Prince Valiant (Comic Strip)

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Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur is a newspaper comic strip created by Hal Foster, running from 1937 to the present (Foster's last strip was drawn in 1971), that recounts the adventures of the eponymous Norse prince and his family and friends. The comic runs only on Sundays, and features 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 1990s 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. (The Anime film Little Norse Prince Valiant would seem to be unrelated to Foster's comic.) It also inspired a Tabletop RPG more oriented towards storytelling than Hack and Slash Dungeons & Dragons-style roleplay.

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

Like most newspaper comics nowadays, it has a presence on the web - you can read it at Comics Kingdom.

Tropes used in Prince Valiant (Comic Strip) 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.
  • 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 D&D 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.
  • Bob Haircut: AKA "The Prince Valiant"
  • Boisterous Bruiser: In the 1954 film, Valiant's friend Boltar (Victor McLaglen) is a large and rather violent Christian.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Mordred.
  • 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 Redhead: 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.
  • Hair of Gold: Aleta.
  • 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..."\x9D
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Print Long Runners: The continuous circulation of the strip since "around the time Hitler invaded Poland"\x9D is mocked in Pearls Before Swine.
  • 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.
  • Text Plosion: What you get when you don't use speech bubbles.
  • Tsundere: Aleta.

Tropes associated with Prince Valiant the Animated Adaptation include:

  • Action Girl: Rowanne and Aleta. Even Queen Guinevere had her moments.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Rowanne and Valiant could both be this, even though they don't actually end up together.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Tim Curry voices Sir Gawain.
  • 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 married, and our last information is that Rowanne and Michael are still pining for each other but can't be together because Rowanne's destiny lies in Camelot, while poor old Arn is still in love with Rowanne. Complicated stuff.
  • Happily Married: Arthur and Guinevere (no sign of Lancelot in this version).
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Arthur, Merlin, Byrant and (sometimes) Gawaine.
  • Warrior Prince: Valiant, obviously.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Morgana is missing entirely from the last episode.
  • Worthy Opponent: Morgana calls Merlin this.