Monday, March 02, 2015

Number 1703: Prince Valiant and the Holy Grail

There were seven issues of Prince Valiant in Dell’s Four Color series, this being #849 (1957), the second-to-last issue.

A religious theme runs through “Quest For the Grail.” The quest being to the Holy Land, looking for the Holy Grail. The chalice is held hostage by some “pagans” (a euphemism for Muslims). There is a sequence of Prince Valiant being crucified on a battlement. There is no cross, but the position Val is put into is the same. Usually comics, and especially Dell Comics, avoided religion, but here religion is the linchpin of the plot, right down to Val filling in symbolically for Jesus. In Val’s case, he gets to climb down.

Prince Valiant is a Viking, as is his pal Boltar, who is part of the search party. Boltar apparently still believes in the Viking gods and is not a Christian. It begs the question: with all of the many religious philosophies alive today, does anyone still pray to Odin or any Norse gods? Just wondering.

The Dell issues of Prince Valiant were drawn by Bob (“Bob Fuje”) Fujitani. The script for “Quest For the Grail” is credited by Grand Comics Database to Paul S. Newman. I do not know if there is anything on record of the feelings of Prince Valiant creator, Hal Foster, on the comic book handling of his character.

Two years ago I showed another Dell Prince Valiant. Just click on the thumbnail:


J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Interesting. The story has also a very "ancient" look. The bad guys look like ancient Persians or Assyrians with their chariots, rather than Muslims. I liked the mention of the "Garamantes", from Herodotus and Pliny the Elder, if I remember well.
The smartest literary use of Crucifixion in Comics was made, I think, in "Conan the Barbarian", adapting the novel "A witch shall be born" (art by Buscema). While Jesus dies on the Cross to purge our sins, Conan manages to detach himself from the cross, grabs a horse, recovers and gets his revenge.
That was "Two gun Bob" Howard's vision, talking about superomistic points of view. I also credit Howard for having invented Crom, the only one God who doesn't bother for pleadings, and doesn't answer to human prayers.

Daniel [] said...

Praying to the Norse gods happens to-day, but it's probably a matter of “again”, rather than of “still”, by which I mean that there was probably a period during which all worshippers had been lost.

Yahweh was not always the only god recognized by the Hebrews He was originally their god of rain, lightning, and thunder — which would make him an analogy of Thor.

7f7f3e2a-4856-11e4-900a-bb8e57f8828f said...

Sir Gawain swimming ashore in chain mail was stout-hearted enterprise. Rather nice comics. Not Foster art but very aware of the Foster aesthetic. Good inking in pen, brush and dry brush. The villain revealed by his dark-motif thought balloon in both stories. That's the way to do it, I reckon. Thanks, Pappy.

Pappy said...

J D, the "pagan" identify does seem to be a little fuzzy...maybe Fuje didn't do any research for their depiction, or even in 1958 there was a politically correct way to handle who the bad guys were: they can be "pagans," just don't make them look like Muslims.

I still have my copy of "A Witch Shall be Born," drawn by Buscema. One of my favorite Conan stories. One writer (L. Sprague de Camp?) commented on Conan, while being crucified, biting the head off a vulture. I believe his comment was, "My friend, that is TOUGH!" (Meaning Conan, not the vulture.)

Underground cartoonist Foolbert Sturgeon did a story of a film version of Jesus' crucifixion, where Jesus climbs down off the cross and starts kicking ass. The audience in the theater is cheering and shouting, "Yeah! Go Jesus!" It was a joke on revisionist history in movies and popular entertainment, and as satire it is brilliant.

Pappy said...

7f7, perhaps Gawain could quote "We're on a mission from God," like the Blues Brothers, as explaining his buoyancy while wearing chain mail. Nothing short of divine intervention could explain it.

Pappy said...

Daniel, as I recall it was the Vikings who were supposed to go to Valhalla if they died in battle. Nowadays some folks who practice suicide by explosive vest believe they will go to heaven.

I would want a part of neither afterlife.