November 2019 will be the 15th anniversary of Mark Schultz writing Prince Valiant.
I must admit I am a fan of Mark’s romantic adventures and swashbuckling action.
I am not alone:
Schultz was a good choice to pen Val’s adventures. As the creator of the popular comic book series Xenozoic Tales, in addition to a host of other comic-related projects, he knows how to tell an exciting, well-paced story in a fictional world.
But why only the words and not the art? “I’m way too slow,” Schultz admits. “It’s a pretty tough grind turning out that strip every week, and I’ve never been a particularly fast artist. I’ve done a couple of fill-in panels and I did one fill-in page for Gary Gianni, but that just served to teach me that I am ill-suited for a weekly comic strip.”
Schultz jumped at the opportunity to write Prince Valiant because he had been a fan of the strip since childhood. “There are so many different types of stories you can do within the framework of Prince Valiant,” he observes. “It is limited by the fact that the time period is medieval Europe, but there is still a lot of fantasy that goes into that.
For almost half the time Mark has been writing Prince Valiant
he has been teamed with artist Thomas Yeates.
Schultz and Yeates work about six to eight weeks ahead, and Schultz acknowledges that it is a very collaborative relationship. He will pitch a story arc to Yeates, and the two will go back forth, each adding specific elements and side plots, until the story is ready. “Thomas is both a very good graphic story teller and a very good renderer,” Schultz says. “And that’s not easy considering the space limitations we are under. He has to put in the amount of detail that defines Prince Valiant, but he has to know when to pull in the reins too. It has to read clearly.”
King Features has been fairly hands off when it comes to Prince Valiant, leaving Schultz and Yeates alone to work their magic. Their most important directive was to maintain the strip’s formal structure because it is formatted differently in different papers, sometimes vertical, sometimes horizontal. “Beyond that, former comics editor Jay Kennedy, knowing my background was in adventure, told me to just be aware that people also want to see the family life stuff,” Schultz says. “Don’t be all epic adventure – take Val back home and get the family dynamics working because readers respond to that.”
“…if you’re talking about adventure fiction, it’s the greatest comic strip of all time.”