Monday, April 30, 2018

A First for Prince Valiant

Four years ago, back in April of 2014, the Prince Valiant adventure strip had a "first" in its then 77-year history. Although in the grand scheme of things it was not a particularly earth-shaking event, this "first" was nevertheless an interesting and, in some ways, significant sign of progress.

This "first" appeared in two panels from the April 20, 2014 page (one of these panels is at right) and it no doubt went unnoticed by most readers.

To fully appreciate its significance (not to mention to discern, if you haven't already, what it is I'm actually talking about), I invite you to take a look at the following panels from the history of Prince Valiant dating back to 1938.

In these depictions of the Prince of Thule's anatomy do you see anything missing?

Yes, that's right, Prince Valiant's otherwise well-drawn (and impressive) physique has no nipples!

Last December, Cullen Murphy, who wrote Prince Valiant for most of the 30+ years that his father John Cullen Murphy drew the strip from the early 1970s to 2004, was interviewed by Terry Gross, host and executive producer of National Public Radio's Fresh Air program. One of the things that Murphy discussed was the "censorship" which for decades of Prince Valiant's history prevented the showing of, among other things, nipples.


Cullen Murphy: The bullpen were the people who received the strips – the original strips when they were sent in by cartoonists and then prepared them for publication, and they were the line of first resort when it came to – I guess we'd have to call it censorship. And he had a list of what he called 35 noes - the things you couldn't show. And, you know, some of them would be obvious, and some of them were not obvious. Like, you weren't allowed to show a pair of dirty socks lying on a chair.

Terry Gross: What? (Laughter).

Cullen Murphy: I have no idea why that was a rule. You just – it was a rule, and you had to live by it. But one of the things that was, you know, a source of bedevilment – not just for my father, but for others – was navels. You couldn't show navels on people, and you couldn't show nipples on men.

Terry Gross: Well, let me stop you there. You have a drawing that your father did from when he was drawing a comic strip about a prizefighter called "Big Ben Bolt." And so of course, he's bare-chested. He's in the ring, and he has no nipples (laughter).

Cullen Murphy: That's right. You know, if you can't use nipples on men, you're going to have something lacking when you depict prizefighters, or in strips like Alley Oop or in B.C. – any place where you have bare-chested men. And navels is a problem, too. . . .

Terry Gross: We – you know, the curious thing is that, you know, men were already on beaches with bathing trunks and no top. It's not like this was something that children hadn't seen. Like, you can't let a child see a man with nipples.

Cullen Murphy: (Laughter)

Terry Gross: . . . Or you can't let a child see a belly. Like, children were always so curious about what they're – you have an innie or an outie? And so why were these prohibitions existing? What were they about?

Cullen Murphy: Well, I think you have to go back and look at the structure of the industry just more broadly. This is a mass medium in publications with largely conservative owners, and things that are being printed have to conform to – you know, standards is probably the wrong word, but the – you know, the wishes of, you know, a certain large proportion of the readership. It's an issue that affects any kind of mass medium.

And so, you know, comic strips were subject to that, and as a result, you know, lots of things would creep in that otherwise would be accepted by almost everybody as normal – for instance, smoking a pipe. Because tobacco was frowned on in some areas, you know, smoking a pipe in some places could be, really, a problem, and pipes would be whited-out of the strip. So you'd have some guy with his hand up to his mouth as if he's holding something, but there's nothing there.


Well, thanks to current Prince Valiant illustrator Thomas Yeates, nipples are no longer banished from the revered adventure strip!

And as I noted at the beginning of this post, their first appearance was on the Prince of Thule himself in the April 20, 2014 installment (or page).

Since that time Yeates has been very diligent in accurately depicting Prince Valiant's manly bare chest . . .

. . . as can be seen in the illustration above.

And it's not just Prince Valiant who gets to be shown in all his anatomical correctness (and glory!) . . .

. . . but also Val's son-in-law Vanni (seen above tormented and imprisoned in the fortress of the sorcerer Azar Rasa), and the desert brigard Numair (pictured below).

See also the previous posts:
In All Ways Different
Captured, Stripped, and Bound
Former Prince Valiant Writer Cullen Murphy Interviewed by Terry Gross
Gary Gianni's Prince Valiant: Looking Good
Thomas Yeates: "My Biggest Thrill is Seeing the Prince Valiant Logo on My Drawings"

Image 1: Thomas Yeates (2014).
Images 2-5: Hal Foster (1938, 1941, 1941, and 1952 respectively).
Image 6: Gary Gianni (2004).
Images 7-11: Thomas Yeates (2014, 2016, 2015, 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively).

