8 Things You Might Not Know About Prince Valiant

King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

While you may think some daytime soaps are the longest-running, continuous stories in media, nothing holds a candle to Prince Valiant. The Sunday-only action-adventure comic strip about a 5th century Scandinavian prince who finds refuge in King Arthur’s England was created by Hal Foster and has been published without interruption since 1937. If you’ve only glanced at the comic, prepare thyself for some facts about its origins, its anachronisms, and why it isn’t exactly a comic strip.

1. WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST PERSONALLY REQUESTED IT.

Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst—the inspiration for Orson Welles’s myopic character in Citizen Kane—isn’t usually thought of as a comics fan, but he was the one who insisted that cartoonist Hal Foster move away from his comic adaptation of Tarzan to mount a new strip exclusively for Hearst’s newspapers. When Foster delivered a Medieval epic titled Derek, Son of Thane, Hearst was overjoyed—except he hated the name. Retitled Prince Valiant, it debuted in newspapers on February 13, 1937 and has been running ever since.

2. THE PRINCE WAS JUST A KID.

The early weeks of Foster’s strip were lacking in the muscular, galloping prince with the pageboy haircut that readers typically associate with the strip. The artist decided to begin with “Val” at age five, with the boy and his parents in exile after their land had been ravaged by enemies. Val’s mother dies shortly thereafter, and the prince joins the court of King Arthur in his late teens, battling oppressors like the Huns, Goths, and Saxons.

3. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE A FANTASY EPIC.

Prince Valiant is far from a historical account of Medieval times, but Foster’s original intention was to inject more fantastical elements into the series. “I wanted to show magicians, ogres, dragons, and knights,” he once said. “However, after Prince Valiant began, the characters in the strip became too real to do much fantasy.”

4. THE STRIP WAS SURPRISINGLY CONTEMPORARY.

Though Prince Valiant never adopted a more current hairstyle, his creator did factor in the state of the world. In the 1940s, Val fought off the “Huns,” a warlike race that threatened the Roman Empire that was also used as a derogatory term for Germans in both world wars. (Val’s activity got him canned in German newspapers.) When soldiers were returning home, preceding the coming baby boom of the 1950s, Val and his wife, Aleta, had a son. 

5. HAL FOSTER WAS A STICKLER FOR DETAIL.

When he wasn’t drawing, Foster was touring armories and soliciting information about early-century weaponry to make sure Prince Valiant was as period-accurate as it could be. Valiant’s heavy sword, for example, was used for cutting motions, rarely dueling, since Foster learned such a sword was impractical to wield with any agility. Foster would also dismiss armor that his characters might not have been able to afford.

6. IT ISN’T EXACTLY A COMIC STRIP.

Whether they’re single-panel gag strips or four-panel serial stories, comic strips typically offer insight into their characters' behavior by inserting speech and thought balloons into the art. Foster’s approach—and one continued by his successors after he stepped away from the strip in 1971—was to blend captions with his illustrations, leading one Valiant historian, author Brian Kane, to declare it a “massive illustrated novel presented in a comic art-like style.”

7. IT HAS SPAWNED SEVERAL MOVIES.

Comic strips-turned-films like Dick Tracy were hits, but none of the attempts to port Prince Valiant into live-action received a lot of attention. A feature starring 24-year-old Robert Wagner playing the title character was released by 20th Century Fox in 1954. In recalling the film, Wagner wrote in his 2008 autobiography that the hair gave him pause. "If I'd been paying a little more attention," he wrote, "I would have known something was wrong. Mainly it was the wig. One day Dean Martin visited the set and spent 10 minutes talking to me before he realized I wasn't [actress] Jane Wyman.”

A 1997 version with Katherine Heigl and Stephen Moyer as Valiant was no more successful, disappearing to video shelves without much fanfare.

8. SOME CHARACTERS WERE MODELED AFTER REAL PEOPLE.

After Foster passed art duties on to cartoonist John “Jack” Cullen in 1971, Cullen used a succession of people from his own life as the basis for various characters in the strip. Most notably, his future wife Joan was the model for Valiant’s wife, Aleta. Cullen’s gas utility employee also made it into the pages, as well as a banker and the local butcher. Cullen would snap Polaroids of them and call upon their features when sketching the strip. Following tradition in the comic strip industry, Cullen drew under Foster’s name for five years until Foster told him to begin using his own.

The Difference Between a Snap and a Blip in the Marvel Cinematic Universe 

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

Every Marvel fan remembers that traumatic moment in Avengers: Infinity War when Thanos finally gathered all of the Infinity Stones and, with a simple snap of his fingers, wiped out half of the universe's population. That climactic moment needed a name, which ended up being (appropriately, albeit simplistically) referred to as the Snap.

Then came Spider-Man: Far From Home, which referred to the deadly moment as the Blip, leaving fans confused. In order to head off any confusion, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige stepped in to clarify the distinct different between a Snap and a Blip in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In an interview with Fandango, Feige explained: 

"It came pretty fast. We always referred to it as the Blip, and then the public started referring to it as the Snap. We think it's funny when high school kids just call this horrific, universe-changing event the Blip. We've narrowed it down to—the Snap is when everybody disappeared at the end of Infinity War. The Blip is when everybody returned at the end of Endgame … and that is how we have narrowed in on the definitions." 

Spider-Man: Far From Home is the first MCU movie to come after Endgame, so it has the hefty task of showing what the world is like after the Blip, as people return after five years. The people who survived aged normally, but those in the Blip didn’t age at all. It’s a whole exciting world of complexity, but at least we know how to speak about it properly.

[h/t Fandango]

Here's Each State’s Favorite Comic Book Universe

drante, iStock / Getty Images Plus
drante, iStock / Getty Images Plus

The hype surrounding the Marvel Cinematic Universe had barely subsided into a low roar after the 2018 releases of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War when 2019 brought us two more back-to-back MCU blockbusters: Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. Between the films themselves and the ceaseless stream of fan theories, celebrity content, and toys, it seems like it’s Marvel’s world and we love nothing more than living in it.

But in a recent nationwide analysis by DISH sales agent USDish.com, it appears that a majority of America actually prefers the DC universe over Marvel's. The study used Google Trends data to find out which comic book universe—and which superhero—each state searched for most often. DC is most popular in a surprising 32 states, while Marvel is tops in a mere 14 state. Four states (Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Kentucky) were tied between the two. DC was also the winner when it came to most popular individual superheroes, though with a smaller margin: 29 states went with a DC hero, while 22 chose someone Marvelous. Superman, a DC creation, held the number one spot in eight states, the most of any superhero.

Illustrated map showing most popular comic book universe in each state
USDish.com

The outcome differs pretty significantly from last year’s study, in which Marvel reigned supreme in 37 states, and DC in only 8 (the remaining five were tied).

It seems, however, that states don’t have a loyalist mentality when it comes to comic book universes: Plenty of states’ most searched-for-superhero was not from its most searched-for universe. Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, for example, all chose DC and the Hulk, while Texas and Iowa chose Marvel and Superman.

In a couple of instances, the actor who plays the superhero possibly influenced the results. Captain Marvel, brought to life by California-born Brie Larson, was California’s most popular superhero, while Jason Momoa’s Aquaman came out on top in his home state of Hawaii.

Though the list of top superheroes by state is heavily occupied by uber-popular names like Thor, Batman, and Black Panther, it’s not without a few head-scratchers. Kansas and Michigan both apparently love Green Lantern, while Delaware’s top superhero was Batman’s sidekick Robin.

See the full list here to find out what your state thinks.

[h/t USDish.com]

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