Sound the trumpet. Rattle your longswords. Prince Valiant has returned to the land!
Well, at least to the Star-Advertiser’s Sunday comics.
Fans of "Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur" need no introduction. Created by "Tarzan" artist Hal Foster in 1937, it has run uninterrupted, with more than 3,700 Sundays of crisp storytelling and meticulous art. Only two other artists have limned the strip other than Foster — John Cullen Murphy from 1970 to 2004, and Gary Gianni since then — and Foster himself continued to write the strip until 1980. It’s now written by Mark Schultz.
ONLINE EDITOR’S NOTE
‘Prince Valiant’ and other syndicated comic strips mentioned in this article appear only in the print edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. However, cartoons from local artists Dave Swann, Jon J. Murakami, Dave Thorne and Deb Aoki can be found in the Features Sunday Comics section.
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The saga, which the Duke of Windsor called the "greatest contribution to English literature in the past hundred years," is the longest-running narrative known to man.
No wonder readers are attached to it as if it were family. Valiant, a stout ally of King Arthur, has battled trolls, Muslims, Vikings, Romans, Indians, the occasional lizardy dinosaur, plus all manner of palace intrigues.
Valiant’s greatest enemy, however, is space, the final frontier of all newspaper comic strips. Originally drawn as a full page, it went to a half-page format in 1971 and shrank even more as newspaper widths became standardized. Valiant also faces a shrinking fan base as kids turn from away wondrous tales of olde adventure and are instead fixated on video games and television cartoons.
And then newspapers, trying to stay alive, merge and are forced to make harsh decisions about what to keep and … and then we hear from the "Prince Valiant" fans. And so, Val, Aleta, Arn and Arthur and all the rest have returned to Honolulu after a four-week respite in limbo. Their story line continued, however:
MORE CHANGES: COMING MONDAY
Tomorrow the Star-Advertiser will welcome to the daily comics lineup "Beetle Bailey," "Blondie," "Dennis the Menace," "Family Circus," "Hagar the Horrible," "Mutts" and "Mother Goose & Grimm." And that will close the books on changes to the comics sections based on readers’ comments.
Also in tomorrow’s newspaper, the daily bridge column will start its run on the comics pages, and the Sudoku puzzle has been moved to a more workable spot.
Coming soon, a second Sunday crossword puzzle and a color-coded Sunday TV Week guide.
» The June 13 strip involved a brief battle between Valiant and a crazed "dwarf giant." Family nemesis Horridus had Aleta locked away in an underground castle fastness, and Valiant, in a kind of knightly judo move, flipped the troll off castle ramparts just in time: "Suddenly, a blood-curdling scream erupts from within."
» The June 20 strip kicked off with Valiant kicking in a castle door to find Aleta languidly posing near Horridus’ rapidly cooling corpse. "A proper lady in distress would have patiently awaited rescue!" scolded Val. "Then I suppose I am not a proper lady," panted Aleta. (Go ahead, read between the lines for what simmers betwixt Val and Aleta whilst you’re waiting for next week’s strip).
» The June 27 strip had Val and Aleta ruminating over Horridus’ character flaws, whilst a bevy of bad-guy dwarves milled about in the subsequent confusion. The couple remembered that Valiant’s knightly buddy was lying outside, gravely injured: "But what of the shattered Gawain? Val and Aleta moved outside to see a crowd swarming over the fallen knight …"
» The July 4 strip revealed Gawain alive and nobly insisting that Val and Aleta leave him. But the political dwarf dubbed Silbug wanted them all gone: "But to be perfectly honest, we find the lot of you to be insufferable. Ah! Here comes the surgeon — he will see to it that you depart with all due speed!"
Which brings us up to date during "the days of King Arthur." Also returning by popular demand to the Sunday funnies as of today: "Hagar the Horrible," "Dennis the Menace" and "Family Circus."
Dave Swann’s local strip, "Trouble in Paradise," has moved to the bottom of this page, while "Prickly City" and "Doonesbury" are taking up residence on the opinion pages.
But none of them feature a "Singing Sword" and a saucy Viking princess, do they?