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Racing Ahead

Art and text: Hal Foster (from page 850, May 24, 1953).
Source: Prince Valiant (Vol. 9): 1953-1954 – Hal Foster (Fantagraphics Books, 2014).

Thursday, March 22, 2018

"Let Us Hasten"

Art: Hal Foster and John Cullen Murphy (circa 1976). At this point in Prince Valiant's run, Murphy, who had been quietly assisting Foster since 1970, was well into his first decade of drawing the strip over Foster's writing and roughs.
Source: The Sun Herald (Sydney, Australia); from the collection of Michael J. Bayly (circa 1978).

Monday, March 12, 2018


Art: Gary Gianni (from page 3551, February 27, 2005).
Text: Mark Schiltz.
Source: Prince Valiant: Far from Camelot – Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2008).

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Out of Nowhere

. . . And suddenly, the world is lost in a blinding, stinging blur of hard-driven snow! The unnatural squall appears seemingly out of nowhere, roaring past Karen and Numair and down the rugged slopes.

Art: Thomas Yeates (from page 4129, March 28, 2016).
Text: Mark Schultz.
Source: Comics Kingdom.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Celebrating 81 Years of Prince Valiant

Valiant, Prince of Thule, as drawn by Thomas Yeates (2015),
the fourth and current illustrator of the Prince Valiant adventure strip.

Friends, today marks the 81st anniversary of Prince Valiant, cited as "one of the finest works ever to be produced in the comic art medium." Created in 1937 by Harold R. Foster (1892-1982), Prince Valiant can rightly be considered a massive illustrated novel presented in a comic art-like style.

For A Prince Named Valiant's informative series of posts to mark the 75th anniversary of Prince Valiant, click here, here and here.

For last year's special 80th anniversary post featuring an insightful article by Brian Kane, click here.

Also, A Prince Named Valiant was launched on the 74th anniversary of Prince Valiant. To read the post that began it all, click here.

Right: Current Prince Valiant illustrator Thomas Yeates at Comic-Con 2015 . . . with none other than the Prince of Thule himself!

Yeates took over from Gary Gianni, the third illustrator of Prince Valiant, in April 2012.

For the latest installment (or page) of Prince Valiant, click here.

Above: Prince Valiant, as drawn by Hal Foster (1943).

Above: Prince Valiant, as drawn by John Cullen Murphy (1984). Murphy's son, Cullen, wrote Prince Valiant during his father's tenue.

Above: Prince Valiant and his wife, Queen Aleta of the Misty Isle,
as drawn by Gary Gianni (2004).

Above: An action sequence from page 4164 (November 27, 2016) of Prince Valiant, with art by Thomas Yeates and text by Mark Schultz.

See also the previous posts:
How It All Began
A Valiant First Effort, Wouldn't You Say?
Remembering Episode 3000, 8/7/94
John Cullen Murphy on Prince Valiant: "It's My Duty. I'm Responsible For It"
Former Prince Valiant Writer Cullen Murphy Interviewed by Terry Gross
Mark Schultz on Prince Valiant as an American Invention
Gary Gianni's Prince Valiant: Looking Good
Prince Valiant Celebrates 75th Anniversary
Something Very Special
Thomas Yeates: "My Biggest Thrill is Seeing the Prince Valiant Logo on My Drawings"
"He Wasn't a Superhero But He Was a Hero"
Comics’ Sweeping Graphic Novel, Prince Valiant, Turns 80

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

In the Tomb of Ch'in Shih Huang-Ti

Click on image for a larger view.

Two of Prince Valiant's children, Arn and Karen, have accompanied Giovanni (Vanni) to Cathay in search of his long-lost father. Unaware that Prince Valiant, Gawain, and Yuan Chen are also in Cathay, in search of the fabled Prester John, the three young people stumble upon the tomb of the great Emperor Ch'in Shih Huang-Ti, filled with thousands of full-sized terracotta soldiers and horses.

NEXT: A Sweet Reunion

Art: John Cullen Murphy (1989).
Text: Cullen Murphy.
Source: The Sun Herald newspaper (Sydney, Australia), 1992; from the collection of Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, February 3, 2018