separated.
There is, yes, a lot of history to read in the comic strip, which just finished its 80th year. The comic strip reached panel number 4,176 this Sunday. They put the number right there in the comic, as if they’re trying to lure in the slightly obsessive reader. Kind of them. You don’t need to know it. The characters are straightforward enough to drop in on. The settings are classics, at least for a kind of story I didn’t really read while growing up. But that are at least good backdrops for cartoons set in those kinds of settings. The home setting is Camelot-era England and the lands surrounding the North Sea. But sometimes the gang goes on an expedition. Like, now.
I’m not sure when Team Valiant set out on an adventure to the east. But they’ve been tromping around the Far East for well over a year now and I forget what they set out to accomplish. What they have done is have a series of adventures in fresh, attractive settings. And they have looked great, which is tolerably true to both longstanding Western European folklore about the riches of the East and to how, historically, Western Europe of that time was a pit. At least compared to rich, stimulating places like Byzantium and Arabia and India and China.
The current part of the storyline is just a few weeks old, so it’s a good chance to hop on Prince Valiant’s boat if you want. Valiant has just overseen the downfall of a Himalayan-or-so tyrant named Azar Rasa who was hoping to use the awesome powers of the Soul of Asia to conquer Asia. And what is the Soul of Asia? It’s some kind of briefcase-size magical energy construct thingy with an awesome lot of power. It’s potent stuff, built on the learnings of the giants living deep in the Earth.
So, Valiant escaped Azar Rasa’s prison by trying, since even in long-running comics security guards aren’t any good at their job. And with the help of the giants, who dress like yetis — did I mention the giants dress like yetis before? — the good guys blew up the mountain and killed the last of Azar Rasa’s followers. They pitched the Soul of Asia and Azar Rasa into Mount Doom, and all is as well as could be. That’s where 2017 started.
The giants who dress like yetis are grateful to Team Valiant for helping clear up this mess where they kind of let humans get their grubby hands on a briefcase of unimaginably vast destructive power. (They hadn’t wanted to let the original sorcerer-king take it, but he had the thing, and promised not to grab it back if he didn’t use it.) So they offer help, promising to show an easier way that Our Heroes can get to wherever the heck they’re going. They lead the gang deep into the earth and hook them up with a boat and a team of pink dolphins to haul the boat through the underground river.
It’s going well.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose a point today and everyone is blaming the peanut-butter-yoghurt-shelled pretzels they got at the store.