When I was a kid I would spend long afternoons at my grandparents house, especially during the summer holidays. Their next door neighbours had two sons, one slighlty older than me, already a teenager, and another around my age. Naturally, we would spend time together playing with action figures and zx spectrum 48k computer games, watching vhs movies and reading comics, doing the stuff kids do on long summer afternoons... or, at least, used to do.
The older kid was a sort of science geek with a huge collection of science-fiction pocket book novels that introduced me to writers like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Philip K.Dick. He also had some old comics, including four or five giant-sized books collecting the early years of Hal Foster's Prince Valiant. Now, this was probably the most famous comic book character of my father's generation, which meant I was at least familiar with his name, but I had never actually seen any pages so I was extremely curious as to what the brouhaha surrounding it was all about. Once I laid my eyes on those books I immediately understood where all the fame of Prince Valiant came from - it was the most beautiful comic I had ever seen! Pardon me, it IS the most beautiful comic I have ever seen!
Even Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon with all its romance and vigourous drawing cannot top Hal Foster's Prince Valiant in terms of care and attention to detail, composition and just plain naturalism.
And the story... has there ever been an epic such as this in adventure comics? The cast, the settings, the grand adventure and the small quiet moments... unparalleled!
I was so enamored of this old comic that I begged the older kid to borrow them so I could read it properly and maybe swipe some of those fabulous drawings, "who knows, I might learn to draw this good if I copy it" ... but the little jerk wouldn't lent them. He didn't even really care about those particular books, it was all just a brutal display of egotism. And so I was left yearning for Prince Valiant, which, despite its success with previous generations, was completely out-of-print, at least as far as national editions were concerned at the time... No wonder I STILL think of this strip as the most beautifully drawn comic ever :-)
Labels: comics, Hal Foster, Prince Valiant