Prince Valiant is home and, as has become traditional, he and Aleta meet in a modest but passionate bit of underwater ballet which reminds me of the famous/notorious swimming sequence in the first Johnny Weismuller pre-code Tarzan both because it is joyous and sensuous and also because Maureen O’Sullivan had a body double.
Aleta always keeps it PG, which then reminds me of being in church before I could read and hearing a prayer to Mary that included mention of “St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse,” which I of course interpreted phonetically.
Aleta is definitely one of comic lands most chased and, at the same time, most chaste, spouses, a sort of Myrna Loy of the funny papers.
In recent years, Prince Valiant has greatly regained his mojo. My grandparents lived down the road from Hal Foster and so we had a couple of the old hardbound volumes that started the story right from the beginning. They may or may not have been signed but we just read them and I imagine my cousin has them but perhaps not.
In any case, Val drifted off into some kind of silly adventures for a few years but has, under Schultz and Yeates, returned to a more traditional type of storyline. The cast has grown a little large and ungainly, but if you can sort through the kids’ various friends and lovers, the stories themselves are once again worth reading.
And nobody is ever going to touch Foster, but the artwork is still a pleasure.
By contrast, Vintage Mandrake has also wrapped up his current/1946 adventure, but with a deus ex machina ending so ridiculously sudden and complete that, while it certainly does resolve last week’s seemingly inescapable cliff-hanger, I have to wonder how young the audience for this was.
Comics Kingdom has a fairly extensive collection of vintage strips, all of which show their age but which vary from campy to classic.
And I learned long ago not to mess with Lee Falk fans, so I’ll just say that I’m looking forward to Mandrake’s next adventure and I won’t explain why.
But I will explain my love of vintage comics and Hal Foster is only a small part of it, though my parents had Barnaby and other collections around the house, so I was raised with vintage comics.
However, where it really got into my blood was in the 1990s, when one of my tasks was to assemble the 25/50/75/100 years ago feature for the Press Republican.
As I went through the 50-years-ago papers, I got to read Red Ryder, Freckles and His Friends and Alley Oop in real time and came to look forward to that part of the task as much as I did planting little bomblets like a nudge to history buffs who knew that President Harding was, unwittingly, on his Farewell Tour.
Incidentally, the black blotches in Marshall Tito’s word balloon are a printing fault mostly caused by the rubber plates used for illustrations in the 1940s.
I say “mostly” because, when I was at the Farmer’s Museum on my way home from CXC, I chatted awhile with the printer there, who was working in cold metal, and he said they were also a problem, though a lesser one, with metal plates and it reminded him that he had to do a little more filing on a flyer he was printing.
The dotted lines on the left are from 1998 and are from the grippers that pull the paper through the press. The fact that they impinge on the content is a result of narrowing the page to save paper; in older issues, they’d have been farther out on the margins or trimmed off entirely.
Getting back to adventure strips, Jack and Carole Bender have recently ended their stint on Alley Oop and the strip is temporarily in reruns, pending further developments.
I’d like to see it taken up by someone steeped in the Old Days when Oop was basically muscle for a strip in which he and (often, not always) his scientist friends did a lot of time traveling and ran into a variety of historic figures.
Here’s a nine-day selection from 75 years ago, when Oop hadn’t traveled in time but, instead, to China during WWII, and you can see there isn’t a lot of humor in the strip. His occasional trips back to Moo provided comic relief, but, for the most part, this strip was pure adventure:
I would describe this as “Tintinesque” in tone, perhaps with Oop swapped out for Capt. Haddock rather than Tintin, and, as in Tintin, the humor was incidental, with the adventure and mystery paramount.
If I were the King of the Comics (not queen, not duke, not prince), I’d make sure the new crew had read a lot of 1940s Oop strips and had never heard of the Hollywood Argyles.
And that they took their yeast every day.
(Not really. Actually, nobody drank that stuff. But if a flirtatious 4-F followed you home from the defense plant, a glass of that followed by something nice and sugary would usually resolve things.)