Featured Columns

August 31, 2012

FFGtGR: Prince Valiant, Classics Illustrated and The Rescuers!

From Friendly Ghosts to Gamma Rays

From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No.111 : Classics Back In Action!

Hello surfers of the inter-webs, and welcome back to another week here at your all-ages goodness column, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! This week we have all classic material with solid reprints and re-releases, so let’s just get down to it!

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Prince Valiant, Vol.5: 1945-1946
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Written and Drawn By: Hal Foster

With volume 5 of Prince Valiant, Fantagraphics has given us another outstanding edition of the best drawn comic strip ever drawn in the history of comics. Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant is certain to delight both new readers as well as fans of the classic work, who have never been able to see it in such pristine quality until this reprint series.

Volume 5 collects years 1945 and 1946 of the strip. Prince Valiant has captured Aleta of the Misty Isles, and is dragging her around as his slave to humiliate her as part of his revenge. However, very quickly it becomes a case of who is the master and who is the slave, as Aleta proves her worth in being more than just a slave. Before he knows it, Val realizes he’s fallen madly in love with her! Just as this is realized, the crooked ruler Donardo steps in between the two, as the pair discovers they are in his territory, and scoops up Aleta for himself, leading to a rousing arc filled with sword clashing as Val has to lead opposing armies against him to get his newfound love back. Reunited, the couple travels through some trouble in Rome, where they finally get married, and then to Camelot where Val helps Prince Arthur out with some trouble, Aleta in tow disguised as a solider. The volume finally wraps up with a great story arc in which Val and his new bride travel back to his kingdom. There Val puts down some folks getting upset with his Dad, as Aleta and her hand maiden travel forward to the King, Aleta disguised as a hand maiden herself to see what kind of man Val’s father is really like.

In this collection we also see the end of Foster’s secondary strip, The Medieval Castle. As November 1945 came to a close, the ration on paper was called off in the U.S., and Prince Valiant was able to go back to being a full page strip once again. Hence the strip that follows the adventures of Guy and Arn comes to a wrap up where some heroes settle in or settle down, as others go off to fight in the Crusades. Bits and pieces of The Medieval Castle feel a little rushed upon the close, however, Foster made sure to give us a bitter sweet ending fitting of the time period, and his art work, like on Prince Valiant, is never the less still stunning and a treat to just stare at.

Volume 5 overall is great across the boards. For the strip itself, Foster develops Prince Valiant into more of a mature man who we grow along with as he learns about love, women, and more than just going on adventures, although the adventures and sword fighting never leave our Prince alone and give him a break to the reader’s pleasure. Foster’s artwork is every definition of fantastic, still unmatched in its splendor. As mentioned, Fantagraphics has given us a gorgeous hardcover edition, every frame looking the best any fan has ever seen it, printed on huge pages to give it the feel of the original newsprint size it was printed on. This edition also includes a forward by P. Craig Russell, who compares Foster’s art to Jack Kirby’s.

Prince Valiant Volume 5: 1945-1946 is a high recommendation for readers of all ages, new comers and collectors alike. Available now in print.

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Classics Illustrated
Publisher: Trajectory Comics
Writers/Artists: Various

A handful of months back, Trajectory Comics launched digital editions of the beloved comic series Classic Illustrated, and not just one or two titles, we are talking over 100 titles here. Originally running from 1941 to 1971, Classics Illustrated took the classics, everything from War of the Worlds to Hamlet, and turned them into comic book adaptations. Aside from novels, they also did a few specials like The Life of Jesus or one on the history of the American Civil War, as well as had two spin off series – one called The World Around Us, which looked at things like the F.B.I. or Holiday Festivals Around The World, and Classics Illustrated Junior, which was the classics aimed at young readers adapting fairy tales and the like. This is one of those titles stuck in many comic book collectors minds. Some people loved these growing up, others hated them hoping for Christmas they’d get a Spider-Man comic and instead got the Classics Illustrated issue of  Nicholas Nickleby. The title ran so long an army of different writers and artists worked on it, so some issues can blow you away with their art and adaptation while others miss the mark.

This reviewer always had an affection for these titles, and in middle school when I left behind superheroes and moved onto Japanese manga, I found myself still reading this title. I looked over four titles from the Trajectory Comics digital editions, Classics Illustrated No.26: Frankenstein, Classics Illustrated No.83: The Jungle Book, Classics Illustrated Special Issue: Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and spin off The World Around Us: Vikings. Each of the titles themselves I had an affection for. I love Frankenstein and The Jungle Book, and found their adaptations from the source material just fine. In the case of The Jungle Book, it only adapts the Mowgli stories from The Jungle Book and the novel’s sequel novel, but that’s OK, and probably what most wanted to read during its original 1951 publication anyway. Royal Canadian Mounted Police presents a solid history of Canadian’s Mounted Police, from their origins to their greatest cases; it’s educational without a reader realizing it is with the action infused into it. Finally, Vikings is a history of the Vikings and the Viking Age, again secretly educational without realizing with the battles they pump into this thing. Trajectory made sure to include in all the titles the back-up comics and stories that ran with these issues, adding to the coolness, as well as notes at the end of each one reflecting on the time period it was published, who worked on it, and other such tidbits. Art wise everything pops off the digital pad and at you. These have been re-colored, and so sometimes a random panel will feel off instinctually, but it is not as frequent as with the re-coloring on a DC reprint or the like.

So overall from the sampling I took without reading the 100-odd titles available, Trajectory Comics has done a good job bringing these classic (no pun intended) comics back. Available now in multiple digital formats, including for the iPad, Nook, and on other tablet devices!

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Something To Watch: The Rescuers/The Rescuers Down Under
Studio: Walt Disney
Format: Blu-Ray

Before Darkwing Duck got dangerous, before Tail-Spin, before those Rescue Rangers, Disney Studios had the animal action formula down pat by taking a blend of pulp novels, comic books, and spy movies, and blending them together to star two little mice, Bernard and Bianca, who form The Rescuers. Of course like most Disney material, the main story line was inspired by a series of books, here by Margery Sharp. However, the 1977 film has left its mark, and like most Disney films holds a beloved status for a niche group of folk. Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Disney last week released The Rescuers on blu-ray, double billed with its 1990 sequel film The Rescuers Down Under.

Both films are great in their own way. The Rescuers finds Bernard and Bianca adventuring all the way to the Bayou to rescue a little girl, named Penny, who is being kept against her will in a plot to get ancient pirate treasure. The Rescuers Down Under finds Bernard and Bianca this time going down to Australia to help a young boy who has been captured by a crazed poacher, obsessed with killing a great golden eagle, that only he knows the location of. Both films are well paced, quick moving adventures, only 80 minutes each, and adventure into Disney’s non-musical animated film territory (well, The Rescuers has a sequence were the Rescue Society sings their song like they do at the start of every meeting, but all other songs are back ground only for these films). Disney has done a great job with the blu-ray transfers, each film looking stunning. Disney also still packs a handful of bonuses on their discs, the one that sticks out is a hysterical Silly Symphonies short called The Three Mouseketeers, in which three blind mice who are dressed as musketeers get the better of an eye-patch wearing cat, as they steal his food.

The price is right for these action oriented Disney films that laid the ground work for later Disney TV and comic book adventure series like the previously mentioned Darkwing Duck, Rescue Rangers, and so forth.

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That’s it for this week, see you next! Until then, get your kaiju-game on!

Drew McCabe
drew@comicattack.net






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